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Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2 (XBox) Review
Kristophe, 2005-02-01

I've always been a computer Role Playing Gamer (albeit a Single RPG Player only) - always! I got my start early in the PC's history with such games as the venerable ZORK series (and who could ever forget the Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well), worked my way well into the classic Sierra On-line games (most notably the King's Quest/Space Quest/Quest for Glory/Leisure Suit Larry series of games), delved into the insidious environs of the old Bard's tale series, and graduated into such epics as Baldur's Gate I&II/Neverwinter Nights/Icewind Dale I&II/Morrowind, etc. I must also confess that, over all these years, I've become as addicted to computer gaming as I am to my morning coffee. To quote an old Bob Dylan song ..."the times they are a-changing"... and in order to keep my gaming habit fed, I've had enough withdrawal symptoms over the anticipation of such epics as Fable/Sudeki/Jade Empire - epic games all ported for the Xbox - that I finally broke down and treated myself to an Xbox system last Christmas. Having taken the final, spiraling step into gaming madness, it was only inevitable that I'd succumb to the lure of Obsidian's Xbox sequel to the BioWare Xbox/PC classic, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, even as I am awaiting my pre-order of the PC version for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. That being said - indulge me as I begin my first ever, Xbox review, for KotOR2!

In the beginning...

Display full imageAs with the original, your chosen hero/heroine begins the game already in deep "kimshee" (for the sake of brevity, I'll simply refer to your main character as "hero" from here on out). Unconscious, and badly in need of medical attention aboard the badly damaged space freighter, the Ebon Hawk, you start the game with the first of the many deviations from your original character - playing the game as the adroit utility droid, T3-M4. As T3-M4, your first missions are of the utmost importance - i.e. you have to save the Ebon Hawk from destruction, and you have to heal and save your own Jedi hero (that's right - in KotOR 2 - you begin the game as either a Jedi Guardian, a Jedi Consular, or a Jedi Sentinel - though it takes some time in game before you can acquire your first lightsaber). Of course, anxious adventurers can always skip this part of the game, though I'd hardly recommend it - you'll miss out on a lot experience in the various game play factors, in addition to some nice droid parts that will come in handy later.

As with the original, your hero does suffer from amnesia as to his/her past - though in the case of this game, your memory loss isn't nearly as complete - and you have your "mentor" (an elderly female Jedi Consular named Kreia) who fills you in on her version of your missing memories. KotOR 2's real story opens after T3-M4 has successfully managed to get the Ebon Hawk docked with the Peragus Mining Facility, when your hero comes out of a coma in the facility's medical bay. As you explore the deserted facility, you'll be seeking answers to such questions as to (1) how you got to wherever you are, (2) how you can escape from wherever you are, (3) why you are being hunted by whoever they are, and (4) whatever has happened here on Peragus. You'll meet the first three of your gaming companions on Peragus as well (i.e. Kreia in the morgue, Atton Rand in a prison holding cell, and T3-M4). And, as with the prologue, you'll once again play not only in the role of your main hero, but also as T3-M4, while you seek to escape both Peragus and the nefarious designs of your pursuers.

The galactic overview...

Display full imageAs with the original - in Kotor 2, you can expect a lot of puzzle solving, fighting, galactic and planetary travel, fighting, a cornucopia of quests and questions whose responses move you progressively towards either the light (or dark) side of the Force, fighting, NPC interaction, fighting, unique character development, fighting - well, you get the idea. Some of the original NPC's (i.e. HK-47 and "Admiral" Carth Onassi, for example) show up once again in KotOR 2, as do some of the various environs (i.e. Korriban and Dantooine - though both planets have been heavily ravaged by war in this game). KotOR and KotOR2 storylines are also juxtaposition insofar as originality, creativeness within the Star Wars galaxy, and in faithfulness thereof with regard to game play. Enthusiasts of KotOR's in game "mini-games" will not be disappointed in KotOR 2 - which also features swoop racing, gun turrets, and pazaack.

