Who cares about Star Wars KOTOR 3? I’m playing The Old Republic

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 3 is reportedly on the way, with KOTOR 3 allegedly in development from a team other than the series’ creator BioWare. It’s big and controversial news, given that many would have wanted BioWare to take the reins this time around too, but for those disappointed in their apparent lack of involvement — may I introduce you to Star Wars: The Old Republic?

If you’ve yet to play it, The Old Republic is the BioWare Star Wars RPG you probably feel like you’ve been missing since KOTOR. Given that it’s an MMO, many (myself included) were put off by what appeared to be antithetical to what made its predecessors so popular. MMOs aren’t exactly known for their gripping narrative, so I’d always just assumed that SWTOR was KOTOR but with the story ripped right out. I was wrong.

KOTOR 3 has been here the whole time and it’s called The Old Republic

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Typically, MMO stories lose my attention almost immediately. They usually begin with a huge global battle of good vs. evil, before swiftly devolving into you fetching eight chicken eggs for a character called Barnabus VIII in order to make an omelet. The lockdown has made me take up a variety of unusual hobbies, but diving back into a series of fetch quests and grinding was not going to be one of them.

SWTOR rarely deviates from quests that make you feel like you’re making an impact on its world. I’ve yet to aimlessly wander around a planet shooting miscellaneous monsters to arbitrarily increase my level, and I haven’t been told to leave my urgent mission in order to go and chase some sheep or harvest some wheat. I’m an Imperial Agent with a job to do, not a nameless nomad wandering the world with no incentive, and The Old Republic never lets me forget that.

Speaking of the Imperial Agent, I should note that this was the class recommended to me if I wanted to prioritize The Old Republic‘s story. I have been informed that other classes such as the Trooper are pitifully dull, whereas the Agent is involved in a tale of espionage that’s unique to Star Wars.

As the Agent, I’m usually tasked with secretively infiltrating various Imperial targets, getting chummy with them, and then ultimately deciding just how hard I want to betray them. The Old Republic makes use of a typically BioWare choice system, allowing you to make decisions that can have major ramifications on your character and those around them. I tend to approach these decisions on a case-by-case basis — some targets have been allowed to fly under my radar due to their charm, while others rub me up the wrong or are a little too curt so I murder them. I might be part of the Empire, but I have feelings, too.

SWTOR tells the story between the Jedi and the Sith

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Star Wars is defined by its battles between the Jedi and the Sith, but as we’ve now seen with The Mandalorian, the stories to be told between these two religions are often the most interesting. The Empire are of course the bad guys, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all of those working with them are bad. You’ll meet soldiers born into fascism with no real means to escape it, and some who are trying to do good within the confines of the Empire.

In one memorable mission, a high-ranking Imperial Lord requested that I poison a water supply used by Republic slaves with a chemical that would cause them a long, torturous death. However, rather than presenting this as a bad man simply doing bad things, the Lord claimed that such an act would prevent the slaves from rebelling in the future, thus causing fewer deaths in the long-term. However, another Imperial soldier then informed me that such an action wouldn’t dissuade the Republic slaves whatsoever, and the Lord was instead doing this because he was a sadist. My other option was to still kill the slaves, but to do so as painlessly as possible — I still had to abide by the fascist system I was in, but I could choose to not be as cruel as the Lord wanted me to be.

When you’re part of the Empire, you aren’t given the opportunity to make “good” decisions, you can only make less evil ones. I can “save” a man and his family from certain death at the hands of a Sith, but I still have to force him out of his home. This feels much more well-considered than BioWare simply giving you the options to be a pure Interplanetary Jesus or evil Space Satan, as even if I wanted to be a good person, I’m still complicit in all the fascism as a certified member of the Empire.

Becoming a part of the galaxy far, far away

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But, just as Disney said when it bought Lucasfilm and tried to pretend that the prequels didn’t exist — that’s enough about Star Wars‘ politics. What about the planets, the space battles, the laser guns that go “pew pew” and the laser swords that go “bvvvvvr”? Given that it’s been out since 2011, a lot has been put into The Old Republic, both in terms of world-building and fan-service. There’s an impressive sense of scale, with it making you feel like you’re part of a much wider world in a way that only an MMO could achieve.

After arriving on the starting planet of Hutta, it’s not too long before you’re able to fly off to the Imperial Fleet. The Fleet is a central hub filled with players interacting, zooming around on their mounts (my stealthy Agent naturally rides atop a giant Rancor), jetting off to various planets via the numerous hangars, and buying and selling their wares. Remember how the Cantina scene in A New Hope was the perfect introduction to just how wide and varied the Star Wars galaxy could be? The Imperial Fleet (or Republic Fleet, if you’re playing for the good guys) is the MMO equivalent of that, offering a broader look at the possibilities that lie in front of you.

As a low-level Imperial Agent entering the Fleet for the first time, it’s overwhelming in the best possible way. Surrounded by high-level players with ludicrously powerful gear and years of experience under their belts, I really felt like a speck in the grand scale of the MMO. Then, after several more hours and various quests completed across different planets, when I return to the Fleet it’s with purpose. I have my own luxurious ship with its own robot butler, skills to upgrade, and group-based Flashpoint quests to embark on. I feel like a part of this sprawling galaxy, and as a Star Wars fan, that’s the highest praise you can heap on a Star Wars game.

Now don’t get me wrong, if the reports are true, I am excited for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 3. However, I think that a lot of fans of the previous KOTOR games will have opted out of playing The Old Republic due to it being an MMO, and they should rectify that immediately. SWTOR is still a great Star Wars game for solo players, with its massively multiplayer world adding to that feeling of being in a galaxy far, far away rather than detracting from it.