Knights of the Old Republic EP11: Swoop, There it is

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 17, 2015

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 138 comments

Link (YouTube)

It’s odd to come back to this game after so many years. Watching Josh fiddle with the level-up choices, I can remember struggling with decisions that seem obvious now. The whole D20 thing was largely opaque to me, since it had been almost twenty years since the last time I had contact with that sort of game.

BioWare went from these number-crunchy tabletop adaptations where understanding D20 mechanics is almost a prerequisiteThe only saving grace is that the games tend to be easy. If the game required a competent build, I never would have made it through., to “baby’s first RPG”, which is just industry-standard action gameplay with a very mild dose of stat-boosting built in. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like they sailed right past the sweet spot without ever hitting it.



[1] The only saving grace is that the games tend to be easy. If the game required a competent build, I never would have made it through.

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138 thoughts on “Knights of the Old Republic EP11: Swoop, There it is

  1. 4th Dimension says:

    What’s Force, What is a Jedi
    What’s a Paladin?

    1. hborrgg says:

      Hang on, let me check my notes. Force=mass*acceleration, does that help?

      1. ehlijen says:

        I’m pretty sure Force=Mass*Acceleration/Dark Side^X

        I don’t know what X is, though.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          X is fear.

        2. 4th Dimension says:

          So dark side is inertia of a sort? Effectively reducing force applied on an object?

    2. Hector says:

      I’m not entirely sure.

  2. hborrgg says:

    If someone is fighting you at range you need to run up close to them so that they pull out their melee weapon. Then you can run away and lure them over your mine field.

    Also, according to the wiki I think only Jedi can use lightsabers because they use the force to keep the blade contained or something, but that’s demonstratably false because Han Solo uses a lightsaber to cut open a tauntaun in episode V sooo. . .

    Anyways, Good luck with the fight club quests with your underleveled character now!

    1. Chris says:

      Maybe its that only jedi have the concentration skill and foresight to use a light saber martially without reducing themselves to a small pile of meat slivers.

      1. PeteTimesSix says:

        There is also the fact that unless you are an engineering genius that can science around it (I think theres like, one character that does it in the EU?) the use of force is required for constructing a lightsaber in the first place.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        This is what I’ve always heard. Jedi reflexes are generally necessary. Also, in a world of blasters, you pretty much have to be a Jedi to be able to rely on a lightsaber for protection.

    2. Incunabulum says:

      There’s a ton of bullshite thrown around about how only someone who has the foresight and reflexes of Jedi training can safely use a flashlight without shining it on themselves.

      Personally, I *rarely* ever shine the flashlight in my own face.

      If anything, the real problem comes when they have to deal with anything they can’t just cut through – no mass in the blade = all the force of the impact is torqued at the wrist with no buffer.

      1. ehlijen says:

        Do you ever engage in flashlight duels where you’re trying not to have either your or the opponent’s light shine in your face?

        But yes, it’s a thematic contrivance of the star wars universe. Lightsabres are the weapon of a Jedi, just like DnD mages dont’ wear full plate while Clerics do.

        The question of whether non force users could wield lightsabres in combat never came up in the original trilogy, because no one ever wanted to. It’s only because this game shoves DnD’s STR based melee damage bias into the setting, while utterly removing all cover mechanics (say what you want about ME, shooting in KOTOR looks even dumber) that non-jedi are even considering it. Even Chewy prefers a laser crossbow from what we can see.

    3. Nentuaby says:

      Canonically, lightsabers are DEEPLY impractical without Force enhanced reflexes to *control* the massless, uber-dangerous blade. However, there’s not actually any hard and fast reason some rando can’t pick it up and wave it around, they’re just likely to be more dangerous to themselves than others.

      There’s even a canonical non-Jedi lightsaber fighter– General Grievous from Episode III has no Force ability. He’s doing all that quadruple-bladed spinny bullshit with cyborg reflex enhancements, not Jedi ones.

      1. Corsair says:

        It’s not like lightsabers are the only weapons in this game you can’t equip without proficiency. That’s just a thing in CRPGs, they just make it so you can’t equip weapons you have no proficiency in rather than give you massive penalties.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Which is weird because massive penalties is generally the way D20 handles that and this is D20 and that should be fairly easy to code. Maybe they’re just trying to help the player by not letting them equip stuff they can’t use.

      2. Thomas says:

        Also, it really would take a Jedi to deflect blaster bolts. So for a non-Jedi, a lightsabre is a stick that you hold whilst someone shoots you.

        In the world of KOTOR where melee weapons are a thing again that doesn’t make so much sense, but I don’t think any was really thinking that through :P Plus aren’t lightsabres designed so that you need to use the force to turn them on? I guess rando’s wouldn’t be able to even activate one without actually building it himself.

        1. Supahewok says:

          Lightsabers are purely mechanical constructs created by their respective wielder. Its probably possible for a wielder to construct their lightsaber in such a way the it requires use of the Force to activate, but I’ve never heard of it being done in the EU.

          Some interesting modifications I have either read about or heard about: someone set up their saber in such a way that it took a single click to turn on, but would require a double click to turn off, so it wouldn’t happen by accident in battle. There was the interesting case of someone making their lightsaber blade able to extend by switching out the focusing crystal mid-fight, so that with a twist of the handle the blade grew to pole-arm length, enough to skewer an unwary opponent. Quite a few clever mechanical mods for lightsabers have been thought up over the years.

          This discussion brings to mind an amusing EU anecdote. There was a comic somewhere, set before the original trilogy, where Darth Vader for whatever reason tracks down Boba Fett to a bar, and goes in to confront him. He draws his saber to behead Fett, only for Fett to interrupt the blow with his own lightsaber. He taunts Vader, saying, “You’re not the only one who’s ever hunted down a Jedi.” Fett manages to fight off Vader himself, which gains enough of Vader’s respect that Fett is his go-to man for future bounties.

          Its stated that Fett wouldn’t win a straight-up lightsaber duel with any Jedi, let alone Vader, but the combination of surprise, tight-spacing, and Fett’s desperate brutality drove Vader off. Although in my own mind, I strongly suspect its just another way to cash in on Fett as the EU audience’s favorite Marty Stu. Anyway, it illustrates that non-Force users are capable of using lightsabers in combat, although its very rare.

