WARNING: SPOILERS FOR KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC 2 BELOW
(Concept art of Kreia. Original artist in Brian Menze. http://brenze.deviantart.com/)
#MarchMadness is in full swing, and the first round already looks to be a hotly competitive battle for best fictional female character. Amongst the 128 characters picked, some are more well known than others, who might cause voters to wonder, “Who is this character, and why is she in this competition?” One such figure, oddly enough, is from one of the most famous franchises in the world, Star Wars. That character is Kreia, from the Obsidian RPG, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 (KotOR 2). Kreia may have not been in the movies like Princess Leia, or have a long-standing fanbase like Mara Jade, but she is undoubtedly not only one of the greatest characters in the Star Wars universe, but also in all of video games. (Note: This article follows the assumption that the Light Side path of the game was followed. However, since gender of the Exile and Revan is determined by the player, neutral pronouns are used.)
“What do you wish to hear? That I once believed in the code of the Jedi? That I felt the call of the Sith, that perhaps, once, I held the galaxy by its throat? That for every good deed I did, I brought equal harm upon the galaxy? That perhaps what the greatest of the Sith Lords knew of evil, they learned from me? What would it matter now? There is only so much comfort in knowing such things, and it is not who I am now.
Kreia serves as the mentor character in the party. She’s also a liar and a manipulator. She not only chooses where her pawns move, but how they move as well. She’s similar to Qui-Gon Jinn in the sense that she is defiant of the Jedi Order and code, but not because of some kind of optimistic idealism like he holds. No, Kreia is a cynic to the core. Kreia follows her own path, and the Force is just a tool.
Throughout her entire life, Kreia has been betrayed. When she was still part of the order, she was betrayed by her pupil, the Jedi that would become Darth Revan (the player character in KotOR 1) when he went off on a private war against the Mandalorians after the Jedi refused to act. The Jedi Council betrayed her in turn when they blamed her for Revan’s actions, exiling her. She then became a Lord of the Sith, but as Sith are prone to do, she was betrayed once again when they usurped her power since she was thought to be weak. Yet despite all that had occurred, Kreia survived, and began her plan to not only prove those that betrayed her wrong, but to give them a hearty “fuck you” as well. To accomplish this goal, she takes the Exile, a disgraced Jedi (and player character) that followed Revan to war, under her wing.
“If you seek to aid everyone that suffers in the galaxy, you will only weaken yourself… and weaken them. It is the internal struggles, when fought and won on their own, that yield the strongest rewards. You stole that struggle from them, cheapened it. If you care for others, then dispense with pity and sacrifice and recognize the value in letting them fight their own battles. And when they triumph, they will be even stronger for the victory.”
Critiquing the extremes of the Force is now a popular thing to do in the Expanded Universe, but no other character does it as well as Kreia. In one instance, a beggar asks the Exile for some credits to get by. If the player chooses to help him out, Kreia questions the decision, saying that giving what isn’t earned could hurt more than help. The next scene shows the beggar being attacked and mugged of his new money. If the player refuses to help the beggar, Kreia also questions the decision, saying that cruelty begets cruelty, and surely enough this time the next scene plays out with the beggar attacking someone else to get money. It was an eye-opening experience for many players. While in KotOR 1, decisions were generally a binary choice between “good” and “evil,” in the sequel game things were not so cut and dried. Kreia shows the Exile, and the player, that each and every action has a consequence, and that just blindly going with what you assume is the right decision is foolish.
“Perhaps you were expecting some surprise, for me to reveal a secret that had eluded you, something that would change your perspective of events, shatter you to your core. There is no great revelation, no great secret. There is only you.”
