So regular readers are probably wondering where the rest of the class storyline reviews are. After all I teased that I was playing through the Smuggler story next and true to my word I got all the way through Chapter 3 on him. The reviews are actually outlined and in my draft pile. I always enjoyed the smuggler and I’m looking forward to writing those soon and then hopefully moving on to the final storyline: the Imperial Agent. However, I’m not going to lie – It may take me a while. See, on top of Knights of the Fallen Empire now out and enjoying that (Thinking of doing a Vry Plays after my Sim’s inevitable go bankrupt and start eating each other), I’ve also now got Metal Gear Solid V, and Fallout 4, the new patch of Final Fantasy XIV, and oddly enough among all of those things – World of Warcraft.
It’s odd. While I did decide to join my significant other in playing catch up through the Warlords of Draenor storyline (My take? It was nice, but the whole Alternate Universe thing lessened the impact to near pillow fight levels. Felt like it should have just been a novel.) and I did enjoy my brief playthrough, I haven’t honestly had a “hankering” to play the game since Mists of Pandaria. Yet, in the wake of the recent loss of a grandparent, and the depression that followed, I found myself turning to an old comfort. My little gnome death knight, my lawful good blood elf paladin, and even some of my low level toons. The game didn’t feel like a tedious trudge through the tides of futility like so many times before. It just felt like silly fun. Kind of like picking up a Mario game after a decade and just enjoying the simple run-jump mechanics.
But despite the level of comfort I felt when beating around the skulls of kobolds as Norris Brewshatter, Dwarven Shaman Extraordinaire, I found my mind pestering me. “Didn’t we say we were done with WoW?” “What about those Class Reviews?” “You have like four brand new games you haven’t finished yet.” And the thoughts hounded me as I played, and after I had logged out, and almost everything I saw or uttered the words ‘World of Warcraft’. I was at odds. This game was helping me. I was feeling better. I was starting to enjoy things again after the funeral. Should I abandon that for other things I should play in my diminished adulthood free time? And why only feel this way about WoW?
Maybe part of it is that World of Warcraft carries a heavy weight with it. It’s a name that actually means something to people outside of gaming circles. My sister may not know what Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is, or if Star Wars: The Old Republic is a game or a comic or a cartoon, but she knows World of Warcraft. She knows it for good and for ill. There’s stigmas associated with that game outside of gaming, and even bigger one’s inside of gaming. MMO gamers especially are very vocal about their opinions of what they like and dislike, and the fact that my site’s biggest draw is TOR, whose forums won’t even say ‘WoW’ but only refer to it ubiquitously as ‘That Other Game’ (Or they did, I will admit I don’t frequent the TOR forums very often anymore.) Is that why? I’m afraid that readers will leave my blog if they found out I was playing ‘The Other Game’? I hope not. My subconscious would be quite the vain thing then wouldn’t it?
Honestly, I can’t really say. I’ve been mulling it over for days trying to figure it out but ultimately I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. I wrote this blog when it only had maybe 15 hits a day and most of those were Google Image Searches, I’ll still write it even if it gets back to there. I write because I like writing it and I have all these crazy weird thoughts while playing games, watching movies, or reading comics that I just want to share with anyone who will listen… er… read.
No, I think the real thing to keep in mind with all of this is that you should do what makes you happy. Even if others would turn away, or give you a weird look, or anything like that. Don’t worry about it. Just play what makes YOU happy. Let them play what makes them happy. The world can be cold, the night is dark, and we never really know how long we get to enjoy ourselves here on this big round madhouse. So play games you enjoy, with people you enjoy when you can, and even without them if they want to play something else that doesn’t interest you. Be happy. We all deserve that much. Games are supposed to be fun after all.
I’d like to dedicate this post to my departed grandmother, Carolyn, who I can never ever recall getting upset once in my life and of course to the ever cheery man my grandma loved to watch: Bob Ross.
Take care of yourself, and each other.
<— Prologue|| SMUGGLER || Chapter Two —>
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter of the Smuggler storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
Oh the life on the open space-way. The thrill of adventure, the sights and sounds, the constantly having a jerk tail you around and try to kill you. Yes, when last we left the Smuggler we had just retrieved our starship from the dirty double dealer known as Skavak, who had stolen it in the first place while you were trying to unload some ‘illicitly transported’ guns to the war torn world of Ord Mantell. Seems that Skavak was working with a woman named Risha and he was stealing everything they needed for some epic quest to obtain the long lost treasure of the fabled space pirate Nok Drayan. Course now that all that stuff is on your ship and you have your ship, Risha is more than willing to deal with you instead of Skavak. Which puts you on the fast track for fame and fortune as soon as you finish the most epic of trading side quests since trying to get Big Goron Sword in Ocarina of Time.
The Treasure Hunt begins. First you need an astro map from a vault on the bombed out world of Taris. Risha has a contact that doesn’t much like her, so it’s up to you alone to seal the deal and get the map. But as always, there’s a hitch. To get to the map, Beryl Thorne needs to finish her jobs on Taris and her partner came down with a slight case of the Dead. So it falls to you to finish the jobs and make the deliveries so you can get your map. First task? Deliver some sensors to a scientist. Turns out he needs some help setting them up and is willing to pay as well, so that’s a quick hop into Rakghoul territory to lend a hand.
Next is to go pick up the second delivery, which were found with the tattered remains of Beryl’s partner who got Rakghoulified it seems and dropped off with the Republic Outpost. To make matters worse, you seem to have gained the special attention of one major workaholic customs official that seems to constantly pop up wherever you go. Luckily, the sergeant that has your next delivery is willing to make a sweet deal. Turns out he knows Risha too! (Who doesn’t?) And for a little help dealing with the local scavengers, he’ll make sure you get not only your next delivery but a tasty side of diplomatic immunity.
Now with the last delivery, it’s time to collect the core samples and get back to Beryl. Right? WRONG! Turns out the core samples were stolen by scavengers during a raid. Aw man. Time to recover the supplies and find the core samples which reveals that Beryl’s old partner was neither dead nor a rakghoul. In fact, that deveronian son of a hutt actually just backstabbed Beryl to steal the core samples – which are really Tarisian relics – and sell them on the Imperial market, instead of selling them to Taris survivor descendants for a modest finder fee. What scum! So a pox on him and back with the core samples so Beryl can tell us where to find our vault. Which she does! Only there is – say it with me now – a problem.
Turns out the vault is in “Zone Zero” a no-mans land area of Taris where there are worse things than Rakghouls wandering about. So it’s time to check back in with Risha and see if you two can whip together a plan for how to get into that vault! Luckily Risha is prepared. Because Risha is always prepared. So you get to the vault deep in Zone Zero to find that Skavak’s men are already hammering away trying to get into the vault, and boy oh boy are they not happy to see you. Skavak is, however. This is the perfect chance to kill you and get the map. Not that it happens that way. You kill the goons, grab the map and hop back in the ship on your way to Nar Shadaa. Even Risha gives you props.
You know, it never occurred to me until this point that despite it being essentially the Hutt capital not many class stories actually deal with the giant slugs themselves. I mean granted a lot of the time you are there for some kind of clandestine operation and getting the authorities (if you can call them that) would be detrimental to your cause. But would be really be so hard to say “Hey, have you seen this guy? Also, here’s a thousand credits. You never saw me.” I dunno. Nar Shadaa seems like an easy place to buy people off is all I’m saying.
The reason I bring this up of course is that unlike most class stories the smuggler is dealing with a Hutt directly. Well, some of the time. Most of his time you’re dealing with his assistant/butler/majordomo person thing. Apparently our dear friend Risha has lined up a deal (or as the Hutts refer to it – a non-binding passing interest) to exchange a rare animal that is identical to but named differently than the hundreds that I’ve slaughtered across multiple worlds for an experimental starship engine. Problem is that the Hutt wanted it as part of a pair – the last male and female of its species – to eat (Yes. Eat. He wants the ‘rarest’ meal in the galaxy.) And since some PETA wanna be’s stole his female, he doesn’t exactly have any need or desire for the male. However his butler-person suggests that the Lord of the Feast is frivolous when it comes to changing his mind, so if you can find the other beast then the worm’s interest in yours may be renewed.
