I can see why KOTOR has such a good reputation.  I’m digging it.  The first two planets were fine, but it really gets rolling in Tatooine.  The creators probably figured they had to get this planet right, and they obviously put their heart into it.  (In memory, much of the charm of the original triology comes from Tatooine as well.  Fantasies are often best in the first chapters, when the heroes are unpromising nobodies and all the strangers are mysterious.)

Then you get captured by the evil admiral himself.  (This being ancient times, they apparently hadn’t yet developed the scary title of Grand Moff.)  Your top characters are all immobilized, so you have to pick one of the others, who is responsible for freeing everyone else.  I chose Mission for this mission since she has high stealth skills.  After getting used to combat with backup and plenty of Force powers, this was a really fun challenge, using the stealth belt, hacking computers, and picking off Sith one by one. 

kotor view

Malak is evil but his office has a nice view

By this point in the game combat is pretty interesting, as you have three characters to manage, generally with different styles and powers, and you rarely rely on the default automatic attacks.  The fight with the admiral is fairly hard as there are seven opponents… you really have to watch those health bars.  Other fights could probably be harder.  Malak, for instance, somewhat foolishly fights alone and is susceptible to grenades.  However, he has the unstoppable power of being able to trigger cutscenes. 

Not that there aren’t oddities.  I wish I had a screenshot of the Evil Door.  I couldn’t unlock it, so I started to bash it… the feedback screen (which pedantically lists all your d20 rolls) said I was whalloping the hell out of it, but its health never went down.  I sent Carth to keep bashing and forgot him for a few minutes; I went back and the poor boy was still firing uselessly at it.  We went around the damn thing. 

Then there’s the bit on Tatooine where you put on Sand People outfits.  They’re taken off when you reach their village.  At first I thought the resulting outfits were the sexy casualwear of the Sand People:

kotor beachwear

KOTOR swimsuit edition

But no, that’s just the characters’ underwear. 

Often it’s the minor quests and characters that offer the most diversion.  The vengeful hunter’s wife was fun, as is the cheerfully dangerous droid HK-47.

I’ve been playing Light Side.  Sure, the Jedi are sometimes annoying… what do they have against romance, emotion, and flashy outfits?  What’s wrong with getting paid for your swashbuckling services?  But, you know, the Dark Lord is just a piss-poor manager and I wouldn’t work for him.  (Spoilers ahoy.)  His reaction to his minions’ losing Bastila on Taris?  Blast the planet into ruins from space.  Not only is this scorched earth policy economically foolish, but it fails in its primary purpose. 

He also commits the standard Evil Overlord mistake of sending his thugs out in small groups, learning nothing when each one is vaporized.  He might think his #2 is hot stuff, but since he knows perfectly well Bastila has allies, wouldn’t it have been more prudent to send, say, twenty Dark Jedi as backup instead of two?  Plus there’s the attacking-alone bit mentioned above– he nearly gets wasted in a corridor of his own flagship. 

After playing KOTOR I can see that Bioware has in some ways kept remaking it.  Mass Effect  is virtually a do-over with fancier graphics, while Jade Empire has some of the same plot structure.  I also lean toward thinking that RPG games should jettison explicit alignments.  The later games try to get away from the pure good/evil business, but I’d prefer to just allow multiple options.  If you act in appalling ways, the game doesn’t have to label you appalling; it’d be better to see the reaction in NPC behavior, new options or enemies appearing, etc.

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