2004’s Knights of the Old Republic 2 was made by a different team than you might expect. While the original KOTOR was made by the legendary Bioware, the sequel was made by Obsidian.
That understandably made many gamers and Star Wars fans anxious. Would this game have the same quality and innovation of the first game? Or, worse yet, would it be a cookie-cutter copy and offer nothing new?
Fortunately, we’ve got all your answers. Keep reading to discover whether this game is worth playing 15 years after it was released.
Dungeons and Krayt Dragons
Many people pick up these KOTOR games for the first time and expect them to play more like Force Unleashed. If that’s what you’re expecting, then I have some bad news.
Despite the fact that you directly move your character around, combat is a lot less direct. You don’t personally swing your lightsaber or zap out some Force lightning: instead, you hit a button and cross your fingers.
That’s because this game is a lot like Dungeons and Dragons. Specifically, it was built using the same engine as Wizard’s old Star Wars RPG. That means your attempts to do everything from attacking foes to persuading strangers are decided by virtual rolls of a D20 die.
This RPG influence stretches to character design, too. You can create your own character by putting your limited amount of points into traditional RPG qualities like dexterity, strength, and charisma. And you can top it off by choosing from character classes that inform both your roleplaying and how you approach combat.
One fun addition to the mechanics of the first game is the upgrade system. You can constantly find upgrades for various armor pieces, blasters, and lightsabers. Therefore, the traditional RPG glee of looting a body is heightened: not only might you find something new, but you might find something that makes your favorite weapon even cooler!
Dark Side or Light Side?
Shocking no one, this game is filled with decisions your character must make. And these decisions always move you closer to the Light Side or the Dark Side of the Force. From a mechanical standpoint, this works exactly the way it worked in the first game.
Fortunately, the sequel adds a couple of fun twists. The first is that you can also influence your companions towards one side of the Force or another (more on them in a minute). This makes your moral decisions feel more impactful simply because they affect someone other than your character.
The other twist is that the character Kreia offers new perspectives on the whole “good vs. evil” thing. If you decide to help a helpless person (as the Jedi code would seemingly demand), she is there to point out that you kept them from learning how to help themselves. Therefore, if they stay helpless their whole lives, your character is now partially responsible for that.
This is tied to a larger scale deconstruction of the whole Star Wars mythology. And while it’s not to everyone’s taste, it’s tough to argue that it adds extra meaning and depth to the decisions that you make.
Like in the first game, you are not alone in your galactic quest. Your character (a former Jedi who has lost her connection to the Force) is joined by a wild crew full of droids, smugglers, bounty hunters, and so on.
However, I ended up liking this new squad better than the one in the previous game. One reason is that the characters are more interesting: instead of being fully good (like Carth in KOTOR) or fully evil (like HK-47, who returns here), most of the new characters have plenty of shades of gray.
Second, each character has secrets, and the game forces you to establish a deep relationship with crew members before they spill the tea about their past. This makes talking to these characters more rewarding and also “gamifies” conversations: say the wrong thing, and you may hurt your relationship with the crew member and lose out on your chance to learn more about them.
A Bold Narrative
One of the reasons that the first Knights of the Old Republic was so successful is it copied the Star Wars formula perfectly. Despite taking place in the far past, the game was filled with pure Jedi, evil Sith, revelations about the main character… oh, and did I mention control of the galaxy was at stake?
Knights of the Old Republic 2 subverts much of this. Not only is the game quieter and more personal, but it forces you to examine the Jedi in a whole new light. In fact, many players walk away from this game asking if fans have actually been rooting for the bad guys all these years because we’ve been fed Jedi propaganda!
This is a large part of why this game is divisive. If you want an epic game where good mostly triumphs over evil, the first game will be more to your liking. If you want a game that isn’t afraid to humanize the villains and demonize the heroes, KOTOR 2 will be the best game you ever play.
I’ve been ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to KOTOR 2. And here it is: this game was severely rushed.
Large chunks of content (including entire planets and their missions) were cut from this game in order for it to originally ship on time. And this makes certain parts (particularly the ending) feel very rushed.
Some good news, though: modders have spent years restoring as much of this content as possible. And if you play this game through Steam, you can easily toggle those restoration mods on before you start.
This lets you play the fullest possible version of the game at no extra cost!
In conclusion, KOTOR 2 is amazing. Seriously, stop reading this now and go buy it! Just don’t blame me if you end up replaying it once or twice a year.