Bastard Of The Old Republic, On Eurogamer

By John Walker on February 22nd, 2009 at 11:59 am.

Simon Evil, and his especially evil goggles.

As mentioned in the last podcast, for Eurogamer I decided to perform the horrendous task of playing the original Knights of the Old Republic, making all the most awful dialogue and action choices available. The first part of this story, covering Simon Evil’s actions on Taris, is now up. It begins like this.

“There’s something you need to know about me. I’m a good guy. I’m a generally decent person. I have my many faults, and certainly my large share of means to be irritating, rude, and bothersome. But ultimately, it’s fair to say I’m a kind, reasonable individual. I’m not the sort of person who, for instance, would usually be found mocking victims of bullying, endorsing racism, or murdering victims of sexual assault.”

And continues here.

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91 Comments »

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  1. DMcCool says:

    Great article, though all it does to be honest is just plainly showcase the atrocious writing that is Bioware stock. You can be a saint, a heartless mercenary or a psychopath for acts cruelly for no reason other than his god-awful writing. Why people consider these games the height of the WRPG is beyond me, fun games no doubt but the “role-playing” elements make baby jesus cry.

  2. Z says:

    For those who haven’t had the pleasure, or who have about 4-5 hours to spend hunkered down reading, may I present the excellent Let’s Play: Knights of the Old Republic II from the Something Awful thread. My respect for KOTOR2 went up by an order of magnitude after reading it. Reminds me a lot of Quinn’s playthrough/evaluation/presentation of Pathologic.

    Via metafilter at some point in the past.

    And I’m serious about 4-5 hours. That thing is LONG.

  3. John Walker says:

    I’m really pleasantly surprised by the number of people both here and on EG saying they can’t play these games as evil. I had worried that a lot of people would call me a wuss and point out that it’s only a game, etc. (One person on EG does seem enormously angry with me, but I can’t quite work out what it’s about.)

    DMcCool, I don’t agree about the writing. There’s some corny dialogue, sure. But it’s mostly completely fine, and sometimes great. And compared with the writing in the vast majority of games, it’s bloody stunning.

    And sorry about the Malak typo – I will send Tom an email asking him to fix it.

  4. Z says:

    Oh, and the reason it’s so long: “walkthroughs” of and showing off the huge amount of content that was cut from the game.

  5. Dosy says:

    I cant play as Evil either, it just feels so instinctually wrong. Then I hear of people delighting over these choices who I consider like me, and it gets me wondering how they can enjoy what I squirm at when we’re such similar people.

    Thankyou John, for showing that I’m not such an idiot for feeling guilt over make believe choices. Or at least not alone in doing so.

  6. Nuahaun says:

    Thanks for the link, Z – the perfect procrastination tool. I don’t remember any specifics about KOTOR2, but the scene partway through with Kreia (mysterious hooded lady) and the council (?) left a powerful impression on me. Whatever they were talking about, it was deep.

    Regarding the female avatar discussion: Mass Effect was the only bioware game I’ve ever played as a female character, and that was purely for the voice acting. Jennifer Hale is leagues ahead of the male actor, and when you have to listen to the main character talk in every conversation this overrode every other consideration.

  7. Senethro says:

    Jennifer Hale is female Shepherd? My Hale-sense is fairly sharp, given that she appears in so many games I’ve played. That one I did not pick up on.

  8. Kanamit says:

    @jalf: Huh? In KOTOR 2 Revan is default female, you have to disagree with Atton to make Revan male.

  9. Taillefer says:

    I always play a female character. Male characters just seem to come across as arrogant narcissists. But a female character in the same situation just seems more like a badass instead, in a good way. Also, it’s more satisfying to kill any sexist characters when playing a woman. Or does does this show a hidden sexist side of myself?

    I happily take the evil(or most self-serving, at least) options if the reward is greater. Unless there are children involved. Even the suffering of fake, electronic children is too much to bear. And Bioware often throw in such a quest.

  10. Lars Westergren says:

    I’ve tried many times to replay classic RPGs as an evil character so I can explore the world and the characters more fully, but I find it SO difficult. I know intellectually it’s just pixels on my screen, but I just… can’t.

