Malik (1/13/05)

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords (XBox)

From Obsidian

The original KOTOR, which came out in the middle of 2003, was the game that made me change my thoughts on the XBox. This was the game that made me realize that the XBox could do more than FPS and sports games. KOTOR also went on to win numerous accolades from the gaming community. This included a few times being called the best game of 2003. 

So, when KOTOR 2 came out, the fanfare was, surprisingly, far more subdued. People either ignored it, or based all of their initial thoughts on the fact that it had the same (great looking) visuals and (easy to handle but fun to play) engine as the original. Few people seemed to pick up K2 in comparison to those who took the chance with K1. So, does it really deserve this lack of acknowledgement? Is it just a sequel in name and actually an expansion pack at best? 


This is what really matters in all non-MMO-RPGs. You don't play an RPG to simply look at eye candy and enjoy a fast paced action game. You plan an RPG to be immersed in a story, complete with it's world, characters, background, history, and in a sequel, you get to see how things have changed from the first game. 

I'm trying for no spoilers for K1, so bear with some vagueness. KOTOR ended with a great battle of Sith versus Jedi and Republic. Whether you played light or dark side in K1, the game still ended with an abrupt end to what happened to the Sith army, if the Republic could recover from the war, and the future of the Jedi. Well, K2 picks up a few years later. In this timeline, Darth Revan's decisions after the final level of K1 are left in the air. He may have gone on a personal crusade for or against domination of the galaxy. However, for sure we know that the world of Telos (the first world on K1) was destroyed, Dantooine (the world of the Jedi academy in K1) is in ruins after a major Sith offensive during the war, the Jedi are gone from the universe, and the Sith are just legends and rumors after Korriban (also from K1...the Sith academy) was left barren and in ruins (in more ruins, I should say). 

You begin as some former Jedi who was exiled from the Jedi order after following Revan and Malak in the Mandelorian Wars (the wars that took place shortly before the original KOTOR). You had given yourself up after finding the council had sealed your access to the Force. After that time, you had decided to travel the universe, alone and bitter, to find yourself. You begin on the Ebon Hawk (the ship from K1) severely injured after a Sith assault on the ship you originally were a passenger of. Shortly after this, with the help of some driods (including the T3 unit from K1), the Ebon Hawk arrives at the Perragus Mining Station. You remain in a coma in a Kolto tank (healing tank). 

When you finally wake up, you learn that everyone on the mining station was killed by severe mechanical malfunctions (mining droids trying to mine organics and random explosions...and ventilation systems pumping out poison gas). You are nearly alone. Nearly because you soon find a spooky looking woman named Kreia, who seems to know a little too much of your past as a Jedi and looks a lot like one herself. To make things more interesting for our loner hero, he has some sort of bond with this woman so that she can speak telepathically with him (I'm assuming you play a male character since I chose a male character). You also come across the only other remaining organic, a prisoner named Atton who serves as K2's Han Solo. He's abrupt, blunt, rude, but still serves as a force of good to counter-balance Kreia and her unusual style of neutral "justice" (which includes such lessons as "your followers are to be used and then disposed of when they no longer have anything to offer you"). 

Eventually, you will meet up with your friendly T3 droid (imagine an older version of R2D2), and escape from Perragus. You will then see such worlds as Dantooine, Korriban, and Telos from KOTOR. Plus you will also see Nar Shaada (a moon orbiting the home world of the Hutts), Dxun (the moon of Onderon that the Mandelorians started their galactic war from), and Onderon itself. In essence, the worlds from K1 may seem like redundancy, but they offer some interesting new areas and twists considering how they all met their own unique fates either during or after KOTOR. For example, Dantooine is now in ruins, the people are struggling to survive, anger toward Force users (that included you) runs high, and the Jedi Enclave is now in ruins. You will revisit some locations from the original, but usually they will contain plenty of new twists and a few extra areas are now included. 

Also, as you play, you will encounter, not counting yourself, ten other people who will follow your whims. Actually, I should say you will have the chance of encountering ten people out of twelve total (one character choice is determined by your alignment, and another choice is made depending on if you're playing a male or female character). Each one will come with their own back stories, motivations, hopes, and potentials to alter the plot. 

