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A Look at KotOR II as a sequel and as an RPG

 

I was a massive fan of the original Knights of the Old Republic. It did for me something that George Lucas utterly failed to do with his new films: captured and resurrected the spirit of Star Wars. It was epic, with lovable yet archetypal characters, acted by people who weren't the best or the most believable at their trade, but who had personality, style, and charisma to make up for it.

 

I didn't come into KotOR II with very high expectations. BioWare went off to do Jade Empire and Dragon Age, leaving the continuation of their story in the hands of a company I had no doubt would fail to top the masters of the single-player RPG genre.

 

Yet I knew Obsidian had some talent in it, developers who knew how to handle RPGs, so I expected at least a decent offering. That's what I got. A decent offering. Maybe due to how quickly it was pushed out the door, or maybe because the writers just weren't quite as in control of their story as BioWare's were, but regardless of the cause, KotOR II does not live up to its predecessor.

 

And here's why.

 

The packaging - Graphics, Sound, and Interface

 

See: KotOR. Not much has changed. All of the old glitches present in the modified Aurora engine used in the original game still remain in KotOR II. The poor pathfinding, irritating collision detection, and competent yet slightly awkward interface. It's all here. The game was easy enough to control, just like the first one. But like the first, cycling through menus and selection bars with my D-pad or L/R buttons got old after awhile, especially in the heat of battle. It wasn't too hard to control the game, but I can't help but think Obsidian could have retooled the interface a little, made it a bit more intuitive and easy to handle. No such luck.

 

The graphics look about like they did in KotOR. In fact, a large portion of the models used in the first game return for its sequel. Interestingly enough, many of the models created by Obsidian are nicer than BioWare's original work--art was never BioWare's strongest point, I suppose.

 

And then there's the sound. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single sound effect I didn't hear in the first game, and the music sounded about the same. Except, of course, the voiceovers. There were many of them, and most of the voice acting was quite good, at least as good as that in the original game. The dialogue, on the other hand... well, that's for a later section of this review.

 

There was one major problem with the "packaging", though. The game had serious technical issues, obviously seriously straining my Xbox to handle it. As a PC gamer who bought an Xbox for KotOR II and Jade Empire, I don't rightly know whether this was a major problem with the original KotOR, because I didn't play through it on my Xbox. Regardless, traversing the menu was an exercise in frustration--not only did I have to cycle through it with my L/R buttons, I had to cycle through it slowly and painfully as the game struggled to load each screen. It was a frustration throughout the game, and I had frame rate issues as well, most noticeably when entering an area. These problems didn't cripple the game, but they were an irritation, especially since there are games on the Xbox that look much better and have far less in the way of technical issues.

 

Gameplay

 

Much like the original game, KotOR II has you run through planets in a nonlinear order, performing minor tasks to reach the more important ones. It's a formula that works, and Obsidian handled it just as well as BioWare did, in terms of gameplay. There's a lot of fetching, running around, and discovering things, but it's mostly engaging and fun to deal with. I was rarely bored after I got into the swing of things, and I took my time just exploring the side quests and talking to NPCs.

 

But where that structure works just as well as it did in KotOR, the combat does not. The changes Obsidian made to the rules, the equipment they eventually start handing out like candy, and the whirlwind of Force Powers, Feats, and items eventually results in your character becoming almost godlike in power. The combat was frustratingly easy, to the point of me often putting down my controller when it started and watching the pretty lights until it ended. By the end of the game, I was killing enemies solo in one round per target, with normal, unfeated attacks. And I didn't even pick Jedi Weapon Master as my Prestige class.

 

The Meat - Story and Dialogue

 

I play single-player RPGs for one primary reason: to experience a story, not just as a passive bystander, but as an active force in determining its outcome. The quality of the story and how much I feel I can influence it are the two factors that determine my ultimate enjoyment of an RPG.

 

Unfortunately, this is the area in which KotOR II most obviously fails. It's not my influence on the story that it fails in--in that it matches and even surpasses the original game. No, it's in the quality of the story itself that KotOR II falls so far short of its predecessor.

 

I started noticing it right away. Mysteries, mysteries everywhere. Even things my character knew, I wasn't allowed to know, which only served to detach me from him. I felt as if Obsidian was trying to manipulate me into playing their game on the false tension that derives from lacking knowledge and having none given to you.

 

I might have forgiven that, however, if the resolutions to those many mysteries had proven powerful and satisfying. Unfortunately, the resolutions, including the ultimate ending, were as confusing and filled with blank spaces as was the rest of the story.

