KOTOR 2: Goto’s Yacht

(This is part of my journey going playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

The trap has been set — and perhaps too well, because I’ve been captured and taken to Goto’s yacht. The holographic mob boss has an odd conversation with me in which he attempts to give me some sort of verbal support and encouragement, saying that the Republic is going to collapse and that I need to forestall this from happening. But then he keeps me prisoner anyway, so what the heck, Goto?

I do wish that we could meet the programmer behind the HK droids and ask what kind of messed-up logic chains he or she used when making these murderbots.

I’m given the strange task of rescuing myself, and so I pick Kreia and Visas, mostly for healing and raw destructive power. Actually, Kreia is overpowered in this setting, because she’s got a deep pool of Force points and has the “destroy droid” skill. This is a nasty chain attack that absolutely devastates pretty much all droids in a room and trivializes any battles. And considering that Goto’s yacht is nothing but droids, I’m on easy street.

It doesn’t take too long before I find myself (whoa, deep) and strike out looking for vengeance. Oh, it’s on, now.

As we clear out the yacht, I came upon this window and thought it was a particularly striking view. Thought I should share it. You’re welcome.

Anyway, bounty hunters pour in, we slay all, we escape, Goto’s yacht is blown up by some self-destruct because why not.

But Goto isn’t dead, of course. He tosses me a droid to join my crew, and I don’t think it’s worth pretending to be ignorant any longer about the big ‘twist’ here — that the droid IS Goto… or G0-T0. Anyway, wicked awesome to have one of those interrogation bots on staff, but I think I’m going to stick with Visa Card and Murder Wookiee for my team going forward.

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KOTOR 2: Nar Shaddaa part 3

(This is part of my journey going playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Things are coming to a head in Nar Shaddaa, which is both an exciting and dangerous time. Well, let’s go walk into a trap!

Atton rushes after me with a few medpacks and a completely unnecessary sentiment about being careful. I can’t take him very seriously, as his Dark Side corruption and side head-thingies make him look like an emo raver. Back to the ship with ye!

You know what’s one big difference between KOTOR 1 and 2? The sequel has a LOT more cutscenes and isn’t afraid to keep splitting up the party and having you control just one character (and not only your main). Hanharr approaches me and offers the terms of an alliance, and because I’ve always wanted a psychotic Wookiee at my side, I eagerly agree.

Meanwhile, Mr. Caution heads to a bar instead of back to the ship and promptly gets ambushed by the assassin Twi’leks. Let me say, this is the most brutally difficult fight in the game so far. I’d go so far as to say that it’s impossible with normal tactics. Atton’s single blaster can’t cope with two targets swinging swords at him, and it’s too crowded to throw grenades.

So basically, you have to cheat. There are two suggested solutions. The first is to scout out the bar before this scene and plant mines everywhere so that the sisters roll into them and die. I didn’t know about this and don’t have enough mines anyway, so that’s out. The second is to scoot around the bar and then fire away at an enemy too dumb to follow. Yeah, it’s an exploit, but I’ll take it.

Meanwhile, with Hanharr at my back, I boldly stroll into the trap and… get knocked out instantly by Mira the Good Bounty Hunter. She takes my place in the spacesuit for some stupid reason, which doesn’t help her cause because she soon gets captured afterward.

I, on the other hand, wake up in the apartment of the Jedi I was trying to find all along. He is super-duper-impressed that I found him, a sentiment that I share because I didn’t find him so much as “wake up from a drug-induced coma to see his droopy moustache hanging above me.

I won’t lie; Nar Shaddaa feels like it’s been going on a little too long and I have started to lose track of what I’m doing, who all of these bounty hunters/exchange mob bosses are, and why I should care. I guess the ultimate target is ol’ squid head here. My ace in the hole is standing just over his shoulder.

For the second time now, I make my way to this poison air bar. Not even gas masks help, but apparently now my magical bag of Jedi tricks spat out a new “Force breathing” ability that will make me a champion at free diving contests.

As I said before, this game isn’t afraid to send you solo to jack up the difficulty, and this bar is a stiff challenge because of that, the ever-present poison gas, and wave after wave of bad guys. I have to take it slow to make sure my force points replenish for heals, because I’m direly low on health packs. What’s on my side is the fact that all of these mobs are pretty weak and ineffectual in their attacks.

Once I make it through the bar and the ensuing maze (yes, that lovely RPG staple) in the underground tunnels, the story shifts over to Hanharr and Mira. Squid Head pits both of them in a battle to the death, out of which Hanharr emerges triumphant. I assume this is because he’s the dark side character and my character has definitely fallen on that side of the spectrum.

