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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

LucasArts

 

Developer

Obsidian Entertainment

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Solid Storyline
- Vastly increased party interaction
- Decent replay value

 

 

- Engine and graphics are dated
- One or two fuzzy spots in the storyline

 

 

Review: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox)

Review: Bladur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (PC)
Review: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC)

 

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Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

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Let me begin this by saying that there are two things in this world that I love much more than is healthy. The first is Star Wars, an entity in which I am completely absorbed. From reading books that expand on the original greatness of the films, to uber-nerdy all night pen-and-paper roleplaying, I am at the mercy of all things sprung from the mind of George Lucas. The second thing I find myself equally engrossed with are excellent, challenging, emotionally rivetting, roleplaying games. And for both of these things I walked away from Knights II pleased, feeling Iíd gotten something for my money, but knowing that I couldíve been given a better experience if they had have just used a newer engine.

The story begins with the Ebon Hawk, your chariot from the previous installment of the series, limping through space with an injured Hyper Drive. From that scene

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youíll be launched into a tutorial that, while Iím sure itís helpful to those who have never played, well, any RPGs before, I couldnít help but find it a pain. I played through it in hopes of it easing the transition to whatever was next, as some tutorials are apt to do. But if you want to skip it, go right ahead. It doesnít ease anything. Youíll find yourself on a mysteriously abandoned mining colony, with no

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lightsaber, no clothes, and in fact no connection to the force at all. But fear not; in the next fourty hours of gameplay youíll find all of those things over again.

But before all of that comes character creation. Iím pretty touchy about character creation, myself. A poorly designed or under-developed system can actually turn me off a game entirely. After all, roleplaying is supposed to be about slipping into the role of a character. What good is a roleplaying game then if you canít create a character you sympathize with, and enjoy playing?

The character creation system in KotOR II lacks. For those of you familiar with the first game, you can pretty much expect to see the same system used in that one, but with one or two new faces. Character creation amounts to picking a head, and a class. No separate options for skin colour, and hair colour.

Not even the ability to pick face and hair separately. Any roleplaying game that has come out since Morrowind and has this little character customization in it should have shame heaped upon said system. But for KotOR II this is just the first of several ways that the decision to make a run at the sequel using the original game engine has caught up to it. As for the other part of the character creation, youíre looking at the same three Jedi classes that were in the last game as well (Jedi Guardian, Consular, and Sentinel). And since they serve pretty much the same purpose as in the last game, I wonít list their functions here.

The storyline of Knights II captures the essence of being a Jedi, the essence of having the power and responsibility to make the choices between right and wrong. This is one area where this game outshines the first almost drastically. Be benevolent and a give a beggar more than he asks for, and watch him get jumped by street thugs. Return stolen property to an annoyed spacer and see him get butchered so someone else can take it from him. There were times playing KotOR II that I questioned my own boundaries of right and wrong, as well as my characters. And while there are times when the story is a tad fuzzy, the innumerable side quests, choices between light and dark, and solid Star Wars feel, make the storyline a definite plus.

 

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One of the biggest additions to the game was the influence system, and the ability to turn your cohorts and travel companions into Jedi. It was astonishing to watch not only my own character change as he fell into darkness, but his three apprentices embraced the Dark Side along with him. And whatís more, the characters that I had no influence with were pushed in the opposite direction, going farther and farther towards the light. And while there isnít a truly tangible change in personality when a character is of the light or dark side, I can only hope this is a stepping stone to something much greater should they make a third installment in the series. But even on itís own it adds significantly to the roleplaying aspect of the game.

The game is also graced with a new edition in the form of itís item and upgrade creation systems. Essentially, any items in your inventory can be broken down into parts or chemicals. Then these can be used at a Workbench or Lab Station, respectively, to assemble valuable medpacs, dangerous frag grenades, or a new lens upgrade for your lightsaber. And while the system is light, not too detailed or intensive, it feels in balance with the rest of the game. Itís not obtrusive, or unwieldy, which means it lends itself well to the casual player.

The combat system is the same fare as last time as well, but for those who donít know Iíll go over it. KotOR II utilizes a combination turn-based/realtime system, where you input commands and then on your characters turn theyíll execute them. It also features a pause button, for those moments when you want to control exactly what all of your characters are going to do next. The system is almost identical to the one in the first game, but in this case it doesnít bother me. The user interface was smooth, easy to use, and unobtrusive. And the system makes for quick-paced, but well planned combat.

And while that covers many of the major bases, there are a whole host of qualities that are hard to quantify, and that help to make the game such a fun ride. The appearance of characters from the last game, for one. The more advanced lightsaber customization was another one of those things that made me think that the developers really did have a good grip on what being a Jedi is about. The instances where I caught myself actually unsure as to what was the Ďrightí or Ďwrongí course of action always made me realize the strength of the game I was playing; itís ability to pull you in and hold onto you until your three hour game session has turned into a ten hour one. And the simple fact that the developers had gone through and made everything feel smoother, and easier to grasp. Overall, KotOR II is not another game of the year, not even a contender; really. But itís a solid game, and itís a fun game, and itís one that every game-starved, RPG loving, owner of the X-Box should pick up immediately.

- D.T. Mathers
(January 24, 2004)

 

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