Ultimately, the plot is far more structured in it's open-ended methods than it was in KOTOR. For example, in KOTOR, the decision of being light or dark made no bearing on the actual plot until about 3 hours before the game ended. However, in K2, while the major plot decisions wont be as sorely affected by your alignment, character reactions and quest options will be strongly influenced by gender and alignment. You can even expect your party to note when you seem to be particularly light or dark sided. Also, many quests in the game give you the option of playing for a good side or an evil side, and this won't ultimately change the direction of the plot in the long run, but it will change the plot in the short-term. 

So, in the end, you have a far more immersive plot this time around. The plot will contain numerous twists and turns, characters in and out of your group will effect how you see the world and how the plot is shown, the loose ends of K1 are (for the most part) tied up, and you are given one of the most immersive plots seen on a console RPG. You just have to get through a lot of spoken dialogue (every line is spoken, and most are said by people you can understand), which is easy to do if you are ready for a good RPG and not just some damned RPG poser. You will be hard pressed to find something more involving than the plot of K2 (besides Xenogears). 

Game Play 

I'll keep a good deal of this to the point. If you played KOTOR, then you know the majority of the game (and if not, why not?  Actually click on the link to see a breakdown of that marvel among RPGs). The engine is the same engine that Bioware gave us in K1. You have the same combat/adventure menus, the same easy to use controls, the same three people in a party mechanics. The menus screens are also the same, for the most part, as we had in KOTOR. In fact, since this is definitely a game for people who played the original, and since the original was so widely played, I will just go over the changes. 

The first change I noticed, as I played, was the weapon equip options. Instead of having to change your equipment from the main equipment menu every time you would like to go from a melee to a ranged weapon, you now have two weapon slots (per hand...unless your character only has one person does have this problem). You can put whatever set up for these two weapon configurations that you want (usually you'll chose melee and ranged, but you could always have a droid killing weapon in one set up and a organic slayer in the other, etc), and then using a option on your main adventure/combat menu, you can change weapons on the fly. This will save you a good deal of either time or frustration. Especially this will help when you're playing in a party of one and need to go, in a hurry, from ranged to melee over and over. 

However, the second change I found, which was about the most impressive change, for me at least, was the "influence" system. In the game, as you talk and act out in front of your party, they may take note of your actions and words. Then, you will usually be prompted with either praise if you did something that fits an NPCs behavior, or you will be presented with a question or a demand to justify your actions if you did something less than favorable. If you did the latter, then you will be able to either justify your actions or to tell the player to shut the hell up. This will either build or diminish how influential you are to your party. Both sides of the coin have advantages, but to be influential is usually the best option. 

As you gain influence, some new conversation topics become unlocked and you are given a chance to better learn said person's back story. Also, with almost all the humanoid characters, you can then unlock the ability to train then to become Jedi. This means you can turn your nearly useless scoundrel (Atton was useless for me once I had learned all of the skills he knew, but better) into a force using madman. Or, better yet, when you have a soldier, like Handmaiden, you could turn her into a Jedi Guardian to bring about not only lightsaber action, but also she can be a new party buffer. 

However, you can also have fun with losing influence. If you decide that someone has been too nice to you, you can turn the tables and make then leave you alone. This only really works for evil minded players, but it can be fun. Also, as influence is built or lost, the NPCs will start to shift their alignment to match yours. That means if you go full light or dark and gain your side mastery (another new feature; if you go fully light or dark, you will get a stat boost based on your guardians get strength boosts) and have high influence all across the party, more people will have mastery along side you. 

Beyond these features, the only really new feature is based on alignment. Starting with the prestige classes; these work much like changing into a Jedi did in KOTOR1. You will be able to change from a physical class like the guardian to a skill based one like the Jedi Watchman. Or you could remain what type you were and become more refined. Whatever you chose. There are a total of three starting classes (same Jedi classes as in the d20 game and KOTOR1) and then there are three dark side and three light side prestige classes, which are only available to the main character and only if he/she is about 3/4 light or dark in alignment. Each prestige unlocks access to a certain new set of abilities. For example, the Sith Lord (evil mage type) gets access to the power Force Crush; the most powerful offensive ability in the game. Also, the Sith Assassin and the Jedi Watchman (the sentinel based prestige classes) get Force Camouflage which allows you to use stealth without a stealth generating belt...basically opening up an additional equipment slot while retaining they both get sneak attack to take advantage of their great stealth skills. 

