LSO Plays Knights of the Old Republic II: Nar Shaddaa Discussion - The Loresworn Order

Sep
09

LSO Plays Knights of the Old Republic II: Nar Shaddaa Discussion

We’re playing through a whole bunch of awesome games with stories that were memorable and inspiring to us, starting with Knights of the Old Republic II. We’ll discuss it section by section as we go, and we’d love to have you guys play along and add your thoughts. This week, we played through the grime and crime shoot-em-up that is Nar Shaddaa.

We encourage you to leave your own thoughts in the comments. If you’re following along, play up through the end of Dantooine by Monday, September 21.

SPOILER WARNING: These discussions will contain spoilers, but only for the section we played this week. So if you’re following along, you don’t have to worry.

D.M.
This section is “What might have been” for me. The idea is really cool: A seething mass of poverty stricken refugees, a massive crime syndicate, the Hutts, and, ultimately, intrigue with bounty hunters and a psycho crime boss. The physical environment is well designed. A great, urban sprawl that is clearly sectionalized, which helps demonstrate the stratified society of the smuggler’s moon. The issue, of course, is that, of all the parts of this famously unpolished game, Nar Shadda is the least polished. The Restored Content mod fills in the story somewhat, but it’s far from a conclusive fix.

T.J.
You’re totally right. Nar Shaddaa is just aggravatingly half-baked, even with the Restoration project in place. I actually like the idea of the moon’s story progression: trying to cause enough trouble in a wretched hive of scum and villainy that the bad guys come to you. And it sort of works, though I spent a lot of time running around trying to find more ways to slight the Exchange while staying true to my Exile’s “Talk first, strike later” ethos, and ran into a couple dead-ends when I thought I had exhausted my options and still hadn’t hit the trigger to advance the story.

D.M.
I didn’t struggle as much as you did with that, primarily because of my action-oriented altruism; My character actually had a jarringly easy time of getting the Exchange to hate my guts. The flaw in that, narratively, is that the Exchange should already dislike you enough to keep the plot in motion, as the game has spent the last several sections telling us about the epic bounty on our heads. I think that could have been written a little differently. I did think the sidequests on Nar Shaddaa were some of the best in the entire game. Basically, you run around and either really help the downtrodden, or screw them over. You also get to dabble in the politics of the Hutts and such. When you do trigger the shit to fall on your head, the combat gets fast and furious, but the story sort of falls apart. Just tough to follow.

T.J.
Yeah, can we talk about how the whole third act with Quistis and the Exchange base is an absolute mess? There’s a bunch of random jumping between characters, resetting of areas, people teleporting around inexplicably, Mira getting suddenly captured, then un-captured, with minor or no explanation as to why… it’s the poster child for how rushed this game was. You can look at a game like Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines, which was a sloppy work in progress at launch, but is now polished and amazing by way of unofficial patches and other fan efforts. KotOR 2 never crossed that line. Nar Shaddaa proves it’s still very rough around the edges even after everything, and that’s a shame. Especially because it seems like Obsidian was trying to set up a fairly complex and exciting set of parallel stories that all come together on G0-T0’s yacht.

D.M.
I’d agree, though by a mess, I’d specify “clearly unfinished”. The nuggets that were there had a lot of potential, and the fights were clearly compelling exclamation points to matters of import. But because key bits were missing, it almost had a glitchy feel to it. The story became a bit hard to follow until you got to the yacht, which was the strongest portion of the section’s main storyline by far.

T.J.
I did enjoy the yacht section. I was banging my head against a large, novelty, plush Yoda at first, because the two party members I chose to infiltrate the ship—Atton and Bao Dur—weren’t strong enough to fight through the droids by themselves. Then I remembered that this game has a sneak mechanic, and I was able to quite successfully stealth my way through the entire mission.

