KOTOR sequel leading LucasArts' E3 charge

The Obsidian-developed Sith Lords will be the publisher's prime attraction next week in LA

LucasArts officially announced today that is preparing a sequel to its award-winning role-playing game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

However, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords will not be developed by BioWare, the Canadian studio that created the original. Obsidian Entertainment, the independent developer founded by Feargus Urquhart and several other former Black Isle developers, has licensed the KOTOR engine from BioWare and is hard at work on its successor. Ironically, many Obsidian staffers worked on the Icewind Dale and Dark Alliance series, two spin-offs based on the Bioware-created Baldur's Gate franchise (not to mention the now-canceled Baldur's Gate 3).

Darker in tone than the original, The Sith Lords will pick up five years after the first game's conclusion, with players slipping on the robes of the galaxy's last Jedi. They will have to travel to seven different worlds in their efforts to defend the now-turmoil-plagued Old Republic against the machinations of the Sith Lords. Several characters from the original KOTOR will return in the sequel, although LucasArts did not say which ones specifically.

As in the original game, KOTOR II players will be constantly torn between the light and dark sides of the Force. This time around, though, players will have more than 30 new Force powers to choose from, including “Force confusion," which will turn opponents against one another, and “Force sight,” which will let users see other characters' alignments through solid objects. GameSpot's preview has a more in-depth examination of the game's new features.

According to LucasArts, The Sith Lords will be released simultaneously for the PC and Xbox in February 2005. For those who do not want to wait that long, the game will be the centerpiece of LucasArts' booth at next week's E3 convention in Los Angeles. Four other games will be on display, including:

Mercenaries (Q1 2005, PlayStation 2 & Xbox): Pandemic Studios' open-ended third-person shooter will let players assume the role of a gun-for-hire in the midst of a futuristic Korean war.

Star Wars: Battlefront (September 21, 2004, PC, PlayStation 2, & Xbox): Also developed by Pandemic, this first-person shooter brings Battlefield 1942-style online wargame action to the Star Wars universe. It is being released concurrently with the Star Wars Trilogy DVD boxed set.

Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed (Fall 2004, PC): The massively multiplayer online RPG's first expansion pack takes the action off the planetary surface and features space-combat missions in 10 new sectors.

Star Wars Republic Commando (Fall 2004, PC & Xbox): Based on the Unreal engine, this self-developed stealth shooter sends players on various covert operations before the rise of the Empire.

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