Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

KOTOR2 Draft

Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) II is the sequel to one of the best games ever made. It's a "more of the same" sort of sequel, as opposed to a radical improvement, though this is not really anything to complain about since it means we got the sequel in about 15 months after the first one.

I'm going to be comparing it a lot to the first, in part because they are similar, and in part because I do think you need to play the first KOTOR before this one, otherwise some things won't make sense.

The graphics have been improved somewhat - at least they seem to be much sharper. Sometimes KOTOR looked a bit blurry, at least in the early levels. However, the frame rate seems to be choppier. That was a problem in the original game, it's a lot worse in this one.

The mechanics of the game system itself have been improved. You can now create new items from old items you don't want. You can upgrade most weapons and armor. Light sabers are much more complex - basically 5 slots to add stuff in. The downside is, all of the light saber stuff is apparently random, so you could play it through without getting any of the cool colors or upgrades.

So, on paper, for the most part, it's pretty good. Unfortunately, the intangibles of the game - character development, plot, etc, don't touch the original.

There are a number of characters you can add to your party. As near as I can tell, most of them aren't optional, they just get added whether you like them or not (apparently there is some choice if you play a male or female character, plus if you play light side or dark side. But very minor ones).

Character development is not especially deep. In the original KOTOR, the various NPCs would want to talk to you every so often, and have a whole new conversation tree. This would then generally spawn additional side quests.

In KOTOR2, well, basically they have the same conversation tree the entire game. So you ask the characters the same thing over and over and over, but eventually you might get a different answer, because your "influence" with them is higher.

So, really, this is a big step backwards, I think. Not only is it somewhat illogical (since you go through the same conversation a dozen times), you simply don't learn as much about the characters. I mean, in the original KOTOR, you learned all about Bastila's mother, Carth's late wife and his doofus son, heard all these war stories from Canderous, heard about HK's history of killing people (which was very amusingly told), Jolee's adventures, Juhani's hardships, etc.

Now, some could consider this a positive, as some of those stories were sort of long winded. But if you liked the character, you probably enjoyed learning more about them.

On the other hand, one nice thing, is that you actually use your other characters more. In many cases you have to play others in order to advance the story. This is often problematic though, as you might not realize this, and may have neglected their armor/weapons (I know I did), which could make the game difficult.

The lack of character development extends to your enemies, as well. The guy on the cover, Darth Nihulus, never actually says anything intelligble. Though the other Darth, Darth Traya does have fairly decent development. Sorta. (There are actually 3 Darths, in apparent violate of the 2 Darths at a time rule, though maybe that came later...)

Plot, wise, it's okay, though it perhaps doesn't jibe with other Star Wars lore, canonical and not (I can't explain why not without going into spoilers), and is somewhat weak. You play "The Exile", which is basically one of the Jedi who fought the Mandalorians with Revan and Malak. Supposedly you are the "Last" Jedi remaining, and so are hunted by the Sith. Any more I would run into spoilers, but it somewhat parallels in the first game in how it works. You start off on one planet, then eventually get to travel to a few different ones. Only 4 in this case.

Still, the nature of the gameplay is what I disliked. To a certain extent, a lot of the "quests" in the original KOTOR were non-combat based - lots of exploration, solving riddles, 2 murder investigations, etc. In KOTOR II, well, just about everything is combat. It gets old after a while. Right away, actually. Because it's not very interesting combat. Just mow down people.

The ending is a bit depressing, too. At least, it leaves a bitter feeling in my mouth. I went through all that for that?

And it's perhaps a bit short, I finished it in just 30 1/2 hours, while pretty much taking my time. At least until the end, when I was sort of sick of all the combat and just rushed by enemies, to hurry to the final confrontation.

I would have to recommend renting it, or buying it used. It's just not something I would ever want to play again, too much like work than fun, and you can probably beat it within the rental period (I would say 4-5 days of gameplay, so maybe 2 rental periods).