And that’s the general set up for the most of the planet. Running around and trying to track down the Alien Animal Liberation Front to get back the creature they stole so a Hutt can gorge himself on it. I’m not saying the hippies don’t have a leg to stand on here – these are the last two of an entire species after all – but there’s no room for mercy when you want to be King of the Space Pirates. Or at least not for ill tempered carnivorous beasts that look the same to species that I know for a fact aren’t about to die out because they keep bloody respawning! Your adventure eventually leads you to a mad scientist who in a delicious bit of irony has the PETA-phile locked up in a cage to experiment on. She apparently wanted to deal with the mad scientist to get the animal off world but instead became a test subject for what I will assume will ultimately be some sort of cyborg human centipede thing. Silly mad scientists, but not stupid because as soon as you explain who the animal actually belongs to the doc quickly returns it via hover sled because he maybe insane but he’s not crazy enough to cross a Hutt. Beyond that the only real choice is whether or not to leave the activist in the hands of the mad scientist. Do you want to fight for the safety of the rich girl with a token cause that just dragged around all of Nar Shadaa? Or just leave her there to get some… new life experiences? Up to you really.
There’s also a B-plot to this planet that comes up every time you meet with the Hutt’s traveling all-you-can-eat pleasure cruise of hedonism that sails around Nar Shadaa involving a wookie named Bowdaar. It seems that Bowdaar is a slave to some random gambler that couldn’t pay his debts to the Hutt and thus left Bowdaar as collateral until he could return with the payment. He never came back. So now the Hutt uses Bowdaar for ‘entertainment’ and pits him again mercenaries, gangs, starved wild beasts, and anything else the worm can dig up all the while trying to handicap Bowdaar by doing things like poisoning him, draining his blood, and putting him up against massive odds. I think the point of this whole thing was meant to contrast with the PETA Patrol trying to save the alien porkchop but it never really clicked for me. Wookies are intelligent, the mutated Akk Dog thing is not. Wookies have societies, can use tools, build homes. The combo platter again does not. So it seems weird to try to equate either of these things. Then again, I have met people who view animals such as dogs as more valuable than people, so maybe that’s what their going for. Except the Hutt was going to eat it and render its species extinct… so… Hutts are horrible. That’s the moral. Hutts are ****ing horrible.
Once you prove to the Hutt that you and Bowdaar are more trouble than your worth, you get your engine and you get to keep the wookie. Bowdaar is one of the BEST companions because a) You get him in Act One and b) he’s not Corso. So now you can bring someone else along instead the space hillbilly. He’s honorable, enjoys fighting, but not brutal massacres. He also apparently knows how to bar tend based on a few cutscenes on the ship. Generally the big thing with Bowdaar is that he honestly just wants to be treated like a person. Not a slave. Not a ‘thing’. Keep that in mind and his affection will soar during your conversations with him.
So before you can head off too far you pick up a distress signal from a lovely lady. Her ship broke down waaaaaay waaaaaaaaaay out in deep space and she needs a hand. You know, because this doesn’t sound suspicious at all. But hey sure anything for a lovely lady, not my smuggler has made any headway on the whole Risha angle. Speaking of which, Risha warns you that this may be a trap and she’d rather not get stranded out in space with no captain and all the cargo. She advises bringing the wookie.
This interlude is short. Extremely short. The whole area consists of maybe three rooms with a few fights dotted in them. When you reach the end, you find out that it is actually – dun dun dun – a trap. Looks like the stranded lady is actually one of Skavak’s presumably many ex-girlfriends and figures killing you will win back his heart for her. Unlikely, as Skavak is just as convinced as I am that this young woman is a bit unhinged. She sics a bunch of robots on you and when that fails falls back on her portable blaster shield to protect her. Which is does until Skavak reminds her that the batteries on those things are notoriously short and hangs up. Sure enough like a well timed comedy routine the shield comes down and you can then deal with her as you see fit: blast her or let her go for being a poor deluded sap trapped in the web of love and lies that is Skavak’s dating life.
The best part for me though was coming back to the ship to start working on my own web of love and lies by blatantly lying to Risha when she immediately assumes it was a trap and you were a fool for even bothering by telling her that it wasn’t that at all. The lady just needed some space gas. That’s all. All handled. No prob. I’m the man now uh… dawg?
Meanwhile, in a completely different plot. A lone Jedi searches the galaxy for a ruthless Sith. Her journey has taken far and wide but she has finally cornered the enemy of all things good on the backwater world of Tatooine. There she seeks out information and bumps into a smuggler who literally knows nothing and normally that’s where it would end. Except the story isn’t about the Jedi is it? Yes, Tatooine is a quirky little chapter of our storyline where our smuggler gets trapped in the middle of an epic feud between the forces of Light and Dark and pretty much has nothing at stake in the fight. Really! You’re there to find some reclusive gangster and make a trade for a rare navigational computer, and that’s it. You got meet with his lieutenants, figure out how to enter his secret desert hideout, and go make the swap. But somehow you keep stumbling into this massive battle between a Jedi and Sith almost like your the cast of Blazing Saddles breaking through the sound stages for other movies.
You first bump into the Jedi at a local bar where she deals with some local rapscallions before chatting up with you. She advises you to leave, to give up your wicked ways and is completely ignorant to any attempts at flirtation. Unfortunately for her, you have business to do. Business that requires breaking into an overrun warehouse and getting a fancy horn, because only the person holding the horn may speak to the gangster (Apparently the gangster learned how to run his operation from kindergarten teachers.) On your way to pick up the horn, you bump into the Sith who is also looking for the gangster for some other unrelated to what you want reason. The Sith says that since you and she are both looking for the same guy, why not team up? If you’re a male smuggler, she even not-so-subtly offers you a uh… “once in a lifetime experience” behind closed doors if you agree to work with her. Well… that’s a first. I don’t think my bounty hunter ever got the ‘Don’t freeze me in carbonite and I’ll jump your bones’ conversation option. Though personally, I find in my best interest of NOT DYING to stay as far away as possible from between a Jedi and a Sith, so I declined and went along my merry way.
Except that when I go meet up with the lieutenant to pass along the horn so he can show me the way to his boss, the Sith shows up AGAIN. Only this time with a battalion of Sith Troopers to take the horn by force. The henchman scoots away through a hidden door, leaving me to fight them all myself. I’d be more upset by this, but lest we forget who we are dealing with here. This is the fabled scum & villainy of Tatooine after all. They would leave you behind as they save themselves. Luckily – kinda, sorta, not really – just as the last of the troopers falls, the Jedi shows up to help. She warns you again to give up your ‘wicked ways’, is blatantly oblivious to any kind of flirtatious subtext, and is devoutly set on finding the Sith… still. Luckily, now you know where the Sith will be and it’s time for the dramatic showdown.
The setting? A picturesque oasis hidden in a cave in the Dune Sea. The objective? Try not to get killed by the wacko light and dark side zealots while making a deal. It’s a duel of the fates, a battle of the heroes, and I am really just trying to stay out of the way here. I just came for that computer over in the corner. Can I just… no? Sigh. So sure enough things get nice and heated once all the parties assemble, and the fact that the gangster is a recluse who hates people and noise makes this even worse. You do get the choice in the end of who to help – the Sith or the Jedi – and the game is nice enough to offer a ‘This is none of my business’ option (which mechanically means you help the Jedi kill the Sith and the Gangster). If you don’t help the Sith willingly, she will try to mind control you which you have the option to simple laugh at her for, then she tries to mind control your companion. Now I don’t know if this is different for other companions, but I had Treek with me (I usually do) and Treek just stared blankly at the Sith which was hilarious. The gangster gets fed up and calls in a bunch of droids to kill everyone – you, the Jedi, the Sith, his own lieutenant – and the rumble begins!
And when the dust settles it’s just you and whoever you helped left (and maybe the gangster if you help the Sith, but I doubt it. She just wanted a little red box, so why keep him alive?) You stroll over to the corner, grab the computer you came to this litter box of a world for and leave. The end. Oh okay, you can flirt some with the Jedi or Sith. It actually finally clicks that you want some lovin’ with the Jedi too and she promptly shuts you down BECAUSE SHE’S A JEDI! It’s kind of a core tenant that they don’t get their freak on, and everything about this girl has indicated that she is a tried and true Captain flippin America of a lawful good light side Jedi. Not a shocker. Funny. But not a shocker.
Alright, home stretch on this treasure hunt. We only got three delivery/trades left and then we can go grab that sweet sweet loot. Luckily, two of them are here on Alderaan. The first is that old junker robot that Skavak stole way back on Ord Mantell. It’s going to a pair of siblings from House Teraan who want to prove that their house is owed a considerable debt from the other houses and want to use it to propel their family back into the big dogs of the Alderaan Nobility Circuit (Now on ESPN-15). However, they need an ancient datapad ‘acquired’ from their former holdings now controlled by their dreaded rivals of House Baliss. Of course. Is there anyone or anything on Alderaan that doesn’t have ties to the Noble Houses? Like some farmer off in the hills named Larry Smith who has no ties to nothing save his land, his nerf, and his shotgun? I’d like to see that. I really would. You go and shoot your way through a bunch of Baliss goons, grab the datapad, and bring it back. Easy as pie and you got a new radiation shield schematic for your ship.
