December 17, 2004

Sort of a review of KotOR 2, but really just a series of observations

When I started this post, I was 7 hours into the game. I have updated this as I was 1/3, ½, and ¾ finished. Now, I am done, and it took me a tick over 44 hours.

Just in case, why don’t we hide this? No big spoilers or anything, but it is best not to take chances.

-The graphics, like those of the first game, are nothing special. In an RPG, that is an excusable fault, but it is irritating that the sequel is no better. In fact, it is worse at times. In large battle scenes, the frame-rate can slow to a crawl. The problem lies with BioWare’s Odyssey engine, on which both KotOR games are based. It was state of the art in 1998, but is simply out-modeled at this point. The engine has been tweaked, and yes, there are some impressive weather effects, especially on the polar regions of Telos and the jungles of Dxun. The biggest improvements in the graphics department are the combat animations. They will change as the move is upgraded. It is a welcome change. There are also new basic attacks and hand-to-hand combats.

-The selectable player faces, while improved, still need some work. It is rather disappointing that an Xbox (and PC) game in 2004 wouldn’t have fully customizable heads, but that goes back to the engine as well. Things are better though. I am using the bearded guy this time around. I thought of him as an Obi-Wan type until my wife saw it and remarked how much he looked like Jesus. Now I cannot get that out of my head.

-At this point, I have my entire party. I’m playing as a Lightside male this time around, so I get Kriea (female Jedi Consular), Atton (male Scoundrel), T3M4 (expert droid #1), Bao-Dur (male Zabrak Tech Specialist), Handmaiden (female Echani soldier), Visas Marr (female Miraluka Jedi Sentinel), Mira (female Scout), G0-T0 (expert droid #2) and Mandalore (male Mandalorian Soldier). The provisional characters are the Handmaiden and Mira. If playing as a female PC, instead of Handmaiden you get the Disciple. If playing a darkside character of either sex, the Wookie Hanharr replaces Mira. My biggest gripe about the NPC selection is the lack of interesting aliens. Only Bao-Dur is obviously different, the Echani, Mandalorian and Miraluka are just exotic humans. The game itself brings in several new species: Chadra-Fan (who was in the programming for the first game but never used), Gran, Sullustan, Weequay, and Gand all make appearances. Anyone geeky enough to read the X-Wing books know how cool Gands can be. Why not an NPC? It has a built-in story, as Gands need to prove their worth before taking a name.

-Character progression goes differently from the first game. In the original, it was fairly straightforward: talk to an NPC, wait for level-up, and talk again, and eventually something happened, like Bastila running into her mother or Carth finding out his son was alive. This time everything is based on influence. All of your characters have secrets, and it is up to you to get them to reveal them. I will give an example. When the Handmaiden joins your party, the easiest way to gain influence over her is to defeat her in a series of training fights. It is a series of three, and if you win each, you will have considerable influence over her. She will mirror your dark/light alignment, and if you choose too, you can train her as your apprentice. Where influence is gained varies between NPC. If you don’t have influence over a character, and it’s difficult to gain with characters with alignments opposite from yours, their stories remain locked. Still, it is always worthwhile to try. A hint: Do not forget to ask HK what love is.

-The Handmaiden is also one of your romance options, at least if you are playing as a male PC. The romance subplots are a lot murkier than in the first game, and they lack the melodrama of the Bastila/Revan or Carth/Revan relationships. If you are a male PC you get Handmaiden and Visas Marr, females Atton, the Disciple (a rather unctuous Jude Law wanna-be) and Visas as well. Whatever romance is tame, nothing beyond the “I’ll follow you anywhere” stage. In fact, if it were not for some cutscenes that don’t include the PC, you wouldn’t even know if there were romantic feelings involved.

-This game, while ignoring romance, is far more sexual than you would expect. The first game was positively chaste, not even Bastila’s slave-girl outfit was anything revealing. The sequel goes in the opposite direction, probably too much. Mira’s outfit is comic-book ridiculous, a bare stomach and plunging neckline on armor? The Handmaiden’s duels take place without clothes. There are a few sex jokes (sex jokes in Star Wars?), and Kriea immediately warns against “mating” with Visas. It’s nothing bad; it just doesn’t always suit the material.

-Don’t play this game hoping to find out what happened to the characters from the first game. Revan is a looming presence, but never really present. Carth and Bastila will play cameos depending on which direction the story goes, and HK, T3 and Canderous (as Mandalore) will join your party. The others, with the very small exception of Jolee, are never mentioned.

-The storyline is where an RPG needs to shine, and this game doesn’t disappoint…much. It starts out brilliant. The first levels are a claustrophobic, paranoia-inducing mess. It’s a gritty, street-level, almost dirty version of the SW universe. It also raises some interesting questions about the Star Wars universe, like what would happen when the Jedi, a band of mystical warrior-priests, became disconnected with average society. The game slips a bit when it expands this vision and emulates its predecessor. It works, most of the time, but there are moments where it seems the game developers were confused about which vision to show. The levels themselves are good, perhaps not as excellent as the first game’s Korriban or Kashyyk levels, but the sequel also lacks a Manaan-like clunker. The problem with the story is the ending. Not to give anything away, but the story seems to come unraveled and never really ties itself together again. This game seems almost a “Part 2 of 3” as the recent Halo 2 did, though this doesn’t end nearly as abruptly.

