This is really more of a follow up to the discussion Ace and I had on Planescape: Torment (since both games were written by Chris Avellone), but here goes.
I did play Planescape: Torment to it's conclusion, and my opinion of the ending was exactly what I predicted it would be. The revelation of the motives of the first incarnation of the Nameless One is so banal and cliched that it immediately sucks any air the story had left up to that point. The discovery that the Transcendent One was the lost mortality of the protagonist was very powerful and evocative, but ever since visiting the tomb of the catacombs it was clear that the real mystery was how the Nameless One had gotten to the point he had arrived at, especially how and why the original incarnation sought and gained immortality. And then you confront the three most common personality types of your countless numbers of incarnations at the Fortress of Regrets, and they are portrayed in a very simple and uninteresting manner; the Practical Incarnation is ruthless and selfish, the Paranoid Incarnation is, well, paranoid, and the Good Incarnation is simply good and remorseful. Extremely disappointing after all the complexity and subtlety that had come before. And then you find out that the first of you was the Good Incarnation, and you find out his motives for seeking immortality, which could have been guessed after about three tries at the beginning of the game...gah. That and the fact that approaching the end Avellone seems to be afraid to really try to answer the critical question "what can change the nature of a man?" and hides behind the player's freedom of choice. Those two decisions just destroy the power of the story. I mean, the game is just brilliant and inquisitive right through the confrontations with Ravel and Trias.....and then it just falls apart. The most disappointing gaming experience I have ever had.
So I really disliked Avellone for a while until I played KOTOR II. Mind you, the version of the game I base my opinion on uses a torrented mod by Team Gizka's that restores a lot of what Obsidian had written and even made full voice recordings for, before Lucasarts in their infinite wisdom bullied them to release the game for the holiday season before it was finished. It's not Avellone's fault the ending is still incomplete even after the restorations, and I've tried to make educated guesses as to what he meant to place in the gaps of the ending. But I digress.
The game still follows the familiar pattern of Torment; it asks intelligent, intriguing questions and doesn't quite have the guts (or the time) to answer them fully. The game is almost a deconstruction of the Star Wars mythos, in fact. The story primarily questions the codes of the Jedi, the Sith, and the existence and nature The Force itself. The flaws of the Sith are, of course, easy to understand, though Kreia also points out the strengths of the Sith as well. But that attacks on the Jedi code and Jedi morality are brilliant. It shows how the refusal of the Jedi to intervene in the Mandalorian Wars was not wise, it was suicidal, and how hesitating until one is sure of the right course of action can lead to the dark side as effectively as the worst examples of impatience and arrogance that the Jedi Masters so feared.
And most important, it asks questions about The Force that noone had dared to ask until now. Whether it is right for there to be a Force that dominates the free will of individuals and can doom them or save them. Whether it is right for there to be a Force that allows a Jedi or Sith to control the fate of the galaxy. If the Force is truly inseparable from life itself. If there would be much less suffering and misery if The Force did not exist. If a user of the Force can be so blinded by what The Force allows them to see that they ignore what is right in front of them. Whether a Jedi's study of the force has really made them more connected to life or if they have actually cut all of their real connections to others with their monastic and cloistered living style, sheltered from the day to day struggles of existence.
As the story progresses and it comes time to try to answer some of those questions, Avellone displays a bravery in his writing that I never saw in Torment. True, he never really gives an answer to the question of if the Jedi Code is wrong, then why is it wrong, and therefore what was the correct course of action during the Mandalorian Wars (or if there even was one), and I don't think that he was planning to answer it even if he was given the time to finish the game. But he gives answers to the smaller questions that give hints at the big picture, which is more than he ever did in Torment. And his questioning of The Force through Kreia, thank god, really did lead somewhere. The game showed how the Force can blind and obscure the truth, how the force might have a will independent from the life that spawns it, and even how life can turn away from the Force and not be itself extinguished, and thus destroy the Force outright.
My only real complaint is that by the end of the story we have no idea where to go from here. The movies, set thousands of years later, show a galaxy where the Force and Jedi are alive and well, where the Jedi code is still the path away from darkness. At the end of the Sith Lords things couldn't look grimmer; how did the Jedi reestablish themselves despite the disintegration of their beliefs, and why did they choose to embrace the Force again? Did they forget the lessons they had learned, or if not, were those lessons refuted in the years afterward? Or did they reach a new understanding of the Jedi Code and the Force that took what they had learned into account? I wanna know. That's why it has to be Obsidian that makes KOTOR3.
In conclusion, KOTOR2 is a flawed, incomplete story, but it still displays an intelligence and bravery in it's writing to the end, and thus redeems Mr. Avellone in my eyes. The combat is also much slower and more defensive oriented, to my satisfaction, and it's clear Obsidian squeezed every ounce of good gameplay they could out of the engine. My only other pet peeves are that HK-47 was too rationally witty and not as purely sociopathic as he was in the first game, and that the Disciple is a boring character and thus takes a lot of fun out of the female romance subplots.
And yes, I just wrote this whole thing about a little game. Oh well. It get obsessed with good stories in general and this is no exception. For those of you that made it to the end, thank you for enduring my writing style, and my apologies for boring you.