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Appeared on: Friday, May 6, 2005
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II

1. Page 1

REQUIEREMENTS: 1Ghz or higher CPU, Win 98SE/ME/2000/XP, 256MB memory, 4x CD-ROM, 32MB Graphic Card with Hardware T&L Capability required, 2.2GB free space, DirectX 9.0c


LucasArts has made the most of the "gold mine" which bears the name of Star Wars. During all these years from 1982 (when LucasArts was established) until today, LucasArts has created a surfeit of titles based on the Star Wars universe, from first person shooters (the Jedi Knight series to the latest Republic Commando) to simulations (X-Wing VS Tie Fighter, X-Wing Alliance etc) and from strategy (Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds) to huge multiplayer online Role Playing Games (Star Wars Galaxies).

However, the first RPG title didn't appear until 2003, when LucasArts in collaboration with Bioware created Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (KOTR). The game was fantastic and it managed to win more than 40 "Game of the Year" awards (it was also the RPG of the year). After that, a sequel was inevitable. This time LucasArts offered the creation of the sequel not to Bioware but to the newly established Obsidian (which has members from ex Black Isle Studios with significant experience in RPG development). Obsidian's first task wasn't an easy one: Star Wars KOTR2 - The Sith Lords has to prove that is a worthy successor to an "all time classic" game.

Some Star Wars KOTR2 screenshots

2. Page 2


Star Wars KOTR2 continues the story 5 years after the events of the first KOTR. The beginning of the story finds you lying unconscious in the deck of a heavily damaged Ebon Hawk. With the help of two druids (who firstly keep you alive and then repair the damages to the Ebon Hawk) you manage to reach Peragus, an asteroid mining colony. You wake up in a medical bay with amnesia.

You don't remember that you are a Jedi, you haven't realized your special abilities? During the story you start to comprehend the nature of your powers and you have to choose between the Light and the Dark side of the Force, a choice which will determine your ensuing actions in the game. The plot is one of the strong points of KOTR2 and its step by step revelation adds a lot to the total atmosphere of the game.

At the start of the game you have to create your character. Every self-respecting RPG must provide an adequate character creation model and fortunately KOTR2 doesn't fail these expectations. While you can choose between only three classes (Jedi Guardian, Jedi Consular or Jedi Sentinel) you can modify almost everything about them. The most important decisions have to do with the selection of the appropriate attributes (you have to distribute 30 points between strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence and charisma), skills (varying from computer use to persuade), and feats (later, as you proceed through the game, you will also gain Jedi powers).

Although the character creation procedure looks complex, in fact it isn't. The experienced RPG players won't face any problems. For the rest, Obsidian has very prudently provided a button which recommends the ideal characteristics for each class (very useful feature since it doesn't discourage the beginner). Moreover, the game's prologue (all your actions from the beginning until you reach Peragus) gives additional help. While you can skip this part, this small tutorial helps you to familiarize yourself with KOTR2.

Some Star Wars KOTR2 screenshots

3. Page 3


The forepart of the game finds you alone, however soon new companions will join you and aid you in your quest. The new party members aren't limited to humans only but can vary from druids to Mandalorians. Each character has some distinct abilities (i.e. stealth for Atton, destruction of the force fields for Bao-Dur, etc) and their correct coalition between the party members, helps in the creation of a powerful team. You shouldn't try to create the perfect character but to increase each character's strong points every time you gain a level (It is also prudent to have at least a member with high persuasion skills. This will save you from many troubles and money!).

Moreover, using your main character, you have to try to keep the balance between your party members. There are disputes, compassions and dislikes between your companions (a feature first appears in the Baldur's Gate series) and you have to keep them from exceeding the limits. Finally, your personal behavior towards each of your comrades will determine the gain or loss of influence points. The more influence points you have, the easier the support for your actions from your comrades (which lead to the Light or the Dark side).

Some of your party members...

Kreia: Kreia is a Jedi Consular. Her spells are very effective in combat. During the game she will reveal to you many things about your past.
Bao-Dur: He is a Tech Specialist. Bao-Dur will join your team when you reach the Telos restoration zone. His special ability is the destruction of the force fields.
T3-M4: This is the druid which will save your life by driving the Ebon Hawk to Peragus. It has the ability to create programming spikes and it can also upgrade items.

Some Star Wars KOTR2 screenshots

4. Page 4


The storyline of the game is beautifully maintained from both plot and quest variety. During the game you will experience many inversions which will make you wonder how clear the motives of your companions are and how selfless their behavior is. The great number of quests and sub-quests also helps to reveal the mystery behind your main character. A very positive feature of KOTR2 is the alternatives available for completing a mission (i.e. you can either blast a door or you can find the security code). The game rewards thinking instead of brute force and this distinguishes it from hack 'n' slash games and gives to it a real role playing character. The exploit of both quests and story comes with the form of very beautiful cut scenes.