The second delivery however is where things start to get more complicated. This one is to deliver that creepy head in a jar to the museums of House Alde. And because I’m sure someone will bring it up if I don’t – Yes, the head belongs to Darth Bandon from the original Knights of the Old Republic who killed Trask Ulgo, distant ancestor to the current King Boris Ulgo of Alderaan. Trask is apparently revered as a hero, and thus the head of the Sith who killed him is some way for House Alde to kiss up to the King, despite the fact that Trask didn’t even make it out of the prologue/tutorial level of that game alive. Oh, but I said it got more complicated didn’t I? Well, here’s the thing. Someone already delivered that head you just walked in with.
Yes, you read that correctly. Someone else already sold the Head of Darth Bandon, and it was already authenticated by the Curator’s lovely female assistant Neva who confirmed that it was authentic. So clearly yours is a fake. Right? Well after finding that Neva has vanished and some double checking (What? Check something more than once for authenticity?! Truly a scandal for any museum!) it turns out that YOUR head is the real one and the other was a fake. But why would Neva lie? Well, if you’ve been playing the smuggler – and I have – you probably already have a guess as to why the pretty female character lied about something. Say it with me now in your best Seinfeld ‘Newman’ voice: SKAVAK! It seems our persistent annoyance has jumped ahead of us in line to grab the Arkanian Hyperdrive Engine that the museum promised as payment. Not sure what Skavak is going to do with it without all the other bits, but he could probably sell it at least. Another strange note here is that I don’t think we ever actually SEE Nava. Like at all. Which I thought was weird since we’ve had face time with every other traitorous Skavak groupie.
So now begins another Skavak hunt. You run to the space port where he left a nice note mocking you and introducing you to the team of Mercs (who I’m sure have ties to House Gorgonzola or something) he hired to kill you and also drop the plot point that he hasn’t had time to install that hyperdrive yet. So he does plan on installing it. Without all the other pieces. That’s kind of like stealing the remote without the TV or DVD player and then running off into the night laughing about how you are so going to use the remote to watch a movie when you get home. It’s not gonna work. Skavak is either really dumb, or just being a #$%&. I’m going to assume the latter. Risha says she knows where Skavak got to, but it’s in a House Thul (the house that works with the Empire) hanger. I’m assuming the Imps have just forgotten about that whole incident on Coruscant. So to sneak into the hangar, you meet up with a baron who speaks exclusively in Huttese because no one else on Alderaan does and thus its easier to keep secrets with and he’s happy to help you sneak in. Mainly because Risha is blackmailing him with photos of unknown content or context from a ‘vacation’ on Nar Shadaa.
When you bust into the hanger, you find not Skavak but his mechanic there waiting for you. Skavak apparently had to run some errands. The mechanic however will happily hand over the engine to you. He was kidnapped to install it and has no loyalty to Skavak but he wants to get the heck outta there before Skavak comes back and finds out what the mechanic did. You get the choice of letting him go, killing him, or forcing him to sabotage Skavak’s ship first. The last two are both dark side options, namely because the mechanic won’t have enough time to get out if he sabotages the ship essentially dooming him at Skavak’s hands instead of yours.
So you’ve made your deliveries and got your ship parts, so now it’s time to leave right? Noooope. This mess of a planet won’t let you go just yet. See those two House Teraan siblings have one teensy little favor still to ask. It seems your smash-and-grab visit to House Baliss kinda was noticed (Dunno how. I was really subtle with those 20 corpses in their courtyard.) So their champion gunslinger duelist demands a formal duel to settle their grievances. The siblings have come to you because you have a gun, and they suck at anything involving danger, pain, weapons, leaving the house, etc. So you go and help them by fighting their fights for them. You can have your silly honorable duel between men, or you can have some fun and play dirty. I enjoyed shooting the gunman before he was ready by shouting “READY? GO!” really quick. Then I did it a second time just to drill in the point. That got the Baliss twerp to shut up and leave. Now I can leave Alderaan. Finally, no more nobility.
With everything in place there’s only one thing le- hold on. We’re getting a call. A pair of Togruta you say? Kidnapped? Demand to see Risha alone. I see. Why are you calling me then? Oh fine. Apparently we need to go help Risha’s childhood friend and her husband. The childhood friend has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom in some mine on Tatooine, her husband wants Risha (and by Risha’s insistence – You) to go get her back. Risha arrives to find the kidnappers who apparently multi-criminal-classed into assassins ready to kill your… I guess Risha is kind of like a boss. Maybe a partner? I dunno. They’re gonna kill Risha on orders of ‘His Majesty’. No clue there, but that sounds Noble. Buddies, I just got back from Alderaan. I’ve had it with Noble. You are all dead.
Once the assassin-nappers are down, Risha meets up with her friend and reunites her with her husband. They then never want to see Risha again. Ever. Cause they say it’s Risha’s fault any of this happened in the first place. You can be a good person and help Risha patch things up with her friend, or you can join the friend in on the suspicion that there’s more to Risha than being JUST a business mogul/treasure hunter/starship mechanic/negotiator. After all, there have been a lot of people we’ve bumped into that have had bad blood with Risha. Heck, the only person that has anything good to say about Risha is Vette, and she’s in another class’ storyline! So what is going on here? Well, Risha can only ask you and her friends to trust her and that all will be explained soon.
That soon is actually soon for once as it comes right after your next and final delivery – the man frozen in carbonite – to a medical facility on Nar Shadaa. It’s there that the man is unfrozen and is revealed to be… DUN DUN DUN! Nok Drayan himself! The legendary space pirate himself! In the flesh! And cyborg bits! And in a stranger twist… DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN! He’s Risha’s dad! Did we just stumble upon a soap opera episode? Who changed the channel on my computer? It seems old Nok is dying from a horrible disease inflicted on him by a mutinous crew years ago. Before he dies though, he wanted to ensure that his family’s fortune was found and retrieved. He froze himself in carbonite with instructions for Risha on all the things she’d need to gather to get to the fortune which is on a ship headed directly for a black hole. Nok promises you the entire fortune save one family heirloom which is reserved solely for Risha. That heirloom being the family crown. See Nok’s not just a pirate king, he’s an actual king. The King of Dubrillion to be precise. The Drayan line is the rightful rulers of the planet, but they were ousted years ago. Meaning Risha is a princess. Because every scruffy looking smuggler type needs a princess to romance. (Does that mean now that Disney owns the rights that Risha is a Disney Princess?)
With surprise revelation theater now come to a close it’s time to go get that treasure. Using every single new fangled gadget that Risha scrapped together, you make your way to the ship. Which again makes me incredibly curious what on Hoth Skavak was going to do with JUST the Arkanian Hyperdrive. Was he going to go after Risha on your ship next to get everything? The ship with the wookie. Yea, I would have loved to see that. The ship is fairly simple. Just a bunch of rooms filled with lethal robots who are on orders to kill any living thing on the ship. Including the former crew you find out. Apparently way way long ago, before even Nok Drayan’s peak, Nok and Risha’s ancestor – Arak Drayan III – sent this here ship on a slow stroll to the edges of the galaxy and into a black hole. He then activated the droids to kill all the loyal citizens that were operating it to ensure it would never be found. Which is a perfect setting to end a pirate story on. With a black hole. So a space pirate story. Also, I know this is nit picky and this is just one of those suspension of disbelief things you have to just go with in an adventure story on the high space-seas but daaaaaaaaaamn Arak III had some insane good planning skills. He sent a ship on course for centuries to fall into a black hole? It never hit a planet, an asteroid, got noticed, or nothing? That is some skill. Anyway, you grab the treasure and head back to the ship to head home only to find someone waiting for you.
Sigh… Skavak. It just had to be Skavak. He apparently knocked out your crew, stole Corso’s favorite-est blaster (Torchy) and is now gonna kill you, take the treasure, and steal your ship. Oh, and if your a female smuggler you can apparently sleep with him. Cause there’s time for that on the ship falling into a black hole. It pretty much always ends up with fighting him though and he dies. No there’s no choice in that matter. He doesn’t even die in a cutscene. You just kill him and loot Torchy. Kinda wish I could have left him on the ship to get sucked into the hole though. That would’ve been a fitting way for such a sucker to go. Honestly, it’s a bit of an anti-climax but on the same hand it’s also not like there was some huge rivalry post getting your ship back. Hell, his insane ex-girlfriends gave you more trouble than he ever did. So in a way it’s almost fitting that the weasel goes out with a whimper instead of a bang.
