KotOR2, Writing, and The Last of Us
YouTuber and Twitch streamer Woolie recently finished his long and thorough let’s play of one of my five favorite games: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (aka: Kotor 2). It’s a rather tragic video game in which Obsidian began its reputation for being the studio getting short development times through its publishers and managing to make good games that needed more time to finish cooking as a result. One of the numerous memes running through the Kotor 2 series for Woolie is a joke called “fourteen months”, using the phrase to rationalize the problems in the game due to Obsidian’s extremely short development time. The fact that KotOR 2 came out the way it did is a miracle, and it still came out heavily unfinished and the last chunks of the game screeched to a mostly unfulfilling finale. The fans took the remains and unfinished content leftover in the game’s files and managed to finish what they could in what’s now known as “The Sith Lords Restoration Content Mod”, a must-have for people looking to play the game these days. On a personal level, Kotor 2 came out in late 2004. I got it for my birthday in 2005 when I had just turned thirteen and it quickly became one of my most played games. For a child at the time beginning the early stages of teenhood and looking for something to latch onto that would make you feel cooler, more mature, or edgier, Kotor 2 was the magical bridge over into that landscape while still being about something as child-geared as Star Wars could be. Early concept artwork for the game super sold me on that mindset with artwork for a villain with a fascinating mask. A year later in early 2006 I would get my hands on Half-Life 2, which isn’t necessarily a “mature” game in exploring adult themes any moreso than Kotor 2 (which is a game built for entertainment to teenagers), but in retrospect Kotor 2 really did serve as the gateway to ideas of what Star Wars and interesting video games could be for me.
Eighteen years later, Kotor 2 is hands down one of the most introspective, moody, and grim experiences you could look for in Star Wars. It’s the thing a lot of people deep down wish for in Star Wars but we so rarely (if ever) get. There’s plenty of conversations you could have just talking about a single character in the game and their motivations, but I’d like to talk about three things in this game that really encapsulate Kotor 2. But first we have to talk about the obvious, get through some understanding of the core storyline stuff. So, below is a spoiler summary for those who don’t mind that sort of thing. I’d recommend you go play it, it’s awesome, cheap and easy to run today for most computers, and worth your time.
Kotor 2: The Summary (spoilers for both Kotor games, skip if you’ve played them)
You play a Jedi who was exiled shortly after the end of the Mandalorian Wars in which a bunch of young Jedi disobeyed the warnings of their masters and met the warrior-based people called the Mandalorians in battle. The Mandalorians at the time wanted a fight so they started destroying innocent worlds in the Galactic Republic, and the young Jedi met them in war and eventually won. Two Jedi who led the charge in all of this were Revan and Malak, who fell to the dark side at some point during the war and came back to known space after the war with a massive fleet and began destroying the Republic as the Sith. Malak turned on his new master, Revan survived in secret and eventually defeated Malak and either rallied the Jedi against the Sith or rallied the Sith against the Jedi (you chose this path in Kotor 1), thus ending what’s called the “Jedi Civil War”. Ten years after the start of the Mandalorian wars, your exiled Jedi returns to known space. The Jedi are dead or vanished. The Sith, mostly defeated as well, destroyed themselves after the end of the Jedi Civil War. The Republic is in ruins, planets are destroyed. And your character is being hunted by a legion of Sith assassins coming from the edges of the galaxy, different from the Sith of Revan and Malak. Your character revisits places touched by war with the assistance of a blind woman named Kreia who helps you reconnect with the force and seek out the Jedi Masters who exiled you, to answer questions regarding why they cut you off from the Force.
Across the game you come to learn that a few different Sith Lords lead these assassins and have almost snuffed out the Jedi in its entirety. These Sith Lords are Darth Sion, the Lord of Pain, driven to madness and anger regarding his former master (Kreia) rejecting him and driving him through painful teachings, and Darth Nihilus, the Lord of Hunger, a Sith beast that learned an ancient Sith technique of prolonged life by consuming the force energies of others. As you rally the few remaining Jedi Masters at the ruins of the Jedi Enclave on Dantooine, they reveal to you that at the end of the Mandalorian wars, your character experienced such immense sorrow and pain and death that you blinded yourself to the Force to survive the experience. As a result, this left a wound in the Force where the Force itself can bleed out. People who are sensitive in the Force are drawn to you and their Force eventually bleeds out of that same wound, which poses a threat because if left unchecked, that wound could be taken advantage of and lead to the death of all those who have the Force in them (except for those who have learned to live without really taking advantage of the Force). The council thus see it as a reason to actually cut you off from the Force, which angers Kreia, who turns out to also be Darth Traya, the third Sith Lord in the Sith Triumvate.
