Ruining my Childhood (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

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ArbitraryWater

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Edited By ArbitraryWater
As opposed to "I play old games", in which I play an old game for the first time because I have heard good/bad/mixed things about it, this is more me going through some of the games that defined my childhood. And then ruining them for myself through knowledge and perspective. Should be fun, right?
 
It hurts me as much as it hurts you. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic isn't as good as you remember it to be. It's still certainly a good game, one that was deserving of a lot of the praise it received when it was released for the Xbox in 2003. But it's also a mechanically broken game, and some of the character and story bits don't hold up as well as others. And the worst part is now I am thinking of going through KotOR 2 and seeing how well that holds up in relation to this one. 
 
But perhaps some context is necessary (Maybe not? Well too bad.) I got this game on my 12th birthday, along with Diablo 2, for the PC (not owning an Xbox at the time. In any case, the PC version looks a little nicer and has better controls). It was probably my first real RPG (unless you want to count Paper Mario for the N64. I won't) and my gateway drug to the world of Bioware. Thus, this game had (and still has, even after I finish writing this blog) a fairly special significance to me, the same way Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time have significance for me. But whatever. What do I have problems with?
 
I'll start with the part that's easier to explain: Mechanically, KotOR is horrendously unbalanced and slanted towards a few very specific builds for the main character. It's also kind of for idiots. It uses a heavily (and I mean heavily) watered down version of the 3rd Ed D&D ruleset, and as someone who used to be into D&D I certainly see that it uses skills and feats like that system does, along with it's own brand of magic (THE FORCE. Maybe you have heard of it). However, of all the skills in the game, exactly two are useful. Computer use lets you hack stuff, and treat injury makes you heal more with medpacks. Stealth is fairly worthless, as sneaking past enemies doesn't give you experience, and stealth attacks aren't good enough to go through the hassle, Persuasion is outclassed by Force Persuade and so on and so forth. It's exactly the problem I talked about in that rantblog I made about invalid RPG playstyles. The feats and force powers aren't much better. Go for two weapon fighting and master flurry (what, you wanted to make the main guy a blaster character? That would be a very, very, very bad idea.) and then when you are a jedi get force speed because that's basically like haste in that it grants you extra attacks. 
 
Thus, with the game clearly encouraging a straight up melee character without much use for skills, what character class should the player pick? Allow me to say that the answer isn't Scoundrel (or the Jedi Consular, the caster class of the game), as they are meant to be the rouge of the group, but because there isn't much reason to use skills they aren't good. I actually picked a Scout/Jedi Sentinel, as the "balanced" class, with enough skills to let me put points in computer use and treat injury while also allowing me to actually be able to fight dudes and cast spells, on occasion. However, Soldiers/Jedi Guardians are clearly the best choice because they have the best base attack bonus and the highest HPs, and for straight up melee fighters (with a double bladed lightsaber) that is all that is required. I steamrolled through the game using Master Flurry and Master Speed, as that kills everyone faster than any other method of play. Bleh. 
 
On the other hand is the story. To be fair, it follows the Bioware formula of vignetting everything to hell while having some sort of driving motivation for the main plot. This does that to the letter. After Taris and Dantooine, which are the obligatory opening areas (although, they probably comprise at least a 5th of the game, as opposed to something like Ostagar which is only the first two hours or so, or Candlekeep, which is like 15 minutes), you are thrown out on the galaxy to explore 4 separate planets that all will help advance your otherwise predictable quest for the star forge. This is the best part of the game. The early game is fairly tedious and borin, and I wish I could have used the mod to let me skip it. Of all the 4 planets, I think that Korriban and Manaan are probably better than Tatooine and Kashyyk (dude whatever. I'm not going to look up how to correctly spell the wookie planet), because Korriban is also semi-open and also allows you to be an asshole in the best of possible ways and Manaan is perhaps one of the more creative locales designed by Bioware in spite of the fact that even though as one of the better designed planets, you get kicked out at the end of it despite it also being the hub for one of the more awesome questlines in the game (the Geohadaran Assassin missions). However, this is before Bioware understood what grey morality is, so you are either helping old widows or murdering anyone who looks at you the wrong way. Frankly, for as much as my 12 year old mind was blown by the concept of choice, the polarization between the two options is kind of hokey at best, and events happen the same way regardless of how you address them until the endgame.  Speaking of the endgame, the final boss is significantly harder if you don't have drain life, an ability that light side jedi probably won't pick. This just seems like a bad idea from a design angle.
 
