With the scope for change a ground up remake gives them, we are left asking, what KOTOR features will be changed, updated, or kept the same? Sony confirmed they were remaking the game in their September 2021 PlayStation Showcase. There is no confirmed release date yet, but Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) will be a timed exclusive for the PS5 and PC. It is being developed by Aspyr.
Ryan Treadwell, Lead Producer for Aspyr has declared “We’re rebuilding it from the ground up with the latest tech to match the ground-breaking standard of innovation established by the original, all while staying true to its revered story.”
Aspyr has been recruiting from a strong pool of talent, including many who worked on the original. This includes Jennifer Hale returning as Bastila Shan. Treadwell has also said that “other familiar voices will return”. My fingers are crossed that we get more wonderful sarcasm from Kristoffer Tabori as HK-47.
Aspyr has previously worked mostly on ports of old games. However, this does include the KOTOR port to the Nintendo Switch. There’s a lot of pressure but they seem well positioned. What could be meant by matching the innovation of the original? Here are 5 features we need to make the most of the ground up remake.
Update the KOTOR Combat Features
This might be controversial, but I think the combat could be updated. There have been some rumours already that Aspyr will be making it into an Action RPG. The original has real time round-based combat, inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. This feels clunky but has its charm.
There have been other remakes that successfully modernised this kind of combat. Final Fantasy VII Remake did just this. It features a hybrid system with real-time combat mixed with strategic party use. This kind of system would suit the remake as it would benefit from more dynamic combat features. This would make the satisfaction of winning a lightsaber dual all the sweeter. It would also make blaster builds more engaging. This also extends to the space combat sections. Being able to control the Ebon Hawk in dogfights would be a lot more fun than the static shooting gallery the original has.
Add KOTOR Lore, Don’t Remake it
With a game as beloved as Knights of the Old Republic, making dramatic changes to the story will alienate fans. Aspyr seems aware of this. The story and twist may be too well known to shock anyone at this point, but it is a core part of the story. Fortunately, the remake has a lot of opportunities to add new lore instead.
They could go as far as to make new planets and characters. There are even characters that could easily be adapted to fill more prominent roles. Shasa, the force sensitive Selkath you meet on the ocean planet of Manaan is one such character. There’s no reason why the remake couldn’t make her a party member at the conclusion of her side quest.
There is also the planet Sleheydron, which was cut from the original release. It has been described as a “Planet Hulk” gladiator world run by the Hutts. This is another great way to add new content and give a little extra for returning fans. Lets hope this remake brings cherished characters into official Star Wars Cannon as well.
More Skill Based Solutions
KOTOR provides alternate paths and solutions which different builds excel at. The game has a system of stats similar to DnD. When you level up you choose which Stat to put points into. These can be Strength, Charisma, Wisdom etc. Also, you can unlock feats and forces powers. Skills like persuasion and stealth can give you the upper hand or help you avoid combat. Computer use enables you to use terminals to poison enemies or remotely detonate nearby computers. It’s a staple of the game. However, there are some balance problems. Not all builds are created equal and melee combat builds are king.
What the game could use is some tweaking to open your options. Awareness currently only really detects mines but could be adapted to include conversation checks. Computer use could become more interesting if the developers create more options to take out or distract enemies. Currently, it’s mostly just used to explode terminals.
With some work, Aspyr could flesh out what has been one of KOTORs strengths. I think even more persuasion options would be fantastic. This could allow fans to approach old situations in new ways.
More Character Customisation Options
If there’s one thing that’s disappointing about the original KOTOR, it’s the limited character customisation. If you’re going to spend hours with a character, it’s nice to make them look exactly how you want. Aspyr should replace the previous 30 premade character appearances with a character creation system like Fallout 4 or Cyber Punk 2077. It’s a small detail, but it would certainly be a nice addition. They could even let you play as different species, like a Twi’lek or Rodian. A no-nonsense addition like this seems likely to feature in the remake. At least give us some beards, anything other than that one dated soul patch.
A More Nuanced Morality System
The remake could build on KOTORs beloved light-side/dark-side feature. You choose whether you become a Jedi or a Sith. This means actions and dialogue choices give you light-side or dark-side points which affects the characters alignment. As your character becomes more aligned with the light-side or dark-side of the force a lot can change, including the ending. On the gameplay side, this affects the amount of force points it takes to use powers like Force Choke and Heal that are affiliated with either side.
Whilst this works, Aspyr could try and be more ambitious. The Sequel, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords explores the nuances of morality even deeper, and this makes it, in my opinion, the best piece of Star Wars media to date. The developers could take inspiration from this and create a more complex system than just good or bad.
Possible Ways This Could be Done
In the game, you often have multiple solutions that give varying amounts of light or dark side points. For example, when you find a serum for the Rakghoul disease, a disease that mutates the infected into grotesque monsters. You can; give the serum to an individual to save them, sell the serum for credits, or give it a doctor to synthesize and reproduce (although you can also extort him for money while you do it).
Given there are multiple ways to resolve the moral conundrums the game throws at you, perhaps they could add more axis to slide you character along. This way there could be multiple facets to the morality system. For example, points for Cruel and Kind actions could be one axis. A second axis could be about being in line with Jedi or Sith teachings, or it could be about the characters propensity for violence as a solution.
Adding more nuance to this feature could make Gray-Jedi builds possible or allow the player to explore their alignment themselves. The KOTOR games have been phenomenal at exploring the complexities of the Jedi and Sith. Therefore, building on this would go a long way to adding to the groundbreaking legacy of the originals.
No doubt the game will look stellar. Unreal Cinema have been working with LucasFilm on short episodes based on the game. They’ve already released an updated version of the KOTOR intro linked above. If it’s anything to go by, it will be gorgeous!
So here are 5 features we will hopefully see in the upcoming KOTOR remake. This release is one of the most exciting in recent years. What do you think? Should Aspyr be bold in their changes or keep it simple? Let us know in the comments.