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 blitzed toward the endgame, completing Onderon, Dxun, and Korriban
We encourage you to leave your own thoughts in the comments. If you’re following along, play up through the end of M4-78 by Monday, October 5.
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.
Ho. Lee. Sith. This game gets good.
Dantooine was a nice up note to follow the monotone first act, but Onderon, Dxun, and Korriban are where Obsidian really show they’re not messing around. If the whole game had been like this (which, given ample dev time, it might have been), I have little doubt KotOR II would be near the top of many a Best RPGs of All Time list. The action is great, the scenarios are pulse-pounding, the emotional tone shows a lot of variation. I hardly know where to start.
The start of Onderon shows an excellent roller coaster narrative strategy. You think you’re going to land on a planet and start the, “Let’s poke around and see what is wrong” routine. Then, BAM! Suddenly, you’re being fired upon. You’re hit. You’re going down somewhere you are absolutely not expecting to go, a seemingly deserted jungle moon that lays it on thick with the foreboding. The mists of Dxun jerk the sudden, frantic uptick in action to an immediate, ominous halt. Definitely a great ten minutes of game to set up a great act.
They might be the weakest part of this stretch, but the Dxun jungles serve to build the pace for what is the greater Onderon arc from a steady point. It enhances the impact of what comes after it by giving you some breathing room. Of course, getting to hang out with and win the respect of the Mandalorians is pretty cool. But the process of doing so is fairly relaxed and low-stakes. Then you get to Onderon and start peeling back the layers of the brewing civil war, and shit gets real.
I loved the very real, very gritty political realities on Onderon. You have a weak regime that is rapidly losing the respect of its public butting heads with a strong leader who would be a tyrant. You can feel the tension in the streets, in the dialogue, in the brewing chaos. It makes you really, really want to tip Onderon in the direction of your choice, because the status quo is badly, badly broken.
So broken, you end up having to flee and take a detour to the old homeworld of the Sith.
And thus we run into our good friend Darth Sion once again. As before, our meeting with him is prefaced by a lot of spooky skulking around in mostly empty ruins. It’s one of my favorite kinds of RPG dungeon crawls: the combat is kept in moderation so you get that kind of Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider feeling that it’s quiet… too quiet.
I loved meeting Sion in that old, dead place. The encounter feels substantially epic and, unless you rushed straight here before doing any other planets, your team is powerful enough to go toe to toe with his. Sion’s special dark side powers are still in “immovable object” territory, and we’ve clearly not yet become an unstoppable force, but you do get the feeling that you stood your ground before a Sith Lord without being flung aside like toys. It’s a great encounter, both in design and writing.
This is also a point where mods improve the game and give us KOTOR II as Obsidian intended. What you find in that dead Sith Academy with the Restored Content Mod is different than in the vanilla release game. Korriban is still short, but the mod prevents it from feeling like a letdown.
And then there is the cave…
The hidden tomb behind the Shyrack cave is where Korriban really shines. It’s signature Obsidian storytelling at its finest, forcing us to confront things about our characters and their pasts in a way that blends narrative and gameplay expertly. It also serves as KotOR II’s opportunity for a quick fall to the Dark Side, even for the most righteous paragons. I was very tempted to take them up on that, but I was more interested to see the Light Side ending with the Restoration Project’s many enhancements. Next time, spooky cave. Next time.
I’d argue the Force cave, a clear call back to Degobah and The Empire Strikes Back, is probably the strongest twenty minutes in the entire game. This is just pure roleplaying goodness, right here. It’s why we play this genre in the first place. We experience the exile’s story, get to shed light on their doubts and strengths, and in the end, face an apparition of the person that, in more ways than one, made us who were are in the present. It’s really just fantastic. Either you emerge from the cave a true Jedi, or at least a fantastic Paladin of the light, or you become what those Jedi Masters you’re chasing all over always feared you would. It’s goosebump-inducing stuff.
And then, right on the heels of that emotional gut punch, we swing back to Onderon for the assault on the royal palace. It’s nothing less than a fast, furious, and seriously fun combat rush. By this time, my decked out Consular was laying the hurt with force powers on hordes of enemies at a time, and I loved every minute of mowing through General Vaklu’s mooks to rescue the queen. Top it all off with some much-needed words of encouragement from Mastar Kavar, and I’m feeling seriously pumped to swing back by Dantooine and hit the end game running…
But first, of course, comes the biggest piece of the Restored Content Mod by far. Is it up to snuff?
Oh, right. The droid planet, M4-78, was almost entirely compiled by fan effort. Without being really sure what to expect, let’s give it a go.
And thus we leave Dantooine behind and prepare for some explosive encounters ahead. Remember, if you’re following along, play up through the end of M4-78 by Monday, October 5. Send us your comments for M4-78 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!