          1. Thomas says:

            I thought they were constructed with the switch _inside_ the hilt so that you had to move it through the Force. I guess I’m probably misremembering a longwinded explanation in an EU book about why Mace Windu could turn his on with the force if he needed to.

            1. guy says:

              I imagine they can be, but you can clearly see an activation switch in the movies.

            2. Supahewok says:

              Most Jedi can activate their lightsabers with the Force; telekinesis is pretty rudimentary, and it doesn’t take that much effort to flip or click a switch or button. It is completely possible that Mace Windu or someone else made their lightsaber require use of the Force to activate, but that is an exception rather than the rule. I mean, General Grievous turned his lightsabers on somehow, right? He couldn’t have done that if it required the Force.

              Maybe you’re thinking of Spaceballs? :P

              1. guy says:

                He may be thinking of Brandon Sanderson’s Alloy Of Law, which had a gun called Vindication with an important component only usable via metalkinesis.

          2. hborrgg says:

            Also, there’s the character in the new (canonical) Rebels series that straight-up made his lightsaber a gun-sword.

          3. StashAugustine says:

            There’s a character in the novel Scoundrels who uses an old lightsaber… as a breaking and entering tool. Cuts through anything, right?

          4. Taellosse says:

            I know it is an optional mod for one’s lightsabers when playing at least some versions of the various Star Wars RPGs to have a Force-activated power switch. Not sure it’s ever been depicted in a comic or novel, though.

            Also, according to some of the Lucas-published technical-manual books, that talk about the details of the technology in Star Wars, both Anakin’s original lightsaber (Luke’s first one at least, maybe not Annie’s own Padawan saber from the prequels), and the one he made as Vader have a toggle that locks the power switch on, for throwing purposes. Most lightsabers have a pressure-based activation switch, so the saber disengages if dropped (we see this whenever someone is disarmed, figuratively or literally, in duels).

            And, according to most EU material (so, now, who knows), while most of the construction of a lightsaber is a purely technical engineering challenge, there are certain aspects that do require the Force to accomplish – housing the core crystal in the focusing chamber requires some very delicate telekinesis, supposedly, since they’re fragile and a number of components have to be attached all at once, and there’s some vague “attunement” process that requires meditating with the crystal in some fashion. There was an episode of Clone Wars (so still canon!) that covered a bunch of apprentices obtaining their first crystals, and finding “the right one” required sensing it with the Force in some way. A crystal with even the tiniest flaw or imperfection in its matrix would cause the new saber to explode, so selecting one without Force training is probably pretty dangerous.

          5. Daimbert says:

            Some interesting modifications I have either read about or heard about: someone set up their saber in such a way that it took a single click to turn on, but would require a double click to turn off, so it wouldn't happen by accident in battle. There was the interesting case of someone making their lightsaber blade able to extend by switching out the focusing crystal mid-fight, so that with a twist of the handle the blade grew to pole-arm length, enough to skewer an unwary opponent.

            Both of these are at least mentioned in the EU books featuring Corran Horn. The first is in the X-Wing series when he finds a lightsaber, while the second is from I, Jedi, but might have been in the Jedi Academy series as well. Horn builds himself the second, but Gantoris builds it first, which pushes him to do it, too, even as he concedes that it’s good as a surprise but not much good after that.

            He also wouldn’t have built himself one with the telekinetic activation because he’s famously bad at telekinesis.

            1. Supahewok says:

              Ah yes, Corran Horn rings bells. The X-Wing books are pretty much the only Star Wars EU media I’ve kept after growing out of my Star Wars phase. The Wraith Squadron ones in particular are just plain funny.

              I think I actually read about the second modification in the Yuuzhan Vong series; Corran used it in a duel against a couple of them, back before they’d officially invaded the galaxy. I’d forgotten. Didn’t know that it had cropped up before either.

              But I did have Corran specifically in mind when I stated “most” Jedi can use telekinesis to activate their lightsabers; I remembered that he in particular was hopeless at it.

      3. Taellosse says:

        There’s actually more than one non-Jedi lightsaber wielder now. In the Clone Wars, there was a faction of rogue Mandalorians (the main planetary government is pacifistic for some reason) calling themselves “Deathwatch,” and their leader duels Obi Wan Kenobi with an antique lightsaber. He hasn’t even got the advantage of cybernetic enhancements, either – he’s just a dude. He loses, of course, but not instantly.

        1. Tektotherriggen says:

          The player-character in Jedi Academy (the sequel to Jedi Outcast, that was the sequel to Jedi Knight, that was the sequel to Dark Forces) builds a lightsaber before force training. I forget if (s)he had some kind of innate force ability, though.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            They do, they are coming to the academy to be trained as a jedi after all. In fact the lightsaber thing is considered proof that they are “strong in the Force” and some kind of prodigy.

  3. BeamSplashX says:

    mumbles, do you wish bastila was dave bautista instead

    1. Ledel says:

      Now I’m just imagining Bastila as Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy. “I do not fear the Dark Side, because I keep a flashlight with me at all times.”

      1. Hector says:

        And his version of Force powers involves hurling people mightily against walls.

      2. Syal says:


        Is that all that lightsabers are for?

    2. Mumbles says:

      Is this the episode where I call her Bautista to see if anyone notices and no one does.

      1. BeamSplashX says:

        it’s lookin’ that way, pal

  4. Drew C says:

    I have a sinking feeling I’m going to be the only guy who likes Bastilla. Sigh it’s Mass Effect and Miranda all over again.

    1. Knul says:

      I liked Bastilla as well. She is high and mighty but she becomes a bit humbler later on.

