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Posted by ArbitraryWater

 Notice that it says GAME OF THE YEAR in big text and right above it "The sequel to" in smaller letters? They knew.
Oh yes. I decided to play this game I already went back to the first game around New Years, a cherished childhood game and the beginning of my obsession with traditional CRPGs. But we've been over that. KotOR 1 doesn't hold up as well as you might think, and while it's still a charming, well made game, the mechanics are broken, some of the characters are weak, and it's hella simplistic. But enough on that game. I can remember as a 12 year old greatly anticipating this game, and why not? It was only the sequel to then my favorite game of all time. As I didn't have an original Xbox, I had to wait until '05 for the PC version, but most of the reviews were positive including an 8.5 from Greg Kasavin. And I guess objectively that may be true. But for my 12 year old self, that game was a crushing disappointment for all the reasons why it was a crushing disappointment to plenty of other people. Buggy, busted and broken with a feeling of being a horrible rush job in order to capitalize on the first game's sales. So, one could say that it *puts on glasses* ruined my childhood.

Well, now it's 2011. A year or two ago, fans finally managed to restore all that pesky cut content, and Obsidian has gone on to do alright for itself in some avenues despite being incapable of any sort of bugtesting (You know, I really need to finish NWN2 at some point. I'm not going to do an annual blog though, those things were a waste of time. Oh, and New Vegas was way better than Fallout 3). I haven't played the game for quite a while, so I wanted to see if what I disliked was just me being young and not understanding it, or it's a genuinely lame game that nobody remembers positively for a reason. It's the second one. It's a better game than I remember it being but that doesn't mean it's good. Also, I would like to mention now that I played with the latest version of said restored content mod. I can't wait for someone who skimmed this sentence to ask me if I did in the comments.

 You have no need for any of these skills because your companions will cover you anyways
Let's start with the easy stuff first. KotOR 2 does a decent job of almost balancing the gameplay. Intelligence and Charisma aren't entirely dump stats any more, and you can take D&D style finesse feats in order to give your main character a reason to put points into DEX instead of STR. Even the Awareness skill has some use now. But alas, that's about it. You can still Master Speed+Master Flurry your way through all the combat no problem, or if you have a high enough wisdom Force Lightning also seems to do wonders. Blasters are still hella underpowered, and now there's no reason to be tricked into putting any feats towards them since you start out a Jedi instead of conveniently become one 8 levels in like the first game. Now, Jedi Sentinels are the lame class to my chagrin, having picked one for my main character, considering that the game gives not one, not two, but three characters all with a stupid amount of skill points, and now that they've fixed INT to actually work the right way, you can just put a few points in if you want to have Computer Use or something as a skill. Not that it matters. Bao Dur can do everything for you and isn't total garbage in combat like T3 and Mission were in the first game. There are a couple of other pointless things I might as well address: There are lightsaber forms that you're supposed to mess with depending on the context of the situation but the game is easy enough even without being a stat munchkin that they really don't matter. A lot of the new powers and feats are also kind of worthless. Drain Force? You get enough force points, even as a jedi guardian, that you'll never need to use such a contextual power instead of just hitting the guy. Force Scream? It's like Lightning, but bad. The winner of this is Mind Trick/Domination, because they never work and even when they do the effects are minimal anyways (once again, would you rather hit a guy with 5 attacks all dealing 50 damage each or have him fight for you?). It's all the problems of the first game, no more no less on that front.

 Like the first game, you have to go through the first 10 hours before the galaxy opens up. The difference is that it's boring this time.
But of course, it's not the gameplay that people remember. It's the part where the story kind of sucks. I could go into plenty of reasons why, each worthy of an essay or two, but I go for a few of the basics. For one, it trivializes the events of the first game to the point of making them almost inconsequential. Regardless of what Revan did, the Republic is still in shambles and all the Jedi are dead. How? The "Villains" (if the two random Sith Lords who barely ever show up can be called such) can somehow sense them through the force and kill them using techniques that nobody bothers to explain. Revan is gone, Light or Dark side for similarly cryptic reasons that may or may not have implied a sequel but are probably just actually lazy storytelling devices. The beginning of the game is pretty much these pointlessly cryptic story points surrounded by the most boring gameplay in the world. Peragus and Telos take up the first 7-10 hours of the game, and there's very little to do but fight and solve the occasional uninteresting side quest.

