Over a year ago, I did a review of my initial playthrough for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic: The Sith Lords. It was a game that made very little of an impression on me at the time, especially when you hold up against the original KOTOR game.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that there were gamers who enjoyed the sequel or considered it an improvement over the first title. I was baffled. I was bewildered. I was ready to pen a long, angry screed on Tumblr over it.
Then I calmed down, reinstalled KOTOR 2, and played it all over again. I had to know for myself.
This is what I learned.
- Crafting new weapons, healing items, and other tools at a given Lab Station or Workbench is a useful addition. It helps free up the clutter of so much loot in the inventory.
- One mechanic that the sequel codified from the first was Influence. You, the player, can raise or lower your influence over your teammates, whether it’s showing honor in front of Brianna the Handmaiden or playing manipulative around the likes of Kreia.
- Atton Rand was an enjoyable companion and a nice “scoundrel” foil to Carth Onasi, from his sardonic banter to his numerous trust issues. The same goes for Visas Marr. She reminds me of Juhani in that she’s also a would-be Dark Jedi who’s easily redeemed, who carries innumerable scars from her tortured past, and who bears a quiet, earnest faith in the Exile.
- Underlying the story is a theme about the scars of war, as exemplified by characters like the Jedi Exile, Atton Rand, Bao-Dur, and Visas Marr. It’s probably telling that these are also the only characters I liked in this game.
- Nothing makes me happier than asking HK-47 about the definition of “love” or how to fight a Jedi.
- A lot of textures and scenery don’t have the same appeal as they did in the first game. Planets like Peragus, Telos, and Dxun have this washed-out quality in contrast to the eye-popping glamour of places like Taris, Tatooine, and Kashyyyk.
- Visiting many worlds in our main quest didn’t have the urgency of hunting down Star Maps in the first KOTOR game. I felt this torpid pacing most clearly on Nar Shaddaa, where I couldn’t remember if I was hunting a Jedi Master or trying to work for (or destroy) the Exchange.
- Darth Sion and his assassins proved to be a good challenge in the opening, but they never had the same gravitas or terror that Darth Malak and his Sith minions could inspire in the previous game. And for all his eldritch horror and hunger, Darth Nihilus proved a bit of an anticlimax.
- Kreia. Just… Kreia.
- No, seriously, Kreia was more or less stated to be the author avatar for Lead Designer Chris Avellone. She spouts nothing but cryptic judgments on every player’s decision, forcing the plot this way and that, and all the while critiquing what it means to be a Jedi and learn the ways of the Force.
- In KOTOR, the player character is the anchor for the story because of their actions and their influence on the team, even with a more experienced Jedi like Bastila on the roster. In KOTOR 2, the player character has influence and weight, but it’s Kreia who calls the shots and fits everything into context. Her obvious role as the greater villain and mentor doesn’t help. Fighting her in the finale has less drama than bringing Revan and Malak together for their ultimate showdown.
- While I liked the idea of multiple Sith factions competing for power, I never felt like that concept took off in this game. Darth Nihilus just wanders around on his star cruiser, Darth Sion and his assassins show up at random, and Darth Traya hangs around your ship until you’ve assembled all the surviving Jedi Masters. Where’s the infighting? Where’s the threat of multiple Sith Lords wreaking havoc across the galaxy, with the Jedi and the Republic caught in the crossfire?
I get that we shouldn’t point fingers at Obsidian Entertainment or Chris Avellone for how the game turned out. Of course LucasArts wanted a title ready for the 2004 holiday season. Of course Chris wanted to tell his own story in the Star Wars universe (who wouldn’t?). For some fans, that combination worked out. For others like me, it did not. I don’t regret playing the game, since even a poor gaming experience can be a useful insight in its own way.