While A Galaxy Far, Far Away has played host to many great games, two in particular from the first decade of the new millenium have stayed ever present in the minds of fans. BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Obsidian’s sequel Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords, setting a precedent and expectations for Star Wars games to come. Set 4000 years before the original trilogy of Star Wars films, KotOR was a smash hit, with new characters fitting familiar archetypes, and a setting of new worlds caught in conflict between the Galactic Republic and a Sith Empire led by former Jedi. These games have cast a long shadow over subsequent Star Wars games, and fans have long clamored for a remake, which was finally confirmed to be in production by Aspyr Media earlier this year.
The problem with remakes and long-awaited sequels is inherent to nostalgia. We think we want more of the same when we really want to relive a feeling of newness from that first time we had our minds blown. An old thing can’t make you experience the same feeling of novelty and surprise. KotOR’s entire plot hinges on a huge twist. You can’t play that trick twice. Ask the sequel trilogy. For years on end, I’ve been looking for a game or a film to make me feel that way again. With thousands of at-bats, very few pieces of art that have made me reconsider what is possible in media have been Star Wars or Star Wars-adjacent. That’s why KotOR is so special. And although the game can be remade, the context that made it so special is gone forever.
Knights of the Old Republic’s D20 combat and morality choices may not have been as groundbreaking for old-hand RPG fans as they were for me at eight years old, but they helped define what I thought videogames would be. While the game kept to Star Wars conventions, merely set so far away from the film canon that new good guys and bad guys could be utilized to tell the standard morality tale, it remains more interested in picking apart Star Wars’ moral assumptions than most Star Wars mass media properties (Empire-apologetic EU books notwithstanding). It deals with classism and discrimination from the narrative outset in ways Star Wars frequently ignores, yet was still eclipsed by its sequel.
During a quick turnaround that produced a beloved but unfinished game, Obsidian took Star Wars and turned it on its ear, raising stakes not just by creating a grander enemy but by having a protagonist-antagonist that questions the intrinsic morality of the Force, a person that wants to destroy this ethereal power that binds and penetrates all life forms. The Sith Lords took an incredibly solid foundation and built something magnificent. The opening level allowed the player to decide how the former game ended, which affected some of which characters the players interacted with in the game. There was a party member influence system that allowed the protagonist to train Jedi while simultaneously picking at the core philosophies behind Star Wars. If the player character went far enough to the Light or Dark side of the Force, they got secondary classes with special Feats and Force powers. The morality of their decisions with power brokers in the galaxy was more complicated. Lightsabers and other weapons were more deeply customizable. Despite shipping with content noticeably cut, the game was a hit.
Then, rather unceremoniously, the third game was canceled. Concept artwork was published in a book about LucasArts released in 2008, but KotOR 3 and its dangling story threads were brushed to the side, referenced to varying degrees in story expansions to BioWare’s Star Wars MMO. The Old Republic has already ended the stories of protagonists Revan and The Exile, to mixed satisfaction for fans of the originals. So fans of KotOR and KotOR 2 have waited. Some have even made their own sequel, by way of a total conversion mod for KotOR 2 released just last year.
In April 2014, Disney discarded the Star Wars Expanded Universe as canon, while still drawing from it when appropriate. The Old Republic videogame is the only thing still making Legends content. It seems unlikely Disney and Lucasfilm Games are licensing this property to a studio simply to rehash a story that is no longer considered canon. It seems more likely, based on their general commitment to synchronicity and synergy across brands, that they intend to bring it into the fold. But why should this concern us to speculate?
Aspyr Media has proven their mettle with myriad successful ports, especially Star Wars games, and proven their dedication to this fanbase by supporting the fan-created The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod for the last six years, including bringing it to their iOS and Apple ports of KotOR 2 last December. A successful KotOR remake could lead to a Sith Lords remake, or a standalone sequel. But we can’t weigh either project down with expectations based on what we liked almost two decades ago. The problem is that this is what any developer faces when licensing something that was loved for its decades-old impact.
This remake will shoulder the weight of a thousand Star Forges. In order to succeed, those of us who have waited for 17 years must heed what Rian Johnson and Adam Driver told us in The Last Jedi. We have to let the past die.
The teams, concepts, and implements that made Knights of the Old Republic and The Sith Lords may very well be gone. BioWare has wished Aspyr the best while acknowledging they won’t be involved. As much as we want to play a D20 game in 2022, Aspyr isn’t likely to gamble their debut original title on old-fashioned DnD rules. Whatever the new version of Knights of the Old Republic looks and feels like, and whatever the next episode of Knights of the Old Republic is, it won’t bring us the closure we want. Luckily, it doesn’t have to.
Kevin Fox, Jr. is a writer, historian, and nonprofit worker. He loves videogames, pop culture, sports, and human rights, and can be found on Twitter @kevinfoxjr.