Traya hates the force because she was once a Jedi Historican who was rejected for her more controversial teachings (she taught Revan, who fell to the Dark Side and challenged peace in the galaxy), and then when she sought revenge on the Jedi with Sion and Nihilus, her conspirators also rejected her beliefs and stripped her of the Force. An exile of both the light and the dark factions of the Force, Traya identifies with the Exile player character and seeks to utilize their wound to potentially end the Force. She kills the remaining Jedi masters and retreats to the planet where the Mandalorian wars ended in an attempt to recreate the same type of event that made you a Force wound. After defeating Nihilus, returning to Malachor V (the planet), and defeating Sion, the Exile can defeat Traya and choose whether to end life in the galaxy or leave their past behind, Malachor V crumbles and life is preserved in the galaxy.
So let’s talk about GHOSTS!
The Ghosts of War
Thematically, Kotor 2 is a video game about how war can haunt everything. It illuminates the ghost of the past haunting our present by making sure everything from the past ten years of war that players have been made aware of has an impact on the setup of the current game. And this isn’t subtle. From moment one of gameplay, everything is a wreckage. Your character is on the stand-in for the Millennium Falcon from the first game unconscious in the medical bay, the ship is in tatters, sparks are flying everywhere, as well as dead bodies. The fight that took place and how the Ebon Hawk got to its current state, as well as how you got there, is one unexplained for hours. A lone droid from the first game (T3) fixes up the ship well enough to land at a nearby space station mining facility embedded in an asteroid. Here a larger tutorial takes place that lasts a couple hours as players unravel the mystery of why everyone on the space station turns up dead. And to cement the whole “ghosts of the past” thing going on in the game, you are often finding out about how what happened on this facility through the use of constant hologram journal entries, so you get this wonderful blue ghost effect of recordings of characters animating over their dead bodies, voices of static, and the constant creaking, dinging, and vast noise of emptiness going on in this space station.
When you and your small party escape the Peragus mining facility you learn a little bit about these Sith that are on the hunt for you. You then go to Telos, a planet bombarded to dust in the Jedi Civil War that (to quote Atton), “…they’re trying to breathe back to life.” Pergaus is dead, Telos is dying but a space station covering about an eighth of the planet’s atmosphere has been established and the planet surface has been zoned off in an attempt to try and rebuild its capacity to hold and sustain life. This project is a template not just for one planet, but for many planets ravaged by the almost ceaseless state of war the galaxy has been in for nearly ten years. On the surface of Telos, players eventually find an old hidden Jedi Academy where players come face to face with a former master that super disagrees with you for going to war and addresses herself as “the last of the Jedi” (hint: She’s not, far from it). She surrounds herself with people who can’t feel the force but has some form of a secret plan to rebuild the Jedi order.
You bugger off and go on a quest to talk to the Jedi Masters who Exiled you in the past, and all of those masters happen to be hiding out on planets touched by the Mandalorian or Jedi Civil Wars. The planets themselves are often haunted by the actions of war, but so are its people. Nar Shadda, while a planet more or less covered in constant and endless night life controlled by Hutts and the Exchange crime families, is also the last home to refugees and former soldiers from the past two wars. They come here because there’s no where else to go and the crime families that exist take advantage of this, moving them into awful slum dwellings and eventually turning them into slaves. The Exile wanders into this and has the opportunity to make some small ripples or impacts, but comes face to face with the wider understanding that you can’t fix the problems that plague these people the way a traditional warrior would. Their problem is wider and bigger than a present threat. Meanwhile Onderon is a planet that exists further towards the Outer Rims of space and was mostly ignored or not aided by the Republic during the Mandalorian and Jedi Civil Wars. As a result, there’s a desire among its people for separation from the Republic, a desire and debate that is fought among its own royalty. You arrive being targeted and have to hide on Onderon’s moon: Dxun. Here, the Exile comes face to face with their own initial past as Dxun is where your character first fought in the Mandalorian wars, beginning the path down a life of war and battle. While exploring Dxun, your character encounters Mandalorians that are not hostile to you, and bring you to their new Mandalore, their leader. Dxun itself and Onderon are ghosts that hold on to existence. War ravaged these planets and yet they still teem with the next possibility for war within themselves. The Mandalorians, while mostly defeated, try to rebuild for the next day that they can fight again. Meanwhile Onderon bickers and has shaped its identity around the wars that influenced their past so much. Despite their greater desire to escape conflict, the people of Onderon are doomed to more of it. After a brief visit to Onderon through Mandalore’s own private shuttle, war breaks out and you cannot return until later in the game.
