Arguably the best Star Wars RPG is expecting its remake in the hands of professionals.
Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) is a game that slowly approaches its twentieth anniversary. A game with truly Star Wars-y story, epic battle between good and evil, Jedi and Sith, millennia before the rise of Darth Vader. A game where choices matter in a tangible way, impacting your progress towards the Light or Dark Side. A game with fully-voiced amazing characters and great atmosphere created by the beautiful music and visuals.
Except perhaps now the visuals and some elements of the interface may seem outdated, especially to new players. That, among others, may be a good enough reason to attempt what Lucasfilm Games and Aspyr studios are planning to do now.
Much To Remake
Perhaps you remember the KOTOR remake attempt from a few years ago by Apeiron. That project was entirely fan-made and did not make it into its final stages. This time, the KOTOR remake is officially backed by Lucasfilm Games. The people in charge are Orion Kellogg, executive producer at Lucasfilm Games, and Ryan Treadwell, lead producer at Aspyr. Aspyr is the studio that already has a couple of old Star Wars remakes behind its belt: namely Star Wars Racer, Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. These however were just restored so that they could be played on contemporary platforms. KOTOR seems to promise something more.
The first thing that crosses any true fan’s mind is: “But if you do a remake, will it be different from ‘my’ KOTOR? Do I even want to see this?” What dissuades such fears is the attitude both lead personalities have. They seem to be fully aware of this problem, and the fact that they have a deep personal relationship to the original could be the best guarantee that they are going to handle their work with care. If you ask Orion Kellogg about KOTOR and in his first sentence, he starts reminiscing standing amongst the skyscrapers on Taris for the first time, you know that something is being done right.
What changes is KOTOR Remake going to bring then? Aside from graphics, the developers have betrayed that they are re-recording the voice lines and expanding some previous options in a way to better fit the gameplay experience. Jennifer Hale (Bastila Shan) has been confirmed to return, as are “some other familiar voices” – which however implies that some may not come back.
I guess most fans can deal with having random NPCs speak in a different voice (but Gorton Colu? “The evil walks amongst us! The enemy is here!”), but the voices of the more memorable characters are as important to the game as the overall atmosphere. Some returns are almost given – not having Kristoffer Tabori reprise his role as HK-47 would be a blasphemy, same goes for Cat Taber and Mission Vao. But even the rest of major NPCs are rather iconic and the question is, how is the game going to handle this – and even when getting the old actors back, one has to keep in mind that they are going to be two decades older than they were when recording the original game! The soundscape also better stay similar enough – and the music better remain the same for ninety percent of the time.
It is clear that KOTOR Remake won’t quite be KOTOR, but it is good enough if it is a “new generation KOTOR”. One can see this idea manifest in the first (so far basically contentless) trailer (below), where the way Revan draws their lightsaber is clearly made to be reminiscent of Kylo Ren as a figure familiar to contemporary audience. (This makes things go full-circle, as Kylo Ren’s aesthetic was undeniably partly inspired by the look of Revan.) The developers’ often-repeated mantra is to bring the game to the next generation of players while making it feel as impactful as it felt to the first players two decades ago. According to Ryan Treadwell, KOTOR was a revolution in storytelling and they intend to capitalise on that.
Remake Our Pazaak!
The remake can sure do much good if done properly. Some tiny bumps can be polished up, some bits od dialogue rephrased or expanded, some quests or venues broadened in their scope. What one can think of immediately is fixing some loose ends, such as the Genoharadan subplot or the problematic possibility that the player might lock themselves for example out of Kashyyyk if they progress the story too fast. The minigames of swoop racing, starship fighting (the nightmare of many a player) and perhaps even Pazaak could be upped to today’s standards. The stories of Sasha or Dustil could be given a more detailed closure. The same-sex romance with Juhani that remained unfinished in the original game could be completed. These are fixes surely nobody would object to. Similarly, a reasonable developer won’t even think about changing the most iconic moments, even if they are minor, such as Calo Nord’s “One… Two…” scene.
The rest remains on the developers’ good sense. Fortunately, as by their own words, they keep in touch with the original KOTOR devs and discuss the reasons for why things were done the way they were. Understanding the “building blocks” of the original, not just in terms of programming but also in terms of intent, combined with love for the story and the desire to do it justice are probably the best thing you can ask from a developer.
KOTOR Remake is planned to launch on PlayStation5 and also on PC. The date of release has not been announced yet.