Knights of the Old Republic EP8: The Sewer Level

By Shamus
on Sep 10, 2015
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

We have a wookie with a life-debt. We have giant slug creature that’s named “Something the Hutt” who runs some sort of shady enterprise. Later we have a Jedi council led by a little Yoda guy. We have a doomsday space station, Jedi in brown robes, a spaceship named in the form of “Adjective Bird”Yes, ‘Millennium’ is clearly being used as an adjective in the case of Han Solo’s ship, even though the word is normally a noun. This is not a nit worth picking., a sidekick astromech droid that speaks in beeps, and yet another trip to Tatooine.

They call this the “Expanded Universe” but in a lot of ways it’s more like the “Expended Universe”. All the ideas are worn out and used up. They take something done in the movies and simply repeat it. Why invent new planets when we can keep going back to Tatooine? Why invent new crime bosses or new designs for Hutts when we can just make a never-ending series of Jabba knock-offs? Why create a new alien sidekick when we can repeat the “Wookie with a life-debt” gag?

Having said that, I admit it’s a difficult problem to solve and I think KOTOR actually does fairly well. Yes, they lean on some really iconic, trope-y ideas, but they also invent new stuff. Manaan, Selkath, Juhani, and HK47, are new. The Malak / Revan dynamic is nothing like Vader / Palpatine. Canderous feels Star-Wars-ish and he’s not just a lame copy of Han Solo. The Ebon Hawk looks and feels just right without being a lazy copy of the famous Corellian freighter. Calo Nord looks a bit doofy, but he feels like he belongs in this universe and he’s not a stupid Boba Fett knockoff.

Writing Star Wars is hard. You need to come up with something new and different, but it also needs to nail that particular tone and style of Classic Star Wars. That’s not easy. Partly it’s hard because actually expanding on the work of other writers while maintaining a consistent feel is challenging workIt’s probably more difficult than simply writing something original. Not only do you have all the normal obligations of pacing, plotting, and characterization, but you need to be able to understand and mimic the sensibilities of another author.. The other reason it’s hard is because nobody really agrees on what ingredients give Star Wars its identity. Which explains why so many authors copy the obvious superficial elements of the universe and then totally whiff on the tone.

You could make the case that KOTOR is both more original and yet more true to the original trilogy than the prequel movies are. I realize that sounds sort of heretical to claim that KOTOR is somehow “more Star Wars-y” than real, official, actual Star Wars, but that really is how it feels to me.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!

Footnotes:

[1] Yes, ‘Millennium’ is clearly being used as an adjective in the case of Han Solo’s ship, even though the word is normally a noun. This is not a nit worth picking.

[2] It’s probably more difficult than simply writing something original. Not only do you have all the normal obligations of pacing, plotting, and characterization, but you need to be able to understand and mimic the sensibilities of another author.



A Hundred!2013There are 133 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Curiodissey?Is that that spaceship that traveled to jupiter?

    Josh remembered to save?!What madness is this?!

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    We have a wookie with a life-debt

    What,this guy?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2L4vQLddf8

    So thats why you are constantly bobbing your head.

  3. Thomas says:

    I think T3 is actually the greatest failing of KOTOR in terms of what KOTOR set out to achieve*. It wanted to pretty much directly copy the original trilogy in tone and plot and a lot of major characters and even scenes – at least for the lightside.

    And T3 is a massive failure, because KOTOR treats him like an actual robot, a computer without real feelings or character. But what made R2-D2 fun was how unrobotic he was, how grouchy and resilient he was for such an unassuming robot.

    In that one specific, KOTOR2 understood R2-D2 a lot better and wrote T3 like a real character and a real handful.

    *Assuming they didn’t think Carth was playing the Hans Solo. Which I could believe they thought they were doing even as horrifying as that idea is.

    • Xeorm says:

      If I remember right, it’s standard for droids in Star Wars to only get weird quirks when they’ve been without proper wipes. Introducing T3 the way they did meant he couldn’t be quirky.

      By the sequel, they could though, because his being away for so long gave him time to develop the quirks that R2-D2 had himself.

      Plus, the jokes where T3 was completely normal and had nothing really special about him that you could get when interacting with him made him pretty good even still.

      • Thomas says:

        I think they should have set it up so that you could have one who hadn’t been memory wiped in a while though.

        Zaalbar also isn’t the greatest recreation of Chewbacca, but I think that relationship only worked in the film because of Hans and so there was nothing to work off. In some ways it really would have been better if Mission had the lifedebt and she’d had it since before the PC met her. KOTOR2 doesn’t do a good job at replacing Zaalbar though, I’d consider the evil wookie to be the one time when the game really is just being venemous with nothing else behind it. Lifedebts are messed up, but just saying ‘lifedebt but evil’ doesn’t really create a compelling character.

        • Micamo says:

          Lifedebt *but* evil? Honestly Zaalbar’s “meh, I’m perfectly okay with being enslaved to this human” depiction makes me horribly uncomfortable, I can sleep much easier with the KOTOR 2 version.

          • Corsair says:

            I never got the impression they were trying to remake Chewbacca with Zaalbar, I got the impression they were trying to do their own thing. Unfortunately they made Zaalbar about as interesting as a paint drying simulator, so he just comes off as Chewbacca but boring.

            • Aldowyn says:

              I thought his brother was a lot more interesting in my recent playthrough. You could easily argue (as a villain, anyway) that making a deal with Czerka is necessary to prevent a war that would *not* end well for the Wookiees.