So instead you go to Dantooine, a simple farming planet also bombarded during the Jedi Civil War because of the not-so-secret academy on Dantooine. Here, the ghosts of the Jedi order itself remain. Lawlessness, scavenging, and hatred for Jedi are all rampant as mercenaries and scavengers act as muscle seeking to control farmers. People are trying to live simpler lives under the corporation that is running the same restoration effort on Telos as it tries to establish a good foothold here. The Exile here visits the ruins of the Jedi Academy. At this point, the ghosts of war are all too visible, but the ghosts that the Jedi order are turning into represent an entire loss of their way and understanding. In a bit of restored content the players are exposed to a child who lived in the ruins of the academy basement for the past five years and is now a young teen. Without a teacher to guide them and their knowledge of what it means to be a Jedi stunted at such a short age, we see the literal loss of understanding of the Jedi way and how easy it can be to erode what these beliefs are to the ravages of time. Dantooine and the destroyed academy are the empty ghost that loses form and shape, disrupting what one’s understanding of that very thing is. This is a current that runs deep into the game’s various conversations about the Light and Dark, the Will of the Force, the weakness in reliance on such concepts and tools. But we have to move on from those conversations.
The Exile returns to the war on Onderon and puts an end to it before traversing the surface and academy of Korriban, an ancient graveyard for the Sith (OG Sith, not your political Sith) and the Exile comes face to face with some more of that cool Kotor 2 philosophy stuff in a tomb. Plot development things happen when the Exile then returns to Dantooine, Nihilus shows up over Telos onboard his ship, which was a Republic ship that was at the last battle of the Mandalorian wars, it’s called the Ravager. Nihilus himself is a stand-in for a Cthulhu-esque greater being due to his slavery to the methods by which he has prolonged his life and the ship is something he holds together through the Force as well. He, and Darth Sion, are both creatures of the past held together through their reliance on the Force (Sion through hatred, Nihilus through gluttony/hunger). The Ravager is a giant beacon to the players that haven’t gotten it yet: This game is about the ghosts of war sticking around and making things still bad. Everyone on board the ship talks about how it’s this relic that has an existence all its own and that people who come on board it slowly are eaten away, their life fed to Nihilus, whose name in the game is never uttered (because Cthulhu). After defeating Nihilus and watching the Ravager blow up, the Exile goes back to the place where it all ended for them: Malachor V. Here the Exile was exposed to such death and pain and suffering that they unintentionally blinded themselves to the Force to survive experiencing such an awful event. Malachor V is a visual representation of what war has done to everyone and everything you’ve seen along the way. The surface is hostile, jagged rock formations, no plant life, storms constantly surround its atmosphere, beasts roam everywhere, and the weapon used to destroy the planet split it apart and fused it back together, burying ships and soldiers under its craggy chunks. At the heart of it all is the Trayus Academy, an ancient place of Sith Teachings where Revan once came to learn more about the Dark Side. As a ghost, Malachor V is the full scale unsettling shot that the ghost is around and scary and dangerous.
The ghosts of war in Kotor 2 are an increasing funnel of comprehension for the player to understand how the galaxy has been destroyed and ravaged for what will be decades to centuries to come due to two wars across one decade. It’s a fascinating thematic overtone that’s played really well pending on how you progress the game and mixes superbly with the game’s more drab color aesthetics, characters that are haunted by their own experiences with these wars, and the music. But the biggest ghost of all the wars is the one whose fate you don’t ever really come to understand (at least in this timeline where the MMO of The Old Republic doesn’t happen): Revan.
Revan’s singular impact across both of these wars and why they left isn’t a total mystery, they went off to fight the Sith out beyond the reaches of this galaxy. But what happened to Revan beyond that is a ghost of war you cannot even perceive, a future untapped for this fantastic sequel that never got another follow-up in the same vein. A lot of the writing done in The Old Republic is set hundreds of years after these games, likely to avoid clashing with what was already established. It’s a shame too because Kotor 2 is very much the land of anticipation for answers, for what’s to come, not being able to see the problems that are oncoming. Oh well.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THING #2: BLINDNESS
Vision in Blindness
Two different characters in this game are physically blinded. Kreia’s ability to see went away years ago due to her extended age. And Visas Marr, the Sith assassin that sneaks on your ship to kill you but pledges loyalty to you in the end, is a Miraluka, a race of Force-sensitive people who perceive sight through the Force itself. Kreia learns a similar ability through her lack of physical sight and the player gets an opportunity to learn this as well. But these characters are only visual signifiers that a lot of characters in this game are made blind by many of their own shortcomings.