 

The writer had talent, though. There's a difference, you see, between talent and skill. The writer proved he had talent with things like his intriguing villains (moreso than Malak) and the powerful, clear moments scattered throughout the story. He also proved he lacked skill because his plot was an overcomplicated, confusing mess.

 

He also forgot that this is a Star Wars game. Star Wars is not about moral ambiguity. It's not about complicated, tangled webs of relationships, events, and philosophies. Star Wars is about what's right and what's wrong, and the clear separation between the two. It's about heroes and villains and epic struggles. It is and always has been a modern day myth, built on the same things that made stories like The Iliad & The Odyssey persevere. Star Wars does have its subtleties, but it's not about the subtleties. Its subtleties are not its heart. KotOR II loses sight of this, and it was only when hints of a true Star Wars story started to emerge that I got shivers up my spine (roots, perhaps, for KotOR III).

 

So the story ultimately failed for me, but I enjoyed it anyway, because it had enough good moments to leave me with some sense of satisfaction.

 

As for the dialogue, well, it's good. But there's a lot of it. Too much of it, in fact.

NPCs often reiterate the same thing they just said a line or two ago, except in different wording. You start to wonder why the writer didn't cut some of this stuff out, when it would so obviously cost them more money in the studio recording voiceovers. And because the voiceovers were so good, I felt obligated to listen to every line, even when it was just wasted disc space. KotOR handled this much better, rarely rambling on in this manner. It was cleaner, more concise, and it's a shame KotOR II didn't follow its example.

 

Conclusion

 

If I make it sound like I hated KotOR II, I didn't. I liked it. As an RPG, it was a good game, and it was 35 hours well spent. But it could have been so much more--it could have been a sequel that lived up to the simple power of the original KotOR. With all of its complexities, all of its detail, and its massive amounts of dialogue, KotOR II still doesn't match up to its predecessor because it neglects the things that make a story great and forsakes what made KotOR so undeniably Star Wars.

 

I got what I expected. KotOR II was worth my $50 and 35 hours. But it didn't live up to the magnificent work BioWare did with the original game.

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BioWare went off to do Jade Empire and Dragon Age, leaving the continuation of their story in the hands of a company I had no doubt would fail to top the masters of the single-player RPG genre.

 

*collapses in a fit of laughter*

I made this half-pony half-monkey monster to please you

But I get the feeling that you don't like it

What's with all the screaming?

You like monkeys, you like ponies

Maybe you don't like monsters so much

Maybe I used too many monkeys

Isn't it enough to know that I ruined a pony making a gift for you?

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As for the dialogue, well, it's good. But there's a lot of it. Too much of it, in fact.

NPCs often reiterate the same thing they just said a line or two ago, except in different wording. You start to wonder why the writer didn't cut some of this stuff out, when it would so obviously cost them more money in the studio recording voiceovers. And because the voiceovers were so good, I felt obligated to listen to every line, even when it was just wasted disc space. KotOR handled this much better, rarely rambling on in this manner. It was cleaner, more concise, and it's a shame KotOR II didn't follow its example.

Not the least surprising as this is the same person who wrote for Torment. He gives the impression he might be the kind of guy that likes to hear himself talk.

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On the contrary, i think that Obsidian delivered the Star Wars feel perfectly. ESB was all about self-discovery and that's what this game is all about too. The cliffhanger didn't bother me at all, since it was expected from the very beginning.

"Some men see things as they are and say why?"
"I dream things that never were and say why not?"
- George Bernard Shaw

"Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

"The amount of energy necessary to refute bull**** is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."

- Some guy 

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On the contrary, i think that Obsidian delivered the Star Wars feel perfectly. ESB was all about self-discovery and that's what this game is all about too. The cliffhanger didn't bother me at all, since it was expected from the very beginning.

 

Yeah, but ESB was easily comprehensible, with a clear plot... and regardless of its darker nature, the good guys were still undeniably good, and the bad guys bad. KotOR II is far too muddy and unclear--not just the morality of its characters, but the entire story. My complaints were not about the "feel" of the game, anyway. They were about the substance of the game, which is something different entirely.

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BioWare went off to do Jade Empire and Dragon Age, leaving the continuation of their story in the hands of a company I had no doubt would fail to top the masters of the single-player RPG genre.

 

*collapses in a fit of laughter*

 

I had to chuckle at that. Bioware a master of single player CRPGs? BWAAHAAAHAAAAA! Master of the Multiplayer yes, but single player?!?!? HA!

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On the contrary, i think that Obsidian delivered the Star Wars feel perfectly. ESB was all about self-discovery and that's what this game is all about too. The cliffhanger didn't bother me at all, since it was expected from the very beginning.

