Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords
...And in the beginning,
was a man called George Lucas
Star Wars. Is there another
science fiction universe in this world that has been so embraced by
the masses, so despised by some, and adored by others? Most of all,
though, has any other science fiction universe been so expanded
after it was created, and not much of it by the creator’s hand?
True, it might have been authorized by the man himself. But from
what I have gathered in the 10 years since I saw the Star Wars
original trilogy for the first time, it seems all additional
fiction, comics, books, games, music -- all you can think of – has
been created by other people. Even the huge Star Wars fan base has
contributed: websites, special leagues and fan fiction have made
this world unique.
From this, everyone gains something. The man in the suit (in this
case flannel shirts, George Lucas´ favourite clothing) gets the
money from owning the whole circus, the creators receive money from
their efforts (or respect from the fans if they are writing, e.g.
fan fiction) and we, the fans...well, what could be better than just
having to open your mouth and have candy fly into it? I would guess
we are quite spoiled after all, even though we don’t think much of
Now...I apologize for the long rant above (praise, depending on your
point of view), but just before and at the moment I am writing this
review, I have been reawakened to a wonderful phenomenon known as
fan fiction. Yes, fanfiction.net may be largely populated by 12-year
olds with a testosterone problem, but amongst this screeching horde
of vulgarities and NC-17 stories, a courageous bunch of writers
stand strong in this constant uphill battle.
As a shining example of this,
I encourage anyone interested in Knights of the Old Republic fan
fiction to read the story “A Casualty of War”, which resides hidden
on fanfiction.net. A direct link for you is
It seems I get carried away sometimes and keep prattling about
things I shouldn’t, so back to business.
...And after that, there
were the games
One of the things that Star Wars has spawned since the early 90s and
even before that is games. It started out as arcade games, simple
blip-blop-avoid-the-clogs games, to be continued with first person
shooter games such as Dark Forces and later on arcade games for the
PC such as Rebel Assault. But never until Knights of the Old
Republic (KotOR) did LucasArts attempt a role-playing game in a Star
Wars environment (unless you count the sorry excuse of Yoda Stories,
which I don’t).
The first (hopefully) of
With KotOR we got exactly what we all wanted in a good RPG, except
possibly a bit more size and more ways to reach an objective.
Nevertheless, it was a classical, epic Good versus Evil saga, with
numerous ways to interact with people, resulting in a change in your
own character towards good or evil. It also had interesting
characters, and together with the truly excellent story, (not one
person I have spoken to was able to foresee the story’s huge twist),
it formed a solid game. Maybe not one you play over and over again
to see how different things can be, such as Fallout or Baldur´s
Gate, but still something that kept your interest after you finished
The game left you hungering for more of the same thing, and even if
rumours say it was planned from the beginning, the demand of the
fans certainly helped the development of a second game, released
only a year after the first. This time, though, it was Obsidian
Entertainment who held the strings and not Bioware. Still, even if I
am fanatically loyal to Bioware, Obsidian has warded the legacy
well, if not flawlessly.
The successor and some
Knights of the Old Republic
II: The Sith Lords starts out slightly more mystically than the
first game. You are mortally wounded aboard a very familiar star
ship, drifting in space.
All Trask haters rejoice. You will not have to play through the
Prologue every time you play the game. You may simply choose to skip
it, though I recommend playing it the first time as it adds a few
details to the story later on.
However, after some adventures aboard your vessel, you wake up
aboard the Peragus Mining facility, where something seems to have
happened. There is no welcome committee, even though you are a most
peculiar visitor and you should have attracted the attention of at
least a doctor or nurse, shouldn’t you? In normal order, you travel
through the mining facility, meeting up with other NPCs (I will not
say friends, because it’s something of a vague expression) who will
aid you in your quest.
