The force has been strong with those of us that own an Xbox ever since the long anticipated release of Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Now, PC owners will soon get their hands (or claws, if they happen to be Wookies) on the sequel to what many reviewers considered to be 2003's Game of the Year.
The PC version, slated for release in just a few days, will have the player leading his or her own Jedi Knight through the trials of light and dark across seven diverse worlds. The first KotOR saw players' actions and dialogic choices affecting their own alignment. Steal, betray, and harass the NPCs and the player's character would join the ranks of Darth Maul and Darth Who's Yo' DaddyŁ Vader. Smile at, befriend, and help the NPCs and your character could chill with Yoda on the Dagoba system anytime she felt fit.
This time,Ł though, as the tagline giddily proclaims, your choices affect everyone around you,Ł meaning that your allies' alignments are affected by your choices as well. In order to accomplish this feat the game features an influence meter (albeit unseen). Accompanying your Jedi Knight through the seven worlds are nine other playable characters. Each ally has his or her own motivations for following your avatar. Many times your allies' wants and needs are in direct conflict with one another, which means the player must at some point take the side of one companion over another. When this occurs, influence shifts within the party. Role playing the social dynamic of your party is probably the most enjoyable addition to this title, and will hopefully become a staple of role playing games from here on in.
In addition to the ingeniously fluxing influence ratings, new force powers are available at the player's disposal. For example, players can turn their enemies upon one another, see through doors, and view a character's alignment with Force Sight,Ł a nifty little trick, especially when you have a bounty on your head and a ragtag band of intergalactic bounty-hunters on your tail. These are all in addition to the seven different lightsaber styles or formsŁ your Jedi can master, all of which sport barely comprehensible names like Soresu and Juyo which can (and will) be indexed in every Star Wars fan's encyclopedic brains. And I still haven't mentioned anything about the prestige classes that become available during play (Siths can become Marauders, Lords, and Assassins, while Jedis have to settle with becoming Masters, Weapons Masters, and the forebodingly named Watchmen). Gameplay also received a minor facelift wherein allies can be controlled through a more nuanced mode of AI behaviors that include aggressive, defensive, ranged, and stationary, among others. Obsidian Entertainment, the studio that developed KotOR II (as opposed to Bioware which produced KotOR I), decided not to alter the original's stellar gameplay in any major way; instead they chose to focus on plot and character development.
Set five years after the original game's ending, KotOR II features some of the smartest writing that the Star Wars universe has seen since The Empire Strikes Back. Characters from the previous game make appearances and are playable, which helps solidify the cohesiveness of the overall narrative, and introducing a large new cast of companions allows for different themes to be explored within this game's context. The earlier Xbox release has received many great reviews that will undoubtedly be echoed by the game hits the PC crowd. Knights of the Old Republic II releases on February 8th, 2005.
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