    Soon I’m back to to my usual ways. “Find your kitten for you? I’m urgently trying to prevent the destruction of the universe, but ok. No, no, no need to pay me either.”

    I’ve heard two of my favourite games, Planescape: Torment and Vampire: Bloodlines have great evil paths. Not just “Chaotic Evil Stupid” choices where you go around “I’m evil, raaar!” but more subtle chances at betrayal.

  11. Grey_Ghost says:

    I tried so hard to be a bad guy in that game after my first play through with my Paragon of shining light. I FAILED HORRIBLY! I just could not do it, the NPC’s made me feel like shit whenever I did something bad. It was the first PC RPG that ever made me feel too bad to be bad…lol.

  12. clive dunn says:

    Is there any game out where out of all the dialogue options there is always a ‘meh’ one. Can i conquer the universe with just my apathy?

  13. Alex says:

    I think my favourite character in KOTOR that can’t join your party is the twi’lek teacher at the Sith Academy. If you’re super awesome, you can convince her to leave Korriban. Unfortunately, she chooses to go to Jedi enclave on Dantooine which then gets nuked by Malak. It’s s shame the evil options weren’t as interesting. I think you can tripple-cross her, but that’s not as fun.

    I want to know: are you going to compromise your bad-guy ethics for a moment and let Juhani live so that you can torment her later, or just carve her up in the grove?

  14. Heliocentric says:

    I don’t mean raise the corpse of a horse from the dead and then beat it, but!

    Punching everyone in the face. Unarmed melee… In the face. Pussy jedis with laser swords

  15. Kanamit says:

    If he doesn’t carve Juhani up I will be disappointed. That’s one of the few points where you can actually propagate evil.

  16. Z says:

    Continuing the derail, the main reason I brought up that link was because it becomes abundantly clear how much better and more interesting the plotting and dialogue were in 2. The light-side dialogue options in 1 were all goody-two-shoes, while in 2 you occasionally got to be a bit of a prick when it was called for. It’s a damned shame it was rushed out the door.

  17. Adventurous Putty says:

    Needs more KOTOR II.

  18. Frosty840 says:

    I’ve tried to be the bad guy in two of these games. First war KotOR, which, like a lot of people, apparently, I failed at, miserably.
    I played that as a girl, on the basis that I’d played through being good as a boy, and there’s a fairly early-on conversation with Carth where he tries to chat you up, and the evil options for that are pretty ugly. I decided it wasn’t for me. At all. Ever.

    Second try at that sort of thing was in Mass Effect which I managed to get through on the basis that your choices there are basically between compassion and expediency rather than between compassion and just fucking around with people for kicks.

    I don’t envy you your task, John.

  19. Unlucky Irish says:

    I find it hard to be evil in a lot of games just because its so counter productive; seriously most “evil” options, even in generally well written games, tend to come across as the behaviour of a chain-mail clad Ned (read Chav if your and Englander) rather than anything genuinely mercenary. I mean, it’s against my nature to do something morally wrong just for the hell of it but doing so to further my characters agenda (in The Witcher for instance) comes much more easily. For example, in the second half Fable 2 (after the Spire) I found I was treating the good citizens of Albion worse than I had before, putting rent and prices up in my properties, stealing more or randomly slapping people in the street. My reasoning was that I had put my character through poverty, violence and imprisonment to retain the rights and freedoms of these plebs and not one had helped or even noticed. I was saving the world but i was making damned sure I was getting paid for it.

    Oh and on the subject of the gender of game characters; I always choose male if i can in RPG because I tend to play my characters as extensions of my own personality and that just come easier if they’re male. Also, I find sexualizing game characters more than a bit creepy. No offense.

  20. Angel Dust says:

    Pidesco nailed it when he said that nobody really does evil properly and, I would like to add, noone really does good properly either. It’s just ridiculous cartoon extremes with no often little relation to actual human behaviour. I believe the extremes should always be present but without the gray areas it’s always going to feel daft. The Witcher and Fallout are two that have managed to introduce gray areas and they are much stronger for it.

