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Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic II Published by Lucas Arts
Platform: Xbox, Pc

Released about a year and a half ago, the first Knights of the Old Republic wasn't all that revolutionary a game--as any hardcore PC dork will tell you, KOTOR's emphasis on long conversations and meandering sub-quests is standard issue on computer role-playing games. No, KOTOR was different because it took this time-consuming experience and made it palatable, even engaging, to console audiences--and KOTOR II keeps the tradition going by not fixing what ain't broke.

The Real Revenge of the Sith

Story wise, The Sith Lords is a step up from the original, whose random ramblings covered up a remarkably standard plot. You are the last Jedi alive (the last one not accounted for by the evil Sith, anyway), and as the game begins, you're trying to rediscover your dormant Jedi skills while running from the long arm of the Sith. The main cast is completely different, but characters from the first KOTOR make regular appearances, (something sure to cause veterans to exclaim, "Oh, c'mon, there's no way he became a Republic admiral!").

There are dozens of improvements from the original Knights, but they're mostly tiny little niceties you'll only notice if you're intimately familiar with the series. Fighting's a little less janky, for example, and you can now convince your party to join the Dark (or Light) side through a new influence-based conversation system. However, bigger issues--including choppy visuals in certain scenes and a battle system that's more complicated that it should be--remain unfixed in KOTOR II, which could annoy PC snobs expecting radical improvements with every sequel.

Now With 20 Percent More Severed Hands

Of course, cutting-edge design was never this game's primary thrust. Just like a cross-country road trip, it's all in the experience, and here The Sith Lords keeps up the fine tradition BioWare began with the first KOTOR. Every planet you land on is chock full of interesting story, either spread before you from the get-go or doled out in a number of smaller sub-quests. Nearly all of them are fun to trace through (even the rather non-Jedi-like ones, including returning a slave dancer to her two-timin' boyfriend), and the enjoyable voice acting means you won't be skipping through any of the countless conversations.

Not Near, But Far Wars

This story emphasis is the reason why KOTOR (and, yes, its sequel) still seem so original in the console landscape. Too many Japanese RPGs include tons of fighting at the expense of a believable plot and characters. KOTOR II bucks the trend by making every battle a natural progression of an engaging story--and just like the first game, it's a story you'll want to play twice, just to see how much insidious fun being a Dark Jedi can be. Even if you missed the first game, give this one a shot--it's a totally refreshing RPG experience.

Ratings (scale of 1-10):

Graphics: 8
Sound effects and music:9
Originality: 9
Challenge: 10
Overall: 9