Some of the characters are great. Some of them... less so. While HK-47 is hilarious talking about meatbags, Mission Vao is super lame in a way that is only rivaled by Ashley from Mass Effect (albeit, less racism). I generally just think that you should have HK and crotchety old man Jolee in your party at all times. It's better for everyone that way. 
  
In some ways, KotOR still holds up. In others, not so much. While this could be said of all old games, I have to say that this cements my claim that Baldur's Gate 2 is still probably Bioware's best RPG (Mass Effect 2 is probably Bioware's best game. But I will be damned if that game can be considered an RPG). It's kind of a bummer, especially since I now feel like playing KotOR 2 to make fun of that. Happy New Year?
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#1  Edited By ArbitraryWater
As opposed to "I play old games", in which I play an old game for the first time because I have heard good/bad/mixed things about it, this is more me going through some of the games that defined my childhood. And then ruining them for myself through knowledge and perspective. Should be fun, right?
 
It hurts me as much as it hurts you. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic isn't as good as you remember it to be. It's still certainly a good game, one that was deserving of a lot of the praise it received when it was released for the Xbox in 2003. But it's also a mechanically broken game, and some of the character and story bits don't hold up as well as others. And the worst part is now I am thinking of going through KotOR 2 and seeing how well that holds up in relation to this one. 
 
But perhaps some context is necessary (Maybe not? Well too bad.) I got this game on my 12th birthday, along with Diablo 2, for the PC (not owning an Xbox at the time. In any case, the PC version looks a little nicer and has better controls). It was probably my first real RPG (unless you want to count Paper Mario for the N64. I won't) and my gateway drug to the world of Bioware. Thus, this game had (and still has, even after I finish writing this blog) a fairly special significance to me, the same way Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time have significance for me. But whatever. What do I have problems with?
 
I'll start with the part that's easier to explain: Mechanically, KotOR is horrendously unbalanced and slanted towards a few very specific builds for the main character. It's also kind of for idiots. It uses a heavily (and I mean heavily) watered down version of the 3rd Ed D&D ruleset, and as someone who used to be into D&D I certainly see that it uses skills and feats like that system does, along with it's own brand of magic (THE FORCE. Maybe you have heard of it). However, of all the skills in the game, exactly two are useful. Computer use lets you hack stuff, and treat injury makes you heal more with medpacks. Stealth is fairly worthless, as sneaking past enemies doesn't give you experience, and stealth attacks aren't good enough to go through the hassle, Persuasion is outclassed by Force Persuade and so on and so forth. It's exactly the problem I talked about in that rantblog I made about invalid RPG playstyles. The feats and force powers aren't much better. Go for two weapon fighting and master flurry (what, you wanted to make the main guy a blaster character? That would be a very, very, very bad idea.) and then when you are a jedi get force speed because that's basically like haste in that it grants you extra attacks. 
 
Thus, with the game clearly encouraging a straight up melee character without much use for skills, what character class should the player pick? Allow me to say that the answer isn't Scoundrel (or the Jedi Consular, the caster class of the game), as they are meant to be the rouge of the group, but because there isn't much reason to use skills they aren't good. I actually picked a Scout/Jedi Sentinel, as the "balanced" class, with enough skills to let me put points in computer use and treat injury while also allowing me to actually be able to fight dudes and cast spells, on occasion. However, Soldiers/Jedi Guardians are clearly the best choice because they have the best base attack bonus and the highest HPs, and for straight up melee fighters (with a double bladed lightsaber) that is all that is required. I steamrolled through the game using Master Flurry and Master Speed, as that kills everyone faster than any other method of play. Bleh. 
 
On the other hand is the story. To be fair, it follows the Bioware formula of vignetting everything to hell while having some sort of driving motivation for the main plot. This does that to the letter. After Taris and Dantooine, which are the obligatory opening areas (although, they probably comprise at least a 5th of the game, as opposed to something like Ostagar which is only the first two hours or so, or Candlekeep, which is like 15 minutes), you are thrown out on the galaxy to explore 4 separate planets that all will help advance your otherwise predictable quest for the star forge. This is the best part of the game. The early game is fairly tedious and borin, and I wish I could have used the mod to let me skip it. Of all the 4 planets, I think that Korriban and Manaan are probably better than Tatooine and Kashyyk (dude whatever. I'm not going to look up how to correctly spell the wookie planet), because Korriban is also semi-open and also allows you to be an asshole in the best of possible ways and Manaan is perhaps one of the more creative locales designed by Bioware in spite of the fact that even though as one of the better designed planets, you get kicked out at the end of it despite it also being the hub for one of the more awesome questlines in the game (the Geohadaran Assassin missions). However, this is before Bioware understood what grey morality is, so you are either helping old widows or murdering anyone who looks at you the wrong way. Frankly, for as much as my 12 year old mind was blown by the concept of choice, the polarization between the two options is kind of hokey at best, and events happen the same way regardless of how you address them until the endgame.  Speaking of the endgame, the final boss is significantly harder if you don't have drain life, an ability that light side jedi probably won't pick. This just seems like a bad idea from a design angle.
 
