As promised last week, I’ve played through the fan restored version of Kotor 2, to see if the fans were capable of fixing what was meant to be a truly epic game. I have to put one thing out of the way first though; this review is going to be spoilerific. The reason is that most of the changes the patch implements will mean nothing to those that have not played Kotor 2 vanilla. It’s impossible to comment on those changes without actually talking about them and most deal with very important in-game events and places that would be a spoiler all by themselves.
So if you haven’t played the game in its original shape, I’ll give you an ultra-short review: The game is better than it was before, but it’s still too mangled and broken. It’s still a damn fine game and it’s better than it was, so it’s worth it if you’ve never played it before. Are we all fine with this? Yes? Good.
For the record, I have played through the Spanish version of the game using the TLS Restored Content Mod by Dstoney64. So here I am, finally having played through the restored content, and what’s my general opinion of the experience? Unfortunately, I’m underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong the amount of work here is outstanding and must be applauded, but it’s painfully obvious that those uncompleted assets that Obsidian left in are not enough to piece the whole thing together.
While some things are completed nicely (G0-T0’s story and dialogs, the acknowledgment that Mandalore is really Canderous) and make you smile as you say “I knew it!!”, others are even more painful because you leave you with even more of a taste of the unfulfilled potential of the game. The Sith threat is never really “there”, you just stumble along several locations in the game after you finish the painstakingly long prologue (seriously, it’s the longest I’ve ever played in a western RPG. With enough XP in game to get to late 20s in level you end the prologue around level 15!) you basically visit four planets in which “stuff happens”, interesting stuff and there’s also some cool character development but the plot is just “kinda” there. One of the planets, Korriban, while very important in the Star Wars universe, is just a
an average sized dungeon in which, you guessed it, nothing happens. Sure, you meet the Sith and you have a boss fight but ultimately it adds nothing to the plot. I hoped that the restored content would have added more to this area.
The most notorious ones are the HK Factory and Malachor V, while the HK Factory is “complete” the whole sections feels… off, the conversations are there, but through the factory HK has the option to make some modifications to himself, as well as even reprogram himself with the memories of his newer versions, but this seems to have no implications whatsoever on the plot or on what happens later in the game. Furthermore the factory just “ends”, you switch it off and then you just move HK back to the exit, he mentions nothing, no character mentions anything either, it just ends.
Sure, it’s obvious it has to end but if feels incredibly anti-climatic. Malachor is even worse. Again, the efforts of the modders are to be applauded, but I’m reviewing the experience not so much the work itself. The main problem with Malachor is that in the un-patched game, as mentioned, it behaves… weirdly. You have no companions (without explanation), you get a random scene with Mira or Hanharr that amounts to nothing (again, no explanations why), and in the end, if you decide to destroy Malachor forever, the Ebon Hawk, which crash-lands quite badly at the beginning of the planet, picks you up just before the place goes boom (again, no explanation).
The patch, which maintains you fighting through the planet solo, adds a scene in which your party tries to take on the bad guy themselves, before you arrive. No explanation is given why this happens, how did they get here first? After their unsuccessful attempt to thwart the big bad, they are locked down in the dungeon and as you progress through the planet you’re given a sadistic choice, either you kill them and reach the big bad quicker or save them, forcing you to take the long route and supposedly getting there “weaker”. However, if you save them they just run away from their cells to the exit (no explanation why they don’t join you, not even a “thank you, but we’re too weak to help, good luck!”), worse, when they fail in defeating the bad guy Atton faces off against Darth Sion, if he loses he is painfully murdered by Sion, but if he wins he just runs away without meeting with you, or giving you any explanation of what he has done or where.
In the end, the experience of Malachor is closer to the original goal, but still terribly incomplete. It’s obvious the modders did as much as they could, as they had to work with the pre-recorded voices that were already in the game, even if unused; but I’m afraid to say it’s not enough, it becomes obvious after this that Kotor 2 was not just an extra month from being finished when it was cut short, but rather, several. It still has the trappings of a masterpiece and it’s definitely fun to play, with a story that, despite being as mangled as it is, is quite compelling and with an A+ cast of characters.
All in all I can only recommend it as a curiosity or for serious fans of Kotor 2. Hopefully SWtOR will tie all loose threads, but I’m not holding my breath because of it being an MMO.
-Jose Luis Perez Zapata