Videogames have been, can be and will be broken pieces of shit, ever since the commercial release of the first videogame, unplayable, unfinished pieces of shit have plagued the videogame industry and have arguably downplayed the game’s importance and legitimacy as an artform. The definition of a piece of shit is a very abstract one, it can be any combination of drastic optimization errors, unresponsive controls, money-grabbing publisher pressures or just plain old lazy developers.
Just because a game is a broken piece of shit, doesn’t necessary mean it’s a bad game, look at S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl, Gothic 2 or Knights Of The Old Republic 2. In the modern age, it’s far too easy to discount a game because it’s learning curve is too steep, it’s mechanics seemingly backwards or it’s difficulty far too artificial; but more often than not, beneath a broken, shitty visage, lies a game of great quality and depth.
Just look at The Knights Of The Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords, a game well over 10 years old and which, at least on paper, is a totally unplayable piece of shit. The list of reasons is endless; horrible AI, constant crashes and a general lack of completion essentially ended the KOTOR series in it’s tracks. If you’re one of those people who believe Skyrim is the apex of RPG game design, or one of those people who like their games coherent and polished, sure, KOTOR 2 will disappoint you.
However KOTOR 2 is perhaps the epitome of the unplayable, but totally loveable piece of shit; riddled with bugs, half-baked content and constant fucking crashes due to half of the fucking content in the game being cut out due to time constraints(a common theme in the history of shit games being released). Somehow the game’s moody, foreboding atmosphere, the vastly overpowered skill tree and it’s story’s total deconstruction of the star wars formula shine through an almost endless list of flaws, resulting in what could be argued is a great example of the videogame as art.
Somehow it’s worth a game crashing every fucking 5 minutes simply because you crave being able to fix the game. In KOTOR 2 this was an especially big problem because what would appear to be Lucasarts being shitty publishers rushed the game out before it was complete, forcing Obsidian to bury important pieces of story and content within a labyrinth of code. In practicality, this meant certain conversational choices essentially dumped the player into an infuriating void of non-progression.
The games flaws are a great shame, as contained within both of the Knights Of The Old Republic games is a quality of storytelling unsurpassed within the star wars videogame world; The games story is a bleak, intelligent take on the conventional Star Wars formula and buried beneath the games many flaws is a wealth of storytelling, dotted with characters you really give a shit about, or at the very least you want to murder; yes Kreia and whoever just charged headfirst into a minefield in the middle of combat, I am looking straight at you.
At the risk of sounding pretentious(the word ‘art’ has already been bandied around pertaining to videogames in this article so fuck it) KOTOR 2’s narrative could be referred to as post-star wars storytelling. Whilst the game is still centered around gathering a posse and flying across space, killing/maiming loads of things/people in an effort to stick it to the big bad evil guy, the player is taken to many atypical locations throughout the game; from the struggling economy of Peragus Station to the Vietnam flashbacks of the battlefield of Dxun, to the crime ridden, film noir-esque backdrop of Nar-Shadda, build an austere, sobering viewpoint on the star wars universe.
KOTOR 2 pointed holes in all of the so called righteous conflicts and moral complexities prevalent, but not always examined in the Star Wars universe. In fact The Exile didn’t even really feel like a protagonist, she/he was more of a lone ranger, simply attempting to get by in a universe falling apart at its ideologically driven seams, all the while attempting to deal with a morally complex past.
KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords is a gem within a buggy piece of shit, spurred on by Lucasarts being money grabbing arseholes and making flawed RPG geniuses Obsidian finish the game well before it’s time. It’s such a shame that so many games seem to end up like this; rushed out for Christmas, full of bugs and not properly playtested or even completed. Games such as this are flawed pieces of art, allowed to be flawed by nothing more than greed. But it’s not all bad, often, underdeveloped, half-finished games find a niche with the PC audience, in fact, if it has even one redeeming feature, often the modding community will find a way to save the game.
This is exactly what has happened with KOTOR 2. Over ten years on, despite it’s myriad flaws, the game is so well loved that Steam have set up a Steam Workshop for it, to allow the community to amend it’s flaws. Thanks to Valve, KOTOR 2 has been given an opportunity to shine in it’s full glory. Based Gaben.