Written by Pat Vis
It’s weird to think that Knights of the Old Republic came out nearly 10 years ago. A lot has happened to me in the past 10 years, I’ve finished elementary school, started and finished high school, and have started college. Beyond educational milestones, the last 9 years has also seen me gone from being 12 to being 21 and the changes that obviously accompany that. Surprisingly despite everything else that has happened in the last 10 years, one thing has remained the same: my absolute love for Knights of the Old Republic.
Knights of the Old Republic (KoTOR) is a role playing game developed by Bioware and released on the original Xbox and PC in 2003, and on Mac in 2004. KoTOR takes place in the Star Wars universe and you take on the role of a solider, smuggler, or scout hired by the Republic during the war with Darth Malek. The game starts off with a bang, as you wake up in the Endar Spire (your big spaceship) as it is under attack. Eventually you crash on Taris and from there you recruit your party, and eventually go off to fight Darth Malik.
What I’ve just given you is an extremely simplified version of the KoTOR’s events. One of the reasons that Knights of the Old Republic is my favorite game, is the story. My first playthrough of KoTOR was intensely memorable. The sense of wonder at being thrown into a universe where you are just one small chain in the link, is a hard thing to describe. Despite all of the aliens and technology you are surrounded in, the game still makes what you’re and the consequences of your actions still feel very important. A large part of this is thanks to the characters you encounter. All of the main characters in your party have an interesting backstory and their own reasons for traveling with you.
I remember when I first played this game, being dragged along by the story. I didn’t want to leave the room while I was playing it. Every sub-plot and every twist brought new revelations to me and new reasons for me to keep playing. And when the big twist came (one of the biggest story twists in a game ever), I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to do. I mean, yes, I obviously kept playing the game, but the revelation knocked me off my feet. Even now, 9 years later, that same plot twist still carries the sense of “holy shit!” that it did when I was 12. Often in the 3rd act of game, things begin to get rushed or they begin to pick up speed and then just end abruptly (I’m looking at you Halo 2). In the 3rd act of Knights of the Old Republic, shit gets real. To use an old cliché, friends become enemies and while no enemies become friends, the emotional investment I had put into these characters came full circle when their fates were revealed.
Knights of the Old Republic was also the first rpg I ever played. Previous to Knights of the Old Republic, my video game playing had been limited to Halo, Mortal Kombat, and whatever game I could convince my mom to rent for me. I didn’t have any sense of what a good or bad game was, as this was before I read any game sites or was into games. That being said, while I was playing KoTOR I knew it was good. The combat in KoTOR is tactical, but it occurs in real time. I can pick and cue my moves (and that of my party), while it all unfolds in front of me. The constant pace of action certainly helps keeps things fresh, and during the final level it can also become a colossal task to keep everything under control.
Knights of the Old Republic represents everything video games should strive to be. It creates (on uses depending on how you look at it) a universe that the player can emerge him or herself in. It also uses the advantages of the video game medium to tell an interesting and captivating story over the course of 30 to 40 hours. And most importantly, it’s fun to play. In my mind KoTOR stands on its own. I don’t need the sequels (although KoTOR 2 is also good – but that’s for another time) or books to expand the characters or the universe. The story was told in that original 40 hours I spent in it and its characters journeys ended there. KoTOR is game I go back and play at least once a year. It’s my favorite game and also my first induction to the Basement Life Hall of Fame.