Gaming items (i.e. robes and armors, weapons, etc.) from the original are, for the most part, still present in KotOR 2 - though there is almost double the inventory of such items due to both the many additions that the sequel brings to the game, as well as the additional benefit of item customization in KotOR 2 that often makes for much better equipment than that which is either foraged from slain enemies or "liberated" from cylinders and footlockers (the original also had "item customization" - though not on quite as grand a scale). Speaking of which, in KotOR 2, there are many "Lab Stations" (workbenches for custom manufacturing of medical supplies, stimulants, implants, parts, etc.) - as well as "Workbenches" (for custom manufacturing and/or upgrading of weapons, armors, items, etc.) - throughout the entire gaming galaxy, thus relieving your hero from the tedium of having to run back to the Ebon Hawk every time you wanted to manufacture/upgrade your equipment. Juxtaposition Kotor/Kotor 2, while most of the NPC's are "normal people" in game (i.e. soldiers, scouts, or scoundrels); and while some of your in game "Party NPC's" are either Jedi Guardians/Jedi Consulars/Jedi Sentinels or their Sith counterpart (or have the ability to upgrade into one of these Jedi/Sith stations) - KotOR 2 takes characterization one step further with the introduction of "Prestige Jedi/Sith Classes" (i.e. Jedi Weapon Master/Jedi Watchman/Jedi Master or the Sith Marauder/Sith Assassin/Sith Lord). Additionally, both games feature the gaining of individual feats and force powers as an integral part of character development (be it PC or party NPC development) - and, though KotOR 2 merely deviates somewhat on each - an additional two elements of character development - lightsaber forms, and universal force powers - have been introduced into character development.

As with the original, KotOR 2 also features a cornucopia of in game quests and side quests that not only add to the pleasure of playing, but have the additional value of rewarding your character (or party, depending on the case) with experience, valuable items, credits, or force points (i.e. light or dark side points). In KotOR 2, you will visit a variety of planets such as Dantooine, Nar Shaddar, Onderon, Telos, Korriban, Dxun, and Malachor V. Add up all of the above, serve it with a healthy dose of in game intrigue, sprinkle it with the spice of interesting NPCs throughout - and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords - more than proves itself to be a worthy successor to its Sire.

KotOR 2 game play...

Display full imageBefore I get too involved with some actual game play issues - I must first re-iterate that I am very new to console gaming (either Xbox, or PS2 - both of which I just recently invested in) - thereby one or two of the game play issues I will note may, or may not have, some bearing on my relative inexperience. I have played the PC version of KotOR (actually, by now, played it through five or six times), and now the Xbox version of KotOR 2 (for the record, I played as a bearded, Light Side Jedi Sentinel/Jedi Weapon Master). Quite frankly - I did not seem to find the enormous crevice between console vs computer gaming that I had expected (quite the opposite). Controlling my "S" controller was actually easier than my standard PC "keyboard & mouse" control, whilst viewing my game on a 27" flat screen television was almost comparable to viewing a game on my 19" LCD monitor). Quite naturally, given the hardware aspects of the computer versus the console, there were definite (albeit minor, for the most part) degradations in the quality of both sound and graphics - neither of which adversely affected my gaming enjoyment. While the ambient sounds, and voice acting, were of a quality in keeping with the original - I was slightly disappointed to find I much preferred the musical score of the original over the sequel, which while good enough, simply wasn't as plentiful (or as memorable).

Character creation - which I consider an essential element to any good RPG - was outstanding in KotOR 2, but role playing pleasure was somewhat deficient at the same time. While I am sure that there are many who enjoy taking on the role of various NPCs throughout the game, I found the all-too-often mandatory relegation of the in game role playing to be more frustrating than enhancing to the overall gaming pleasure. For example - playing the light sided Jedi that my hero was - I did not enjoy being dropped, in game and without any notice or preparation, into the role (in my case) of Mira. In that situation - I found myself suddenly in her shoes (and seeing her capabilities, weaknesses, equipment, etc. for the first time), in an underground arena, and faced off in a life-death struggle with the vastly stronger, evil wookie - Hanharr - who was just seconds away from terminating both Mira, and my game, permanently. Having finally (after numerous deaths) subdued Hanharr, Mira was just about to congratulate herself when a nasty pack of Kath hounds was released into the same arena - resulting in more deaths (and a lot of "colorful" maritime expressions). Even then, after I finally managed to defeat the Kath hounds with Mira barely in one piece - I then had to deal with numerous (and I do mean numerous), very tough, bounty hunters throughout the area while blindly feeling my way around to try and ascertain some means of opening up the area so that my Jedi hero could enter and take over the fray. And that scenario was just one of several that more than doubled the number of hours normal game play was slotted for.

