Last yearís Knights of the Old Republic was, hands-down, my favorite game of 2003, and more importantly, the best thing to happen to the Star Wars franchise since The Empire Strikes Back. Despite its somewhat sub-par graphics, KOTOR had an incredibly open-ended story that made you feel like you were playing one of those old-school Choose Your Own Adventure books. It also had an easy to use, innovative combat system and some of the best voice acting in the history of video games.
It goes without saying that I was eagerly awaiting the release of Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. This game doesnít break the mold like the first, but itís still damn good.
Like its predecessor, KOTORII takes place thousands of years before any of the Star Wars movies, and is focused on the battles between the Jedi and the evil Sith. In the first game, you found your hidden Jedi powers and eventually uncovered your shady past (Iím Darth Revan? No effin' way!) This time, you play as a different character who has to pick up the pieces of his past, and find out why he's been exiled from the Jedi order. The story is a bit convoluted and a bit hard to follow, and really doesnít seem to have a real "Holy shit!" kind of moment like the original (shame, really).
The whole "choose your own adventure" theme that made the first KOTOR so amazing is back again for The Sith Lords, and it really makes you feel like your actions can have serious consequences, one way or another. The dialogue choices you have to make are more complex and meaningful, and there are new prestige classes (like being a badass Sith Lord) that give you incredible powers and a reason to explore every side quest in the hunt for precious experience points. Youíll visit seven worlds in all; however, two are completely recycled from the first game. Not only that, but a lot of the backgrounds in KOTORII seem all too familiar.
Sadly, the graphics of the character models and the choppy frame rate have not been improved. This was a major flaw in the first game, and I thought it would have been addressed. Ah, well. It doesnít take away from the fun.
When I think about it, the original Knights of the Old Republic is almost impossible to live up to, but Iím happy to say that KOTORII stands on its own. Itís a good, not great, game that feels more like an update than a real sequel. It is, however, a solid RPG that is a must-have for serious Star Wars geeks like me, and worth checking out if you were a fan of the first game.
Score: 8.5 (out of 10)
-- Jim Murray
Okay, Iíve spent well over fourteen hours in KOTORII, and am still only on my second planet. By contrast, when I hit the fourteen-hour mark in Fable (a game onto which I barfed up mounds of praise) the game was pretty much over, save for the Final Showdown.
The first KOTOR was arguably the most pants-wettingly awesome game since Ocarina of Time (non-Halo edition, of course) and was responsible for my buying the Xbox (despite the admonitions of some of my snootier friends). I mean, is there a cooler concept for a game Ė any game, not just a Star Wars-related title Ė than to be able to "choose your path," as the commercial beckons? Of course not Ė itís like a twenty-first century spin on all those Choose Your Own Adventure books.
When Fable was released this past fall, its main angle, again, was that whole good path/bad path thing. Unfortunately, there wasnít enough substance to support that gimmick, which probably explains why it petered out at fifteen hours or so.
Like many high profile sequels Ė Majoraís Mask, Iím looking in your direction Ė KOTORII had some mighty big shoes to fill. Fortunately Ė at least through fourteen hours and one-and-a-half planets Ė The Sith Lords (I just couldnít say KOTOR again Ė díoh!) slips right into the size thirteens of the original, with little wiggle room.
Some notable changes include the much-welcomed increased party size, and while I found it to be somewhat off-putting, some people may enjoy that you start the game with powers (which was not so in Knights I). Also, you have the option of keeping a secondary weapon handy, which can be accessed on the main screen instead of the Start menu.
As for the rest, the story is fairly interesting: as far as I can decipher, you play a Jedi who has been banished from the order, canít remember anything, and is of course trying to fill in the pieces, planet by planet, while simultaneously running from numerous foes. Because the character was previously sympathetic to the Sith cause, I felt the game was pushing me towards the dark side. I would have none of this, though (I just canít bring myself to destroy the galaxy).
While Fable was a great addition to the choose-your-destiny genre, KOTORII is really the Next Best Thing Ė much in the same way that Battlestar Galactica kicked some major ass, at least until The Empire Strikes Back came along. In a time when itís fashionable to trash all things Star Wars, despite whatever inherent quality they may retain Ė and, yes, Iím talking about Episode II Ė it would be hard for any sane person not to like KOTORII. And if they donít, well, just call them a scruffy-looking Nerf herder, and see how they like that!
Score: 8.0 (out of 10)
-- Aaron Solomon
Issue Date: December 31, 2004 - January 6, 2005
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