If you look at any list of the best RPGs of all time, you are more than likely to find The Knights of the Old Republic on the list, and there is a good reason for it. Firstly, it is an incredibly well-crafted story and an RPG that was developed by the old Bioware team, and that alone should speak volumes.
The studio that brought us Mass Effect, Baulder’s Gate, Dragon Age and KOTOR among others was regarded as one of the best gaming studios in its day. Nobody did RPGs like Bioware. Its forte was not gun play, or amazing graphics, but the story, the way it was told and the way a player could influence that story based on how they play the game and interact with other characters. A whole new generation of RPGs, stories and extended universes was created by Bioware and their RPGs.
That was, of course, until the OG Bioware team started leaving, talk of insane crunch-time and developer pressure, EA started making horrible anti-consumer decisions (as they’ve always done) and the quality of games began to visibly drop.
One of the staples of Bioware is The Knights of the Old Republic and with the recent non-answer by EA regarding its and Bioware’s involvement in the upcoming remake, we have to wonder if the decision to hand the remake over to Aspyr was completely EA’s decision.
Bioware’s response was a lot clearer, it was graceful and a lot more positive. Honestly, we expected nothing less from them.
But with the recent (and not so recent) Bioware disasters, would we even trust the current Bioware teams, and especially EA, to do their own game a justice? Probably not. All we have to do is look at Mass Effect: Andromeda. One of the most beloved RPG game series in the history of gaming was tarnished for the second time with this poorly executed, horribly written and unfinished mess that was supposed to be the continuation of Mass Effect universe for a new generation. And all that just as the rest of us forgot and forgave the whole Mass Effect 3 “choose your colour” ending.
To be fair, if you were among the lucky ones to have completed Mass Effect 3 after the patches and the Citadel DLC, following a massive backlash, then you’ve saved yourself a whole lot of drama. And you get to love Mass Effect series without any added baggage. But what EA delivered five years later was an abysmal, amateurish attempt to follow up in the footsteps of one of the best series in gaming history.
The fact that the very studio (albeit it was the Montreal team) that made the original Mass Effect series could get its reboot so wrong was truly shocking. It’s like their own developers and writers did not understand their own game, what Mass Effect was about, nor why gamers loved the series so much. Handing over KOTOR for a remake to Bioware should be considered a huge gamble at this point.
Then there was Anthem. Since its announcement and up until the launch, we were all eagerly awaiting something that would be a cross between Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, Destiny and maybe Warframe, and ended up with nothing that resembles neither the fun nor the success of the above games. This original IP, dubbed ‘Dylan’ was what many of us expected would revive and rejuvenate Bioware. Instead, we got a rotting corpse of a game studio that no longer resembles itself and a poor attempt at original IP with it. To say that fans were upset would be a monumental understatement.
It’s almost not a wonder that another game studio would be involved in the remake of The Knights of the Old Republic, and that studio will be Aspyr.
Aspyr have been involved in the classic Star Wars video games for a while now, but they mostly worked to plug them, i.e make some of these super old games run well on modern machines. They’ve worked on plugging KOTOR to be played on smart phones. This might sound like a cause for concern for fans regarding the KOTOR remake, but we should remember that CD Projekt Red was in the same boat as Aspyr before the Witcher 3, yet they created one of the best RPGs of a generation.
Another good thing going for Aspyr is that it appears that it is now staffed by many ex-Bioware employees. How many of them are the OG Bioware is unclear right now, but even a few would be an asset to Aspyr when it comes to the remake.
We ought to remember that once Bioware came under the watchful eye of EA, a lot of things began to change. It’s unclear whether the decline of Bioware is due to EA and their policies or some other issues, but the only thing we do know is that Bioware’s recent game development history leaves much desired and that Aspyr deserves this remake.
If done well, the remake of KOTOR would put Aspyr on everyone’s radar, but they have a massive job ahead of them. They will get to show off their technical as well as writing skills to an already existing fanbase.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While Bioware might be in ruins now, some of the best writing in the history of gaming came from Bioware. Aspyr will not merely remaster KOTOR, keeping the story and the choice-based system, they have the task of completely remaking it. While updated graphics are to be expected, most of the gamer base are hoping for a story heavy game, like the original.
Failing to understand the appeal of Bioware’s games and the fanbase that plays them, i.e the story and the RPG aspects, was the downfall of Mass Effect: Andromeda and we sincerely hope that Aspyr does not make the same mistake.
The Knights of the Old Republic is a very old game that came out in 2003, so a remake is a much better idea as opposed to a remaster. Gaming PCs and consoles can handle a lot more than they could back in 2003 (obviously), but graphics aren’t the only thing to look forward to. We’re hoping Aspyr will include an updated combat system, voice actor(s) for Revan and the complexity of choices made in game and their subsequent consequences. As more information comes out, we’ll get a better picture of where KOTOR remake is headed, so watch this space.
There isn’t a lot of information to go on right now to assess whether Aspyr is up to the task, but what we can objectively asses at this time is that Bioware probably isn’t.