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Making a Great Greater


When it comes to the Xbox, it is common knowledge that RPGs are a precious commodity. Sure, there are a few, like Sudeki and Morrowind, but when a new one comes out on the Xbox, legions of RPG-starved fans will flock to their local game stores to buy a copy. Well, all the famished Xbox role players can rejoice, becauseStar Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords is a godsend. Whether you are a Star Wars fanatic, an RPG fan, or just an Xbox owner, KOTOR2 is a game worth giving a whirl.

The story picks up shortly after the events of KOTOR1, with the former (or present) Sith Lord, Revan, disappearing shortly after killing Darth Malak, the main enemy of the original. Most of the details surrounding Revan are left indefinite, so there aren?t any plot holes surrounding the player?s version of Revan from KOTOR1. Nothing is said about his actions after defeating Malak, and even Revan?s sex is left unspecified. In the sequel, you play as a hated Jedi, widely known as ?The Exile.? Years ago, s/he joined Revan and Malak to push back the Mandalorians in the Mandalorian War. After learning of Revan and Malak?s fall to the Dark Side, The Exile returned to the Jedi Enclave for trial. The verdict was guilty, and the Exile was excommunicated from the Order, was forced to relinquish their Lightsaber, and ended up becoming a mercenary. During this time, new Sith Lords were coming to power, and focusing their efforts on destroying the remnants of the Jedi Order. Now, with almost all the Jedi dead, the Sith turn their attention to the Exile. Because of this, the Exile is forced to form a motley crew of characters and hop from planet to planet. The choices the Exile makes will determine the fate of the Jedi. Will the s/he have revenge on the Council who banished him/her? Or will s/he help restore them?

The battle system has pretty much remained unchanged between games. The player uses a party of three units, almost always including the hero, with combat taking place in the same real-time format that was present in the original game. The option to pause the action at any time is still here, and as before, is a life saver. Once battle is initiated, attacking is automatic, but medicine, Jedi powers, and special attacks can still be thrown in at will. While the core combat system remains the same, there are two changes of note. There is now a ?Style? system, where the characters use different Lightsaber fighting styles, each having various effects on their performance in combat. The Style system has the characters focus their efforts on one-on-one combat, blaster deflection, or many-on-one combat. Using these styles will usually temporarily detract from one or more of your stats. The other major addition is the newfound emphasis on shifting between ranged and melee combat. Each character is now able to hold two sets of weapons (having one melee set and one ranged set is recommended), and a new ?Switch Weapon? feature is present. This makes changing between long and short-ranged combat easier, and more effective. However, this is made obsolete, as there are new Feats which allow improved close quarters combat with blasters, and the traditional Force Jump and Blaster Deflection, both of which offer easy access to far-off enemies.

The game also has more of an emphasis on customizability. Now almost all armor, blasters, and swords are upgradeable. To improve the customization options in the game, there are now more than two items that can be used to upgrade your equipment. Some of them give elemental defense, while others offer defensive upgrades, dexterity upgrades, as well as a number of other various enhancements. Lightsabers can now equip up to six upgrade items. On top of the color crystal, and two other crystals, there are other slots which allow for various improvements. This is extremely important, as there is an increased amount of Jedi action to be had (keep reading).

The greatest improvement, however, is in the emphasis the game puts on your party members development. The linear, learn-by-level setup where each character is slowly developed as the game progresses is gone, and its replacement is awesome. As the plot goes on, the Exile will need to make many important choices. The characters in your party often give input, and different decisions will impress or repel different characters. For example, Kreia, a one-handed Jedi, likes it when the player listens to her advice, while Atton, an arrogant convict pilot, likes it when his ego is fed. What?s so excellent about this system, though, is that once the characters grow to really like the Exile, he can convince them to join the Jedi. That?s right; almost ALL of your characters can become Force-Pushing, Robe wearing, Lightsaber-wielders. That, my Star Warsian friends, is simply awesome.

Knights of the Old Republic 2 is a superb game. While the original KOTOR was also critically acclaimed, this one is improved in almost every way. The story will keep any Star Wars fan or RPG lover pushing themselves to stay awake in order to find out what happens next. The new in-depth characterization options add a lot to this game. The best new feature is the party setup, which gives a ton of great info on each character, and the create-a-Jedi concept is really quite inspired. KOTOR2 is definitely a must-own for every RPG fan, Star Wars fan, and what the heck, every Xbox owner.

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