        • Raygereio says:

          I’d consider the evil wookie to be the one time when the game really is just being venemous with nothing else behind it. Lifedebts are messed up, but just saying ‘lifedebt but evil’ doesn’t really create a compelling character.

          The problem with Hanharr is that in a light-side playthrough (which I think the majority of players follow) Hanharr does come across as little more as ‘lifedebt, but evil’ because you have little to no interaction with him. But there is more to him then that.

          Basically Hanharr is what would happen if someone who’s mentally unstable and hates slavery would find themselves with a life-debt. The result is that person going completely insane. In a ironic sort of way a dark side character can actually free Hanharr from the shackles the whole life-debt thing put in his head. But you do so by completely breaking him, which I thought was one of the more screwed up sequences on that game.

          • SlothfulCobra says:

            A lot of Kotor 2 is basically Obsidian muttering under their breath about the problems with the details of Star Wars. It doesn’t really take a genius to question the rationale behind “You saved me from slavery!” –> “Now I will voluntarily become your slave!”

            • Thomas says:

              I do know all the stuff about Hanharr being driven mad by being ‘enslaved’ by his lifedebt, but I think my problem is

              “A lot of Kotor 2 is basically Obsidian muttering under their breath about the problems with the details of Star Wars.”

              For the most part, I sort of disagree with this, in that I think KotoR2 challenges the problems but doesn’t necessarily dismiss them. The problems can enrich the characters instead of breaking everything down. Bao-Durr is more good and light-sided because he willing chooses to fight against people like G0T0 and Canderous and Kreia. In the same way, Atton’s dark past can be seen as a deconstruction of the rogue, but it can also show the inner strength of those characters and the power of redemption.

              But I don’t really get that with Hanharr. He’s either a (well-placed) deconstruction of how bad the idea of Wookie lifedebt is or he’s nothing. It’s the one part of KotoR2 where I don’t think you have any choice but to view it as a deconstruction and thats why I never really feel like his character works.

              There are good moments with him, particularly in the restored content, but I don’t think he comes together to represent his own ideology in the way that G0T0, Canderous and Kreia do. And HK-47 already has the psychopath stuff down.

              • Il Padrino says:

                It’s been a *very* long time since I did a Dark Side KOTOR2 playthrough, but Hanharr was one of the things that impressed me the most about it. I can’t argue what you say about his ideology as I unfortunately don’t remember much of it, but the overall picture I got was that he was a well-drawn picture of a psychopath … which, as you mentioned, is a niche HK-47 fills. The difference, I thought, was that HK-47 is played for laughs. Hanharr is not, and the result was actually pretty frightening.

                • lurkey says:

                  Hanharr is one of my favourite characters in video games. Utterly terrifying psychopath, and yet, when you chat him up, you start to get the actually rather believable logic chain behind his madness…and that is scary in its own turn.

        • Jabrwock says:

          You could argue HK fulfills the quirky robot roll. He was sent by Revan to kill Jedi, but was captured and had his memory wiped before he could return to his master. From there he bounced from owner to owner, with his original programming bleeding through to influence his current personality until he gets restored and remembers who Revan is.

  4. The Defenestrator says:

    You mentioned earlier that characters sometimes just walk into mines when you tell them to disarm them. I had that happen to me recently and I think I know why it happens: When you tell the character to disarm the mine, they pick a spot just outside the mine’s radius and then move there to work on it. Unfortunately, they don’t take into account whether there’s an obstacle in between themselves and the mine when they decide where to go. If they end up approaching the mine from another direction, they will still be heading towards the spot they originally picked out, even if the shortest path to that spot takes them through the mine’s trigger zone.

    Of course, this could have easily been avoided if characters in this game were programmed to not step on mines if they can see them.

    • Humanoid says:

      I feel that once a character detects a mine, and indeed traps in general, they should be unable to accidentally set it off. It could still hit you if it detonated for other reasons (including intentional orders to do so), but it’s reasonable to assume that now they’re aware of it, the game’s interface should reflect that knowledge. Auto-slow the character walking through the field to walking speed if verisimilitude is important – think the spike traps in Prince of Persia.

    • Matt Downie says:

      “Don’t step on mines if you can see them” isn’t as easy as it sounds. It might lead to characters just stopping in place, permanently paralyzed by their inability to get to where they’re going.

  5. Wide And Nerdy says:

    For me at least, I would think it would be easier to write fiction of an established setting than to come up with my own stuff. Even with the caveat of “getting it right.” But then, I’ve never successfully written much in the way of fiction. I just know that the ideas come easier when I’m looking at existing stuff.

    I’ll take your word for it that people who actually write for a living probably find it easier to write their own stuff.

    • Syal says:

      You can make an original setting that’s based off someone else’s setting, though. That’s like, half the fantasy genre.

      • To be fair, having tropes for a genre are helpful. For instance, it’s often not necessary to explain what wizards, FTL drives, elves, sensors, curses, demons, etc. are right off the bat. The baseline for genre fiction is getting more commonplace, to the point where readers might be more familiar with the idea of short, beardy people who like to tunnel than they would be with the basics of what a particle accelerator does.

        • Aldowyn says:

          I would be willing to bet that most people are more familiar with the concept of ‘dwarves’ than what a particle accelerator actually does.

          • Felblood says:

            Any mook can tell you that it makes particles go fast.

            Why you’d actually want to do that, or how likely escapes them as readily as the principles of black geometry, but the what part is pretty clear.