Some of the characters are great. Some of them... less so. While HK-47 is hilarious talking about meatbags, Mission Vao is super lame in a way that is only rivaled by Ashley from Mass Effect (albeit, less racism). I generally just think that you should have HK and crotchety old man Jolee in your party at all times. It's better for everyone that way. 
  
In some ways, KotOR still holds up. In others, not so much. While this could be said of all old games, I have to say that this cements my claim that Baldur's Gate 2 is still probably Bioware's best RPG (Mass Effect 2 is probably Bioware's best game. But I will be damned if that game can be considered an RPG). It's kind of a bummer, especially since I now feel like playing KotOR 2 to make fun of that. Happy New Year?
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#2  Edited By adoggz

bah i ply kotor rsently toooo and it goo u no undrstan it.

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#3  Edited By Video_Game_King

Wait, KOTOR is for idiots? Then maybe KOTOR could be my entry game into WRPGs, like how Super Smash Bros. Melee was oddly my entry game into SRPGs (I was one of the few people who wanted to know what the hell Fire Emblem is).

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#4  Edited By Animasta

well if you're gonna play KOTOR 2, make sure you get the patch that includes some of the cut stuff; it really makes it better.

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#5  Edited By Three0neFive
@Video_Game_King said:
" Wait, KOTOR is for idiots? Then maybe KOTOR could be my entry game into WRPGs, like how Super Smash Bros. Melee was oddly my entry game into SRPGs (I was one of the few people who wanted to know what the hell Fire Emblem is). "

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#6  Edited By S0ndor

Nice write up. I played it last year and thought it was still very good. Like you said the choices aren't exactly as revolutionary anymore, but there are still some pretty heavy choices to be made, and I still think that Bastilla is by far the best romance option in any game. The way that whole thing plays out in the end on the Starforge, man... that was great. Mission is a very lame character indeed, boring beyond belief. 
 
The main problem is the difficulty level, which is simply not there if you have played the game before and know what you are doing. The best build of course, is a dual-wielding gunslinger jedi with extremely high wisdom and a group stun that is almost impossible for enemies to resist. Playing through with that build is quite lame though :P  
 
I think Kotor 2 is a better game, or at least could have been one if Obsidian would have been allowed to finish the game. The Kreia character in particular is possibly the best video game character ever written. It's just such a shame that the game itself has gaping plot holes and a plethora of bugs.

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Clinkz

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#7  Edited By Clinkz

First off, Paper Mario is an excellent RPG-- I couldn't tell if you meant that or not. I replayed it last year and I had a blast with it. There were a few biased force powers and I agree with that but it didn't take off of my enjoyment of the story.

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#8  Edited By Video_Game_King
@Three0neFive: 
 
That was your 1000th post? My response:
 
  
  

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#9  Edited By ArbitraryWater
@adoggz: Yeah. It's still good. It's just not as good as people remember it to be. Also as a rule of thumb I suggest you not post while drunk. Or while pretending to be drunk.
 
@Video_Game_King: It's interesting. While people are willing to claim that stuff like Oblivion and Mass Effect 2 are the downfall of the RPG genre to the dreaded "casuals", they seem to forget that this game came out, sold millions of copies no doubt on the name alone, and features a level of complexity that boils down to "Just use Master Speed and Master Flurry". And really, Advance Wars was kind of my introduction to Fire Emblem, mostly because they are basically "sister series".
 
@S0ndor: Gunslinger? Guns don't do enough damage for them to be better than a good old double bladed. Force wave on the other hand... probably better than lightning. And I will probably play KotOR 2 with the "complete" mod (giving the game such things as an ending, though not bothering to address the massive gaps of logic that lead to it), though I'm sure my issues with tone and the way the story is presented in that game will stand. We'll see. For now, I'm going to enjoy my new years.