Once you get back to Nok and Risha, Nok tells her that as a Queen she must now make the hard decisions and that a single spacer’s loyalty isn’t worth a fortune. She should kill you and take everything. Risha then actual defends you and says your a decent if not good man. Wow. I think that’s the first non-sarcastic comment she’s paid me this entire playthrough so far. Nok collapses and dies cursing the ‘weak’ daughter that was raised in his absence. Risha (Queen Risha?) ends the story of Nok Drayan’s fortune by deciding to stay with you on the ship. She may have the birthright to the throne of Dubrillion, but she doesn’t have the means to claim it or to keep it once she doesn’t. No army, no fleet – just a crown and a captain, and neither of those are gonna change the minds of the current rulers who are already sending assassins to kill her.
So Chapter One of the Smuggler’s tale ends with you being the hero that found Nok Drayan’s Lost Fortune. Not that it actually means anything in terms of in-game money. Do you how hard it is to pawn off priceless relics of antiquity? So for now it’s kind of like having a lot of high priced stock in some major company. You’re rich in theory, but not so much in the pocket book. For now at least.
Chapter One continues the prologue’s tone of fun and wacky adventure across space. You flirt, make smart ass remarks, and generally can be as nice or as mean as you want without it ever really coming off as out of character. The storylines are diverse and despite it being a looping task of trade X for Y planet to planet, it never goes about it in the same way – or at least never feels like it does. It kind of reminds me of the Bounty Hunter in that regards only without the unsatisfying conclusions some of those bounties had. Instead, everything in the smuggler story feels like it has some kind of weight to it. Like you could honestly see these people come back and remember you later on in the story and for the most part you’d remember them. With the Jedi Knight I saved so many people I started to forget faces and names (luckily there’s always one conversation option to remind you who they are) but with the Smuggler most of the NPCs you deal with are positively memorable and fun. Even the bad guys as one note as they can be at times are some of the most memorable in the game. Skavak is right up there with Tarro Blood as a guy you learn to love to hate (or for the female smugglers, just learn to love. And then kill.)
Your companions feel fleshed out as well even before they join your party. As much as I never did and still don’t like Corso, I would be lying if I didn’t ‘get’ his character by the end of the prologue. Same thing with Bowdaar. You only briefly interact with him during the B-plot on Nar Shadaa, but when you do it is 100% character development and getting to know this wookie. His plotline does nothing to advance the plot of trying to find the PETA wannabes, so it’s free to just give you tons of personality for the walking rug. Risha spends most of her time doing two things: telling you what the next job is, and talking about Nok Drayan. There are a few gems of character development for her like when she actively shows concern for you when you leave on the interlude mission only to cover it in classic tsundere fashion with that she doesn’t want to get stranded in space. To be fair, the lack of personal story on Risha’s part does play the bigger role of making her very mysterious. She has contacts for days, continuously exhibits proficiency at task after task, and knows encyclopedic knowledge about the illustrious gangster for whose treasure you hunt. By the time you get to the hints starting to drop in the early parts of the finale, you are on the edge of your seat ready to find out exactly who this woman is, and the payoff doesn’t disappoint – heiress to both a planet and the legacy of a pirate king, spent over a decade preparing for this mission, and pulled it all off to boot? Risha’s one of those characters that you actually appreciate more on a second playthrough and can see what she’s doing and why. One of my favorite companions to be sure.
In the end, like so many of these class stories, the prologue and first chapter form a complete narrative. Unlike some of the others however, you will find that some of the groundwork has already been laid for where the story goes next. Next time we dive into the exciting world of selling out to ‘The Man’ and becoming a privateer.
<— Prologue|| SMUGGLER || Chapter Two —>
If there’s one thing we nerds enjoy, it’s canon. Is this canonical? Is that? Is my OTP canonical? How does X fit into the canon? One need not look any further than the reaction to the announcement that the Star Wars Expanded Universe being retired into the Legends label to see how much a concise and clearly stated canon can matter to people. So there gets to be this mindset among fans of just about anything that whatever is stated to be canon is something akin to a holy text that must be viewed as complete and immutable from whatever state a fan finds it in. And that last bit is important because what eventually sets the bar as ‘betraying’, ‘contradicting’ or ‘ignoring’ canon depends a great deal on exactly what state the canon was in when and how you first were exposed to it.
After all, while the Green Lantern Corps was introduced in 1959, the concept of the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lantern Corps like the Red Lanterns, or the Sinestro Corps, didn’t come into being until 2006, despite it beings established that these things were in existence all along but the Green Lanterns may not have been aware of them. If you were a fan before Geoff Johns’ new interpretation of the Green Lantern universe, you might find this idea a bit on the heretical side. After all, how could the Guardians not know/expose this info? How come it took decades of issues before it was revealed that Parralax was a big space bug that was sealed away and they knew about it but kinda didn’t want to bring it up? On the same hand, if you came after that or say first got interested in Green Lantern due to the Green Lantern Animated Series – then the Emotional Spectrum and the other Lanterns are just part of the universe to you. Easy peasy.
Already we can see that time and method can dictate the view of what is considered to be canon and what isn’t. Will new Star Wars fans a decade from now when the JJ Abrams Trilogy comes to a close even think that the Legends novels were anything more than interesting What-If stories? That the Yuuzhan Vong are nothing more than glorified fanfiction characters? Perhaps. But aside from fan-interpretation and viewpoints of canon, what about when canon is changed by the ones who created it?
If you want a good example of fans getting upset at a ‘violation’ of canon by the ones who write the story themselves, look no further than our good friends at Blizzard Entertainment. Almost every expansion is met with cries of ‘That’s not what this character would do’, ‘Blizzard doesn’t care about their own canon’ or ‘This violates their own lore’, etc. I’ve played World of Warcraft since 2006 off and on, and I’ve seen these complaints so many times I’ve lost count. But it always comes back to this idea that what WAS should be preserved in a little box, and left to the point where it is never changed or influenced. Heck, I remember people complaining about the difference in characterization between Warcraft III and Vanilla WoW, almost like there was some sort of inexplicable 5 year jump mentioned in first few seconds of the opening cut scene. These characters change, the situation changes, and the world moves forward. The Forsaken were pretty much born out of Sylvanas’ quest for revenge against the Lich King. You can’t very well expect them to stay the same after their sworn mortal enemy is dead.
There’s also the issue of the fact that since WE are aware of all the details of the story and lore, we often will forget that the characters don’t. A character may not know the truth of all the details, or even heard the news if its something that happened on the completely other side of the planet and thus will act according to what they know and not what WE know. The concept of ‘metagaming’ can extend to fiction too, ya know. So while things sometimes look like a violation of canon, it can honestly sometimes just be a matter of ‘the characters wouldn’t know that’. Back to World of Warcraft for example, it’s stated in some places that the Eredar corrupted the Titan Sargeras into turning evil, it’s later revealed upon meeting the Draenei – an exiled faction of the Eredar – that it was actually the reverse. Sargeras had corrupted the Eredar. Is this a retcon? Yes, but does it break canon? No. No one who originally told the tales of Sargeras & the Eredar would have been in the position to know the facts of the tale. They are legends and fables, passed down for generations. Now when they meet the Draenei? Well, heck, Velen was THERE. He knows. Now he’s explaining it. Now you have the myth, and the fact. That’s developing canon, not violating it.
Wanting a canon to stay rigid, to have nothing new enter or depart the scene and for characters to stay the same as when we first fell in love with them just is flat out bad for storytelling. Is BioWare futzing with their own lore with TOR? Yes. Yes they are. The story is moving forward, a new enemy is appearing from beyond the borders of the galaxy and using a vastly different technique of force wielding to pursue a mission of galactic conquest. Honestly, from a personal standpoint, it’s not nearly as conflicting as say KOTOR to KOTOR2 when in the space of 5 years the entire Jedi Order was completely wiped out leaving only a few stragglers like the Exile around. No wonder they decided to set SWTOR 295 years later. Yeesh.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t ways you can mess up canon. Even Blizzard has admitted to messing up with mixing up established facts and they have employees devoted to entire task of keeping this stuff straight. But there’s a difference between ‘This never before explained thing has appeared and is attacking’ or ‘This ancient prophecy we just uncovered is coming true!’ and things like ‘Superman was never from Krypton, he’s from Snorglack-VII and always has been. Ignore what we said earlier.’ (And heck there are even acceptable ways to do that with continuity reboots, and elaborate explanations, that might reek of B.S. aren’t technically violating canon.) There are times when you just screw up and forget that you’ve already established some detail, and there are times you introduce retcons that will devastatingly run in contrast to how a character is viewed (Did you Batman ALWAYS hated rock music because his Dad told him it was bad the night they died?) but there is also just the idea that you are expanding the story and the universe.
