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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
game: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
three star
posted by:
publisher: Lucas Arts
developer: Obsidian Entertainment
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 12:00 AM Thu Feb 24th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Thu Feb 24th, 2005

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Click to read.I remember with much satisfaction logging hours upon hours in the original Knights of the Old Republic. Evil was my game. Well, it was at first, anyway. When it came time to help some brats beat up an old alien merchant, I just couldn't muster the gall. I remember infiltrating bases, solving murder mysteries, and just getting completely absorbed in the universe. I'm not alone in my affection for KOTOR; it was one of the most well received Xbox games of 2003. This put considerable pressure on Obsidian Entertainment to create a title that could live up to Bioware's classic. Did they succeed? Yes and no.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords begins with you emerging from a  green kolto tank on a mining facility, alone and confused. Some simple investigation reveals that most everyone on board is dead. This sets the tone for things to come. KOTOR II is a darker game than the first. Some will find that a nice change of pace, but I, in my light sided wussiness, often found myself wishing for more of a feeling of wistful adventure throughout the game. KOTOR II is definitely more suited to the dark side player than the original was.

It also is more suited to the attentive player. On the very first world, within an hour or two of booting the game up, I found myself listening to journal entry after journal entry to find clues as to what my character should do next. At first I found these entries an interesting distraction, but the sheer multitude of them forced me to begin skipping through all the talky talky and just check my journal screen afterward to see if anything important happened. In general, the game is a bit too slow at the beginning. Not enough to make me turn off the Xbox, but enough to hand the controller over to whoever else was in the room on numerous occasions.

Once the game gets going, however, it's still the same joy ride KOTOR I was. I was off fighting baddies, exploring worlds, and getting myself the baddest looking Jedi garb I could scrounge up. I found myself especially intrigued by the new influence system. As veteran players know, in KOTOR I the relationship between the player and characters in your party was fairly one dimensional. They all had plot threads that you trudged through, mostly by just talking to them, but your relationship to the character never really had any dynamics to it. The influence system changes that, and does a good job with it. It works by giving you more or less influence or persuasion over a character based on what you say and do. For instance, calling your droid a bucket of scrap is likely to cause some resentment and lose some influence. Complimenting him on a job well done will do the opposite. And influence is not limited to what you say, what you do bears consequences on your party. A light sided character will glow at you with admiration for returning a precious item to an elderly man, whereas the darker ones will appreciate death, destruction, and pillaging. The payoff for this influence system is that you can actually make your party members follow your force-side persuasion. Turn that hunky bad boy into a man mother would love, or do as my friend Rachel did and corrupt that little T3 droid. It's peculiarly awesome how much joy accompanies strategically using your influence to get a balanced party you love and love to hate. As a side note, I very much enjoyed how the game addresses light side characters doing dark sided things as a result of being in your party. It's like the game sees the fourth wall and talks about it, but doesn't tear it down. Kudos.

Yes, once the game gets going, it's the same joy ride as KOTOR I. But that's the problem. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is essentially an expansion pack. It adds new content, new characters, new weapons and new worlds (although you revisit some worlds from the original, an aspect I find both intriguing and disappointing) with a few new twists, and that's it. The graphics are almost identical to the first game, and in some instances, worse. For example, members of your part will often disappear for a while, and then pop back up suddenly. The frame rate also seems to be a bit worse for the wear this time around, but that is up for debate. The point is it looks like a game from 2003, not 2004. The audio is also almost identical. I still love the fact that all the dialogue is spoken in the game, but at times the acting seems a bit stretched, and the audio is sometimes mixed a bit improperly, forcing you to keep the subtitles on even if you wanted a cinematic experience. And the cinemas are at times laughable. I remember howling voraciously after watching one video diary in which the subject is murdered from behind. He stops in mid sentence, because, you know, he was a victim of a surprise attack. But the load time was so atrocious that he stood there for five seconds in silence, then was hit on the head by another character, and then two seconds later executed his death animation. It's things like that that really pull you out of the game.

My final problem with this game is the ending. I won't spoil anything; just know that it seems a bit lackluster, especially for the light side. It seems as though Obsidian was being rushed to get this one out in time for the holidays, which is understandable, but very regrettable, as the story is fairly engrossing up until the end.

But don't get me wrong! I had a blast playing Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. It was like visiting old friends from high school, but friends who had done little in the intervening years. The rabid fans of the original will love it. The rest of you should pick it up when it gets to a discount price. A few new twists and new content are not enough to  be a great sequel in my mind, but Knights of the Old Republic II succeeds in being a very solid expansion pack. 

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