Dusty Reviews: Knights of the Old Republic II

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Dusty Reviews - Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords


Obsidian. That name to gamers conjures up feelings not unlike a teacher who witnesses a student squandering his great potential. The developer is known more for their lack of polish and abundance of bugs in games than they are for the stories and mechanics within those games. This is a shame, albeit an earned one. Obsidian Entertainment has given the gaming world well-crafted stories that avoid many of the tropes other developers are over-reliant on. This review is about one of those stories.

First of all, I must note that I am reviewing the Xbox version of Knights of the Old Republic II (KotOR II from here on out). Naturally, this means that mods, including the expansive restored content mod will not factor in my opinion. Also, this review will contain some spoilers for both KotOR I and KotOR II. I will try to keep them as light as I can, but spoilers will be present nonetheless.

Story

KotOR II is a follow-up to BioWare's acclaimed Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which is set thousands of years before the Star Wars films. To discuss the second game, it is necessary to make the setting clear. The first game told the story of some major figures in the Jedi civil War, a conflict that stemmed from the Mandalorian War, which ended only years before the start of the game. Jedi ideology plays a big role in both games, as these Jedi are different than the ones we are used to seeing in the films. The council of Jedi holds more strongly to nonviolent solutions and when an army of Mandalorian soldiers start a brutal invasion of planets throughout the galaxy and threatens the Republic (who the Jedi ally with), the council decides the appropriate course of action is to try diplomatic solutions rather than fight back.

Not all Jedi agreed with this judgment, however, and two Jedi in particular - Revan and Malak - set off to fight the Mandalorians. They urged others to join them in the war and their decision became a turning point in the war. The Republic soon won, largely due to them. But their decision created an ideological division between Jedi, and fighting broke out between the two sides, beginning the Jedi civil War. This is the environment upon beginning the first game, which is set in the middle of this war.

In KotOR II, you are one of the Jedi who followed Revan and Malak to fight in the Mandalorian War. It is made clear at the very beginning that the Jedi council exiled you for your choice and that you have lost your connection to the Force at the same time. You discover that a new Sith threat has come that is unlike any other that preceded, and you set out to both stop them and learn more of why you lost your connection to the Force, and why it is that you have suddenly started to feel it again. Aiding you in this quest is an eclectic group of individuals, including an aging woman who once was a Jedi herself - Kreia.

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Some advice: Have her in your party always

Kreia is the heart of the story in the game. It is hard not to be in awe of her teachings, even if you don't quite agree with what she says. Keep her in your party and she will offer her philosophy ("advice" is too weak a word for what it is) on several matters you're encountered. She makes you question your actions and weigh them carefully. She might be one of the greatest characters in both games and the Star Wars universe.

The rest of your team all play their respective roles. Some you have a past with, either first or second hand. There are a few returning characters from the first game, one of which is still a joy to speak with and bring out to battle. They all have some unique dialogue when you bring them with you, and I find myself trying to get to know different ones better with each new playthrough. Interesting characters exist outside of your team as well. Many of them exist, actually. Several of them have a connection to your past and serve to continue a major theme of the game: Demolishing the Jedi philosophy and seeing what still stands.

Gameplay

The combat in the game plays like the first game, but slightly improved. Skills are more useful and some valuable feats have been added. Finesse is my favorite addition. With it, you can have the higher stat of either Dexterity or Strength be the stat that determines your effectiveness with a given weapon. This allows greater flexibility in your team member roles. Some weapons (blaster rifles, specifically) are nerfed, however. While there are feats melee weapons, lightsabers, and blaster pistols that increase their effectiveness (attack modifiers, critical chance, damage bonuses), blaster rifles lack some of the comparable feats. The game also lets unarmed combat be a viable option (you'll likely have one team member in particular focus on unarmed fighting).

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Force Lightning: Also great for makeshift barbecues.