      1. Corsair says:

        I love Bastila. She has a pretty good character arc. The big difference between her and Miranda is that the game is fully aware that Bastila is arrogant and a bit insufferable, and she’s regularly roasted for it by the rest of the party in various ways. You’re never given an opportunity in Mass Effect to tease or mock Miranda, but you are given it repeatedly in KotoR with Bastila, and it’s -not- “Abort the romance” dialog choice. And also her reaction to being mocked/the dialog to mock her are pretty funny.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        She’s kind of the Leia archetype that way. Only, we got to see Leia bravely standing up to the bad guys (who weren’t just punk crime bosses, but the upper echelons of the Imperial leadership) and being distraught over the destruction of her homeworld before she meets up with the rest of our heroes. We can empathize with Leia during the Death Star escape because a) her whole planet was just killed, and b) Luke and Han are bumbling through their rescue attempt, so she has good reasons to be short with them. In KOTOR, our main interactions with Bastilla are when she’s busting our balls, plus we are the protagonist, so maybe some gamers take her insults personally?

        1. Hydralysk says:

          I don’t think I minded it so much after Taris, but our first meeting with her really made me want to throw her off a bridge. Not so much because I’m the protagonist, but rather because we’d just went through a long meandering quest to rescue her. We had to impersonate our way past 2 guard checkpoints, mess around in the zombie infested underworld, trudge through a sewer, fight through a gang’s hideout and then win a swoop race tournament, only for her to bitch at us for not doing a better job the second we find her.

          Not exactly the best first impression…

          1. Thomas says:

            As Rutskarn said, it’s easy to imagine someone being evil, but what kind of monster would be ungrateful?

    2. John says:

      The thing about Bastila is that, yes, she’ll nag you, but you can easily avoid most of it simply by not taking her along with you or starting conversations with her in the Ebon Hawk. There are only two other other places I can think of where she’s mandatory: the Dantooine ruins and the Leviathan.

    3. ehlijen says:

      You’re not alone. Bastila is well written, in my opinion, though the timing of her (abrasive) introduction could have been better managed.

      She is deeply flawed, and that’s exactly why she ends up where she does later. Most SW stories handwave that plot arc, if they have it at all; KOTOR’s is the best go at it I’ve seen yet (which makes Episode III so disappointing :( ).

    4. djw says:

      Hey, I liked Miranda‘s ass

      1. Josh says:

        The main character of Mass Effect 2.

    5. Daimbert says:

      You’re not alone in liking Miranda as a character, as I liked her a bit, too. Now, as with Bastilla I have a bit of a weakness for those sorts of accents (like Aeryn Sun, for example) but I think what really helped was that I took her around pretty much everywhere — my character would have insisted on making her participate in the dirty work, and probably wouldn’t have trusted her being alone all that much — and then when I recruited Jack I brought HER along, too, because my character would have found it interesting to bring someone along to snark at Miranda. Doing that, you DO get someone to mock Miranda, and it also means that you take Jack along to Miranda’s loyalty mission and, more importantly, you take MIRANDA along on JACK’S loyalty mission, where you get some inkling that Miranda might experience some doubt about Cerberus.

      It’s also clear when you talk to her that her arrogance is more of a front, which makes her a bit more tolerable.

  5. hborrgg says:

    Oh yeah, pazzack. I actually got pretty good at that game since in Kotor 2 it’s required for a couple of quests. Also, like almost any video game with a gambling mini-game you can turn it into an infinite money generator by quicksaving whenever you win and reloading whenever you lose.

    1. Syal says:

      I’m pretty sure everyone in KOTOR had a limited amount of credits that you could win from them.

      1. djw says:

        I am pretty sure this is correct. Some of your opponents give you stuff when you saturate their win-loss tolerance, but it takes an awful lot of save scumming to get to that point. Suvam Tam is the only one that really gives you anything worth having, IMO (a discount at his shop).

      2. GloatingSwine says:

        There are one or two people who seem to play on forever (at least nobody has ever had the patience to exhaust their win tolerance), but they tend to be the ones who play for pennies as well.

        Hoarding everything and selling it only to Suvam Tan is good enough to make all the money you need.

  6. Hermocrates says:

    I’m really disappointed no one turned Mumbles or Rutskarn’s “WAAA!” into the obvious “WAAARIO!” line…


  7. Will Riker says:

    I rather enjoyed Pazaak, at least later on once you have all the good cards and it becomes an easy way to make money. It certainly beats the other mini-games (Swoop Bikes and the awful Turret mini-game that we haven’t gotten to yet)

    As for crunchy RPG vs. Action game with meaningless progression, I think ME1 hit that balance really well. I didn’t like the ME1 combat that much, but it would have been nice to see them iterate on it instead of going straight Gears-Of-War.

    1. ehlijen says:

      The turret minigame is meh, but not too bad I thought.

      A trick you can try is to start madly mashing the fire button as soon as the sequence loads. You will in fact start firing before anything becomes visible, so you can wipe out a good half of the enemies at least before the sequence even starts properly, since they always spawn in a column right in your crosshairs. (PC, original version, no clue if they’ve changed it)

      1. Supahewok says:

        Good, I’m not the only one who figured that out.

        The next step is to watch the starfighters and figure out their patterns (each fighter moves in a fixed loop above, below, and around the ship), and proceed to pick a spot on their flightpath and fire continuously at it until they run into your shots.

        Those two tricks were enough to get me through when I was having trouble with it.

  8. Blovsk says:

    KOTOR’s character customisation took the best of AD&D, I think, although like a lot of the systems in the game it’s very shallow next to the sequel and its immediate predecessors – lots of replayability with the nine combinations you can go for all playing a bit different, which is something none of the modern Bioware games have managed.

    1. Thomas says:

      What sort of thing do you mean with the last sentence? In terms of what you’re physically doing and the combat beats, ME2, ME3 and all the Dragon Ages have a lot more differentiation between classes than KotoR. A vanguard dashes round the battlefield damaging people just quicker than his own shields disappear, whilst an engineer sits back and spams drones. And in Dragon Age it’s basically rock-paper-scissors levels of distinction between a fighter and a rogue.

      But I guess there’s not much variety at all inside any one character class in a modern Bioware game? You can go ranged rogue vs backstab rogue but that’s almost just them having 6 classes rather than the 3 it seems at first.

      1. Blovsk says:

        Forgive the waffling:

        In Baldur’s Gate 1, at one point the city watch turn on you and as you’re going to their headquarters to sort it out you’ll keep getting confronted by little groups of misguided or corrupt guards. You could kill them, you could charm them into fighting each other, entangle or hold person on them, cast invisibility or use stealth to bypass them, run away from them. The mechanics let you roleplay that scenario.