    Anyway it’s a great article and I can certainly understand your pain! I usually play as the good guy too, although I can dip into the inner bastard when it is called for. One game that does turn me into a complete bastard is Riddick. I know you don’t have a choice but I really get into the character of the ‘begoggled space murderer’.

  21. Kanamit says:

    I think the Geneforge series (http://www.spidweb.com/geneforge/index.html) pulled off a “shades of gray” morality system better than any game I’ve played. It’s kind of like The Witcher, but IMO done much better. I actually started having real second thoughts about the faction I sided with.

  22. DMcCool says:

    Bioware produce games with the uncanny valley RP options, IMO. The whole “I’m going to trust this total stranger with the most important decision of my life” buisness I just find..offputting. And the dialogue options are so polarised, cliched, I find it impossible to even pretend I’m RPing a real person in any of their games. I generally do as John does; first playthrough attempt at myself resulting in complete sainthood, second playthrough a saturday morning cartoon villain.

  23. Nick says:

    I can’t play evil either, it just doesn’t feel right to me. That said I will occasionally tell someone who is annoying me to STFU if the game allows it, but generally I’ll be nice. I was quite high in renegade as well as max paragon in Mass Effect for example.

  24. dhex says:

    “I’ve heard two of my favourite games, Planescape: Torment and Vampire: Bloodlines have great evil paths. Not just “Chaotic Evil Stupid” choices where you go around “I’m evil, raaar!” but more subtle chances at betrayal.”

    absolutely.

    mask of the betrayer is also a fun and interesting “play as evil bastich” option if you’re into that sort of thing.

    i’ve always wanted to try some of the spiderweb games, but i can’t get past the graphics.

  25. Klaus says:

    @DMcCool
    It’s called suspension of disbelief. It is completely normal in RPG land for people to consult a complete stranger for life changing advice. As is soldiers continuing the fight after you summoned an unholy demon to kill their comrades. Very patriotic, those men.

    The first time it became aware to me was over 10 years ago in Final Fantasy 7 – “I have to PAY you for potions when there’s a gargantuan monster wreaking all types of destruction?!?”.

  26. DMcCool says:

    Suspension of disbelief/bad writing. Its not like all RPGs are like this, its more of a running theme with Bioware and a lot of pretenders with a lack of imagination/unwillingness to take a risk.

  27. Z says:

    DMcCool: That sums it up nicely. Bioware is like your favourite genre author–sooner or later you’re going to read one too many of his books and you’ll get a moment of clarity where you realize you’ve just finished the 18th retread of the same plot. (Salvatore!)

  28. Nick says:

    “One person on EG does seem enormously angry with me, but I can’t quite work out what it’s about”

    It’s because you are a young upstart and a disgrace to proper “VG journalism”. Natch.

  29. Dagda says:

    I like this. I especially like that we have a decent, self-aware person with a good sense of morals doing this. The result is a piece that lays bare just how incredibly horrible you can be in KOTOR, in this sort of game period.

  30. skalpadda says:

    @DMcCool: “The whole “I’m going to trust this total stranger with the most important decision of my life” buisness I just find..offputting. And the dialogue options are so polarised, cliched, I find it impossible to even pretend I’m RPing a real person in any of their games.”

    I think it depends a bit on your attitude and what you want from the game if you find these things annoying or that they pull you out of character. I don’t really want to role play a real person, because usually real people are rather dull. I want a fun adventure where I meet interesting characters and get into fun fights.

    I also find real people are generally pretty boring and clichéd in the way they interact with people other than close friends, so I don’t find it that strange in a game. As for trusting strangers with incredibly important decisions, we have that in real life as well, when we go to the doctor or dentist, when we do military service (both trusting your fellow soldiers and following orders from superiors) government, police, career advisers, and so on.

