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KOTOR Combat: Opinion Piece

Remaking games is a process that is, frankly, fraught with issues. There are always difficult choices to make to appease fans yet also bring in new players. One of the hardest has to do with gameplay and how to implement it. While there are benefits to keeping old mechanics, there are risks too.

Recently it has been rumoured that the Knights of the old Republic remake will utilise a different combat style to the original. The idea is that the game should follow the trend set by more recent remakes of old RPGs when it comes to fighting. However, is this a good idea or is it going to ruin the game?

First things first, what is the original combat system of the original KOTOR? Frankly, it’s actually hard to categorize the system as one simple thing. The best way to put it would be a real-time action/turn-based hybrid system. Players are free to move about during fights, select their actions and then the character follows those commands. The player can choose either to attack normally or use several different abilities. They can pause the game and command their companions as well. The melee combat made use of sequenced strikes and blocks when two characters fought to make it more cinematic. The system worked, and when you first watched your Jedi clash lightsabres against an enemy it was glorious, but it was pretty simple.

A lot of games from earlier generations made use of turn-based combat. However, many developers are turning away from the style for a more action-based combat system. For instance, the original Final Fantasy 7 made use of a turn-based combat system, and then the remake used a more action-based system. This system could work, but there are some rumours that the remake might follow a more God of War like combat style. This system is, obviously, more visceral but it really doesn’t lend itself to team-based combat very well. KOTOR was an RPG and your team was an important part of that. Too much focus on combos would be difficult to combine with the other systems of the game. However a more focused combination like the FF7 remake could be an interesting idea, but is it better than the current one?

There are strengths and weaknesses to both systems, and the original KOTOR took an avenue that tried to make the best of both worlds. The game wanted the combat to not only be visually impressive but also allow the player to use their brain. BUT, and this is a big but, it was by no means perfect. The combat was simple and any wonder was lost in the larger melees as the entire thing became a cluster of weird animations. Not to mention the power of the weapons was clearly lacking when it came to actual strikes and, if the enemy didn’t have a melee weapon, it became somewhat comical. It was also very static, player input was minimal and characters didn’t really move unless they were running to a new enemy and the AI was…well it was non-existent really.

If the KOTOR remake aims towards a more action-based combat system the AI could be improved and the fights could be more fluid and interesting. Characters could jump swing and overall help to recreate the cinematic battles we have seen in the other forms of Star Wars media. Lightsaber wielders could jump over their enemies’ heads and clash blades in fluid dances of power. However, these types of systems have an issue combining weapons types or at least this was the case in the FF7 Remake. While playing as Cloud or Tifa was entertaining, playing as Barret was not. This led to a disconnect between swinging a sword and using a gun and it was noticeable. Barret’s gameplay was stagnant and dull due to his weapon. KOTOR has many companions who use guns and all they could do would be to stand and shoot. Any redesign would need to find a way to counteract that stagnancy.

Overall, there are benefits and weaknesses to either option and I honestly can’t say which is the better choice for me. The fan inside of me wants nothing to change and for it to stay exactly the same. However, the realist in me sees that the combat wasn’t the best part of the original KOTOR. The game's strength was the plot and the characters. They are the aspects that need to remain strong. Combat could arguably take any new direction and still remain somewhat faithful, at least to some degree. A remake could improve the original mechanics and make it far more reactionary and interesting to see, while a FF7 style could introduce players to a new way of playing and help separate the game from its predecessor. I think the best option would be to see what the developers want to bring forwards, and not let nostalgia blind us to advancements. Unless it’s a God of War style, then I’m getting my lightsabre.

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