Here I get to control Hanharr as my character, and let me tell you, this guy is a BEAST. He’s melee, but he takes enemies apart so darn quickly that I can’t fault him. Wish I could play a Wookiee for the entire game.

This whole sequence is rather breathtaking in its pacing. It keeps switching back and forth between different playable characters: Hanharr, my Jedi, and Anton’s B-squad. You actually do get the feeling of urgency and movement from this, and isolating characters for parts brings out vulnerability and uncertainty in the player. Can I do this? What if I can’t heal through it? After all, if my one character dies, it’s game over. I don’t have a full team most of the time to balance combat situations out.

Egads, this Nar Shaddaa climax just keeps going on and on and on. There are so many cutscenes and character transitions that I think it would be wise to create a flow chart. The short version: Squid Head is betrayed by the mysterious Goto for betraying him, and I get knocked out for probably the 17th time in the last hour.

Meanwhile Kreia shows up to torture and force-blackmail Hanharr into being my helper — until she needs him, of course. Dun dun DUNNNN. You know what, I’m starting to think she’s evil. Pretty much most of my crew is evil, and not just “kind of bad” but “actively working for the bad guys I’m fighting against.” Why don’t I just cut these people loose and go my own way?

To meet Goto (which is a thing I want to do, supposedly), a convoluted plan is hatched to change the transponder codes on the Ebon Hawk to one of the Hutt’s freighters so that Goto captures it and then we infiltrate from the inside. Or we could just go get slushies? Anyone? Fine. Stupid plan anyway.

KOTOR 2: Nar Shaddaa part 2

(This is part of my journey going playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

It’s obviously been a rough and extremely full summer, which is the excuse that I’m going to give for my two-month absence from this series. Let’s see if we can start making some headway on getting through KOTOR 2. Maybe one day I’ll even see its conclusion!

I honestly don’t remember where I was on this planet or what I was doing, and the quest log isn’t too helpful. My fallback strategy in these kinds of moments is to keep exploring parts of the map I haven’t seen yet, talk to everyone, and hope I hit upon mission objectives. Also, because I’m being a Jedi Jerk, I have to kill/betray/lie to everyone.

I begin by mapping out this huge alien bar, which ends up being a disappointment since there is no one to talk to and the whole place is basically a fog of poison. It’s totally enjoyable listening to my companions repeatedly informing me that they’re succumbing to the green gas. Yes, yes, we’ll go soon. Hold your breath for now.

Even though most everyone I bump into is a smuggler or scum, I still get docked dark side points if I don’t bend over backwards to be nice and try to take the peaceable solution. Naturally, I’m all “forget that, I have two blasters and itchy trigger fingers,” so I leave a trail of corpses behind me.

And now back to Awkward Moments in Video Game Writing. Well done, SWTOR 2. Well done.

My favorite semi-evil moment of this play session was extorting a droid questgiver SO HARD that he ends up ripping out parts of himself to give me as bonus rewards.

As a side note: Why can’t we extort MMO questgivers for better rewards? It’s called roleplaying, people!

If I can get into a fight, I will. Don’t matter much who with. They’re all bags of experience points to me, and this gal’s gotta level up to be able to overcome her no-lightsaber handicap.

I do end up clearing out all of the Exchange on Nar Shadda, which nets me a nice bounty of XP and gear. I don’t know if I actually finish up any quests, but really, who cares? Meanwhile, Atton displays that classic SWTOR hold-my-side injury pose. Made me laugh.

Meanwhile, my B-team of companions don’t think to actually, I don’t know, lock up the ship or anything, and it is subsequently boarded by no less than:

  1. A small army of gang members
  2. The previous owner of the ship who asserts his claim
  3. A blind Sith

WAY TO GO, B-TEAM. We’re going to have some serious airlockin’ when we get back to outer space.

After a protracted and pretty enjoyable battle, I go one-on-one with Visas here (or Visa, as I’m going to call her from now on). She’s actually the apprentice of my archnemesis who’s going to help me out for a while until I can meet-slash-confront him. Better the enemy that you see than the one you don’t, I suppose. The fight with her is a little tough because she keeps deflecting all of my fancy blaster bolts, so I just use my force power “kill” to strangle her in that friendly way that I have.

Finally, some movement forward in the plot! We might actually be getting off of this planet one of these days soon!

