Oh yes. I decided to play this game. I already went back to the first game around New Years, a cherished childhood game and the beginning of my obsession with traditional CRPGs. But we've been over that. KotOR 1 doesn't hold up as well as you might think, and while it's still a charming, well made game, the mechanics are broken, some of the characters are weak, and it's hella simplistic. But enough on that game. I can remember as a 12 year old greatly anticipating this game, and why not? It was only the sequel to then my favorite game of all time. As I didn't have an original Xbox, I had to wait until '05 for the PC version, but most of the reviews were positive including an 8.5 from Greg Kasavin. And I guess objectively that may be true. But for my 12 year old self, that game was a crushing disappointment for all the reasons why it was a crushing disappointment to plenty of other people. Buggy, busted and broken with a feeling of being a horrible rush job in order to capitalize on the first game's sales. So, one could say that it *puts on glasses* ruined my childhood.
Well, now it's 2011. A year or two ago, fans finally managed to restore all that pesky cut content, and Obsidian has gone on to do alright for itself in some avenues despite being incapable of any sort of bugtesting (You know, I really need to finish NWN2 at some point. I'm not going to do an annual blog though, those things were a waste of time. Oh, and New Vegas was way better than Fallout 3). I haven't played the game for quite a while, so I wanted to see if what I disliked was just me being young and not understanding it, or it's a genuinely lame game that nobody remembers positively for a reason. It's the second one. It's a better game than I remember it being but that doesn't mean it's good. Also, I would like to mention now that I played with the latest version of said restored content mod. I can't wait for someone who skimmed this sentence to ask me if I did in the comments.
Let's start with the easy stuff first. KotOR 2 does a decent job of almost balancing the gameplay. Intelligence and Charisma aren't entirely dump stats any more, and you can take D&D style finesse feats in order to give your main character a reason to put points into DEX instead of STR. Even the Awareness skill has some use now. But alas, that's about it. You can still Master Speed+Master Flurry your way through all the combat no problem, or if you have a high enough wisdom Force Lightning also seems to do wonders. Blasters are still hella underpowered, and now there's no reason to be tricked into putting any feats towards them since you start out a Jedi instead of conveniently become one 8 levels in like the first game. Now, Jedi Sentinels are the lame class to my chagrin, having picked one for my main character, considering that the game gives not one, not two, but three characters all with a stupid amount of skill points, and now that they've fixed INT to actually work the right way, you can just put a few points in if you want to have Computer Use or something as a skill. Not that it matters. Bao Dur can do everything for you and isn't total garbage in combat like T3 and Mission were in the first game. There are a couple of other pointless things I might as well address: There are lightsaber forms that you're supposed to mess with depending on the context of the situation but the game is easy enough even without being a stat munchkin that they really don't matter. A lot of the new powers and feats are also kind of worthless. Drain Force? You get enough force points, even as a jedi guardian, that you'll never need to use such a contextual power instead of just hitting the guy. Force Scream? It's like Lightning, but bad. The winner of this is Mind Trick/Domination, because they never work and even when they do the effects are minimal anyways (once again, would you rather hit a guy with 5 attacks all dealing 50 damage each or have him fight for you?). It's all the problems of the first game, no more no less on that front.
But of course, it's not the gameplay that people remember. It's the part where the story kind of sucks. I could go into plenty of reasons why, each worthy of an essay or two, but I go for a few of the basics. For one, it trivializes the events of the first game to the point of making them almost inconsequential. Regardless of what Revan did, the Republic is still in shambles and all the Jedi are dead. How? The "Villains" (if the two random Sith Lords who barely ever show up can be called such) can somehow sense them through the force and kill them using techniques that nobody bothers to explain. Revan is gone, Light or Dark side for similarly cryptic reasons that may or may not have implied a sequel but are probably just actually lazy storytelling devices. The beginning of the game is pretty much these pointlessly cryptic story points surrounded by the most boring gameplay in the world. Peragus and Telos take up the first 7-10 hours of the game, and there's very little to do but fight and solve the occasional uninteresting side quest.
