The recent news regarding a remake of BioWare’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has brought in a lot of praise. After all, it is an updated version of a beloved classic that certainly deserves a second life for new fans to enjoy. Yet, part of me is somewhat disappointed by the announcement, not because KOTOR isn’t deserving of it really. No, I would rather its sequel get that nod instead.
For me, the better was always Obsidian’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. It was a game that had more character and complexity that felt like a darker version of Star Wars that needed to be told. It is also somewhat infamous for being developed in less than 14 months and being released in what is ostensibly an unfinished state.
Yeah, KOTOR II should get a remake instead, and here is why.
Note: Spoilers regarding the plot details of Both KOTOR games, The Mandalorian, and The Last Jedi ahead.
Finishing the Game
The first reason is the most obvious: KOTOR II needs a remake so it can be properly finished. Mods have, over the years, taken up that mantle to implement missing content throughout the game—especially the ending—but so much of the game’s content that is lost would certainly be a nice boon for a remake.
We know that Chris Avellone, the writer and designer of KOTOR II, has multiple regrets and decisions he wishes he could do over again. An interview with Eurogamer sheds light on this in-depth. It is well known that LucasArts was not going to move the game’s release date, but Avellone is the first to admit Obsidian is at fault for the game’s broken state.
"There's a number of design decisions we could have done to de-scope the game. We should have removed all mini-games—that was a huge waste of time. And all those cutscenes we had, the in-engine sequences: all of those were such a huge pain in the arse to set up and we could never count on them reliably." —Chris Avellone
There's a reason why so many cutscenes take place on the Ebon Hawk, and that's because Obsidian could ensure people would be standing in the right places when they triggered. Oh and redesigning the interface was also "a huge waste of time."
There were a lot of ideas Obisidan considered for KOTOR II, from visiting Alderaan to setting up small plot elements for a potential sequel where the Jedi Exile will attempt to track Revan. Other areas were implemented, but cut, such as the Droid Factory Planet based on the production of HK-51s, the upgraded counterpart to HK-47. IT would take the work of modders to bring back the Droid Planet, along with a lot of the planned events for the games ending, which sees the story and narrative elements peter out by the time you hit Malichor V.
Characters Worth Remembering
What made BioWare’s KOTOR so memorable was two things: the first was, of course, the big twist of you being Revan. The second was the characters that surrounded you. Each of them was unique and dynamic enough to provide interesting perspectives amongst your team while never feeling overly grating. At least, most of the time.
Avellone knew that should be the main focus for KOTOR II, and the companions and characters that you interact with up the ante in terms of complexity, dynamics, and overall memorability. Sure, you get both droids as returning members of the party, but it is the rest of the cast that shines in ways that are frankly impressive for a 2004 game.
My personal favorite companions showcase why these types of characters need to be seen in a remake. Atton Rand, the ‘Han Solo’ type, for example, turns out to not be a roguish character at all, but instead a troubled man who hunted and tortured Jedi for years due to the Mandalorian Wars. You can help in atoning for his past crimes and even unlock his own force sensitivity, something he has hidden within himself due to his own self-hatred for the Jedi.
Then, of course, you have Kreia, who for my money is one of the best characters in the franchise. Essentially her entire goal in the game is tied to her own thoughts and philosophies about the force and how the force is not necessary. Kreia is the backbone of the characters in KOTOR II, the mentor, turned betrayer, turned manipulator, and each interaction with her is not a question of strength, but a conversation built on belief, making her both mysterious and complex enough to be continuously fascinating to listen to.
The theme of a lot of these characters is their actual flaws and inner conflicts that contradict their archetypes. The first KOTOR was much more direct with their characters; many of them were not one-dimensional, but they didn’t see much growth overall, and instead filled the shoes of what you expect, plucky rogues, sarcastic droids, noble Wookies, the boxes were checked. There were some exceptions, such as Bastila and Carth, but KOTOR II has a leg up when it comes to characters because they don't fit the expected archetypes.
This goes for the villains as well. Both Darth Nihilus and Darth Sion have become iconic figures in the Star Wars franchise. Their visual design, motivations, and even their essence of their nature and ties to the narrative give them an edge that is miles above the likes of Darth Malak. Nihilus has virtually zero dialogue in-game, but his look alone is one of menace and danger. Sion’s anger and pain, and relationship with Kreia, adds complexity to his own motivations. You also have Jedi master Atris, who is portrayed as an aloof, high-minded Jedi that slowly corrupts to the Dark Side.
