Last year’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic wasn’t just the best role-playing game of 2003. It was one of the best things to happen to Star Wars in years. Knights of the Old Republic impressively succeeded on several counts: It delivered a memorable and open-ended story featuring lots of excellent voice acting, an entertaining strategic combat system, and a lengthy, highly replayable quest. Now all those good traits–as well as the game’s few shortcomings–are back once again in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. The sequel is clearly aimed at fans of the original, since it’s a very similar game whose storyline picks up not long after the first one left off. Given that The Sith Lords arrives only a year after its predecessor, it’s remarkable that the game’s quest is every bit as big and complex as the original’s. On the other hand, some unsightly technical issues and a general feeling of déjà vu will probably prevent you from feeling as strongly about The Sith Lords as you did or still do about the first game. Nevertheless, it’s hard to fault The Sith Lords for following in the footsteps of the original so faithfully.
Like its predecessor, The Sith Lords takes place thousands of years before any of the Star Wars movies, and is focused on some of the formative struggles between the Jedi and their power-hungry counterparts, the Sith. In the first game, you eventually discovered your Jedi powers, as well as your mysterious past. This time, you play as a different character who begins the adventure as a Jedi–but your knowledge of the character’s past, the character’s Force powers, and even the character’s lightsaber are all missing. A journey of self-discovery awaits, and as you pick up the pieces of your character’s past and discover the reasons for his or her exile from the Jedi order, your path will lead you to the few Jedi who survived the catastrophic events that took place at the conclusion of the original game. In your search for them, you’ll once again visit the remnants of the Jedi enclave on Dantooine. You’ll take sides in a political struggle on Onderon between a queen and and a general in her army, and you’ll search through the lush jungles of its moon, Dxun. You’ll also see some ancient Sith burial grounds on Korriban, and more. The story of The Sith Lords turns out to be quite intriguing most of the way through, thanks to some enigmatic and complex characters and a few exciting episodes you’ll experience along the way. However, a fairly terse resolution and some occasionally strange leaps of logic near the end are mildly disappointing, especially given how much exposition there is leading up to the climactic confrontations that occur. But the course of the adventure (which should take you 30 to 40 hours each time through) is rewarding enough as it is, and the story is ultimately about as good as that of the original, and is therefore one of the new game’s main attractions.