Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Now Playing: Knights of the Old Republic 2

The original Knights of the Old Republic (2003) was a fantastic Star Wars game. But its sequel - The Sith Lords (2005) - was a buggy and practically broken game upon release. It seems that development was rushed to completion during its final stages, particularly affecting the game’s conclusion - which was butchered into a nonsensical mess. Spin on seven years and KOTOR 2 has finally been released on Steam. With the addition of a fan made restoration mod, the game finally feels fixed and complete - or at least as fixed and complete as it’s ever going to get.

As in the first game, KOTOR 2 begins with a rather tedious opening section, before setting the player on a quest to travel to four very different worlds. Each world contains a mixture of primary and optional quests which are undertaken to advance the plot, increase your level and abilities, gain new gear and recruit new companions.

Speaking of companions, their AI is just as bad as the original and they require constant micro management to be effective in combat. Some of them also feel rather pointless given how underdeveloped they are or how little they impact on the main plot (particularly at the end, but I’ll get to that later)


Although the worlds of KOTOR 2 are larger and contain more content than the original, that’s not such a good thing. Many of the optional missions are tiresome rather than interesting, and I was glad when I unlocked Force Speed in order to zip about from one quest point to another, because although the environments are bigger, they are also rather bland and empty. But when you finally do complete your missions on each world, that’s when things finally kick into gear.

Although the game becomes a lot more linear as you’re quickly transported from one mission critical location to the next, the action ramps up several notches and the revelations come thick and fast. The plot, which had been developing at a relatively sedate plod suddenly engages Ludicrous Speed. And then, just when things start getting really, really good, that’s when things also start falling apart.

Because even with the restored content mod, the ending of KOTOR 2 is still something of a buggy, disjointed mess. Some characters simply disappear entirely during the conclusion, others pop up in odd, random cut-scenes which don’t really lead anywhere. There’s very little in the sense of closure or satisfaction, and before you realise it the credits are rolling and its Game Over. Which is a darn shame, because KOTOR 2 had the potential to far surpass the original.


You see, the original KOTOR held very true to the nature of Star Wars. Jedi were good and Sith were bad. It was very basic, but it was pure Star Wars and I loved every minute of it. Okay, so it did dabble slightly with the notion that perhaps the moral nature of the Jedi and Sith were not quite so black and white, but for the most part, it stuck closely to the source material.

KOTOR 2 on the other hand breaks significantly away from the binary nature of Star Wars morality. It questions the core ideals of the Jedi and of the Sith. It makes the player examine both sides from the perspective of an outcast - an exiled Jedi. There is very little simple black or white morality in KOTOR 2, only shades of grey. It looks at the Force in a new, interesting way, and even in its butchered state, the ending sets up what could have been a fantastic new direction for the Star Wars universe and the future of the Jedi / Sith conflict. Unfortunately, it’s not something we’ll ever get to see.

Overall, KOTOR 2 feels like wasted potential. Even ignoring its technical and gameplay flaws (which are largely carried over from the original and are things I can certainly live with) KOTOR 2 fails to live up to the promise of the plot it slowly builds, ending on a disappointing and somewhat baffling note. It’s a case of what might have been, if the game had not been rushed out the door. My advice – play the original, and if you crave more, give KOTOR 2 a shot with the restored content mod. It’s certainly worth it, it’s just a shame it was never, and never will truly be complete.

7/10

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