Knights of the Old Republic 2 with The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod

I spend the last few weeks going through my second playthrough of KOTOR2, this time with The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod (TSLRCM). As background, Knights of the Old Republic was developed by Bioware in 2003. Production of the sequel using the same game engine was contracted to Obsidian and released on a compressed schedule in 2004. TSLRCM developed over time using hidden game assets that had never been implemented.

What does TSLRCM add to the experience? Extended dialogues in the last act bring companions back into focus, which is important given the big reveal that drives it. You get harassed by assassination droids practically everywhere. Nar Shadda, already the biggest mission in the game, gets even bigger. A number of cut-scenes among secondary characters helps bring them to life. Multiple baffling ambiguities are made less ambiguous. The narrative is still loaded with plot holes.

Is there a bad side? KOTOR2 breaks protagonist perspective at multiple points to play scenes as one of your companions: Atton, Mira, or T3. If you’ve not been paying much attention to stocking and upgrading spare equipment, some of these encounters can be excessively difficult. TSLRCM throws in three new Atton-led encounters, one against an endgame boss. The new Atton encounters felt a bit unbalanced if you didn’t luck out in making Atton a Jedi and give him your best lightsabers. Other added encounters were trivially easy.

And having half of the female cast develop a crush on a male protagonist struck me as a bit over the top. I don’t know if that’s the mod or not, but Atris’s unrequited love for The Exile shifted from subtext to text to text between playthroughs.

On the plus side, the Steam workshop made this an easy install.

Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

This 12-year-old game got a refresh and Linux port on Steam middle of last year, and after The Force Awakens I decided to dust this one off in my library.

screenshot from kotor2 showing character in spacesuit
Spaaace, I’m in space! In space!

The Old Republic storylines take place approximately 4,000 years before the movie trilogy, and have largely been explored through video games, comics, and novelizations. Setting the games allowed for Bioware (Kights of the Old Republic and The Old Republic) and Obsidian (KOTOR2) to explore new plots and conflicts relating to Jedi vs. Sith without stepping on Lucasfilm’s primary movie continuity.

Star Wars as a background story is elaborate and dense. Just for the basics, the Old Republic was invaded by a militaristic culture called the Mandalorians. The Jedi, for reasons that are not fully explained, refused to help the Republic. A young Jedi named rebelled from the Jedi council, became a general, and destroyed the Mandilorian homeworld. Revan returned with their own army to conquer the Republic. And all of that comes before the first game in the series.

KOTOR2 deals with the aftermath of these two wars. Your character is identified early as the Jedi Exile, the only one of Revan’s fallen Jedi to return to the Jedi Council to answer for disobedience (but not, curiously, for the war crime at the center of the plot.) The Exile was banished from the order, and has lived without contact with the Force out in the hinterlands. You return to find the Republic and its individual planets struggling to put itself together.

I’ve joked that the MMO The Old Republic gives you choices between playing the smugly self-righteous Republic on one hand and Marvin the Martian Sith on the other. KOTOR2 offers a bit more ambivalence. Former Sith become key allies. It also offers one of the better antagonists of the whole franchise. The creepy manipulation and philosophy of big bad balances out the obvious excess of Darth Frankenstein and Darth Nosferatu.

screenshot from KOTOR2 showing heavily scared man
Darth Frankenstein

In terms of gameplay, KOTOR and KOTOR2 are transitional games with turn-based mechanics and over-the-shoulder perspective. The results are a bit less immersive than they could be. The graphics are dated but not quite far enough to become “cool” like pixel art has become. KOTOR2 offers a good mix of combat and puzzle-based obstacles to avoid becoming repetitious. The game was rushed through production by Lucas Arts and was released “unfinished.” The last act especially doesn’t make a lot of sense, but still stands better than a number of games that follow it. A massive fan mod fixes many of these problems, and I’m trying it for my next playthrough.

In many ways KOTOR2 is a flawed work that’s showing its age. But it’s $10 for over 40 hours of fun if you can handle going low-polygon.

Quick Links and Quotes: Force Awakens and Jessica Jones

Two quick links.

The Force Awakens

There can be no more discussion about whether the success of a given female-centric or female-led mainstream entertainment means anything other than the now indisputable fact that women will go to the movies with women and/or about women in numbers significant enough to justify those films being made. And moreover, there is no longer an argument about whether placing a female character at the center of a mainstream blockbuster does a box office disservice to said film here and abroad. We already knew the answer. But now everyone does. All they have to do is look at the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a female-led superhero sci-fi action blockbuster fantasy, is now the biggest-grossing movie of all time. Will this change things? Conventional wisdom says no, but conventional wisdom says The Force Awakens would have been better off making Rey the love interest rather than the hero.

— Scott Mendelson @ Forbes ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ A Female-Led Superhero Movie, Will Be The Biggest-Grossing Film Ever

I disagree a bit in that I saw Force Awakens as more of an ensemble film. And I think that Force Awakens and Hunger Games demonstrate that an action-adventure film with a leading actress can be a blockbuster if it gets equivalent production and promotion attention.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg interviewed by Libby Hill.

Television seems to struggle when it is tackling depictions of sex, both consensual and otherwise. Was it important for you to have a lot of sex-positive encounters on the show? Conversely, how did you make your choices regarding depicting or not depicting rape?

With rape, I think we all know what that looks like. We’ve seen plenty of it on television and I didn’t have any need to see it, but I wanted to experience the damage that it does. I wanted the audience to really viscerally feel the scars that it leaves. It was not important to me, on any level, to actually see it. TV has plenty of that, way too often, used as titillation, which is horrifying.

— Libby Hill And Melissa Rosenberg @ LA Times, 'Jessica Jones' showrunner Melissa Rosenberg talks casting, adaptation, and female sexuality – LA Times

Which I think was also a good idea, also because any on-screen depiction of rape ends up dissected for ambiguity. Jessica Jones was doggedly unambiguous on the subject.

Lovecraft and Slave Leia Dumped

Photo of Slave Leia Flash Drive

The World Fantasy Awards are no longer going to use H. P. Lovecraft as their figurehead.

The World Fantasy award trophy will no longer be modelled on HP Lovecraft, it has been announced, following a campaign last year that called the author out as an “avowed racist” with “hideous opinions”.

People more familiar with his personal writings say that Lovecraft’s views went beyond 1920s endemic racism to WTFery. A replacement hasn’t been announced, but my fannish opinion is that Fantasy is one of those places where you don’t want an author’s head.

Meanwhile, a rumor has been going around that Disney is considering dumping Slave Leia as a marketing image. This won’t affect Rule 34 or cosplay, but it might mean fewer car decals, dog costumes, or novelty aprons.