@Clinkz: Paper Mario is great (although, generally speaking, Thousand Year Door is a much better written and funnier game). It's also kind of easy and I beat it when I was 9. Let's just say that KotOR is my first real Western style RPG.
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#10  Edited By Video_Game_King
@ArbitraryWater: 
 
Oddly enough, despite being an obviously avid fan of Fire Emblem, I have yet to play a single Advance Wars game. I have played Warsong, though, and if you've ever seen that game, you'd know it's close enough. Hell, up until Shadow Dragon, it was pretty much the closest thing America had to the original Fire Emblem. Or any Fire Emblem, really.
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#11  Edited By Skytylz

I play it regularly and I think it's holdin up alright.  Still my favorite :).  

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#12  Edited By MrGetBonus

One time, while my friend was playing, I switched the difficulty to hard when he wasn't looking. He didn't even notice. Even the hardest difficulty couldn't stop his prowess and skillful combination of FORCEJUMP-FLURRYFLURRYFLURRYFLURRY. My feelings about KotOR kind of mirror my feelings about the second Mass Effect. I was really into the story, characters, and the world. However, as far as RPG mechanics go, it was kinda RPG-lite.

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#13  Edited By Claude

 It's also kind of for idiots
 
My first real RPG. They keep getting easier. I love them more.

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ArbitraryWater

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#14  Edited By ArbitraryWater
@MrGetBonus: The difference is that Mass Effect 2 is basically a 3rd person shooter, mechanically speaking. The difference is that I think it's a far better game because it's less of an RPG (as someone who considers the part where you play the first Mass Effect to be roughly as entertaining as stabbing oneself in the foot), whereas KotOR still openly uses dice rolls to determine how many of your Master Speed + Flurry hits go through the enemy's armor class. Which kind of makes it boring when compared to the insane micromanagement requiring symphony of the Infinity Engine games. 
 
@Claude: Oh Claude. I'm not implying that you're an idiot. I'm implying that an idiot could play KotOR without much hassle. It's the gateway drug.

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#15  Edited By Claude
@ArbitraryWater:  Oh it's led to many things. It makes me envy what I call the "Hardcore". The true believers. The players of engineered past, present and future. Historians of our culture. As Yoda might say, nurture you will. Did he ever say that?
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Is it still a buggy but fun rpg with a weird DnD rule set and invisible dice rolls that determine every little action?  Is Carth Onasi still a whiny bitch ?  Querry: Is HK-47 cool but still a useless party member just like all non Jedi characters?  Are the moral choices still black and white ?  If so then I will be happy.

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#17  Edited By MrGetBonus
@ArbitraryWater:  I actually enjoyed the first Mass Effect a great deal. I went through it twice on the Xbox and three times on the PC to max my character's level and finish up most of the side-quests in preparation for the sequel. Part of the reason I kept going was the fact that you would find better guns and ammo as you leveled up. It wasn't anything special, just adding a number suffix to the weapons. GunName VI, GunName VII, etc. I liked finding better guns and better ammo. I liked comparing the stats of what was available to me and trying to find the optimal setup. I pretty much started and ended ME2 using the same SMG. The fact that they completely threw out all of the loot and rolled the ammo up into skills, in addition to shortening the skill tree, bummed me out. I guess I should have known that going in, but I was trying not to spoil the story so I avoided everything ME2 related.
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#18  Edited By Tordah

Damn, you were way more harsh on the game that I would've expected. I played through the game for the first time in like, 2007, and again in 2010, and I still love it. Though to be fair, it's still the "newest" Bioware game I've played, so I don't know what technical advancements I should criticize it for not having. 
 
The good and evil moral choices are very polarising. I don't disagree with that. It's kinda silly playing as a sith and having all the good characters in your party react negatively to your actions, and worry that you might take the path to the dark side, yet do absolutely nothing to stop you. Not even when you get yellow eyes and sickly pale skin do they get it. Still, it doesn't take anything away from the experience for me. Everything about KOTOR is so game-y and unrealistic to begin with that it wouldn't matter to me if the moral choices had more of a grey area. I'm just not immersed enough in the world to care.
 
I kinda agree with you on the character stuff, but I always go for the tank/melee build in RPGs whenever I have the chance so it doesn't really affect me. Even if stealth was a viable option, I would not have used it. But yes, flurry and heal are pretty much the only skills you'll ever really need, or want (and choke/kill if you're going the evil route).  

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#19  Edited By owl_of_minerva

Yep, absolutely agreed. I tried to replay KoTOR recently as a scoundrel and it was very painful. Extremely, stupidly simple character build options, skill trees, etc. The beginning of Bioware's current period where, with the exception of Dragon Age's PC versions, storytelling is meant to make up for average and/or simplistic mechanics. No insult meant to console players of course, I primarily game on consoles now, but it's clear that the complex strategy mechanics and interfaces of CRPGs cannot be translated from one platform to the other.
 
