Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Best Mods for Knights of the Old Republic

When it comes down to naming the best Star Wars video game ever made, one game regularly reigns over all other contenders. That game is Knights of the Old Republic, the creation of the legendary western RPG developer, Bioware. Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel are not only amazing Star Wars games, but also exceptional RPGs in their own rights. They possess quality leveling systems, unforgettable characters, and captivating stories that can be experienced through multiple playthroughs without getting old. Critics and everyday gamers alike adore and respect the series.

What scores of KotOR fans might not know is that a dedicated modding community exists for the phenomenal PC series. For those unfamiliar with the term, “Modding” refers to the act of making custom modifications to a piece of software or hardware. In the case of computer games, this usually involves adding in new content, such as characters, levels, and weapons. Both Knights of the Old Republic games have received hundreds of such fan-made additions in the years since their releases. With the recent announcement of a bundled rerelease of Knights of the Old Republic and its sequel, it is an opportune moment to review the best of these mods. While the KotOR modding community isn’t the largest on the internet, it has still produced some truly top-quality content over the years.

Brotherhood of Shadow: Solomon’s Revenge 

The magnum opus of the modder Silveredge9, BoSSR is the most extensive mod ever released for the first KotOR game. While the majority of mods for any game are often merely tiny tweaks or minor additions, BoSSR is far more ambitious. It adds to the game an entirely new story arc, one with the size and polish of an official expansion pack. Bioware themselves would've been hard pressed to develop something akin to it with the same limited time and resources of a modder. Just as impressive as BoSSR's scope and technical feats is the narrative it has to tell. Its story is exceptionally well written and features a diverse caste of likeable characters (my favorite being the sarcastic wisecracking Duro mechanic, Mec'Hanic). Not only do the characters and plot fit perfectly within the bounds of the original game's storyline, they enrich it with new perspectives on KotOR's back-story.
Those who play BoSSR can expect multiple new locations to explore. They range from the bridge of a Mandalorian battleship to the depths of forgotten Sith Ruins. Every setting has an engrossing atmosphere, with several possessing the feel of a survival horror setting. While the mod often relies on retextures of existing KotOR areas, a number of completely new modules are also used in the mod. These unique locations stand out the most as being professionally realized and memorable.

Many new weapons and armor are included with BoSSR, along with a number of new player-controllable characters. While these are often only briefly available to the player, their segments are often the most brilliant in the mod. Without spoiling too much, players can expect to play through important events in the Old Republic era. They will experience the  Mandalorian Wars through the eyes of a misguided Jedi apprentice and witness firsthand the reign of the enigmatic Sith Lord, Darth Revan. With a lengthy main adventure and several side quests, BoSSR easily provides well over ten hours of gameplay. Possessing both professional quality and creativity that only a passionate fan could give it, every KotOR enthusiast should make it a priority to play Brotherhood of Shadow: Solomon’s Revenge.

Revans Robes Revisioned
The most stylish attire in all of Star Wars has to be the robes of the Sith Lord Darth Revan. Unfortunately, like enticing forbidden fruit forever denied to those who crave it, players were never able to don these awesome robes in Knights of the Old Republic. Many mods for KotOR have sought to fix this in the past. The best of them however, has to be Revans Robes Revisioned. Not only does it provide players with the best Revan robes ever modeled, it even offers seven different versions of the robes to choose from. The mod also includes a special flowing animation for Revan’s cape. 

 While Revan’s Sith robes are perfect for dark side leaning characters, they don’t really fit the image of a Jedi. Thankfully, there are also versions of the robes that no knight of the Republic should feel ashamed to wear. My personal favorite is “Jedi Revan Robes” by Darth_Shan. Since this mod is only a re-skin, it has to be used with another mod that adds Revan’s robes to the game. Revan’s Robes Revisioned is the ideal mod to apply it to, of course.

Visual Enhancement 2012  
Visual Enhancement by Xarwarz is a series of updates to Knights of the Old republics’ graphics. The mod provides higher quality textures for both the first KotOR and its sequel. While it doesn’t put the games on the level of modern games, it is still a huge improvement over the original visuals.

Nar Shaddaa (KotOR 2 location) with Visual Enhancement 2012 

It is a well known fact that Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords was released in an incomplete condition. While its developer Obsidian often receives the flake for this, much of the fault can be placed at the foot of the game’s publisher. There has been much speculation that LucasArts pushed Obsidian to finish the game for a Holiday release. Because of this, a ton of content ended up being cut from KotOR 2. Many of this discarded material would have greatly benefited the game had Obsidian been allowed the time to implement it.

After its release, a number of fan projects stepped up to restore the game’s cut content. Perhaps the best known of these groups was Team Gizka, which worked on their restoration project for years before collapsing due to internal divisions. Thankfully a second group of modders took up the immense task that all before had failed to do. Finish Knights of the Old Republic 2.

Titled “The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod” (TSLRCM), the file contains a compilation of restored content and bug fixes. The degree to which it improves KotOR 2 cannot be fully expressed given the sheer range of dialogue lines, and story events it restores and improves. One of the mod’s crowning achievements is the restoration of an entire level that was removed from the game: the HK Assassin Droid Factory. The inclusion of this area to the game, a feat that required multiple rounds of testing and bug fixing, adds a huge new twist to the way the game's ending plays out.

TSLRCM is an example of what talented modders can do when they band together to realize a common dream. It is a massive undertaking that wouldn’t have been possible without years of dedicated work by passionate fans. Fans who have dedicated hours of their own free time to ironing out the flaws in a game they played no part in creating. That is something that takes true dedication that only the greatest of games could inspire. TSLRCM is currently on version 1.7, with a 1.8 update in the works. When it’s released, it will be closest KotOR 2 has ever been to the complete game Obsidian had intended to make.  

M478-P (Unreleased)
The most significant feature cut from KotOR 2 was the entire planet of M4-78. Inhabited only by droids, it would have given players the chance to explore a completely mechanized planet. While there wasn’t enough of its original data left for inclusion as part of TSLRCM, a separate modding team has been able to create the models, scripts, and storyline needed to finally make the planet playable. While the mod hasn’t been released yet, work on it is progressing smoothly and can be followed on the Star Wars gaming site “Deadly Stream.” 

Revenge of Revan (Demo) 

Many fans of the KotOR series were disappointed when Bioware announced its Old Republic MMO. While they had eagerly awaited a single player RPG continuation of the KotOR saga, and TOR was not what they had expected. Even today, many gamers long for a Knights of the Old Republic 3. While it cannot lay claim to such a title officially, there is one project that is attempting to provide just that.

Revenge of Revan seeks to be an unofficial continuation of the KotOR storyline. Picking up a few years after the end of KotOR 2, its story focuses on the attempts of the Republic and Jedi Order to rebuild after years of war and galaxy-spanning devastation. The project is nothing if not ambitious. It features a robust cast of characters, both new ones and fan favorites from the past two games. It also seeks to bring new gameplay content to the standard KotOR 2 experience. This includes a lightsaber progression system, the chance to play as alien races, and a new system for building trust with party members. At the same time, RoR is shooting to have full voice acting, along with a completely new original soundtrack.

Though the mod as a whole has a long ways to go, it shows a lot of promise. The team behind it released a demo last summer. Overall it offered a total of 3 hours of new KotOR gameplay, and acted as an introduction for what is sure to be an expansive experience. When finished, the project promises the chance for players to continue their KotOR adventure and bridge the gap between the second game and its MMO successor.  
Read more about Revenge of Revan at its official site

Check out the following links to learn more about KoTOR modding: