By Conor Bailey
Star Wars games have always had a special place in the hearts of gamers.
It’s very, very hard not to name a great Star Wars game. Battlefront, Rogue Squadron, Jedi Knight and Jedi Outcast. One of the most revered of these titles is the original Knights of the Old Republic, an RPG which is celebrated by countless numbers of people, and is credited as one of the greatest role-playing games ever. Being the instant classic that it was, it was only inevitable that a sequel be made. Enter Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II with a lot of expectations to live up to.
Although the original was a Bioware masterpiece, the sequel was taken on by Obsidian Entertainment, who you may remember from games such as Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: Stick of Truth. Despite a new developer, Knights of the Old Republic II was under a lot of pressure to follow the example of its BAFTA award-winning predecessor.
The original KotOR had an immersive story and probably one of the most infamous video game twists, so it was hard not to get excited about the sequel. However, with it pushed for a Christmas 2004 release on Xbox, and on PC by the following February, it became clear that it was an unfinished game with a ton of potential, which is what it has become famous for over the past 10 years. With recycled textures, plot holes and clearly missing content, it left fans wanting to see a true, finished game, because it’s one of the most creative and groundbreaking Star Wars games out there.
Let’s go back a couple of months to the now-cancelled game Star Wars: 1313. Remember how much hype there was around the game due to its seemingly mature concept? How fans were excited to have an edgier Star Wars? And the disappointment when that didn’t happen? Well, Knights of the Old Republic II was the first game to try and add some grit to the Star Wars mythos. The whole tone of the game is dark, from the music to the narrative. It’s a story that has a little more intrigue, and a little more maturity. There was more complexity to it, and that was added by some of the best supporting characters in a game.
As much as I love the original Knights of the Old Republic, its characters do fit a certain cliche, and as much as that doesn’t hinder the game, it does make it a tad predictable. KotOR II however, tries to break away from this, and adds depth to its characters. None of which are more complex and well-written than Kreia, one of the main companions in the game. She single-handedly deconstructs everything a fan knows about Star Wars, flips it backwards and shoves it straight back in your face. Adding a clouded morality to a world so black and white gives the story some much-needed intrigue, and like any compelling piece of fiction, keeps you invested. She’s not only one of the best Star Wars characters, she’s one of the best video game characters. Period.
“Knights of the Old Republic II is a game you play for the story, and in turn watch it play with your own ideas and philosophies”
Kreia contributes to one of the reasons why I love this game so much. I realise I’ve made comparisons to the first Knights of the Old Republic, and in terms of setting the bar, it deserves the respect it has. But at least for me, Knights of the Old Republic II was the first video game I played where more mature themes were introduced. And I don’t mean mature as in Grand Theft Auto “mature”; I mean in terms of themes such as morality, death, pain, family, loyalty – hell, it did even include a little bit of sexuality in there. This was all within something I had enjoyed as a child, and it subtly introduced me to my first engaging video game narrative.
In the first KotOR, and like in most Star Wars games, you could go to the dark side, however it seemed like this was without any good motive, so you were being a jerk for the sake of simply being a jerk. In Knights of the Old Republic II, you have a pretty good reason to use evil powers. Linking to that, the often heroic Jedi didn’t look so heroic, and in fact looked rather unsympathetic and out of touch. Knights of the Old Republic II is a game you play for the story, and in turn watch it play with your own ideas and philosophies, as well as developing on what you thought you already knew about your favourite franchise.
Surely a life-changing game has to have more than a good story? Indeed, the gameplay of the Knights of the Old Republic II can be more than a little grinding, notably on the beginning levels. And it’s still not a complete game, right? Well, like many cult classics, there is a dedicated fanbase behind it who are responsible for creating numerous mods that restore missing and cut content to help give the game a fuller experience. The “Sith Lords Restored Content” is a highly essential mod for the game, as it helps fill in the plot holes, and makes the game a whole lot more enjoyable. And now, after 10 years, a patch was put out on Steam to include the restoration pack within the Steam Workshop, as well as making it playable on Mac. Am I sad there is nothing for consoles? Yes, but this at least provides a platform for more people to play the game, and see it at its best.
“Everyone has that one game that they know everyone else won’t enjoy, but for one reason or another they can’t stop playing”
The final reason why this game is so important to me, and hopefully some of you, is that Knights of the Old Republic II is the game that I know isn’t the best, but it’s something which I’ve grown attached to. To see it now get the recognition it deserves warms my cold gamer heart a little. Everyone has that one game that they know everyone else won’t enjoy, but for one reason or another they can’t stop playing. That is KotOR II for me, a game which I’ve grown up trying to install, uninstall, clean disc, mod, and install again. And if a game can make you can that, it has certainly changed your life.