        • ehlijen says:

          Actually, FTL drives are not all that set in what they do across scifi. Just off the top of my head there is the ‘just go really fast’ trek warp drive, the ‘go really fast in another dimension that we won’t define’ hyperdrive of star wars, the ‘jump instantaneously’ but spend some time recharging’ jump drives of BSG remake and battletech, the stargate of the movie of the same name and ‘let’s not actually bother explaining or mentioning it at all’ of the original BSG.

          Scifi doesn’t have a baseline like Tolkien is for fantasy, at least that I know of. And that’s made it difficult for me to get my roleplaying group invested in anything scifi in the past; few were interested in reading/listening setting digests and the rest couldn’t agree on what kind of scifi they wanted. :(

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            You can always do cyberpunk.Thats your baseline sf.

          • Incunabulum says:

            But, no matter how *how* they do what they do is handwaved – FTL drives are all ‘make long trips in plot-relevant timeframe’ machines.

            There are only a tiny number of stories featuring FTL where *how* it does that is important – even if its explained.

            Mote in God’s Eye – the way the drive works sets up how the human state is organized (as a background thing) and is the one thing that had kept the known universe from being colonized by a single alien race around the time humanity was learning agriculture.

            Singularity Sky – FTL drives (IRL) are also time machines and the strategic uses of limited (by Godly fiat) time-travel are explored.

            Can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

            • ehlijen says:

              I can easily matter a fair deal.

              Can you see ambushes coming? Trek: yes, star wars: no.
              Can you go wherever you want? Star wars: yes, Stargate: no.
              Can you be seen coming? BSG new: no. Battletech: yes.
              Does space travel involve chokepoints that can be blockaded? Trek: no. Mass Effect: yes.
              Are you literally passing through hell? WH40k: yes. BSG either: no.

              If space travel isn’t important enough to matter to the story, sure, it won’t need details. But scifi that doesn’t involve space travel is already a separate niche than scifi that does.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                You can always cobble some technobabble in order to subvert those however.

              • Those are up to the author. The point is that the concept of FTL of whatever flavor isn’t a surprise to readers. If you want to get nitpicky, you can start listing the various kinds of magic that different novels employ (vancian, hermetic, etc.) or how suspended animation varies (suspension of time, freezing, stasis, etc.).

                The point is that if someone crawls in a tube and wakes up a hundred years later, the audience is likely familiar with the concept. The same goes for FTL. Any plot-relevant details will be provided or they don’t matter.

                If I’d said “people are used to the idea of spaceships just taking off from planets and leaving without a complicated flight plan,” would you start harping about repulsorlifts vs. thrusters vs. anti-grav? I’d hope not.

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                There were no choke points in Star Trek till Deep Space Nine that is.

                As for FTL drive, speed can be relevant. In Star Trek, ships can require decades to cross substantial portions of the galaxy. In Star Wars, it never seems to take more than a few days to get anywhere.

                Though Star Wars has more dramatic tension built around whether you can jump to FTL in the first place (the computer has to calculate your path).

                This is probably because once you’re in hyperspace, you’ve safely evaded danger (at least in the movies, I think the books vary more on that point). Whereas in Star Trek, if another ship can match your speed they might be able to catch or attack you (depending on the weapons, I think generally phasers and photon torpedos didn’t work at warp.)

                • Jabrwock says:

                  In SW you can still be followed, it’s just a lot harder “Calculate their trajectory!” They don’t know how far you went, but with a faster hyperdrive they can make some educated guesses and hope to get there first to ambush you. EU books make reference of short hyperspace jumps followed by a course change, then another jump, just to make sure they don’t give away the secret base by heading straight towards it.

                • Michael says:

                  In Trek, Phasers (and most beam weapons) work at warp, and Photons travel at warp speeds, though a ship can outrun those, and the shows are visually inconsistent about it. I’m not sure about the weirder torpedo varieties, like Tricobalts and Quantums, but I’m fairly certain the writers weren’t either.

    • I’ve done both (sadly no one paid me except my day job but oh well). Fanfics can be easier because there’s an established context you don’t have to bother with creating. I don’t have to establish Lucius Malfoy as a rich, scheming bad guy, the books and movies have done that for me. So I can play with bits the books don’t talk about, or I can just jump straight into action or whatever. Of course there’s a downside. My Lucius is not necessarily JKR’s Lucius or anyone else’s Lucius and the more you get attached to a particular version of a character, the harder it becomes to deal with other versions. Oh, and of course, especially in a non-fixed canon as HP was before DH came out, stuff can happen that you hate and you either cope, come up with alternate explanations (Draco balding was just a prank, damn it), or ignore it. I’ve seen, heck, I’ve written Snape survives fanfics because I like Snape and I like using him as a foil to a Malfoy.

      I remember spending an entire evening on a date where we basically created an entire version of Wizarding America, where the South may have lost as far as the Muggles were concerned, but the war had kept going to a sort of Cold War stalemate sort of thing. The two factions even used Voldemort’s first rise to power as a way to keep fighting through proxies, with the South supporting the Death Eaters and the North (which was also much more of a tech magic culture) helping Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix. This is sadly, not the most geeky conversation I have had, but it was a lot of fun.

      That’s one of the nice things (I think) about playing in a canon. You can wander off and create things, but there is a framework that you have to stick to. The structure can be stifling, or it can be helpful, it depends on what you’re trying to do and the nature of the canon’s world-building. I can answer Shamus’s “But what do they eat?” with farms using house-elf labor in the Wizarding World or whatever, but Tolkein’s already answered that question for me for a good chunk (if not all, I haven’t read the books in years) of Middle Earth.

      And it’s fun to speculate about that sort of thing in a fandom. How did WW1 and 2 affect the Wizarding World? Did Hiroshima and Nagasaki inspire the rise of Voldemort as they figured out the Muggles might have figured out a way to destroy them without even knowing they were there?