Atrus, the Jedi Master hiding on Telos, is blind to her own sense of self-importance, believing her teachings will prevent Jedi in the future from falling to the dark side like Revan and Malak did. She is blind to the fact that she in fact holds close to Sith holocrons and fell to the dark side long ago. Meanwhile, the Republic is blind to the greater threat looming out beyond the reaches of space, mainly because it is so weakened that it can only lick its wounds and try to re-establish itself. It’s worth noting how little a role the Republic even plays in this game, it shows up at the end to fight over Telos against the Ravager but every planet you visit beforehand is really being held together by the Czerka Corporation or the Exchange. Your party members may not be blind to what is happening around them, but the Jedi Masters you meet along the storyline are for sure. Zez Kai-Ell is a Jedi who practically lost all sight of how the Jedi could triumph over the Sith assassins that kept striking at unexpected times. With the loss of so many students fallen to the Mandalorian Wars followed by those that turned against them in the Jedi Civil War, Zez Kai-Ell is suicidal, having lost all hope for the Jedi. As the only thing that he holds onto for his identity, Zez Kai-Ell wants to die. He is not able to see life beyond his own importance in utilizing the Force for good. In conversation with Kreia, she talks about this in terms of relying on a skill too much, making it your greatest weakness when you cannot use it. Master Kavar, one of your old teachers, was a warrior who recognizes the Jedi Council’s failings in Exiling your character and being so quick to judge. Kavar is an extremely reasonable master, but blind to the notion of peace as a Jedi. In an attempt to go into hiding, he finds himself immediately swept up in Onderon’s politics and becomes the political aid to the Queen there, ultimately fighting alongside her in the Onderon civil war that erupts. He also blinds himself to his own desire for compassion on the Exile by staying silent and ultimately playing a part in the attempt to cut you off from the force towards the end of the game. His reasonable nature becomes irrelevant when he is complacent in the attempt on your life.
Then there’s Vrook. Vrook, the worst of the worst, the stand-in for the very mentality and unreasonable perspective that likely pushed so many towards the dark side. Vrook stands as the blindness for every institutional problem with the Jedi order that is slowly criticized across the game. He upholds those values and laws while not seeing or remotely considering the short shortsightedness in how those values and laws work to push many young Jedi into danger of falling to the dark side. By placing importance and and a sense of greater worth on the mind of a Jedi, they are more likely to ignore the dangers around them. By restricting a Jedi’s attachments to social connections from a young age, you create an environment in which a person might be untrained for dealing with tragic loss and the immoral ravages of war. By ignoring the devastation of worlds during the Mandalorian Wars, the Jedi failed their students who went off to fight in defiance of them. By failing to consider that their teachings didn’t prepare those students for the moral quandaries of being peacekeepers fighting a war, those students fell to the dark side (though Revan played a big part in making that happen). All of this blinds the remaining Jedi masters after the Jedi Civil War to the actual threat that loomed beyond the edges of the galaxy that manifests as the Sith Triumvate. They come to the conclusion that the mass destroying of Jedi is your doing, despite you not being aware of it. In fact, it is Nihilus. Then, when the Exile stands before them once more on Dantooine, they believe the Exile’s state of being (a wound in the Force, unintentionally made as a moment of self-presevation) is a cause for more punishment by the council to prevent further death and destruction through the Force. This is why Kreia kills them, they recognize the Exile’s state of being but wish to strip the Exile of their independence and existence. This type of punishment for existing is the type of fully blind and haughty actions that the game is slowly building your consciousness of. And in the last chunk of the game players can see it for all that it is, in every master you come across. As mentioned earlier, the other masters in the game are equally blinded. Sion is consumed by his hatred for Kreia, seeking nothing more than to break her will. Because of this, he cannot even perceive that he has no reason for existing beyond this. Nihilus lost all perception of existence and becomes just a mask, a shell of a thing, a dark side variant of what could have happened to your character at the end of the Mandalorian Wars.
