Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords
Game title: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: PC and X-Box
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release date: December 6, 2004
Overall rating: 8.5/10
2003's Knights of the Old Republic was hailed as one of the best Star Wars games of all time, if not the best. It was recognizes for having lots of great Star Wars lore and an excellent story, among other things. With the game being held in such high reguards, it is always tough for a sequel to live up to the original in the eyes of the fan base, and, with such a short developement time (KOTORII was released about a year after the original), there was sure to be a sense of dread throughout the KOTOR community as to whether or not the sequel would be good or merely a cash in to make a quick buck. Did the game live up to the high standards set by the first one in the mind of this reviewer? Read on to find out.
Gameplay - 9/10
The gameplay in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is, in many ways, identical to the first game. It features the same great light saber battles and the same fantastic depth in gameplay that KOTOR fans came to know and love with their 30 hours plus spent with the first game in the series. For those that have not played the first KOTOR, allow me to explain. Knights of the Old Republic is a role playing game that features a battle system that is a hybrid of the turn based battle system that is common in JRPGs and the action battle system that is common in WRPGs. What this means is that there are no random battles. Enemies can be seen on the field. You target the enemy you want to attack and select what attacks or abilities you want to use. There is a brief wait period inbetween the attacks, but everything is done in real time, and battle is alot more fluid than a typical turn based battle system. You can issue commands to any of your three characters by cycling through them. You can also pause the game at any point to issue commands without fear of enemy attack.
The basic attacks come in a variety of forms, from the most basic swing of the light saber to the power attack, which deals a much heavier blow, but takes alot longer to execute. Every attack has it's distinct strengths and weaknesses, creating a good balance between them. There are also two basic kinds of weapons. Long range and short range. Long range are usually types of blasters and short range are usually different types of swords and light sabers. Having several attacks to choose from helps to keep then varied and from becoming boring. It is well thought out and has a nice balance to it. KOTORII, however, also adds one more aspect to this. How you can choose how your characters fight by choosing what force form they will use in battle. Each and every form has it's own particular strengths and usefullness in certain situations. Some focus on handing groups of enemies. Some focus on ability casting, and some focus on attacking a single enemy. That is very usefull against bosses. This helps to refresh an already excellent fighting system.
Far and away the best part of the gameplay are the force powers. With more than 40 force powers to obtain and level up, there is no end to the combonation of powers you can obtain and use and battle. IT has all of the common ones, like force choke and the ever cool force lightening. It also contains a few new ones, such as force crush. Force crush is an extremely cool power that literally crushes an enemy using the power of the force. When you use the force powers (which you gain once per level), it consumes force points, which are like mana for most other RPGs. It regenerates over time, allowing you to recharge your FP and cast another fspell. There are alot of both light and dark force powers, and they are balanced nicely,. Far and away, however, the coolest force powers are the dark side ones, which are, quite often, very useful in battle. I, personally, did not notice the loss of light side points through the use of dark side abilities. so no harm no foul. These really help to aid the feeling of being a true badass with a light saber (or two!), and they really pull you into the game, helping you feel like a true Jedi. You have seen it used in the movies, now use it yourself in the games.
As is standard with RPGs, KOTOR has furhter character customization by allowing you to devide earned points when you level among different attributes to strengthen your character. The playable classes in this game require different builds to make them as strong as they can be. There are also a large variety of equipable items, ranging from armor to head sets, that up your overall armor rating, your armor rating against the force and various stats. It just serves to deepen an already deep and involving game, but one more very interesting aspect of the gameplay is the influence system. Unlike hte first game, characters won't simply offer you all their information and backstories over time. You have to get them to talk by gaining influence over them. The more influence you gain, the more they like you, the more they will tell you. You do this through your various actions throughout the game, and their reactions to it gauge whether they will like you more or less. If you loose too much influence, they will only travel with you out of necessity and won't hardly talk to you at all, so it is important to gain influence, in order get all the aspects of the different characters.
Graphics - 7.5/10
The graphics for this game are almost identical to the first Knights of the Old Republic. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, seeing as how the first game did look rather good, it is not a good thing either. Truthfully, it is disappointing that the graphics show very little improvement over the first game. It is, by no means, a bad looking game, or it wasn't in 2004 atleast, but it showed very little noticable improvement over the first game. IT would have stood out in 2003, when the original game was released. It had a high level of detail for that time and was, truly, a beautiful game. Unfortunately, a year later, it just gets lost in the shuffle.
Overall, the game had a decent amount of detail, and it's universe was, most definitely Star Wars,. It took place on a variety of planets, some of which you will be revisiting from the first game, so the fantastic variety of enviroment from the first game is still very much in tact. Each planet looks completely different from the next and is a nice refreshment. This varied visual style really helps to keep the game fresh. The only thing that was an improvement over the original graphically, however, was the attention to detail on faces to portray more emotion, Admittedly, they did a good job of this, and it was a nice little touch. At the same time, it's like "That's it?!"
There is one major problem with the graphics in KOTORII, and that is slow down. The first game did not have slow down like this. When the action gerts really gritty, this game SLOWS TO A CRAWL. The first game did nothing like this. IT was fluent. So, why? Why is there slow down? It defies logic. Both games are made from the same engine, and they are both on the same graphical level. Both have lots of fighting going on at many points in the game with alot of characters on screen. Yet, for some reason, one game has extreme slow down and the other does not. Why is this? There is no logical reason for it, really. It knocks a bit off of the graphics score. If it weren't for this, it would probably score an even 8.