      Actually that last one could pretty easily have identifying marks scrubbed off and turned into something more original. How would a hidden society which considered itself superior react to their “inferiors” who don’t even know they exist gaining the power to annihilate them? You could go magic, tech, heck, even very recent history (probably very carefully but you could) with it.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Last part first: Very true, we can’t give THAT much credit to Rowling’s powers of invention (though even I as a non fan who has seen the movies thanks to Rifftrax can appreciate what she’s created.)

        You don’t owe her for the concept of “wizards” or a ‘hidden magical society’ (that’s as much a requirement of urban fantasy as FTL is for good space opera). Though if you have kids in a magical academy learning to cast spells with fake latin, even if all of those tropes already existed, people would start calling you out on that.

        Thank you for this post. I enjoyed reading about your ideas and agree with you on how a framework can both help and limit what you do.

        What I will say is, KOTOR 1 and KOTOR 2 is my Star Wars more than anything from the movies. I never connected with the movies the way other geeks have (though I understand the appeal, I think).

        But it was different playing these games, stepping into the role, the anticipation of becoming a Jedi and getting my own lightsaber (Side note: KOTOR 2 did this better. It let you start leveling as a Jedi immediately but made you work to get your lightsaber. This gives you something to build anticipation towards without costing you much. After all, once you have a lightsaber it mostly doesn’t matter that you didn’t have a lightsaber for the first 8 or so levels. Aside from a few feats. Much different than gaining 8 levels as a non jedi)

        When Disney declared KOTOR noncanon to Star Wars, as far as I was concerned it was the other way around.

        • I totally get that. I’ve got friends who differentiate between their personal lotr canon, PJ’s lotr canon, original Hobbit book canon, rewritten Hobbit book canon, cartoon Hobbit canon, LotRO canon, and last and (in their opinion least) Hobbit movie fail canon. (I have no idea how they keep it all straight.)

          LotRO is canon to me. I think Shire and I think movie and also running around it in game. I still don’t think trying to save the free people of Middle Earth should involve hobbit matchmaking, mail delivery, or pie delivery, but I understand why it’s there and it totally would make sense to a hobbit. Perhaps not so much to an elf or human, but that’s the charm of hobbits!

          We fall in love with these worlds, and we have a sense of ownership of ’em. Intellectually we know we have no “rights” but when has that ever stopped anyone? The elves of Rivendell will always be singing “Tra-la-la-la-laey, down here in the valley” even if it makes no sense in a lotr/hobbit movie verse (okay, that might just be my fandom hill to die on all by my lonesome but damn it that contrast between movie Elrond and book Rivendell will never cease to amuse the heck out of me). Han Solo shot first (that’s a crowded hill). I suspect KOTOR=canon may not be as crowded, but I’m sure you’re in good company. I know there’s a couple people on the Rihansu vs Romulans hill too (I do know other fandoms besides HP and Tolkein, I just know those two the best)

          Note: I can’t be bothered to look up how to spell the tra la bit, so sorry if I got it wrong.

  6. Thomas says:

    As I said last time, I love the rancour puzzle, but it is literally the only time in the game where being able to put items _into_ chests does anything.

    • Viktor says:

      Clearing out your inventory for convenience because you don’t want to sell the unique high-quality stuff but you also don’t NEED vibroblades when your party is composed exclusively of Jedi and gunslingers?

  7. ehlijen says:

    You can actually defeat the rancor by fighting it. It’s mune to energy, though, so you’ll need mines, grenades and/or disruptor rifles (one of the shops has one). Swords also deal damage but have the obvious drawback of involving melee with a rancor.

    Doing it that way actually gives slight more XP if I remember correctly…

    • Syal says:

      Is it immune to energy weapons? I don’t think I was using a disruptor rifle, but I definitely just cheesed it by stealthing one character over to that door and shooting it to death while it couldn’t reach me. (I didn’t figure out that stupid corpse pile until around my third playthrough.)

      • The Rocketeer says:

        It’s not like Josh would have any points in Energy Weapons in the first place.

      • ehlijen says:

        a) what happened to my spelling? :(

        b) I assumed it was immune since I never did any damage with carth’s blasters. Maybe it just has really high resistance and a good sneak attack can overcome it?

        Either way, it doesn’t even have that many hitpoints. A few good disruptor volleys or grenades can finish it. Only trick is not letting it get in three swipes lol

    • Atarlost says:

      Slightly more XP? It gives something three or four times as much experience to kill it with mines and then you can still plant the grenade and perfume to still get the XP for that method. It’s six or eight hundred extra XP when most things give 60. And if you do it that way you also get a Rancor Minus Rancor cutscene which is pretty cool in and of itself.

  8. Mane says:

    Actually… you can travel back. it’s how I did all my healing from there. you just need to use the map commands

  9. Tizzy says:

    I HATED the movie knockoff feel of Kotor.

    Don’t forget in that list: escaping while gunning down fighters, Kraut dragons, a dark side guy who is a maimed, part-cyborg brute and has a sinister, synthetic voice as a result…

    not sure what to. make of Jolee Bindo though. In my book, he is an aversion of SW tropes. But then Shamus didnt bring him up, so what gives?

    And as far as imitating an already established author, that’s hard. But when you have something like SW that is so loose that no one seems to be able to put their finger on WHY it was popular in the first place… tough gig…

    • Michael says:

      Honestly, given this was set just after Tales of the Jedi, to the point that they name drop a bunch of characters from those comics… the setting is… well, bland.