The other new change is game play that deals with alignment is the way in which people react to you. In KOTOR, people only noticed your alignment if it was a key plot point which involved alignment (like the option of killing your good party people or keeping them all with you at the end of the game). In KOTOR2, you will be commented to, time and again, about how you look haggard or are too cruel, even when not actually acting that way at the time, just because you're a touch too much to the dark side. Also, your generosity and kindness will be brought up time and again if you feel inclined to travel the light side. 

Beyond these changes, the game is still the same old engine and game play found from KOTOR. You can still stack a few actions in a row to perform in combat, you still have a party of three at a time, you still have side quests, you still have to earn that old lightsaber, you still have a scoundrel pilot for the same old Ebon Hawk, you still pause with the white button, you still pull out your lightsaber and do a cool twirl with the Y button, you still have the same powers and feats (with a few nice additions, but mostly just old ones), etc. There is nothing too much that's new, but there is no problem with that. KOTOR looked hella good in 2003 and KOTOR2, using the same engine, still looked really sweet in 2004, and now in 2005 it's still nearly flawless...except you can expect more bugs this time around. The game will freeze even more in KOTOR2 than in KOTOR. If it wasn't for the bugs, this would be the ideal for all RPG engines, and with the bugs it's still heads above most of the competition. 


The exact same as KOTOR. This is not a bad thing since KOTOR still looks pretty. Anyone who tells you that the visuals should look better with a game that's a year and a half newer than the predecessor is full of shit. The game looks great. Nothing new doesn't always mean a game is bad; it could simply mean the game was great the first time around and is still great in the present. 


Same deal. It is all the same as KOTOR, but with far less annoying repeated alien dialogue. The few alien spoken lines are far more varied and not just the same damned line of Twil'ik over and over again, like it was in KOTOR. Once again, every line is spoken and displayed as text. Also, once again, the voice acting is some of the best you'd find in a game. When someone is pissed they sound pissed (press someone about something too personal and they will snap at you), when they are amused they sound amused, and when someone is scared (this is for you dark side players) they sound terrified. 

All of the same sound effects from KOTOR and from the SW films are back. Lightsabers, engine sounds, Wookie speak (I know, it's something like Shreewook, but I don't want to admit to being that big of a geek in the SW world), Huttese (Hutt speak), blasters, automatic is all just like you remember. And in all honesty, if the sounds were updated and changed, we would not enjoy it; what's SW without the trademarked SW sounds? 


Despite the claims that KOTOR 2 has the underlying flaw of being more of the same, it can be seen that keeping a sequel true to it's predecessor has it's merits. KOTOR 2 uses the same old awe inspiring mechanics and engine to keep the game play solid, it uses the same breath taking visuals, and it keeps the same favorite sounds from the SW films and games. At the same time, the plot recaps the original's plot to keep new fans interested and intrigued (even possibly helping to push the original KOTOR to a new audience), but it draws out and concludes the story of the original to keep the long time KOTOR fans interested. While the game may be heavy on dialogue, this is only a failing if you are more obsessed with "the grind" than with the plot...and if so, I have 6 letters for you; MMORPG. This is a typical RPG and therefore the plot is king. So, assuming you are part of the intended audience for this game, or even new to RPGs but interested in plot, KOTOR 2 definitely deserves a 9.5 out of 10 (if not for the constant freezing and saving bugs, this would beat KOTOR's 9.8 in an instant). It only brings about further progress with an engine and setting that was, and now still is, far ahead of it's time.


You will need to get used to the following screen all over again

Imagine this man as a're wrong...He looks like Santa Claus

Notice the additional weapons slots...yeah, that's nice

Get ready for a lot of force powers...

...Like Force Sight