        KOTOR wasn’t quite as good for that real mechanical roleplaying stuff but you have the persuade/force persuade/bribes/computer use/go fight some guys/repair/ridiculous mine gimmicks/equipment choices options that meant your characters felt a bit like characters. I’ve played sneaky hacking skill monkeys, blaster-wielding jedi, armoured jedi, force damage dealers, generic do everything characters, buffer of others jedi in the KOTOR games.

        To me the ME 2 characters were basically four different premade sets of combat moves… I didn’t ever feel like I was playing a different person to any other time I ran through or that I was investing anything in them. Dragon Age: Origins is far and away the best of the ‘new-er Bioware’ bunch for the organic gameplay. I’ve not played Inquisition or 2 after the demo of 2 made it very clear it wasn’t for me.

        1. Thomas says:

          Ah, okay I understand now. You’re totally right, looking at it like that modern Bioware games are much more restrictive. It’s all straight-forward combat or nothing.

    2. ehlijen says:

      It also kept some of the worst parts of DnD.

      Why are stats rated 8-18 when all that matters 90% of the time is (stat-10)/2 round down?
      Dark Heresy uses both the stats and the derived modifers, but does so for both in good measure. DnD doesn’t use the base stat for anything other than a weird hp pool vs magical/poison drain effects. Sure, it’s not a lot of math and you get used to it quick, but it is a dumb hurdle that always causes a stumble when a new player asks why their shiny new STR15 isn’t actually any better in a fight than STR14.

      Then there is the melee vs range damage bias. Star wars of all games should not have adopted that.

      1. Blovsk says:

        Absolutely true, though it’s not *nearly* as obtuse as the AD&D thing where 19 strength is maybe 4 times better than 18 while all values between like 10 and 15 dexterity are identical for all things except deciding whether you can dual class from Thief. I really liked a lot of Pillars of Eternity’s design decisions on how stats were done, as a contrast.

      2. Mersadeon says:

        Yeah, in the new D&D editions (and Pathfinder, for that matter), there is basically no use for the pure attribute stats. Everything is done with the modifiers, which always made me a little bit sad.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          I’d say at this point it would make more sense for D&D and Pathfinder to just list your stats as “STR +3, DEX +2, CON +0, INT -1, etc.”, but a) there are some legacy bits dating as far back as 1st edition they’re loathe to break with, no matter how little sense they still make, and b) I think some players would get hung up on all those low and negative numbers on your character sheet even though the actual attributes scores are irrelevant and those modifiers are all that actually matters.

          1. The Defenestrator says:

            That’s exactly what Mutants & Masterminds did in its third edition. Although since it’s a superhero game, the attribute numbers often aren’t so low.

          2. John says:

            Hey now! I’ll have you know that having 13 STR rather than 12 means that I can carry maybe five more pounds before I am considered encumbered and can no longer move at top speed. Oh, and it’s also a prerequisite for the Power Attack feat, which I never, ever use but which is nevertheless required in order to take levels in that Prestige Class I like. Raw attribute scores are therefore an essential part of the game. Essential, I tell you!

            1. Felblood says:

              Wait, you never use power attack?

              I’m pretty sure that PrC you like has full BAB progression, so you are basically passing up free damage against low AC targets.

              1. John says:

                Low AC opponents are generally also low HP opponents and die just as fast without the power attack. That’s how it’s always seemed to me, anyway.

  9. Lachlan the Mad says:

    Petition for Rutskarn to do an entire video in the circa-1900-sports-commentator voice he uses for the swoop race.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I’ll sign your petition (particularly if it’s the announcer-on-truth-serum version) if you’ll sign mine preventing the purchase of webcams for the purposes of promulgating Star Wars canon via the medium of interpretive dance.

      We’re not getting much joy at federal level, but, critically, we already have strong support in the Nevada state legislature.

  10. Core says:

    ‘BioWare went from these number-crunchy tabletop adaptations where understanding D20 mechanics is almost a prerequisite[1], to “baby's first RPG”, which is just industry-standard action gameplay with a very mild dose of stat-boosting built in. Maybe it's just me, but I feel like they sailed right past the sweet spot without ever hitting it.’

    The thing is, once you do have an understanding of D20 mechanics, the character building choices you make in their newer games are still…a little more meaningful. Even simply because ME3’s ‘do I want my technofireball to explode larger or deal more damage the next level’ is a more immediate and intuitive dilemma than learning to bluntly compound specific categories of numbers after you’ve figured out the general character concept to strive towards exactly once. And the shift is really about going from that ‘number based characterization’ D&D type games had to have, one that really works well only with fully abstracted game systems to a ‘perk based’ one that can be plugged into any style of game.

    Similarly, I’ll argue that for most RPGs, especially those that don’t feature permanent death, action game style mechanics suit the genre better than number crunching does, because it feels to me like the less abstraction there is between you and the game, the stronger your attachment to the player character becomes. Simply even because what you build your character into tends to have a direct and visible effect on a greater percentage of your play time(especially compared to party based RPGs). The whole way you play ME2/3 changes to a great extent just based on what class you’d pick at the beginning of the game(which is something I can’t even say about Pillars of Eternity since you can generally make a well rounded party no matter who you are), and RPGs are exactly the genre about such long term decisions and learning to live with their consequences, both in narrative(well, shame about that in the later Mass Effects) and in gameplay.

    1. Blovsk says:

      I disagree here. The old RPGs let you build your own characters, which has a biggish impact on the gameplay and made them pretty replayable. The later Mass Effects gave you four presets with a few choices but ultimately they’re ‘play-the-way-you’re-meant-to’ games. I don’t feel nearly as attached to my character in ME 2 as in Baldur’s Gate 2 because I shape the BG 2 character far more (and in that game it’s basically just stats and items and spell choices that do that).

      It’s kind of reflected in the way that the old games supported near-pacifist runs, solo runs, minimum stat runs, no-rest runs, no magic runs… all of that stuff came organically out of the game not telling you how to play. In ME I think it’s telling that most of the boasting achievement stuff on youtube is skill-based (getting through the game with no health damage, for instance) and not knowledge-based or systems-based. Just seems a lot less fun to me but then I guess I’m odd for being interested in the genre mechanically more than I am in most of the stories.

