One of the greatest games of all time (or at least the past couple of generations) was Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare’s fantastic Star Wars RPG/love letter to the franchise. They carefully crafted an interpretation of the Star Wars universe but set the clock back about 3,500 years, long before Anakin Skywalker was immaculately conceived by the midi-chlorians.
Set after the terrible Mandalorian War and right in the middle of the Jedi Civil War (it’s Star Wars for a reason, folks), the game followed an amnesiac Republic solider as he fought against the Sith and discovered his dark heritage. The game’s twist ending knocked everyone’s sock’s off, including mine, but the sequel, Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, drew me in way more than the first game.
Starting with the coldest of opens, Knights 2 dropped you on an asteroid mining station where you plot your escape with the help of Kreia and Atton Rand, the former of which helps you reestablish your connection to the Force, having lost it during the Mandalorian War. This is a similar sort of opening to Knights of the Old Republic, but the game went a different direction from there. While not a bad game by any means, KotOR 2 wasn’t exactly lauded by critics and tarnished the first game’s sterling reputation, if you’re prone to hyperbole. Why do I love it so much, though?
It may be a case of playing this game at the right time (and, if my memory serves me correctly, I played it before the original), but I loved the way that Obsidian played fast and loose with the preconceived notions of the Force and how Jedi and Sith interact with it. Instead of drawing on the regular Force, the Jedi Exile (little piece of trivia: she is female in Star Wars canon) drew on a sort of nega-Force, essentially leeching the Force energies of those around her to power her abilities.
Because of the Jedi Exile’s actions in the Mandalorian War, she became a walking Wound in the Force, a sort of localized event on the scale of Alderaan’s destruction. This is a very unique way of portraying a Jedi’s power, something that hasn’t been done since. The idea that a Jedi or a Sith could cause the death of the Force simply through using it is an interesting one, especially considering the motivations of the game’s primary villains, the Sith Triumvirate.
Based off of character flaws that traditionally cause a Jedi to fall to the Dark Side, the Sith Triumvirate were all powerful enemies who haunted the Jedi Exile. Darth Nihilus, the Lord of Hunger, was also a Wound in the Force, a being of supreme power who drained the life energy of all he came across. Darth Sion, the Lord of Pain, stalked the Exile, coming back to life after being killed over and over. Finally, Darth Traya, the Lord of Betrayal, used the Exile to exact revenge upon her two pupils, but ended up dying at the Exile’s hands.
While Malak was a serviceable villain, he was sort of generic and his motivations were kind of pedestrian by Star Wars standards. By giving each of the enemies in KotOR 2 their own goals and a set way of achieving them, it forced the player to take them on through different means instead of just trying to overwhelm them with force. Defeating Darth Sion by using speech checks to erode his will was something new in the last generation, and a notion that BioWare would toy with in Mass Effect.
Each of the Sith Lords also had a great deal of mystery to their past, and due to the game’s neglected status, this has never been explored since. Who Darths Sion and Nihilus were and how they came to be will forever be lost to the annals of Star Wars history, leaving their brief appearance in KotOR 2 the only bit of knowledge we have about these characters.
Another difference in KotOR 2 was that you could choose to make certain members of your party Force Sensitive and turn them into either Jedi or Sith, depending on your alignment. This was very well hidden and it took me a while to figure out how to turn every companion with that ability into a Force user. Once I knew the tricks, though, I was rolling with a party full of Jedi every playthrough. It may not be that impressive in retrospect, but when I played KotOR 2, the fact that I could recruit people and turn them into Force users if I wanted to really struck a chord with me. It even played into the game’s story in a way, with the Jedi Exile inadvertently creating followers to enhance her own powers.
Knights of the Old Republic 2 wasn’t without its faults, however. The game lacked a real ending and a significant portion of the end-game content was cut, presumably from LucasArts pressure to make a Holiday release. Whole sections of the game were just gone, but the sound files and the level details remain, meaning that dedicated gamers could go into the game’s code and piece the levels back together if they so desired. There was a restoration project being undertaken by a “Team Gizka”, but they closed up shop in 2008 after releasing a closed Beta.
Fan-brewed endings aside, the fact that Knights 2 ended on a flat note as opposed to an exclamation point never really bothered me; all told I played that game upwards of ten times, trying to get perfect runs with each alignment, upgrading my sabers for massive damage and trying out all the different classes and builds. While I only played the original KotOR twice to see both endings, I just couldn’t get enough of KotOR 2; the way it handled the Star Wars universe and the implications of Jedi and Sith using the Force always stuck with me more than Revan’s reveal.
The original Knights of the Old Republic is a masterpiece of interactive fiction, there’s no doubt about that, but I’ll always say that The Sith Lords is my favorite KotOR game.
I know that my Majora’s Mask infatuation probably made a bit more sense, so I’m not expecting anyone to back me up on this. Even so, I was wondering if you guys had any thoughts about the most over-looked sequel in recent memory. Did you plays Knights 2 back in the day, and what are your memories of it? Am I just a crazy person? Go!