About a decade ago in the very same galaxy we inhabit…
KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC
The early 21st century was a dark time in the
galaxy. ATTACK OF THE CLONES had been
released in theaters and was ill-received by
fans of Star Wars.
The MICROSOFT XBOX was in similar straits.
The killer app HALO was the only title worth
playing on the console for roughly 18 months
after its launch.
But there was hope amidst the despair. For
game developer BIOWARE was developing
a title that would appease both audiences…
Poor imitations of the Star Wars opening title crawl (such as the above) are one reason why I’ll never write-up the Star Wars d20 campaign.
Anyway, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a computer RPG developed by Bioware and released in 2003 (July for the Xbox, November for PC). It was well-received for its writing (notably one of the most famous plot twists in any video game ever), faithful adaptation of d20 Star Wars rules for gameplay, multiple ways to approach a given way situation (brute force combat, Force powers, skill usage) and the amount of player choice one felt over their character and the story. Most criticism was leveled at the combat, which would’ve felt clunky compared to a contemporary Star Wars game like Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast/Jedi Academy and the repetitive alien voice-acting. Regardless, the game was a smash hit and achieved widespread critical acclaim.
Unlike other Let’s Plays, I’m not going to focus on the gameplay. Instead, we’re looking at the story, writing, references, CRPG tropes the game codified and things of that nature. Because Knights of the Old Republic is over a decade old, the attitude regarding spoilers is going to be laissez-faire. Indeed, I’m going to spoil the major plot twist right away by naming our character Revan. Because FRAPS doesn’t record the video cutscenes in KOTOR (for some reason), I’m just going to have to get those screenshots from somewhere else…or just describe them in text.
KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC
Four thousand years before the rise of the Galactic Empire, the Republic verges on collapse. DARTH MALAK, last surviving apprentice of the DARK LORD REVAN, has unleashed an invincible Sith armada upon an unsuspecting galaxy. Crushing all resistance, Malak's war of conquest has left the Jedi Order scattered and vulnerable as countless Knights fall in battle, and many more swear allegiance to the new Sith Master. In the skies above the Outer Rim world of Taris, a Jedi battle fleet engages the forces of Darth Malak in a desperate effort to halt the Sith's galactic domination…
Interestingly enough, Bioware was given the option to do an Episode II game. From a ComputerandVideoGames.com article on Wikipedia: “LucasArts came to us and said that we could do an Episode II game,” BioWare CEO Raymond Muzyka said. “Or LucasArts said we could go 4,000 years back, which is a period that’s hardly been covered before.”
While a Bioware-produced Episode II game would make an interesting what-if discussion (would it have averted the problem with licensed games like EA’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers did?), I much prefer them going with the “4,000 years before the prequels” setting. One nitpick regarding Star Wars is that most of the Expanded Universe literature, despite having a considerable time frame to work with, has most of its stories set in the time of the original trilogy (give or take 20 years). Compare the number of publications in the Rise of the Empire/Rebellion Eras to other times here… It makes the Star Wars universe feel small and condensed rather than something impressive.
Both of these dialogue options seem kinda silly. When in doubt, pick the most silly or serious option… It’s a bit odd that Trask and Revan would work opposite shifts and not see each other. It’s also strange that, if the Jedi Council were fearful that the former Dark Lord of the Sith would regain his memories/powers, they’d have a low level Republic soldier watching him.
Trask’s comments are based on what class you picked during character creation. Pick soldier and he’ll comment on how your character is a badass recruit. Pick scoundrel and he’ll mention that you’re a renowned smuggler of spice and illegal weapons. All of them are cover stories concocted by the Jedi Council after they brainwashed Revan…although it makes one wonder who decided what and why. “Hey, let’s make the former Dark Lord of the Sith’s new identity a spice smuggler!”
A brief change of clothes later…
Maybe it’s standard protocol for living quarters on a ship to be locked down during an attack but we also see that the next corridor is also locked down. Perhaps it’s looking too deeply (i.e. trying to find meaning in something that isn’t there) but a room that’s double-locked in case of an attack? Says something about how valuable the people who occupy that room are…
Trask’s comments are most likely not meant to be taken literally…but it does suggest that the crew of the Endar Spire is full of green, raw recruits. According to Wookiepedia, the Endar Spire is a Hammerhead-class cruiser with an operating crew of 300. It can carry another 400 passengers. We later learn that the Jedi Council was hoping they could re-trigger Revan’s memories to find the Star Forge… If so, it’s a bit odd they wouldn’t have a more experienced crew capable of handling a (weakened) Sith Lord…unless the Jedi saw them all as expendable and figured if Revan did somehow convert the crew to his Sith cause, he’d only have some low-level flunkies that the Republic could easily dispatch.