And then there’s you, the player, the Exile, blind to what even happened to you for most of the game, existing as a wound in the Force but unable to comprehend it past the various impacts you see it have on your party members. Their fierce loyalty. Their unexpected following of your will. Their desire to stick with you even when they have no reason to. You blinded yourself to the Force out of fear and a need to survive. But you are not able to perceive that blindness for what it truly is. The Sith Lords is a game that fully explores the sheer depths of danger that emanate from what happens when blindness isn’t forced on someone, but rather forced on oneself. It can mean the death of all things.
And so we last arrive at #3.
Writing Serving Gameplay
For Star Wars fans, Kotor 2 is one of maybe a handful of Star Wars experiences that gets nice and introspective about the series and its primary Jedi vs. Sith / Light vs. Dark, Establishment vs. Rebellion endless conflict reality. It asks a lot of questions that Star Wars fans would love to mull over and provides the vehicle for it, not necessarily the technicalities of how the Force works (though it has some fantastic moments there), but more about the importance of being a Force-wielder of either side and exploring beyond the shallowness of a character alignment bar. And that later point I think is part of why this game elevates itself beyond “just another Star Wars game” for so many and may even be relevant to people who aren’t crazy about Star Wars. Star Wars as a franchise is often woefully unable to detach itself from its cycles and oftentimes too-binary morality. But Kotor 2 manages to escape that in two ways.
Obsidian has developed a bit of a knack for offering nuance and depth to alignment systems, and Kotor 2 was an early fantastic example of this variety. The game doesn’t really let you experience all that it has to offer if you try to be a grey-aligned Force user, but there’s some amount of depth to how being neither a Jedi nor a Sith 24/7 allows you to influence your teammates and bring them closer to your perspective, which obviously doesn’t actually sit at the top or bottom of either alignment bar. While the game does shut you out of certain important content experiences by not maxing out or pushing that alignment far enough, it’s a solid early example of how Obsidian mechanically developed this further down the road. In Fallout: New Vegas, the variety of choices that come about in a really well developed role-playing system influenced not just your teammates and their loyalty to you, but also that of entire factions. I haven’t touched The Outer Worlds yet but I’m curious to see how more refined Obsidian makes these ideas in that game. It should be said that Kotor 2 is still a Star Wars game, and so it has to lead the players towards some point of “pro Jedi” or “pro Sith” stance. But it’s also a game that gives you plenty of opportunities and scenarios (thanks to Kreia) where you’re called into question for your actions pro-either ideology. And it’s not done to chastise you, but instead to ask you if those moral high grounds or power fantasy situations are actually achieving the very thing you seek in your character’s walk. The game is mentally challenging you to comprehend the real motivations and lasting results of either ideology in small and large actions on society. There are people who have played this game and come to a perspective that because of these critical conversations, the creators and game itself kind of hate Star Wars. Kotor 2 doesn’t seem fond of the binary morality of Star Wars and thus becomes very “not Star Wars”-esque. Luckily, this game’s secret central moment that is both simultaneously critical of Star Wars ideologies and the notion that being critical about Star Wars itself is bad gets excellently placed in one sequence and one phrase:
But how does Obsidian accomplish these conversations? Is it just a bunch of listening. Sure, there are some really enjoyable sequences where mainly Kreia is just teaching you. But in those sequences, as Woolie’s LP will no doubt show, those conversations with Kreia are practically as enjoyable through the conversation that takes place between the person playing the game itself and the game just as much as it can be to engage with Kreia. But the real fantastic design in this game that sums up my third point here in “reasons Kotor 2 is awesome” is that the conversations are battle systems of their own. Woolie coined it a “verbal boss battle” and the game involves a couple of these. You converse with characters you’re only really getting to know through your dialogue options and what these other characters are saying, which means you have to find the weaknesses and correct things to say that will dismantle one’s point. Destroying Darth Sion’s reason for bothering is so freaking satisfying as a mechanic because it legitimately means the characters you’re verbally sparring with is experiencing moments of growth or utter failure. And you can fail these verbal boss battles, just like you can make the wrong conversation choices that turn brief opportunities for influene away from you. Much like most of this game, there’s points of failure here and lacking opportunities for some characters to offer much of interest. After all, fourteen months. But moments like the below when you have so perfectly defeated Atrus’s own arguments summarize one of the three pillars of what makes Kotor 2 such a brillaint game. Sure the mechanics of the game are essentially transporting pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons games into a digital construct with Star Wars layered on top. But the design of picking the right dialogue to come to moments of victory like this below are just…unheard of today.
