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KOTOR 2 - More of the same (which isn't a bad thing...)
Written: Oct 17, 2007 (Updated Jan 14, 2008)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Like KOTOR 1 with a few bells and whistles...
Cons:... but without such a good storyline; technical problems...
The Bottom Line: KOTOR 2 has its problems but if you can get past them, it's a very good game that will keep you playing for weeks at least.
It is about 4,000 years before the events of the first Star Wars film, and 5 years after the events of the first Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) game. As usual the Jedi, guardians of the galaxy and all that, have managed to let themselves be hunted to the point of extinction, and as usual its somehow all up to you to save things. So, no real surprises as far as basic storyline go then!!
You start the game unconscious and in desperate need of help, and in the orienting prelude (which can thankfully be skipped as its quite annoying, but can be useful for players unused to the controls from the first game) control a droid trying the get the ship youre on, the Ebon Hawk, to safety and a place where you can recover. However the Sith arent the only people interested in Jedi, and theres a huge bounty on your head, as everyone seems to think you are the very last of the Jedi. So friends may be hard to come by and you find yourself in a spiralling web of deceit and distrust oh and your obligatory memory loss so theres always the mystery of just who you actually are to be discovered as well
Like its predecessor, KOTOR 2 comes on 4 CD-ROMs. It takes a few minutes to install, and did so with no problems. I ran the in-game update straight away which took another couple of minutes. Again no problems with that. Initially the game ran fine but I soon ran into some problems
more on that later.
The game is controlled using a combination of the mouse and keyboard. At first I kept expecting the characters viewpoint to change when I moved the mouse, but the mouse actually is just to point and click on characters / objects (though if you have the cursor to the very edge of the screen it will swing the perspective that way). Character movement and rotation is controlled via the keyboard, which doesnt take long to get used to and works fine once you convince your mind that moving the mouse doesnt change the viewpoint!! Various commands are accessible via a keystroke or a menu accessed from the mouse. It really doesnt take long to become very familiar with the main controls and it works very well. Of course if it hadnt been so long since Id played KOTOR then it wouldnt have taken me any time at all to feel at home with the interface as its exactly the same!
You control up to three characters at a time, and through the game you can meet up to nine other playable characters in addition to your own character. Each of these has their own unique skills and abilities, as well as their own history to be discovered
Most of the time you can easily change the characters in your party, though at times they are locked until you complete a particular mission. At certain points in the game your party will be changed automatically to fit the current scenario being played out.
The graphical style and indeed some of the locations will be instantly recognisable to fans of the first game. This is no bad thing as the graphics were very good anyway. If you have played the first game then a lot of the character models and environmental graphics are clearly unchanged. The only things that seem to have significantly improved (though this may be because I was not able to use a very high graphics level when playing the first game) are things like the effects when you use force powers, shields and the like. The motion blur when youre using Force Speed is very cool. A lot of the indoor locations are a bit repetitive and somewhat bland where the graphics come into their own is in the outdoor locations, particularly on the surface of a jungle moon you will likely crash land on.
There are occasional glitches such as gaps appearing in objects and sometimes characters heads (usually when the perspective shifts to just above and behind the character) certainly not frequently enough to interfere with the gameplay. The locations are nicely detailed and the many different locations are depicted with graphics unique to that area, along with a few standard pieces that appear in each one. Character movements appear quite smooth and realistic, while other effects such as lasers firing, explosions, automated computers etc all look very good. The only part where it falls down is when characters are performing various tasks such as hacking the computers or portraying motions the holding head in hands and shaking looks pretty daft, the dancing is hilariously bad, and some tasks look good or bad depending on exactly where your character is positioned. A fairly small complaint really though and sometimes amusing, which helps to make up for it! Effects such as mist or close-up views of explosions can cause considerable slow-down even if the games running at a nice speed otherwise.
The minimum resolution is 800x600, which doesnt look bad but if your graphics card can handle 1024x768 or higher it really makes a difference. There are plentiful options to get the best mix of aesthetics and performance, the most important of these being anti-aliasing and anthroscopic filtering. Even if you have these set on the lowest levels it makes a huge improvement over the appearance with neither of them activated. Each user will have to find their own optimum setting, but for the GeForce 7500LE, probably the least powerful in the GeForce 7xxx series, I found the following settings to give the best balance:
Anti-aliasing: x2 (any more than that seriously slowed the game down)
Anthroscopic filtering: x4 (x6 slowed the game a little and didnt seem to make that much difference to the appearance so I left it at four)
At any rate, its worth playing around with a little to see what the best results you can get are. Minimum system specs are listed at the end of this review.
Cinematic techniques are used very effectively on the whole, adding to the movie-like feel of the game. The only gripe I had with this was the overuse of rapid fade-in / fade-out, which got a bit annoying. Its one of the few games thats nearly as entertaining to watch as to play.