      Pillars is kind of a special case, where because you’ve got full party creation you have that building-your-own-stuff appeal at a party level more than an individual level. Icewindale was the same, kinda. I love it mechanically but it does distance you from the PC a lot as much as they try to make up for it with bits and bobs.

      1. Core says:

        I don’t really know about gameplay impact, I’m still somewhat of an infinity engine fan, however even in BG2, narratively, all that really your class changes is what stronghold you end up getting, and gameplaywise, you’re almost always going to always be interchangeable, the ‘almost’ coming from how to have an appropriately powerful single-class generalist mage in the game you’ve got to IIRC be ready to take in someone with an evil alignment or be one yourself. Or, as I’ve heard, just play the expanded edition.
        In party RPGs, the whole party is your avatar, and modifying a single character out of it is probably not going to change the overall strategy you take unless you can create or heavily modify the entire party, yeah, like in IWD1/2 or Temple of Elemental Evil or XCOM(I’m going to count the latest one as a sort of a weirdo RPG and no one can stop me!). And even then, there’s the issue of optimal party composition and such, which is only sidestepped by XCOM’s randomness and permadeath out of that bunch…
        And, on top of that, those games tend to be sufficiently combat-centric that you barely get any ability to define your character through various interactions with prewritten narrative.

        On the other hand, I’ve been playing a bunch of MGS5 lately and all I can think of is that Snake with an almost-silent protagonist twist ends up being more of a player’s avatar than, really, most Bioware PCs.

        As for character creation and those sorts of challenges: whether a game lets you build your own character or makes you play a premade one is kinda orthogonal to the level of number crunching it involves or what sorts of combat mechanics it has, same goes for challenges the title presents, I’ll just put FONV forward as an example.

  11. WILL says:

    I’ll defend KotOR 2 to the death again, but the characters are on board your ship because of legitimate reasons and the entire reason they disagree with you is to put in practice KOTOR 2’s theme of spreading ideas and converting people to your cause, a sort of deconstruction of the traditional persuasion system in RPGs. It provides them with at least two character arcs and while it may be annoying to not have people automatically follow you (Carth outranks you, Bastila outranks everyone on your team, Canderous could beat your ass, etc…) it makes for good writing.

    People whine against the influence system but it was great because it forced your character to remain consistent in his morals beyond simple light/dark, and try to understand characters for real. Alpha Protocol expanded on this.

    1. Corsair says:

      They follow you because while Bastila has overall authority Bastila is following your lead. For a very logical reason. Also you get the people on your party by earning their respect in some form or another. Carth and Bastila are the only ones who even have a place in the rank structure.

      1. WILL says:

        While that might be true, Carth could absolutely pull rank on you when you try to do dumb dark side stuff. As for Bastila she should be ordering you around because she wants to guide the player away from Revan’s path, not following him assuming his amnesia cured him of the dark side.

    2. Thomas says:

      I adore the influence system. I loved that Bao-Dur would spill his secrets to you because he’d seen you helping people all through your travels whilst G0T0 would shut up shop because he didn’t see you acting towards long term gain. It even helps you understand them better because you understand what actions attract them and what actions repel them. Like Kreia giving you influence points for saying to her “I’ll consider you disposable then”

      I can understand how it’s annoying for people who want to see everything on one playthrough, but the sacrifice was worth it for creating a dialogue system that actually felt like it was about building trust.

      Alpha Protocol helped fix that problem though by rewarding you for high _or_ low reputation with characters.

      If you think about it, it’s actually the same system Telltale’s The Walking Dead uses too.

      Bioware has never really managed to successfully imitate it though, because they never managed to have the density of character interactions in quests you need to make the system feel good. It only works if every quest has chances to gain influence with someone, and if those people feel like an active part of the quest instead of Bioware’s wooden sticks with guns. The combat space/talking space segregation in modern Bioware games just kills the idea of a good influence system.

      1. John says:

        The influence system is not so much a system as a massive mess of scripts. Sometimes I try to imagine a control-flow diagram for influence checks and I inevitably end up screaming.

        1. WILL says:

          People forget you can activate influence checks if you influence with the character is very high or VERY LOW. Either one works, and it changes their dialogue and story based on whether they really hate you or really like you.

          Obsidian isn’t cruel though, they would drop some obvious choices for influence. Navigating G0-T0’s value system is not nearly as hard as just outright killing people to gain HK-47’s trust. They even had Handmaiden accept a lot of different Light Side or Dark Side choices, but only if you could back them up with a reason.

          1. Thomas says:

            Wait do KOTOR checks actually work if they’re low? I always assumed that was an incomplete feature

            1. Syal says:

              I had one conversation with Handmaiden when she hated me that I never had when she didn’t, so it works at least a little.

              And then I made her hate me even more and she stopped talking to me at all.

              1. Il Padrino says:

                That’s not necessarily because you lost influence with her. Handmaiden will stop talking to you if you accrue significantly more influence with Visas than you have with Handmaiden, clamming up and turning away from you out of jealousy. It’s an artifact of the mostly unimplemented romances (Atton or Disciple for female PCs; Visas or Handmaiden for males) which would have potentially resulted in the “spurned” lover falling to the Dark Side and trying to kill the other one on Malachor V. Presumably if you were a Darksider yourself then the jealous character would go Light Side, but I’m really not sure how it was intended to work.

            2. djw says:

              There is a guide to Kotor 2 influences somewhere on the internet that leads you through the steps that you must follow to get boni from high/low influence from all companions for either a light or a dark side play through. It takes the joy of discovery out of the game, but… I can confirm that you get all of HK-47’s bonus dialogue if he really hates you.

              1. Thomas says:

                Huh. KotoR 2 has been improved for me. I wasn’t expecting that to be possible here.

                This is a good enough excuse to have another play through and test all this out.

                1. Bubble181 says:

                  It’s also very useful because it means you can go fully one side and have a Jedi around with the *opposite* alignment. Meaning, a healer/buffer if you’re DS.
                  I usually have at least one of the Jedi characters hate me for this exact reason. If you’re going full Light Side it’s less important, since having artillery around isn’t all that important, but still.

