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Why Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic Has Aged Terribly

2003's "Knights of the Old Republic" is arguably still the best "Star Wars" game. Even after all these years, the narrative RPG reigns supreme for its "Star Wars" world-building and story. Nearly two decades after the release of BioWare's classic, it's not only seen as not only a high point in "Star Wars" games, but as one of the best RPGs of all time. Still, 20 years is a long time, and while the story of "KOTOR" has mostly held up, many of its other elements are clunky by today's standards. This can make it hard to go back to — especially for new players checking out a recent port to see what this classic is all about.

In the franchise timeline, "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" takes place thousands of years before "The Phantom Menace." You play as a Jedi Knight exiled from the Order after the Mandalorian Wars. Sith Lord Darth Malak threatens to destroy the universe as you wake up in an unknown ship. Along the way to stopping Malak the choices you make decide what type of Jedi (or Sith) you will become. It's a great adventure full of compelling characters and a legendary ending, but from the combat to the controls, "Knights of the Old Republic" has aged terribly in many regards.

The combat is outdated

There is still a lot to love in "Knights of the Old Republic," but the combat is no longer where it's at. This was never the game's strength, but after nearly 20 years, the turn-based menu-driven combat doesn't hold up to modern action RPG standards. Based on a "Dungeons and Dragons" d20 combat system, fans have found that "KOTOR" is more reliant on dice rolls, stats, and luck than real-time skill. You scroll through a menu, choose your allies' attacks, and wait for animations to play out. This was a standard type of combat for the PC BioWare was making at the time, but it's hard to go back to after the advancements seen in the "Mass Effect" and "Dragon Age" franchises.

Many contemporary fans agree that while the combat is serviceable, it's not the reason they played the game. Even fans who still enjoy it admit it can get stale after dozens of hours of gameplay. However, one user points out that "the ability to queue up multiple commands for your followers” is a great "KOTOR" feature that BioWare has sadly moved away from. Overall, this old school combat is one of the main things the "Knights of the Old Republic" remake might have to overhaul.

The UI and menus are clunky

One of the biggest stumbling blocks with "Knights of the Old Republic" gameplay happens when you enter the menus. Unfortunately, you spend a lot of time in them. For players who are used to contemporary controls and RPG systems, this UI might be the single largest barrier to entry.

Revisiting "KOTOR," you'll find that the UI and UX are confusing to read and navigate on console and PC alike — seemingly not built for either control scheme, despite supporting both. Finding items in your inventory and even opening doors are less intuitive than they should be and make the player feel like they are fumbling with the controls. A far cry from feeling like a Jedi Master.

"It's a fight that begins before you reach any combat," wrote Game Informer's John Carson in regards to the game's UI. "Lessons and techniques have been developed to make menus easier to navigate over time, all of which never funneled back to the classic 'Star Wars' RPG in subsequent iterations."

It doesn't look quite as pretty as it used to

At one point in time, "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" was a pretty decent-looking video game. First released for Xbox in 2003 and PC later that same year, critics were impressed by its quality and performance as a console RPG. But even at the time, the most glowing reviews still said the graphics were not what made "KOTOR" special. All these years later, that is still the case, but to an even greater extreme. Time and greater technological prowess have advanced the medium at a rapid pace, leaving "Knights of the Old Republic" looking pretty dated.

On a technical level, this game doesn't hold up to modern standards. Textures are flat and character faces often lack detail, with each of these elements acting as a reminder that "KOTOR" was a product of the early era of 3D video game art. While certain aspects hold up, like the visual design of your companion droid HK-47, much of what you can see in "Knights of the Old Republic" has been replicated elsewhere in "Star Wars" media, albeit in much higher resolution.

At this point, fans cannot even come to a consensus regarding which platform "Knights of the Old Republic" runs best on. While a number of fans will argue that the new Nintendo Switch release looks and runs better than the PC version, others have pushed back and said that mods are the only way to make the game acceptable to modern tastes.

The opening is too slow

Stop us if you've heard this one before: A BioWare RPG begins with a starting section that feels a tad meandering and directionless. Seriously though, the opening of "KOTOR" might not be as arduous as players found The Hinterlands in "Dragon Age: Inquisition" to be (via Kotaku), but Taris still feels like it takes just south of forever.

The game's opening planet is far too large and quest-filled to be as bland as it ends up feeling, but players can't help but feel like it's straight-up preventing you from seeing all the other exciting parts of the game. It's large starting area where all the least interesting quests and NPCs in the game reside. Called an "extended tutorial" by some fans online, the section simply drags on for multiple hours past its welcome as it introduces you to the game's various systems. And since it comes right at the beginning of the game, Taris can be a place where even the most dedicated "Star Wars" fans put this game down for good. 

"Knights of the Old Republic" might feature an expansive galaxy full of activities, but you're going to have to trudge through the opening hours in Taris to see it.

You don't have total control of the camera

One of the strangest quirks of "Knights of the Old Republic ” reminds us it's a product of its era. It took a long time for games to start getting 3D cameras right, and "KOTOR" came out in during a transitional window of time. As such, the game doesn't have a fully 3D camera. You can only look from left to right, and looking up and down is restricted to first-person view mode. This outdated design quirk is still making "Star Wars" fans shake their heads in confusion when they revisit this classic.

