KOTOR II Companion Analysis: T3-M4
[The following article gives heavy spoilers for Knights of the Old Republic I and II.]
Before playing The Exile, at the very beginning of the story we do not see the world from the eyes of a former Jedi; or even a humanoid. The first character to be controlled, the companion and temporary protagonist immediately after the opening crawl is T3-M4 the utility droid.
This would be a short summary as I have seen in other reviews; were we talking about T3 as we find him in the first game. Fresh, agreeable, coming into its own. But typical of KOTOR II’s deconstruction from the very start; T3 is the first protagonist of the game.
Its small, vulnerable shell, being played by the character gives us an affinity and sympathy for us, subconsciously considering it more sentient and not simply mechanical, affirming subtly that over time the droid has evolved its own sentience and personality.
Another sneaky, broken, well-seasoned droid. But with cuter sounds and more likelihood of loyalty. I quite like it as such an extension from a droid we see as simple and a fresh purchase.
An excellent framing device for the stakes, and for older players a means to appreciate the Ebon Hawk is playing T3 from the start. While giving no lines, it is the first protagonist. Setting the atmosphere and nature of the entire game in a (at times literal) vacuum. Wrecked. Adrift. A damaged character begins the process of repair, encountering a shadowy mirror to the previous game. Exploration, experience points and different environments are gameplay, and encountering the ‘broken’ parts, machinery, or most often in the story to come repairing or impacting sentient life with a shaken or shattered sanity.
A basic yet alien way to convey that is through the simple robot, not literally brand new as the player found him on Telos, but a dented quirky individual expressing evident frustration while never giving up. It’s an understated but very clever introduction to a video game, not exactly unknown to science-fiction but not something typically associated with Star Wars stories favouring looming shots of sweeping vistas and technological vehicles at their height. T3 and the Ebon Hawk are small. There is no ‘war’ in the story, nor what’s very important in the very first movie: no R2 and C3PO with their panic and reassurance to each other.
Most importantly for KOTOR II; the key element is being alone. Uncertain. Star Wars in every story continuously maintains the elements of companionship or love. It is therefore most striking, more so than the grim nature of the plot that the plucky R2 like robot is a loyal and likeable sounding machine, but one without a companion. The struggle is far, far harder when your master is unconscious; and your original master nowhere to be found.
T3’s loyalty to his master is one of the teases of KOTOR III we never saw ultimately; I could go into the Revan novel but frankly prefer not to. In context of this story, I like the tenacity of T3 willing to lie or obfuscate to the point of making Kreia lose her temper, and be a part of a triad of impressively hostile droid companions (who you would expect to be more cooperative with each other by virtue of being droids).
T3 is not malicious, murderous or a schemer; but whatever experience has taught him in life was enough to really hold his cards to the proverbial chest. As with other less explored characters, he is not a cypher or an unknown, so much as a ‘simple’ character that does not elect to share every single thing so long as he serves well and patiently awaits his original master out of what I think is genuine loyalty, not a directive but likely a yearning shared by many other flesh and blood characters.
The uncertainty of the setting, and the fading of innocence gives the story its power. And this is personified in the little rolling utility droid growing into something as life has tested it and it has responded. As we see in the optional choices to help KOTOR I’s protagonist break out of prison, or a fascinating discussion with another droid debating it getting a mind wipe, there is the undercurrent of rebellion, freedom, and service.
T3 is plotting, not just participating but plotting in much more than your attempts to drag a sector of space out of decay that will bleed the resources of the Republic dry. In the depths of space, it quietly hums to serve you and protect you. It endures; and as another famous game reminds the player: ‘Endure. In enduring, grow strong’. It is important to start with the starting companion to show the ideas of will, repair and inner awareness the story is fond of championing. Because a protagonist awake and functional before the main protagonist is, with secrets and maps of regions into the unknown of the galaxy, happy to give a little shock and makes jokes is an amusing thing to play; and a fascinating little mystery to unravel.
I hope you enjoyed the article this week, and everything is going successfully.