      For reference, Tales of the Jedi has this really ragged, almost post-apocalyptic look. The tech is grungy and taped together, (to a degree that actually stands out from the films).

      The lightsabers are these jagged beams.

      It looks like a universe that could turn into Star Wars in 20k years or so. And then… we get this. Which looks like it’s just, well, Star Wars v1.5. It’s got the clean processed lines of the prequels. A little bit of the grunginess of the original films. But, it looks like it’s supposed to be set 50 years before Episode 1, not 20k (or whatever the actual number was).

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      a dark side guy who is a maimed, part-cyborg brute and has a sinister, synthetic voice as a result…

      I see.So what you are saying is that all dark side cyborgs look the same.Thats racist!

  10. Oh, the Wookie language.

    For anyone who watched the original trilogy as much as most fans have, Zaalbar’s dialog probably sounds like we’ve run into a farmer named “Loop Ski-Water” whose voice acting is just a bunch of Mark Hamill clips from “A New Hope.”

  11. evilmrhenry says:

    In defense of Carth’s blaster skills, in the Rancor fight, he shoots a blaster, and the bolt travels out at a 45 degree angle compared to the barrel. (It’s even in the credits sequence.) It’s a wonder he’s able to hit anything with the equipment he has.

  12. Majere says:

    First time through this game I never actually figured out the smart way to kill the rancor I just spammed the grenades I’d been hoarding at it until it died.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Same here. It’s nice that they didn’t make it invincible so you could at least have a go at bringing it down the brute force way, even if it was all but impossible without exploiting the combat system to hell and back.

  13. Endymion says:

    Ah the lifedebt.

    It totally isn’t going to end in tears…. right?

    You horrible, horrible people.

  14. SlothfulCobra says:

    Ah, Zaalburg. He didn’t really get to do much in this game, his class isn’t as great for fighting as either of the soldiers and he’s not a jedi, so he’s not that useful in combat, he’s not allowed to use about half the equipment in the game, and his dialogue for everything other than his backstory on Kashyyk is basically “I don’t know, and I don’t care, just because I have a lifedebt to you doesn’t mean I want you to get all friendly or anything.” He really is the “pet” member of the standard bioware party. Also he makes grenades for some reason. Go figure.

    I think Campster’s only line in this episode comes at 23 minutes in.

  15. Hermocrates says:

    Wow, you guys weren’t kidding about the sewers stretching on forever. Not even Pillars of Eternity, with its obvious PnP RPG heritage, has this kind of overlong dungeon-delving environment (not including the Endless Paths, which is wholly optional past the first floor).

    That said, I’m still quite tempted to give this game another chance. This definitely seems to be BioWare at their zenith.

    • Henson says:

      I suggest making that decision sooner rather than later. As we get closer to getting off Taris, the crew is more and more likely to get into major spoiler territory.

      • Hermocrates says:

        I’m actually not too worried about spoilers, oddly enough. I’ve already had the major “twist” spoiled (by the Spoiler Warning crew in a different season, no less), and as much as I like a well-written story, it doesn’t need to be a surprise for me to enjoy it anyway. I’ve enjoyed plenty of story-driven games despite knowing the ending and all the major plot twists beforehand (for instance, Deus Ex Human Revolution and Morrowind).

        Besides, I get too much of a kick out of watching the cast heckling Josh for his play style and Rutskarn launching salvo after salvo of puns to put off watching this season until after I’ve beaten it.

        • Michael says:

          Well, if you’re going to play it, I don’t recommend emulating Josh’s trick. At least on your first playthrough, level up to 8 as you’re going around Taris, unless you’re very familiar with 3rd Edition D20 and understand all the wierdnesses that Bioware tacked onto it for this game.

          Oh, incidentally (and I could be remembering this wrong), there IS a Star Wars D20 reason why you need to level up once before you can cross class into Jedi. You need to have at least two non-Force hit dice before you can take any Force User class IF you didn’t start as one. So a level 1 Fringer can’t just take a level of Jedi Guardian, they need to take a second level of Fringer before they could cross class.

          Of course, in KOTOR, you’re force fed a level up in the Tutorial, which you can’t skip.

          • Hal says:

            FWIW, I’ve generally played to level 5 and saved my remaining levels for becoming a Jedi. It’s advice I’ve seen in quite a few places and works reasonably well; you are strong enough to contribute to encounters while still saving several extra levels of Jedi. Plus, level 5 gets you a few extra benefits for feats/skills/class features that Jedi generally lack.

    • Ringwraith says:

      Although the Endless Paths don’t even have the first floor required, the room next to the stairs is the only place you need to go, so you can just leave immediately after.

  16. Thomas says:

    This sewer section is actually making me miss hubs in Bioware games even more. Even Mass Effect 1 a good percentage of manshoot missions and side missions were almost totally manshoot. And Bioware only got worse from there.

    The sewer is so awful compared to Taris above ground and its because it Taris above ground you’re talking to people and learning new things and seeing new things as part of the core gameplay experience. Bioware need to relearn how to make this kind of action part of their basic quest structure again. Dragon Age: Inquisition has to be the low-point of their in-quest interactions.

    • Aldowyn says:

      I loved Inquisition, but their open-world implementation was pretty horrible. That said, the main missions were some of my favorite in a long time. (Although the sharp divide in between story missions and every thing else highlighted the terrible open-world stuff even more – although I did all of it anyway)

      • Thomas says:

        I loved a lot about Inquisition and their main missions were definitely part of that (I love alternate timeline Redcliffe Castle, that was pretty frigging creepy and The Winter Palace was a lot of fun) but oh wow were the bits that ‘count’ strictly delineated.

