One of the most popular Star Wars video games of all time celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic debuted in 2003 for the original Xbox console and for Windows PC, and brought a new style of role-playing to a galaxy far, far away unlike anything experienced before.
Coming off of the heels of their success with Neverwinter Nights, the developer BioWare sold their D&D license to Atari and worked with LucasArts to release KOTOR. This was during a time of heavy collaboration for LucasArts, in which that company was primarily acting as a publisher rather than as a developer.
Released in 2003, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic told the story of the universe some 4,000 years before the founding of the Galactic Empire. LucasArts had actually floated the idea of doing an RPG set during the Clone Wars, but the developers instead chose to develop a game set thousands of years before any of the films in order to have the creative freedom to tell the story they wanted. The player controlled their customizable character in a bid to take down the villainous Darth Malak, a former Jedi and now a Sith Lord, who has taken a highly aggressive stance against the Republic. KOTOR allowed the player to go down either the Light or Dark path of the Force, with their decisions made in game ultimately impacting how the story ended.
With the help of a solid team of voice actors and a significantly advanced graphics system that allowed for character performance on-screen, KOTOR continued the trend BioWare had begun with Baldur’s Gate. The game provided a world full of characters with their own fully realized stories and character arcs. It also introduced features BioWare would later keep as mainstays, including the Light/Dark alignment system that tracks a protagonist’s actions and weighs their virtue. The game’s turn-based combat system was rooted in computerized dice-rolling, like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, though it was released on their Odyssey Engine, an update from Neverwinter’s Aurora.
The following year, under BioWare’s suggestion, Obsidian Entertainment released a sequel, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords, but BioWare wouldn’t personally return to the series until 2011, when they released Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). The game was noted within mere days of its release as the fastest-growing MMO in history, counting more than one million registered subscribers in the first three days. The game later successfully adopted a hybrid free-to-play business model.
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