I wound up staying up until 1:30 last night to push through the final disc of Koudelka. All told, my playtime was on the order of 17 hours and I was hopelessly overlevelled for the final boss by the time I got to it. I probably made things harder for myself just because I insisted on prolonging fights to do stuff like build up Koudelka’s weapons skills, which I then never used.
I didn’t manage to take down the optional boss, mind you. There’s this point where you get chased out of a building by a Big Nasty, and if you go back and kill him you get the best sword in the game… but since the only reason to have the best sword in the game is to use it against the final boss, and the final boss is easier than the Big Nasty, the only reason to kill the optional boss is, well, to say you’ve done it.
I quite like the way the game plays with some conventions of RPGs. There is one boss, for example, that you can choose to fight and kill in traditional RPG fashion, but if you do a little bit of backtracking and complete a side quest, you don’t need to fight them at all – you just give them an item and they depart in peace. You also don’t need to actually beat the last boss to finish the game – in fact, if the last boss kills YOU, you get an ending that is arguably considerably more upbeat than the ending you get for “winning”.
I did have a weird realization when playing Koudelka, though. See, it really is a pretty limited game in a lot of ways. It takes place in a sequence of tiny connected rooms, the graphics are, well, not what you’d call amazing, and the gameplay, if you strip away the atmosphere and story, boils down to hunting for the red keycard to open the red door while occasionally fighting off random encounters.
At the point this was released (2000), I was spending every possible waking moment in Everquest, which was a massive world with huge zones and thousands of things to do. It’s easy to look back at it now and talk about it as dated by comparison to modern MMOs, but compared to everything else that was out at the time…