Knights of the Old Republic is quite possibly the best role-playing game ever made. It’s most certainly the best Star Wars game we’ve ever played.
Every Star Wars junkie knows the game. Fans of role-playing games have played it many times over. After the release of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, it was deemed as one of the best franchise games to date.
Knights of the Old Republic was released in July 2003, and provided fans with one of the best interactive Star Wars experiences. With its character interactions, the destruction of Taris, and that lovable jerk HK-47, the game has a never-ending supply of moments that we just can’t forget.
Things start inauspiciously enough; you customize your character and choose their class. Your background varies, depending on your choices. In classic videogame style, you start off with no memory of who you are, or where you came from. You simply wake up with amnesia on a ship under attack by a Dark Lord of the Sith – Darth Malak. Malak was once the apprentice of another Sith – Darth Revan – but assumed control of the Sith Empire following his master’s presumed death at the hands of the Jedi. And now he’s trying to blow you to smithereens.
Nice alarm clock, guys!
From here, you learn that you’re a soldier of the Republic and that it’s your mission to accompany the Jedi Master, Bastila Shan, to find the Star Forge – a long-lost weapon of mass destruction – and thwart the Sith’s plan to dominate the galaxy. If that isn’t enough, the moment you meet Jedi Bastila Shan something between you just clicks and you experience a vision of your ultimate objective. From here, you travel to three worlds in the order of your choice – hoping to find the hidden Star Forge. After the third world, your ship – the Ebon Hawk – is captured by Darth Malak.
Face to face with Malak, the Sith Lord who has caused so much pain and suffering, you realize that something isn’t right. In fact, something is very, very wrong.
A series of flashbacks begins to play, repeating phrases that you’ve heard throughout the game. But what is so significant about any of this? Why are these things important? Talk of Revan flashes in your mind; talk of how alluring the Dark Side can be. The images just keep coming, until you’re left staring at an image of Revan on a desolate planet.
Then, Revan reaches up and removes the mask. The truth is revealed. You are Revan.
After your journey of sculpting your character in to either a Jedi or a Sith Lord, Dark Side or Light, you come to learn that you are Darth Revan, a Sith Lord that you heard about through nearly the entire game. The Jedi fear him. The Sith worship him. And here you stand, learning that you are a Dark Lord who was responsible for the death of thousands of innocent people. You also come to learn that Bastila and the Jedi Council wiped your memory and used you as a pawn. They turned you to make you fight for them. The bond that Bastila had told you was of unknown origins and was created to keep you alive was a lie. Everyone lied to you. BioWare had players enthralled in Kotor, loosing themselves in the storyline, making it easy for them to pull this twist and shock nearly everyone.
After learning that you are Darth Revan, everything you thought you knew is turned completely on its head. Through almost all of your experience so far, you’d been led to believe that you were fighting for the greater good. If you chose the path of the Jedi, you find yourself standing there in shock as realization sinks in that you are the most feared Dark Lord in the galaxies. If you chose the way of the Sith, the revelation has an entirely different meaning – this is the power that every Sith Lord dreams of, and now you have the chance to reclaim it and once again take the title of being the most feared person in the galaxy.
Once the shock settles in, you’re given the chance to completely change your path, if you so wish. A Jedi player can welcome the Dark Side and once more become a Sith Lord. If you’re a Sith, you can choose to atone for your historical actions and become a redeemed Jedi Knight. But the twist is still shocking – and for most first-time players, completely unexpected. A second playthrough helps you to identify how Bioware planted the seeds for the reveal right from the start of the game; but that doesn’t change what stands before you right now: You are Darth Revan.
You started all of this. You promised to fight the Mandalorian no matter what. You were the Dark Side. Malak was your apprentice. You have been fighting against yourself this entire time – and you never even knew it.
KotOR gave meaning to character interaction in gameplay. Nearly everything that you say and do throughout the game affects the world around you. Sometimes, your actions will edge you closer to the Light side of the Force; sometimes, you’ll slip a little further in to the shadows of the Dark Side. But overall, before Mass Effect, before Dragon Age, it was KotOR which saw Bioware blazing a trail for the RPG genre, creating games where choices effect everything around you. It’s full of fantastic moments, but one in particular has gone on to cement the game in the minds of Star Wars fans – and gamers – across the globe: the game’s climactic revelation that you, the player, are Revan – the infamous Sith war general who nearly brought the Republic to its knees.
The revelation of Revan’s identity remains possibly the best twist in gaming to date. Many have tried desperately to recreate the shock that BioWare managed with the unmasking, but none of them have managed it – at least, not on the level that BioWare managed. Even now, over a decade on, it’s still a masterclass in player deception, perhaps only rivaled by Irrational’s Bioshock. If you are a Star Wars fan, or even just a role-playing game fan, and you haven’t played Knights of the Old Republic, you are really missing out on a true gem of gaming history.
Now, if only they could bring Star Wars: The Old Republic to this level…