Meet interesting people
from all around the galaxy
Ah, yes, the NPCs. As with the earlier game, you can converse with
them about their (more often than not) dark past while making
progress through the game. Something new about them now, though, is
that each party member or NPC has a certain set of mind. Through
different actions or conversations you can become more of an
influence on them, which may result in some changes later on, which
I will not spoil now. This is a refreshing change from the usual,
and will force you to take more things into consideration than
whether you want to just kill someone or be kind to him, to take a
All characters seem to be at least as, or perhaps even more, fleshed
out than the ones in KotOR. Everyone has their own story to tell,
and they engage in conversations more than before, too, which is
nice, as they don’t just stand around totally ignoring everything
but you and your enemies.
...And gain their trust,
or crush their egos
You cannot expect to get to
know everyone’s life stories as you did in KotOR, though. First you
will have to gain their trust, and that is where the influence
system is applied, making them a bit more than just mentally dead
meatbags (to quote a favourite character of mine). When they are
together on your ship they also quite often interact with each
other, making it feel like your own private pet house after a while,
trying to keep track of people.
The only drawback is that
there are unfortunately too many loose ends (which I will return to
At occasional points in the game, you will be able to take
on the role of certain individual NPCs. This makes you redefine your
way of playing, making the game a bit more varied than it would have
been otherwise, and it is a nice way of distracting you from the
other “path” your character is currently following.
The choices, the choices
And with your lovely
companions at your side, you stride through the galaxy, winning the
love and respect of everyone and beating the evil villain in the
Or do you? No matter which path you choose, I can assure you this
will not be the case. Whereas the first game was the very typical
Good versus Evil story, this is not at all the case here.
A third KotOR is already in
the works, and it is rumoured that they made it to be like the
original film trilogy. The first as an opening, the second
descending into darkness and the third the majestic resolution of it
all, ending the saga.
Meaning that in KotOR II, you
do not play someone destined for greatness or glory, merely someone
trying to make his way through an unforgiving galaxy and what it
holds. It is not an easy task, seeing how things affect you and
those around you, as well as the many interpretations of the world
that can lead to all kinds of trouble.
And to add to this, it is up
to you to figure out who you are and what has happened in the world
during your absence (this will be explained in the game). You have
not suffered a memory loss or something as drastic, but throughout
the game, the player him/herself gets to know who the main character
is, as this is not explained in any kind of prologue. Frankly, I
think it was a smart move, as you do not have it all staked out for
you to follow.
Much of this game is shrouded
in debates about morality, the truth, and how we all see the world.
If you like to engross yourself in deep thoughts, this is a game for
you. I guarantee it will make you pause at least once to think about
the world around us.
However, managing to do this of course requires a decent control of
your party members, and I can happily report that the old system is
still in use, although it has been improved in many ways. For
example, now everything in the inventory is divided into different
categories, making it twice as easy selling and buying stuff as
before. No more miniature searching for just that small but
essential part you are looking for to make something work. Cheers to
Obsidian for that.
people...and dispatch them
In fights, everything is the same as before; you fight, choose
different types of attack, use force powers or items or throw
grenades. All done smoothly, although the pathfinding when in battle
leaves a bit to be desired (sometimes your characters just can’t
seem to reach an opponent and then they just stand there instead).
What is new here is the ability for you to choose between a number
of different styles of fighting when using melee weapons, each of
which works in a different way, making the combat more interesting.
You do not know all of them to begin with, however, and have only
the basic ones to start with. Still, it is a fun addition to a game
with already engaging melee fights. No standing still, waiting for
each round to end and then sluggishly swinging the sword again.
Instead it is all that you could ever want; kicking, dodging,
jumping, slashing, bashing and thrusting. As before, the fights are
a beauty to watch, especially with lightsabers involved, their
distinct sound making you almost dream yourself back to the fights
in the movies.
So, that is all well and
good, but what about the graphics and sound?