  17. Completely agree with you there. That taking things from the original trilogy and just repeating them is one of the more annoying things. And the most among them is that of repeating quotes. Every time a character from a new work in Star Wars says “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” God rolls a d20 to end the world if it lands on a 1.

    • MrGuy says:

      I sort of agree, but this is sort of a no-win for the developers.

      If they stay too close to the original trilogy, they get slammed for being derivative, and making the world feel small – we have a galaxy this big, and it’s still just the same 5 races over and over again on every world?

      On the other hand, if they want to stray from the canon and add a bunch of new stuff, they get slammed for being non-canon, or “not star wars.” Hey, where did all the Ewoks go? (OK, no one’s ever had that complaint about Ewoks specifically, but still…) Or they get slammed for making the game confusing – who are these guys, and what are they doing in my Star Wars? You’re just making things up! Or you get slammed for creating gameplay issues – I have a pretty good idea what wookies are and are not good at, but I have no idea WHAT these orange-and-purple guys are supposed to do…

      For the world of the game to be consistent with the Star Wars universe, there have to be some elements (and, yes, some tropes) that come along for the ride. That’s how we recognize it. But it can’t be too much, or it feels derivative and “fanservice”y in pejorative ways. There’s a spectrum running from “completely derivative, play-it-safe crap” and “now you’re just making random shit up that doesn’t belong.” Somewhere in the middle is the (depressingly narrow) happy zone of “recognizably Star Wars, but fresh and interesting!”

      The problem is everyone’s perception of just where that happy medium resides is different. It will be different for a hardcore fan vs. a newcomer. It will be different between a sci-fi nerd and bro-shooter-enthusiast. And if the balance is “wrong” for you, you’ll be upset about it (and, especially if you’re a hardcore fan, you’ll be very very vocal about it). It’s analogous to “everyone who drives slower than I do is an clueless idiot, and everyone who drives faster than I do is a raving maniac.”

      It’s a hard game to win at.

  18. Aldowyn says:

    “I realize that sounds sort of heretical to claim that KOTOR is somehow “more Star Wars-y” than real, official, actual Star Wars, but that really is how it feels to me. ”

    This is true for me as well. It came out when I was… Nine, at just the time I was starting to get into this kind of game. I’m not sure if I hadn’t watched the original trilogy, or it just hadn’t appealed to me as much, but KotOR definitely did more to define ‘Star Wars’ as a setting than either set of movies did (despite the prequels coming out roughly equivalently – Attack of the Clones was only a year earlier)

    • Humanoid says:

      For many, many years, Star Wars to me was Rebel Assault and nothing else. And that was a terrible game (it was bundled with my Sound Blaster 16). Might explain my general antipathy towards Star Wars ever since.

      That said, I remember in one of the Zombie Week episodes Josh said something wanting to do a Rebel Assault season. This would have been a good time as any to do it.

    • Matt Downie says:

      I remember when the prequels tried to claim that healing people using the force was a dark-side power. I thought, “No! You’re wrong!”

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Did they?Wasnt that just palpatine talking about animating the dead?

        • Jabrwock says:

          I took it to mean that even Jedi healing had limits, but Palpatine was more powerful than even them. So he could save her from anything.

          He may have been bluffing. He probably foresaw that Padme would die no matter what, and wanted to use the temptation of the ability to keep her alive no matter what to twist Anakin further to the dark side.

  19. James says:

    i want to say this now before we get there but this game has the Tower of Hanoi, and its obnoxious to control, the puzzle itself is easy but the controls of it suck so hard

  20. John says:

    I always take Zalbar with me through the sewers and the Vulkar base rather than Carth. Zalbar has high strength and is really effective in melee if you give him two weapons and spec him properly. His Improved Power Attack almost always hits rakghouls, Gamorreans, and Vulkars. You might think that his lack of armor would be a problem but in my experience he usually kills his opponents before they have a chance to hurt him very much. The enemies in the Vulkar base favor blasters over vibroblades so Zalbar does just fine if you give him some energy shields.

    That said, I seldom take Zalbar with me after Taris. His lack of armor is a real problem in areas like the plains of Dantooine with lot of melee enemies. If you really want a non-Jedi melee companion, Canderous does almost as much damage, can wear heavy armor, regenerates health, and is an interesting conversationalist to boot.

    • Thomas says:

      It’s already bad enough being a melee character who can’t use a lightsaber in a world where there are melee characters who use lightsabers, the armour nerf was just too much for poor Zaalbar.

      It’s a difficult problem, because it was always going to feel wrong if the Wookie was statted for dexterity but there isn’t much room for characters who aren’t. The special toughness feats were nice but not quite enough (incidentally I liked how KOTOR2 expanded the unique character feats to pretty much everyone in the party, it helps make everyone feel unique and spices up the combat options).

      • Humanoid says:

        What he really needed was some shampoo infused with Cortosis. Specially formulated for people with an active lifestyle, it protects your hair against the the elements; including sun, chlorine, saltwater, and lightsabres.

        • MrGuy says:

          Ah, no, I see the problem. It appears we’ve made a slight typographical error on the label.

          Yes, you see, this product protects against light sabres. Tin foil swords, plastic nerf swords, that sort of thing. And chlorine. Did we mention the chlorine already? Yeah. It’s good for that.

          Off the record, our internal testing shows treated hair is at least 20% less likely to stick to spiderwebs than untreated hair. We can’t market that until the FDA testing is complete, of course. But it looks like we have that going for us. Which is nice.