As with most of the Star Wars franchise games, the voice acting is very good. I did find one or two of the main characters, including one of the main characters (the cranky old not-quite-Jedi you meet just after the start of the game) tended to be a little over the top. Still the voice acting as a whole added to the quality of the game. The music was pretty good too, though I tended to think it was a little weaker than other games in the series. As always its based upon music from the movies or variations of those themes. The ambient sound effects are almost always very good and add to the being there feeling quite a bit. At times the music or other sound effects at default level seriously interfered with being able to hear the characters talking though as long as you have subtitles enabled you will be able to see whats being said even if you cant hear it.
As you go through the game you follow a main storyline, but there are several ways you can go ahead in different situations and there are many optional side-quests. The number of different items available to find or buy weapons, armour, upgrades, health items, permanent and temporary stat enhancers, special items etc is quite overwhelming. At the end of the day your playing style will largely determine how you decide to equip your party, keeping in mind of course the nothing looks as cool as lightsabres!!
The dialogues can get a bit lengthy, though in truth you dont need to listen to each one or even have many of the conversations to actually complete the game. When talking to your crew or others you might have opportunities to gain experience points or light / dark side points, as well as accepting missions or learning valuable information. Depending on your skill levels in various attributes for instance awareness, intelligence, persuasion etc new dialogue options may become available. Generally speaking there are several ways around each situation, but some things wont be possible unless you have particular abilities or alignment. You can often, though not always, go back and try again later when youve upgraded your skills. This all adds to the replayability factor as youll definitely need to play the game at least twice to complete all / most of the quests in the game, especially as many quests are diametrically opposed to other quests in the same area.
- The Force
As time goes by you and your companions gain power and abilities in the force. You can also go towards the light or dark side of the force depending on your actions. Your force powers can be light, dark or universal when you are oriented towards the light side of the force your light side powers will increase in their effect whereas the dark side powers will decrease, and vice versa. This in addition to the above information about the gameplay means that there are effectively three main ways to play the game go on the light side, try to help everybody and be nice to everyone; go to the dark side, be evil to everyone and speak harshly to them; finally, try to maintain a middle ground and keep everyone more or less happy.
Your choices and the way you speak to different crew members will affect your influence on them. High influence on a character makes them more likely to open up to you about their past, more loyal to you, and affects their force alignment in line with yours. This is an interesting addition and adds a certain extra depth to the game. Different characters respond well to different things, so being kind to everyone isnt the answer to getting everyones loyalty.
There are several key ways to progress your characters as you level up (if you dont want to spend time on this you can click the Auto Level Up button).
How tough / dextrous / wise / charismatic etc your characters are. These stats affect all parts of the game to a certain extent.
Do you want to be an expert in using / disarming demolitions? How about a skilled computer user, or a wizard at bypassing security systems? Maybe you want them to be very persuasive
These are the sort of choices you must make. As always, its a good idea to try to have a good balance of skills in your party.
Many feats are automatically gained throughout the game, but there are also many you can choose from. Some of these increase your skill stats, others give you the ability to use particular weapon or armour classes, while still others give you particular skills that may be useful if you want to specialise in certain abilities.
Ah, using the force, thats what we all get the Star Wars games for in the first place, eh? These are spilt into light, dark, or universal powers. Some give you healing, some protection, some are offensive weapons, some are more general skills that might be useful both in and out of battle situations. Choose wisely, young Padawan!
Manning the turrets sometimes youll have to man the turrets of the Ebon Hawk to stop ground troops boarding or in space battles. One of the space battles Ive come across so far seems practically impossible, though I have a feeling it may be supposed to be impossible. Breaks up the action nicely at times.
Swoop Racing get on your bike, drink your milk and race to your hearts content! A simple drag-race type game which seems a lot harder than in the first KOTOR. Quite fun but frustratingly difficult, and it would have been nice if you actually had the option to buy upgrades for your bike.
Pazaak this is a card game similar to blackjack, you can win (or more likely lose) money wagering on the games, and some characters will only talk more or put up special items as wagers if you beat them once or several times. Relatively diverting but not exactly addictive. (The most addictive card-based mini-game Ive ever played in an RPG is the tower-building game in Might & Magic VIII.)
Comparison to KOTOR 1
The main game engine is almost exactly the same as in KOTOR 1, and anyone who played the first will be familiar with the controls and layout. Both games had a huge game world and Im not sure if the second game was larger as such. Most features of the game have some minor tweaks or additions for instance the addition of jumping ability in the swoop races and extra cards in Pazaak (I think it could just be my bad memory!). Theres also a mental swoop race where youre not the only one using the track but youre the only one going backwards!! (Fortunately this particular one is fixed so that you pretty much will win it as long as you can finish, if youve completed a particular quest beforehand which is just as well because finishing this race without completely wrecking your bike is very difficult!) In fact I found the swoop races a as whole much more difficult than those in the first game.