In addition, for being a direct sequel the game doesn't really bother to touch on any of that but in passing, the story instead revolving around your character: An exile and the last of the Jedi. It's a similar problem that Bioware has had recently with Dragon Age II, but they at least made the player-centric story almost work. Hawke wasn't what was wrong with the story of DAII, but the Exile is a good amount of what's wrong with this game. Similar to Alpha Protocol, you're told these things but you as a player are never given any reason to care. I have to find the Jedi Masters to find out why I lost my connection to the force? Ok, sure whatever. That makes a good excuse to use the Bioware structure. Oh, they're going to feed me a bunch of nonsensical cryptic answers until the conclusion? Great. As if Kreia wasn't a character built entirely for that.
The big revelation at the end, if a line of dialog that you can almost miss can be called so, is that your character is some sort of force vacuum and that's why your party members follow him. Yeah. Does that sound dumb? It makes even less sense when it's revealed in-game, when Kreia betrays you in a stunning leap of logic. The twist in KotOR 1, while hella predictable was at the very least understandable. This game is so tied up in it's own mythology that at some point it stops being a Star Wars game and becomes a game where there are dudes with Laser Swords and everyone can't ever shut up about the Mandalorian Wars and Malachor or whatever. Know what this game could use? Fanservice. If the first game has you go to Tatooine, why can't you go anywhere that anyone who likes Star Wars cares about? Just something to remind me that I am playing a game with the Star Wars license and not some derivative Sci-Fi RPG. A hoth level? Sure? There's some binary moral choice, if you're into that, but that's every RPG pre-The Witcher.
That's not to say that there isn't some good writing. The first game is definitely very Bioware-y in the way the story and dialog is written, and I do think that Obsidian generally does a good job of avoiding that in this one. It's a pity that the story itself is so dumb, as mentioned above. You get a full 12 companions, but only 10 are available in any given playthrough, one depending on your gender and one on your alignment. Most of them are alright, but we'll start with the bad ones: As previously mentioned, there's Kreia who spends the entire game spouting cryptic nonsense before betraying you and becoming the last boss for no real reason, Atton Rand, who I assume is meant to be a charming scoundrel but comes off flat and whiny (though not as whiny as Carth), Bao Dur, who is just really boring (His sleepy voice delivery doesn't help either) and T3 who is a droid. However, these wet blankets aside the rest of your party is pretty good. HK-47 is even funnier than the first game, and there's also the sadistic torture droid GOTO, a psychotic Wookiee named Hanharr, and a female Sith who also mutters cryptic nonsense named Visas. Oh wait. She's lame too. Evil characters are better because they're far less likely to have a tortured past like everyone else does. The Influence system plays into that, basically encouraging you to bring along party members that are yes-men, and there's a pretty even balance either way. The payoff is plenty of tortured pasts and the opportunity to train all your human party members to be Jedi. Which makes them more useful, if that wasn't obvious enough. HK 47 teaches you how to kill Jedi, but his crowning moment of awesome has to be this:
On a final note, the cut content mostly consists of a few additional cutscenes and lines of dialog. However, it's the additional playable segments that really stand out, in particular the HK-50 factory (being the single most blatant cut in the entire game aside from the part where they forgot to give it an ending). These segments are kind of boring however, as they usually involve your party members and not your overpowered jedi. Nonetheless, I guess I would say that the factory alone was worth downloading that mod, even if the rest of the game is kind of bleh.
And that's what it is, BLEH. Not terrible. The writing is good in spots, some of the characters and situations are interesting but the main story itself is bad and the gameplay is the same simplistic stuff that I complained about in regards to the first game. The actual act of playing it isn't so much painful as it is kind of dull and occasionally flat. And that's that. I hope you read all of this because my goodness if this isn't one of the longest things I've written.