Sunday, December 8, 2013

Star Wars KOTOR II Playthrough Pt 1 - Tutorial and Peragus

I ended up going Jedi Consular, male, for my first character, mostly because - despite that I know that lady Exile is canon - I really remember liking Handmaiden, and I want to see about pursuing a romance with her. Atton's great and all, but I'll leave that to future playthroughs. Besides, I've always liked playing 'myself' in these games, or at least as close as I can ever be to myself, IE the reactions I am drawn to first.

I'm a sucker for en media res, through and through. So when the game starts and you control T3, the astromech from the first game, on board the Ebon Hawk which has been completely wrecked, with Kreia (seen only as an unnamed old woman) and your character in the medbay, I'm already going, "Oh this is going to be good."

Anyone who's playing this game for the first time is already blown away, but the fact that it features iconic details from the last game here makes it even more confusing for returning players. How did the Ebon Hawk get here? Did T3 steal it? Where did they come from? How long is this after KOTOR, anyway? Is Revan around? Are you Revan again? Where's Bastila? Is Carth far enough away you can't hear him?

It's an effective tutorial too. T3 has a lot of charm I don't remember him having in the first game, and his determined work to saving the day is enjoyable. There's no tension and panic, of course, but there's enough questions that it doesn't matter.

The first game I remember tried something similar, with a sequence featuring you as a soldier on a ship transporting Jedi Bastila Shan, before getting wrecked and crashing on Taris with someone nobody cares about. However, the first game's lack of urgency on Taris compounded with Carth's irritating character to make the whole intro so obnoxious as to be a chore. It, among the corny writing, is one of the reasons I'm not too compelled into playing it first. Don't get me wrong, getting the sexy voice of Jennifer-Hale-as-Elizabeth-Hurley super flustered at me through flirting was a treat, but there's little beyond her. You know, it's just archetypes like Mission as the scrappy teenager, Carth as the dignified soldier, Jolee as three-days-from-retirement, and HK-47 as....well, okay, HK was a bright spot too, but he's in this one, so he doesn't count.

One thing I always thought was a nice touch, as someone who played D20 Star Wars, was the hybridization in the first game. You started off on the first world as one of the three non-Jedi classes - Scout, Soldier, or Scoundrel, and through the game become a Jedi and hybridize the classes. It sounds silly, but since each one get perks to keep pace with Jedi (because Star Wars never cared about realism, so you shouldn't either), Soldiers get natural defenses, Scoundrels get sneak attack bonuses, and the like. Meshing a class for optimization was a ton of fun, even though Jedi were so strong you'd end up intentionally finishing the game at a lower level to get more Jedi levels. Here, the whole system replaced with Jedi prestige classes, which serves the same purpose (picking between sneak attacks, combat bonuses, more Jedi powers, etc) while still initiating the whole "Exiled Jedi" thing.

I quickly was starting to regret my choice for Consular. Having played the games enough, I figured I could figure out how to make the game work for me, but I forgot that the D20 system is entirely based upon Dungeons and Dragons party lineup. Your warrior, your support, your rogue, your mage. With me being the support-class Consular and Atton running Scoundrel with double-pistols, I found myself getting my shit kicked in every fight. The addition of T3 later didn't help, and Kreia herself is just a Consular anyway, so I have a party lineup consisting of two White Mages and two Thiefs. Shortest straw drawn has to wear armor and throw away all their best abilities, and yes it was me.

I know it's old hat by this point but if there was ever any doubt as to how Star Wars as a whole - not just this game series, but the entire franchise - is not sci-fi, I hope this game and the SW D20 system both cement it. Instead of picking locked doors, it's slicing doors. Instead of journals, it's datapads. Instead of winches and gears that control the bridge, it's a computer console that opens the bay doors. Instead of stealing a horse or a sea ship, it's a star cruiser or shuttle.

The components of the first movie were heavily drenched in cliche to draw sharp contrast - the whole point of seeing Obi-Wan guide Luke to defeat the evil Vader with a scoundrel with a heart of gold named Han was not to see how it ended. It's that a wizard fighting an evil wizard with his apprentice of magic and the princess and the dashing rogue isn't in Not Medieval Europe, but in space, was the reason to go. It wasn't until the later films and the expanded universe let this concept breathe into its own vibrant universe.

Seeing this pen and paper game engine created for Tolkien the RPG, put to Star Wars, then translated into a computer RPG along the vein of Baldur's Gate, is such a harmonious coming-together I can't believe it took Lucasarts so long to let Bioware have the license.

No comments:

Post a Comment