As fans we sometimes have the tendency to get a bit zealous with our devotion to what we know. We like the permanence of the whole thing. It feels good. But that’s not necessarily what’s best for the story. For a story to grow, canon must be altered and expanded. Maybe there were 9 planets, but due to later revelations there are now 8 (or like 25). Canon must always be somewhat flexible in order for things to move forward. And I think we as fans need to be flexible with it.
Thanks for reading.
I LOVE Kingdom Hearts. Love it to pieces. Ever since I picked up the first one way back in college, I’ve done my best to try and play every single one. But that’s not easy with the insane cross platform releases. Some on the Game Boy, some on the PSP, and hey what about the one that was only available on Japanese mobile phones? That’s got to be an easy one to nab right? (Well, actually yea.) But even if you got them all, what order do all these go in? It’s clear they’re not chronological right? Well, with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (A weird and long title that is at least more descriptive than Ground Zeroes) set to be released on the Playstation 4 sometime in 2016, I figured I’d do a quick little handy right up for folks like me who are trying to figure out what order all these things come in.
0: Kingdom Hearts χ & Back Cover – Set before the events of the Keyblade War, the Chi games tell the story of the events that lead up to the War and the beginnings of the struggle between Light and Dark.
0.1: Birth by Sleep – Surrounding the adventures of three Keyblade Knights, the generation of wielders before Sora. Their adventures set the stage for the main games and explain the backstory for several series main characters & villains.
0.2: Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage – A short episode that takes places immediately following the events of the Birth By Sleep Secret Ending. Told through the framing device of Mickey telling the tale post-Dream Drop Distance.
1: Kingdom Hearts – The first game in the main ‘numbered’ series. The story of Sora, Donald, and Goofy trying to defeat the Heartless and find their friends.
1.5 – Chain of Memories & 358/2 Days – These two are occurring roughly simultaneously as the events of Chain of Memories are referenced as happening at the moment in 358/2 Days. Chain of Memories follows Sora & Riku and sets up the situation for Kingdom Hearts II, while 358/2 Days does the same but for the villains of that story: Organization XIII.
2: Kingdom Hearts II – Sora’s second grand adventure introduces us properly to the concept of the Nobodies and the battle against Organization XIII.
2.25: Re:Coded – Explores and is connected to several of the concepts from throughout the series: The fates of the characters from Birth By Sleep and their relationship to Sora, the Book of Prophecies from Chi, and sets up the beginning of Sora and Riku’s journey to become Keyblade Masters. It’s recommended to view the KH2.5 HD ReMix version of Re:Coded as it includes several important story scenes that are only available in this version.
2.5: Dream Drop Distance – Details the trials of Sora and Riku trying to earn their Master’s Marks to become Keyblade Masters, and dives more into Ansem’s plans and the true purpose of the Organization.
3: Kingdom Hearts III – Set to be released some day, this has been quoted by Nomura as the final chapter of Sora’s story in the Kingdom Hearts universe.
Now I’m just going to say that playing all of these games in chronological order may not be the best idea for new comers to the series. There’s a lot of these titles that will reference concepts or characters introduced in other games that technically take place later in the series. For example, Birth By Sleep was originally released after Kingdom Hearts II. So it is written and presented in a way that assumes some level of familiarity with Kingdoms Hearts 1, 2, Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days. However for those who are familiar with the series and want to see how the story unfolds in order, or don’t mind being confused for a couple of games as things start to snap together, this should prove to be about as interesting as coming to the Star Wars Saga fresh and watching them in order. In short: enlightening if nothing else.
Unfortunately such a grand experiment will have to wait until Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue comes out next year. Hopefully it will be released with enough time between it and Kingdom Hearts III that we can play all 9 other installments in order before then.
So we’ve talked gameplay and we’ve talked plot & characters – I think it’s time we wrap up the Lightning Trilogy with discussing probably my favorite part of Lightning Returns: the ending. Not because it’s finally over oh sweet Noel Kreiss it’s over, but because I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the overarching themes of the trilogy, even when the explicit details of the plot got a bit weird from game to game. Let’s just go ahead and say that since we are talking the ending of a trilogy and then discussing said trilogy, there will be SPOILERS.
Alright, so as we previously discussed: God is gathering up souls of the chosen using Lightning as his ‘Savior’, he will then usher those new souls to a New World and remove their hearts/chaos/emotions, then he will let the old world and all the souls of the dead there perish so that no one remembers any of them – the world or the people who died there – all so he can have HIS perfect world. I don’t think it needs to be said, but Lightning and her friends do not exactly like that idea.
The ending to the game and the trilogy as a whole is done essentially in four parts. There is the final dungeon, the final boss battle, the cutscene where you actually beat the final boss, and then the final final cutscene. To get to the final dungeon on the last day (that’s Day 13 – or if you ran around and did 60+ side quests it will be Day 14), you show up at the church in Luxerion to bust up the ritual with Fang. Lightning holds back the guards while Fang talks down Vanille from doing the deed. Luckily back up arrives in the form of Snow who proves that despite being a dummy at times is still able to deliver an epic smackdown. Snow is joined by Lightning’s other friends as it becomes one last stand as Vanille and Fang come together to guide all the lost souls – not to their destruction as the Church wanted but to Hope’s Ark to go be reborn on the New World with all the others.
Lightning’s job is not done however. There is after all a god to deal with. She enters the final dungeon which to be fair is essentially four monster filled corridors and a door leading to the final fight. I’m not even sure you have to do the corridors – or ‘Trials’ – but I always do because they reward you with the Ultima Weapon and Ultima Shield, the two items that will not carry over to a new game+ because they are “story specific” to Bhunivelze’s temple. Unfortunately, they don’t get any kind of cool unique appearance. The Ultima items are pretty much just your starting sword and shield upgraded to have INSANE stats and abilities that will help immensely in the final boss fight.
Speaking of which, it’s time to show down with Bhuni-boy who is in an otherworldly realm dubbed ‘Cosmogenesis’ where he is putting the finishing touches on his New World and you finally get to see what this guy looks like:
Oh… oh wow. For the record, that checker pattern ‘skirt’? Yea, that’s the ground. He’s literally wrapped the world around himself. It’s at this confrontation that the truth emerges to reinforce the theory: Bhunivelze wishes to remove all the old souls and the bits of chaos that make up people’s hearts and emotions so that the New Humans on his New World will have euphoric peaceful lives without the burdens of sadness or pain. They’ll be boring emotionless drones, but hey that’s the cost of never having to feel bad: never feeling at all. I honestly don’t know if I would take that offer. I can imagine some who would argue that it’s a good thing and that God is kind to give us such a blessing. Then again free will is nice. Like SUPER nice. He also reveals his plan to establish Lightning as the ‘New Etro’ to guard over the Unseen Realm and keep it in harmony with the Seen Realm. Again, Lightning being someone he has a leash on as compared to his mother or Etro, both of which kind of had reasons to hold a grudge and good old Bhunie just loves to assume the worst. Finally, it’s revealed that the Serah ‘soul’ that Bhunie has been dangling on a hook in front of Lightning this whole time is just a mocked up simulacrum. Since God has no way of seeing into the Chaos, he legitimately has no idea where Serah’s soul actually is but is perfectly willing to offer the soulless copy of Lightning’s sister for her to dote on. This pretty much where Lightning draws the line.
Lightning flat out declares her intent to kill God. To perform one suicidal action to throw them both into the Chaos and free the souls to live in the New World without gods or fal’Cie masters. Since Bhunivelze made her the savior with the intent to become a replacement for Etro, she may not have the power to kill Bhunivelze but she is finally strong enough to do this one desperation act. But the Serah Simulacrum speaks to her and tells her that the real Serah IS still out there, and does still need her. So thus begins the final battle, as Lightning abandons her suicide run in favor of just flat out trying to murder God. Oh boy. When was the last time in Final Fantasy we actually killed God? Not like a god-like being, but the actual creator of the universe capital-G God? We’d have to go back a ways I think. I know we did in Final Fantasy Legends. Kefka is debatable whether he was god like or actually ascended to become God proper but you do fight and kill the actual Gods of Magic. Dissidia has you fighting Gods. But yea, it’s been a while since we did this.