Jedi Powers are still a joy to use. Though some buffing effects have a frustratingly short duration, they can make a colossal difference in battle. Force Wave and Force Storm are still as overpowered and insanely fun to cast[1]. Added to the your repertoire are Lightsaber and Force forms. These are abilities you learn from other characters as you progress that allow you more situational flexibility (Some lightsaber forms are better against other Jedi, some better against blasters, some against many enemies. Some Force forms make you more potent at the cost of extra Force points, and others allow you to regain Force points more quickly). There are many variables to work with in the game, and it's fun to tinker and see what works best.

The story excels and surpasses the first game, the combat is improved as well, but the game is generally seen as lesser than its predecessor. Why is that, you ask?

The Issues

"GZZRKK!"

Get used to that noise. It happens often. Seriously, this game is marred with audio issues. Two minutes did not pass without hearing that awful sound. A few graphical issues are present as well, but not at a rate that surpasses most games these days. The most unfortunate issue in the game is with its story, however. It ends abruptly and without much of an epilogue. After a thrilling climax full of tension and conflict both external and internal, there is no satisfying denouement. It's just over. After 20-30 hours of mostly brilliant storytelling, the feeling you're left with at the end is one of dissatisfaction. You'll say, "This can't be it". But it is it.

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And they still couldn't find all the missing pages

There are reasons for this of course, but knowing them won't make the ending better. I was willing to deal with the audio problems because the game was outstanding otherwise, but the unfinished nature of the game really detracts from the experience. However, KotOR II is stellar game and one that I highly recommend you try. Its a great experience, from the villains of near-mythological status to its more humble yet still powerful moments.

Oh, and...

[1] Really, do yourself a favor and go with a high wisdom Force user. You'll thank me.

I loved this game. Easily better then the first one. The characters are more interesting then your standard Bioware characters(not saying Bioware's characters are bad, its just a break from them is really, really nice), the story is better, and I was quite surprised at the amount of ways I could solve my problems.

I also love Kreia. She doesn't bitch at you for choosing light or dark, she just wants you to pick one and and commit to it. Shame her conversations on the ship didn't go anywhere though.

I just wish Lucasarts didn't completely screw Obsidian over. And I'm still trying to decide which ending is worse, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Kotor 2.

Irridium:
I loved this game. Easily better then the first one. The characters are more interesting then your standard Bioware characters(not saying Bioware's characters are bad, its just a break from them is really, really nice), the story is better, and I was quite surprised at the amount of ways I could solve my problems.

I also love Kreia. She doesn't bitch at you for choosing light or dark, she just wants you to pick one and and commit to it. Shame her conversations on the ship didn't go anywhere though.

I just wish Lucasarts didn't completely screw Obsidian over. And I'm still trying to decide which ending is worse, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Kotor 2.

Have you played any of the restored content? I don't have the game for my computer, so it isn't an option. I've looked up videos to try to get an idea of what I'm missing out on, but its still not a complete picture.

DustyDrB:

Irridium:
I loved this game. Easily better then the first one. The characters are more interesting then your standard Bioware characters(not saying Bioware's characters are bad, its just a break from them is really, really nice), the story is better, and I was quite surprised at the amount of ways I could solve my problems.

I also love Kreia. She doesn't bitch at you for choosing light or dark, she just wants you to pick one and and commit to it. Shame her conversations on the ship didn't go anywhere though.

I just wish Lucasarts didn't completely screw Obsidian over. And I'm still trying to decide which ending is worse, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Kotor 2.

Have you played any of the restored content? I don't have the game for my computer, so it isn't an option. I've looked up videos to try to get an idea of what I'm missing out on, but its still not a complete picture.

I have not. Its damn near impossible to find the game on the PC, so I haven't been able to try it.

I liked KotOR I more than the second one, but I've always thought KotOR II was a good game in its own right. I don't doubt that if Obsidian had gotten a full two years to work on it, it would've been better than the first game without question. I guess the best way to put it would be that I liked KotOR I more than its sequel, but I liked KotOR II's raw potential more than its prequel's.

