A long time ago on an Xbox console now 16 years old, arguably the greatest video game to don the Star Wars license first came to the original Xbox on July 15, 2003. Since then, BioWare’s Jedi-masterful RPG Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, or “KOTOR” as it’s often called, has made the jump to PC, Steam, GoG, Mac, backward compatibility on Xbox 360, and even iOS and Android devices.
Today, KOTOR was added to Xbox One via backward compatibility along with 12 other games:
- BloodRayne 2
- Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge
- Dead to Rights
- Fuzion Frenzy
- Grabbed by the Ghoulies
- The King of Fighters: Neowave
- Ninja Gaiden Black
- Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
- Red Faction II
- Sid Meier’s Pirates!
These titles can be played with the original discs or downloaded for $9.99 a pop. While there are certainly some highlights on that list, none quite compare to KOTOR.
Set 4,000 years before the events of the Star Wars films, KOTOR is set in an era when the Empire does not exist, and the Sith are not merely comprised of a master and apprentice. You play as an elite soldier fighting for the Republic in a war against Sith lord Darth Malak and the Sith army — containing both foot soldiers and intimidating Force users — and it’s up to you to stop them.
The summarized plot sounds cliche, yet the entire journey is anything but that and is the most immersed I’ve ever felt in the Star Wars universe. Spoilers but not really, you eventually become perceptive to the Force, and every choice you make will lean you toward the light side or dark side. It’s here where the game shines, or perhaps darkens, most. You constantly make decisions that in one way or another influence the story, your abilities and how your allies, who are just some of the many incredible characters, talk to you. KOTOR also has one of the most astounding plot twists of all time in video games, and the way they subtly hint at things is nothing short of storytelling excellence.
KOTOR’s main story is about a 30-hour tale, and perhaps another 15 hours for side quests, which range from straightforward combat to racing and solving mysteries. However, given the myriad dialogue options and choices, it can easily double that if you want to fully witness the light and dark sides. It’s amazing how differing the story is, and really quite jarring to be on the dark side based on things I’ve heard and read (most of the time I can never bring myself to be evil in games). KOTOR might as well be two meaty games in one package.
The combat and gameplay mechanics to this day are still unlike anything I’ve ever played. I can best describe it as turn-based-but-real-time combat that can be paused at any time to determine the best moves and strategies. It’s a contradiction, I know. How your actions turn out are determined by behind-the-scenes dice rolls that determine how successful you are at pulling off a move. Taking the time to plan your actions and watch them unfold with success is still highly satisfying 14 years later.
KOTOR doesn’t hold up in every aspect, however. It’s an OG Xbox game, so of course it’s graphically not going to compete with the likes of modern games such as Doom or Uncharted 4. There’s also little variety in NPC’s facial designs and voices to the point where it’s laughable. Aliens speaking a different language often will say one phrase that’s later repeated a few sentences later and somehow means something completely different; I’m looking at you Wookies and Twi’leks. It also sucks that KOTOR is no long Star Wars canon, but these factors do not hinder the experience.
I played KOTOR all the way through for my second time in early 2016 when I had Force Awakens fever, but I can say for sure after playing the first 30 minutes of it on Xbox One that this is the definitive way to play it on home consoles thanks to blazing-fast load times, noticeably enhanced visuals and a massive bump in frame rate, which was pretty sloppy on the original Xbox. It’s like a remastered edition the game never got but fully deserves it.
You might argue that Xbox is focusing too much on titles of yesteryears, but so much of KOTOR’s influence propelled what games could be. Since it’s ready to play now on so many platforms, there’s little to no excuse for not witnessing the unrivaled Star Wars experience that is Knights of the Old Republic.
May the Force be with you.
Robbie Key is the chief warden of robbiekeyv.wordpress.com. He dreams of one day being a video game journalist — or have superpowers … or be a super-powered video game journalist. If you happen to stumble upon this page and are looking for new media members/writers, check out my LinkedIn profile or my professional works on this blog.