-The villains, like the storyline, start much stronger than they end. First, and most disappointingly, Darth Nihlius (Freaky Mask Guy) is a non-character. He’s presented as a nearly omnipotent Sith, capable of killing planets with the Force. And his first appearance is a great one; a cutscene showing him riding the galaxy in the wreckage of his ship the Ravager. He’s barely seen again, and never displays any personality whatsoever. It almost seems as if the developers came up with a terrific look for a character and decided that was enough. He’s really a non-entity. Sion is better. Again, in the beginning he’s most impressive, arriving to capture you in the ghost ship Harbinger. He’s not seen again until Korriban, but he does have some sort of relationship with other characters. He’s also far more difficult to defeat. The third Sith Lord is “The Betrayer” as labeled by Kreia. Unfortunately, the identity of this person will not shock anyone playing the game.

-In the end, The Sith Lords is a damned fine game. Maybe not as polished as it’s predecessor, but at times superior, it stands alone quite well. I wonder, if LA had not pushed for a Christmas release, would they have a better game in February 05? I don’t know. The story of this game almost demands a third and probably final installment to the story. Considering the 18-month gestation of this game, that would put it as mid-2006. Just in time for the Xbox 2.

Posted by Frinklin at December 17, 2004 02:14 PM

Just wanted to say that overall, Kotor 2 was good, but the first one was still better, and the biggest upset in part 2! That you could not use Atris as a character after having seen her in most of the advertisment for the game, and the graphics in part 2 were crappier, the women, (especially Atris) were kind of ugly, anyway thanks, and hope like I do for a bigger, and better part 3.

Posted by: Matt at December 19, 2004 08:21 PM

Hmmm... maybe I should just go back and play over the first game again...

Posted by: Tony at January 10, 2005 01:57 PM

(Some spoilers maybe)

I was disappointed in this game. To me the dialogue is poor and confusing. Some of the stuff Kriea says is whacked and sometimes leaves you thinking "huh?" You seem to be able to talk to all of the other characters more freely than Atton. I think the first game was better. In the first game you could change what everyone was wearing for armor but in this game only a few characters can even wear armor. I think the clothes for your character look stupid almost something out of a cheesey comic book. I played the first game over and over again where with this one I am making myself play it again. I also got through the game really fast- it seemed shorter than the first. Like I said it was a disappointment to me. And yes the ending bites. And to top it all off the movies and graphics were better in the first. Why didn't they just let Bioware make the second one?

Posted by: Lisa at February 19, 2005 08:27 PM

Lisa I agree with some of what you said, though I found more gameplay time in this game than the first. What's really aggravating is the amount that was planned and left out to meet LucasArt's Xmas deadline. Not only obvious stuff like the HK Factory, but there are programming notes buried in the pc version that lists an entire ending with all of your NPCs involved as well.

And OE got the job because bioware previously announced it will not be working with liscensed characters anymore.

Posted by: frinklin at February 20, 2005 04:52 PM

i'm actually quite disappointed with the game.
i was so excited about it at the beginning. the story was really good at the beginning and then it started going downhill after the meeting at the jedi enclave...

and the end levels were just crappy.

(not to mention the bugs in the game were frustrating, but still playable)

obsidian should put out large patch or expansion pack that we can download to fix up the game ending and such.

the game seemed so much shorter as well. i finished it in a week.

Posted by: xan at February 20, 2005 06:53 PM

I really enjoyed KOTOR2. I agree with the complaints about graphics and crappy frame rates, and had a few minor bugs, but I found the story to be grittier and deeper. The writing was deep, profound and intelligent. Keria in particular wowed me a couple of times with her dialogue. I played a male LS guy and pursued a romance with Visas. I also would have liked to see Darth Nihlius have a bigger role, but all in all this is a solid game that's well put together and fun to play. Big thumbs' up.

Posted by: aulslime at March 3, 2005 03:50 PM

Knights of the Old Republic II had a generally good plot, character interactions, cutscenes and overall gameplay, but it seemed very un-organized.

Some of the character interactions seemed out of place and they were all weighted towards the begining. The only interaction I had in the end of the game was 'seeing Visas, while the last thing had done was complete the jedi quest for Mira and Atton at my second planet. Also, I was thrown off by some of the things that require you to wair for an event to occur. For example, I spent about an hour walking throught the planet Nar Shadda because Sequash wouldn't invite me to his meeting.

Also, the bugs ruined almost half of the cutscenes for me. For example, I had just witnessed Keria have her hand chopped off, and it switched to a scene where I talk with Atton, but for some reason Atton was on the Harbinger and I was in the fuel line, but we continued talking. Then Atton appeared in my character, so the dialouge matched the pixel mess that was Atton and the PC combined.

