23 Apr 2021 1:51 PM +00:00

How Knights of the Old Republic Helped Define The Western RPG

Knights of the Old Republic has gained a relentless following over the years. Released on the original Xbox on July 15th/September 12th 2003 in North America and Europe territories, KotOR would see a PC release later in the year.

Whilst BioWare produced the original game, Obsidian Entertainment was brought on board by LucasArts to oversee KotOR II: The Sith Lords. A third title in the series was in development then axed due to budget cuts. KotOR 3 had seen its pre-production phase with the majority of assets made.

In anticipation of a long-awaited remake, join us as we take a look at what was so special about the franchise, and how it inspired countless titles.

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Read More: 5 Things We Want From The KOTOR Remake

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For The Republic!

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KotOR marked the Star Wars franchise's move into a fully-fledged video game RPG. West End Games' Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game tabletop effort was a heavy influence on KotOR's canon at the time. It also gave Timothy Zahn some much-needed insight for his critically acclaimed 'Thrawn Trilogy'. Some of the tabletop canon worked into 'Disney Canon' also; alien names such as Twi'leks and Rodians are great examples.

With Star Wars: Attack of the Clones releasing in 2002 with its cartoon mini-series follow up The Clone Wars releasing in 2003, fans were pining for new content. Revenge of the Sith wouldn't be released until 2005, giving KotOR 1 and 2 a perfect window to attract fan attention.

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Threat: I Will Be Back, Meatbag

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BioWare had a rich background of lore to draw from; a 1993 comic book series 'Star Wars: Tales of a Jedi - Knights of the Old Republic' produced by Dark Horse comics provided the plot foundation, albeit a guideline. KotOR would also inspire a 2006 comic series covering the events eight years previous to the original game.

There wasn't a better candidate for LucasArts to entrust the Star Wars IP to in the role-playing game space. Best known for making great use of the Dungeons and Dragons licence before selling the rights to Atari, Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, Bioware clearly had the RPG chops. Shattered Steel and MDK2 showed the developer could take risks when necessary, too.

That’s Darth, Man

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KotOR's main attraction was the chance for fans/players to make their own way in a brand new Star Wars adventure. Set four thousand years before The Phantom Menace, a Sith armada emerges to dominate the Republic. The Jedi didn't see this coming, which devastated the galaxy and saw many knights and masters fall/swear allegiance to Dark Malak and his master, Darth Revan.

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Waking up on a republic ship under attack with memory loss, players build their characters with a choice of initial class, skill and stat assignments and start their journey on the planet Taris. Players hunted down various star maps that lead them to the star forge, hitting the Sith at their production base.

Players could level up their characters in line with the strengths they desired by manipulating stat increases and skill point allocation for talents such as hacking, speech and more. Some of these skills would open up new dialogue and gameplay options for players to explore, making for variation in character playthroughs.

Use The Force?

Ultimately, players can choose to follow the dark or light side of the force, gaining respective points for both sides depending on their in-game actions. The late-game experience allows players to build lightsabers and become Jedi or Sith, validating the fantasy of every Star Wars fan. Various attacks and moves would play their part in a live turn-based system that paused for players to line up commands if needed.

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KotOR's award-winning formula would appear in future Bioware titles, which defined some of the most well-received western role-playing games throughout the next decade. Games such as Knights of the Old Republic II (developed by Obsidian), Jade Empire, The Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises all borrow from the KotOR formula.

Not only did KotOR inspire future Bioware titles, but player decisions influencing gameplay and dialogue runs deep in western RPGs to this day. Whilst Skyrim and The Witcher III have obviously felt the impact of KotOR in this regard, other titles such as Kingdoms of Amalur and the Darksiders series take elements of Bioware’s world-building mechanics and morality. Multiple choice dialogue, malleable game worlds and modern character building are clearly inspired by Bioware and KotOR.

A rumoured remake of Knights of the Old Republic alongside a wild interest in the Mass Effect Trilogy remake coming this year cements that KotOR did, and still does, define the western RPG.