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Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords Review for Xbox
Posted on Monday, February 21, 2005 @ 01:44:20 pm E.S.T

The history of Star Wars based games was rather bleak with only the popular X-Wing flight combat simulator gaining much acclaim. When real-time, turn-based RPG, Knights of The Old Republic — developed by BioWare — was released however, everything changed. The game revolutionised the RPG world with its fantastic combat system and captivating plot; it even won a BAFTA. Surprisingly, the rights to the series were sold to another developer, Obsidian, who was given the mammoth task of creating a worthy sequel. They’ve done a good job, seeing that they’d never made a game before, but you’re left wondering if BioWare could’ve done better.

The story picks up five years on from the end of the Jedi Civil War and your exploits as Revan in the previous instalment of KoTOR. You play as a Jedi in exile who through various circumstances has found him/herself saving The Jedi Order from destruction by The Sith. I did find the plot rather inconsistent at times. There’s certainly a lot of contradiction with what people tell you and it often has its dull moments. What I did find impressive is the way that the game extracts from you, through the in-game dialogue, the way that you played the first game; from the gender of Revan to the ending of the game. Things that you say in the game also affect various events in cut-scenes and various plot events too, which gives the game that extra interactivity that pulls you right in, like an RPG should. A gripe that I do have is that the dialogue does drag on. There is one character in particular you will dread hearing, which often led to me skipping important parts of the plot.

Probably the most annoying thing about KoTOR II is the fact that nothing has been done to fix the faults of the old game. All those bugs, glitches and quirks are all still around, loading screens are just as frequent, and the game still freezes randomly. I even encountered a message that read “Conversation node marked ‘Node End’ or ‘Node Edit’ reached, please contact Designer” which really does prove to me that they’ve taken care to clean up the game’s code. Sarcasm aside, these things are really things that could’ve been sorted out with a few more weeks testing. The combat system is really just as good as ever, using the Dungeons & Dragons DC System, along with the real-time aspect, really immerses you in the combat and keeps the game moving at a fast pace.

Obsidian has also added some more interesting features to the combat. The most prominent, and the most useful, are the lightsaber forms. These techniques, which you learn as you level up as a Jedi, allow you to change your character’s fighting style to suit the situation. For example, one form allows you to deflect blaster bolts more effectively and fight in large groups of foes; you can then switch to another form to fight with extremely powerful attacks in one-on-one situations. In addition, you can now specify a secondary set of weapons for all of your playable characters, which can be switched in the battle menu. This soon becomes useful when you need to switch from ranged to melee or vice-versa. As the default action in the menu however it is quite easy to switch by accident, which does annoy me frequently. They also added some more scripts to help you control your party a little better, the best of these being the stationary script. This means that you can tell your characters to stand still and attack, rather than running through a minefield and die, like they used to. I did find that most of the battles on KoTOR II were unfortunately rather easy, which spoilt the game for me slightly as I often felt unchallenged.

As with the previous game, there are plenty of quests to keep you busy with, including many more bonus or side-quests then ever before. These quests all seem to pretty much follow the usual running back and forth to various people trying to sort out various problems. There are however some more useful missions, such as repairing HK-47 by finding parts that he’s missing on the various planets you visit. There’s also been vast improvement in the sector of character development too. Now, when you’re on the Ebon Hawk, you can talk to the rest of your party and through discussion increase their skills and your own. You can even train some of the characters to become Jedi, which really gives the game that replayability factor. Speaking of that, Obsidian have worked in a system of random item generation for places that bear items — remains, footlockers etc — meaning that each time you play, you’ll end up receiving different items and equipment. Not an amazing achievement, but it does give the game that extra longevity to stop you playing through once and then trading in.

The alignment system, what decides whether you tend towards the light or dark side, hasn’t been changed much apart from some minor tweaks; there is however the new influence system. As you travel with your various companions, they will see your actions and your decision making. Decisions that they like will gain their respect for you, while the opposite will reduce their respect for you. As your influence towards a character increases, they will mirror your alignment. This means that as you gain dark or light side points, so will they, allowing you to turn characters from one side to another via your actions. One thing that really does get irritating is when you have to play as a character other than your archetype. It’s usually as the weakest member of your party, which results in either running around using stealth, or just burning up a lot of shields and medpacs. Whichever way it’s a part of the game that I just didn’t find enjoyable.

As I mentioned earlier, Obsidian haven’t really done much to the game’s original engine. This has in turn meant that the graphics haven’t really been improved, if at all. The most disappointing is that they have done nothing to update the character models; they still have the same problems with head equipment not fitting properly, polygons floating through other polygons and simply just lack the detail that we should expect at the end of this generation. The areas also have a large amount of ‘fake’ doors, which seem to be there just for effect but just end up frustrating you as they are often marked on the map as usable. There also hasn’t been a reduction in loading screens; they even seem longer than in the original at times. Slowdown still mars the gameplay, I’m not talking about a slight drop in framerate here, but you are frequently treated to the game losing around seven or eight frames per second in crowded areas. Not good.

The music, as you’d expect from a Star Wars game, is pretty much perfect. Huge orchestral scores dominate cut-scenes and complement environments perfectly. One slight grievance I have is this crescendo cut-in of music when specific events happen in the dialog, as more often than not it drowns out whoever’s speaking; which sucks when you have the subtitles turned off. The sound effects are also excellent, from the classic ‘wom’ of your lightsaber slicing through everything in your path, to the whine of blaster pistols. Voice acting is of good quality too, although they sound exactly like the people that voiced the first, one character, Atton, even sounds like Carth Onassi.

Overall this game is more like an extension of the original KoTOR, rather than a true sequel, and is just as satisfying to play. Definitely worth your money, but it leaves you feeling like some more effort could’ve been made to fix the game a little more. Bring on the third!

Review By: Ali Owen - 1140 Reads

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