The game was pretty good, but it didn't have enough character interaction. Everything seemed to revolve around getting your party to become jedi, rather than learning more about them, romancing, and other things :(.

Overall I liked the game, but it needed a few slight touch-ups to fix the bugs. Perhaps some downloadable content via Xbox Mag Demo Discs.

Posted by: Joseph at March 7, 2005 01:16 PM

This game was pretty good, but the bugs do get annoying.
I think I cant finish the game because I was on Nar Shadaa and I was finishing off the enemies(I forgot the names, the slaver guys who wanted "my" landing pad. But when I was killing them, and atton came out and said there was a message on the ship,but before I was able to reply, it turned back to combat, and the text of the answer I was on froze to a melted looking text style, but then when I finished killing and the text was gone, but then atton just acted like normal atton, I went back onto the ship and nothing happened, then I went back out and brought atton with me, and he was still standing out there, so Ihad 2 attons standing their, neither of them did anything other than what they normally did, 1 stand there, 1 follow like a normal character, and they both led the normal conversations that I would usually have with atton. Anyways, the graphics werent that bad, the cinimatics weree great, but the details could be better. While not doing the best job at it, they allow you to have many variants of characters. The game has just too many bugs. Some major, most minor.
When I was walking as atton, I was carefully aproaching some enemies, and then my group stayed behing but atton teleported to the center of the large group of sith troopers. He nearly died, and that wouldn't have been good. Oh well, maybe they will find a way to fix it, like a patch in an OXM disk.

Posted by: Will at March 11, 2005 07:53 PM

I loved the first kotor, and played it at least 20 times. I have now played kotor2 7 times, and I think I love it even more! Still, I agree with most of the criticisms here. It is wonderful. It is a mess. It is impressive. It is disappointing. It had amazing potential that it didn't live up to. Instead, it was merely excellent. The only excuse for the ending is kotor3. It reminded me of how I felt when I saw "The Empire Strikes Back" and realized I would have to wait 2 years to find out what happened next. So much unresolved.

I cried twice! That never happened before in a game. (Once when Carth and Bastilla are trying to find out from the exile what happened to Reven, and once when Visas professes her love)

Tapping my toe for kotor3...

Posted by: Milo at April 2, 2005 02:10 PM


Posted by: Austin at June 4, 2005 12:48 PM

Okay,the slave outfit is hot, but there should be more slave outfits to choose from.

Posted by: Austin at June 4, 2005 12:52 PM

I think, all in all it was a good game, but there is alot of things left unfinished, like the assassin droid factury, and in a scene Goto shoots the Remote into peaces - but after the scene the Remote is stil there, T4 shoots the HK - witch noboddy seems to notice (even the HK), near the end of the game (where you have to controle the Remote) that mission ends with Goto showing up to stop the Remote(you) - the game switches back to your main char - I figurd you'd return to the Goto/Remote situation later - but you don't, and now that im at it - it seems like this mission is forced into the game "just" to delay the confrontation with the last two sith, its the same with the sith-temple mission - you find out the sith is there and have to be stoped - its a tomb but what are the sith doing there? are they looking fors somthing? are they collecting power? are they trying to raise yet another "dead and decesed" Sith lord

But it is great there is some romance in the game, not to mentcion all the sexy outfits for the woman, and it is cool that you can turn all most the entire party into jedi... or sith, it is cool everybody got secrets, secrets is knowlige, and knowlige is power... force power

It is fun to turn everyboddy dark... its the strongest side, so join us... or meet your enevitable demice

Posted by: geo at July 1, 2005 03:47 AM

can u get mandalorian assault armor in Kotor 2 on Xbox

Posted by: john at July 28, 2005 02:08 PM

kotor2 was good. its like a hamburger

beginning(top bun) sucked
middle(meat and stuff) was very good
end(bottom bun) sucked

now for romance...I guess I didn't play my cards right..Well Visa's said something about loving me and all that but it was kind of hard to tell with her messed up way of speaking in riddles instead of just straight out saying "I LOVE YOU, LETS GO DO IT"

by any chance did anyone get Handmaiden to say that she loves you or anything? because I was actually hoping for her instead of Visa's to love me

o ya and Light Side is WAY better! i use to love the dark side in older starwars games(jedi knight and the whole series) but now I just can't bring myself to do a bad deed.

Posted by: sic at July 29, 2005 07:16 PM

There should be more romance with the NPC girls. You should also be able to make the other girls jealous if, through dialogues, you hint at liking another girl.
P.S. There should also be cat fights. That would be cool :)

Posted by: Cool Hand at August 5, 2005 10:13 AM

i wish to state that the game is very interesting and to inform you that the game has a continue actually it will appear on the 12 of december 2005 not sure of the name... but its the continuing and it requires the first game. It's a update! SO have patients!
And it is a great update. I know this because... ^^ its a secret. But just have patients cause it will be worth the while! Please do not critizise Lucas Arts cause they need money to continue the project Daaaaaa so wait. And lets see if you can pledge yourself to the old Master or follow the peaceful path. MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!!

Posted by: Silver at August 14, 2005 12:05 PM
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