Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords Hands-On
The PC version of this role-playing sequel is almost here, so we got our hands on a near-complete version of the game to see how it's turning out.
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After debuting on the Xbox late last year, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is headed for the PC early next month. As the game is the follow-up to one of the best role-playing games of 2003, there's obviously a lot of interest in how it will turn out. We recently got our hands on an early version of The Sith Lords to see how the action translates to the PC.
In terms of content, the PC version is identical to the Xbox version. You'll start the game by creating a character, and you'll be able to choose a gender and pick from three different classes: the Jedi guardian, who is a combat expert; the Jedi sentinel, who balances Force powers and combat; and the Jedi consular, who is a master of the Force. The game recommends that only advanced players play as a Jedi consular, as this class has weak combat abilities. And once again, your choice of gender will affect your potential romance options in the game.
After you select your appearance and beginning skills, feats, and attributes, you'll start the game. If you played the original game, the beginning of the sequel should feel familiar. Though you play as a totally new character, you'll awaken once again in a strange place, with little memory of how you got there. (We should note that there is also an optional prelude tutorial that will get you up to speed on playing the game.) From there, you'll have to explore your surroundings and slowly piece together your past. The game is set about four or five years after the events of the original, and the Jedi civil war featured in the first game has taken its toll. The Jedi are extinct, save for your character, and the Republic is in disarray. You survived only because you had been exiled by the Jedi council prior to the war and sent away. Ironically, you're now the Jedi's last hope.
The interface feels like it has been reworked, and it's now a bit easier to manipulate all the many items that you'll collect over the course of the game. The combat system is pretty much the same from the original game. It's still a real-time system, though you can pause the combat at any time to issue commands to your characters. Your beginning opponents will be droids, but before too long you'll be battling Sith soldiers in the cramped corridors of the mining facility that you start the game in. Once again, you won't have a lightsaber at the beginning, so you'll have to get by with an assortment of vibroblades, blasters, and grenades. You'll also have some Force powers, such as Force scream, which is a powerful blast that can knock out most opponents, and stun droid, which does exactly what its name implies.
Right off the bat, it's clear that the choices that you make in the game will have a much greater effect this time around. You'll have to make moral decisions that will not only steer you toward the light side or the dark side of the Force, but will also affect your relationships with your party members. You can also gain influence with your companions, depending on what dialogue choices you select during the game. For example, when one of them has a suggestion, you'll have multiple answers to choose from, including the opportunity to slap it down. Do so, and you'll lose favor with that character. Though we've played through only the first location in the game, the storyline is as intriguing at this point as the original game's storyline was. There are certainly many mysteries in the game, and for every answer you find, you'll uncover even more questions. And for fans of the original, several familiar faces crop up early in the game.
As expected, the PC version of the game looks and plays a lot better than the Xbox version. Not only does the PC support higher resolutions and antialiasing, but it also features higher-resolution textures. Meanwhile, the frame rate is generally very smooth and fluid, which is a sharp contrast to some of the low frame rates in the Xbox version. And the voice acting and sound effects are top-notch, as you'd expect in a Star Wars game. The version of the game that we played looks and feels complete, and we didn't see very many bugs, which bodes well for the game's release next month.
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