"Now, I’ve played the original Knights of the Old Republic, and found it simply extraordinary. That was a game that offered everything: an unforgettably epic story, the ability to explore worlds one could only otherwise imagine, as well as a delightful freedom of morality that hardly ever ceased to be entertaining. It all melded into an experience that only comes once in a lifetime. Of course, when the sequel to that very game was released a scant year later, from a brand new developer ..."
Now, I’ve played the original Knights of the Old Republic, and found it simply extraordinary. That was a game that offered everything: an unforgettably epic story, the ability to explore worlds one could only otherwise imagine, as well as a delightful freedom of morality that hardly ever ceased to be entertaining. It all melded into an experience that only comes once in a lifetime. Of course, when the sequel to that very game was released a scant year later, from a brand new developer no less, I had my worries. Would it live up to the original? Heaven forbid it tarnish something I cherished so deeply in my heart of hearts. The game’s attempts to sooth my fears with a proud display of its shiny “The Sequel to the 2003 Game of the Year” medal didn’t help, either. But just as Luke Skywalker knew he had to confront Vader again, the sequel was something I knew I had to play. After all, with a total count of eight lightsabers scattered throughout its outer cover, it certainly doesn’t appear to be a game that could possibly be awful. Fortunately, it really isn’t at all; Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords makes a valiant effort to recreate the magic of its predecessor, and the end result attains a level of success that KOTOR fans should be satisfied with.
Knights of the Old Republic II stars a former Jedi on the run from the Sith as the mysterious player character. Apparently, the galaxy seems to be doing rather poorly since the days of the last KOTOR--a state you may or may not have contributed to with your actions in the last game. (Early on, the game lets you explain how things turned out for you, which reflects on later conversations and events.) Like any Jedi with a destiny, eventually you’ll find yourself helping people, making things worse, or possibly even not caring one way or the other. It’s your prerogative, and one of many things players can still appreciate about the KOTOR series. Before you know it, you’ll once again be meeting oddball characters and hopping worlds with a purpose. Without a doubt, there are going to be moments when you’re walking on the deck of the Ebon Hawk where you’ll feel like you’re once again reliving the good ol’ days.
Obsidian Entertainment’s taken the engine from the first game, so KOTOR veterans should feel right at home exploring and battling foes. Combat and leveling up involves complex Dungeons and Dragons mechanics, although there isn’t anything that players necessarily have to understand or deeply concern themselves with. While the game works out all the numbers, all you see are the clashing of lightsabers and exchange of blaster fire instead. They’ve made some changes and improvements to the old formula, although there’s nothing too noticeable; for instance, each of your characters can now switch between alternate weapon configurations on a whim without having to access the inventory menu, ideally making the shift from melee to ranged combat a much more convenient process. Pazaak and swoop racing also make their return, but the recent additions to them might take a little getting used to. New cards, and new bomb-filled tracks that now require jumping of all things.
The level of customization available for you to bring to your character was one of the series’ more rewarding aspects, and that ability has been brought completely intact here. Picking what strengths and skills to build, deciding what kind of armor would be the most fashionable, and even the simple act of choosing the color of you lightsaber(s) contribute to how your character becomes almost an extension of yourself--as mirrored or idealized as you’d like it to be. The experience is bound to be quite different for everyone. Knights of the Old Republic has always been about choices, and it’s the choices you make that define who you are.
Despite all of Obsidian’s efforts to match the quality of the last game, however, The Sith Lords falls short in some unfortunate places. Surprisingly enough, the game is rife with glitches; the amount surpasses perhaps that of the original. Many of them prove to be terminal, so you’ll definitely need to hold on to multiple saves. On top of that, the game lacks much of the attention to detail that the first game had; when you’re scavenging through bodies or looting footlockers nowadays, what you can possibly find is completely random. (I suppose it shouldn’t matter that much, but finding something like a Targeting Visor in the remains of a fallen Sith Lord can strike one as rather strange.) For a supposedly finished product, the game seems to have an awful lot of typos among all the dialogue and game text; it’s especially difficult to think of the game as perfect in the face of so many forgotten periods and inconsistent spellings. As a whole, the game really could have benefited from proofreading.
There’s one aspect of KOTOR II in particular that feels sorely lacking compared to its predecessor. The original KOTOR had you conversing with any other member of your crew at any of the various points in the game and they’d more often than not have something new to say about things like life, love, and the Force. Every conversation you had worked developed the relationship that the player character had with a supporting character; listening to the characters talk, it was almost like the camaraderie was tangible. Casual chatting still occurs in this game to a certain degree, but much of the time it’ll be the same questions over and over again, or they might not have anything to say at all. You can’t even count on being able to ask them a simple “Do you know anything about this world we’re in?” anymore, and if you really do want to learn about your supporting cast you’ll have to deal with a newfangled Influence system that works out how much they actually want to talk to you first.
But that’s more of a personal dislike, really. Aside for a few minor disappointments, Knights of the Old Republic II still makes for a fine game and successor to the KOTOR line. It does most things right, and those are the things you’ll remember as you find yourself battling eight Dark Jedi at one time, or ignoring some poor soul’s pathetic pleas for help. Even if things aren’t exactly the same anymore, this will be a hard game to let go.
Community review by disco1960 (April 19, 2005)
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