 

Yeah, but ESB was easily comprehensible, with a clear plot... and regardless of its darker nature, the good guys were still undeniably good, and the bad guys bad. KotOR II is far too muddy and unclear--not just the morality of its characters, but the entire story. My complaints were not about the "feel" of the game, anyway. They were about the substance of the game, which is something different entirely.

 

Fair enough. Each one has his/hers perception of what is substantially good for a Star Wars game, i like it, and you like it less.

 

Why can't most of people who disagrees with KotOR II's story be able to express their critizism in a constructively manner like you, instead of ranting and raving like kids who didn't all the christmas presents they wanted?

"Some men see things as they are and say why?"
"I dream things that never were and say why not?"
- George Bernard Shaw

"Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

 

"The amount of energy necessary to refute bull**** is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."

- Some guy 

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sounds like I will enjoy it .. yay ..

 

I think this muddy not black/white sounds intriguing! :p I like to question the firm and established ideas and apply my own interpretation!

 

will I be able to do that?

Fortune favors the bald.

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If you are asking me, I liked...

 

- New animations and the Lightsaber/Force forms, like Force Channel or Shii-Choo.

 

- New Force powers - altough it is possible to beat the game without even using Force powers at all, it was fun to try Force Body and all the new powers that were there just to boost you up a little extra. I also loved Force Crush and Force Enlightment. Force Sight as well is an interesting Force power.

 

- The prestige classes are excellent, and all the features that come with them of course. Inner Strength, Superior Two-Handed Weapons feats, etc.

 

- Cloaking actually looks like cloaking while in KOTOR 1 it looked like you had been electrocuted.

 

- I also liked how the character swings differently once you reach higher levels, or depending on what sort of Forms you used.

 

- The new workbench/lab station. Upgrading seems more advanced now and I simply love it. You can even have partymembers make components for you.

 

- HK-47, enough said. Altough not a new feature, he is interesting and I wonder what his Droid Language feat really is good for.

 

- New Lightsaber colours, finally. Interesting crystals.

 

- And the excellent Jedi Robes. They look better than the old ones, though I didn't mind the old ones too much, I just say this is a step forward for the Jedi robes.

 

Maybe I forgot to type down something more I liked, but it's enough as it is.

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k

 

edit:

 

- And the excellent Jedi Robes. They look better than the old ones, though I didn't mind the old ones too much, I just say this is a step forward for the Jedi robes.

 

The only improvement I liked over the first game...

 

Well then I assume you just expected too much from this game. It offers all this stuff and you just basically shrug off every positive feature that Obsidian worked their butt to get into the game.

 

Sequels need improvements, this sequel had that kind of improvement, maybe not on all parts though. Perhaps all the negative parts of KOTOR 2 blind you to all the great things that is also given to you. There is no need to focus on the negative only

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Well then I assume you just expected too much from this game. It offers all this stuff and you just basically shrug off every positive feature that Obsidian worked their butt to get into the game.

 

Sequels need improvements, this sequel had that kind of improvement, maybe not on all parts though. Perhaps all the negative parts of KOTOR 2 blind you to all the great things that is also given to you. There is no need to focus on the negative only

 

I expected a quality product.

 

Animations, force powers that are unimportant, new cloaking "look", new crystals (many are useless still), and a workbench/lab station that doesn't allow you to create stuff you can't normally find/buy don't amount to anything in the overall scheme of things.

 

I expected the game to be beta tested. It wasn't.

 

Shoddy writing, poor story presentation, near non-existant combat AI, and a completely flawed influence system that forces you to bend to your NPC's, and not the other way around. Those are just a few things that are wrong with this game, and any one of them is far more important then watching your lvl 10 character swing differently than he did at lvl 1.

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Well then I assume you just expected too much from this game. It offers all this stuff and you just basically shrug off every positive feature that Obsidian worked their butt to get into the game.

 

Sequels need improvements, this sequel had that kind of improvement, maybe not on all parts though. Perhaps all the negative parts of KOTOR 2 blind you to all the great things that is also given to you. There is no need to focus on the negative only

 

I expected a quality product.

 

Animations, force powers that are unimportant, new cloaking "look", new crystals (many are useless still), and a workbench/lab station that doesn't allow you to create stuff you can't normally find/buy don't amount to anything in the overall scheme of things.

 

I expected the game to be beta tested. It wasn't.

 

Shoddy writing, poor story presentation, near non-existant combat AI, and a completely flawed influence system that forces you to bend to your NPC's, and not the other way around. Those are just a few things that are wrong with this game, and any one of them is far more important then watching your lvl 10 character swing differently than he did at lvl 1.

 

Shoddy writing is just your taste in a good story. Therefore dont make it out to be a fact

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