Art has an uncanny ability to attach itself to experiences and places, both real and imagined. And yes, as much as music, painting, poetry and other types of expression that can transport you to vivid memories and personal history ...video games are no different. When Bioware's 'Knights Of The Old Republic' came out in July 2003, I distinctly remember the time and place.
Tom River, New Jersey. I had packed up my Xbox, as well as my three year old daughter, to travel to the east coast to visit my Grandfather. In between reminiscing about my Grandmother, who had passed not to long before our trip and trips to the boardwalk. A couple hours each night, I would unwind by playing through Biowares latest RPG. My grandfather would comment 'It looks like you are just running around in circles'. My Grandfather passed two summers after. When I went to back to attend that funeral, I brought the same Xbox with me and Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic 2- The Sith Lords (Obsidian Entertainment).
This is what I associate with KOTOR and consequently it is still up there in my favorite RPGs of all time list. Something about the story genuinely blew me away when I first played it. Usually the "twist" in a story is obvious or doesn't have a major impact when it arrives, but not in KOTOR. I remember my jaw dropping and being like "Wha....?" for a good while after. It affected how I played immensely. I took the whole thing to heart, and it shifted the decisions I was making because of it.
KOTOR is really the ultimate Star Wars game. I like Republic Commando and the Jedi Knight series, but this is the one game where you can really explore the galaxy and feel its weight on your shoulders. It also helps that it is extremely well written and so amazingly replayable - thanks to all the available choices, it's always fun to run through it again but differently each time (light vs dark). Frankly, while I LOVE the Mass Effect series, I think KOTOR is the magnum opus of Bioware - it did everything right and used the Star Wars license to build a fascinating world. It more or less ensured that I would at least give every Bioware game released to date a chance (even if I didn't always like them).
Thank you KOTOR for reviving my love of Star Wars mythology. Thank you KOTOR for distancing yourself from the existing lore and allowing yourself creative space to breathe. Thank you KOTOR for not recycling the same soundtrack over for the upteenth time. But my biggest bit of thanks goes out to the foundations you set for KOTOR 2; one of my favorite games, and possibly the most intelligent, complex story ever associated with Star Wars. The game totally made me rethink "The Force", the notion of the light and dark, manipulation of characters, and a ton of heady concepts.
KOTOR 2 is a bit of a deconstruction of Star Wars - nobody in regular Star Wars stories ever questions the Force on a fundamental level like Kreia does. It offers all the traditional elements but goes further with exploring the true issues with both philosophies. It forces you to think about the reality about each side, each perspective and see where they fall short. Kreia really is the best of teachers, challenging you to question every single belief you've just accepted at face value. If there is a universal system of morality that guides your actions or manipulates coincidences, then can you have truly free will, or are you living under the thumb of this cosmic force?
You're not out to stop an evil empire from using a super weapon to destroy a planet, you're dealing with the consequences and horrors that are wrought from going to war and destroying a planet. The story is as much about the Exile and other people dealing with the emotional impact of Revan's war and Malachor V as it is the more contemporary threats of the new Sith Lords. It subverted so much of the Star Wars myth, and made you actually think about the Force. If there is a universal system of morality that punishes or rewards people, or manipulates coincidences and influences choices, then can you ever have free will while you're influenced by it? How does someone then act when they're cut off from it? Because of all this, a lot of Star Wars purists hate it. A lot of people who can't step out of the standard epic hero's journey tropes hate it. I loved it. Every. Damn. Second.
Obviously, the 10-year-old Star Wars RPG Knights of the Old Republic has stood the test of time, and then some. The recent near perfect port to the IPAD proves this. If you have an IPAD, I highly recommend this title and it's less then ten bucks! Here's hoping that a port of 'The Sith Lords' isn't too far behind.
Major love, KOTOR franchise. Major love.
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