Many things are associated with Star Wars: lightsabers, plot twists, aliens, and
quotes galore, but the one part of Star Wars that has always been iffy is the videogame licenses. Some games have been pretty good such as the Jedi Knight series, or the Rogue Squadron
games, and some have just been a bore like Obi-Wan, or the dull Jedi Power Battles. On
paper an RPG set in the Star Wars universe seems strange, but after Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
came out in Mid-2003 it changed the minds of gamers everywhere. It left us feeling
that Star Wars should only be in RPG form. Now, that game has a sequel,
and the question remains. Will lightning strike twice, or will we just be left
with a clatter of what once was?
Star Wars has always been about an everlasting fairy tale. Romance, action, desire, and betrayal all played big parts in the series as a whole to bring the pieces
of the puzzle together. Now when you fit what is roughly 13 hours of movie footage
into a game that will last you a good 35 hours, you’re left with much more space to create, and originate. With those 22 or so extra hours, new-comer developer Obsidian Entertainment (that’s right guys BioWare
was not responsible for this game) has weaved a bevy of objectives, thousands of lines of dialogue, and hours upon hours of
voice-acting. When you add these together you are left with a tangled storyline
that falls together with the greatest of ease, in some cases.
Once again you begin customizing your character, choosing his or her look, name, Jedi class
(this time around you start as a Jedi, more on that later), skills and feats. After
you’ve created your character you’re well on your way to being a master of the force.
Your character is a Jedi right from the start, but not in the fashion you'd think. You have been exiled from the Jedi Order for disobeying the Council’s wishes and following Jedi Revan (sound
familiar?) to the Mandalorian Wars. You are convinced that if you were not to
help out in the wars that millions of lives would be taken, planets will fall, and the Republic will be crushed.
As true as this may be, the Jedi are about patience, and subtlety, and going against their
wishes will result in banishment. Upon returning from the Mandalorian Wars to
approach the Council’s hearing you are stripped of your power as a Jedi, and exiled from the Order, but as any Star
Wars fan should know, not everything is what it seems. There’s a cloud
of uncertainty hovering over exactly why you were exiled. Following
Revan was not the only factor in your exile…
Despite your exile you are still thought to be a Jedi to the Sith, who are on the verge of
ruling the galaxy. A horrible Jedi Civil War between Jedi and Sith eliminated many
Jedi, about two years after the Mandalorian Wars. Less than one hundred Jedi survived,
and from there, some decided to do away with the teaching choosing either a life of a simple man, or the path of the dark
side. The Sith believe the Jedi to be wiped off the galaxy, when they
hear about you, still believing you are a Jedi, they hunt you down to finally do away with the Jedi teachings. You are hunted by an unknown threat, those that wish to end you are resourceful, and shield their appearance
until battle, until you come to them they will not show themselves fully to reveal the true threat haunting your very steps
in the galaxy.
This installment is set five years after the events of the first KOTOR. Many familiar faces will be seen again, which is a nice addition to big fans of the original (when I saw
a certain soldier, I just about jumped for joy). In fact, all but three characters
from the original game are seen or at least heard of in Sith Lords.
KOTOR broke RPG ground with its unique battle system. Its battles gave the most restricted
RPG’ers the strategic, thinking man’s combat they sought out, and the action-seekers intense battle sequences
to whet their carnage-seeking taste buds. In doing so KOTOR set a rather high
pedestal to up the ante. So how did it fair?
Well they didn’t change a thing.
Avid KOTOR fans will be glad to see that the combat system has received only minor
touch-ups rather than a complete overhaul. You still have your attacks, force
powers both offensive and defensive, and your items, but now you have an array of different lightsaber forms and force forms. Depending on what kind of Jedi class you pick (consists of the Guardians (the soldiers),
Consulars (the more force driven Jedi), and the Sentinels (stealthy and more technologically aware Jedi)) you will have a
different set of styles. The Jedi Guardians will receive more Lightsaber techniques,
the Consulars favor the Force techniques, and the Sentinels will receive a bit of both.
My favorite parts of the first KOTOR were the deep dialogue trees. I loved how you could learn so much about a character by just talking to him. The way a perfectly harmless man could become a raging beast just by saying the wrong thing, and vice versa. It left amazing depth to the games replay value, just so you could get the most out
of your cohort’s back-stories. If you can believe it, Sith Lords
once again builds off of those conversations.
When in the first game your word choices could sway your alignment in the force, in Sith
Lords not only does it effect your alignment, but your followers as well. If
you make good points and agree on certain opinions and views the certain member you are speaking to you will gain
some influence in you. This means he/she is more willing to open up to you, and give
his/her life story in more detail. It can also work in the other direction. Going against certain beliefs or completely appalling a character will result in influence
lost. While most members in your entourage will like a cheering up at times, some
members appreciate dark choices, and more upfront conversations (meaning some people will actually like it when you are putting
them down). You’ll be quite surprised at the level of passion and emotional discharge some characters will go threw
just talking to you, which can leave you feeling good or down-right crummy about yourself, and your choices.