In addition, for being a direct sequel the game doesn't really bother to touch on any of that but in passing, the story instead revolving around your character: An exile and the last of the Jedi. It's a similar problem that Bioware has had recently with Dragon Age II, but they at least made the player-centric story almost work. Hawke wasn't what was wrong with the story of DAII, but the Exile is a good amount of what's wrong with this game. Similar to Alpha Protocol, you're told these things but you as a player are never given any reason to care. I have to find the Jedi Masters to find out why I lost my connection to the force? Ok, sure whatever. That makes a good excuse to use the Bioware structure.  Oh, they're going to feed me a bunch of nonsensical cryptic answers until the conclusion? Great. As if Kreia wasn't a character built entirely for that.

The big revelation at the end, if a line of dialog that you can almost miss can be called so, is that your character is some sort of force vacuum and that's why your party members follow him. Yeah. Does that sound dumb? It makes even less sense when it's revealed in-game, when Kreia betrays you in a stunning leap of logic. The twist in KotOR 1, while hella predictable was at the very least understandable. This game is so tied up in it's own mythology that at some point it stops being a Star Wars game and becomes a game where there are dudes with Laser Swords and everyone can't ever shut up about the Mandalorian Wars and Malachor or whatever. Know what this game could use? Fanservice. If the first game has you go to Tatooine, why can't you go anywhere that anyone who likes Star Wars cares about? Just something to remind me that I am playing a game with the Star Wars license and not some derivative Sci-Fi RPG. A hoth level? Sure? There's some binary moral choice, if you're into that, but that's every RPG pre-The Witcher.

 You have a pretty good smattering of party members this time around, some better than others
That's not to say that there isn't some good writing. The first game is definitely very Bioware-y in the way the story and dialog is written, and I do think that Obsidian generally does a good job of avoiding that in this one. It's a pity that the story itself is so dumb, as mentioned above. You get a full 12 companions, but only 10 are available in any given playthrough, one depending on your gender and one on your alignment. Most of them are alright, but we'll start with the bad ones: As previously mentioned, there's Kreia who spends the entire game spouting cryptic nonsense before betraying you and becoming the last boss for no real reason, Atton Rand, who I assume is meant to be a charming scoundrel but comes off flat and whiny (though not as whiny as Carth), Bao Dur, who is just really boring (His sleepy voice delivery doesn't help either) and T3 who is a droid. However, these wet blankets aside the rest of your party is pretty good. HK-47 is even funnier than the first game, and there's also the sadistic torture droid GOTO, a psychotic Wookiee named Hanharr, and a female Sith who also mutters cryptic nonsense named Visas. Oh wait. She's lame too. Evil characters are better because they're far less likely to have a tortured past like everyone else does. The Influence system plays into that, basically encouraging you to bring along party members that are yes-men, and there's a pretty even balance either way. The payoff is plenty of tortured pasts and the opportunity to train all your human party members to be Jedi. Which makes them more useful, if that wasn't obvious enough. HK 47 teaches you how to kill Jedi, but his crowning moment of awesome has to be this:   

On a final note, the cut content mostly consists of a few additional cutscenes and lines of dialog. However, it's the additional playable segments that really stand out, in particular the HK-50 factory (being the single most blatant cut in the entire game aside from the part where they forgot to give it an ending). These segments are kind of boring however, as they usually involve your party members and not your overpowered jedi. Nonetheless, I guess I would say that the factory alone was worth downloading that mod, even if the rest of the game is kind of bleh.

