on Oct 23, 2015
If you’re reading the comments, then you know there’s a pronounced and constant debate on KOTOR vs. KOTOR II, which is actually a proxy of the larger debate of Obsidian vs. Other RPG Developers.
BioWare – especially pre-EA BioWare – really likes their black and white morality, their lighthearted adventure, and their happy endings. Obsidian is more of a moral quagmire / combative relationships / complex ending kind of place. Fans of either style have been slugging it out for years:
“BioWare is too sappy and simplistic.”
“Obsidian is ugly and nihilistic!”
“Obsidian isn’t ‘nihilistic’, it’s realistic.”
“Obsidian is boring. BioWare is fun!”
“BioWare is cartoonish. Obsidian is interesting.”
“Obsidian is a factory of software bugs, unfinished games, and failed game launches.”
“Fight me IRL.”
The argument is largely moot now. There is no longer a “BioWare Voice”. They’re too big and their disparate writing teams are all over the place between their tentpole franchises of SWTOR, Dragon Age, and Mass Effect. Heck, you can find radical shifts in tone and style not just within the same franchise, but often within the same game. BioWare games mess around with Obsidian-style moral complexity, lighthearted adventure, and drooling action schlockWe fight or we die!.
But the BioWare vs. Obsidian debate lingers.
A good illustration of the tonal differences is Jolee Bindo (BioWare’s KOTOR) versus Kreia (Obsidian’s KOTOR II). Both are trying to both fill and subvert the “wise old teacher” role from Star Wars. Both will argue with you regardless of whether you’re approaching things from a light side / dark side perspective. But Jolee does so in a friendly “devil’s advocate” way, while Kreia is condescending, hostile, or prickly. Jolee is the easygoing uncle who just encourages you to think for yourself instead of blindly repeating what your parents told you. Kreia is the cold, domineering mother who will never, ever be satisfied with anything you do.
I don’t mind the shades-of-grey thing Obsidian does, but they revel in sticking you with insufferable asshole companions and I have no idea why. Is there a huge demand for games with abusive jackasses that you’re obligated to spend time with? Is that a market? Bishop, Quara, and that DICK WarlockWho straight-up murdered the only companion character I actually liked. Seriously. Screw NWN2. from Neverwinter Nights 2 were so insufferable they actually ruined the game long before the ending ruined it a second timeOr third, if you count the door. Which I do.. A good percent of the KOTOR II team has the same kind of intra-party conflict. Why are you following me if you hate me?
Eventually in an Obsidian game I reach the point where I start thinking, “Why am I traveling with these clowns? I hate them more than I hate the main villain. Actually, why can’t they be the villains? I’d gladly take on a quest where I get to kill them instead of coming home from a hard day of adventuring to have them berate me, and I’d rather quit the adventure than continue to put up with their bullshit.” I think that’s why New Vegas is my favorite Obsidian game: The companions are optional and my enemies all stay at the other end of my gun.
For the record, I love Jolee. I love how he can disagree amicably, and I think his relaxed attitude towards galactic wars is refreshing. Game developers are always trying to sell you on the notion that this is the most important battle in history and everything is riding on your success! The last thing they want is someone offering the player some perspective: You know, the galaxy is always in peril. Don’t get too full of yourself.
He’s funny, he’s charming, he’s different. And he makes you medpacks. Which is nice.
 We fight or we die!
 Who straight-up murdered the only companion character I actually liked. Seriously. Screw NWN2.
 Or third, if you count the door. Which I do.