susurruskarma's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords (Xbox) review

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Dissapointing sequel

What? Another Star Wars game? The sequel to a game released just last year? Yes, you heard right, Knights of the is back and expectations are high, as games don’t get the ‘Game of the Year’ award just for nothing. So yes, it has been only a year since the release of the original KOTOR game that delighted RPG and Star Wars fans. Does that mean however that this is just a cheap cash-in from the original game’s success, perhaps even taking influence from such games as The Sims, and EA’s other franchises which are released every year with the odd update or add-on to the game you bought last year, sold at the same price as you paid last year? Well, I couldn’t really tell you if this game is any good or not because I rarely do judge games based upon their prequels (or sequels for that matter), as it’s usually a rocky path to travel on. So instead, sit back and read on as we both find out, just how good a sequel can be made in under a years time, and how it could possibly live up to its predecessor’s title of ‘Game of the Year’. I’m doubting it, but let’s find out.

1. STORY

Sith Lords takes place roughly 5 years after the last game, making it take place around 3,951 years before Episode IV. After the events of the last game, the Sith Lords are on the up rise once more, and seeking the total extinction of the Jedi. It’s up to you and those who choose to follow you, to make sure this doesn’t happen, for the sake of all good in the galaxy. Whilst journeying through the Sith-ridden galaxy, you will have to re-unite all remaining Jedi in order to fight back against evil and claim back what is yours. As with the previous game, there will be the odd side quest here and there and the usual back-story that is explained as you further along with the game but in the end, the result isn’t nearly as convincing or effective as it was in the last game. Instead you’ll be taking part in missions that seem more to do with issues outside of your scope at the moment and at times it will seem ridiculous that you would so some of the things whilst the impending doom of the universe rested upon your shoulders.

The main story itself does feature it’s own pro’s and con’s alongside the generally well written twists and turns but in comparison to the 10/10 story-writing of the first game, Sith Lords doesn’t ever really get close to the level of excitement, depth and addictiveness that KOTOR had. Instead what you have is a story that more or less sticks it out for the duration of the game, but doesn’t ever really grip you at any point, and at times when bogged down with side-quests, may down right bore you.

Story Rating: 6/10



2. GAMEPLAY & CONTROL

I could go on forever talking about the similarities between this game and its predecessor but I’m not going to because you can simply read my KOTOR review if you want to know all that stuff. Instead what I’ll be dealing with is the additions to the gameplay in Sith Lords, because as a matter of fact, there isn’t much from KOTOR that didn’t survive into this game.

When you begin the game you will be asked to choose between 6 different starting characters: A male or female version of 3 types of Jedi. Each have their own individual skills and abilities that put the others to shame but it all depends heavily on what you are most likely to be doing throughout the game. Later on you will also be able to choose from another 3 types of Jedi, which act as expansions to your skills. As with KOTOR, it’s not anything terribly important but does offer a little customisation and depth.

Combat is almost exactly the same as the original game with a few more additional options and interface changes to the menu system. As a recap to the game’s combat system: It mainly consists of turn-based combat system that appears to be real-time at first glance and certainly looks like it when you stand back and watch them go. In fact, upon sighting an enemy you can in fact sometimes simply let your heroes do their thing and take on the enemies themselves, without any interruption from you or your commands. When it does come for you to interrupt however, you can pause the game, enter a command for each character and then watch them deal it out just as you wished. It’s all fairly simple and all the actions are separated and grouped into sub-sections of weaponry, grenades & mines, force powers and items.

So back to the new stuff: Most importantly is probably the new behaviour profile function which lets you set a character’s fighting style to aggressive, ranged, grenadier etc. which can have its massive advantages and increases in control over your 3 characters a lot less frustrating than the first game. Another feature added is the ability to unlock special upgrade powers which you can set that will actually increase performance whilst using specific weapons against specific enemies. All of this is a good addition that helps strengthen the gameplay and customisation of your players, but is not essential.

As players of KOTOR will know, throughout the course of the game you can expect to make all sorts of moral decisions based upon everything from conversations to assassinations. Based upon what you do you will shift to either the Light or Dark side depending on what you do as a character, and as a result you’re gameplay will certainly be affected. For example, being a Sith Lord will allow you to use Dark Side orientated powers with ease, hardly affecting you Force meter (which determines if you can use the Force) and vice versa. There’s really no difference between KOTOR and Sith Lords in respect to this gameplay basically because there’s nothing at all wrong with it.