D.M.
I’d managed to start building my new fangled Jedi Order by that point, so I had two well-leveled Force Users, one with Force Lightning and the other with Destroy droid. That helped tremendously, though I still had plenty of tense fights, particularly early on in the mission. Probably the map that saw the most medpacs sapped from my stash. I did really enjoy the computer and code mechanic. I really felt like I was slowly unraveling the yacht’s security from the inside, eliminating threats in some places and turning the tide with the others. It made meeting the eponymous G0-T0 feel triumphant for the two or so minutes before it all hits the fan again.

T.J.
This whole moon was pretty difficult, between the yacht and Visas showing up. The latter is not fun to fight as a solo consular with no Dark Side powers, let me tell you. And she’s, unfortunately, yet another of KotOR II’s companions that just got on my nerves. Has BioWare or Obsidian ever fit so many of those into one game? Visas is sort of a quasi-teenage emotional vampire, who still hates herself and wants to be your slave no matter how much you build her up and dump Light Side dialogue options into her massive psychological scars. Her veil even looks like a bad emo haircut. I don’t really recall how her arc ends, and I’m not even sure I completed it in my first playthrough, so I’m looking forward to seeing (or remembering) who she becomes.

D.M.
Visas is the redemption trope, and she’s child’s play for a well-developed, well built Guardian, though I can definitely envision the nintendo hard difficulty at play fighting her as a glass cannon with no decent, offensive Force powers (which are mostly all Dark Side). The game even warns you that the difficulty spikes as a Consular, because it takes until end game for that class to truly shine.

Once the battles are over, and before you can leave the moon for good, you get to your first blast from the past. The conversations with the hidden Jedi masters are a real strong point in this game, and Nar Shaddaa’s guest is probably my favorite of the lot. You get a lot more expository information, and some more chance to build and define your character.

T.J.
Yeah, Master Zez-Kai Ell definitely gives you a well of long-awaited answers that’s worth your time and effort to find him. And he’s not a dick, which seems like it almost precludes you from being on the Jedi Council in this era.

I want to say again, though may not seem like it during this middle portion, I am having a blast going back through this game. Nar Shaddaa, like Telos before it, may be a little lackluster. But there is plenty to love—particularly the little interactions between party members that greet me when I get back to the Ebon Hawk. Those were a great touch.

D.M.
Companies like BioWare and Obsidian seem to have mastered a great many of the small details that make great stories in this format. Little character moments, little interjections at key points, and a ton of side dialogue. These things enhance immersion, make characters more compelling, and motivate the player to see the story through. I’m confident in saying that a great many great RPGs would be significantly lesser if even some of their out of the way side conversations were cut.

T.J.
And it’s interesting, in our discussion of cut content, that little bits of flavor like that are what didn’t get cut. It may just be that they were lower effort, but it almost seems like Obsidian is making a statement about what really matters in the game. It’s not the crazy crime drama and blasting hundreds of droids into scrap. It’s the human moments that play out in the aftermath.

And thus we high tail it out of Nar Shaddaa and on to greener pastures. Remember, if you’re following along, play up through the end of Dantooine by Monday, September 21. Send us your comments for Dantooine on the Contact page (not in the comments, to avoid spoilers for those who haven’t gotten that far yet), and we might include them in the next discussion!

About The Loresworn Order

This post was written in collaboration between multiple staff members of the site.

2 comments

  • drspeakeasy
    Sep 9, 2015 @ 19:27 pm

    Nar Shadda was always on of my favorite parts of KOTOR 2, right up until you get the invitation. The difficulty spike always had me feel go and play through Dxun first, just to level a bit first. And personally, this game is at the top of the “Needs an HD re-release.” And since I always enjoy playing the build an empire sith lord, I would have loved to see something else with the syndicate and the power vacuum that is there.

    Reply
  • Sep 9, 2015 @ 19:45 pm

    Yeah, I kinda picked an order for the planets based on what made *narrative* sense to me, but it’s probably not the best order in terms of difficulty. D.M. took a slightly different route, which is part of why he had an easier time on the barge. And I totally agree that I’d love to see an HD re-release with all the restored content, and hopefully fixes to some of the stuff they didn’t get to (like the exchange base).

    Reply

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