You can hear in Woolie’s voice how engrossed he is in telling Atrus what’s what after going through circles of arguing with someone wiillingly blind for far too long. This system is really strong despite having very rugged animations in the dialogue and a simple as can be “shot, reverse shot” camera perspective. But the language, the writing, and the specifics of the conversation taking place are as engaging as can be because they’re puzzles.
I wanted to write a piece about Kotor 2 for some time, but didn’t really comprehend what I’d want to say until recently. Woolie had his verbal boss battle with Atrus before the COVID-19 pandemic even happened in the U.S., but it was when he finished the game this past Wednesday, had his last conversations with Kreia, and the world was rampnt with talks about how good The Last of Us 2 is that I realized what I wanted my last takeaway on Kotor 2 (for now) would be. Part of this motivation came from a YouTube channel I watch called “Writing on Games”, it’s a good channel and makes some nice critiques of writing in video games. The channel creator is very much aware of mechanics reinforcing narrative itself, which is why their video about Thumper freaking rules because Thumper reinforces the frenetic, terrifying, and rewarding experience of musical performance better than most rhythm games. His video on Sekiro is also maybe more aware of what Miyazaki and FromSoftware were doing with the story of Sekiro better than most of the fantastic community-lore channels out there, and that’s…pretty rad. I’m giving Writing on Games some credit because I have a grief with the perspective provided by their most recent video in which they talked about why the ending scene of The Last of Us was so genius. My beef isn’t with Writing on Games, it’s with the wider perspective on video games that we seem to have as a culture and Writing on Games provided a public version of this perspective fleshed out.
The ending of The Last of Us is really well done. As story writing it’s a great conclusion, just like a lot of the story and its characterization of its two protagonists. My problem is less with the video and more how this is often the bar for critical conversation about today’s big video games. One of the most anticipated video games of the year is a sequel to one where it was massively defined and revered for its cinematic qualities more than its mechanical qualities. If you like The Last of Us, if you like Uncharted, more power to you, I think I legitimately would enjoy them if I tried them, I love games that envelope you in a narrative like many. I too have bought the past decade’s worth of phenomenal narrative-focused indie games: Firewatch, Gone Home, Tacoma, Night in the Woods, etc. And I appreciate cinematic qualities in video games. I think the writing changes and narrative themes woven into Horizon: Zero Dawn, God of War (2018), and Spider-Man (2018) are phenomenal, as well as the way they present their stories. They’re good, and they show the incredible talent of the industry.
But to say that a video game can have a story with believable characters and carry in-depth sequences of conversation that rival that of hollywood is…kinda superfluous to me. I guess? I think it’s good, I think it allows us to do more with video games. But I got more fulfillment out of making the right choices in a conversation to whittle down my enemy’s resolution until they recognized the folly in their own pursuit of death and destruction, all in a buggy and broken video game released after fourteen months of development with simple animations, non-cinematic qualities, built in mind for young adults looking to satisfy their space wizards fantasy. It had just as in-depth characterization and exploration of themes and characters as any big game on the market today, but you get to actually be the one saying the lines instead of watching them unfold like you would at a movie theater. It wasn’t my ability to shoot all the bad guys or evade death that got me those numerous endings for Darth Sion, Kreia, and Atrus when I played Kotor 2 all those times, it was my comprehension of those characters and my “winning” against them in dialogue. This fusion is something we get plenty in video games today, but it’s not the thing we all flood to video games for despite thinking writing in video games is so very important.
I don’t think Writing on Games is wrong here, he’s mainly exploring characters and writing in his video. But his video just showed me how little mechanics actually mean when it comes to writing in video games, which saddens me when I know just how good it can be. I’d love to list the various conversations that exist as practical “battles” or “puzzles” to unlock in Kotor 2, because so many of them are interesting or challenging, and some you can’t even really win because with characters like Vrook, there is no winning those conversations. But I’d love for you to discover them yourself if you can. The game had such a rushed development, I do think that necessity became the mother of invention here and not every conversation in the game is a masterpiece. It often takes some save scumming, cheating, or multiple runs of the game to really see it for what it offers. Playing it fully light or fully dark offers a vastly different perspective at times. It’s hard to say whether this game would be so dialogue driven if Obsidian were given the chance to make more dungeons, more places to explore, and a longer conclusion. But what’s there remains a game we’re still talking about today for good reasons, and if you’re looking for something refreshing to experience in the midst of this…awful year we’re having, Kotor 2 is a great place to start.
Apathy is death.