KOTOR 2: Nar Shadda part 1

(This is part of my journey going playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

First stop on our intergalactic Jedi roundup is Nar Shadda, the Hutta smuggling moon. From a SWTOR player’s perspective, it’s of particular interest because it’s one of the key locations in the MMO, and I have never progressed this far into KOTOR 2 to see what this early version looked like.

Meanwhile, a cutscene takes us away from the ship to a meeting of bounty hunters — including the HK-50s, some busty Twi’leks, and a very enraged Wookiee. The mob boss, a projected man named Goto, tells them that they’re to shadow me but not to apprehend me… because when there’s one Jedi, there’s often more, and he wants more.

Oh hey! It’s the spectre of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace! Thanks so much for making me think of that movie, devs.

First impressions of Nar Shadda? It’s pretty grungy and comes in all shades of grey and steel. This is a far cry from the neon landscape of the MMO, I’ll tell you that.

Pretty quickly, I’m introduced to one of the local situations, which is the oppression and abuse of refugees by the local crime boss.

I’m staring to wonder if the artists of this game were working strictly in greyscale. It’s like the third such sterile steel environment we’ve seen so far, and it does not endear me to this planet.

I quickly find out that bounty hunters are all over the place trying to bring me in, and my quest objective here is “engage them enough in the hopes that the people behind this make themselves known.” So I’m making myself bait. Great.

I do my usual routine of methodically exploring the map, talking to everyone, and hoovering up quests. I bump into this gentleman, who says that he used to own the Ebon Hawk. Well, finders keepers, buddy. Buzz off.

A random cutscene shows more of the Sith lords — hey, it’s in the title of the game! — making their way somewhere on a ramshackle star destroyer. In addition to Darth Craggy, who we met before, now we meet Darth Skullface and Darth Mask. They’re suitably evil and all of that, and I cannot deny that the look on Skullface is working for me.

It always struck me as a little weird how interspecies romance works in the Star Wars universe. I guess if the two look somewhat human, it’s OK, but when you get three eyed weirdo here coming on to a Twi’lek, can you really blame her for being repulsed? Why is he even interested to begin with, she’s only got two eyes!

A string of dialogue options ends up throwing me into a dancer’s outfit for a Hutt. Obvious shades of Return of the Jedi. I don’t even know why I’m doing this, although I assume that it’s for some sort of quest that I need, so I play along.

I do have to say that the character model of my hero is absolutely bizarre when she’s near-naked — her waist is way, way too small, especially when you look at her with clothes on. What happened here?

KOTOR 2: Telos Jedi Academy

(This is part of my journey going playing through Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As we transition into a new area, what I assume must have been a gas leak into the devs’ office occurs. It’s the only explanation for all of the sheer stupidity that happens over the next few minutes.

OK, so my team grabs a shuttle and heads for Telos’ polar cap where, presumably the stolen Ebon Hawk was stashed. At this point, the following chain of events occurs:

  1. A team of HK-50s barges into the military base following our departure and lament just missing me… but they see where I am going.
  2. The same team, presumably, then BEATS ME to the polar cap so that it can fire on my approaching shuttle with a rocket launcher. Either they run really fast or there are a bajillion HK teams all over this planet.
  3. Both of those scenarios are ridiculous.
  4. For the SECOND TIME in this game — on this planet — my shuttle is shot down.
  5. All three of us are somehow thrown clear of the shuttle without breaking the glass and getting hurt.

What? Just… what? This isn’t just unfair, it’s not remotely feasible. I’ll tell you what it is: It’s lazy writing and plotting, and it deserves to get called out as such.

Another fun coincidence: We just so happened to land right on the roof of this top-secret Jedi academy that’s populated entirely by female albinos for some reason. And, naturally, the lead lady, Atris, knows me and is bearing a grudge because she used to look up to me, and I failed her somehow.

This is the kind of frustrating part of this game, that you have this unknown backstory that everyone is reacting to, yet you (the player) didn’t actually do nor deserve all of this response. Anyway, I am as diplomatic as possible.

OK, so I’m being a six-year-old and choosing every antagonistic option available. But really, I’m not taking any guff from these bleached Force-wimps. All I need is a pair of blasters and a starship to take me across the galaxy.

Meanwhile, Kreia and Atton have an interesting in the prison cells. Kreia, for lack of a better term, mind-rapes Atton and finds out his deep — and currently unknown — secret. Something about him being a murderer with ties to my character’s past or something. Kreia uses this information to blackmail Atton in to being her pawn. Nice lady.

There’s surprisingly not a lot to do here at the secret academy, other than gather up your crew and get back on the Ebon Hawk. About the only diversion, other than being rude to the handmaidens, is challenging one in unarmed combat. I tried this, but since I can’t use force powers and my character hasn’t exactly specialized in hand-to-hand fighting (who really would in this game?), I get bested.

