Monday, 14 February 2005
Is the force still with the sequel to the original, critically acclaimed KOTOR?
Think back. Think back a long time, to the time when Lucasarts was a company well known for quality. Well known for great, nigh-on flawless games such as Dark Forces, Sam and Max, and Full Throttle. Then think forward to now. Using various cavalier agencies of the damned, they have created themselves a bad portfolio, and only within the last year have made any headway in recovering from such dismal failures as Force Commander and Obi-Wan. KOTOR was one of the first to finally pull them out of despondency and win back the fans they’d lost before; and so, naturally, a sequel was made.
You play a former Jedi, exiled, sans-force, and sans-lightsaber. You find yourself on the remote yet crucial mining station Peragus II, and it all starts to go horribly wrong. You meet the shadowy doublespeaking Jedi Kreia, and the mysterious scoundrel Atton, who unerringly complains about anything remotely helpful he has to do throughout the entire first section of the game. The connection to the original is somewhat there; you are following in the footsteps of Darth Revan, who has gone missing. The Jedi have been hunted down by the Sith, and the entire fate of the galaxy, once again, falls upon your shoulders.
For those of you that have played the original, the game will be very much similar to that which you have dealt with before. You go to several planets, complete a series of quests, and eventually reach a conclusion on that planet. Along the way you recruit various classes of characters who you can use you create your own motley crew to dispose of the galaxy’s various do-gooders or badders, based upon the choices you make throughout the game.
Writing this review is an incredibly difficult process. A great deal of the game is left untouched from the original, regardless of the fact that it’s an entirely new team handling it. Some force powers and statistics have had their damage and effect tweaked very slightly, but most have been left alone.
There are elements of the game that are lacklustre, though. In the American release, the bugginess of the game is unforgivable. Within my first hour of play, I found myself stuck within a texture, and having to go back at least fifteen minutes to replay to a point, hoping and praying that it would actually load the right spot in the game. Hopefully, this has been fixed in the European releases.
Not only this, but the game feels so much of a rehash that it boggles the mind exactly why it took so long to release. Characters are two dimensional and predictable, which makes gaining influence and dark/light side points the same simple matter of choosing “kick the puppy” instead of “pet the puppy” time and time again. The storyline also seems to take the same predictable curves – characters betray left, right, and centre, ally with you depending on how good or evil you are, and it all ends with a massive, cataclysmic possibility that you narrowly avert, or harness for your own perpetual evils.
However, for all my solemn hyperbole, I did enjoy KOTOR 2. Though it is similar in what type of game it is, and how it will end is reasonably obvious if you take even the quickest moment to think about it, The Sith Lords is actually a reasonably fun romp.
First of all, there are the prestige classes, which essentially allow you to build upon the originals, and for anybody who enjoys stat-based combat, that’s just dandy. The balance between the Light and the Dark Side has also been tweaked somewhat. Now, instead of the light side being left to the side as the evil classes tear a hole in everything around them, the Light Side is inherently very, very strong at healing, and both sides are able to use the devastating (and unbelievably satisfying) force storm, which electrifies everything in the vicinity for huge amounts of damage. Combat feels the same, but hasn’t forgotten to cover up the D&D rules it’s based on with simple, easy to understand numbers.
Sadly, KOTOR 2 doesn’t feel as great as the original. The storyline has moments of real brilliance where your character deals with his or her past, or where you take part in intergalactic struggles…but it seems to lack any of the punch. The ending has also caught the same sickness that plagued both Halo 2 and Half-Life 2, but the result is even more virulent; it made me scream angrily at the TV. When a 23 hour RPG has a less substantial ending cutscene than Katamari Damacy, I begin to despair.
There is undoubtably fun to be had here, and for 90% of the time, KOTOR 2 will be a deep, interesting RPG romp. It’s fun building up your character and playing with force powers, and it is actually a game worthy enough to play through twice, if not three times, just to do things differently. It is not excellent, by any means, but a solid, playable title, that should have been a great deal more than it is.