And that's what it is, BLEH. Not terrible. The writing is good in spots, some of the characters and situations are interesting but the main story itself is bad and the gameplay is the same simplistic stuff that I complained about in regards to the first game. The actual act of playing it isn't so much painful as it is kind of dull and occasionally flat. And that's that. I hope you read all of this because my goodness if this isn't one of the longest things I've written.
Posted by melcene

I wasn't a huge KOTOR fan.  Mostly, I had watched my husband play the hell out of the series.  There's just something about Star Wars bandwagons that make me go in the other direction.

But based on all the gameplay I watched, the biggest thing with KOTOR2 was that it was rushed, plain and simple.  The KOTOR games can be looked at very much like the Dragon Age games.  The first in each series was a great game that garnered a lot of attention for Bioware, and the second game was rushed out the door on the heels of the first to try to rake in more cash on the name of the franchise.  While the second game in each wasn't necessarily bad, they certainly didn't meet the standard the gamers had developed after playing the first game in each series.

Also:  damn you're a youngen.
Edited by JeanLuc

I still enjoyed KOTOR II a lot but yeah its not as good as the first.

Edit: I've never heard that conversation with HK-47 before. His impression of Bastila is spot on XD

Posted by Claude

I have KOTOR II for the PC. I've tried to play it twice, but I just couldn't get into it. I'm not even sure some restored mod will help, so I guess it will continue to sit in my desk.

Posted by Mento

Never played KOTOR 2. That's about the extent of my contribution for this blog entry.

The only Star Wars game I was ever stoked for was the first Jedi Knight, way back when, after watching a friend play his copy. For such a dorky game, it sure ended up being influential.

Posted by woo

I haven't played either game in ages, but I seem to remember having more fun playing KOTOR2, despite it being lesser in quality. I liked having more customizable options...I think. It's been too long.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@melcene:  Yep. I'm not the oldest poster in these forums by far. The Dragon Age II comparison is apt, even though I like Dragon Age II and I think this game should continue to be ignored by just about everyone (really, by now I was expecting at least one person to come here and defend it. They, in fact, exist). I'd like to tell you you're missing out not playing the first game, but now I'm not so sure.

@Claude: If you couldn't tell by the blog itself, I think you're good with not playing this game.

@Mento: I actually like what I've played of Jedi Knight. You get a lightsaber, and there are bad FMV cutscenes. Win-Win as far as I'm concerned.
Posted by Yummylee

KOTOR 2 was my very first RPG where you were allowed such morality dictations and full chosen dialogue, so admittedly my love for this game is more for its symbolism than the game itself. That said, I really did love this game a great deal when playing it, and played it I did.. A-lot. Like maybe 12 or something playthroughs? Again, though, that addiction was born through this being such a new concept to me who's main RPG experience was with JRPG's prior on consoles.

I do remember a lot of deserving criticisms, however. The ending was incredibly shit (though naturally the disdain towards so little reverence with the original KOTOR doesn't stand out since I played KOTOR 2 first, and KOTOR felt much more like I was playing a prequel lol) and barely distinguishable from whether you took the good or evil side (yet another resemblance to DA2 for the record), and my the classes were really unbalanced with my own Jedi being able to solo the game for the most part. I really disliked how it took around 10 hours just for me to get a lightsaber. Not to mention the ridiculous difficulty spike when you're ship crashes and you're to fight against those mercenaries during the section when you first meet Bao (who I agree was painfully boring and always sounded a lil comatose). I loved most of the characters still, and found Atton to be one of my favourites actually because of his obvious attempts to replicate Han solo right down to his default clothing. Kreia I admit was cryptic for the sake of cryptic, but she was still so easily able to ensnare my attention because of the VA's amazing performance.