All of this brings me to my last point...
The Last Jedi of Star Wars Games
KOTOR II is The Last Jedi of Star Wars video games, and it should get a remake because that needs to be preserved.
I know that there are a lot of people reading this now that will take some odd personal offense to such a statement. Still, hear me out for a moment. Not to get deep into the quality of The Last Jedi, but it was very atypical of a Star Wars movie, one that was introspective and thematically subversive compared to its predecessors. The core of The Last Jedi is about the themes of failure in adversity, and the characterization portrayed by the characters echoes this completely. Luke’s struggle with his legacy and his failures, Rey’s blind hope of redeeming Kylo Ren, and Kylo’s path to further darkness all lead to a movie that, while flawed, has complexity layered into its narrative.
What does this have to do with KOTOR II? Well, consider the themes of the game to other Star Wars media. It was always about duality, about light and dark, good and evil. Yet, the thesis of KOTOR II was less about that duality and more about the complexity of gray. Kreia’s existence in-game is a testament to that theme.
It was also a purposeful choice, at least according to Avellone. Kreia was intended to be a character to help the player question the nature of the Star Wars universe. Everything that Avellone thought should be questioned, he had Kreia do so.
It goes beyond just Kreia, however. The inner conflicts between the companions, the morally ambiguous actions of the player, even the very nature of the plot—the Jedi Exile being a tear in the force that Kreia hopes to use to destroy it completely—is more metaphysical than spectacle. It is a plot where the expected outcome—killing the Sith—is secondary to the main characters’ inner conflict and resolution. KOTOR II is not a flashy game compared to KOTOR; there is no galaxy-ending superweapon to find, no epic final battle. True, you have Sith chasing you, but the motivations of these Sith are less focused on galaxy-wide domination and are more personal.
What you get instead is a confrontation with Kreia that is personal and about you and her. Her motivations, your convictions. Her plans. Your actions. It is a philosophical conversion wrapped in d20 combat, and while a fight must take place, the reasons for that fight happening are squarely within the inner thoughts of the Jedi Exile, and most importantly, the player. "There is no great secret," Kreia says to the player. "There is only you."
KOTOR II’s ending is subdued and introspective, one that at the last minute makes you question what the force is and why it is held in such high regard by Jedi and Sith alike. We often just assume the force is a powerful entity in some ways that Jedi and Sith can manipulate. KOTOR II is the only game that not only questions whether or not the force is a good thing for the galaxy, but implies it can be destroyed as well; this pillar of the franchise, this important part of its lore and history, maybe isn’t as important as we think?
That introspection is unique, and until The Last Jedi came out, was something we rarely saw in Star Wars. This is likely due to how Star Wars is seen by the community: the bombastic good-vs-evil narratives where you would expect something from that vein. All forms of Star Wars media, from the books to the games, for years have been designed to continue the franchise with its iconography and themes rarely deviating from the good-vs-evil mold. Throw in nostalgia and expectations of how characters should be, and you have a massive franchise that, for all intents and purposes, has little room to be subversive.
The ending of the second season of The Mandalorian is proof enough of this. The reveal of Luke, after striding with confidence down a corridor slaying dark troopers with a lightsaber, showcases something many fans felt was missing in his more subversive battle with Kylo Ren on Krait.
But, there is room for this subversion still, after all, a fan can enjoy both The Last Jedi and The Mandalorian quite easily. KOTOR II is proof enough that Star Wars media can break the mold as well. It doesn’t have to be a yarn regarding good and evil forever, and something less expected is always a welcome surprise when it’s told right. The lack of a remake for KOTOR II is in some ways a loss on this different perspective, especially when it wasn’t finished the first time around.
Polishing a Gem
Let’s be real, when the remake of KOTOR does come out, I will play it to death because it is an enjoyable game. Yet, KOTOR II is such a unique gem of a game, it feels almost neglectful to not let it have another chance to shine. Giving is not only a graphical overhaul but finishing the content that should have been in there is a great excuse for a remake. Yet, the narrative, characters, and all the other aspects of KOTOR II are what need to be equally preserved.
I hope, one way, we do see that remake. Until then, I will forever remain hopeful that this often forgotten sequel gets a chance to showcase how good it was once more.