Knights of the Old Republic

I completed Knights of the Old Republic at just under 50 hours of straightline story progression–so, probably 60-70 hours of game play. It was a very well written story, with interesting tricks to keep the feel of a wide open universe, while bottle necking you onto rails for a well scripted story experience at times.

Since the game is more than 15 years old, I won’t worry about spoilers much, though I’m not going to for for a detailed blow by blow description of all the plot point either.

It kicks off with some cut scenes, then dumps you on Taris, a big city built over an undercity. You have a quest–to find the other republic soldiers from your downed ship’s escape pods–but there’s a long period of acclimation, exploring, and getting used to the controls and interfaces. They’re pretty good about giving most generic people a generic title and a line or two of dialog, but giving detailed people a small dialog tree that helps you figure out your character.

There’s some running around and interfering with people’s lives, taking on small missions, etc., but you soon note that access to the undercity requires a passcard from the occupation troops. So, while you can wander around, if you want to advance, you need to pass through a specific plot element–but you need to cross paths with people who can help you make it happen, encouraging that exploration. Once through, you can pop back and forth between the city and the undercity, but the same format is followed–you can wander around the atrium to undercity, but to go further you need to pass through a funnel of talking to the people and helping them solve their zombie infestation. Then another opening up of options and exploring, dungeon style, and all the exploration and interaction you like, before stumbling on Bastilla and getting back on tighter rails.

When you flee Taris, you have a single destination, Dantooine. There, it begins with storyline heavy padawan training, but then opens the doors to range widely across the surface, exploring and getting into interesting trouble, finding new companions, and the like. It’s interesting, because it feels like you can miss so much more–this is from the era before they put an ! over the head of important people.

Eventually, though, you impress them enough to complete your training. From there, you have a choice of 4 worlds that you can tackle in almost any order–though there’s some guidance about leaving the enemy training center until last. Each world again has a mix of things going on, poised, waiting for you to break the status quo. They contribute to each other, and people on one world will refer generally to the overall actions you had on another world–but very generally, since it’s just what the news would cover.

After completing the four world quests, you’re shoved toward the finale… but they again get tricky and require a quest interacting with various planetary cultures before you can fix your ship and get on to the big space station. That’s a huge battle over many levels–very rewarding, though occasionally frustrating and it required more backtracking and loading from saves than most.

There were technical glitches at times, trying to run these old elements. Dantooine was terrible until I read some advice to set grass to off… and suddenly, it was much less choppy and frustrating. Similarly, turret actions were exciting, but going through three cut scenes before refighting a battle was quite frustrating.

There are excellent twists with your past surfacing (and a good reason for the blank slate amnesia), and your relationship with Bastilla and Carth holds up throughout. While you collect companions and have a chance to learn more about their pasts, many of them felt gamey–you chat with them, they relate something, then the conversation shuts down until you return to the ship and strike up the conversation, where they relate another nugget.

Despite that complaint, it was a good way to space out the discoveries and prevent you from getting overwhelmed. Fortunately, a couple of your companions don’t have extensive backstories to relate–but there are plenty who do. And, honestly, I liked their stories too.

All in all, I really enjoyed the story and most of the game play. It was really well done.

Recent Media 4/17

Recent Books:

I’m currently reading Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I’m currently up to his time in Paris, which is coming to a close. He’ll soon be returning to America.

Recent Podcasts:

The Dice Tower, episodes 297-300.
297: A solid episode, Fantastiqa sounds like a game I should play.

298: A great science fiction games list, with a guest who didn’t detract much from the standard “Tom and Eric talk about stuff” formula.

299: The talk was about GTS, the GAMA Trade Show in Vegas. It was detailed enough for nostalgia, but even with their lighter schedules, they were also exhausted by the show’s end. Unfortunately, their interviews were focused on designers, publishers, and distributors, so I didn’t hear much about our peers. And it sounds like the big presentation this year, on Kickstarter, was hopelessly one-sided instead of a decent debate. As they commented at the end, it’s unlikely that retailers’ fears were quelled.

300: The culmination of several weeks of lead up, the Coup was fun for the first few spots, and amusing for a few more. I had just about given up on the whole episode and was going to skip the whole week when they finally broke character and ended the bit. [I very much understand how once the contributors started pouring in spots, it became difficult not to feature their hard work. I’m glad they had the restraint not to give the whole episode over to their “April Fools Coup”.

I liked the rundown of Worker Placement games; it’s a category that’s more distinct than I had originally thought. I haven’t waded deeply into these waters, though Lords of Waterdeep did get held up as a great intro to the genre. Agricola is fun in the light two player variant that Jennifer and I have been tackling, and Keyflower also features a lot of worker placement elements.

Recent Video Games: I’ve been enjoying Starcraft [Wings of Liberty]; it’s taken up a couple of evenings a week for the last few weeks. I like the update; it feels like a faithful continuation. The single player campaign is a good storyline, and I like the illusion of choice that the branching structure provides. I just completed my first mission on Char… whew!