Skip to main content

Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Bastard of the Old Republic

Part 1: A nice man takes a journey to the Dark Side.

(You can now read the entire Bastard of the Old Republic series in one place.)

There's something you need to know about me. I'm a good guy. I'm a generally decent person. I have my many faults, and certainly my large share of means to be irritating, rude, and bothersome. But ultimately, it's fair to say I'm a kind, reasonable individual. I'm not the sort of person who, for instance, would usually be found mocking victims of bullying, endorsing racism, or murdering victims of sexual assault. [I can vouch for this. John Walker is a man of whom I once wrote, "his heart is so big it is possible he has no other organs". - Ed]

When I play a BioWare role-playing game, my characters tend to not only lean toward the nicer side, but almost immediately start twinkling with the magical pixie dust of purity. It's embarrassing, but I just make the decisions I believe I'd really make, and end up that way.

The task I set myself was to play the original Knights of the Old Republic, making the worst, cruellest, most spiteful, murderous and downright evil choices available at every choice. I've played the game before - in fact, it's one of my all-time favourites - but I was the most angelic creature in the galaxy. This wasn't going to be easy. This is the story of mysterious Republic Scoundrel, Simon Evil, and his adventures on the planet Taris.

Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR from now on) was originally released in 2003. By this time the Star Wars franchise had already far out-stayed its welcome at LucasArts. The twelve months around KOTOR alone churned out Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds - Saga, Star Wars: Galaxies - An Empire Divided, Star Wars: Jedi Knight - Jedi Academy, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron III - Rebel Strike, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars. You can see the problem. And don't forget this was the year between Episode II's Attack of the Clones and Episode III's Revenge of the Sith. By this point, Star Wars could piss right off.

Ah, a whole city of people to rob, insult and kill.

KOTOR did something very clever. It set itself 4,000 before Lucas's rapidly unravelling stories, releasing itself from the hideousness that the once-so-loved universe had become, able to pick out the best parts of the mythology (Jedis, Sith, droids, the Force, Wookiees and spaceships). BioWare was given a splendid amount of freedom to create its own stories, far enough away to not mess up the canon of the ongoing films, and not necessarily as simplistic as the kid-friendly tosh of the day.

Shortly after a terrible war between the Sith and the Republic, times are still not peaceful. The great big bad Darth Revan is gone, presumed dead, and his prodigy, Darth Malak, is determined to wipe out the remaining Jedi in the galaxy. Together with your motley collection of Star Wars familiars, you travel to various planets, attempting to piece together an ancient Star Map that will lead you to Malak's dastardly Star Forge, and stop his evil antics. But before any of that happens, there's the planet Taris to escape.

I picked a Scoundrel because that seemed the most immediately naughty choice. I think an argument could be made for Soldier if I wanted to get all Billy Bragg about it, but Scoundrel it was. Simon Evil, I named him, because it's always funny when you make an RPG have characters call you something silly. I pick the evilest-looking head on offer, bald with a goatee - a clear sign of evilness. And I roll him to show strengths in subterfuge and manipulation, because all the best evil people use these methods. Pointy beards and sinister remarks are the targets aimed for by the stylish baddies. Punching quite hard and being good with weapons, oddly enough, seem far more the domain of the hero. Oh, and he's a man. Because I usually play girls. Men are always more evil.

Yes, of course by running around her in circles!

The story begins on a Republic ship, being attacked by Malak's Sith forces, as I desperately raced to get to an escape pod by having a equipment menu tutorial. Few opportunities for malevolence here, beyond refusing to let him explain things to me when I didn't remember how they worked. Which was more stubborn stupidity than anything harmful to others. However, there was soon a chance to be a dick, as the pressing importance of rescuing the Jedi Bastila was explained to me, letting me reply that I couldn't care less, and I wasn't risking my life for her.

Of course, KOTOR isn't going to let you get away with that. For all the remarkable freedom of behaviour it offers you, it's going to drag you kicking and screaming through the main plot no matter how much you petulantly protest. Being an enthusiastic participant disguises this nicely, but rebel against the core plot and it becomes a little awkward as it tells you that you're going to have to do it anyway, so shut up and follow me. However, you do get the pleasure of hearing the shocked reaction of those around you that you'd say such things. "Sounds like Malak and Revan have the right idea," I muttered to my horrified tutorial guide.