Every action the Exile makes is in accordance to Kreia’s plan, and she succeeds on all counts. Kreia has the Exile hunt down the Sith Lords that betrayed her. She uses the Exile to reveal the remaining Council members and then destroys them herself in a single, decisive strike. And finally, through the Exile, Kreia is able to meet Atris, a former member of the Council and last Jedi of the old order, enabling her old enemy’s fall to the Dark Side. In a twisted sense, however, these manipulations were also lessons from master to apprentice. The confrontation with the Sith shows how clinging to the need for revenge rots you from within, and that lust for power leads to self destruction. It’s fairly standard stuff, but it’s how she deals with the Jedi that’s fascinating.
“You must understand. I did not wish the Jedi dead. Defeated… perhaps. I merely wished them to see that they and their teachings were wrong. That one could not truly understand the Force simply by adhering to the Jedi Code.”
With the Jedi, Kreia shows the stubbornness and hypocrisy of the Council. Throughout the game, the Exile, with Kreia’s guidance, helps the other Jedi Council members with crises on various planets, and gathers them together in a hope to fight the Sith together. However, like with Mandalorians, the Jedi decide to sit and wait, more interested in their own survival. Despite the Exile’s help, the Council still views the Exile as a threat, for the Exile runs counter to what they teach. Kreia, who was also exiled for her beliefs, does not stand for this, and destroys them via the same method the Council was going to employ against the Exile: cutting off the Force.
“Know that there was once a Darth Traya. And that she cast aside that role, was exiled, and found a new purpose. But there must always be a Darth Traya, one that holds the knowledge of betrayal. Who has been betrayed in their heart, and will betray in turn.”
With Atris, her fall shows that how simple the descent to the Dark Side can be. You don’t need to destroy a planet or kill a bunch of children to fall. Sometimes a fall can come from the pain of betrayal. The confrontation between Atris and Kreia is fantastic, as Kreia reveals what Atris has become, despite Atris desperately clinging to the belief that she is the last of the Jedi. Just as the Revan betrayed Kreia when they left for war, so did the Exile with Atris. As Kreia says, “It is such a quiet thing, a fall. But far more terrible is to admit it.” And when the Exile finally faces Atris, they see what she truly is.
“I would have killed the galaxy to preserve you. I would have let the galaxy die. You are more rare than you know, and what you have taught yourself must not be allowed to die. You are not a Jedi. Not truly. And it is for that that I love you.”
Despite the lies and manipulation, Kreia genuinely does care for the Exile, in almost a maternal way. She would do anything to see the Exile live and succeed. Kreia recognizes how the Exile is the ideal of her beliefs. They went off to war with Revan, but unlike any of the other Jedi that left for the war, the Exile willingly chose to come back after committing massive death and destruction and face the ramifications unhesitatingly, even to the point of cutting off the Force within themselves. The Exile was never a “true” Jedi, for they were able to figuratively and literally turn away from the Force, and to Kreia, that was worth almost destroying the galaxy for.
Scorchy, the author of the great Something Awful Let’s Play of KotOR 2 brings up an excellent point about Kreia, and sums up why she should be considered to be on of the best female video game characters ever written. In fiction, paternal characters are everywhere (from Obi-Wan to Qui-Gon to Yoda), but there is a lack of strong maternal ones, especially in video games. It is a huge credit to Obsidian to create Kreia, a character that is strong, wise, and cunning, with nary the sense of cheesecake or fanservice. In a medium that seems to be overwrought with such things, Kreia stands out and rises above the rest.
Beyond that, Kreia is just written excellently. Despite her identity changes and weaving of lies and manipulation, Kreia remains true to her character and goals throughout the game. More popular characters that cannot make that claim.
Even with this long write up, I feel like I cannot do Kreia or the game justice. I highly recommend playing Knights of the Old Republic 2; you can find it on Steam at http://store.steampowered.com/app/208580/. Barring that, I recommend Scorchy’s Let’s Play I linked to above. He has great insight of the game, which greatly helped me recognize how good of a character Kreia is. Even if Kreia doesn’t win March Madness, I do hope this writeup will encourage others to experience the brilliance of KotOR 2 and Kreia in one way or the other. She may not be as well known as some of the other March Madness nominees, but she definitely deserves to recognized as one of the best.