Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords Update

We bring you more on the sophomore installment of the new Star Wars RPG franchise.

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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords
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Watch an exclusive developer interview about this promising sequel. Double-click on the video window for a full-screen view.

In our last look at Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, we gave you a general idea of what to expect from the game. Today, we'll offer you some even meatier details on the upcoming RPG. While developer Obsidian Entertainment and LucasArts are pretty tight lipped about the many aspects of the game, we were at least able to get some good bits of information on the story and the gameplay.

The Sith Lords starts out by offering you two mysteries to solve, depending on whether or not you choose to play through the in-game tutorial (which is folded into the storyline). If you choose to play the tutorial, you'll take control of T3-M4, ancestor to the R2 units we all know and love. Your job will be to make your way around the Ebon Hawk, which has apparently gotten quite an ass whoopin', and repair the ship's damaged systems. As you do this, you'll be able to piece together some of what's happened. If you choose to skip the tutorial, you'll jump right into the game and take control of your custom-built character. The character-creation process has remained roughly the same as in the original game, but Obsidian is aiming to build on the options that are open to you by offering you more choices when creating your virtual self.

The Sith Lords will take you to many exotic docking bays.
The Sith Lords will take you to many exotic docking bays.

Once all that's sorted, you'll start out on Peragus Station, a mining complex situated in a rather inhospitable asteroid field. You wake up in the medical bay, and the last thing you remember is blacking out in a Republic warship. How you wound up there--and why the heck you're in your skivvies--are mysteries you'll need to figure out. Unlike the original Knights of the Old Republic, you'll begin the game as a Jedi, and so you'll be capable of handling whatever you encounter, regardless of your limited state of attire. As you look around the station you'll encounter an enigmatic woman named Krea who asks you to explore the station and warns you that you're being hunted. You'll soon learn that Krea's pretty tuned in with the Force (even if you aren't quite as attuned as you used to be), as she'll have telepathic conversations with you by using her mystical power. As you continue to look around the station, you'll eventually meet Atton Rand, who fills you in on Peragus and its dangerous locale. As you might have guessed, Krea and Atton will form the core of your first party in the game.

One of the most interesting things we discovered about The Sith Lords' introduction is that, while the game won't actually read your save from the original KOTOR, Obsidian will use an old-school method to have the storyline in The Sith Lords reflect the way your story in KOTOR played out. Conversations with Krea and other characters in the early part of the game will let you provide the game with information on what happened in your own particular game of KOTOR; this will ensure that your experience in The Sith Lords reflects those events.

You'll encounter characters who are both friend and foe throughout your journey.
You'll encounter characters who are both friend and foe throughout your journey.

As we mentioned in our last look at the game, the gameplay in The Sith Lords is being refined based on user feedback. The core combat system hasn't changed, but the animation system has been tied more closely to your level of experience, therefore, your character will gain more and better animations for its attacks as it progress. For example, the animation for a character's critical strikes will become more grandiose as it levels up and becomes more powerful.

In terms of presentation, The Sith Lords features a tweaked interface that offers you some nice perks. One of the most useful changes is that you'll be able to choose two distinct weapon configurations for your character that you'll be able to switch on the fly with the press of a button. This ought to come in pretty handy when, for example, you're alternating in combat between organic and droid foes. Other, more subtle changes include a party select tab on the menu screen that replaces the messages tab. Messages will now be filed under the journal tab, which should clean up text clutter a bit.

The skills system in The Sith Lords won't be radically different from what you saw in KOTOR, but it will definitely give you more options. For instance, you'll now be able to use mines to unlock doors if your security skill fails you. You'll find the same eight skill categories as before, but this time you'll be able to do more with them. For example, workbenches will now limit the number of items and upgrades you can make based on your current skill level. As before, you'll be able to modify your lightsabers with various crystals in order to personalize them. Thankfully, the somewhat stifling level caps in the first game, which limited how your character could evolve, are being tweaked to offer something extra for the power-leveling player.

The creature designs in the game are classic Star Wars.
The creature designs in the game are classic Star Wars.

KOTOR'S minigames are back once again, although they're more than just simple retreads of the originals. We got a peek at the new turret minigame, which puts you in control of an automatic weapon situated on the belly of the Ebon Hawk as Sith troops attempt to get onboard. While everything will be hunky dory if you manage to take out all the Sith with the big gun, if some manage to get on board you'll have to dispatch of them manually. As for the rest of the games, you can expect to see face-lifts and refinements all around. The game looks sharp and moves well, which is no surprise given that it uses the same capable engine as the original KOTOR. Understandably, the music is still being developed at this early stage. To complete the rich graphics, you'll hear a new score from Mark Grisky, who intends to stay true to the franchise while introducing some cool new elements in the game's two-hour score that will draw on many classic themes from the earlier games.

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords is slated to ship early next year for the PC and the Xbox. The game will make its playable debut at E3 this week. Look for more coverage from the show floor where we'll bring you exclusive footage of The Sith Lords in motion that you won't find anywhere else.

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