That reminds me, I need to get busy playing the Restored Content Mod...

Irridium:

DustyDrB:

Irridium:
I loved this game. Easily better then the first one. The characters are more interesting then your standard Bioware characters(not saying Bioware's characters are bad, its just a break from them is really, really nice), the story is better, and I was quite surprised at the amount of ways I could solve my problems.

I also love Kreia. She doesn't bitch at you for choosing light or dark, she just wants you to pick one and and commit to it. Shame her conversations on the ship didn't go anywhere though.

I just wish Lucasarts didn't completely screw Obsidian over. And I'm still trying to decide which ending is worse, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Kotor 2.

Have you played any of the restored content? I don't have the game for my computer, so it isn't an option. I've looked up videos to try to get an idea of what I'm missing out on, but its still not a complete picture.

I have not. Its damn near impossible to find the game on the PC, so I haven't been able to try it.

Took me a long time too (had to leave the city to get a copy). I'd try Ebay, there are some reputable sellers of the game there.

Irridium:

DustyDrB:

Irridium:
I loved this game. Easily better then the first one. The characters are more interesting then your standard Bioware characters(not saying Bioware's characters are bad, its just a break from them is really, really nice), the story is better, and I was quite surprised at the amount of ways I could solve my problems.

I also love Kreia. She doesn't bitch at you for choosing light or dark, she just wants you to pick one and and commit to it. Shame her conversations on the ship didn't go anywhere though.

I just wish Lucasarts didn't completely screw Obsidian over. And I'm still trying to decide which ending is worse, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Kotor 2.

Have you played any of the restored content? I don't have the game for my computer, so it isn't an option. I've looked up videos to try to get an idea of what I'm missing out on, but its still not a complete picture.

I have not. Its damn near impossible to find the game on the PC, so I haven't been able to try it.

Try EBay. You may not have any luck though, due to the fact that KoTOR is still a very popular, if aged game.

OT: Great review. Though, just to mention, without the Restoration Mod(s) installed for the game, it is a very glitch-ridden, buggy, and overall incomplete experience. Not exactly great at giving it a positive light first playthrough.

Irridium:

DustyDrB:

Irridium:
I loved this game. Easily better then the first one. The characters are more interesting then your standard Bioware characters(not saying Bioware's characters are bad, its just a break from them is really, really nice), the story is better, and I was quite surprised at the amount of ways I could solve my problems.

I also love Kreia. She doesn't bitch at you for choosing light or dark, she just wants you to pick one and and commit to it. Shame her conversations on the ship didn't go anywhere though.

I just wish Lucasarts didn't completely screw Obsidian over. And I'm still trying to decide which ending is worse, Neverwinter Nights 2 or Kotor 2.

Have you played any of the restored content? I don't have the game for my computer, so it isn't an option. I've looked up videos to try to get an idea of what I'm missing out on, but its still not a complete picture.

I have not. Its damn near impossible to find the game on the PC, so I haven't been able to try it.

I had it for my old computer some years ago, and I'm pretty sure I bought it from Best Buy then. You can try it there or on eBay, as others have said.

ShadowsofHope:

Irridium:

DustyDrB:

Have you played any of the restored content? I don't have the game for my computer, so it isn't an option. I've looked up videos to try to get an idea of what I'm missing out on, but its still not a complete picture.

I have not. Its damn near impossible to find the game on the PC, so I haven't been able to try it.

Try EBay. You may not have any luck though, due to the fact that KoTOR is still a very popular, if aged game.

OT: Great review. Though, just to mention, without the Restoration Mod(s) installed for the game, it is a very glitch-ridden, buggy, and overall incomplete experience. Not exactly great at giving it a positive light first playthrough.

