[GAME MASTER]Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2Sometimes I hate Christmas. Sure, you’ve got presents and family and the birth of Jesus and all that, but then you also get things like “Knights of the Old Republic 2.” I’ll explain.
The first game in the series was a wonderful example of creative design paired with a compelling story. It was set in the “Star Wars” universe centuries before the fall of the jedi order. The player wakes up on a ship with a case of amnesia ― a common enough conceit in these games ― but the developer, Bioware, turned that cliche into a delightfully dastardly twist. The story was in many ways more intelligent and philosophical than the films.
The character journeys through the universe, gathering a party of both virtuous companions and manipulative schemers. Your actions determine its place on the spectrum between the light and the dark sides of the force. A dramatic climax with several different endings topped off what was one of the best games of 2003.
The game was almost perfect. And this sequel, released last year in the U.S., could have surpassed it. But it was rushed out for the Christmas season, brilliant but unfinished.
Between games, Revan, the all-powerful Sith lord from the last game, has disappeared, creating a power vacuum and leaving the galaxy in chaos. A new dark force is taking advantage of the disorder to hunt down and kill the remaining Jedi. This episode’s protagonist is a former Jedi general in Revan’s rebellious army that slaughtered the brutal Mandalorians when the Jedi Council refused to act prior to the start of the first game.
As the new game opens, you are the former Jedi who has been severed from the Force and wander the outer rim in exile. You meet a strange old woman who guides you across the universe, searching for the remaining Jedi. At many junctures, just as in the last game, you face dilemmas. You’ll have to decide how to confront your old demons and consider some heavy and topical issues, including when a war is a just war and whether intervention in a stranger’s life helps or hurts. Naturally, side quests and supporting characters abound.
The engine is almost exactly the same as in the first game, but that’s by no means a bad thing. All the Force powers we loved are back, with new ones added on. The turn-based combat system is completely flawless.
The biggest addition to the gameplay is “influence.” Certain responses in conversations with your teammates or actions in their presence will increase or decrease their respect for you. Get them to like you enough and they may become disciples, newly forged Jedi that you can train. This ingenious new component makes social interaction with the other characters as engaging as exploring the terrain of a new planet.
So it’s tragic that “Knights 2” ends not on a note of triumph but on one of confusion. The final battle is lackluster, and the last dialogue in the game, which is supposed to reveal all the mysteries, instead makes little sense, referencing characters that were obviously cut from the game entirely. All the emotional investment and complex plot threads created by the programming team end up wasted. If I sound bitter, it’s because I am.
Christmas 2005 is coming up, and the game is on Korean store shelves. Buy it only if the recipient has an active imagination. One is needed to make up an ending.
by Ben Applegate