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SummaryI find your lack of faith... disturbing
The GoodThe first Knights of the Old Republic was an excellent game that did a lot to bring serious RPGs closer to the mainstream without making too many compromises. The development of the sequel was entrusted to Obsidian, a new team consisting of veteran RPG designers that contributed to some of the turn-of-the-millennium most beloved classics.
Sith Lords is very similar to the first game, having a nearly identical gameplay system with only a few light modifications. Item-crafting is one of those: you can spend hours at the workbench manufacturing your own upgrades and assembling weapons and armor. Generally, these seem to be more items and more different types of accessories, stimulants, Jedi techniques, and feats. The difference is not striking; but at least nothing was taken out or further simplified. A few battles are actually more challenging than in the first game, though overall the difficulty level remains more or less the same.
Sith Lords improves upon the original game's characterization, dedicating more gameplay time and more refined interaction possibilities with your companions. Using what is probably the game's coolest new gameplay mechanic, you can affect their alignment through dialogue choices and actions of the protagonist. Everyone will respond to what you say and do in one way or another, and the results are sometimes quite far-reaching and unpredictable. In general, the sequel treats ethical issues in a more complex fashion, with more parameters and variables than before.
The characters in Sith Lords are deeper and more enigmatic than the companions you have encountered in the first game. A seemingly lighthearted womanizer will eventually reveal a tormented soul covered by scars of war, and his moral instability will prompt you to make choices. A woman who had to serve a Sith Lord who destroyed her entire home world can still be brought to the light - or crushed forever by the dark side if you decide to pursue that road. One of the typical examples of how the game takes familiar humorous Star Wars icons and fills them with new content is an evil wookie who hates those who have shown him mercy; gratitude is unbearable to him, and he constantly seeks death. The main antagonist of the story, not revealed until later, is also significantly more interesting than the rather standard villain of the predecessor.
The sequel has a noticeably darker, more brooding mood than the first game. The main character has even deeper moral problems to deal with, and overall the story feels more mature, less schematically executed. The quality of the writing is perhaps even higher than in the previous installment, and its style is more thought-provoking, bringing back memories of Planescape: Torment. Like before, much attention is paid to the content of side quests; particularly interesting are those related to your companions, since they allow you to find out more about them and open new conversation choices.
The BadSith Lords was clearly either released too early, or something happened during development that caused designers to cut out large chunks of content. Particularly towards the end, the game feels garbled, with underdeveloped plot branches and a rushed ending that ignores many decisions the player has taken throughout the course of the story. There is a fan-made patch that supposedly restores much of the original content floating on the net, but I haven't tried it yet.
My main beef with Sith Lords, however, is its excessive similarity to the previous game. The problem is not the recycling of the engine or lack of any significant additions to the gameplay mechanics, but the refusal to go beyond the boundaries in structure and world design. To illustrate this, consider Fallout 2, which hardly invented anything of its own, but stuffed a familiar formula with as much content and experiments as it could. Sith Lords, on the other hand, copies so much that it often feels more like an expansion pack with a new story than a full-fledged sequel.
The game's adherence to formula can get irritating. In the original game, the excuse for traveling to other planets was collecting specific items; here, it is meeting specific people - in both cases, the plot wouldn't budge until you completed the whole thing. The world of Sith Lords is by no means larger than that of the predecessor, and the developers employ very similar methods in the design and layout of individual planets. There is little sense of continuity, traveling is restricted, and nothing was done to correct artificial borders that noticeably limit exploration.