If Interplay wasn't a hopelessly shitty company run by morons, we might've seen Fallout 3: Van Buren and Baldur's Gate 3. I wonder if the current RPG landscape would be any different if they hadn't gone under?  Anyway, although KoTOR isn't a bad game, it's still pretty broken and displeasing to back and play, much like the first Mass Effect.

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#20  Edited By ArbitraryWater
@bartok:  It is still all those things my good sir. But it's not the paragon of quality that I remember it being. 
 
@Tordah: My writing always tends to skew more towards the negative, inherently because of the kind of person that I am. But I still enjoyed my time with KotOR, although most of that time was spent alternating between Master Flurry and Master Speed. It's partially the nostalgia, but it's still a very good game, albeit one that has some problems.
 
@owl_of_minerva: I actually own the 360 version of Dragon Age (Why do you think I play so many old games? It's not because I have a top of the line gaming computer), and it's complex enough for me to digress on that opinion. Certainly a lot of strategery is gained through an overhead perspective, but if you mess around on hard (much like how Heroic is the recommended difficulty setting for people who play games on Halo, Hard is the recommended difficulty for people who understand how to play RPGs for Dragon Age) you are going to die. A lot.  
 
Certainly, if Interplay (and Black Isle) hadn't went under (or at least become a zombie shell of a company that exists to make money off licensing Fallout 1 and 2 towards someone's cocaine habit/imaginary Fallout MMO that will be shut down by Bethesda) the RPG landscape would be very different. I'm not sure if it would be better, but I wouldn't have minded to see another old style Fallout, even as someone who isn't the biggest fan of the series.
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#21  Edited By JJWeatherman

Having just bought KOTOR again, you're bumming me out, dude.  :P 
 
It's OK though, I already was aware of everything you brought up. It's just hard to hear.

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#22  Edited By endaround

KOTOR  used the D20 open source rule set (itself a simplifying of 3e D&D which was a simplifying of 2ed AD&D (though with all the specialized rules it did need reworking) and then simplified it even more.  The moral choices are black and white but to be fair that it the universe you have to operate in.  It was meant to be a game that appealed to console users from the outset hence the small party size and easy controls to fit on a gamepad. It was a big step back from BG2 and lead to many of Bioware's future decisions. 
 
And DA:O on normal on the PC is harder than hard on consoles

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#23  Edited By Jadeskye

I replayed it pretty recently and thoroughly enjoyed it. glad to not be where you are!

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#24  Edited By ArbitraryWater
@endaround:  I will take your word for it, even though that word is tinged with a hint of elitism.
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#25  Edited By shiftymagician
@endaround said:

"And DA:O on normal on the PC is harder than hard on consoles "

I dunno dude.  The ice cone spell pretty much made that game feel like a cake-walk for me once you couple it with anything that gaurantees a critical hit.  You would have to clarify what about that game was harder, and what situations differed between the versions.
 
Back on topic, so long as your nostalgia is strong or you have a keen interest on older game mechanic ideologies, that game will still be entertaining.  I don't have that strong a nostalgia to even get past the first city, and moved on.  Thank god I bought it on steam for only a few dollars though.
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#26  Edited By endaround

The PC could have more characters on screen at a time.  This meant that enemy casters were much better shielded meaning they could get hits off on your casters.  A swarm spell taking down your healer and that can be it.  In addition more archers with better archery skills can be deadly.  Well and  friendly fire.

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#27  Edited By ArbitraryWater
@JJWeatherman: I always serve to please. Or at least disparage.  
 
@ShiftyMagician: To be fair, Taris is probably the worst part of the game. It also comprises the first 4 or 5 hours of a 20 hour game (Though personally, I can beat it under 10)
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#28  Edited By Yummylee

I played KOTOR 2 before the original so getting into KOTOR wasn't quite as mind melting as for most. I still loved it at the time, and oh my it is satisfying to   
 

 
For reasons your blog points across, though, I wouldn't want to get back into either KOTOR to keep my memories fond of some of my favourite RPG's of all time. 
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#29  Edited By ArbitraryWater
@Abyssfull:  Indeed. Personally, I think that playing a dark side character is much more satisfying (and generally hilarious because of how over-the-top evil you are, while your party members just stand back and reprimand you) than playing a light side one. Personally, my favorite part of that ending

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