Now, whether it was my own inexperience with the Xbox; whether I managed to get lucky and buy a defective game disk; or whether there is truly some software issues (which would just be lovely - seeing as I've no idea how one would go about applying a "patch" to a non-modded Xbox) - adding to the longevity of my KotOR 2 gaming hours were the occasional (and wholly unexpected) game crashes where the game would suddenly either cease to load up the next gaming sequence and/or cut scene; or else (after loading up the next sequence and/or cut scene) my television screen would "black out totally and irrevocably even as the game played on (judging by the sound - which did not simultaneously cease as well)...all in all, I had at least seven instances of either one or the other occur throughout my game play - and if you don't save (and save often), this can be quite frustrating in and of itself to gaming pleasure.

May the Force be with you...

Display full imageWhen, at long length, you've fought all the good battles; saved the Force from its enemies; and can rest on your multitude of in game accomplishments prior to the game's "official ending" (which comes in only two flavors dependent upon your hero's affiliation - Light or Dark side of the Force) - the folks at Obsidian took that moment in which to program Kreia into tying up all the "loose ends" of KotOR 2 by utilizing her vague ability to see into the future to answer such diverse questions as..."Will the Republic survive?" "What will become of your in game companions?" "And (most importantly) what will your hero do next?" And while my lips are sealed - whatever your fate - may the Force be with you!

Despite some shortcomings - mainly in game crashes, and in my personal feeling about relegating in game role playing, I would have to conclude that (overall) Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords is not only just as good (if not better) than its predecessor - but that I will most certainly be playing KotOR 2 again (albeit on the PC - not because I dislike the Xbox by any means - but because I am looking forward to the prospective modding aspects that will be inherent to the PC version of KotOR 2 as an added enhancement to my gaming pleasure. For those of you who may still be left somewhat on the dark side of the Force in understanding what I mean by KotOR 2 modding - I have only two words - Holowan Laboratories - of which you will find me occasionally making a mod report on).

In conclusion - though my vocabulary in game was not always of the high caliber many are used to (meaning my Navy spouse even learned a new and colorful phrase or two) - there were many more positive than negative aspects to KotOR 2. Without question, its character development system was of the highest caliber around. The storyline was creatively sculptured to make for a very smooth transition from KotOR to KotOR2, and game play not only faithfully followed the story script - but enhanced it greatly. The game's quests (and side quests) were all well done, interesting enough without becoming either tedious or repetitive, and also storyline enhancing...which, btw - neither KotOR, nor KotOR 2 - had a pre-requisite that you, the gamer, be somewhat literate of George Lucas' masterpieces in order to fully enjoy either game. Game graphics, and game sound, were very good - though it is my personal suspicion that the same will be even better on the PC version - given the limitations of Xbox hardware versus PC hardware. Only time will tell, though I would not be surprised to see KotOR 2 take on as many (if not more) accolades and honors as did its predecessor - it certainly deserves as much in my eyes.

The Verdict
Graphics (15%) 89%
Sound (15%) 85%
Control (25%) 85%
Fun (45%) 85%
Overall 86%

The ups and downs:
Great StorylineRelegated Role Playing
Character CreationGame Crashes
Character DevelopmentSoundtrack
Quests/Side Quests
Memorable NPCs

Reviewer's System
Version: XBox Retai
CPU: -
RAM: -
Graphics -
Sound -
OS: Unmodded Standard XBox

Average Reader Ratings: 8.09 (46 votes)
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