Knights of the Old Republic II First Look

Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) was a revolutionary game, but we had no doubts that BioWare could pull it off. I mean it's BioWare! New developer Obsidian takes the reigns for KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords.

I am now a few hours into the game, and while I am not very far I do have some opinions on what I have seen so far.

My biggest complaint about KOTOR 2 is load times. My second biggest complaint is the story, followed closely by in a third place finish with the graphics engine.

KOTOR 2 load times are brutal. They are worse then the KOTOR 1 load times (yes they are, I played a few hours of KOTOR 1 last night just to see). I thought that having a hard drive would make load times minimal, shorter then KOTOR 1 as a worst case. Nope, when you go to another area, you get a long 40 second plus loading screen. I read that the area loads get better later in the game, after the second planet I am on right now. But right now you don't go a minute or two without loading another area.

I guess if you have a modded Xbox the load times are a lot better. Too bad I don't have a modded Xbox.

You get the feeling right away that the story is not written by the same writers of KOTOR 1. There is more action early on in KOTOR 2, which I like. The game is a little faster moving in the beginning compared to KOTOR 1.

In KOTOR 1 they had hints that said something like "Carth looks like he has something on his mind, blah blah blah" or something similar, I cannot remember the exact wording. These story queues do not exist in KOTOR 2, I wish they did.

I wish they had hired the same writers as KOTOR 1 so the two (and third!?) KOTOR would flow together better.

There are new additions story wise that Obsidian made that I am not sure I really like yet. You now have to worry about how your responses influence your party members. Higher or lower influence opens up new dialog branches.

If you have similar goals your party will follow you. If you totally shut them out and are nasty to them you could turn them from Light Side to Dark Side, for example. This obviously is heavily influenced by wether you yourself are playing as Light Side or Dark Side. I think this influence variable will make replay value much greater, and a lot more fun playing as a Dark Jedi.

In KOTOR 1 you could be both Light and Dark all you wanted, but there was one defining moment when you are either a Light or Dark Jedi. This is not the case in KOTOR 2. You are constantly being challenged by both the Light and Dark sides of the Force in KOTOR 2. You have to be good and stay good, or be bad and stay bad. This allows for switching from Light to Dark, although this does not sound easy to do.

There are now Force Powers in KOTOR 2 that you can only get if you are a Light Jedi, or only get as a Dark Jedi. In KOTOR 1 you could, if you wanted, aquire Light Side and Dark Side Force Powers. This adds to the replay of KOTOR 2, and I think is more realistic to the world of Star Wars.

The game engine seems to be unchanged. There is snow and rain now, but it does not looks as if they did anything to the core graphics of the game. I expected better optimized environments and effects. There is still noticeable frame rate issues. The game still looks great, I was just expecting a nice polish over last year's model.

It sounds like I hate this game, I know. It is just that the first KOTOR set the bar so high, that I want it to go higher with KOTOR 2. I will have to wait until I finish KOTOR 2 before I decide if I like it better then KOTOR 1. We shall see.

Obsidian made some nice UI changes in the pause screen that help. You can now sort by type in the various inventory screens (your inventory, lab table, workbench, etc) which makes it a bit easier to get around those screens.

I don't want to let any spoilers out of the bag, but I do need to say one thing to make a point about the Force. In KOTOR 1 you started with no Force powers. You had to learn it all. In KOTOR 2 you are already a Jedi (how you are a Jedi, that I leave up to you to find out) and because of this you have more choices of weapons earlier on in the game. This leads me to believe you can develop your skills and become a stronger Jedi than in KOTOR 1. This is a great addition to KOTOR 2.

I don't want to give away anymore about the Player Character's (PC) development, because the story is great. The KOTOR series really stands apart from the sea of Star Wars games because of the stories. They are captivating. More captivating then the recent Star Wars movies, in my opinion.

KOTOR 2 happens 5 years after the events of KOTOR 1, you are a different PC then in KOTOR 1. You are believed to be the last Jedi and Sith Assassins are hunting you down. You are the last hope for the Jedi. What a great way to start the game!

I can't wait to see what happens next in the story of KOTOR 2. They keep throwing wrenches in the story line left and right, and that is just good writing. It is just a different feel from KOTOR 1.

One last thing. It would have been a great touch if your KOTOR 1 save file had some kind of affect on your KOTOR 2 game. Oh well.

Maybe these things are too much to ask for a new developer. There is already a petition, I cannot find the URL at the moment, for BioWare and Obsidian to co-develop KOTOR 3. I cannot say if I would have been happier with a BioWare made KOTOR 2, that is a rather moot point right now, but maybe staying with the same developer would have raised the bar past my expectations.

If you were a fan of the original KOTOR or of Star Wars RPGs then you should defiantly pick up KOTOR 2. You can get KOTOR 1 for $20 right now if you never played the original KOTOR. Good RPGs on the Xbox are hard to find, but the KOTOR series has proven to be no one hit wonder, it looks like it will become a strong series. Even with a new developer at the helm this game is rock solid and very fun.

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