It should be noted that as I descend down the path of the Dark Side, Atton starts showing some serious signs of Dark Side corruption as well. Dark Side by association? How does that work, exactly? He’s not making the bad choices, I am; he’s merely being an accomplice at worst.

Love this Jedi’s ‘stache.

So this whole section — the academy and a pow-wow on the Ebon Hawk right afterward — is a major exposition dump that sets up the real quest of the game and attempts to at least partially answer the big question: Why was I exiled?

T3 has a holorecording that he stole of my trial at the Jedi counsel, and it’s interesting if only partly revealing. As far as I can deduce, my character was one of the Jedi that followed Revan and participated in the huge battle against the Mandalorians at Malachor V. Something happened there, something horrible, and the counsel called all participating Jedi to answer for their crimes. I was the only one who came back to do so, and as a result, was stripped of my status and had to turn in my lightsaber.

What’s interesting here is that this move wasn’t merely a punishment. The counsel sensed something in me other than dark side corruption, some sort of emptiness, and decided that by exiling me, they’d set me loose to go on a journey to figure stuff out.

And they’re being withholding with the infos, because Jedi are sneaky, cowardly morons. I’m sorry, I love Star Wars, but the whole Jedi order thing drives me up a wall with their moral relativism and large-scale cowardice. So there’s some more stuff that I should know but they’re not telling me… but at least I know that much, thanks to the holorecording.

Due to the Jedi purges following the end of the first game, there isn’t a counsel in operation right now. There are, however, several members of this meeting still alive and scattered throughout the galaxy. The game then reveals itself to be a roundup of Jedi — get all of them together, force them to admit the truth.

Next stop, Nar Shadda!

KOTOR 2: Telos surface

(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

As my party leaves Telos Station to travel down to the surface of the planet in a quest to find the Ebon Hawk and finally get out of this system, several things occur. The first is that the Republic finally shows up, but in a broadcast to station security, makes it known that they’re not here to apprehend me and that I should just be left well enough alone. Fine with me.

The second is that our shuttle is shot down by unknown forces, sealing off our route back to the station. It’s Ebon Hawk or bust, now!

As an aside, the devs obviously got REAL lazy with the interior of this shuttle for the brief shots during the cutscene. It looks so spartan and unsafe, with only one chair (!), sparks, and a fire blazing out of control. Kreia, helpful as always, stands with a giant sword out pointed in my direction while we’re being jostled about.

The third is that literally the second we crash land, I bump into an old war buddy/associate who served under me. Bao-Dur is a Zabrak (the non-red variety) who has a weird electrical left arm. My only complaint is that his voice actor is absolutely terrible. The guy sounds like he’s operating under the influence of heavy sedation, or else is trying to hypnotize me with a low and unassuming voice. At least I can swap Kreia out and not have to listen to her grumping all of the time.

Plus, it also means that I now have a party of 100% ranged fighters. PEW PEW PEW. Forget lightsabers; this is how I want to experience Star Wars.

Now after a few hours of being in nothing but space station environments, I’m definitely relieved to get some planetary action. So what is Telos like? To best honest, it’s a blatant reuse — not even a reskin — of Dantooine from KOTOR 1. Grasslands bordered by inexplicably sheer (but not too, too high) cliff walls that keep you from roaming on anything but a preset path.

You got that right, Anton. Unlike Telos Station, Telos the planet is pretty much quest-free. It’s just a lot of fighting groups of mercs, some of which prove to be particularly troublesome thanks to Bao-Dur’s general uselessness and no dedicated healer in the party. I’m still working on developing my character, but I don’t yet have the best gear nor the two party members that I want to be in my group.

We discover that there’s a small area near the polar ice cap that’s being used as a secret landing zone, which is probably where little miss albino took the Ebon Hawk. To get there, we have to assault an old military installation and procure a drop shuttle that’s parked there. If it was only that easy. Lots of poison gas, droids, and turrets block our way, and it becomes a downright slog.

Finally, all that stands between me and the shuttle is a tank droid. Yippee. According to various forums, this fight is either a pushover or a brutal slugfest, depending on if you have ion grenades (I do not), ion weapons (nope), or take the time to place mines in front of this door before the droid’s cutscene happens (nuh-uh). Ranged weapons are totally useless against it, so I’m out of luck.