Sound - 8.5/10
What would a Star Wars product be without good music? How can you have Star Wars without good music? Well, there is good news in this reguard. Much like the first game. KOTORII: The Sith Lords does have good music. This game has many new tracks, alot of which are fantastic, along with many fan favorites. This game has alot of dark and brooding tunes that really help to set the mood and feel of the game. The story is very dark and brooding, so it is fitting that the soundtrack is as well. There are quite a few memorable tracks, as well. As is typical with Star Wars games and movies, the sound track is excellent with the epic feel you have come to expect.
The same cannot be said, however, about the voice acting. That is not to say that the voice acting is bad, but there are no absolutely stand out percformances. It does have a few high points, such as Kreia, whose voice is perfect for her personality, and some low points, such as Bao Dor, whose acting just seems a little bland. Overall, the acting is decent, but there is better out there. IT is about on par with the first game. Notable, but not truly fantastic. It could be worse. Atleast the voice work is consistently bearable, which cannot be said about many video games out there where it just seems half assed.
Story - 9.5/10
Quite possibly the best thing about the first game was the story. It had lots of fantastic Star Wars lore, and an excellent, non linear story. The second does not slouch in this respect. Infact, in one way, it even raises the bar. No, the story is not quite as good as the first game, but that doesn't mean that it is bad either. Rest assured, there is an excellent story here that is driven by a collection of excellent characters. Within the story, you learn different bits and pieces of it through your chosen responses to people in any given conversation. Quite often, this is also how you gain or loose influence on people, as well as light side and dark side points, and different pieces of the story change via the responses that you choose, and it all leads to one of two different endings.
The Ebon Hawk is badly damaged as it floats back into republic space, and most of it's crew are dead or in need of medical attention. The ship has no power to the engines, and it;'s survival lies on the shoulders of one droid that you will recognize from the first game T3M4. After having repaired the ship enough to guide it to a safe landing, the ship find's it's way to the Peragus Mining Facility. The main character, already a Jedi when the game begins, wakes up inside the med lab of the PEragus Mining Facility, where he meets a mysterious Jedi master named Kreia and a man who was imprisoned named Atton. It seems that the Republic has fallen on dark times, as a new Sith thread attacks from the darkness, but can never be pinpointed, and not much is known about it. Thus begins the journey of the Exile. What is the Exile's personal history? What is this new Sith threat that is virutally impossible to detect? Why is there a massive bounty on live Jedi? Why have all the Jedi gone into hiding instead of trying to discover the who and why behind the threat? Play the game to find out
As I previously mentioned, this game does have one upper hand over the original game, and that is the quality of the writing. The dialogue in this game is a step above the original. Much like the first game, this game has a collection of fantastic characters, each with their own unique back stories and personalities. Some of hte most interesting characters in this game are Kreia, a mysterious Jedi woman who has a bond with the Exile (The main character). She will become his teacher and show him the ways of the force and watch him grow in strength, and Atton, a fearless man with a blaster who has a a past that he would rather keep hidden from prying eyes and minds. The game also has a few returning characters that are sure to put smiles on the faces of people that played and loved the first game. Among them is a certain homicidal, psychotic droid that stands as one of the coolest robots ever and helps to offer good humor to a very dark and mature story.
Replay Value - 8.5/10
Another one of the better aspects of the first game was it's replay value., IT had no shortage of replay value, and this game is very much the same. There are three character classes and a multitude of ways to build each class. There are tons of side quests and items to choose from. There are seemingly endless story paths and characters to try to gain influence over and learn the background. There are also two different endings, one for the light side and one for the dark side. Ontop of all this, the game is lots of fun to play. It all adds up to this game having tons of replay value. I could see people playing through this atleast twice, and with 40 to 50 hours per play through, that is ALOT of hours put into one single game.
Final Thoughts -
You may be asking yourself if I think that this game lives up to the first one or not, after such a review, but, to put it simply, yes. Yes it does. It has nice new additions to great and fun gameplay. IT has a fantastic story with a collection of excellent characters. IT has very cool Sith lords, and just about everything else that you could want in a SW RPG. It is a fantastic game in most ways, but it has flaws, such as a few plot holes and extreme slow down. For this reason, it is not quite as good as the original, but no one expected it to be. IT is not, however, a disappointing game. It is excellent and loads of fun to play, much like the first one was. You would scarcely know that it was not ,made by Bioware if you weren't paying attention. That's how good it is.
Gameplay - 9
The game is lots of fun to play. It has tons of depth to it that really helps make this RPG go the extra mile
Graphics - 7.5
Disappointing. There is slow down. What looked good in 2003, looked average in 2004. Facial expressions are nice and eviroments are varied and not repetitive
Sound - 8.5
The game has great music and above average voice work, though the acting doesn't necessarily stand out
Story - 9.5/10
Plot holes hinder an otherwise amazing and fantastic SW story with lots of great lore. VEry in depth and great characters.
Replay value - 8.5
Tons of conversation paths to follow. Multiple classes to choose from. Choose whether to be male of female. Lots of side quests. 2 endings and very fun to play. It all adds up to lots of replay value.