The fight is massive and spans four different phases, each with a unique strategy to them. Easily up there with Barthandelus and Orphan from XIII as the toughest non-Super Bosses fights in the Trilogy. Not only that, but his fight has a ton of references to previous Final Fantasy games such as some of his attacks referencing the Emperor’s Starfall from Final Fantasy II, Almagest as used by Neo-ExDeath in Final Fantasy V, Hypernova based on Safer Sephiroth’s Supernova from Final Fantasy VII, several attacks including ‘Dancing Mad’, ‘Wings of Destruction’, and ‘Heartless Angel’ are inspired by either the abilities or even theme song of Kefka from Final Fantasy VI, and finally Bhunivelze’s pose in the final phase is based on the pose struck by the Cloud of Darkness in Final Fantasy III. He also draws several abilities and strategies from other bosses in the Lightning Trilogy. He’s immune to every status effect including poison, so forget using the poison and defend strategy from Orphan in the first game. Finally, he has several abilities that will drop you to either one or close to one HP regardless of your defense. And all that is just on the normal version. Oh yes, there’s a hard mode incarnation of this guy named Bhunivelze+. I haven’t even tried that one yet.
So after four whole phases on intense fights is God finally dead? Oh heck no. Bhunivelze created the universe (well along with his Mom), do you think four measly back to back fights will stop him? It will knock him on his ass, but he crawls back ready to kill Lightning for the sheer insolence she has shown. Luckily, Lightning has the one thing that Bhuni-boy doesn’t: Buddies. Yes, this pen-ultimate cut scene has the entire assembled cast of the entire trilogy: Snow, Sazh, Dajh, Hope, Vanille, Fang, Noel, Caius, Yuel, and even Serah appear to help Lightning strike down God while utilizing all of the Souls of the Living gathered by Lightning and the Souls of the Dead gathered by Vanille as a giant sword of light to strike down Bhunivelze once and for all in an epic final blow worthy of Dragon Ball Z levels of sheer ridiculous epicness.
Bhunivelze’s death chimes in the death of the old universe however as the Unseen Realm and its tides of chaos begin to consume all that is left. Caius and Yuel, both tired of their eternal struggle and cycle of life and death have agreed to stay behind and together serve the role that Etro once served. But because Noel also wants a happy ending, Yuel gives him the last of her line – the final incarnation of Yuel in her cycle of Rebirth to take with him to the new universe. With a new keeper of the Unseen Realm appointed, all that’s left is for the remaining team and all the souls to go to the new world in a brilliant stream of green lights and streaks that sort of looks like something that once helped stop a meteor from crushing a city (Yet another homage to an earlier game found here. They really seem to enjoy the send ups.)
This brings us to the real ending of the series. Claire Farron, the women once known as Lightning in another time and place, riding a train through what appears to be modern day France to go meet up with her friends once again. It’s never flat out stated what this new world is, but theories have been as far flung as Gaia from Final Fantasy VII (Which considering there’s already a theory about Gaia is futuristic Spira from FFX, how does that work?) to Our Real Earth to the more modern and realistic setting of Final Fantasy XV. Any and all are somewhat valid ways of viewing things, but the Real Earth seems to be the most likely since they do establish this as a world with No God, and No fal’Cie. The FF7 connection is really reaching because all that connects them is the vaguely lifestream-y looking stream of souls, which has less traction then FF7 == FFX because Spheres are Materia idea. We know that XV will have its own ties to the Fabula Nova Crystalis legend and that Etro will play some role in the story, so the No gods/fal’cie thing makes that one hard. Plus… the signs are in French. Like actual French. Not even French sounding gibberish. So that’s my best bet for where the ending takes place.
So with the story now finished, was it really worth it to play some 180 hours of game to reach that conclusion? Well… yea. For me it was. For all the game play issues, which really were improved on heavily after the feedback and criticisms of the first game (and even then most of those were – in my opinion – excusable to the nature of the story being told but admittedly flew in the face of what many people would expect from a Final Fantasy title), I found the story to be an incredible interesting and character driven narrative. To the point where it utterly baffles me when I hear people say the characters are boring or bland. There’s a difference between bland and subtle. This is very subtle. Not to mention the characters and their development is incredibly well rounded compared to many of the more popular Final Fantasy entries where the characters were almost defined by a single personality trait. Optimisitc! Bad ass loner! Angry! Moron! Where as in the XIII trilogy, there were a lot of nuanced performances built around knowing these characters back stories and motivations. Vanille is not a ditsy airhead. She puts on a ditsy act as an act of denial about the immense guilt she feels, something that is quite noticeable if you contrast how she behaves around the others versus when she’s by herself. The scene where it begins to dawn on her that her traveling companion, Sazh, has lost his son because of her actions and very existence, that she goes out and stands in the rain under the excuse to feel it on her skin but if you look, she’s trying to mask the tears coming down her face was a real punch in the feels. Even Snow, the king of bravado, is dealing with the tragedy of his curse and the loss of his fiance by blindly marching forward like a hero to save the day, running from his problems. But eventually, when he has lost Serah completely and the world is dying around him, he succumbs to depression and begins to slowly kill himself with a final silent noble act of absorbing the Chaos into his own body to try and give the people of Yusnaan another day of happiness before the end. Something he couldn’t do for Serah, despite all his trying. The characters are THE reason to play through these games. Just remember that the subtext is just as important, if not more, than what they are actually saying and doing.
The trilogy also has a great overarching theme of the desire for free will and fighting against your fate, and the need to preserve it even if free will means doing something stupid, or getting hurt by your choices or actions. In the first game, the message is very direct. The fal’Cie have literally stripped the main six from having any autonomy in their actions. It’s complete the focus or be doomed to be a cie’th for eternity. Even if you complete the focus, all it means is getting stored in crystal until the fal’Cie want you to do something again. You become a slave to these god-like creatures for all eternity, or suffer a fate worse than death. The reaction to this is each character walking their own path to try and preserve their free will – be it by running away to do whatever they want to actively trying to kill their new ‘masters’. Ultimately, the sheer strength of their freedom overcomes the chains. Something that seems weird but makes perfect sense in the context of the mythology: humans are the only creatures capable of Free Will thanks to Etro. It’s an X factor that the fal’Cie literally can’t comprehend and only out of fear, myth, faith, and sheer power have managed to control their thralls to this point. There are thousands of years of stories about the fal’Cie and their l’Cie and what happens. Your promised eternal life and happiness in a crystal dream for completing your focus. To many it’s consider a downright honor to be chosen. Why? Because that’s the belief the fal’Cie have worked to create in humans so they obey. When these six broke that control and killed Orphan, they proved that the fal’Cie only have as much power over the human spirit as we let them. That in the end, our focus and our destiny is for us to decide.
In the second game, the nature of free will and even more so the concept of fighting destiny is explored through the idea of time and the question of is the future set in stone? Serah and Noel each want to change something. Serah wants to change the past, and Noel the future to get what they want. However, it’s shown that their actions do have a very real cost in the end. Changing the future, striking out and making your own path, is what is killing Yuel and ultimately Serah as well. Serah chooses to risk death to get a future where everyone can be happy. However, with each life of Yuel’s reincarnation that gets extinguished the Chaos also grows and threatens everything. It becomes a question of risk vs. reward. Are you willing to put it all on the line to get what you really want? You have free will to make your own destiny, but that can come back and bite you.
Those repercussions are fully explored in Lightning Returns, which feature’s the titular character faced with the decision of asking which is preferable: Euphoria with no free will or free will with suffering? You are constantly bombarded with stories of loss and misery through the side quests and main story, but are told that this can be avoided by simply casting aside your emotions and freedom and living in peace for all eternity. But you also see stories of love, compassion, and those who despite facing the end of all things choose to keep pressing on and living their lives to the fullest. There’s a kid who just wants to pass his hunting trials and become a man of his clan before the end comes. What does it matter? In the grand scheme it doesn’t but to him it’s everything. Fang is fighting to save her friend, Sazh to save his son, Snow to protect the people – all knowing that there are only 13 days left, they still choose to fight to live. Lightning’s ultimate choice is that freedom is more important than a guaranteed happiness. To that end, she kills God and frees everyone to have whatever life they choose to have. Even Caius who was given no choice in becoming a guardian, no agency in whether he lives or dies thanks to the Heart of Etro or the Yuels, finally gets to choose to stay in the Unseen Realm. Really, there was no need for him to go, but he didn’t want the Yuels to be alone.