By default, you do not have full control of the camera while moving your hero (or anti-hero) around. However, thanks to a feature unknown to some players, you can press the tab key on the PC version of "Knights of the Old Republic" to enable a first-person free-look camera. You cannot move your character in this mode, though, so its usefulness is debatable. These strange camera quirks and inconsistencies don't entirely ruin the gameplay experience, but they yet are another reason "KOTOR" hasn't aged as well as "Star Wars" fans may have hoped. It's hard to image Luke Skywalker not knowing what's right above him.

The movement speed is slow

A key element of pretty much any RPG, and most modern video games, is the ability to set out and explore the developer's hand-crafted world. While it's no "Elden Ring" in terms of exploration, "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" encourages players to poke around its environments for easter eggs and different interactions. Unfortunately, the default movement speed is startlingly slow. Even when running, characters move at a pace that has new players immediately hopping onto Reddit to see what they can do to go any quicker.

The only solution the game gives you doesn't come until hours into your adventure. You can put points into Force Speed to increase movement speed, but this Jedi ability is not available until you unlock the Jedi class. Unfortunately, when it comes to "KOTOR 1," you will have to grin and bear it if you are playing on Xbox or PC. Thankfully, the recent Nintendo Switch version of "Knights of the Old Republic" addresses this issue by allowing you to speed up combat. By pushing the left joystick in three times in you a row, you will activate the port's cheat menu. This allows you to turn on turbo speed as one of the cheat options. The future of gaming is here!

A simplistic morality system

There isn't necessarily anything wrong with old BioWare's black and white moral binary, but it has shown its age over time. "Mass Effect" didn't do much to challenge that system and saw great success — at least until things went wrong with "Andromeda." But in recent years, gamers have come to expect more nuance and difficulty from the moral choices in games. Looking back at "Knights of the Old Republic," many of the moral choices don't really require much thought; you just pick whichever dialogue option aligns with your preconceived sense of your characters' morals. If you understand how BioWare RPGs work, you know it benefits you greatly to choose either a Jedi or Sith from the outset and commit to one path. This binary model encourages players to plow through choices without giving them too much critical thought.

While the sequel isn't held in the same high regard to some, "Knights of the Old Republic 2" offers more nuanced choices when compared to its predecessor. As noted by GamesRadar, characters in "The Sith Lords" have messy, contradicting personal philosophies. For instance, Kreia didn't choose a side in the Jedi and Sith conflict, instead operating in a much more believable gray area. The original "Knights of the Old Republic" lacks these challenging characters when you revisit it now.

The Steam version has lackluster graphics settings

The original "KOTOR" eventually made its way onto the Nintendo Switch, but the version on the most popular PC platform, Steam, still suffers. The problematic nature of the Steam version is secretly one of the biggest reasons why fans desperately need the "Knights of the Old Republic" remake to see the light of day. The inability to update the graphics settings for modern machines means even the PC version of the game is aging more poorly than even its contemporaries.

As recently as 2020, the lack of graphics customization was the cause of problems for many "Knights of the Old Republic" players on Steam. Some users run into an issue where the game launches in windowed mode and since you can't change the resolution there is no easy fix to play the game fullscreen as most players would desire. The lack of options means modern players have to jump through unexpected technical hoops to get this nearly 20 year old game running properly. These complications are yet another reason "Knights of the Old Republic" could use a major update.

It's too easy to mess up your build

Modern role-playing games are much more forgiving than their counterparts from the '90s and early 2000s, as newer ones rarely let you build an unbalanced character to the point where you won't be able to progress. Some modern RPGs like "Disco Elysium" lean into this old-school brutality (per Destructoid), but most games these days don't let you butcher your build completely. Well, "Knights of the Old Republic" does.

According to fans on Reddit, it is paramount that new players consult a build guide before diving into "Knights of the Old Republic," especially if they aren't well-versed in d20-style games. Many of the abilities you can put points into are simply not worth the experience. Plus, the game doesn't really tell you how to balance your points between your starting class and eventual Jedi class. Reddit user Coldara wrote, "if you keep spending too many points early you won't have enough for a good Jedi build. No way to know this from playing it first time and there is no respec, so it is very easy to f*** up your character completely."

Some folks responding to this post mention that it is actually easy to reach the final battle of the game and be unprepared due to this issue. You can even build your character in such a way that it is nearly impossible to finish the game without cheating.

The game is no longer considered canon

"Knights of the Old Republic 3" was actually on the table at one point, but LucasArts fell on hard times and the game was instead superseded by "The Old Republic" MMO in 2011. Not long after that, Disney acquired LucasFilm and soon the old stable of LucasArts games were rendered non-canonical — including "KOTOR." As of 2014, the rise and fall of Darth Revan is now considered nothing more than a legend. To some "Star Wars" fans, this means the events of the game don't really matter, giving them another reason to skip this outdated RPG.

However, if "Knights of the Old Republic" were remade for the new generations of console and PC hardware, there might just be a chance Disney could bring these characters back. Because it takes place so far in the past, before any current canon events, some have argued it would be easy to reincorporate the characters and events of "KOTOR" into canon (via Den of Geek). The fact that the remake is even in the works gives this theory a tiny bit of credence. At the very least, it might be a bit difficult for Disney to release a new "Old Republic" game without at least considering making some of it into official "Star Wars" canon.