The Lightsaber, the weapon of a Jedi, and arugeably the most recognizable association with
Star Wars known to man. While it’s inevitable that your character
will sooner or later wield a lightsaber, the way it’s brought to you is considerably different that the first KOTOR’s
way. KOTOR had you training in a Jedi Enclave to be a Jedi Knight and
to construct a lightsaber, but as players of the first game know the Jedi Enclave is no more, and the Jedi are all but extinct,
so there is no way to be guided into constructing a lightsaber. You may be thinking,
“Hey, but you said you start as a Jedi, doesn’t he have a lightsaber if he’s a Jedi?” Well, yes and no you spaz. Jedi who are exiled must surrender
their lightsaber, for the lightsaber is a symbol of a Jedi, and if you aren’t a Jedi, you don’t have a lightsaber. With your lightsaber gone, and no Jedi to help you construct one, you are all by yourself
relying on your fuzzy memories of the Jedi teachings to find the individual pieces that make up a lightsaber and put
Be honest with yourself, a Star Wars game without lightsabers is like having a PG-13
Francis Ford Coppala film, sure it'll be decent but you know something is being held back, as was the case in the first 5-6
saber-less hours of the first KOTOR, but this game is different than the first game, not so much physically as mentally. You won’t have a lightsaber for a good 10-13 hours, but while the saber-less
levels of KOTOR seemed to drag, Sith Lords coasts along. I didn’t
really crave a saber until I knew I was close to receiving one. If a game can entertain
you without its trademark you know the developers have done their homework.
Once you get your lightsaber, which is a great feeling in itself, the game enters the straightaway
and never looks back. Before you know it you’ll be wielding duel-sabers (or doing
a little staff action), fighting Sith left and right, and all the time you actually feel like a Jedi who’s decisions
can and will change the fate of the galaxy.
If every videogame were full of shiny surfaces, glaring suns, and water effects that made
us want to jump at the screen of our television we would get bored, bored of the norm. We
would be afraid to originate in fear of it becoming average…maybe that’s what Obsidian thought of when they decided
to leave the KOTOR engine untouched…nah their just lazy.
I give tremendous respect for a relative newcomer coming into a huge, multiple game of the
year award winning game, and succeeding in giving us more than what we expected, but the only category that Obsidian
left just as good as it’s predecessor is it’s graphics engine. What
was merely passable in 2003 is just dated in 2004. To deliver a sequel to a game
in a mere 18 months that is superior to it’s successor in almost every way takes sacrifices, that sacrifice meaning
the decision to leave what is already there graphically speaking and trying to tweak it as much as they can in the time they
have. Small improvements can be noticed, like the addition a few new
NPC faces, better lighting of the lightsabers, and small things of that nature, but the textures still seem blocky, load times
are just as long if not longer than before, and the framerate can drop down to abysmal numbers.
Immersion levels have always been a big factor in RPG’s, and I believe Sith Lords
is possibly the most addictive and immersive game I’ve played in the last 10 years, but think of the possibilities of
a brand new engine. Environments would flow so smoothly you could feel them, characters
would look life-like, and animations would mimic real movement. This lack of polish
does have a silver lining though, if Obsidian chose to design a whole new engine and create from there we may not of got our
hands on this game till Xbox 2, so despite our groans we may want to thank Obsidian.
You activate your lightsaber, the scorching sound of the blade penetrating the air echoes
through the torn, creaking ship of a mysterious Sith Lord. All is dark, but out of a dark corner a sudden
burst of light emerges on the main bridge overlooking the spanning space, he, if he is a man at all, is standing there, lightsaber
roaring, staring deep into the pit of your soul, reading your movements and intentions. A battle surrounds you,
Republic and Sith soldiers are firing rounds and rounds of blaster energy. The plasma
burning through metal and death screams are deafening, yet all is quiet, the mysterious Sith Lord starts to make an eerie
hissing noise, definitely not one of a human, probably trying to turn you to the side of Dark, you approach him, lunge, but
he counters your attack. Lightsabers crackle and sizzle as they slide onto each other,
you are Jedi and he is Sith, and this is one of the many scenes of the game where you are completely in touch with the Jedi
way. You actually feel like you are a Jedi traveling threw the galaxy battling
Sith (or vice-versa). Without the amazing sound effects, you’ll just be another
guy trying to save the world in another generic storyline.
For those seasoned in the sounds of Star Wars, you know how powerful the scores can
be, but you also know how subtle they can be. KOTOR II adds a perfect
blend of defiant orchestra ballads, and light-hearted tunes. Whether you’re
blasting ships out of the sky, facing an opponent blade-to-blade or just simply solving a puzzle you’ll be sucked into
the many worlds of Star Wars.
When it comes down to sound, Star Wars doesn’t mess around. It puts you into the experience and makes sure you stay in the mentality until you see the ending credits. The voice acting is amazing, sound effects are unmatched, and the score is beautiful. Only another one of the factors that will warp you into the strange, somewhat magic
world of Star Wars.
In yet another category upped by the sequel, KOTOR II adds more action, more dialogue,
and more story to give you almost 20 hours more Star Wars bliss than the first KOTOR offered. Of course in a game where you can choose your alignment, both sides will have separate endings. Also, depending on your Jedi class you choose at the start of the game, you will receive different skills,
force powers, and most importantly dialogue opportunities. You could literally
play threw this game five times, and still leave areas unexplored, objectives not completed, and dialogue left unspoken. However you play this game you are guaranteed at the very least 30 hours of gameplay.
If you finish the game in less than that, you aren’t getting the most out of the experience.
Like the game itself, there are many parts of the game that I haven’t even begun to
explain. Some things are better left found out on your own. Games rarely live up to the movie series they are based on, especially when they are based on one of the most
successful movie franchises ever. I can honestly say that this game could very easily be put into movie form, and would receive
If you can shrug off the lacking graphical engine, and accept the game for what it has achieved
in such a short period of time you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a game that will make you reflect on your own
life and make you feel like you are insignificant to the universe, like somewhere these things may be happening, but we are
stuck in a primitive world compared to a magnificent universe, the magnificent universe of Star Wars.