Knights of the Old Republic II

by MaxPower

R4NT staffers did a review on the original KOTOR back in August 2003 which can be viewed HERE. What we had in 2003 was a Canadian game developer who was just starting make a name for themselves with games such as Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights: namely BioWare Corp. based in Edmonton, Alberta. Since then, and with the subsequent success of KOTOR which went platinum on the Xbox and won 40 ?Game of the Year? awards in 2003 from various news sources, Bioware?s profile in the gaming community increased dramatically. So when LucasArts got a new developer ? Obsidian, who had never developed anything before, to work on KOTOR II, I wondered how true to form and good the sequel would be. My fears were partially allayed when we got a sneak-peak at KOTOR II during X?04 in Toronto last August. We thought it looked pretty good there, but as with any sneak-peak you need play the game longer to really find out. I also spoke to the game representatives who were at X?04 and they were very enthusiastic about KOTOR II (they better have been, that is their job ? to be perky and enthusiastic).

Anyway, given R4NT?s review and rating of KOTOR I (9.75/10) I thought it would only be fair to check out the sequel. The first thing I noticed about KOTOR II was that it really was a sequel to the first edition, and not a completely new game in a ?series? of games. KOTOR II came out about a year after the original, which, of course doesn’t give game developers enough time to create a new gaming engine from scratch. So in essence what you are getting is the same basic game features, driven off of the same graphics and combat engine as in KOTOR I. That is not to say there haven?t been some improvements. One of the few criticisms that R4NT raised in the original KOTOR review was that upgrading your character with weapons and skills was not as easy or as well developed as it could have been and that the upgrades themselves lacked depth. Good thing R4NT is so influential; one of the key changes in KOTOR II is that not only are the upgrades for skills, weapons and armour easier to undertake, there are more of them and you can customize them for your specific style. Score one for the developers listening to gamer feedback.

Kotor 2

That being said, don?t expect light years of advances with respect to game play. There have been some minor modifications made, such as the introduction of ?lightsabre fighting styles? and the ability to make your computer characters fight with a pre-determined style (grenadier, Jedi-support, ranged, stationary and aggressive) and while these new functions work well, the basis for the combat system is the same as in KOTOR I. A ?real-time turn based? combat system which works by conducting an advanced dice rolling program behind your actions to decide the probability and severity of damage. This was totally new and different for the original KOTOR and while not shockingly new now, it still works well, making combat enjoyable to engage in and visually entertaining to watch. There are also more choices for weapons, armour and upgrades, however, the same theme as in KOTOR I runs through the combat choices. Ranged weapons like blasters are definitely weaker than melee weapons such as swords or lightsabres, however, unlike the first edition when you had to make choices of ranged or melee combat for most of your characters, there is a new feature which allows you to equip both types of weapons and lets you switch between the two. So your characters can be firing long-range with a blaster and then switch to a sword when the enemies get close. This is a nice touch that basically just makes your computer characters even more autonomous when it comes to combat. No more worries about a ranged weapon guy getting slaughtered because they get into hand to hand combat by accident.

Also making a comeback is the ?light-side/dark-side? choices. The idea of having your game choices determine your actual alignment (good vs. evil) probably started with Black & White (maybe not, I?m not a game historian) and is now in many games such as Fable,and Jade Empire among others. However, in KOTOR II the options for light and dark sides seem to have been refined with more actions that you take impacting your alignment. Additionally, the choices are not as cut and dried as they were in the original. There are some morally ambiguous choices which may make some of your characters question your choices. What if you save some guy who owed somebody money from a couple of thugs? Nice of you, right? Well maybe you are perpetuating that guy?s ability to live a life of ?weakness?, perhaps he would have been better off getting a little beating to teach him a lesson. Maybe you should administer the beating. Such are the decisions you will be making, and sometimes when I made choices I ?thought? were light, I actually got dark-side points, adding another layer to the game play.

Kotor 2

KOTOR II?s story is complex and as with the original, it is told through a series of cut-sequences and long conversations with key characters. Sometimes you can get drawn into a conversation that lasts ten or twenty minutes, which is frustrating when you have somewhere to go (in real-life) and you just want to save the game, but it is revealing of the depth and complexity of the game. Another new feature for KOTOR II is that sometimes you are forced to play with characters in your party other than your main character. This makes you adapt your playing style to different (and usually weaker) characters and won?t allow for main character dominance as was often the case in KOTOR.

As with most sequels, and especially with this one, if you enjoyed KOTOR I you will enjoy KOTOR II. And if you didn?t finish KOTOR I because you got bored of it and went off to play some EA Sports game, then this is not the game for you. It is not for you because this game is essentially just another chapter in the same game and that this game is long. KOTOR II is every bit as big, interactive and complex as it?s predecessor. You won?t be feeling that LucasArts was trying to rip you off by foisting a quickie sequel onto unsuspecting Star Wars fans (nooo, they have never done that). Estimates vary, however, it appears that 40+ hours of game play are stacked into KOTOR II even without the learning curve associated with picking up a ?new game?. So count on 50+ hours if you are a KOTOR virgin and/or a very methodical player who needs to talk to everyone and explore every nook and cranny. It also feels much larger and more complex than did Fable and with very different story lines for light/dark sides there is definitely some replay value built into the game.

To recap: If you liked KOTOR and were disappointed when you finished it then you will like this game. If you didn?t like KOTOR then you won?t like this game. If you never tried KOTOR, check it out. Star Wars fans don?t get jobbed with this sequel.

  • Knights of the Old Republic II
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on May 1st, 2005

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