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

When it saw its release for the Xbox and Windows back in 2003, the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic enjoyed superb critical acclaim and won several Game of the Year awards, with some critics even piously proclaiming it to be better than the prequels. It came as no surprise, then, that the announcement of a sequel came about, though development shifted from BioWare to Obsidian Entertainment, with LucasArts remaining the publisher. As the sequel to what some consider one of the greatest Western RPGs of all time, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords naturally had big shoes to fill, which it mercifully does.

The Sith Lords takes place five years after its predecessor, when the Sith have nearly exterminated the Jedi. The player takes control of an exile from the Jedi Order, with decisions turning him or her to the light or dark side of the Force and enabling him or her to help or hinder the Republic's efforts to bring peace to the galaxy. As with the original Knights of the Old Republic, the sequel features a better story than any of the Star Wars films, no forcefields you can walk through but not shoot through, no unguarded exhaust shafts, no characters adopting aliases that include their real last names, and so forth, with endless dialogue choices and reasonably developed cast. There are some minor grammar errors in the scripts, but otherwise the plot is one of the high points of the game.

With little exception, the battle system is nearly the same as it was in the original game, with fights triggered whenever the player's party of up to three active characters, including the protagonist, drawing near. When starting a battle, the player can choose a variety of commands for the main character, such as various kinds of attacks, detonating grenades to deal with multiple enemies, using Force Point-consuming Force Powers if available, or using various items. These commands, when selected, appear on a command queue and execute one at a time, and fortunately, if the player needs healing, they can simply cancel combat and instantly use a healing spell or item if healing is urgent.

When characters acquire enough experience, they naturally level up, with several options consequentially becoming available, including increasing one of the leveling character's stats, increasing innate skills such as computer hacking and electronics with several points, choosing from feats such as advanced types of normal attacks, and choosing Force Powers, though all these options aren't always available. Moreover, if the player swaps in characters that they haven't used in a while, they'll instantly level up to be on par with the rest of the more frequently-used characters. The battle system works as well as it did in the original game, though there are a few tricky one-on-one battles, and while the sequel somewhat removes the cap on experience present in the original game, there aren't many opportunities for grinding.

Control, however, is something of an improvement over the first game, given the scarcity of crashes compared to the original on the PC, and the absence of the mandatory shooting mini-game with one exception early on in the game. The menus are also generally easy to use and shopping is easy, though there are several points of no return at various points where the player is unable to turn back to perform other duties such as sidequests. Otherwise, interaction is another of the game's high points.

The soundtrack is also a slight step above the original game's, with plenty of bombastic orchestrated pieces that mostly become audible in battle, though there are still quite a few areas that depend upon ambient noise. The voice acting, however, is largely flawless like it was in the original Knights of the Old Republic.

The graphics are mostly the same as they were in the original game, as well, not that this is a bad thing as they still look decent even today, with quirks such as different equipment affecting characters' appearance, despite some bland textures at times and some rare slowdown if a lot of action, particularly explosions, is happening at once.

Finally, the game is short like its predecessor, taking somewhere from twenty to thirty hours to complete, with a few sidequests occasionally padding out playing time. Overall, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords improves upon its predecessor in a few ways while still retaining its prequel's solid gameplay, although there are some minor imperfections such as occasional points of no return and a few tricky fights. Despite this, the sequel is definitely sure to please both the diehard RPGamer and the most unpleasable Star Wars Fan.

The Good:
+Retains predecessor's solid gameplay.
+Tight control.
+Great story with multiple branches and endings.
+Solid music and graphics.

The Bad:
-Some tricky battles.
-Many points of no return.

The Bottom Line:
Solid sequel for fans and non-fans alike.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PC
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Story: 9/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Adjustable, Still Slightly Hard on Easy
Playing Time: 20-30 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10

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