Remember how you could customize a few weapons here & there in KOTOR? Well, now you can build, upgrade and take apart almost every possible item and weapon in the game. It may sound intimidating at first and generally overwhelming when you first play, but after getting to grips with things you’ll realise it’s not really that advanced and as complicated as it sounds. Which to be honest, I don’t know how to interpret because even though it’s very useful at times, it’s simplicity sometimes makes you wonder why it’s even there, especially when all you want to make is a medical pack. One thing I am sure of however, is that upgrading and customising your own lightsabers has never been so much fun. Instead of the 3 slots you had in KOTOR, you now have 6 allowing customisation of 2 power crystals, 1 colour crystal, and 3 other parts which affect all different areas of defence, damage and other statistics surrounding your players.

All the mini games from KOTOR are still here and work essentially the same. You have Pazaak, the card game that lends itself to Black Jack quite a bit, and the Pod-Racing. I should mention that the Pod-Racing has gotten quite an upgrade from the previous game with the inclusion of all sorts of debris and obstacles which you can now also jump over. Oh yeah and it’s also much harder and even more pointless than in the last game as you won’t really get any praise of prizes from winning the competitions and they’re not at all linked tot the story whatsoever. Leave the Pod-Racing room and it’s like it didn’t happen, disappointing really considering all the work memorising the track to win takes.

Sith Lords makes up for the bad changes to KOTOR’s gameplay it makes, with the good changes. So although you may be frustrated with the new pointless side-quests that sometimes go on forever, and the massive amount of customisation available, there is still a lot of good stuff going on here to make all that matter less.

Gameplay & Control Rating: 8/10



3. GRAPHICS

Not much has changed it seems since the last game which means everything is more or less mediocre. What has been improved however is the number of character models there are this time round, so rather than enter an area with 10 people that all look the same, you’ll probably only see 2 or 3. A lot of environments from the original game are re-used here with the odd tweaking done to mark the change in the Galaxy during the part 5 years, such as the destruction of the Jedi Council’s sacred temple by the Sith. Generally as a whole, the game does give off a cleaner and more detailed vibe, but it’s such a shame that for most of the time you’ll only get to see it through a very rough frame rate problem. There were actually points in the game where my frame rate dropped to zero. Yes, zero. I’d have to pause the game, wait a minute for the processor to realise what had to be done, and then un-pause. It was simply terrible.

One of the greatest looking parts about Sith Lords was the same with KOTOR. During the combat you will see everything from lightsabers swinging around and clashing together, enemies and players hopping and batting over blaster rifle shots, using force lightning to shock foes or people getting thrown about in circles. It’s essentially a Star Wars fanatics dream. As a result what you have is a more or less decent looking game by today’s standards that has a frame rate as stable as a two-legged table. By all means though, it’s not terrible and certainly won’t take that much away from the overall experience.

Graphics Rating: 6/10



4. SOUND

They’ve done it again, yes, they’ve made me sit back and seriously wonder how they got all this audio onto one disc. What’s even more astounding is that they recorded it all over the last year that they spent developing and testing the game. However, quantity’s nothing without quality right? Well, in this department you certainly won’t be let down this time around either. The cast are marvellous and really bring back certain believability to the storytelling that was present during the first game. As far as I can tell, most of the cast are entirely new with the exception of a few returning characters from the old game but they do a great job in keeping that level of performance right there with the best in video games today. Still included are all the alien languages and dialect, the hours upon hours of human voicing, (most of which you won’t hear until you play through the game at least twice) and the massive array of sound effects taken directly from the Star Wars films sound effect library, helping to bring out that true sound and feeling of George Lucas’ wonderful creation. Blasters sound like blasters, lightsabers sound like lightsabers and wookies sound like wookies. What more could you ask for?

As for the music, well this time around it has actually been improved a little, with the inclusion of a few more John Williams famous compositions and even more original –yet more adaptable- tracks that play throughout your adventure. It could still be better though.