      • Bubble181 says:

        Hanharr stays viable all the way to the end game and can easily outdamage even Jedi Guardians with lightsabers (though outdamaging a Weapon Master is a bit too much for him). Still geared towards STR and has a ridiculously low defense (I think it’s, what, 12?), he’s got staying power because of his high hit points and speed.

  21. Warclam says:

    It just figures that after slaughtering all those rat ghouls, what would finally kill Carth would be the gonorrhea.

    Wait no, my bad. They’re called gamorreans. Names people, names. Who came up with these stupid names?

  22. Phantos says:

    You could make the case that KOTOR is both more original and yet more true to the original trilogy than the prequel movies are.

    At this rate, one could make the case that Homeboys in Outer Space was more “Star Wars” than the prequels.

  23. MrGuy says:

    What I want to know is what does that Rancor EAT???

  24. Phil says:

    What was up with the spazzy door behind Zaalbar?

  25. Michael says:

    So, a rule thing from Star Wars D20, and, keep in mind, it’s been about 10 years since I read the books, so I could be remembering this stuff wrong.

    With the actual pencil and paper rules, lightsabers look terrible. They have roughly the same stats as longswords, as I recall. The only unique thing about them is they’ve got a slightly larger threat range. 17-20, I think.

    EDIT: I dug out the books. The default stats are 2d8 damage, with a 19-20 crit. But, thing is, most weapons in Star Wars D20 only crit on a natural 20. The exceptions are Lightsabers, some Blaster Rifles, Bowcasters, and the heavy blaster emplacements. Short version, getting crits in SWD20 is harder than you’d expect for D20, for reasons that will be apparent in a moment. Also, that’s not 19-20×2, it’s just 19-20.

    But… that’s not what makes them dangerous.

    In normal D&D you have hit dice. Your character gets more hit points everytime they level up, sort of like what KOTOR does.

    Now, in Star Wars, this is still true, you have hit dice, and they give you more “vitality,” which are effectively hitpoints. And why KOTOR uses the term Vitality instead of HP.

    Except, Star Wars also has something called Wound Points. A character has a number of Wound Points equal to their Raw Constitution Score. If you have a CON score of 12, you have 12 wound points.

    So, if someone tries to take a swing at you with a lightsaber, you take 2d8 damage from your vitality (assuming the attack connects) just like, well, D&D.

    But, critical hits bypass vitality and apply directly to your wound points. So, if that lightsaber crits, it will not only do double damage, but it will also apply directly to your character’s health.

    EDIT: Except, of course, it doesn’t do double damage. Mybad.

    Losing wound points comes with some pretty serious debuffs (again, if I’m remembering the rules correctly) and if your wound points hit zero, you die on the spot.

    This is also how Star Wars keeps blasters dangerous while still having Vitality counts in the triple digits (for some classes).

    So, while the stats for lightsabers are terrible, the rule systems behind them, are what turns them into horrifying engines of destruction.

    Bioware seemed to get exactly as far as seeing that HP is now Vitality, and never adjusted any other systems. Probably because they didn’t want to deal with players actually dying.

    In general Vitality is an abstract concept in game, where you’re avoiding hits, or soaking off blows, rather than actually getting the tar kicked out of you to an absurd level, like it is in D&D.

    • Michael says:

      Oh, and since I’ve got it in front of me, the base classes are:

      Fringer, Noble, Scoundrel, Scout, Soldier, Force Adept, Jedi Consular, and Jedi Guardian.

      Fringer’s a kind of techie that scavanges stuff together. Think Luke from ANH.

      Nobles are… well, nobles. They’re a social class.

      Scoundrels are your rogue class, which KOtoR uses.

      Scout is a kind of Ranger type, which KOtoR kinda gets. They’re a lot more distinct in pencil and paper.

      Soldier is, well, it’s your basic fighter class, moving on.

      Force Adept is an untrained Force User. These can also be characters who were trained in the force under some radically different teachings from the Jedi. Though, the Sith actually end up getting bundled in under the Jedi Classes.

      Jedi Consular is the Jedi social class. Think Qui-Gon or Yoda.

      Jedi Guardian is the Jedi combat class. Think nearly every other Jedi in the series.

      Noticeably absent are the Jedi Sentinels. As far as I know, Bioware made these guys up on the spot. I don’t think they’re from the D20 system. There are some other Jedi base classes in splatbooks, but I don’t think the Sentinel appeared in any of those, or at least it didn’t until after KOtoR came out. It’s in KOtoR as a Jedi upgrade for the Scout, but, it’s worth pointing out, that was something Bioware did, and part of why you’ve got this weird skill point focused Jedi class.

      Oh, another stray random deviation. First level Jedi do not have Lightsaber Proficiency. They get that at level 2.

      • Jabrwock says:

        Sentinels were sort of based off some ideas in the EU. They were generally the Jedi who left the temple to go off and integrate with society. Learning some force powers, and then using them to help in their everyday life. Not entirely relying on the force, but using the force to enhance their ingenuity and abilities.

        One of the post-ROTJ books has Mon Mothma berating Luke in the setup for his new Academy, basically recreating the Temple. She doesn’t want a bunch of monks, worshipping the force, or an army of Knights. She wants Jedi police officers, Jedi doctors, Jedi teachers etc.

      • Hal says:

        That must be the first d20 Star Wars and not Saga Edition; I played SE and don’t remember Vitality/Wounds. I do remember HP being a straight thing, but taking thresholds of damage based on your CON score would give you a stacking debuff.

