It's funny what games live on in our collective memories. By all rights, Knights of the Old Republic II should have faded into history, hidden by the long shadow cast by the original. Instead, it lives on thanks to an army of modders determined to resurrect Obsidian's true vision for what (in their mind) should have been one of the best RPGs ever made.
Yesterday, word hit that Knights of the Old Republic II was unexpectedly getting a large update on Steam, bringing with it achievements and support for 4K monitors and console controllers, as well as easy access to the popular Sith Lords Restored Content Mod. To the extent that KOTOR II has a "definitive version," this is probably it.
Fans of KOTOR II have long been tantalized by its ambition and potential. Released just over ten years ago in December 2004, it was the sequel to the very popular RPG by BioWare, which marked a point when many established PC developers made the leap to console. KOTOR II's developer, Obsidian, was one of those studios, having risen from the ashes of Black Isle Studios, which had closed its doors the year before. Obsidian brought a certain allure to the project that has persisted through the years, their calling card being fascinating but often half-finished and extremely buggy RPGs.
Given that they had only a year to pull together more than 40 hours of content, though, what they accomplished with KOTOR II is notable. As with Fallout: New Vegas, which had many of the same issues as KOTOR II, Obisidian's sequel was praised for having a superior story, with many reviewers at the time calling it the Empire Strikes Back to the original Knights of the Old Republic's Star Wars. It was darker than KOTOR, with far more plot options and an interesting antagonist, though it's hard to beat the big twist from the original game. And like Empire, it had an open-ended conclusion.
As it turned out, that was not by design. LucasArts reportedly pushed Obsidian hard to finish KOTOR II by Christmas, and they complied. As a consequence, though, a large amount of content was cut, much of it remaining on the disc when the game shipped. That content has been the object of fascination among RPG fans ever since.
To a degree, I think KOTOR II's impact is overstated. It's worth playing, especially now, but one of the charges leveled against it upon release was that it recycled too much content from the original game; inevitable, perhaps, given the game's development history, but one that still holds true today. It does not benefit from a new setting like Fallout: New Vegas, which had a very different flavor as a result. It has its merits, and Kreia is fantastic as a blind Force-sensitive who serves as the protagonist's mentor (though the ultimate twist isn't hard to spot), but I found it to be a less complete experience in comparison to the original, which is arguably BioWare's best RPG.
It still holds a certain fascination among RPG fans, though, and it has held up better than I would have imagined in 2004. If you haven't tried it yet, it's certainly worth picking up, especially with this brand new update. I never would have guessed that we would still be talking about KOTOR II after all these years, but here we are. Now go play it.
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