Review by PapaGamer

"Good going down, but leaves a sour aftertaste"

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords has all the ingredients for a brilliant game, and a more than worthy successor to its 2003 Game of the Year progenitor. The story is far richer, more entertaining and has more meaning than the original. The graphics, while not state-of-the-art, have been tweaked and look better than KotOR. There are more feats, Force Powers, classes and other goodies with which to play. And, thank heaven, you actually start as a Jedi this time.

However, once you finish the game, you'll wonder whether you should play again or uninstall it and burn the discs. The game is plagued by bugs, poor Quality Assurance and an ending--if you can call it that--that leaves much to be desired.

Obsidian Entertainment, a new game development company, scored big in opening its offices. By gaining development of two of the biggest CRPG sequels in recent memory: KotOR2 and Neverwinter Nights 2; Obsidian assured themselves of home runs for their very first projects. Unfortunately, they were so rushed with KotOR2, they almost blew it. The name alone will generate sales, and the overall story and design certainly shows that Obsidian--containing many experienced CRPG developers--knows their stuff and, given time, will put out a quality product.

The story in KotOR2 is more interesting and full of moral ambiguities, unlike KotOR1, which was pretty cut-and-dried. If one weren't desirous of the new Jedi Prestige Classes, one would be heavily tempted to stay neutral as both Light and Dark side of the Force are called into question. In the end, the KotOR2 story is less about fighting some great evil, and more about picking apart the Jedi and Sith philosophies and trying to find the true nature of the Force.

Along the way are the usual collection of FedEx quests; but, the designers have gone to some effort to weave everything into the overall tapestry and give you valid and compelling reasons to step-n-fetch. For example, on one planet, your goal is to either curry favor with or raise the ire of the Exchange. All the quests on the planet, in spite of their simplistic go-here-and-get-this-and-return-with-it nature, are performed in pursuit of the main goal.

The Light and Dark sides of the game are more divergent in KotOR2. Where, in KotOR1, you mostly did the same quests to similar resolutions in pursuit of Star Maps; in KotOR2, you have to take starkly different paths toward different goals, often interacting with completely different people.

This difference extends to your companions. Not only does your alignment (and gender, for that matter) affect who joins you on your quest, a new Influence system forces you to concentrate on only a few with whom you can develop a relationship. And some of those are much harder to influence towards an alignment that is opposed to their natural alignment. For example, some of the DS characters will never come to the Light, while it is almost impossible to make one or two of the LS characters fall to the Dark Side.

All of this gives the game a very realistic feel and an immersive play experience. There's no "converse-with-companion-level-up-converse-again" gameplay this time. You have to actually spend time with your companions and take them along on your quests in order to gain Influence and find out more about them. The reward is great: several of your companions can become Jedi, giving you a powerhouse team that is guaranteed to complement your character.

If anything is missing, it's inter-party banter, which is nearly absent. This does make some sense as the party is quite diverse and no one knows anyone else. Still, it creates a hole that one hopes is filled in KotOR3.

Other aspects of the game have been tweaked enough to give a mild feeling of freshness to the game. The graphics, while inherently the same, are slightly nicer looking, especially the character models. The music is, mostly, the same as in KotOR1. The voice-acting is, overall, top-notch with several excellent performances. Combat is enhanced with new Powers, feats and "Force Forms" that confer bonuses on lightsaber fighting.

That's the Good. Now for the Bad and the Ugly.

The game obviously lacks polish. There are misspellings and misused words in the subtitles. Some of the dialogue skips. Some people have experienced a misplaced camera that reduces NPCs with whom you are conversing to floating eyeballs. Many times, NPCs refuse to turn and face you, and you spend the entire conversation talking to the back of their head. Some cutscenes don't play out fully, skipping conversations.

Then there are the showstopper bugs--often graphic related, especially on ATI cards. For a game built on a legacy engine, this is really an unforgivable mistake. The Odyssey engine is just a modified version of NWN's Aurora engine, which dates back to 1999. How could Obsidian, in such a short amount of time, have so thoroughly messed up the engine; especially since all they did was enhance it a bit, not rewrite it? There are a number of workarounds that eventually will keep your game running, but not at the resolutions and high detail at which you might expect.

Finally, the game ends on a disappointing note. The credits begin rolling out of nowhere right after you fight the final boss. No real explanation is given of what just happened, why you had to fight the boss, or what happens next. One can hope KotOR3 picks up right where this one leaves off, but, for now, the lack of a true conclusion is unsettling and leaves a bad taste of the game.

So, should you buy this game? Should you play it?

Most definitely, Yes. Even with the bugs and the egregious lack of an ending, this is still one of the most immersive RPGs to come along in some time with a complicated story that will have you spending a lot of time thinking about good, evil and the true nature of the Force.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/28/05


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