Spoilers for the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games within.
It is no secret that I am a Star Wars fanatic. I grew up with my dad’s hand-me-down Star Wars action figures, I had the Darth Vader carrying case, I’ve seen each film countless times, I even attended the midnight premiere of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie. Star Wars was my childhood.
This translated over to what games I played, too. The first strategy game that ate up hundreds of hours of my youth was Star Wars: Empire at War, a game that still has more active players than Mortal Kombat X, Injustice 2, Street Fighter 5, and Oblivion, thanks in part to an update that restored multiplayer in 2017.
Battlefront 2 is still on my personal list of greatest shooters of all time.
5-year-old me even loved Super Bombad Racing. That’s how dedicated I was.
There are 102 different Star Wars games, not including collections and expansions. Many of them are forgettable, like Droids for the Commodore 64 and The Gungan Frontier, a game where you try to stabilize the fragile Naboo ecosystem (how this didn’t win Game of the Year is beyond me). Some are just bad, like the good-on-paper, bad-in-practice Masters of Teras Kasi and EA’s Battlefront.
I hope to one day play through all of them in order of release, just to see which ones bring balance to the Force and which ones should be left in carbon-freeze.
You can guess which side of the fence Kinect Star Wars might fall.
A handful of Star Wars games are good. A dozen or so are great. Even fewer add something special to the universe.
At the top of the list sits the Knights of the Old Republic games, a pair of games that expanded the scope and lore of Star Wars better than any other works in the franchise outside of the original three films.
And it’s the second game of the series that understands the Force like the original trilogy does.
The Star Wars prequels have the problem of treating the Force like a weapon, killing the spirituality and magic that made it such a captivating concept to begin with. We see flashy shows of power, ranging from droids being shoved, massive metal Senate seats being thrown like toys, and lightning being zapped around like it was nothing.
The first appearance of Force Lightning worked so well because it was unexpected. The original trilogy establishes the Force as a natural flow of life, something that existed in every being, every rock, and every ship. Until the ending of the last original movie, it was thought that the Force could only manipulate and move what already existed in the world.
In Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s usage of lightning was shocking (mind the pun) because it was a perversion of the natural order. We saw old Ben trick the Stormtrooper, we saw Luke struggle to pull his lightsaber from the snow, and we saw Darth Vader throw some pipes. That last one seemed so powerful because we saw how hard Luke struggled to move anything at all. Moving rocks took immense focus. Yoda was a powerful, ancient master of the Force, so moving the X-Wing was a tremendous feat that only someone perfectly in tune with the Force could perform. But outside of that, everything else seemed small, yet magical.
Enter the Emperor, someone the great and powerful Yoda feared. When we saw the bolts of lightning fly from his fingertips, it was the creation of a deadly new force and inherently felt wrong because it was a power that was inherently destructive. It wasn’t the manipulation of something already present, like an object or a mind like we had seen before. This was new and twisted. As a result, the Emperor appeared far more evil than we as the audience believed before.
To show lightning being casually used by Count Dooku and Darth Sidious like it was an easy feat for any mustache-twirling villain cheapened what the Force was and the impact of seeing it used.
Even seeing a young, still-in-training Obi-Wan pushing a few droids makes the Force seem like a gimmicky weapon.
But what Knights of the Old Republic II understands is that the Force is a series of bonds between all of existence. It’s not a weapon, but an ally.
Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
“And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. It’s energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Yes, even between the land and the ship!”
The Force is, in essence, the universe.
The Exile’s natural ability to form bonds and coerce others into following is a clever way to explain why so many characters follow the Exile’s will, whether it’s companions agreeing to follow her on a suicide mission or two arguing strangers accepting her judgment.
And this fits in perfectly with how Yoda describes the Force. There are bonds between every living being, the same bonds that allow a Jedi Mind Trick to work, Luke to call out to Leia, and for Darth Vader to read Luke’s mind. The Exile embraces those bonds and the Force guides everyone to be more trusting of her as a result.
This is why the Jedi Council severing the Exile’s tie to the Force is such a strong storytelling moment. They see someone who is more tied to the Force and life itself than they could ever be. Instead of being supportive, they are frightened by the Exile’s ability to lead others into the Mandalorian Wars and elect to destroy this gift over trying to understand its potential.
This changes the way we view the Jedi of the era, including characters of the first game. We know that the Jedi Council was in on the plan to wipe Revan’s mind (a move that also relies entirely on the bonds of the Force).
We see Master Vrook doubt that Revan is truly gone and seemingly want Revan exiled or killed. In the very next game, we see him want to strip the Exile’s connection to the Force, which is basically a human right in the Star Wars universe. How can we see him as anything but a coward?
Are you sure that Revan is truly dead? What if we were to undertake this one and the dark lord should return?Master Vrook Lamar, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
It gives the player a legitimate reason to want the Council dead. Their choice cost them the title of “hero.”
This whole plot stays true to and revolves around how Obi-Wan and Yoda first talk about the Force. The game may still use flashy Force powers in combat, but the core story still uses the Force as a storytelling device.
The only time the prequel films use the Force to carry the story is with the two dreams that Anakin has. That’s it. Either of those could have been swapped out by someone giving a line of dialogue about his mom or his wife being in danger. The original trilogy is about Luke’s discovery of the Force, making it absolutely essential to the plot.
The Last Jedi is, perhaps, the best piece of evidence to show how Knights of the Old Republic II got the Force right because it pulled a scene straight from the game. Watch Rey feel her surroundings through the Force.
Now watch the Exile do the same with her ship.
And with the city moon of Nar Shaddaa.
Knights of the Old Republic II understood that the Force was interesting because it existed between everything in the universe. It wasn’t just a flashy weapon to make the heroes and villains look cool. In The Force Awakens, Finn suggests they use the Force to bring down the First Order. He has that prequel mentality, and in the words of Han Solo…
That’s not how the Force works!Han Solo, The Force Awakens