Two of the immutable laws of video games are that on a long enough timeline, every popular video game will get a remake, and that any Star Wars game has a 50/50 chance of getting canceled mid-development. With a couple of recent updates suggesting that Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is no longer in development, it seems that the second law may have won out again.
The first sign that KOTOR was in trouble came during an Embracer Group earnings call on November 16. When asked about the remake, CEO Lars Wingefors only said, “Anything I say to this becomes a headline, so that is my only comment,” as spotted by Axios. Given how eager executives usually are to hype up their upcoming games as guaranteed profit-makers on these calls, it was an odd comment, to say the least.
Just a few days later, Giant Beast’s Jeff Grubb seemed to confirm the worst-case scenario about the game. “Full stop, this game is not being worked on in any way at any studio,” Grubb said on the Game Mess Mornings show, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for interpretation. Saber Interactive and Embracer Group did not respond to Inverse’s request for comment.
Add a Bloomberg report saying that KOTOR was “on pause” and then moved from Aspyr to Saber Interactive, and the recent updates add more credence to what seems like the inevitable conclusion that the game is doomed.
Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of remakes. Even when they’re great games like Metroid Prime or Tactics Ogre being remade, I’d almost always rather give my attention to a brand-new game than one I’ve played — or could still play — in some other form.
But KOTOR could have been an exception. It’s frequently cited as one of the best RPGs of all time — if not one of the best games of any genre — mostly due to its compelling story and world. The turn-based combat is a clear weak spot. Inspired by tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, fights in the game resolve with dice rolls, meaning any action you take could fail for difficult-to-understand reasons based on invisible probabilities. That’s not to say that KOTOR’s combat is all bad, just that it’s slow, clunky, and often confusing. OK, so it’s kind of bad.
Some of the highest-profile remakes in recent years have been for games that are already pretty playable as-is. Metroid Prime Remastered certainly benefits from not needing to be played with a GameCube controller, but Dead Space and Resident Evil 4 don’t feel too dated in their original forms. Then there’s the absurd recent announcement of The Last of Us Part II Remastered, which will launch less than four years after the original.
In some cases, these remakes and remasters aren’t necessarily fixing problems with the original games. They’re instead adding new combat, plastering over clunky plot elements, and giving the whole game a fresh coat of paint. On top of seeming unnecessary, these changes can actually harm the original vision of the game, as appears to be the case with the Silent Hill 2 remake prizing realism over the original’s dread-inducing atmosphere. It can start to feel like the endless re-releases for Star Wars movies, which featured a baffling array of tweaks and updates, from new dialogue to completely superfluous CGI critters.
But for KOTOR, the game’s biggest problem could be addressed in a remake without trampling on what already worked. A new release that keeps the story intact but with turn-based combat that feels a bit less like a mix of rolling dice and consulting spreadsheets seems like an easy home run, even with basically no other changes.
As great as it could have been to play this purely imaginary version of KOTOR, it’s not like the original is inaccessible. It’s still playable on PC, and developers ported it to Nintendo Switch just last year. If you’re after a more modern take, there’s also Star Wars Outlaws coming next year, along with plenty of other games in the works, most of which we know almost nothing about. And if you’re really heartbroken about the Knights of the Old Republic likely getting canned, you at least have the sympathy of folks who were looking forward to other canceled Star Wars games like Star Wars: 1313 and Project Ragtag (and Battlefront 3, and KOTOR 3, and Imperial Commando, and Battle of the Sith Lords, and on and on).