If I were to play it now, no doubt I'd find it damn near unplayable and sight worser off, but I'll still always remember as being such a stand out experience for the sake of what it stood for during my foray into PC gaming during the mid 2000's.
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@Abyssfull:  That's interesting. It's almost the Mario Kart thing of whichever one was your first is your favorite (but, looking back, Double Dash is way better than 64). I've probably played the first game more times than I can count, and I've done that for a few other things as well. Maybe not to the level of 12 playthroughs, but nonetheless something similar.
Posted by owl_of_minerva

A year or less simply isn't long enough to design, code, and test an RPG fully. It may seem like an excuse, but the publishers that favour the one-year sequel to cash in on name recognition are as much responsible for a game's quality, or lack of it, as the developer. It doesn't help that RPGs are the most time-consuming to program and bug-test, which means it's increasingly even less likely RPGs will be properly funded, or developed at all. I would be more inclined to blame Obsidian if they had all the time and money in the world to produce a good game (like say Ion Storm with Daikatana). So, in short, a game and a genre are subject to structural economic constraints that even the most well-meaning of developers can't do anything about - Dragon Age 2, anyone?

It's been too long since I played Knights of the Old Republic 2, but my time with the first made it clear that the class balance and viability is irredeemably fucked. Using a blaster was so frustrating that I gave up, and I think I just can't be fucked replaying either game if they don't offer any playstyle other than the Jedi warrior.

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@owl_of_minerva: I believe I ranted about it some last year (Check my backlog of blogs, a few pages back), but I really hate it when games like these don't effectively deliver on their promises of multiple playstyles, a problem that is more indicative in games where you only have one character but still in party based games to some degree. Like Arcanum, with tech characters and magic characters each having their own reasons for being fucked making the most straightforward and boring path as a melee dude the most viable. Even Fallout 1 has this problem. Small guns were meteorically better than any other weapon class until the end of the game when you finally got plasma rifles.

These games? I guess I'm more willing to excuse them because, as proven by Star Wars Galaxies and will no doubt be proven by The Old Republic, EVERYONE wants to be a Jedi. I don't really think there's any malice or cynicism intended by the developers, but these games were meant to appeal to a wide audience, and nothing says "adolescent power fantasy" like being a Jedi. Would this game have been better if they had more time? Probably. But even with most of the bugginess fixed and all the cut content added back in, I obviously still didn't like it.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@ArbitraryWater:  That HK dialog was pretty funny. Is the only way you can activate him through modding, or is it just really tricky? 

I remember being somewhat disappointed with a lot of the team members. The torture droid bored me, but I liked the droids in general just because I could put more equipmentjunk on them, I guess.

Since I played these in reverse, 2 had better options for characters and weapons modding, but 1 had more memorable scenery (far, far more memorable scenery--  every planet was fun to visit, except...) and felt a lot more solid all around. Stumbling upon that mystery in the forest was surprisingly rewarding for me. Just plop in character options and loot modding from the second game and expand KOTOR 1 and I'm set.

Hated Dantooine in both of them, though, and in general I hate that jedi are akin to gods in the games so far, rather than being slightly better at certain things sorta like a skillful samurai would be in a samurai movie. Made me always try to avoid being a Jedi at all in those games, which was of course impossible.

 I know they're trying to hit on that feel for the upcoming MMO but who knows what's going to happen with that.
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@ahoodedfigure:  That dialog is in the base game. I know that because I remember getting it once before this playthrough, and that was without the expanded content mod, which quite frankly only delivers in regards to the HK factory. You can't restore what was taken entirely out of the game ad verbatim like the Droid Planet that you were supposed to go to after Korriban, and that leaves a bunch of content that, while clearly part of the game at some point, feels disjointed from the rest of the stuff originally available. The ending still sucks.

Yeah, Dantooine kind of sucks in both games. I guess one of the things I really didn't touch on in my main blog is that I don't think Obsidian is as good as Bioware in terms of their individual vignettes. Korriban and Manaan are both standout examples of Bioware doing what they did best in the first game, whereas all the planets here feel sort of lifeless. Why should I care about this planet that wants to separate from the republic? You want me to? Oh. (Alpha Protocol had the same problem).

