Monday, October 28, 2013

Knights of the Old Republic 2's Restored Content Mod

You know, I just loved Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. It’s powerful and compelling, taking the already awesome Star Wars universe and adding incredible layers of wisdom and exploration of human nature to it. No, that’s not quite right--KotOR2 doesn’t really add that wisdom, that analysis of the human spirit, to Star Wars, so much as it opens our eyes and makes us realize that it was already there. Through this game’s commentary on The Force and its ways, we find an intuitive understanding of heroism, cowardice, ambition, arrogance, admiration, leadership, of the power of personal and spiritual connections between people and groups and the echoes of actions great and small, and much, much more.

There’s really only one major problem with the game: it was never quite finished.

Oh, KotOR2 has a beginning and an end, to be sure, and it’s (mostly) playable from start to finish, so in certain technical terms. And it’s not like the tragedy that is Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader,* either; its storytelling pace and quality stays pretty consistent throughout the game, save for its finale. But it’s apparent as you play through KotOR2 that it’s just plain missing things. Most notable are a resolution to the subplot involving HK-47 and the HK-50 droids, and the fact that the game’s finale left too much unexplained and had over half the party suddenly absent (in fact, KotOR2’s ending would likely have made my Worst Endings list if it didn’t have a rather great and at least minimally satisfactorily conclusive conversation with Kreia at its very conclusion). Beyond these large, glaring absences, however, there are plenty of times in KotOR2 that feel like they’re missing something, dialogue or actions here and there that might make the general flow of exposition go more smoothly. There’s also a ton of bugs in KotOR2, and it sometimes just handles rather clumsily. All in all, it adds up to one obvious conclusion: the game was released prematurely, with much of its story content cut and without enough testing. It’s always been a damn tragedy in my eyes that this terrific RPG was rushed to shelves before it was ready, and I’ve always wondered just how great it could have been if its developers had just had the time they needed to properly finish it.

Well, I still don’t know the answer to that query, but thanks to the The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod, I at least have a much better idea.

The TSL Restored Content Mod, which can be found at, is an absolute, undiluted Godsend for anyone who appreciated KotOR2’s many and sizable virtues. To start with, it’s easy enough to install and get working. I know this to be true because I managed get it running myself, and when it comes to computers, my intellectual prowess is at about the same level as I would expect from, say, the lovechild of Elmer Fudd and Sarah Palin, if said lovechild hung around Dan Slott and Daniel Tosh on a daily basis, was privately tutored by Peter Griffin, and idolized Homestar Runner. If I managed to install the damn thing correctly, it’s fairly safe to say that absolutely anyone can do it.

More important than ease of use, though, is what the mod actually does. First of all, like any good major improvement mod, it cleans the game up considerably, fixing a metric fuckton of bugs and other, more minor problems (like spelling errors, or coloring issues). I’ve seen buggier games than Knights of Old Republic 2, but certainly not many (and to be fair, most of the problems of Fallout 3, Fallout: New Vegas, and Mass Effect 3’s Multiplayer were eventually fixed (or, occasionally in ME3’s case, lazily covered up rather than actually corrected...whatever works, though, I guess)). So making the game properly playable is by itself quite a nice thing.

But that by itself wouldn’t be enough to warrant a rant. What makes this mod so awesome is that it does just what its title implies: it restores content. It restores a LOT of it. As in, tons of lines of dialogue and dialogue cutscenes that were either cut or simply didn’t activate correctly are brought back into the game, and even some entire conversations. Considering that it’s the characters and plot that really make or break an RPG, that’s gonna be a huge deal for any RPG, but it’s even greater and more important a restoration in a game like KotOR2, where so much of its excellence rests in the insights and nuances of its characters’ dialogue. I’d give KotOR2 another playthrough just to hear Kreia’s restored lines, let alone all the others’ additional content.

In addition to that, a great many parts and qualities of the game’s events and quests have been fixed, restored, and/or added as originally intended. For example, the defense of the settlers on Dantooine is now much more in depth. Before, it was basically just a preparation phase, an underwhelming non-interactive view of the first wave of battle, and then a cut straight to the final fight between your characters and the invader. Now you have a part to play in the battle from start to finish, and it all feels far more real and complete. It’s a real treat as you go through the game and keep running across one thing after another that’s been touched up, added upon, or restored out of nothingness.

And of course, it’s definitely worth noting that this mod completely restores the entire HK-50 dungeon and events, AND adds a heap of the cut content from the finale back in, allowing for a proper resolution to the stalemate between the Remote and G0-T0, giving the previously missing crew members actual parts to play, and generally improving substantially upon KotOR2’s ending to make it far more cohesive and satisfying.

I’ve encountered restoration mods before, and they’ve been great, a way for fans to help realize the full ambitions of games’ creators that for whatever reason weren’t complete with the game’s release. There’s a mod for Planescape: Torment called the Unfinished Business mod which adds a few cut quests and dialogues that are enjoyable, which is well-known and respected enough that it’s even officially suggested by that you install it, for example. And I’ve mentioned before how great the Fallout 2 Restoration Project is, how it’s almost like playing Fallout 2 new all over again. Well, I’d say that the TSL Restored Content Mod is even better than that, providing so much more of the rich, deep, insightful content of KotOR2 and making the entire experience of playing the game feel far more complete. If you were at all a fan of Knights of the Old Republic 2 the first time around, or even just disappointed with it because it felt incomplete, then it’s definitely time to dust your disc off (or go purchase it anew from Steam; it’s only like $10) and give it another playthrough with the TSL Restored Content Mod. It’s fans to the rescue of a great game in the best way.

* Obscure old PC RPG by the makers of the original Fallout games. By all appearances early in the game, it was going to be pretty damn cool, but after a little while of playing it basically just becomes a semi-plotless slogfest because the developer went out of business during the game’s development and had to either get it out the door ASAP or never publish it at all.

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