You'll once again be able to veer toward the light or dark side of the Force as you make good or evil decisions. It's usually pretty obvious which is which. Compassionate or humble responses will move you toward the light side, while arrogant or angry responses will move you toward the dark side--either way, you'll gain experience points by solving quests, so both methods are rewarding. Of course, you'll experience some different conversations and different confrontations depending on which side you choose. And since many Force powers are light-inclined or dark-inclined, you may gradually gain an affinity for one set of powers, allowing you to use them more efficiently. For this reason, The Sith Lords entices you to at least be consistent in your choice of good or evil responses, though you can go through the game flip-flopping between the two if you prefer. Your alignment will probably also help you decide which of your companions to take with you into the field, since some of them will naturally favor one type of behavior over the other. They'll follow you regardless, but they might complain if you continually act in a manner that's inconsistent with their sensibilities--which may be to your liking, depending on how you wish to play.
Watching how the quests pan out depending on whether you choose a good or evil approach is one of the best parts of the game.
So The Sith Lords is structurally very similar to the original game, but there's a notable exception. At certain points in the adventure, the action will shift its focus away from your main character to his or her companions. This tends to work well from a storytelling standpoint, but it also means that you no longer have control over the strongest character on your team, so you'll suddenly need to make do with some relatively weaker combatants. Since it's tempting to quickly "autolevel" your companions throughout the game, rather than take the time to wisely spend the skill points and choose the new feats and Force powers you get as you level up (which you'll definitely want to do with your main character), it's possible that by the time you stumble into these sequences, your companions will feel woefully unprepared for them. Only by taking advantage of some cheap tricks in the combat system--for example, by putting an obstacle in between ourselves and some sword-wielding opponents, and then blasting away with ranged weapons while our enemies tried in vain to reach us--were we able to get past some of these bits.
Like its predecessor, The Sith Lords isn't necessarily well balanced in terms of its combat system, but this mostly just helps keep you guessing. The combat is in the same quasi-turn-based style of the original, so you can pause and issue orders to any of your characters at any time, but more often you'll simply watch as they automatically close the distance to attack their foes with melee weapons, or hang back and fire away with blasters. Once again, the ranged weapons feel rather underpowered, though to be fair, this seems consistent with the Star Wars mythos. Nevertheless, if you focus on building up your melee and lightsaber combat skills, you'll soon start to feel virtually unstoppable. Some fights can still be challenging, such as when you're faced with maybe a dozen enemies at once, but the same tactics for consistently winning battles in Knights of the Old Republic apply here as well. As a result, most of the battles in The Sith Lords are probably going to seem easy at the default difficulty, but since there are a few tough fights thrown in every now and then, it's not so easy that you'll automatically want to crank up the difficulty setting. Of further note, the game's combat largely recycles the animations and effects used in Knights of the Old Republic, but it's still surprisingly fun. Something about cutting down droves of Sith troopers with a double-bladed lightsaber just never gets old.
Lightsaber combat still looks impressive, but the visuals are a weak point in The Sith Lords.
A disappointing presentation hurts The Sith Lords, especially on first impression. We encountered a number of minor issues during the course of the game, such as characters who'd occasionally pass through walls (no, it's not a Force power), or dialogue options that would unexpectedly throw us back into the same dialogue loop. And the game doesn't really look any better than the original, but since it tries to get away with a few new graphical effects, its frame rate is often even worse, sometimes plummeting down into the single digits during some of the more-hectic battles. Given that the game's character models and relatively small environments aren't particularly detailed or attractive to begin with, this is rather unfortunate, since a role-playing game of this caliber really deserves better. On the other hand, the lightsaber action you'll be seeing frequently throughout the second half of the game is impressive, and the characters you'll be speaking with look reasonably good, mostly because their lips (again, if they have lips) are properly synced with their speech. All things considered, The Sith Lords looks fair at best. Fortunately, graphics aren't what's most important to a high-quality RPG.
As with the original, the best part about The Sith Lords' audio is its extensive use of speech, of which there must be hours and hours. Most of it is solid, though there are only a few standout performances, such as from Kreia and a certain model of sociopathic droid, with whom you'll get to exchange words, among other things. One blemish in this respect is that the game makes conspicuous use of alien characters during some major plot points, and they noticeably repeat the same alien-sounding speech clips over and over as the actual content of the dialogue drones on in subtitles. The rest of the sound effects are fine, though they're pretty much all recycled from the previous game and countless other Star Wars properties, so they get repetitive quickly. And the musical score consists of the sorts of grand, symphonic compositions that are innate to Star Wars, although the game's attempts to dynamically mix the soundtrack aren't always successful--sometimes the transitions between music pieces can be pretty jarring. But The Sith Lords still sounds great, so it would have been nice if its visuals had been on the level of its audio.
The Sith Lords will be perfect for you if Knights of the Old Republic left you wanting more.
If Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic left you wanting more of its near-perfect blend of exploration, combat, and role-playing, then The Sith Lords is going to give you your fill. It's the first product from Obsidian Entertainment, a studio composed of veteran RPG designers who took the development reins on this sequel from BioWare, and evidently stayed true to the original style and vision in the process--that is, you wouldn't be able to guess just from playing The Sith Lords that this was the work of a different developer. Ironically, though, since Knights of the Old Republic was such a big game, with so much replay value, it didn't necessarily scream for such a similar sequel. As a result, you might have a much tougher time settling into The Sith Lords, since chances are you'll feel like you've played this game before, only you'll swear it looked better the first time. But, on the other hand, so what? It's just as important to note that no other game since Knights of the Old Republic has managed to deliver this excellent style of role-playing. If you're a Knights of the Old Republic fan, then you should find a certain satisfaction in knowing almost exactly what you're in for going into The Sith Lords.