        Lightsabers in SE weren’t any better than any other melee weapon, but their advantage was that Jedi could take feats (etc.) to make themselves much better with them.

        Where SE really frustrated the lot of us was that the equipment was so difficult to come by. There’s several dozen pages of equipment, half of which is weapons/armor/explosives/etc. Most of that equipment is ludicrously expensive, rare, or restricted in some way (i.e. Legitimate authorities will expect you to have an expensive license to use it or will confiscate it as being a military-restricted weapon.) This effect was exacerbated in our game because we were playing a Firefly-type freighter/adventurer team. When 90% of our credits had to go back into repairing the ship (because of course you have space battles, it’s Star Wars), fueling the ship (because Firefly), healing our wounds (because armor is too rare and expensive), we never had any actual cash to acquire better gear, although most of it would have been illegal anyhow.

        (After a quick Google search)

        Ah, that was 1st edition. The basic changes between them, according to the wiki:

        1. Utilization of a single “Use the Force” skill with a simpler Force system instead of having a skill for each Force power.
        2. Combining skills together (e.g. “spot” and “listen” have been combined into a single “perception” skill).
        3. Merging of Jedi Consular and Jedi Guardian into a single base Jedi character class, as well as the merging of the fringer, Force Adept, and tech specialist character classes into the 5 base classes.
        4. Character talent trees to allow diverse character concepts to be available through the various base and prestige classes.
        5. Removal of the vitality/wound point (VP/WP) system in favor of a more conventional hit point (HP) system for combat.
        6. A revised combat system to make combat run faster, particularly at higher levels.
        7. The introduction of a new “Condition track” which represents a character’s health status such as injury, fatigue, poison, stun, and morale.

        • Michael says:

          Yeah, there’s actually three different editions of Star Wars D20. The one I was looking at was the most recent when KotOR was released, I think.

          I can’t remember if Saga Edition is the second or third version, though.

    • ehlijen says:

      My guess is that bioware didn’t use the D20 star wars system because they wanted high level lightsabre combat to be about more than flailing as many blades as fast as possible and hoping to be the first one to get a crit.

      Because that’s what d20 star wars ended up as, and that would have made for terrible CRPG combat. It’d just have been swingswingswing until one side falls over dead without warning.
      The grinding down of each other’s health bars offers far better feedback on whether or not things are going well for the player or whether they need to change tactics.

  26. So far, Carth owns the most incongruous combat taunt I’ve heard in a Bioware game, and especially a Star Wars game: “Time to rumble!”

    Rumble? What’s next? I’m betting on “Tunnel Snakes rule!”

  27. Incunabulum says:

    They call this the “Expanded Universe” but in a lot of ways it’s more like the “Expended Universe”.

    Yeah, this take place in the same universe where, after the Death Star was blown up, they built a bigger one. And then Built the Eclipse. And then built the Galaxy Gun. Oh, and they cloned Palpatine. 3 times.

    http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Palpatine

    • Michael says:

      Yeah, this is something that honestly bothers me. Not Shamus’ comment, because he’s spot on.

      I mean, there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the EU. The entirety of the Thrawn Trilogy comes to mind. Or even Tales of the Jedi, which KotOR is supposed to be a pseudo sequel to.

      And then you get writers who are a lot less creative wandering in, and it’s just, “oh look, let’s just rehash the films again.”

      Gone are the Jedi Masters that look like a triceratops, the lizards that cancel out the force around themselves, the master tactician that studies the art of his foes’ cultures to gain insights into their psychology, and a planet that had to build a massive fortress to survive, and exiled all their criminals to the outside, only to have them come swarming back in on the tamed beasts that provoked the massive fortress in the first place.

      Though Onderon did come back for KotOR2.

      It’s just, back to this tiny prepackaged version of Star Wars with half the creativity.

      I mean, when it’s in the hands of a competent writer, Star Wars is a really interesting setting. When it’s in the hands of an incompetent one, it’s going to be stupid, but you’ll remember it. (Yes, what the Empire really needs are droid soldiers… Good call, General.) When it’s in the hands of semi-competent ones, it’s a shallow and derivative greatest hits album with no regard for how badly it needs to mangle the setting to get there.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But thats basically how any fanfic operates.You get one or two gems that do something new and interesting with the setting,and the rest is just “New adventures of my fav character that are the same as his old ones,because those are so cool!”

        The only difference with this setting is that the fanfics have an explicit blessing of the original creator.

        • Michael says:

          Well, they might, anyway. Anytime you see a Pern fanfic, you can know it was written over the protests of McCaffrey.

          But, that’s what we’re talking about with Star Wars, unfortunately. For all the professionally written tie-in work, there is a lot of Lucasfilm sanctioned Fanfic mixed in.

    • lurkey says:

      Oh, oh! Are we sharing SW’s gems of stupid? Then allow me to submit my own Asinine Discovery Du Jour:

      http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Darth_Andeddu

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Sooo,sewer levels.Is there any game where the sewer level is actually good?Im sure that there has to be,and that Ive played it,but I just cant remember.And I also think that I already asked this question during the last spoiler warning that was in the sewers,but I also cant remember that(because sewer levels are just that terrible).

  29. Blovsk says:

    I think KOTOR hits the perfect balance, really, between feeling Star Wars and having new stuff in it. Making a Star Wars game with 10 new planets would just not really work imho. KOTOR 2’s avant Star Wars was sometimes more successful, sometimes not.

  30. Land Moose says:

    New designs for Hutts? So like, make them look like a different species? Or do you mean the lispy way they innovated them for the Clone Wars movie?

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>