This is Part 2 of our ongoing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic retrospective series. In this retrospective, we look at each story segment of the game, and see what about it helped make KotOR into a Star Wars classic which is still highly regarded today. For Part 2, we look at Dantooine, the Jedi Academy and a now familiar group causing a stir.
Be sure to read Part 1 of our Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Retrospective series prior to this. For more recent news on KotOR development rumours, read our piece on a Knights of the Old Republic Project Rumored to be in Development.
Last time we left the crew of the Ebon Hawk, they had narrowly escaped the Sith’s destruction of Taris and were on their way to Dantooine.
Planet destruction is all but a Star Wars trope at this point, but this time instead of a single giant laser dusting the planet, you watch an entire fleet get into orbit and open fire on all the people you had just spent 3 hours trying to help (or make miserable, depending on how you swing). You’re reminded that Mission, your plucky twi-lek companion, grew up on Taris, and her having to watch her homeworld get blown to dust hits her hard. Bastila suggests heading to Dantooine, a farming planet which notably hosts a Jedi training academy. Padawans from all across the galaxy train here, and the academy even has their own Jedi Council.
Dantooine is a wonderful break from Taris. While Taris was all cityscape and skylines, Dantooine features rolling hills and lush landscapes. The developers outdid themselves here. An illusion of infinite space is created through digital paintings, so that while you can’t travel beyond the limited playable space, the game makes you feel as if you could explore right to the edge of the horizon.
Before you’re set free to explore the plains, however, there’s the matter of the Jedi Council. Bastila introduces you to them, and they’re very interested in the visions you’ve been having, including one where you see Darth Malak and his master, Revan, exploring ruins near the Academy on Dantooine. A vision which Bastila claims to have shared with you. Turns out you two share a Force Bond, which means you have a shared destiny, and occasionally share dreams.
The Council announces that you’re Force Sensitive and should start training to become a Jedi ASAP. As you and Bastila share a Bond, she assists you in your training. You don’t get a choice in accepting your training, which is fair because who would turn down the chance to use the Force? Whether or not you choose to stay on the path of the Jedi is an entirely different matter.
Cue the training montage.
You also get to build your own lightsaber, featuring a quiz that could appear on BuzzFeed. You get to override your results, though, which is fortunate because it determines your secondary class (combat focused guardian, balanced sentinel or Force focused consular) and the colour of your lightsaber, though later in the game they hand out lightsabers like candy, and you can customise your lightsaber however you wish.
After getting all of this admin out of the way, the Council finally sets you free to roam Dantooine as you please. They give you a final test, which involves cleansing a grove of the dark side. Along the way, you learn that being a Jedi means encompassing many roles, including that of murder detective Jedi (now where’s that game, EA?) where you solve a murder on the plains. You also have to kill a lot of wildlife, including an albino kath hound who proves to be harder to defeat than some of the boss enemies later in the game.
Another brand of enemy you encounter are Mandalorians, which are of particular note because they were one of the groups involved in the Mandalorian Wars. Here, you learn a little about them: their culture was dismantled by Revan, and so what’s left of them wander the galaxy and generally make a nuisance of themselves. This particular group have settled on Dantooine and have busied themselves with ruining the lives of the farmers on the planet. The Jedi have been lax at dealing with the Mandalorian situation, but you can choose to take the matter into your own hands, which makes for an interesting parallel. It’s all in the details.
Thrown to the Wolves
The Jedi’s “test” for you involves a wayward Jedi Knight called Juhani, who struck her Master down in anger before escaping the Academy. You fight her initially, but she backs down. You can either kill her or convince her to return to the light side and the Academy.
Aside from the fact that if you think about the implications of this test for too long it becomes more and more morbid (sending you, of all people, to serve as judge to a wayward Jedi is a bit overkill), it serves as an interesting introduction to the idea of redemption.
It becomes clear that Juhani does not truly believe in the dark side, and in truth she doesn’t want to leave the Jedi. In encouraging her to forgive herself, or in killing her, you reveal a truth about the kind of person you are, which becomes important as the game progresses.
Into the Ruins
Regardless of the outcome, you’re accepted as a full member of the Order and are granted the rank of Padawan. This time, you’re sent to the ruins Darth Malak and Revan had visited before to investigate what they found. A very dated reference to Finding Nemo is made here in the form of a Jedi named Nemo who was sent to the ruins ahead of you, and has not been heard from since.
You find Nemo dead on the ground in the first room of the ruins, along with an ancient droid which cycles through a bunch of languages before hitting one that provides comprehensible subtitles. It tells you about a construction called the Star Forge, but not what the Star Forge is or what it does. Bastila postulates that the Star Forge was what Revan and Malak were after. After a series of tests, the droid gives you access to what was hiding beyond the final door: an ancient relic called a Star Map. Unfortunately, the Star Map has deteriorated and doesn’t give all the coordinates to find the Star Forge, but you do find the locations of other Star Maps which will complete the puzzle.
You return to the Council, who agree that finding the Star Forge is of the highest priority. They send you, Bastila, Juhani and the companions you accumulated on Taris on a mission to find the other Star Maps and the Star Forge, in the hopes of finding Malak and ending the Sith threat. This is the end of the introduction proper. It’s when the game truly sets you free to go wherever you like, where you don’t need to check in with the Council every time you finish a mission.
The Journey So Far
By this point, Bioware has given you two planets and two different cultures to explore. Star Wars lends itself to the RPG, as it provides a massive, vibrant world, hundreds of cultures to explore and a ready-made morality system. It serves the dual purpose of creating a great game and making the world of Star Wars all the richer.
The Mandalorians, for example, are explained to you through the lens of history: the Mandalorian Wars were instrumental to Revan and Malak’s fall to the dark side. Canderous also tells you some of his history, but when you meet the Mandalorians in-game and see the effect their presence has on the spaces they occupy, the Mandalorians take on a completely different meaning.
While the Mandalorians here are largely portrayed as one dimensional mobs who have seen better days, hearing Canderous speak of the Wars and what their defeat did to them as a culture is unsettling, both in terms of the atrocities you’re told were committed during the Wars, but also what Revan, as a Jedi, had done to them. This is taken further in Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, but it was here that the foundations for one of the most popular groups in Star Wars was created.
On the note of Revan, the story of Revan’s fall is told to you as a warning. Revan was considered the greatest Jedi of the Order and was a hero to the Republic, but still fell to the dark side and went on to commit atrocities before being defeated.
As this story is told to you by the Jedi Council, it’s easy to take this with a grain of salt, but considering you just watched Malak destroy a planet on a whim, it’s very easy to take what the Council say at face value (aside from the fact that they are Jedi, and Jedi can be trusted, right?). For those in the know, it’s interesting to hear how the Jedi speak of Revan, with the truth being hidden in plain sight. For other players, all of this is just history and yet another cautionary tale of the evils of the dark side, still a largely theoretical concept and not of much concern unless you’re playing a dark side aligned character. Through the Mandalorians on Dantooine and the warnings of the Jedi Order, the shadow of Revan permeates the game, despite the character’s physical absence.
At this point, mostly, the Jedi and the Sith are exactly what we expect them to be and are exactly how the Star Wars movies had portrayed them. But, as with the Mandalorians, this section of the game creates a foundation to explore the concepts of the Jedi, the Sith and the Force itself with a little more nuance than black and white ideals, which will be dealt with later in the game, and even more so in TSL.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic can be purchased on Steam.