“Canonize: to glorify” (dictionary.com). Howard Lowood started the video game canon project in 2006. The idea was to have an official list of 10 games from different genres that changed video game culture. Lowood and his partners created the list because they felt video games were as historically and culturally significant as novels or movies, which have their own canons. Their list however is not the be-all and end-all voice on the matter. The list is only their opinion and is subject to missing other video games because they focused only on certain genres. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 is another game that should be added to the canonization list.
The game is set in the Star Wars galaxy during the time the Republic is falling. The player is an exiled Jedi who discovers they are one of the last Jedi left. They also discover the Sith have come back and nobody is prepared. The player must warn the galaxy and find help, but the Republic is crumbling and the Jedi council is nowhere to be found. It is then up to the player to gather followers and aid from wherever and however they can. With many paths to take the player can save the galaxy from the Sith or help the Sith destroy the Republic and begin a new era.
Combat, although not the main focus of the game, is a main component in gameplay. The game uses a turn based fighting system, so it is not very difficult to master. The player has options of whether to use melee or ranged weapons, and of course light sabers and the force. There are also techniques that can be learned to help the player in battle. The techniques allow the player to focus on what kind of attack to defend against; whether it be ranged, melee, group, or single. Crafting is also a key part of combat. At workbenches the player can build and customize their weapons with parts they find, loot off bodies, or create on the workbench.
Companions are a major part of KOTOR. They are found throughout the player’s journey and play a very important role. Talking with companions can reveal very important information or techniques to the player, but can only be obtained by having a good relationship with them. Relationships are built by interacting with the dialogue wheel and having companions along on your explorations. The dialogue wheel allows the player to talk to other characters choosing one of several paths of conversation. This gives the player choices on what to say allowing more intimate gameplay and conversation with the world. When the player acts the companions influences are affected as a result. If they disagree with the player’s actions this will drive them away from the player and vice versa, but if they are close enough to the player then they can be influenced to be led away from their usual morals. Some companions can even be influenced to become Jedi apprentices to the player if the right path is followed. Companions also play a major part in combat forcing the player to strategize given the strengths and weaknesses of each companion. If the group has too many weaknesses combat will be very difficult in certain situations.
Lastly the greatest component to the game, choices. The player’s choices affect their alignment, their relationships with companions, and the whole galaxy. The whole game is built on what choices the player makes. If another character is helped early in the game they may come back to return the favor later. On the flip side sparing someone may result them being alive later to torment the player, while killing them would’ve eliminated the threat completely. It’s a very difficult balance to keep on where to help. The good Samaritan option with no return or helping an oppressor with a good chance of being well rewarded. The good Samaritan option will positively reflect on the player’s alignment bringing them to the light side, while siding with an oppressor will bring them to the dark side. The player’s alignment will affect how other’s see them and interact with them, how companions interact with them, and provides the player varying benefits based on what side they take. The amount of paths that can be taken in the game are endless because there are so many options to make. This makes the game very personal to every individual player because they spend a large amount of building relationships and making very important decisions. It is much like living another life, but as a Jedi which is a huge plus. The ultimate choice being whether to stop the Sith or help them destroy the Republic.
So as you can see there are many great aspects to KOTOR. The main focus is on building relationships, forging alliances, and making choices; though there is also a healthy dose of combat too. The game got many great reviews getting a 9.3 from IGN, a 9 from Gamespot, and an 8.6 from Gamerankings. It was also listed in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. KOTOR should be included in the video game canon because it popularized the dialogue wheel, gave video game players a game that wasn’t all about combat but making decisions, it developed a storyline where the player is the center of a chaotic plot, created a rare intimate relationship between the player and the characters, introduced a dark vs. light side alignment aspect, and influenced games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect.
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