Anyone following the games of Black Isle/Obsidian in the post Fallout days probably knows that there are two factors that ties these games together. The first is the horrendously buggy and incomplete states in which most of these games languish. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the other common factor is the saturation of creativity, good writing, and unconventional story that their games have proudly heralded since Planescape: Torment.
However, the one game I always come back to when thinking on this developer’s work is the sequel that is probably their most infamous, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords. I don’t need to go into the many problems that plagued this game because the specifics aren’t important to the story of its recent restoration, and everyone familiar with this game probably knows all of them first hand anyway. For those who don’t know, it’ll suffice to say that large chunks of the game were cut out with the remainder of the game left buggy and unpolished through alleged pressure by Lucas Arts to make a holiday release and internal mismanagement within Obsidian.
A far more uplifting story is that of the game’s restoration by several teams of independent modders. The first attempt was made in 2005 by a team of KOTOR modders known as Team Gizka. Their effort, known as The Sith Lords Restoration Project, or TSLRP, gained infamy within a few years due to its apparent lack of progress and its much mocked release date/slogan: “When it’s done.”
The TSLRP suffered a slow death. By 2009, four years after the mod’s start, the majority of the team had quit the project. Dashus, the team’s last member, released updates on progress less and less while the forums remained in operation. As anyone can imagine, these forums descended into random flame wars, finally exploding into utter contempt when Dashus posted what would be his final update on the project, admitting that he had done no work on it in several months. A few months later, in early 2010, the TSLRP site went offline for good, allegedly because Dashus had a problem with his bandwidth provider and didn’t bother the remedy the issue.
However, this was not the end of the KOTOR 2 restoration efforts. Roughly half way into the TSLRP’s life, a modder with the username DStoney launched The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod, or TSLRCM. He and his team cited frustration with the TSLRP’s lack of progress as the primary motivation for launching the project, ironically using the modding tools created by Dashus himself to create the mod. There was a brief controversy surrounding the TSLRCM when allegations arose that DStoney had stolen work from the TSLRP and other modders however no credibility was ever lent to these rumors. The TSLRCM released a few short weeks ago and is available for download at now.
While it may not seem the most significant game to receive such an extensive treatment, KOTOR 2 is a fascinating game when looking past the layer of rough, unfinished game design. Story wise, it is a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, with a plot that deals with a great amount of existentialism, a theme which is all the more impressively implemented by being woven completely into the Star Wars mythos. It is also one of the few games I’ve ever played to even attempt to tackle the issue of war and the effect it has on veterans, albeit in a heavy-handed manner. The Force is presented within the game in an extremely symbolic manner, far differently than any other piece of Star Wars media.
Apart from some of the things that made the game stand out on its own, this restoration adds quite a few things of interest. Quests that were broken or didn’t exist are now fixed, the glitches are lessened, and there is a whole host of new dialogue and content involving party members. However, the two most important pieces of restored content are the HK Factory and the improvements to the ending. The HK Factory is a cut level where the famed HK-47 infiltrates a factory producing an army of look-alikes, where the player has the choice of either recruiting or destroying these copies, featuring a great deal of hilarious HK-47 dialogue along the way. The game’s final destination of Malachor V has also received an overhaul, with far more plot context and more resolution for the party members(though the ending itself is still left fairly ambiguous).
Even after all this, there’s still content that has not been restored, including an entire planet that was supposed to be part of the overall storyline, and an extensive subplot involving the Genoharadan, the assassins guild from the original KOTOR. However, the KOTOR modding scene is so extensive, I’d be surprised if these didn’t turn up eventually. Heck, a mod called Revenge of Revan is currently in production that is an entirely new KOTOR game, with new game play mechanics, full VO, and even new planets.
I highly recommend anyone who was a fan of either KOTOR games to give the TSLRCM a shot(note: only available on PC). I enjoyed it greatly, and while it is not the most significant mod to come out from anyone by a long shot, it is a testament to dedication by fans.