Starfield's New Atlantis is just like KOTOR's Taris
Starfield and my beloved childhood game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, share a few similarities. Both are set in outer space, narrative-driv...
Starfield and my beloved childhood game, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, share a few similarities. Both are set in outer space, narrative-driven role-playing games that allow you to recruit companions who accompany you on your journey, fight by your side, and assist you with their abilities. In both games, you possess a spacecraft that transports you between different planets and systems. You can choose to align yourself with various factions, which, at least in one of these games, influences your final outcome (I am still far from the end of Starfield and do not wish to spoil it for myself). These games share similar characteristics, which is logical considering they are both influenced by a long history of groundbreaking and genre-defining role-playing games.
One similarity, however, that I did not expect was how similar the first planet you visit is. In Knights of the Old Republic, your character escapes a burning, besieged space station in an escape pod and crash-lands on Taris. At first glance, Taris is a bustling, sparkling metropolis, filled with people going about their business. You can visit a clinic, residential areas, a cantina where citizens relax, and much more. Similarly, after leaving the moon in Starfield, you land on the planet Jemison in the city of New Atlantis. New Atlantis is also a metropolis, but due to the much larger scope of the game, there is much more to see. There are shops, restaurants, cafes, multiple districts, and countless people you can interact with, most of whom provide random explanations when engaged in conversation. Both games showcase a certain degree of luxury and wealth on display.
However, upon closer examination, the similarities become more apparent. Taris has an Undercity, accessed through an elevator, where illegal activities thrive and its citizens suffer. Gang violence prevails between rival groups, the Hidden Beks and the Black Vulcans, leading to shootouts on the streets and innocent people being senselessly beaten. Illegal betting and speeder bike races also take place here, with little concern from the police. Interestingly, in New Atlantis City, there is also an easily accessible elevator that leads to the Undercity known as "The Well" in this context.
Here, the presence of blatant criminal activity is far from evident, although it becomes clear that the UC Vanguard's presence is of little help. People struggle to afford work, housing, and food. The community bands together to protect one another and hesitates to involve the police unless they are absolutely certain it is necessary. Both areas are rundown, undersupplied, and suffer from a lack of resources that appear to be diverted to the wealthier citizens above. Instead of gangs, there is the corrupt Trade Authority that deals with smuggled and stolen goods, while thieves can be found dead next to illegally obtained remote-controlled robots.
It is not only the similarities that I find interesting, but also what they seek to express. Both serve as a commentary on how gleaming, affluent metropolises often have a disadvantaged underclass that must struggle for the same resources and rights that are taken for granted by the residents of the upper city. Knights of the Old Republic was one of the first games that taught me, at the tender age of eight, that my actions have consequences and that I can directly help or let people suffer. Running errands for the people in these games, assisting them in every way possible, and giving them the credits I could spare had a tangible impact on their lives, which in itself is a political statement. I'm sorry to break it to you, but Starfield is a little bit "woke," just the way I love it.