The game involves a vast array of items (med packs, antidotes, armors, etc) and weapons (from blasters to the ultimate Jedi weapon, the light saber) which will aid you significantly in your quest. Both items and weapons can be upgraded at the proper locations. Workbench can be used to amplify the damage of the rifles, to upgrade the melee of weapons and to increase the protection provided from armors, while the lab can provide you with the means to create a variety of items from adrenaline stimulants to sonic mines.

Another way to build up your arsenal and to increase your med pack stock is to pay a visit to the local merchant in each town. This option gives you the opportunity to sell some of the items you don't need and to increase your amount of money. A visit to a town also offers you the chance to play some of the in-game mini games which sometimes are related to quests. Pazaak looks like a Star Wars version of black jack while the swoop racing reminds us of an old game from LucasArts, Star Wars Racer.

Some Star Wars KOTR2 screenshots

5. Page 5


During your travels, you will face many enemies and you need to familiarize yourself with the manipulation of the weapons if you want to proceed through the game. Each party member is specialized in a specific weapon category and you must equip them accordingly in order to achieve the best results during battles. Combats take place in real-time, however you can stop the game during a fight in order to change your strategy. As a Jedi you can use, apart from feats (which are available for all characters), your Force powers. The game is clearly found lacking in your opponents AI level, making the battles relatively easy. Even when they see you, they don't try to chase you if you don't come close but they wait passively for you to approach. Things get even worse when it comes to the AI level of monsters which roam all around the wilderness of KOTR2.

I would like to report here an incident which really annoyed me: it happened in Telos restoration zone. In this area you will face apart from mercenaries and laser turrets, a number of beasts - cannoks - which plague the region. Every time cannoks encountered my party, they attacked only my team even if mercenaries were closer to them! That's quite odd behavior for mindless species and it really decreases the realism of the game. I can't believe how they missed out on this part! It is really hard to forgive these kinds of programming errors, especially if you consider that some games from the previous decade had included a much more plausible strategy in the way in which creatures with random behavior should interact with everyone they encounter.

Some Star Wars KOTR2 screenshots

6. Page 6

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II Review - Page 6

GRAPHICS: Graphics aren't exactly one of the strong points of KOTR2. Obsidian used the same engine Bioware did for the first KOTR. Although there are some improvements ? some new visual effects during combats, especially when you use spells ? the graphics which were good in 2003 now showing their age. The portraits of the main characters are consisting from many polygons and there are well designed but you can't say the same for the majority of the non player characters (NPC). The same stands for the graphical representation of the enemies you encounter during your adventures (mining druids, mercenaries, sith assassins etc). The external and the interior locations you will visit during you travels also lack graphical detail. While some of the places are beautifully designed, most of them fail to give the feeling of a living world. Although the increase of the screen resolution (the game supports resolutions up to 1600x1200) with the aid of anti aliasing and anisotropy improves the visual result, the bottom line is that the graphics without being bad, don't match with today's high standards.

SOUND: The sound of KOTR2 is simply amazing. LucasArts assumed responsibility for the creation of music, sound effects and speech of the characters ? based upon the experience they gained both from Star Wars games and movies ? and the result should satisfy the even most exigent user. Music takes many different tones, from epic during combats to soft melodies after the completion of a quest. The sound effects are also in a high level with the sounds of the blasters, light sabers and especially the Force spells to distinguish. But the strongest part of sound is the incredible speech of the characters. While someone may not be impressed from the speech of the humans ? which is very good but not unfamiliar since many state-of-art games have offered us at least the same speech quality ? he certainly can leave unnoticed the ascription of the voices of aliens. Every race has its own distinct speech that adds more to the game's sound perfection.

GAMEPLAY: The gameplay of KOTR2 will magnetize you to your screen. There are a numerous of features which consist to this result: first of all the outstanding scenario of the game with the many inversions keep the adrenaline in high levels. The many quests and sub-quests (which can be completed with different ways) make the game even more interesting. Moreover the game is far from linear. After your escape from Peragus ? you have to do specific things in order to succeed that ? the following quests will put in dilemma about the path you will follow (it will lead you either to Light or to the Dark side of the Force). This choice will affect not only your character but also the other members of your party. Generally the game is very good in this part but it isn't flawless. It has two problems, one concerning the poor AI of the enemies (there is more about that in the part of this review which concerns combat) and the other the problems during movement. That last one can frustrate many users (the handling of the characters is quite odd and takes time to get familiarize with it) but if they used to it, they won't stop playing the game until the end.

SUMMARY: Star Wars KOTR2 is a very good role playing game and a worthy sequel of the 2003 PRG of the year. In an ?arid? year for PRGs, so far is the only bright exception (we wait the upcoming Dungeon Lords with great anticipation). Despite its deficits (problems in movement, poor enemy AI), the very good scenario and the many quests will keep you on screen until you finish the game. Obsidian's first task was a successful one despite the predecessor's heavy legacy. Its next task ? again a sequel ? will be considerably more difficult since it has to do will the creation of NeverWinter Nights 2! We can only wish good luck to Obsidian. It proves that it can develop high quality role playing games.

Some Star Wars KOTR2 screenshots

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