Wednesday, October 12, 2005

If it's such a great game ...

... then why has it taken you long to replay it?

That's a question that was asked of me in the wake of the recent release of the 'media upgrade' for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (aka KotOR2). Isn't that a strange question? With longer games, don't people often only play once, or at least wait a while in between playing? Perhaps 'people' do that, but not me. For me, a great game is one that I launch into replaying immediately after finishing it. Usually I play all the way through, but occasionally I only get part way ... but if I love a game, I always get some significant portion of the game replayed.

I gave KotOR2 a 90% review, based on what I described as "The first 20 or so hours of KotOR 2 are some of the best gaming experiences I've ever seen. We have PlaneScape Torment levels of dialogue, plot weaving and intrigue, Baldur's Gate 2 levels of party interaction and banter, and action right out of KotOR."

And I played the heck out of the game the first time - I was fully immersed in the story and characters and continued right through the end. But then I started a new game, and never got even as far as Atton on Peragus. As I embark on another attempt to replay the game I am left wondering why ...

And the only thing I can come up with is that the 'end ruined the means' to paraphrase a cliche. By that I mean that the obviously unfinished and rushed-out feel to the end of the game was such a let down after the glory described above that it killed the incentive to work through the game again.

Also, the tutorial does not replay very well. That is acceptable, as it is short, can be skipped, and has no impact on the items or experience gained. However, It is somewhat surprising that the opening area of the game is not as enjoyable to replay. Whether or not this is also related to the end-game is not clear. Normally, the beginning of a game is when we get familiar with everything and everyone, so it is typically slow and usually linear. I don't think that KotOR2 is any worse in this regard, yet for me it seemed to drag worse than any of my many replays through Taris in the original KotOR. It is not until you leave Peragus that things get good.

So what does this mean? Is the game worse than I originally reviewed? I honestly don't think so - once on Telos I found the game became immersive and quite engaging once again, and the excellent work of Obsidian began to shine through. I think that there were more pacing problems than I could pick up in a single playthrough. Whereas games like Baldur's Gate and the original KotOR also started slowly, they reached such tremendous heights by their conclusion that you were swept through the openings each time you played by the promise of the glory to come. Which brings us back to 'the end ruins the means' ... since the promise of ultimate glory at the end of the game is gone, there is much less to carry you through the slow opening.

So why did it take me so long to replay KotOR 2? Because I had no desire to be disappointed again at the failed promise of such an excellent beginning.

1 comment:

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