Knights of the Old Republic: the remake we need

Knights of the Old Republic: the remake we need

Knights of the Old Republic

Video game adaptations of film or cartoon works don't have an exactly happy story, and the same (if not worse) can be said of video game-inspired movies. Only in more recent times are we witnessing a thinning of the boundary between the two mediums and consequently the quality of the tie-ins is increasing on average.

When Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) came out back in 2003 it turned out to be one of the most sensational exceptions in a period in which being able to create a satisfying product of this kind was a very rare undertaking. Not only that, but he managed to raise the standard of tie-ins to an extraordinary level, so much so that for many it still represents the best video game dedicated to Star Wars ever created.

It is therefore not surprising the frequent requests of fans for a second sequel or a remake of the original originally developed by BioWare, nor the frequent rumors about it. Apparently these rumors of hope have not been ignored by Lucasfilm, who during the last PlayStation Showcase officially announced the remake in collaboration with Aspyr.

Some were disappointed from the fact that BioWare is not curating the remake, but it is evident that the Canadian team is very busy with Dragon Age 4 and the next Mass Effect. Furthermore, in hindsight, today's BioWare does not have much in common with that of almost twenty years ago; just think of the absence of Casey Hudson and Drew Karpyshyn, respectively director and screenwriter of KotOR. The choice of Aspyr might seem risky, given that so far it has been a studio specialized in porting for consoles, PCs and Macs, but it must be considered that just last February it was purchased by Embracer Group (formerly THQ Nordic) and that this acquisition will bring a lot probably the necessary funding to give him the opportunity to make a qualitative leap.

During the announcement of the remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic it was specified that it will not be a remaster or a purely graphic homework, but a reconstruction from scratch of the original title. Despite the often sterile criticism of some players towards the remakes, a reissue of KotOR could indeed be the realization of a dream for the many fans who have claimed it, but not only.

After the end (and for many the disappointment) of the third film trilogy, Star Wars is finding new lifeblood from new narrative solutions, not only from comics and books (which have always been there), but especially from TV series on Disney + such as The Mandalorian and the next Obi-Wan Kenobi. Narrative lines transversal to the main work that increasingly deepen his universe and his characters.

Despite being set thousands of years before the events of The Phantom Menace, Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel The Sith Lords brought with them a wealth of impressive lore, investigating the nature of the Force and the relationship between Jedi and Sith in a profound way, but also showing us the past of some iconic planets such as Tatooine and Kashyyyk; no less interesting were the new planets such as Taris with its criminal gangs and socio-political implications, or the home planet of the Sith: Korriban. We know that Old Republic video games, along with many works from the so-called Expanded Universe, were pulled out of the Star Wars canon by Disney and categorized as "Legends". Yet we have found several elements of it in recent productions, such as Taris, the Pazaak card game and the Selkath aquatic species.

Of course, in addition to the references there are also incompatibilities between the Expanded Universe and the new projects, so perhaps expecting a sharp return of KotOR into the canon is too simplistic. But if some elements have been taken up and adapted to the new canon, it means that they are still considered valid and potentially exploitable. With the release and hopefully the success of this remake also among new players, Disney could re-evaluate the hold of the Expanded Universe on the public and bring it closer to the canon in some way.

Matters of Other than that, we take this opportunity to formulate some expectations about the game itself. The fact that Knights of the Old Republic is a masterpiece does not mean that it cannot be improved, and this remake is the perfect opportunity to review some aspects that obviously feel a certain age, both in terms of organization and game design.

For starters we could increase the customization of the protagonist by adding a variety of customization options that we have seen in modern titles. Although canonically human, it wouldn't hurt to give him the chance to assign him one of the many races that populate the galaxy.

Even considering that the title will be released for PlayStation 5, a new control mapping is certainly needed. Aspyr has already dealt with adaptability issues in the current console conversions of Star Wars Episode I: Racer and Star Wars: Republic Commando, but being able to devise a system that at the same time does not break down but rather improves the experience on PC will be a great challenge.

Teammates' artificial intelligence would also benefit from a targeted reworking. Perhaps through the addition of tactical options now quite common in several modern games.

But the most important question that the developers will have to face will concern the game formula, that is whether to leave unchanged the nature of a Western turn-based RPG or whether to go one step further and make it an action-RPG. It is true that Final Fantasy VII Remake has effectively demonstrated that it is possible to create a middle ground between turn-based combat and real time, but it is a quite different title. Surely a good part of the quality of this remake will be played on this decision by Lucasfilm Games and Aspyr.

Gameplay aside, even the narrative component of Knights of the Old Republic could be improved further. We are obviously not talking about changing history (you can lower the pitchforks), but rather making it richer and filling some holes left in the past. Above all, it would be interesting to make the unfolding of events more varied and diversified according to our actions. In the original title, we had the opportunity to make narrative choices, but several plot developments ended up occurring regardless of our initiatives. Furthermore, the choices available were often polarizing, created to take us on the path of the Light or the Dark Side. The narrative arcs of the allied characters were also somewhat fixed. Taking inspiration from more modern BioWare titles, it would be interesting to include more dialogue options and a wider variety of plot consequences and ramifications.

Beyond the possible implementations, the most important aspect Aspyr will have to harness is the transposition of the soul itself and of the atmosphere that had made Knights of the Old Republic so unique and exciting. Ryan Treadwell, lead producer of Aspyr, would seem in line with this purpose and has specified that the remake will try to respect the original title as much as possible, starting from the story and the characters. In this regard, the return of the historical voice actors has been confirmed, including Jennifer Hale who will play the dialogues of Bastila.

The stakes are high, but if this remake proves to be a success it could open the door to a important perspective, or a remake also for the sequel The Sith Lords, with a work aimed at fixing the crooked and incomplete elements that crippled its success years ago, and finally receive an incarnation worthy of its potential.

For the moment we just have to observe the works on this highly anticipated title from afar. We remind you that the remake of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic will be released (we do not yet know when) as an exclusive timeline for PlayStation 5 and then also land on PC at a later time.

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