      2. Artur_CalDazar says:

        Dragon Age 2 had such a system but in terms of friendship and rivalry.

        1. Thomas says:

          Yeah, I think DA2 was the best I’ve ever seen Bioware try it. (They also had a version for DA1, DA3 and something weird went on with romances in ME3). They still have that problem though where most quests _won’t_win you influence and you can’t win much influence just from talking to them, so it feels a little less like earning respect and more like hoping you’re taking the right person on the right quest.

          I did like how the rivalry part mattered in friendship/rivalry though. And also how key decisions could instantly turns someone from a friend into a rival. They really put thought into the consequences of influence in DA2

          1. Artur CalDazar says:

            DA1 and Inqusition are just progressively better versions of approval systems in general with little quirks. Inqusition is the only one I am aware of that has people’s approval change even when they are not present depending on circumstance.

            1. Thomas says:

              I think they’re better in KOTOR2 and Alpha Protocol still. DA1 was a mess and the present system was horrible.

              I think DA3’s ‘approval anywhere’ was a good idea considering how thin the approval events were, but it loses some of the intimacy of KOTOR2. It’s also less gameable, which I think is a negative. Trying to design an all-max influence run in KOTOR2 is a fun challenge.

              1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                It also makes sense that at least the “big” choices would be publicly known. When you do something like forge an alliance for the whole inquisition it’s going to affect everyone’s opinion of you, not just those who are immediately at your side (and a little to the back in a Bioware game).

    3. Core says:

      I agree and, it’s always good to have NPCs with opinions of their own instead of simply being a cheerleader squad, as long as they don’t directly deprive you of options Carth-style. I also sorta liked Morrigan’s constant corrosive comments in DA:O.

  12. Blovsk says:

    In answer to Rutskarn’s question of whether there’s any strategy in Pazaak.

    YES, though it’s incredibly basic. Because the game is rigged against you by you always playing first your best and indeed only strategy is always to take as many high value minus (or marginally better, plus/minus) cards as possible so you can hit aggressively and will have more opportunities to luck out without actually using the cards.

    The game, in a sporting mood, sells +/-1 cards for far more than the actually useful ones because Bioware probably didn’t understand their own minigame.

    1. Thomas says:

      I like how KOTOR2 makes a joke about how rubbish it is that you always had to go first.

  13. Thomas says:

    To let my nitpick nerd free, T3-M4, Bao-Durr, The Handmaiden, The Disciple and Visas Marr all adore you in KOTOR2. And GOTO/HK-47/Mandalore can adore you too if your actions are the type of actions they respect. Mira digs you if you’re lightside.

    Kreia is kind of in love with you but she’s the one character Shamus is probably actually talking about (and GOTO because I imagine Shamus didn’t play according to his wishes. He’s kind of a jackass too). I’m pretty sure Hanhaar always hates you no matter what you do. Atton does give you a lot of lip but its pretty insincere lip.

    1. WILL says:

      Hanharr is pretty much 100% psycho, only thing he likes is hunting down prey. If Zaalbar is struggling to stray from his wookie beast instincts, Hanharr is the total opposite. I think it’s why he respects when Kreia or the player “break” him into servitude.

      He just wants to stab people, man.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        At least he *has* character, unlike Zaalbar.

    2. guy says:

      The only character I’d say really adores you is Visas, who basically worships the ground you walk on completely unprompted; I had her peg the lightside meter after my first conversation on my initial playthrough. Handmaiden is pretty reasonable, but turning her into a Dark Jedi Guardian did take deliberate focus on my part. I guess Bao Dur likes you, but I’ve never managed to unlock his second conversation so I wouldn’t really know. G0T0 is incapable of recognizing that Sith and Jedi victories are meaningfully distinct and I have zero respect for his opinions.

      1. djw says:

        Well, yeah. Her old boss completely annihilated her entire race with a thought and she thinks you *might* have a chance to beat him. Of course she worships you!

      2. Thomas says:

        Do you know GOTO’s backstory? I enjoyed his economic stability at all costs stance even if I disagreed with some of his reasoning on achieving it.

        In some senses he’s not _wholly_ wrong about the Jedi/Sith thing. The Sith Empire in the original trilogy seemed fairly economically stable.

        1. Grudgeal says:

          It also sort of makes sense in that as a droid, he has no connection to the Force at all. To his worldview, the Jedi and Sith are basically two orders of religious zealots (albeit ones with provable superhuman abilities) bickering over a religious matter with the entirety of human civilization caught in the middle.

          1. Thomas says:

            Also if Revan had won the Jedi Civil War and Malak hadn’t taken over, the galaxy probably would be stable, which is what G0T0 wants. So as far as the Civil War was concerned either side winning could have been a favourable outcome for him, he just needed one of those sides to actual win instead of dragging the war out.

          2. djw says:

            Yes. To elaborate with completely made up numbers, imagine that you could predict the number of deaths that would be required before the Jedi could beat the Sith, and the number of deaths that would be required before the Sith could beat the Jedi.

            Furthermore, imagine a Jedi win would require more deaths (maybe the Sith resort to more planetary annihilation as they begin to lose).

            How many extra deaths would it be worth to see the Jedi in charge? Would 10,000 be to many? How about 100,000?

            Goto was thinking in terms of economic dislocation rather than death, but the two are likely correlated. From his perspective ending the fight and giving people a chance to rebuild was much more important than picking a winner.

            It might be possible to argue that from the perspective of random peasants there is not a huge difference between a Jedi and a Sith win either, since neither order has as much impact on their lives as the local crime syndicate does, except during the war when their lives are directly affected by bombing and conscription, and all the random crap that comes with deadly conflict.

            1. Grudgeal says:

              That last part may be contingent on the amount of civil war that would ensue should either side fall. I expect Revan or Malak would have dissolved the Senate and imposed an Empire-style military dictatorship on the former Republic worlds, which could lead to further civil wars and/or independence movements. I mean, the Republic is already facing that, but even moreso. Though, as G0T0 says, it seems Revan at least accounted for some of that and intended to build at least a partially stable society with trade and order in place for the Sith-controlled worlds. Either way some wars would probably follow, but they’d probably be brief.

