This is Part 3 of our ongoing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (or KotOR) 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 3, we look at the middle of the game: the three Star Map planets, and a revelation that changes everything.
Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2 of our KotOR retrospective series prior to this. For more recent news on KotOR development rumours, read our articles on a Knights of the Old Republic project rumored to be in development and Disney possibly reviving LucasFilm Gaming.
The Jedi Council has unleashed you upon the galaxy. You are given a list of planets, and are free to visit them in any order.
The first port of call is Tatooine, an iconic location that’s familiar to Star Wars fans. You land at the settlement of Anchorhead. The locals are having issues with the native Sand People, who have taken to killing and pillaging. Czerka, a galaxy-spanning corporation, hires you to take care of the problem. This works in your favour, so you take the job. Along the way, you buy a sadistic droid called HK-47.
HK-47 can conveniently speak the Sand People language, so bringing him along is essential if you want a peaceful resolution to the conflict. After a lot of running across the desert (the return to Ebon Hawk mechanic is essential), the Sand People tell you where you can find the Star Map, where you also meet a hunter and give the best line in the Star Wars EU.
Kashyyyk is a planet which is also familiar to many Star Wars fans, as it’s the home of the Wookiees. It’s advised you bring Zaalbar along for this. Zaalbar is reticent, and it’s easy to see why once on Kashyyyk: his people have been enslaved by Czerka, who are well on their way to becoming a mustache-twirling villainous corporation, having advocated for both slavery and genocide thus far.
Zaalbar has some family business, and you’re sent to the Shadowlands, the surface of the planet which never sees the sun. This section of the game has a lot of interesting lore for Kashyyyk, and it’s such an alien and interesting planet that it’s a pity you can’t spend more time on it.
Shortly after reaching the Shadowlands, you meet Jolee Bindo, an old man wielding a lightsaber, who swears up and down that he is not a Jedi. He helps you reach the Star Map. Or, rather, the computer which unlocks the Star Map.
Unlike the other Star Maps, this one doesn’t open upon interaction. Instead, there’s a computer interface which recognises you, but changes its mind when you express confusion at this. The computer tells you of the history of Kashyyyk, and how the Builders had influenced the evolution of Kashyyyk’s inhabitants and ecology, which accounts for the hypergrowth of Kashyyyk’s trees.
The computer gives you a morality quiz. For this, you have to reach both the answer and the reasoning behind the answer correct. Fail at either of these and you’ll have to fight two droids, which satisfies the computer and gives you access to the Star Map.
Manaan is a water planet, completely unlike Kashyyyk or Tatooine, and new to the Star Wars lore. Your vision of the Star Map shows it on the ocean’s floor. Manaan is not just unique for its environment: it’s a neutral planet, and so is home to both the Republic and Sith. The reason for this is that Manaan is the source of a substance responsible for those health packs you’ve been using. The substance is kolto, a precursor to the Star Wars movies’ bacta.
To get to the ocean floor requires a lot of legwork for the Republic, who have a science base right where you need to go. Naturally, there’s a catch. They ask you to infiltrate the Sith base on Manaan, whereupon leaving you’re arrested for murdering everyone in the base. The Selkath give you an incompetent lawyer, who will get you executed if you let him represent you (ending the game). If you represent yourself, you talk your way out of imprisonment and are free to go on your merry way.
The Republic gives you access to a submersible, which gets you to their base on the ocean floor. However, when you arrive you find the native Selkath scientists have gone mad and started eating the Republic scientists and mercenaries.
You fight your way through the Selkath and find the source of the madness: an ancient and massive shark, which was disturbed by the Republic’s machinery. Remember the kolto which can only be found on Manaan? Well, now you get to choose whether to destroy or preserve it on your quest to get to the Star Map.
Preserving the kolto is the more difficult route, but destroying it gets you banned from the planet permanently, which locks you out of a lot of side content. Save the substance, and everyone regards you as a hero. Either way, you get the third Star Map.
En route to your final destination, you get captured by Malak’s top lieutenant, Saul Karath. What follows is one of the best sequences of the game. Prison breaks are always fun, and this part of the game allows for a lot of humour and ingenuity, which changes depending on the companion you choose. As Karath will be closely watching Bastila, Carth and you, you have to choose a companion to be separated from the rest to rescue everyone.
Meanwhile, Karath interrogates the trio and drops weird and confusing hints about Malak’s interest in you, specifically, and finds your loyalty to the Jedi amusing. Instead of answering any questions about this, he tortures you and then leaves.
Your chosen companion rescues you, and you make your way to the bridge to get the codes needed to escape. You kill Karath, but not before he decides to be petty and whispers something to Carth, which makes him spit fire. He demands answers from Bastila, who promises to explain everything once they’ve escaped.
There is Only You
This is not to be, as Malak arrives. He laughs at you for not figuring it out sooner, and a cutscene plays, showing you scenes of things your friends and allies have said to you about enemies, Revan, and you. The end of the cutscene shows Revan, who removes the iconic mask.
Under the mask is you.
This plot twist turns Star Wars: Knights of the Republic upside down. What’s worse is that Bastila knew the entire time. She explains that she took the unconscious Revan to the Jedi Council, who then implanted a new identity into Revan’s mind. This identity wasn’t permanent: the visions of Revan and the Star Maps were memories, and not visions from the Force.
Knights of the Republic shifts here into the classic Star Wars story of pupil against master. Where Malak was once just the Dark Lord and a villain who had to be defeated, he is now your former best friend and pupil. You fight him, but Bastila intervenes to give you and Carth the opportunity to escape. Bastila is captured, and you and the rest of your companions escape on the Ebon Hawk.
You explain to the others your true identity. Everyone save Carth is more than happy to accept you, and you discover it was Revan who had built HK-47 in the first place. This is a turning point of KotOR: you know who you are, and defeating Malak becomes personal. With Bastila captured, you’re unable to question her, but speaking to your companions helps to connect the dots and paint a picture of the Jedi and Sith Lord you once were, the person you’ve become, and the person you are meant to be.
Star Wars is, at its heart, a story about connections. As much as the Jedi code and light side is touted as the only way to bring balance and peace to the galaxy, it’s ultimately the connections the characters in Star Wars forge that save them, a theme which will become more prominent as we move into the final stages of KotOR.
Look out for our fourth and final part on our Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic retrospective series, where we look at the final part of the story and what its themes and connections mean in the greater world of Star Wars.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is available on the Steam.