Thursday, March 17, 2005

Knights of the Old Republic II

The sequel to one of my all time favourite games is out. Is it any good? Hell Yeah. Rich story and great characters, but it has its faults. Improving things for my personal experience is Chris playing Dark Side this time, instead of vaguely watching someone retrace my footsteps I get to see the other side of the game, some small differences, some major.

One problem I do have is the loading screens/times. I must stress here that in some areas they’re fine in, but others, of note so far the second planet you visit where I got extremely pissed off with them, every two seconds there seemed to be another one. What made it worse was some of the areas appeared tiny, making me wonder the reason for the need to load the area.

I’ve heard the complaint that the game doesn’t have any of the planets from the films. THANK GOD. Is it just me or is the fact that so much happened on backwater planets like Tatooine or Hoth getting a bit ridiculous? I have no problem with places like Coruscant constantly being visited, it is the Capital of the Galaxy after all, but the place furthest from the bright spot of the galaxy I do. Instead we visit a bunch of places that have resonance for this time period, originals or mainstays from games. Onderon, Dxun and Korriban are from the Tales of the Jedi comics that this is following on from. Plus Korriban is a return from the previous game, as is Dantooine. While Peragus II and Telos are originals. Its Telos and Nar Shaddaa that I have problems with. Why make it a new planet with Telos when the previous games Taris fulfils the role perfectly? Nar Shaddaa, surely this hasn’t been this built and that bad for all this time, I can buy that Coruscant is but not a Smuggler’s Moon.

One of the main parts of any RPG is the story. In this KotOR 2 excels… sort of. Personally I think the story of your character is much better that the one in the first time game. Instead of a mind wipe and you discovering what happened to you, the digital you knows exactly what he’s done but he’s keeping quiet, you have to put it together from what other characters know/say. To me this was much more satisfying, the character much more mysterious and for my Light Side game someone who didn’t want to advertise where he was during the Mandalorian Wars.

Which brings us nicely to the other members of your party. Once again all the members have rich stories behind them. Unfortunately this only comes out if you spend time with them, a good touch as they’ll only tell you things if they trust, an excellent example is in Chris’ Dark Side game where the Handmaiden won’t even speak to him anymore because he’s too evil. However it also has the downside that you can miss some major plot points if you don’t favour the right people. In my games one or two of the Handmaiden’s decisions were a bit surprising, and I imagine Chris is going to be quite baffled by her.

The plot characters outside your party are quiet a mixed bag which I feel is LucasArts fault rather than Obsidian’s but more on that later. Colonel Tobin, a secondary character on Onderon who reappears (in the Light Side game at least) felt extremely well flashed out. Meanwhile Darth Nihilus, one of the main bad guys, was as two dimensional as a Garfield cartoon. This becomes blatantly clear during the ending.

Ah, the ending, the main complaint of nearly every gamer whose played KotOR 2. The game was originally planned for a February/March release, then LucasArts took the bright decision to ship for Christmas in the US. Clearly the game wasn’t finished or even ready. Obsidian tried their best but in the end nothing will ever make up for that lost time.

This game could have outclassed the original easily and was well on the way to doing that. Unfortunately, LucasArts got greedy and as a result the game’s ending lets it down. Hopefully Knights of the Old Republic III can address this.