This is actually my fourth playthrough of the game, but first in at least three years. The audio glitches are bad, but I didn't notice many bugs or glitches aside from that. Like I said, a few graphical glitches, but not at an abnormal rate. No issues with save files either. I'm aware that those things have a way of showing up frequently for some people and hardly ever for others, though. The incompleteness is by far the worst consequence of Obsidian being rushed to complete the game (or Obsidian's incompetence with QA, depending on your point of view).

DustyDrB:
~snip~

Irridium:
~snip~

List of what's restored by the content mod. Sorted by planet. Obviously, spoilers ahoy for anyone who hasn't finished it yet, you can also download the mod itself at that site.

OT: Good review, though of course my love for KOTOR 2 is well documented by my post history.

DustyDrB:
This is actually my fourth playthrough of the game, but first in at least three years. The audio glitches are bad, but I didn't notice many bugs or glitches aside from that. Like I said, a few graphical glitches, but not at an abnormal rate. No issues with save files either. I'm aware that those things have a way of showing up frequently for some people and hardly ever for others, though. The incompleteness is by far the worst consequence of Obsidian being rushed to complete the game (or Obsidian's incompetence with QA, depending on your point of view).

True enough, it's very much a matter of computer competence, downloading patches, and keeping settings for the game world itself at a tolerable level while not making it look just ugly (unimmersive). And yes, LucasArts was indeed responsible for fucking over Obsidian's role in the completion of KoTOR 2. Which is why I have never forgiven them for it yet, either (It could have been so much more).

But nonetheless, I did love it once I got everything at a tolerable running capacity and patchworked some mods in (along with the Restoration Mod). KoTOR was made great by the PC controlling one of the most famous Jedi in Star Wars history (Revan). KoTOR 2 was made great by Kreia, in the end.

MisterShine:

List of what's restored by the content mod. Sorted by planet. Obviously, spoilers ahoy for anyone who hasn't finished it yet, you can also download the mod itself at that site.

OT: Good review, though of course my love for KOTOR 2 is well documented by my post history.

I just actually read through that whole thing. Dear Lord is it massive. It warrants its own review separate from the vanilla game.

DustyDrB:

I just actually read through that whole thing. Dear Lord is it massive. It warrants its own review separate from the vanilla game.

I've played through the restored version twice now, in my opinion in brings the game up from 'great' to 'legendary'. Seriously if the game had been released like that with fewer bugs (though the mod also does bug fixes), a lot of people would still today call it the best RPG ever made.

MisterShine:

DustyDrB:

I just actually read through that whole thing. Dear Lord is it massive. It warrants its own review separate from the vanilla game.

I've played through the restored version twice now, in my opinion in brings the game up from 'great' to 'legendary'. Seriously if the game had been released like that with fewer bugs (though the mod also does bug fixes), a lot of people would still today call it the best RPG ever made.

Just have to ask, I finally got kotor2 for PC and downloaded the restoration mod but was I meant to place it in any perticular area or will it just run regardless of where it is?

Yassen:

Just have to ask, I finally got kotor2 for PC and downloaded the restoration mod but was I meant to place it in any perticular area or will it just run regardless of where it is?

I'm a little confused at your question.

You download the .exe from here
http://www.filefront.com/16851837/tslrcm_1.6.exe/

and when it prompts you where you installed KOTOR 2, direct it to the main folder and install. If it worked you'll see the launcher for the game change to say its the restored content version.

MisterShine:

Yassen:

Just have to ask, I finally got kotor2 for PC and downloaded the restoration mod but was I meant to place it in any perticular area or will it just run regardless of where it is?

I'm a little confused at your question.

You download the .exe from here
http://www.filefront.com/16851837/tslrcm_1.6.exe/

and when it prompts you where you installed KOTOR 2, direct it to the main folder and install. If it worked you'll see the launcher for the game change to say its the restored content version.

Oh I know what I did wrong, I pressed save instead of run. /facepalm
Thanks for the link.

 

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