Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was indeed a masterpiece ahead of its time. Featuring a turn-based combat system that repulsed a younger me, and it took me years to understand and appreciate what a gem KOTOR truly is.
KOTOR is an RPG in the truest sense, and it always boggled me how no other game since 2003 has managed to strike the same tune with me.
The unique aspect of KOTOR was its narrative-driven experience; players were allowed to make dialogue choices as per the persona they wished to imbue their characters with and critical decisions that could alter the storyline.
For example, making decisions that were more apathetic and ruthless would lead the player to the dark side; in contrast, being generous and empathetic ensured the protagonist would gravitate towards the light side.
The developers integrated this entire mechanic in a very immersive way that the protagonist’s appearance would change per which side they were leaning towards.
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Games like KOTOR are a love letter to the genre of RPG, genuinely allowing the player to role-play their character rather than following set paths in games that feign being role-playing games. Compare the ability to choose which side you can join in KOTOR and how it is presented to the player with Skyrim’s rather lackluster dialogue system, which might provide many options.
Still, the outcome of each conversation will be the same regardless of player choice. If the player doesn’t wish to murder the friendly dragon nearing the end of the main quest, there is no way to progress further, and the quest will forever be uncompleted in all my playthroughs. In such scenarios, Skyrim comes to a standstill without offering any alternatives.
Anyway, without further blabbering about the state of RPGs, allow me to present my list of games similar to KOTOR.
1. Mass Effect
Released in 2007, Mass Effect took the RPG genre with a storm, following both critics and fans praising the game. Honestly, when I saw Mass Effect, I couldn’t help but think it felt like a spiritual successor to KOTOR. Playing it just proved that point.
Mass Effect is an ARPG that features six classes, with each being proficient in at least one of the three primary skills (combat, tech or biotic/magic). In addition, the game has a similar squad system to KOTOR, with the NPC teammates judging the decisions made by the players and a loyalty system that allowed the teammates to reach their full potential.
The game also has a storyline that can be affected by the player to the extent that the player can choose to be a renegade, which is this game’s equivalent of the dark side.
There’s a ton of content in the game with sidequests to do and planets to explore. The game also features relationships with important NPCs that can be worked on, giving the players enough replayability.
2. Dragon Age
This is not the first time I am mentioning the Dragon Age franchise; it’s just too bloody good to ignore when talking about RPGs. Added to that, Dragon Age is perhaps the only title closest to emulating the feelings of KOTOR, second only to Mass Effect. Well, at the very least that I know of.
Dragon Age is a third-person RPG with an emphasis on party combat, just like KOTOR. In addition, though Dragon Age is a third-person game during battle, players are allowed to navigate the camera to a top-down view allowing better visuals of the battlefield and letting the player understand what’s going on and what requires their attention.
The combat is of a pausable fashion enabling the players to select and command the party members individually, doling out severe damage or using the opportunity to mend the wounds of their companions.
It’s a game of patience and strategy first and foremost and might not be appreciated by players who do not take kindly to pausable action games. Dragon Age: Origins was released in 2009 to good reviews, and the franchise is an excellent example of how developers should build a strategy RPG.
3. Jade Empire
Any veterans out there who wanted to remark on my comments about Dragon Age and Mass Effect being the games closest to KOTOR and wanted to bring up Jade Empire? Well, to be fair, Jade Empire was at one point destined to be KOTOR 2 but eventually became its own thing.
The game re-used many mechanics from KOTOR, including the morality system, but the game was not turn-based combat instead featuring real-time action. The game otherwise plays like a pretty standard RPG affair with selecting a class and managing stats such as Mana points and HP, added to those were energy commonly referred to as chi and Focus that could be used during combat as bullet-time or to use weapons previously inaccessible.
Featuring real-time combat and a morality system that is very much KOTOR’s, this title would be appreciated by gamers who wish to have more action in their games and less turn-based RPG.
4. Fallout New Vegas
Many people consider Fallout: New Vegas to be the definitive Fallout experience and do not hold the later entries in the same regard because Obsidian Entertainment made new Vegas. A company that staffed some of the great minds behind Icewind Dale, Planescape, Star Wars KOTOR II and even the older CRPG Fallout 2.
With such great artists on the canvas, the game was bound to be a masterpiece, and in 2010, it managed to collect great reviews from critics and fans alike despite the rather technical mess that it was at launch.
The game is a third-person or first-person RPG that focuses primarily on character stats and opening up additional paths the player can take depending on what skillset they’ve invested in. Additionally, the game also has a pretty engaging storyline to follow and enough side quests to keep you glued to the screen for hours.
Over time with updates, the game now runs fine without the need for any mods; however, the lively modding community does offer some unique quality of life improvements to the game, they are not entirely a necessity.
5. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Speaking of vast worlds filled to the brim with content, Morrowind is a title that is just as old and revolutionary for the genre as KOTOR. However, while KOTOR made massive strides in an attempt to create stories in RPGs a better experience overall, allowing for more personal touches by the players, Morrowind focused on world-building through visuals and gave players complete freedom to choose how they wished to play.
Morrowind perhaps provided the most freedom in any TES title; during the beginning, the players have trouble hitting their sword on target, but by the end, they can be as powerful as the Daedra Gods that watch over Tamriel. This is made possible by Morrowind’s unique take on magic.
The game also did not restrict players to the main storyline as most RPGs do for at least a certain amount of time. Instead, Morrowind offers two very brief and quick tutorials that allow players to understand the base mechanics and controls. They are then allowed to roam free, do honorable quests, or steal from the neighbors; it’s all up to the player.
I should point out that, unlike KOTOR, actions generally don’t have repercussions of catastrophic proportions.
6. The Technomancer
I generally take great care of the quality of games I recommend and ensure that they are not technical messes that will frustrate the average player.
However, for The Technomancer, I believe exceptions can be made but be warned that it might not be the most pleasant experience getting this game to run, no matter how capable your setup is.
The game starts with the players taking control of a rookie technomancer on the run from the Police on a colonized Mars. The game features three different combat styles and allows players to make decisions and choices to complete certain quests. In true KOTOR fashion, the game will reflect these decisions in the story.
However, there are only three endings, and the design around it is not as subtle as KOTOR’s. The game did not garner a particularly popular reception because the presentation and animation were not up to the industry set mark.
Regardless of what critics might say, though, it’s a gem of a game to play if you can get it to run, that is.
7. The Outer Worlds
Another title by Obsidian Entertainment, released in 2019. The Outer Worlds is a first-person ARPG that features a choice-driven plot that can be influenced by the player but again, this mechanic is not nearly as subtle as KOTOR managed to make it.
Still, an RPG created by Obsidian strikes all the right chords and delivers a superior ARPG experience. The game performed well on release and was praised for its atmosphere and soundtrack.
Overall if you’re looking for a relatively newer game similar to KOTOR, The Outer Worlds is your best bet.
Good storytelling coupled with a robust core gameplay loop is both a rarity and a surefire way to make a blockbuster video game. Many games have attempted to emulate BioWare’s masterpiece, but only a few have come close; even Mass Effect is, in my opinion, not as good as KOTOR in terms of the player’s choices and their dynamics with the rest of the world.
But I guess that’s what it means to be ahead of time. KOTOR is now available on mobile devices and has plenty of fanmade patches for its PC port to make it playable today, and boy, what an experience it is.