The only thing I do wish they had done was keep the song from the first game going through the whole trilogy. While only included in the western release, Leona Lewis’ “My Hands” is a song that strongly resonates with both Lightning and Serah that only strengthens as the trilogy goes on. The song’s solemn lyrics of longing and missing another person while having to go on without them becomes even more poignant by the third game when you start coming face to face with just how many people are now trapped in time, forced to live eternally, after losing loved ones to the slowly dying monster ravaged world and expanding chaos. Sadly, the song is only featured on the first game where it sort of resonates with Lightning’s quest to get her sister back but doesn’t live up to its full potential.
So is the Trilogy a flawless masterpiece? Hardly. The story is confusing and told is a jarring all-over-the-place style that requires copious amounts of reading extra content to follow any of the over arching narrative. The gameplay – especially for the first game – can be boring and tedious and will definitely be a huge turn off to fans of the previous games (even though I’ll admit that the ‘run a straight path and fight monsters’ is pretty much the exact same style as the critically and fan adored Final Fantasy X). It is a flawed trilogy of games and I will admit that. But that doesn’t mean I think it should be tossed aside and forgotten to the annals of history. There is a lot of great content here: Wonderful stories, brilliantly well rounded characters, and a fascinating mythology behind it all. The second game explores a lot of the same ideas that Chrono Trigger fans would find very much right at home and the third game has a truly engaging time-based system and active combat system that has a ton of optional stuff to explore and is short enough to encourage multiple playthroughs with a new game+ feature.
My recommendation is while I can’t wholly endorse these games at $60 a pop, if you can nab them used or new at a decent price (I only paid $15 for the first two, and got Lightning Returns new at release) I would recommend nabbing them. If you really want to skip the first one, I can’t blame you. There’s a decent enough recap in the Extras menu of XIII-2 that will bring you up to speed but you will miss some excellent character writing that comes later in the first game. These games also serve as a firm full exploration of the Fabula Nova Crystalis mythology and covers everything from Bhunivelze to his fal’Cie, Pulse, Lindzei and Etro, the concepts of the Seen and Unseen realms, and of course the idea of the l’Cie that plays a big role in Final Fantasy Type-0 and assuredly in the upcoming Final Fantasy XV. Remember, the mythology is the only thing shared between the three and you’ll get no better crash course in that than from the XIII trilogy.
So that’s the end of my look at the hated XIII trilogy. I don’t know if I changed anyone’s minds but hopefully I showed that there’s a bit more to these three games than what appears on the surface. I know I discounted the games pretty harshly at first when I first rented the first one to give it a go back in the day, but after a second look was quite impressed with what I found. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers and oddly enough Noah ‘The Spoony One’ Antwiler whose incredibly biased albeit hilariously entertaining reviews of the Final Fantasy games he doesn’t like inspired me to look deeper into these games and see if they were truly that bad. They’re not in my opinion. Hell, not even Final Fantasy X. I mean, I didn’t like X as much, but it wasn’t garbage by any means. Anyway, if you want a chuckle with someone ripping apart the games and riffing a lot of the admittedly silly parts, check it out. I’ll be here finishing up class reviews for SWTOR, replaying Metal Gear while waiting for my PS4 to get repaired and trying to finish out Type-0 HD.
Stay weird, folks.
<– Chapter Two || JEDI KNIGHT ||
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Jedi Knight storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
The story resumes pretty much immediately after the events of Chapter Two, you’ve just spent an unknown expanse of time being completely eeeeevil and then freed thanks to a ghost and a giant
raspberry Sith Pureblood named Lord Scourge, the former Emperor’s Wrath. The big reveal is that the Sith Emperor is using the newly restarted war as a cover for his grand design to wipe out all life in the galaxy, absorb their essence, and become some sort of immortal god-like tyrant to do as he pleases. Why? Because according to Scourge, all the Emperor cares about is having power – as much power as he can get. It doesn’t matter if he’s the Emperor of jack and/or squat so long as he has power. I can definitely see how this man found a career in politics. The first world we know the Emperor is going after thanks to Lord Scourge is the prison world of Belsavis, which was a secret up until recently (except we are immediately told that the Emperor had his eyes on Belsavis for a long time, so… good job Republic! Nice to see your Secret Keeping Skills have not improved since the prologue.)
So we know that Belsavis is the target, and we know the identity of the Sith carrying out the duty, but we have no idea what they are trying to do. Guess that means we’re playing detective? Really the majority of the rest of the planet is just trailing these guys across the prison and trying to put a stop a crazy Death Cult from blowing up the planet so they can have ‘eternal death’ or some such (They kind of remind of the Necromongers from Chronicles of Riddick). However, unlike the half dozen other times we’ve had to do this on Belsavis, these guys are actually SMART. They set traps and diversions for you. Lure you to out of the way areas and then try to finish you off once they have you cornered. They don’t succeed, but they are at least being intelligent about how they do things. Hell, at one point in order to buy time they set up explosives along a volcano so that it will erupt on detonation and flood the prison with lava, so if you ignore the bombs and go after the Death Cultists, the bombs and lava will still kill a sufficient enough prisoners to fuel the ritual. It’s essentially a win/win scenario in their eyes. They either buy themselves enough time to get to their objective or still win even if you stop them with the lava. Good. Fricking. Strategy. Oh god. Finally, opponents capable of thinking ahead!
Their objective by the way is actually to detonate one of the alien (ie Rakata, because the Rakata are behind everything alien. Including the Zabrak and Twilek apparently.) reactors that power the prison. This will cause a chain reaction causing a massive explosion that will destroy the planet as well as the surrounding planets and maybe even their surrounding planets. So it would be bad. Luckily (almost by plot conveinence) you catch up to the Death Cult and have a knock out epic brawl with a squad of Republic soldiers joining the fight. It’s actually kind of a cool scene where you get a half dozen veteran troops backing you up against a room of insane Imperials.
Belsavis also kind of sets the tone for this chapter. It’s not the struggle to survive, or unravel a plot, or anything like that. It is sheer heroism. Classic save-the-day kind of stories as you and your team scour worlds to stop the machinations of what could be argued is the closest thing The Old Republic has to a Super-Villain at this point. Even the Light and Dark choices are more applicable to how you save the day than are you a good or bad person, with Dark side heavily favoring military and tactical victory over philosophical noble sentiment. Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance, or do you level the place to ensure none of these Imps can come back to bite you? That kind of thing.
If you noticed, there wasn’t really much in the way of interludes – or non-planetary main story missions – in the other chapters. Oh sure, there was a lot of running back to Tython to turn things in but not since we visited an asteroid and revealed Kira was a Child of the Emperor have we had an actual interlude. Well, that’s about to change. It looks like Jomar – that Jedi from before assaulting the Sith Emperor at the end of Chapter 2 that claimed you were going to turn evil – has vanished during a scouting mission and you are enlisted to find him. Yippee.
Turns out he was investigating a Sith space station when he got captured by Leeha Narezz, the Jedi that you helped back on Hoth that joined you on the Sith Emperor mission. She is an insane, evil, no good, dirty, meanie pants Sith now. Wonderful! She apparently lured Jomar there using his desire to find proof that you were evil, and then appealed to the fact that apparently the two of them were actually secret lover’s back on Tython. Tython is starting to seem more and more like a gender separated dorm in college. Everyone is hooking up when and where they’re not supposed to there.
You fight with Leeha and her droids who apparently also decided to become evil – and far more lethal – since Hoth, but she promptly snaps out of it once you beat her back to her senses. Jomar decides to take Leeha back to Tython (wink wink nudge nudge?) and asks that you please stay silent about the truths you just learned about the two of them. Naturally, it’s a morality choice between ‘The truth must be known, you sinner!’, ‘Like I give a crap what you do’ or ‘Pay me for my silence’. Jomar also reveals that he overheard Leeha talking on the comm about a ‘Lord Fulminiss’ being sent to the planet Voss. We have our next plot to foil! Jedi awaaaaay!
Ah Voss. That lovely world where no matter who you are, chances are the people here don’t like you. Unless you’re the Consular I suppose. They kind of like you then. Anyway, we’re not here to make friends with the locals. We’re here to stop Lord Fulminiss, which despite being weird as heck to write is one of the first Sith names in a while that isn’t obviously super dark bad (It’s actually derived from the Latin for Lightning. So there ya go. You learned something today. Lucky you!) Fulminiss has been working with a Voss Mystic and being a Sith is clearly up to no good. However, the Voss Commandos who also are working on tracking down the missing Mystic just view your insistence that anything you say is just trite Republic propaganda meant to sway the Voss to your side against the Empire. The Voss are painfully stubborn here and it creates a great bit of animosity as you are forced to work with them to finish the mission.
