Knights of the Old Republic II
Sun Mar 20th 2005, 10:15pm

The sequel to the ground-breaking Knights of the Old Republic from 2003 (see my review), KOTOR 2 offers an enhanced game engine and a much richer and more sophisticated story line.

The in-game conversations truly excel this time, with poignant and thought-provoking discussion topics, such as what it would be like to lose one's connection to the force, or why one should spare the life of his enemy, or how the kindest act can have negative consequences. Of course, true to the original, there are plenty of opportunities to act according to either the light or the dark side--but this time, the choices are sometimes less obvious, so those seeking to play for the light, determined only to do "the right thing" will sometimes find their actions have unintended repercussions. At one point, a whole scene is devoted to showing how giving 5 credits to a beggar ends up getting him killed. It's a nice change making the game far less push-button and more cerebral. At times I actually escaped the light-side trap, doing a few dark deeds when I honestly felt it was warranted.

The game plays out like a novel, with a twisted and somewhat nebulous story line that is truly engaging and rewarding. I haven't had the experience of such a long and drawn out mystery since Morrowind. In fact, the story line is so rich and sophisticated that it seems to come bursting through the seams of the engine, which, as nice as it is, is barely adequate to keep up with it. Conversations will go on, line after line, as characters divulge history, names, facts, and places--and unfortunately, the whole thing is surely wasted on less alert and determined players who don't work to piece it all together. And even then... those who work at it may still find themselves scratching their heads at the end.

This time, I waited for the PC port (vs. Xbox, which was out in December '04), and I'm glad I did. While it still plays a lot like a console game, the PC has far better graphics, faster save/load times, etc, etc. All in all I clocked at least 54 hours on it, according to the in-game timer. That's a lot of time, and I actually felt some relief at the end, finally getting (or not getting as it was in some cases) closure to the various plot lines.

For those that are patient, and love playing out a good story, KOTOR 2 delivers. But for those who don't care, there's plenty of combat and light saber action, earning it GMR's comment of "another slice of awesome". So depending on who's talking, either it's merely "KOTOR 1.25", or it's an amazing fusion of Star Wars action and complex storytelling.