After some trial and error, I realize that there are two things I can do. Bao-Dur can use his special shield breaker ability to punch through the droid’s shields and do significant damage, and I can use my stun droid ability for a few points now and then. Between the two, we are triumphant at last.

KOTOR 2: Telos Station

(This is part of my journey going checking out Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

It’s weird when you come back to a game that you never beat but have played several times before. You know that there’s a lot of brand-new content coming once you hit a certain point, but up until then it’s well-trod territory. It’s like that for me and KOTOR 2. Everything through Telos is pretty familiar to me, and I know that I harbor a dislike for this bland station that followed another bland station from the beginning. Oh well, let’s get this worked out.

As we settle into an apartment — because KOTOR 2 does love shamelessly appropriating from KOTOR 1 — restlessness settles in and our attention is gripped, GRIPPED by the ringing of a phone.

I love how the game actually gets annoyed that I’m taking too long to answer it. You are not the boss of me, Atton. We’re going to watch Deal or No Deal and then play some Magic for a while.

As we twiddle our thumbs, we get two calls — one from the Ithorians and one from Czerka Corp, both asking me to take sides in a land contract dispute on the planet below. Also, station security frees me but says that I’m still impounded until the Republic arrives. That sounds ominous. Time to skedaddle!

We start doing the normal RPG routine when you arrive in a new area: methodically explore it, loot everything that’s not nailed down, interact with locals to see if there are any quests to be had, and get into trouble. In one of the apartments a man gets all riled up that I’m looting through his things (most CRPGs seem to include at least one such character to give you pause about doing this), and I flip out at him and initiate combat. One dead guy later, and I’ve started to walk down the Dark Side. Oh noes!

Oddly enough, Keira is more upset than Atton. She chastises me while Atton sputters about how he got caught up in the moment and it was over so fast. Strap yourselves in, kiddies, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I’m kind of super-cheesed that the game took away all of our weapons and other equipment except for the body armor we were wearing, so until I get replacements or get them back, we’re going to have to melee for now. I go ahead and beat up an Exchange thug in the hallway just because I can, and also for those sweet dark side points. By the time I leave Telos, I want to be a full Sith Lord. Or at least as un-Jedi as I can possibly be.

Even though the original KOTOR games are much more crude, graphically, than SWTOR, you can see the inspiration that the MMO devs took from this series. There’s a certain shuttle waiting area in KOTOR 2 here that was definitely replicated in some of the stations in SWTOR, and the cantina is a familiar sight indeed.

Telos Station is, essentially, a long twisty hallway. There’s the apartment area, the cantina/shop area, and the loading docks. It’s really a shame that this far into the game, I’m still stuck inside grey metal walls of a controlled environment; feels like the opening flow didn’t go quite right. I hoover all of the quests I can find and make sure to be as gruff as possible.

Good news: I got all of my gear back from the security center. Bad news: Mr. Droid here tells me that someone’s stolen my starship, so even if I could get clearance to leave, I don’t have the means. They parked it down on the planet, so I guess we’re going to get that road trip we wanted sooner or later.

I do start working aggressively for Czerka, even though the company is laughably evil. The KOTOR series has not always had the best record for presenting options that weren’t either lily white or black as sin, although arguably the games do have their moments of tough choices. The Ithorians who oversee the planet keep telling me how much pain I’m in and how if I help the planet, the planet will help me, but I’m not going for that Captain Planet Final Fantasy VII Gaia nonsense. I’ve got a doohickey on my head and I’m OK.

Let’s just say that over the course of an hour and a half, I become a rather despicable human being, murdering and thieving and enslaving my way across the station. For someone who most always plays a very goody-goody character, it’s really fascinating to see what’s programmed into the game for those who walk a much darker path.

Postcards from Syp’s vacation! I do raise an eyebrow at the fact that at one point, I slaughter an entire squad of TSF security agents… and there is no consequence for that. I even talk to the head security guy and he seems blissfully unaware of the whole exchange.

All paths lead to the Exchange — the criminal mobster empire that’s been trying to kidnap me from before the start of the game. It’s with deep satisfaction, then, that I march straight into their headquarters and blast the living crap out of everyone there. Teach them to mess with a grumpy ex-Jedi.

As an aside, how awesome do I look in this picture? That mask was worth every bit of the 6,000 credits I paid for it.

While the game does present you with options at the conclusion of the Exchange “dungeon,” it doesn’t really matter what you pick. You’re going to have to kill both bosses to proceed. And so I do, and Czerka is really quite pleased with my assistance. The company agrees to give me a shuttle ride down to the planet to help me find my ship.

THEN JUST LEAVE, KREIA. GAH!