Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

This 12-year-old game got a refresh and Linux port on Steam middle of last year, and after The Force Awakens I decided to dust this one off in my library.

screenshot from kotor2 showing character in spacesuit
Spaaace, I’m in space! In space!

The Old Republic storylines take place approximately 4,000 years before the movie trilogy, and have largely been explored through video games, comics, and novelizations. Setting the games allowed for Bioware (Kights of the Old Republic and The Old Republic) and Obsidian (KOTOR2) to explore new plots and conflicts relating to Jedi vs. Sith without stepping on Lucasfilm’s primary movie continuity.

Star Wars as a background story is elaborate and dense. Just for the basics, the Old Republic was invaded by a militaristic culture called the Mandalorians. The Jedi, for reasons that are not fully explained, refused to help the Republic. A young Jedi named rebelled from the Jedi council, became a general, and destroyed the Mandilorian homeworld. Revan returned with their own army to conquer the Republic. And all of that comes before the first game in the series.

KOTOR2 deals with the aftermath of these two wars. Your character is identified early as the Jedi Exile, the only one of Revan’s fallen Jedi to return to the Jedi Council to answer for disobedience (but not, curiously, for the war crime at the center of the plot.) The Exile was banished from the order, and has lived without contact with the Force out in the hinterlands. You return to find the Republic and its individual planets struggling to put itself together.

I’ve joked that the MMO The Old Republic gives you choices between playing the smugly self-righteous Republic on one hand and Marvin the Martian Sith on the other. KOTOR2 offers a bit more ambivalence. Former Sith become key allies. It also offers one of the better antagonists of the whole franchise. The creepy manipulation and philosophy of big bad balances out the obvious excess of Darth Frankenstein and Darth Nosferatu.

screenshot from KOTOR2 showing heavily scared man
Darth Frankenstein

In terms of gameplay, KOTOR and KOTOR2 are transitional games with turn-based mechanics and over-the-shoulder perspective. The results are a bit less immersive than they could be. The graphics are dated but not quite far enough to become “cool” like pixel art has become. KOTOR2 offers a good mix of combat and puzzle-based obstacles to avoid becoming repetitious. The game was rushed through production by Lucas Arts and was released “unfinished.” The last act especially doesn’t make a lot of sense, but still stands better than a number of games that follow it. A massive fan mod fixes many of these problems, and I’m trying it for my next playthrough.

In many ways KOTOR2 is a flawed work that’s showing its age. But it’s $10 for over 40 hours of fun if you can handle going low-polygon.

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