The rumours might have got us reminiscing about Knights of the Old Republic, but they also put us in the mind that it might be nice to revisit BioWare's classic Star Wars RPG as we continue to reflect on gaming's most definitive moments. And when looking back through the pages of The Complete History of Video Games, there aren't many games that have delivered a twist in the tale as magnificent as the one in KOTOR did all the way back in 2003.
It goes without saying that we're going to be talking about some major spoilers in this Force-filled meander down memory lane. In particular, we're going to dwell on the moment that has come to define BioWare's sci-fi RPG and that stands as one of the most gut-twisting reveals in all of gaming. If you don't know what we're referring to, and if you don't mind playing older games and enduring their various idiosyncrasies, then we wholeheartedly recommend you ditch this article right now and go and play the game and experience it for yourself. If you're still here, we'll just assume that you're up-to-date and ready to reminisce. Or you don't care about spoilers, you savage.
But before going into that ending, it's worth stepping back and taking a look at the overall impact of the game itself. For starters, it spawned two sequels. Kinda. Obsidian Entertainment, who'd later pull a similar trick with Fallout: New Vegas, developed a buggy but otherwise enjoyable sequel, subtitled The Sith Lords, and BioWare themselves, fresh from being acquired by EA, formed a new studio under the same banner and put a team to work on an MMORPG set in the same Star Wars era - The Old Republic.
Yet, ultimately, neither of these games proved to be a truly worthy successor to the exceptional original. In fact, the only thing that saved BioWare from a mutinous community is the fact that the studio's next sci-fi outing was none other than the first Mass Effect (a game that echoed Star Wars loosely in a number of ways), and that turned out to be just as excellent as KOTOR but in its own way. That said, the strong start and eventual slow drift of the Mass Effect franchise hasn't masked the collective appetite for a return to Knights of the Old Republic.
Set thousands of years before the events depicted in the Skywalker Saga, BioWare's exploration of the long-forgotten past afforded the studio a certain amount of creative freedom, and the developer used that freedom most cleverly by mixing new ideas with familiar themes. There are still constant echoes of the Star Wars that we all know and love, with a Millennium Falcon-like ride, characterful droids, and wailing Wookiees all featuring prominently during an epic adventure that took us to some semi-familiar locations in A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Without a Skywalker in sight, we were tasked with taking down a new (or should that be old?) threat by the name of Darth Malak, a powerful Sith hell-bent on the destruction of the Republic. Our part of the story found us waking up abruptly in a spaceship taking fire, and straight away everything was thrown into chaos all around while at the same time we had to learn the ropes. It's a classic RPG and that means upgrades and inventory management, and much like our memory, our abilities and gear improved over time. Our amnesia followed us around like a weight throughout the adventure, but we also experienced this world through a faithful troop of followers who hung around the ship and joined us on our various quests (this being Star Wars, there's obviously no shagging).
Our motley crew included a couple of franchise-favourite species (such as a Twi'lek called Mission Vao and Wookiee by the name of Zaalbar), a couple of droids (the utility droid T3-M4 is all well and good, but assassin droid HK-47 is the one that everyone remembers), as well as pilot called Carth, the mercenary Canderous, and our Jedi buddy Bastila. Together we adventured through sandbox-like maps full of interlinking pathways, battling our enemies via a pausable combat system where we could assign our attacks tactically. The system was evolved further in Mass Effect, but it already worked well in KOTOR, especially when you had a couple of Jedi swinging their lightsabers around while your ranged character did their thing at distance.
The adventure itself is deeply immersive and hugely engaging, and we remember spending hours and hours exploring these distant planets across multiple play-throughs. While it was a great RPG in its own right, the Star Wars theme made everything effortlessly accessible to a huge number of players. It had the depth and detail to sustain extended play, yet it was also Star Wars through and through and full of memorable moments. That said, there was one moment above all that has stuck with us, one moment that made such a huge impact the very first time we experienced it that we still remember it almost 17 years later.
And we should have seen it coming, especially when you look back and see the trail of clues that were left for us if only we'd seen them for what they were. Pulling a trick that Shadow of the Colossus would also try a couple of years later, our understanding of our place in the world tipped on its head. The twist was the revelation that we were, in fact, a former Sith Lord, who, memory clouded, had been reinducted into the Jedi Order and sent after their old partner in crime. If you hadn't already done the math, it was a revelatory penny-drop that served only to reinforce the excellence of the adventure that had come before it.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic would go on to fundamentally shape Mass Effect, with BioWare taking everything that it had learned and turning that knowledge into an entirely new trilogy that stands alongside KOTOR at the pinnacle of the sci-fi RPG genre. It's also the best Star Wars game ever made - bar none - and when you look back at the wealth of titles based on the franchise that have appeared since and considering the fact that it's almost old enough to buy you a pint down the pub (depending on where you live, of course) that's really saying something.
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