New KotOR2 “review”

I made a “review” about both Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR, or just K because I’m going to write it a lot)-games almost a year ago, and said something along the lines with “the first has better atmosphere, the second has a few technical advantages” (that’s not a quote). After having played KotOR2 again one, and almost two, times more, I have really changed opinion about the game, so a new review feels like a good thing. And that I’ve learned a lot about game design since last year has it’s effects, as well.

K2 starts off five years after K1 ended in the player either saving or dooming the world. From such a starting-point, you have to wonder how you can have one starting point in what should be two completely different worlds. The developers, Obsidian Entertainment, decided to give you a character who was missing from the galaxy during K1, and starts the game outside of current galactic events. From a “make sense”-perspective, that’s a smart move, but from an interest curve-perspective, it makes the game start off with a lack of bang. And it takes a long time until the plot starts to have a real goal (about 10 of the game’s 30 hours, to be precise). From there the plot goes, but it never lets you just sit back and get the story – you have to earn it. By bringing the right companions to the right place and say the right things to them, you earn influence, which unlocks new topics and gives a better understanding of what’s going on. To get this influence you need to know how the characters are, which is not the easiest during the first play-through. Also, taking care of the game’s Jedi Masters (the goal of each planet is to find it’s Jedi Master) in the “good” or “evil” way hints you’d get other clues by taking them on in the other way. To be brief, the game won’t let you get what’s going on the first time you play, which explains my change of mind.

Although K1 pretty much invented it’s interface, the second polishes it a few steps further, making most things easier to find. Yet there are still some information I expect to find which is either impossible or difficult to find, such as my influence to my party-members – which is implicit – or a list of buffs and debuffs, which you reach by going to the menu, open your Quest Log, pressing X to open a menu and then Y three times. Apart from that, most is very well done. The party members unit frames have the basic information you need (lifebar, force bar, portrait and number of de/buffs), target frames also have said basic info (nameplate and health bar), it’s very un-cluttered and it fades out when it’s not needed.

Another one of the game’s features have suddenly given me an unexpected change of mind: Armour and visibility. Around the time when World of Warcraft was first released, I was of the opinion that what you wore should have visible feed back on your character, mostly because it was logical to be that way. When first playing WoW and noticing this, I was happy, of course. K1 and 2 also uses this system, and that’s why I’ve had a change of mind. Because the armor you can put on has good stats, but doesn’t look nearly as good as the character’s default-clothes. Which creates you think “should my character look good, or be good”. And I have to wonder why I have to think like such at all, especially with character creator tools becoming more and more powerful, and with the kotor-games upgrade system (more in a bit), you could easily separate the two and have characters that look good and are good. I could elaborate more about this another day, but let’s get back on topic.

Kotor’s upgrade system is pretty smart, I think. On your journey, you gather a bunch of items as well as components and chemicals. Most items can also be broken down into more components and chemicals (depending on the item and it’s worth). By using these building blocks, you can create new items. Components can create weapons, upgrades, computer spikes (used for hacking, or “slicing”, computers) and repair parts (used for repairing stuff, obviously) and chemicals can create stimulants, med-packs and such. Which means you can basically trade an item for another without running to a merchant and getting a bunch of credits you don’t use. More on the upgrades themselves: All weapons have different slots – a sword might have a hilt and blade, for instance – where some weapons can let you add upgrades to it, giving them increased stats. These upgrades can be created with said components and be swapped at will, making an upgradable item far more useful then a non-upgradeable. Different sorts of items have different kinds of slots, as well, with different available upgrades. The downside to this, though, is that you run into a incredible amount of items you’re unsure of what it is due to the loot-window’s lack of information on items (one interface fault I should’ve mentioned in the interface paragraph).

And I still believe the atmosphere to be a bit depressive, but considering the setting of the game, it’s fitting.

I’m not going to give a “one-sentence summary” this time. It felt a bit tacked-on, and was only there for quote-friendliness.

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