Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, or as it is more commonly know, KOTOR II, was Obsidian’s 2004-05 follow up to Bioware’s fantastic 2003 critical hit Knights Of The Old Republic. Ever since I beat the first KOTOR almost two years ago, I’ve been waiting for KOTOR II to hit the digital shelves of a retailer somewhere. Then, on August 23, my wish came true, and KOTOR II became available on Steam. So is the Force still strong with this one, or has it been stripped of its power?
The game takes place five years after the climax of the first game. The Republic is trying to recover from the Mandalorian and Jedi Civil Wars, and the Jedi are almost wiped out as a result of the wars. Your character is a Jedi who was exiled from the order for following Revan to the Mandalorian wars, and who seems to have been stripped of the force, and wandered ever since. However, you somehow turn up badly injured on a mining station, with no idea of how you got there, and guess what? The Sith are back. And you are reconnecting with the Force. So you end up fighting your way off the station and start a search to find out what the Sith are after, and the truth behind your loss and re-connection to the Force. Overall I thought the story in this game had some great potential, it seemed like it was going to be a terrific and interesting ride. And it was, for the most part. Towards the end and the end of the game kind of fell a little flat for me, it seemed like the story just got a little rushed at the end, and would have been much better if another 5-10 hours had been added to it.
I’ve heard from a few people that when this game originally came out on PC that it was a majorly buggy mess, and that the disc versions of the game can be extremely difficult, or impossible to get working with Windows 7. I am happy to report that the Steam version of the game ran extremely well. KOTOR was always a bit unstable for me, but I only had one time where KOTOR II crashed on me. I even could tab out of the game back to the desktop and then get back into the game;tim. if I tried that with KOTOR it would almost always lock up and not work afterwards. And it was not very buggy. I did notice a couple of bugs, including an annoying one where your party member would not move up and attack an enemy who had been selected, but that was only on rare occasions.
The gameplay is the same turn-based, pause-able RPG as first, however, quite a lot has been added to it. There are a number of new Force powers, the feats have also been increased, and you will also be able to switch between different weapon styles that suit different situations. One of my favorite improvements was not extremely big, but very helpful. In the first game you would select the weapons that your character wielded, but sometime had to change them mid battle, say if a character that was making ranged attacks was closed upon by enemies, and would be better suited with a melee weapon. You would have to pause the action, go into the equipment menu, and change out the weapons manually. In the second you now have the ability to set two different loadouts, and change them simply by clicking an icon on your HUD. You can also set your party members to automatically change to close quarters weapons if pressed upon. I love the first KOTOR, but after the first couple playthroughs the first world got a little tiring since I didn’t have a lightsaber yet. I was thrilled when I went to build my character and saw I was choosing between different Jedi classes, however, I was a bit disappointed when I found out that for story reasons I would not gain a saber until about a third of the way through the game. It makes sense in the story, but it is Knights of the Old Republic, I want to play as a Jedi Knight, with a saber. Other than that minor annoyance, the combat is just as satisfying as before. Even on lower difficulties you will have fights that test your strategy, making it critical to use the pause to set up strings of actions, or to change them as the situation dictates.
Graphically, the game is almost eight years old, so don’t go into it expecting amazing graphics, however, they do appear to be a slight step up from KOTOR’s graphics, and I like the slightly older graphics of games of this era.
While the conversation system is dated compared to what we have in games like Mass Effect now, it is definitely improved from the first, you often can have up to five different responses ranging from strongly in favor of a side, to mildly in favor, to undecided. While I played through the game as a light side character, and was fully maxed out on the light side, I was actually able to stand against Jedi teachings that would by default be called light, yet I saw as being wrong. You can definitely catch glimpses of what conversations in games would eventually become, but it can be annoying not hearing your character talk if you’re used to say Mass Effect games.
This was a hard game for me to score. It did a few things very well, and made some great improvements over the first, but it felt a little lackluster and half-baked in some areas. If you liked the first KOTOR then you will probably like this as well. Despite its flaws, it still is a good enough game to get 7 out of 10