Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
Developer: Obsidian
Publisher: Lucasarts
Release Date: Out Now (US)
Players: 1
Words By:

This is probably the hardest of the reviews I have yet had to write. This is the sequel to my most enjoyed game of all time. So desperate was I to play it that instead of waiting two months for the UK version I imported a copy. So desperate was I to play it that time off was booked for its release. So desperate was I to play it that I again devoted 30+ hours in the space of 6 days to completing it. Now anyone who has read the Xmas update of Gamecell will see that its gone to the top of my favourite games of 2004, however I need to stress now that at the time of doing that list I was only 25 hours into the game, I also need to stress that despite what you are about to read, I stand by its position.

So here goes. KOTOR II manages to be the game I enjoyed most of last year AND the most DISAPPOINTING game I have EVER played!

Thatís a difficult thing for me to say, I feel like one of those mums on Trisha who has just worked out that the son who she has defended all these years really is a no good Chav who has stolen all the Christmas presents. So whatís the problem?

Well for the first 25 hours or so there really isnít one. The game starts off as an almost carbon copy of the first. The graphics are the same, the gameplay identical and everything feels spot on, it was like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers. Rather than spend the last 12 months or more on a new graphics engine and combat system Obsidian put their time into merely tweaking what they had and concentrating on the new story. It starts of with your chosen character awakening in the medical bay of a space station without a clue how he got there or even who he is. As you explore you start to piece together your background and meet loads more characters that you can fully interact with and get to join your party. The first is a rather strange old woman, and from the beginning you know she knows more about you than she is letting on.

Everything feels just right, the puzzles never over taxing, the combat just challenging enough. Developers Obsidian also have the stats side of things spot on, with XP points never given out too freely and additional levels always felt well earnt and rewarding. As you make your way around the early levels and planets some of the tweaks soon become apparent. Crates and lockers that you have opened and pillaged now show that they are empty and you can now upgrade nearly all the weapons you find as well as create new items and break apart old ones to use as you want. Itís just another way in which you can use the skills you have given you character.

The game even allows you to play sections with different members of your team in a kind of forced solo mode. Sometimes it may be just a one-off fight, other times quite a big section, but itís a welcome break and allows you to see the story from other angles. It really does add more flesh to these people that you have come to care (or maybe not care) about.

The whole light side/dark side thing is still present as well. This time your actions not only affect yourself but those characters around you. The nicer you are the more respected you become but should you choose to take the quicker, easier option then you soon find that the dark side of the force starts to consume not only you but your followers as well. Along with this you also have your force powers with even more to choose from than last time.

And as I said before, for the first 25 hours the game really is a joy, you feel part of a huge galaxy spanning story and take interest in all the characters you meet. You really want to talk to everyone and complete all those tiny little side quests that you come across. Again itís the closest you can get to playing in the Star Wars universe without going up in the attic and getting the old toys out. But then something very strange happens, it all goes horribly, horribly wrong.

At around the 25 hour mark the story seems to get completely forgotten, for a good portion of the next 5 hours you just run around fighting a seemingly endless onslaught of Sith soldiers in various locations, as wave after wave attacks you really start to think that itís just padding. It dawns on you that Obsidian has really rushed everything to get the game out when they did. At the 30 hour mark the story hits a brick wall. BANG - thatís it, no real ending as such and more questions than the entire Matrix trilogy asked are still left unanswered. Even your final conversation makes the whole thing obvious that the ending was rushed with one line answers given to questions about ďthe futureĒ

Looking around the net it appears that a complete planet has actually been left out of the game due to ďtime constraintsĒ Ė now that would not be that bad if it was not so obvious that that planet obviously held answers to many of the questions. Entire characters just get forgotten about, things happen for no reason at all. You spend 20 minutes preparing a planet to explode with one of your robot colleagues for no reason at all, it even ends with a cut scene that is never resolved, and this is just one of many, many examples. The more I sat after the ending the more let down I felt, it really did feel that for the past 30 hours the game had pulled a rather clever mind trick on me as more and more problems started to spring to light.

I even went back and replayed entire sections to see if it was just some glitch or something Iíd missed, but unfortunately it wasnít. The battles just become far too easy, the enemies never seem to get stronger and if you get the ďforce pushĒ skill maxed out you can take out 10+ Sith Soldiers with just four uses of it, all on your own. Ranged combat soon becomes pointless once you acquire a light sabre and to be honest so do the other party members. Come the 25th hour you with your force push skill can overcome anything Ė and should you get hit then you just run away a little bit and let your energy come back. The only challenge you face fight-wise in the entire time of playing is the final battle, which has obviously been ramped up to give you some sense of achievement.

I could go on, but I will not, it angers me that this game was let down by a rushed schedule and that itís so obvious that is what has happened. It still remains at the top of my list for last years games as that was written prior to completion of the game and I feel some credit must be given to Obsidian for those first 25 hours, a story so good that you donít immediately notice the cracks appear and only notice a problem when the roof caves in. Itís a real shame, a few more months work would obviously have made this a winner, and a certain 10 for score, but as it is half a game then it gets half a score.

Maybe, just maybe (itís the optimist in me) the UK and PC release of the game will be finished and include that missing planet and all those answers, or maybe theyíre saving it for an Xbox Live download, either way in this form KOTOR II feels exasperatingly incomplete and rushed.

Best Bits

- Those first 25 hours Ė so much potential.
Worst Bits

- Itís so obviously not finished.

by: dUnKle

Copyright © Gamecell 2005