Too Long; Didn't Play: KOTOR

Sponsored By: Senkrad

Time Forced: 2 hours: One Light, one Dark

Author’s Note

Welcome, TL;DP Fans! As longtime readers may well recall, I like to do a theme for the month of December. Usually it’s alliterative, or some kind of gregorian pun. This December will be no exception. I’ve decided to go back to gaming’s roots and play some important games that I missed when they first came out. Over the next four Thursdays, I hope you enjoy De-Seminal-Ber!

This week I put the microscope on Knights of the Old Republic in an attempt to find any plot coherence or continuity.

Pulse Rifle Review

Overpowers bad writing with magic and cool sound effects.

But it’s a Star Wars game, so you already knew that.

Vibroblade Review

Star Wars is a very resilient franchise. It survived an incest sub-plot that exists only because of lazy writing. It survived massive plot holes. It survived multiple attempts by its own creator to destroy it.

How did it do that? Simple: It survived because every nerd wants to be a space wizard with a laser sword and a robot servant. So having a brother and sister make out? We’ll just forget that happened. Plot holes? Plug them with fan fiction. Gungans?

Hey, look! Yoda’s fighting Saruman! And he’s throwing rocks! Isn’t that cool?!

The Star Wars videogame industry allows people to drink even deeper of the Star Wars Kool Aid (SithBerry Coolers! Collect 5,000,000 points to get a glow-in-the-dark Yoda frisbee!). And it can get away with more, because videogame writing is already understood to be terrible, so it’s less of a distraction when you’re pretending to be a space wizard with a laser sword, and you don’t even have to think about the dignity of your protocol droid.

Knights of the Old Republic gets even more Kool Aid points, because it lets you choose whether you want to be a Jedi Knight or a Sith Lord. I’d enjoy that aspect of the game a lot more if the choices weren’t so badly thought out. There were a lot of complaints about Infamous’ brand of “give all of your money to charity versus eat this live box of kittens and nothing in between” moral spectrum, but that looks positively nuanced compared to the sorts of choices you make in Knights of the Old Republic. I mean, maybe you had to eat a box of live kittens to get your red lightning power in Infamous, but they didn’t make you do it in front of the little girl that owns them before killing her and selling her organs on the black market.

But, as I said, bad writing and Star Wars go hand in hand, so I can get past that. What really matters is the gameplay, because what’s the point of playing a game that allows you to be a space wizard if you don’t get to feel awesome doing it? Fortunately, Knights of the Old Republic delivers on that. The game came out in 2003, and there are some odd-to-modern-sensibilities design choices, but it holds up well. The combination of using the keyboard to move the camera while the mouse is used to interact with things in the world works, even if it took me some time to get used to, and I came to appreciate the ability to just click on the person I wanted to talk to instead of trying to position my character in such a way that the context-sensitive action button did what I wanted it to do.

The combat isn’t exactly fun, but it is interesting. When you engage an enemy, the world becomes a combination of real-time and turn-based action where you queue up actions and they eventually execute as you watch. Some actions take more time than others, but I can’t tell if the ones that take longer are any better. For example: If you have a blaster equipped, you can either do a standard attack or do a “sniper shot,” which takes longer. Supposedly, the sniper shot is more accurate, but in practice it seems like just spamming the standard attack results in more attacks actually hitting.

That's because this is an RPG, and like most good RPGs your character is terrible at everything in the beginning. I’m sure that, eventually, I’ll be connecting with more than thirty percent of my blaster shots. I hope it’s soon.

I’ve actually played the first hour of the game twice with the same character and build (My character is a Scoundrel named Egregious Punster, if any of you wanted to know), so I could try both the Light and Dark Jedi paths. I think I like the dark path better, if only because the powers you get later on look like they’re more fun to use. Again, why be a space wizard if you can’t throw lightning bolts?

Will I Keep On Testing Overconfident Rebels?

There’s a lot to KOTOR, and I’m glad I spent some time with it. I am, however, considering making the jump to KOTOR 2, to see if they cleaned up some of my complaints about the writing.

If I didn’t have the sequel waiting, though, I’d absolutely keep playing the first one. I like the mechanics, I like the skill tree, I even like some of the early incarnations of open-world jank (though it would be nice if the scenery did a better job of indicating that you were in a different part of town than you were in five blocks ago). Star-Warsiness aside, it’s an interesting game that’s worth delving into.

Is it the Dark Souls of Dark Sides?

Knights of the Old Republic isn’t exactly hard. It’s just an old-school RPG that starts you off weak and encourages you to get stronger. Dark Souls does that, in its own way, but it does so in a completely different way; mostly by punishing ignorance. Knights of the Old Republic is more of a classic RPG, which rewards perseverance and patience.

That’s a nice way of saying “it’s all about grinding,” by the way.

Anyway, Knights of the Old Republic isn’t very much like Dark Souls at all, so I’ll give it a two out of twelve parsecs.

Comments

I don't know how it holds up today but I had a blast with KOTOR when it was new...ish. I don't recall the nuances of the writing, but I remember liking the overall plot.

IIRC, KOTOR 2 had an unreasonable schedule for development. Since release, though, fans have actually restored a lot of that content, I think and fixed a ton of bugs.

If I didn’t have the sequel waiting, though, I’d absolutely keep playing the first one. I like the mechanics, I like the skill tree, I even like some of the early incarnations of open-world jank (though it would be nice if the scenery did a better job of indicating that you were in a different part of town than you were in five blocks ago).

The first planet in KotOR 2 is just as bad of an offender with it's scenery. But once you get those four hours out of the way it gets better.

Evil NPC: I need you to travel to the other side of the galaxy and kick a certain puppy.

Me, trying to be evil: Who the hell are you? I don't have time for your petty nonsense; I have enemies to crush!

Game: You have gained Light Side points.

Me: Dammit!

I am, however, considering making the jump to KOTOR 2, to see if they cleaned up some of my complaints about the writing.

If you've actually not played KOTOR before and have (somehow) managed to avoid finding out about the story over the past 15 years, I'd say it's definitely worth playing through. I'm not sure that the writing improves, necessarily, but I found the overall story very satisfying when I played it back in 2008. Given how old the game is, you can probably get through all the story content in < 30 hours, which isn't too bad for a Bioware game.