And with fights and spectacular shows, we are sweeping our eyes to
the technical matters of the game. First off, the sound is, as could
be expected from LucasArts, first-class. The blasters sound
appropriate in a Star Wars universe, weapons swing through the air
and make dull thuds when connecting to flesh, followed by agonizing
groans. And as is usual, the lightsabers continue to emit their
quite comforting, almost melodic sound. Nothing new on that front
except the music, which is once again written and directed by Jeremy
In KotOR, some people thought
the music was a bit monotonous, but here, it ranges from mellow soft
tunes in the background when walking amongst peaceful grassy hills
on Dantooine to the bombastic, dark full-fledged orchestra music
blaring at you in the final confrontation.
The graphics in KotOR II, unfortunately, have not been kept
up-to-date, and even if some small details have been improved (such
as better textured faces -- now everyone doesn’t look as if they
have a galactic twin), this area still falls short of what could be
This is especially evident on Peragus, walking through long tunnels
with the same concrete grey all over with hardly a change anywhere
in that part of the game. Sometimes I even found myself thinking
that the wall textures in the first game were better. Luckily, the
details of characters and small features -- such as the interior of
the Ebon Hawk -- helps relieve this, but it still feels as if it
could have been done better.
Shame on LucasArts
It is as if LucasArts was desperate to have this game out, so they
pushed Obsidian too hard, and Obsidian was then forced to simplify
the game slightly. This is most evident in certain parts of the
subplots in the game. Characters start peculiar conversations or do
things in cutscenes, which we never get an explanation for. Some
parts of the game have been cut out completely due to the lack of
time given the developers by LucasArts. Many scenes between party
members interacting in the story itself have also been cut away,
which is a terrible shame, because it leaves holes where the scenes
should have been.
Luckily, fans have
acknowledged this. The reason this was discovered was because the
sound files and scripts for these events could be found on the
installation CDs, and a “Knights of the Old Republic 2 Restoration
Project” is underway. This can be found at
http://magestrix.com/K2End/about.html if you are interested in
learning more about them and their progress.
I’ve met more resistance from a drunk gizka
Another slight annoyance is
that the game has something of a double nature. While it is a
complicated story with twists and functions that seem to be drawing
experienced players to it, many will be disappointed by how easy it
is. If you are an experienced player, don’t even think about setting
the difficulty level to “easy” or you will be bored to tears by how
easily you mow through dozens of assailants while still not having
reached a high level. Although the “hard” setting should appease
most gamers, there are probably many who will still think of this as
being too easy. Personally, I found it satisfying to play on the
“normal” setting, sometimes turning it up, depending on the
And this, impatient
Padawan, is what comes from stressing
The final, and – behind the story issues – drawback is how buggy
this game is: characters not appearing, journal entries not being
erased, journal entries not being updated, characters disappearing,
cutscenes not appearing and the game crashing, to name a few. As I
write this, however, a patch has already been released, which will
make me challenge the game once again. Just do not try to run the
So all in all, what do we have here? A sequel to the game many
praised as the best game of 2003 and others praised as one of the
best role-playing games ever. I will not go that far, but it is
without doubt, along with Knights of the Old Republic the best Star
Wars game to have been released (possible exception: Tie Fighter).
Due to their exciting game play, deep stories and smooth design,
Knights of the Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic II: The
Sith Lords are excellent examples of games that can be enjoyed by
gamers outside the Star Wars circle of fans. They will probably
appeal even to people who have not given a thought to the universe
before now. Do not let the slightly mediocre graphics fool you into
discarding the game.
To the people who have played KotOR and liked it: you should
definitely get KotOR II. I would recommend playing the first one
before though, so you get a nice feeling inside when everything
connects between them.
To the people who have played KotOR and didn’t like it: play it
again and enjoy it.
To the people who have played
both games and liked neither of them: you are a lost cause. Go play
Tie Fighter instead...the only Star Wars game that can stand up to
Myself...between reading fan fiction and eating, I am a much eager
and willing apprentice to learn more about the dark side of the Sith
An outstanding game that - despite the drawbacks - still manages to
immerse you in its world and leave you hungering for more.
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