Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox
Publisher
LucasArts
Developer
Obsidian
Genre
RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Continuation of the excellent RPG story
• Great voiceacting
• Influence system is a nice addition
• Darker story

The Bad

• Lots of glitches
• Long load times
• Last planet feels tacked on

 
Grade
B

Set some years after the first KotOR, The Sith Lords places players into the role of the Exile, a jedi who was kicked out of the order for following Revan and Malak to war with the Mandalorians years before. Along with being kicked out the order, the Exile has lost his/her connection with the Force, or so it seems. Players will find themselves amnesiac (how convenient) on what seems like a deserted mining colony. Before too long, you have a few party members and a whole lot of questions. While it takes some time to get rolling, the story will find you flying all around the galaxy looking for Jedi Masters, all the while dealing with Sith and a bounty on your head. When you do get to the heart of the story, you'll find characters who are far deeper and fleshed out than most RPGs deserve to have.

The gameplay behind KotOR II is noticeably similar to the first. Okay, maybe not so much noticeably as it is pretty much the same gameplay engine. Combat is played out in a turn-based engine that allows you to move your chosen character about, taking actions based on certain hidden factors that makes the game look as though it is real-time. Along with basic attacks, you can use special attacks, Force powers, use mines and grenades and items to heal or improve your character's statistics. Since you have a party of three most of the time, you'll also have to take into consideration their actions and set their AI accordingly.

Outside of combat, players will find themselves dealing with a lot of conversation and a massive pile of quests and requests from NPCs from all walks of life. How players act and react to these quests shapes how they develop as you gain light and dark side points, driving you either toward the light-side Jedi or dark-side sith. The game structure is fairly similar to the first game: players are moved along a linear progression through the first two locations and then given four other planets to visit at their discretion only to end the game in one final location. While the story gives you obvious plot points to follow to get to the said "end" of a planet, you'll often find yourself involved with the struggle on the planet, most of which prove to be power-struggles of one form or fashion.

Where Sith Lords differs from the original is in how the player interacts with their allies. This time around, players gain and lose influence with their allies depending on their actions or their responses to conversations. The more influence gained, the more your allies fall in line with your alignment. Since you have a larger cast of allies with a variety of what does and doesn't please them, players will have a challenge to try and get everyone within your influence. Why would you want to go through all that effort? To turn the non-droids into Jedi (or Sith) of course. Yep, you can now make most of your allies into Force-wielders with enough influence.

What else is different? Well, more than a few things that makes it obvious someone was listening to the complaints of the fans. First and foremost, you'll get Force powers nice and early. Since you're a fallen Jedi, you'll be getting to use powers and skills right away. The downside? It'll take you way too long to get a lightsaber. And, without the lightsaber duplication glitch found in the game, it may take you a long while before you find enough of them to equip your cadre of Jedi effectively. Fortunately, there are tons of new Force powers and abilities to go around and at a certain point in the game, you'll be able to pick from a group of new Jedi and Sith classes, each with their own specialties. Also, the level cap has gone from 20 to around 50, though you'll find it damn near impossible to get past 30 without abusing one of the many experience glitches. You'll also find that most of your allies has certain things that they are good at, which actually puts some weight into your party selection.

Visually, KotOR II is a minor step up from the original, though it may be difficult to tell without looking real hard. While the game takes the original's engine and adds more detail and effects to give the game more life, it still feels flat and blocky in areas. For the most part, you are given some nicely detailed locations and the game certainly looks like Star Wars, but the character models still feel a bit stiff. Obsidian did manage to add some new NPC models so that you don't see so many of the same as before, but the PC choices all still look rather uninviting. Luckily, most of the characters you ally with tend to look pretty good, especially the Handmaiden, Atton and Mandalore. Where I find that the graphics falter is that most locations lack the sense of deserved awe that locations from the first game garnered. Large portions of the game are played in space station interiors or drab caves, leaving smaller portions for the more beautiful exteriors.

Much like the graphics, the audio portion of the game feels largely unchanged. This really doesn't prove to be much of an issue as the audio portion of the first game was quite excellent. Lightsabers and blasters sound as they should. KotOR II's sound effects are obviously pulled from the same audio library that most any Star Wars title uses. These effects are assembled well enough to provide a tangible atmosphere to the game world. Voice acting is once again excellent on all fronts, from the main characters all the way down to the nobody NPCs.

The Sith Lords proves to have a much darker scope in terms of story. Events feel much bleaker and the characters tend to be more edgy in terms of their pasts. Because of this, some players may not enjoy the story as much as they did the first title. It doesn't help that the game tends to take a while to get up to speed. This is made even worse by the fact that the final planet feels tacked on and the story seems to be wrapped up for the sake of just being done with it. I would almost suggest that if you do play KotOR II, you stop playing before the final planet to keep from feeling jilted.

And then there's the fact that Sith Lords feels as though it's unfinished. As mentioned before and detailed on many message boards, the game is littered with glitches, some of which can be used to duplicate items or get assloads of experience. Others can cause fatal errors that will force you to reload from a previous save. I myself ran into a glitch where a boss fight had both bosses fighting each other. When one was dead, the other stood around like a standard NPC, leaving me with no recourse but to quit the game. On top of that is the fact that a lot of the story sequences feel clunky and are animated poorly. To top it all off, there is still ridiculously long load times that can be a bear if you have to travel through a few areas.

With all these issues and complaints, the fact that The Sith Lords is still worth your time to play speaks volumes. If you enjoyed the first title, you're sure to enjoy the sequel. I would have to state that if you haven't played the first game, you may not get into this title as easily. I do hope that by the time KotOR III rolls around, the developer will have a lot of the issues that plagued this game resolved.

- - Kinderfeld

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