    I found both KotOR games handled that fairly well since you could often get opinions from several party members before making a decision. I can completely understand if others felt it was lacking, but it worked for me as good entertainment :)

  31. Kadayi says:

    @John

    Quality stuff. I admire your dedication to journalistic inquiry to hold the course despite the wretchedness you’re feeling. Looking forward to further instalments. I must admit I generally thought pretty much the all of the mission choices seemed to be variations of:-

    1) make a noble sacrifice (+1 Jedi)
    2) Make a practical decision that gets you nowhere (+1 Neutral..and you can never trust a neutral..)
    3) Go into that room and strangle a box full of puppies in front of a captive audience of recently orphaned infants you bastard!!! (oh yeah here’s you’re lousy +1 Sith..hope you sleep well puppy killer….)

    Which short of being a Psychopath or imbecile pretty much made route 1 the only way to go.

  32. Hoernchen says:

    More evil please.

  33. Buckermann says:

    Thanks Z….
    I just wasted 7 hours of my life.
    Well, they are not really wasted. But still, the they are gone, and will never come back.
    Anyway, you owe me 7 hours. Someday I may ask you to get them back. Don’t ruin them.

  34. Iain says:

    KOTOR and KOTOR II are probably more fun to play by going down the Dark Side path than the Light Side path. And the top tier Dark Side powers are just ridiculous – by the time you get Force Storm (or Force Crush in KOTOR II) you don’t even need your lightsaber anymore.

    And HK-47 has much funnier dialogue if you play Evil… if that’s not a good reason to be bad, I don’t know what is.

  35. Lukasz says:

    awesome stuff, great article

    on my first playthrough of KOTOR2 I was myself. Took options which best represent my beliefs. Ended up as good neutral.
    didn’t see half of the content and didn’t even get the special class :(.
    they should give more options for being neutral.

  36. Helm says:

    Wonderful writing John Walker. Thank you.

  37. Z says:

    Buckermann: I warned you going in.

  38. Funky Badger says:

    Was incredible impressed with the “Evil Wookie Twist” at the end of KOTOR1. I find it easier to play evil the more cliched and insultingly stupid the choices presented in-game are – I’m looking at you, NWN2.

    (Playing through Fable 2 as a psychotic militant vegan is a barrel of laughs though)

  39. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Nice article. Couldnt play an evil guy if my live depeded on it, myself.. but then, I don’t care to do so either.

  40. malkav11 says:

    I greatly prefer playing the evil road when the option presents itself and is a true option. That’s pretty rare, though. Prior to KOTOR, I never found that evil was a genuinely viable choice for someone who wanted to take an experience-optimal path through the game. Sure, Baldur’s Gate and Fallout have the option to be a bastard, but you lock yourself out of quests, you get into a lot more combat (which you may not be able to manage), and you often get less reward for what you do do. Neverwinter Nights, the original campaign has “evil” options, but they’re mostly just being a bit sulky or wanting money for doing hard work (gosh, how horrible) and none of them have any influence at all. Etc.

    KOTOR, on the other hand, had a wide array of bastardry on offer and it’s perfectly viable, even a bit -more- rewarding to take the evil path and screw everyone you come across. Particularly rewarding? Being able to force choke an annoying person in one conversation. (Assuming you’ve bought the appropriate power, but you’re Dark Side, why wouldn’t you?) After that he won’t ever talk to you again, just look at you all frightened and wide-eyed.

    Unfortunately, there’s way too much “evil” which simply consists of wanting to get paid. That was 90% of NWN2’s original campaign “evil” as well. Though murdering the local bullies in the opening and betraying almost your entire party to serve the big bad evil are nice options.

    I should note that I don’t count wantonly murdering people as a viable “evil” solution – you can do plenty of that in Fallout 3, but it’s declasse. I look for the more intelligent brand of evil where I am killing people for specific gain or to unleash some greater atrocity.

    And I never am a dick to my party members. These are the people that I need to work with, after all. It doesn’t benefit me to tear them down and it certainly -can- benefit me to gain their good opinion even as I kill and poison and betray. Especially if, as in KOTOR II, I can talk them into my point of view.

  41. malkav11 says:

    Oh, and for the record it’s even better when moral decisions are, y’know, actual moral decisions with unclear impacts and murky waters. Like in the Witcher, or in the Geneforge games. But it’s really hard to pull that off and I’ll settle for having interesting, non-mercenary evil to perform.