As for the Jedi, as I said: Adolescent Power Fantasy. What kid doesn't want to be a melee jedi dude after he sees the Star Wars movies? Of course, both KotOR games accomplish this by making being a Jedi the only viable way to go. I guarantee you that a good 50% or more of the people playing TOR will be a Jedi class. The other 50% will be bounty hunters/smugglers because, y'know, Boba Fett and Han Solo.
Posted by TheDudeOfGaming

Yeah its not as good as the first but how the f*** is it a bad game?

If you really wanna see a bad sequel i suggest playing Deus Ex and then playing Invisible war, then we can talk about God awful sequels. 

Posted by ArbitraryWater
@TheDudeOfGaming: I guess objectively this game isn't terrible, but if you read my entire blog then you would see that I've gone through fairly extensively why I don't like it: Plot is nonsensical with a poor conclusion, a lot of the characters are straight up boring or annoying, Master Speed+Master Flurry breaks any sort of difficulty the game has, and to top it all of it's not anywhere as good as the first game. And that's not even counting the part where it was broken at launch with wide swaths of content cut.

Now if we want to talk about Deus Ex, I can't help you because I honestly couldn't get past the first level. People who like those games may rail against the affront to nature that was Invisible War, but I can't really see what they're comparing it to in the first place. It's probably an instance of "I had to be there"
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@ArbitraryWater:  Korriban was cool in 2, but since it was also there in 1 it diminished my appreciation of it. And I liked the dark, bustling city in 2, but that was also where I got a lot of those weird continuity errors.

I had saved Manaan for last just on a whim, and I was blown away by the aesthetics. I mean, eventually it solidified but it felt like...  I dunno, something you'd actually see as a new setting in one of the movies that it made the little kid in me glow for a brief time. Kashyyyk was gothic and spooky, just how it should have been, and Tatooine, despite being complete random fan service, something I usually hate, was still fun as hell for me.

I don't find HK nearly as funny as others do. I can't tell if that makes ME more robotic, or his fans :)

As a kid I wanted to be Skywalker, but I graduated to Han Solo/Boba Fett pretty quick. Then again, the first three movies seemed to put a lot more weight in ordinary folks than the prequels did. The latter seemed to be all about stone-faced, magical super people.

If I ever were to play TOR, I'd probably go for Republic Trooper (I'd be interested in Bounty Hunters if they could actually be good guys, but that seems impossible in this tunnel-vision extended universe). But odds are I'll never demo it anyway unless we get a new PC.
Posted by Mike76x

I see the Exile being mirrored this generation by the hero in Fable 3.
You're thrown into a life with no reason to care about anything, people will follow you no matter what your actions, and a pointless story.
If I remember correctly charisma was important in KoToR 1 for the highest level persuasions like making Zaalbar kill Mission.

I had never disliked anything Star Wars until KoToR 2, it was just bad.
Nihilus (Darth Mumbles) the guy on the damned cover, a Sith so scary his scariness was never revealed cause he was the easiest bad guy to kill ever.
Sion (Darth Emo) he couldn't be killed, until he got a hug
Kreia (Darth Obvious) was anyone not expecting her turn after the first minute of the damn game? 

I had to read in a book that it was possible for you to make your companions jedi, I had no idea apparently I talked to them too much and the option was locked out.
Every party member was just so horrible I missed Carth, that shouldn't be possible.
This was the first lightside / darkside choice game where I only finished once, because it was so bad.
I'm still traumatized, and it's been years.

Posted by Ubik

I consider KOTOR2 to be one of the greatest tragedies in modern gaming.  I still love it for its improved mechanics (blasters don't suck anymore, yay!) and for what it attempted to do with the story and characters, but it never lived up to its own potential, and because Obsidian cocked it up so badly we'll never get KOTOR3.  Bioware's TOR mmo might be an interesting distraction, but I doubt it'll ever rise to the level of the original KOTOR.

Posted by TheDudeOfGaming
You don't have to like Kotor II but don't bash Obsidian damn it. 
Posted by Brackynews