              As for the TOS-era Sith, well, I don’t know if Sion even had a plan for what he’d do if he actually won — he’d probably just leave the Republic be, as he seems to have no interest in actually ruling. Nihilus, of course, would kill the galaxy and then die of starvation, so G0T0 at least has a good reason to support you against him — not that he knows who Nihilus is or what his plan actually is.

              1. John says:

                Was Sion actually trying to conquer anything? The only things that he seemed to care about were killing Jedi–and Kreia too, except for the endgame where he starts following her orders again for no reason.

                1. Grudgeal says:

                  My point exactly. From G0T0’s point of view, the sith ‘winning’ during the TES campaign doesn’t really matter since Sion and his ilk doesn’t do any harm from winning — they do stuff like Peragus in order to hunt down Jedi, not because they want the Republic to fall.

                  Again, Nihilus is a completely different manner.

        2. guy says:

          A victory by Revan would probably have worked out eventually to be all right. A victory by Malak would collapse into a colossal disaster and civil war, resulting in him ruling over the shattered ruins of however many planets have not been rendered lifeless during the invasions or in retaliation for rebellions. A victory by Nilhus, the only Sith faction G0T0 could possibly be referring to because the player is strictly speaking a Dark Jedi and not a Sith on the darkside path, would result in the complete extermination of all life. A victory by Sion in the absence of Nilhus would result in the total collapse of all galactic government. A dark horse victory by Visas would, uh, I have no earthly idea but probably not be particularly useful.

          1. Grudgeal says:

            I personally don’t see how one angry dude with a Scottish accent could possibly cause the Republic to collapse, even an unkillable one. Nihilus can kill worlds. Sion can… Kill one dude at a time. Sooner or later they’d trap him in a forcefield, or drop a satellite on his head, or blow up a building and trap him in the debris, or something. You can’t kill him, but I bet you could trap him. At worst he could go postal on a pair of senators or train more Sith, and frankly he doesn’t strike me as the teaching type.

            1. djw says:

              He teaches by killing. Anybody that survived must have learned something in the process (even if it is just “stay away from Angry McDrySkin”).

    3. John says:

      Gah, I hate G0T0. I don’t understand why they forced him into the party at all. He contributes to neither the gameplay nor the plot and is Exhibit A in my case that if Obsidian had to rush the game out the door then they should have cut more rather than less.

      1. djw says:

        If you get enough influence with him to get his backstory you may find (or not, depending on taste) that it is rather interesting. I thought it was. The droid was not particularly useful as a party member, so I left him behind most of the time, but there is an interesting character in there if you take the time to dig.

      2. Thomas says:

        Goto contributes a lot to the philosophy of the game, which is always how Obsidian uses its companions, and he’s intimately involved directly with the plot of the start of the game on Telos, on Nar Shadda and the central theme.

        It’s hard to describe it without spoilers, but the secondary theme of the game is asking what would create the most stable galaxy, which Goto provides a perspective on and another theme is asking what dark side means, which Goto has a unique perspective on

        I think he’s a poor argument for your purposes. Apart from the very last level Goto is a very complete and cool character (if you know his secret)

  14. John says:

    Knights of the Old Republic is the game that got me back into RPGs. I discovered that I really love experimenting with different character builds. I had a lot of fun to try to find the “optimal” build. On more recent playthroughs, I’ve had a lot of fun looking for non-optimal but nevertheless viable builds. (I do the same thing in Neverwinter Nights. In fact, I bought Neverwinter Nights on the strength of Knights of the Old Republic.) I have played this game so many times that I built an interactive spreadsheet in Excel just to help me plan builds. It lets you choose stats and classes, then computes hit points, skill points, and Force points, and shows you at which levels you can select new feats. You can specify the feats you want using a combo-box and the spreadsheet will check your build to make sure that you haven’t selected a feat without first taking the prerequisites.

    1. el_b says:

      hope you played the original version and not diamond edition, they changed so much stuff for the worse.
      One of the worst things they did Was Somehow break the AI of your teammates. If someone initiates combat during dialogue your teammates will just stand there like idiots while you are being killed, and if you are a mage, You will be. You basically have to find out who will attack you and then kill them before you talk to them after a quick load.
      there are a lot of invincible NPC is now as well, including children, and when I accidentally I aggro’d one (i only murdered your parents you baby!) they chased me across the entire level including when i used a teleport back to the temple, beat me to death, then followed me back to the temple and did it again.
      the whole luskan town area goes hostile if you attack the now invincible dude on the bridge too, because somehow, despite there being two factions at war and civilians in the middle, they all really like that guy.

      1. John says:

        I just went digging through my big box of game discs and discovered that I bought the Platinum edition of Neverwinter Nights, which came bundled with the Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark expansions. If I recall correctly, that was version 1.62 of the game. Your suggestion that companion AI was not always utterly awful intrigues me. Alas, the AI–at least for spellcasters–has only gotten worse since then.

        1. djw says:

          I played NW1 pretty much on release day and I recall crappy AI. Maybe the made it crappier in a later update, but it was never actually good.

          1. el_b says:

            they act the same as always when fighting normally, but if you get out of dialogue into a fight they stand there and you have to order them to attack by going through 2 or 3 options on that symbol radial menu that you hardly use, while being attacked. i never patched my original version, and it worked fine.

  15. Narida says:

    Finally got around to starting this game, had it for while and this let’s play is a good an occasion as any.

    @Josh Flawless Widescreen lets you select widescreen resolutions in KOTOR.

    1. GloatingSwine says:

      Flawless Widescreen isn’t very flawless though, as it doesn’t handle placing interface elements so they just end up kinda in the middle of the screen covering shit up.

  16. Mersadeon says:

    God damn it, Rutskarn doing that old-timey announcer just really makes me laugh every time.

    EDIT: These episodes make me realize that the soundtrack for this game at times really reminds me of Morrowind.

  17. Michael says:

    Was that an intentional Empire at War reference… or just accidental?