Sound Rating: 10/10



5. LIFELINE

Sith Lords will take a varied time to beat depending on which difficulty setting you are playing on and how much time you want to devote to completing side-quests along your way. As a result the game time can range from anywhere between 20 (and that’s stretching it) to 50 hours, possibly more. However, due to it’s somewhat lacking story and graphical issues, I can’t see the passive Star Wars or RPG fan giving this game more than one more play through (to follow the opposite side of the force they aligned with during their first play). What you have is a typical 50 to 100 hour lifeline that I’m going to settle at around 80 because a lot of the people who will indeed buy this game will most likely be Star Wars nuts, and anything less than 3 plays through would be blasphemous. Fans who don’t obsess over the story that much will probably stuff it on the shelve after the second time through though.

Lifeline Rating: 8/10



6. DIFFICULTY BALANCE

The difficulty of Sith Lords relies heavily on your own experience with RPG’s and the previous game. Although featuring a very handy and informative tutorial to the game, I felt it was very rushed and didn’t explain enough of the gameplay involved in the game to the player as much as KOTOR originally did. As a result, new players may find themselves taking a while to get to grips with the game’s gameplay style and may even be quite a bit overwhelmed. Thankfully however, it isn’t that hard at the start and you should be able to sail through the first 20 hours or so with no problems. Generally the game does begin to get more difficult as you go on and the final boss will have you wishing you had spent more time on Dantooine training all night long (unless you did!). The AI at times can be overly aggressive and consuming especially when there’s a lot of enemies around you but by taking time to upgrade armour, weapons and character abilities it should never get to the point of broken controllers. Well, at least until the last 5 or so hours of gameplay which is stuffed full of Sith Lords and the like.

A little harder and less-paced than KOTOR but not miles away, Sith Lords will test you but not break you.

Difficulty Balance Score: 7/10



7. ORIGINALITY

Again: It’s another Star Wars game. Not only that, but it’s a sequel to a Star Wars game released last year.

However, by adding in some new planets, characters models, audio, loads of customisation features and gameplay, Sith Lords doesn’t just throw out the same game with a totally different story; it does actually give something a little more original than KOTOR II would incline.

Originality Score: 6/10



8. ENJOYMENT

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: Sith Lords is a game you don’t necessarily need to be a fan of to fully enjoy this experience. Even though it features a story less compelling than that of the first game and overall the game just doesn’t live up to the hype of KOTOR, Sith Lords does still manage to pull off the great feeling of being in a strange and beautiful universe and having the power to change it as you see fit. The enjoyment created in essentially becoming your own Jedi from everything from personality to the colour of lightsaber blade, is all still there and always giving reasons to carry out the sometimes dull and boring quests of which have no real importance at all to the story. As with KOTOR, and even more so with Sith Lords, being brand new to the story of Star Wars may bring down the plot a little and lead to confusion and a lot of wondering why you are doing things.

Sith Lords also features the mega loading times of which are famous in KOTOR, which doesn’t help at all. It does sometimes take quite a while to get from place to place due to loading that takes place when entering different areas and can sometimes strip away from enjoyment quite a bit when wanting to progress quickly.

On a personal note, I didn’t enjoy this game as much as the first as you may be able to tell. I felt there was something lacking in almost every area of the game with the exception of the sound. I feel that because the second game of the series has come out so soon after the first that many people will probably not have had the time to get over the first game by the time they start playing the second. As a result it may feel like playing the same game over, with a few changes here and there and a less-exciting plotline. I did enjoy Sith Lords, but not nearly as much as the original KOTOR.

Enjoyment Score: 7/10



OVERVIEW

Story: 6
Gameplay & Control: 8
Graphics: 6
Sound: 10
Lifeline: 8
Balance: 7
Originality: 6
Enjoyment: 7
Overall: 58

Average: 7.3/10

XGD SCORE: 7/10



FINAL WORD

As far as Star Wars games go, it’s rare to get a real classic and that’s exactly what we got a year earlier with the original KOTOR. It seems times have moved on however and too much of the same can leave a sour taste in the mouth. Although featuring a few new interesting gameplay features, a stack load of new audio, plot, and 50 more hours of solid Star Wars action, Sith Lords is essentially the same game you purchased last year.

So by all means, if you liked the first game, give it a try through rental. If you loved the first game, go ahead and buy it, you probably won’t be disappointed. And if you’re a complete Star Wars fanatic, well, you’ve probably already completed it 5 times. Sith Lords is a game that surpasses a lot of Star Wars games out there and even so, it beats a lot of games in the RPG genre. A good game with nothing below average, KOTOR: Sith Lords may just be the next Star Wars hit you’ve been waiting for (for a whole year).

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