One of the renowned praises of Knights of the Old Republic was how well Bioware captured the feel of the original Star Wars. The tutorial sequence is one of the best examples of that. Compare these shots to the opening in the original movie (aka A New Hope). The helmets of the Republic soldiers strongly resemble those of the Rebel soldiers. Also, we can see the faces of the various Republic soldiers, knowing we can relate to them vs. the faceless mooks of the evil Sith. Of course, the Sith here could be mere creations of the Star Forge and thus not really human at all.
I always wondered why this Jedi died here. She’d have been a perfect choice to introduce players to Jedi gameplay mechanics rather than have them play for a few hours before finding Bastilla. Perhaps they didn’t want to throw too much at the players at once.
Star Wars is more “space fantasy” than “science fiction” but I have to draw the line at “swords with a cortosis weave being able to withstand a lightsaber.”
The Dark Jedi is actually Darth Bandon, Darth Malak’s Sith apprentice. He’s worth mentioning here because when you encounter him later in the game, you can bring up that he killed Trask and be quite upset about it…despite the fact that most players barely remember an NPC from the tutorial they played 20 hours ago.
The game tutorial isn’t unforgiving the way Baldur’s Gate 1 is…but it’s still a d20 based game and we’re playing as a low level character. Dying is a strong possibility, especially if you’re frugal with medpacs or play as a scoundrel with a low constitution.
Carth is on the other side of the room, so it’s a bit of a dick move on his part to leave you to fight the Sith alone. What I’d like to have done is reprogram the droid and coordinate a sneak attack with Carth…the droid and I could open the doors to attack and when the Sith focus on it, Carth could open his door and shoot them from behind. The resulting crossfire would mow everyone down. But I guess those communicators are a one-way transmitting device.
Both of these dialogue options are a bit silly. The tutorial isn’t really the best example of the game’s writing.
Sure enough, we escape the Endar Spire just in time before Darth Malak’s Sith fleet blows it up. Interestingly, this scene does foreshadow Taris’ fate. Have the Sith found Bastilla yet? No? Well, they might as blow up the ship/planet she’s on!
I believe the bed used for the game’s dream sequences is on the Ebon Hawk. I originally ran through the tutorial after cheating myself to be a Jedi. It went pretty well until I got to this sequence, when the game booted me to an Ebon Hawk that had no party members and no way to use the galaxy map. Perhaps it has something to do with the game’s scripting? I’m not tech savvy enough to answer that.
Anyway, the dream Revan has is of a Jedi (Bastilla) dueling someone with a lightsaber. We later find out this is shortly before Revan was captured on his ship by the Jedi.
I’d like to ask Carth, “What kind of worse spots?”
In Star Wars d20, the number of languages a character speaks is limited by their race and their intelligence bonus. Thus, we can presume Revan is pretty smart. That or he used the Force equivalent of Comprehend Languages. After all, when we encounter the Rakata on the Unknown Planet later in the game, we learn that Revan learned the native language by ripping the language from the leader’s mind. If he could do it to them, why not the various other species of the galaxy?
The million dollar question…
…that we need to ask twice in order to get a proper answer.
Battle Meditation shows up as a Force power in Knights of the Old Republic II. It gives allies a bonus to attack, damage, will saves and health regeneration (everything you need to fight better) while enemies failing a will save receive a penalty. Also, any Jedi party member can learn it although only the main player character can use it to influence a military outcome like Bastilla does.
Carth’s claim that the Sith won’t be looking for common soldiers is total horseshit, as we’ll find out at the start of the next chapter.
Also, while Bastilla’s public enemy number one, I’d question Carth’s claim of being able to move around easily. Carth is a renowned Republic war hero whose former mentor (Saul Karath) is the commander of the Sith fleet currently orbiting Taris. Keeping a low profile would help, as does the fact that every Sith we encounter on Taris ends up dead, but wandering around the Upper City of Taris would get him spotted by Sith surveillance.
Revan would get a pass because it’s been over a decade since anyone saw him outside of his iconic mask.
Carth being spotted by Sith surveillance is proven correct in the next entry, when we’re attacked by a patrol inquiring about Republic fugitives hiding out with aliens.
More foreshadowing regarding Revan.
Highlighting this to note Carth’s pause when he admits the Sith are looking for Bastilla, not a couple of grunts. Carth feels a bit inadequate around Jedi, mainly because they are way more powerful than him and make his dual blaster build completely useless with their lightsaber laser bolt deflection. He also harbors a bit of resentment towards Bastilla and the Jedi Council because they basically commandeered command of the Endar Spire for a mission he doesn’t know the full story behind. Finally, Carth has a lot of trust issues stemming from most of his Mandalorian War buddies/comrades joining the Sith and then bombing Telos, his home planet. Carth’s probably thinking that this entire situation, all the deaths of those Republic soldiers, wouldn’t have happened if the Jedi hadn’t taken charge.
Next part to be posted Tuesday, barring major catastrophes. I intend to finish this game so I can give Gabe his copy of KOTOR back after holding on to it for much of the past year.