  18. Jumus says:

    Has there been any character in an RPG that you can argue with/disagrees with you that you like Shamus?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      There’s that guy – Whatsisface from Thingy. Sorry – haven’t had my coffee, yet. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, that’s it! – the prickly IT guy. Pritchard! Prickly Pritchard. Not sure if he quite counts – he’s not your usual party-member-type character, of course. And not sure if DE:HR quite counts, either – it’s not your usual BioWare/Bethesda/ Infinity Engine-type game, o’ course. And I guess Pritchard stops arguing and gets with the programme in reasonably short order.

      And I seem to have provisoed my way out of having anything to say at all! :D

      1. Michael says:

        I don’t remember Pritchard ever “getting with the program” so much as being able to be reasonably professional while working with someone he didn’t like.

        At least for me, Pritchard and Jenson interacting actually hit an authentic note, as someone who’s had to work with people they despise as individuals.

        I mean, it’s an interaction we see a lot in other forms of media, hell, half the character relationships in 24 fell into that range. But, it is unusual to see that kind of relationship in a game.

    2. djw says:

      Anders in DA2 was likable in some ways, and his motives were pure even if his means were appalling. I’d have killed him preemptively if given the option, but I would regard it as a tragic necessity rather than a good deed.

  19. Phantos says:

    I feel like Bastila and Carth are the progenitors of BioWare’s weird habit of making the first dude and lady to join your team the most annoying characters. The two people I replace in my party as soon as possible, and just ignore them for the rest of the game. The ladies(Miranda, Morrigan, Ashley) are usually just needlessly, obnoxiously unlikable and mean-spirited, while the dudes(Kaiden, Jacob and I guess Alistair) are often these kind of wimpy, finger-wagging losers.

    For this, I blame the morality system. Maybe BioWare thought their painfully obvious “Good Guy/Bad Guy Points” needed some visual shorthand representation. So they made a dude who was preachy and lame, and one character who’s more abrasive than the antagonists.

    It wasn’t until they stopped doing this that they started writing actual characters that could stand on their own merits, instead of just mascots for a 1-dimensional game mechanic. Now they’re often like people ,with complexities and different moods and feelings on things, and things you may like and dislike about them. The things a character is supposed to represent.

    I wonder why it took so long for this developer to realize that the first two characters didn’t always have to be the “boring dude” and the “mean lady”. Because there’s a world of difference between the party conversations here, and the likes of Aveline, Wrex, Garrus, Jack, Varric, Tali, etc.

    I’ve heard some good things about Dragon Age 3’s cast in this regard as well, but I haven’t played it to confirm.

    1. Corsair says:

      If you take away from this that Carth and Bastila are one-dimensional characters with no nuance I wonder if you actually, y’know, -talked- to them at all. That also goes for Alistair and Morrigan.

    2. Grudgeal says:

      They kinda-sorta did the same thing in BG2 with Minsc (and Boo!) and Jaheira. Minsc is the good-natured man and Jaheira is the more abrasive and demanding (if not actually evil) woman. I’m discounting Imoen because she’s kind of a guest character in the beginning.

      …The comparison falls somewhat apart after that. I would not exactly describe Minsc as a “boring dude” and personally I think Jaheira managed to toe the line between “prickly personality” and “unbearable shrew” very well.

      1. Corsair says:

        I will agree that there is sort of a trend, but Phantos seemed to be saying that because Bastila, Miranda, and Morrigan are all sort of hard to get along with that the characters are basically interchangeable and bland, and Bastila and Morrigan are anything but. That said, Miranda is awful. Miranda is them playing their trope and screwing it up really bad.

        Hell, that’s basically Mass Effect 2 in a nutshell.

      2. djw says:

        If you follow a canonical good aligned BG1 play through then you meet Khalid before Minsc, and he is the epitome of whiny annoying beta male.

        Minsc has no time to waste on mincing words, since their is to much evil to be kicked in the butt to prance about whining.

        I actually liked Alistair. Among other things, he made a fairly useful tank once you put him in one of the high magic resist templar suits that you find. He also likes to take the piss out of Morrigan, and the resulting banter is amusing.

    3. guy says:

      The first dude and lady you get in DA3 are Varric and resident paladin Cassandra.

    4. John says:

      I’ll spot you Bastila. She’s pretty consistently preachy–no matter what you do–until about the midgame. Carth, on the other hand, (mostly) only yells at you when you say or do evil things, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. You’re supposed to be a couple of Republic soldiers doing Republic soldier things, not committing random acts of psychopathy.

      1. Thomas says:

        Entertainment > reality.

        Sure Carths realistic. That has no impact on him being thematically uninteresting and uncharismatic.

  20. Hal says:

    There was this weird thing with card games in RPGs during the time period KOTOR came out. Final Fantasy VIII had Triple Triad. Final Fantasy IX had Tetra Master. KOTOR had Pazaak. There could be more examples, but those are the ones I played.

    At least Pazaak was fairly innocuous. The Final Fantasy variants were enormously collectible games; finding the “best” cards meant doing extensive side quests. IIRC, some of the better game items were also locked behind difficult card matches, so it was the sort of thing that had strong incentives not to ignore. At least these were before the era of achievements and trophies.

    Frankly, I don’t have patience for these mini-games anymore. Back in the day, I happily plugged away at those in the hopes of getting the bonuses you might unlock. Now? It’s padding, and it’s a distraction from the game I’m trying to play in the first place. Would people put up with this if they added Mine Sweeper to Halo?

    1. djw says:

      Might and Magic VII had Archomage, which was actually pretty fun. The reward for winning at all the taverns was a bit meh, unless you built your party around it ahead of time, but the game was entertaining enough that I didn’t mind. Unlike Pazaak, which bores me to tears.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Now that you mention it was pretty fun, and unobtrusive. Also had a (few?) standalone releases.

    2. Phantos says:

      I wonder if this is better or worse than the small trend games had of replacing the main gameplay entirely with card games.

      Kingdom Hearts, Phantasy Star Online and I think even Metal Gear Solid did this at one point. Early-to-mid 2000s was an odd time, I guess.

      Come to think of it, has there been a fun minigame section in a game at any point in the last 20 years? Or vehicle section for that matter? I understand the need to give people a break from the main content, but you’d think they’d spend more than five seconds playtesting this stuff.

      Even minigames that had been established as working well just went to crap. In ten years, we went from Tetra Master to… Caravan.

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