The storyline definitely isnt as strong as the first but its not bad, and complements the first storyline quite well. I still think the first Knights of the Old Republic game had the best storyline of any game Ive ever played, so its not a huge criticism of the sequel that its not as good in that regard.
The character development is much the same, though there are a few new feats, force powers etc to play with. The influence you exert on the other payable characters is a good addition to the game. Length-wise theyre probably pretty much comparable.
Running KOTOR 2 on Windows Vista
Its difficult to say whether there are any real compatibility issues for Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Vista. I updated the game straight after install, so I know I have the very latest version. When it runs there are seldom problems however quite often the game refuses to launch at all. (Sometimes it tells you it cant launch, then it runs anyway with no problem!) There is no specific pattern to this and its annoying although far less problematic than an actual in-game crash as at least you dont lose games in progress. I tend to think that the problem actually stems from confusion with the display driver as the games hardware scan tells me that my card (nVidia GeForce 7300L) is not up to running the game even though I can run it in quite a high mode as described earlier without much slowdown. nVidia are actively releasing update patches for their drivers for better Vista compliance, but I have the latest Vista hotfix from nVidia and am still having frequent problems with the game not loading, despite this being a known problem with the game (based on looking at LucasArts message boards among others), but without a known solution as far as I can tell. I tried running the game in XP compatibility mode but this made no difference.
This is a very annoying problem but I still feel its not as bad as the game freezing in mid-game. Ive only once or twice had the game seizure up while playing during many hours of play. However getting it to launch in the first place is a case of playing around with the screen resolution and trying again to see if that works almost every time Ive played the game Ive had a few false starts. Very frustrating, but perhaps less so as once you start playing the game you will have a long session with no problems its not really the sort of game thats suited to short sessions anyway.
Despite the technical problems and a few other niggles, I really enjoyed playing Knight of the Old Republic 2. Theres a lot of depth and it genuinely is worth playing through the game twice or perhaps even three times as the style you play it in affects your path through the game considerably. Completing it just once a mammoth task in terms of hours spent (I havent actually completed it yet but would say that 40-50 hours might be quite a conservative estimate). Although there are repetitive bits it overall captures the same look and feel as the first game naturally enough as they use an almost identical game engine and though the story undoubtedly wasnt as good as the first game, it still held my interest throughout.
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars for the final rating, but Im going with 4 - despite the technical problems (which, you never know, may eventually be sorted out!), this game kept me coming back for more. In fact I just couldnt stop playing it for a long time. At the end of the day, thats the mark of a good game to me.
100DirectX 9.0c compatible computer.
Windows 98 SE, Millennium (ME), 2000, and XP.
Pentium III or Athlon class 1 GHz or faster required.
Pentium 4 or Athlon XP class 1.6 GHz or faster recommended.
256 MB RAM required.
512 MB RAM recommended.
32 MB OpenGL 1.4 compliant AGP or PCX 3D Graphics card with Hardware Transform and Lighting (T&L) Capability required.
ATI Radeon 9200 or NVIDIA GeForce4 Ti or better recommended.
100DirectX 9.0c compatible audio device required.
Star Wars Links
Star Wars Computer Games
Knights of the Old Republic
LEGO Star Wars
LEGO Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy
Star Wars Films (The Original Trilogy)
A New Hope (Episode IV)
The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V)
Return of the Jedi (Episode VI)
UPDATE (part of the Update 2008 Project)
Some thoughts on completing the game:
The ending was disappointing - though it opens up the way for a very interesting third game in the series (I hope?!?)
Playing as a Dark Side character seems much easier than being a good guy. I know it's not solely down to having completed the game before that it seemed so easy, as I did that in the first game and couldn't quite manage to complete the game as a Dark Side character. The force powers are just so much better if you take a walk on the dark side...
There's one reason why the PC version may well be better value for money than the console versions of the game - mods (or to give them their full title, modifications). Because KOTOR and KOTOR 2 were based on the Neverwinter Nights game engine, and that has an editor available, people can create new content for the game and make it freely available for download (though you can stop the game from working properly if you're not careful!!) The mods range from ambitious attempts to restore content that was originally planned (including the HK Factory), to new weapons, making the game easier / more difficult, new clothing (even new underwear!), new playable characters, music, sound effects, loaders... the list is practically endless and some mods are very, very good.
Here's one of the best places to get the mods: http://knightsoftheoldrepublic.filefront.com/files/Knights_of_the_Old_Republic_II;68index
Well there you go - my update making an already long review even longer! At least I don't think there's anything important I can have left out now!!
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