When you first track down Fulminiss to a cave, he’s already long gone but you get to see his ‘victims’. Former acolytes and Sith apprentices that are foaming at the mouth insane trying to kill you. Apparently the Sith Lord and the Voss Mystic have teamed up to create some kind of ‘madness plague’ (I’m having flashbacks to the Jedi Consular again… I wonder if that’s where this guy got the idea.) The next clue leads you the Shrine of Healing where it seems the same insane fate has befallen several of the Shrine’s healers, but this time the Mystic left a message that only his Commandos can activate. The message is quite simple: He’s had a vision, you and the Commando must meet him at the Dark Heart in the Nightmare Lands. Well, that pretty much ties the two of you to the hip. Stuck in it till the end, eh? So we’re going to the Dark Heart (again)… only wait… no. We can’t. Cause apparently we need a map to find it.
Are you kidding me? Do you know how many characters I’ve played? Do you know how many of them had to go to the Dark Heart? DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY NEEDED A MAP TO DO IT? Give me a sec… carry the four… divide by pi…. NONE. No one else needed a map to find this place, but now we do so we have to go into the Gormak King’s Vault (if that doesn’t sound like an old school D&D adventure, I don’t know what does. Again – Voss is just space D&D) and steal the map from an ancient horror that guards it. This ancient horror was given dark power by an even more ancient horror that created the Nightmare Lands called ‘Sel-Makor’. Sel-Makor is a name that will repeatedly show up in your adventures across multiple classes on Voss as pretty much the sole entity responsible for everything bad happening right now. This time however, you get to help kill him! No, seriously. Well, as close as you can kill the non-corporeal essence of a world’s darkness (“I know now that Kingdom Sel-Makor… IS LIGHT!”)
You finally break into the Dark Heart to find Fulminiss, the Mystic, and a giant purple glowing pit that calls itself Sel-Makor. It seems Fulminiss grand scheme was to use the ritual, which he improved using what he learned from the Shrine of Healing, with the power of Sel-Makor to drive the entire planet of Voss into a frothing rage and tearing itself apart in epic bloodshed to fuel the Emperor’s super ritual. All in all, not nearly as good of a plan as the cult on Belsavis. But that’s what you get listening to a Sith instead of a bunch of Imperial Military dudes: Crazy plans. You defeat the Sith handily, but that’s not the end. Oh no. We still got the talking pit to deal with.
Apparently the Mystic’s vision was to help the Sith get to this point, just so he could be defeated by the Jedi Knight who in turn would escort the Commando so that the Commando could willingly sacrifice herself to seal away Sel-Makor. Are you f-ing kidding me with this contrived crap? So this was all a big set up to throw the Commando lady in the glowing hole? Couldn’t we have just done that from the start? God I hate the fricking Voss. So much so that when presented with the option of letting the Commando sacrifice herself or take Sel-Makor’s offer of power to throw the Mystic in instead to fuel the ancient evil, I fricking pushed the Mystic in! Take that you prophetic jerk.
Course then I had to fight the Commando and kill her. But you know what? I’m fine with that. She was jerk. The Mystic was a jerk. The Sith was a jerk. Now they’re all dead. I’m leaving!
It’s time to find another Jedi Master Gone Bad. This time we’ve got Warren Sedoru hiding out on a Republic Cruiser. You run in, kill a few packs of mobs and bam! You’ve reached him. Seriously, this interlude is oddly short but hey if it means one less spaceship I have to run around, I’ll take it. However, unlike Leeha, Warren seems to be enjoying himself immensely. He’s taken the ship’s crew as hostages and plans to execute them in front of you. Even when you defeat him and save the day, he proudly announces that he truly enjoys the Dark Side and its emotion fueled passions. He mocks any desire to attempt to ‘cure’ him and says that now that he’s tasted the darkness that there is no way that he would ever want to go back.
This presents you with your choice: he is utterly unrepetent, he wants to continue down the path of the Dark Side even if you send him to be brought back to the Light. Do you still try? Or do you declare this whole thing to be a worthless cause and just kill him? It’s actually a pretty good question since until this point you haven’t really met someone that you had the option to save who was wholly unwanting of some sort of redemption. Even the Sith on Tatooine was morally at odds with his path, preferring honorable combat over dirty tricks and ensuring victory by destroying the only means of stopping a doomsday device without giving you a chance to win it from him. But Warren doesn’t want to be saved. He doesn’t want to go back at all, and states that he will very much fight against it. So the choice to kill him is clearly the less risky option here, since if you do send him back to Tython and he doesn’t revert to the Light Side, you’ve got a devoted Sith running amok on the Jedi homeworld.
Regardless of what you choose, Sedoru does let slip that the Emperor’s next target to kick off the grand ritual of murder is the planet Corellia. Since the war has erupted in full on that world, it’s pretty much just up to the Emperor to make sure it becomes the bloodiest battle of the entire war to get what he wants.
So how do you stop a mad Emperor set to exascerbate an already in progress war? Well, to start with you’ll need an army. Satele Shan, Master of the Jedi Order, has appointed you to be the Supreme Commander of all Jedi forces on Corellia. This is where things get epic. You start by rallying your troops from around the the city. For the most part there will be just stand ins and random Jedi you recruit that were here fighting… UNLESS you actually saved a ton of people from the Prologue, Chapter One and Chapter Two. Then all those people you helped, redeemed or saved will be the Jedi you’ll be fighting along side with in these battles. Even some of the Dark Side choices get revisited here. Like Bengel Morr, the former padawan of Master Orgus that you squared off against back on Tython in the Prologue, who you were given the choice of either redeeming as a Jedi, killing, or allowing him to go off and build power for you as your devoted dark side servant. Well, if you chose that last one, here’s the pay off. At the complete opposite end of the leveling spectrum. He shows up with a massive amount of weapons for your soldiers.
Throughout most of Corellia you are forced to make decisions on what to do with this newly acquired force of Jedi. Normally, your objective will be set by the story but you’ll have two options on where to send your troops (because splitting up always worked in Scooby Doo and certainly isn’t one of the reasons Obi-Wan bit the dust). There will be options like A) Stop the Sith from stealing weapons from a factory or B) Raid the corporate offices under a bribe from the executive to retrieve her personal assets. Another is something like A) Help save wounded people at the Hospital or B) Assault the Sith while they are caught off guard celebrating all the Republic troops they just killed. So in some of these cases it’s kind of obvious which would be the good or bad choice, and then some – like the latter – provide different objectives based on priorities. Do you save civilians or strike a crippling blow to the enemy in the short window you have a sneak attack in? It can be quite the interesting dilemma. But it’s not like these choices ever affect anything anyway.
On top of the possibility of running into people you’ve met and helped along your journey showing up, there are of course a bunch of other old faces that appear. Doctor Godera, the master mind behind all those secret projects in Chapter One is here to lend a hand with a miniaturized version of Chapter One’s ultimate doomsday weapon: The Devastator. Of course, General Var Suthra is there helping coordinate the military along with your Jedi soldiers. Sadly, things are not great for your non-Jedi friends as Godera bites the dust while your disable the Mini-Devastators but does manage to track down our last Jedi-Turned-Sith who is piloting a star cruiser in a suicide run to destroy the entire city.
You break into the ship and fight your way through it. I won’t lie, by this point in just this story – not to mention all the other class storylines I’ve played through to this point – I feel like I could navigate every and any Imperial or Republic starship blindfolded. I do not know why this is apparently the all time favorite set piece to use, but Bioware apparently loves them some starships. That or the fact that there are only a handful of rigid layouts mean easy to copy-and-paste templates with less original artwork needed to be done for these dramatic moments. I suppose that’s probably just the sacrifice of having 8 distinct class storylines along with World Stories and side quests. Most of the ship layouts in the expansions that only have faction specific or wholly neutral storylines are far more diverse. So while you don’t have all those unique stories, you also don’t have to run around the same starship layouts over and over. Dunno if that’s a fair trade off to everyone, but hey it is something to keep in mind as the game moves forward.
As you finally square off with our final Evil Sith-Jedi – Tol Braga himself. Meanwhile down on the planet, Var Suthra commands the forces to buy you enough time. The battle with Braga is definitely one of those major action pieces. Both the fight is enjoyable intense and the cut scene action handled well. Braga is vicious in his actions, faced with the futility of his plan to convert the Emperor, he seems to want nothing more than just to die. If that means letting the Emperor destroy the universe with him, so be it. When you defeat him, you get the standard kill or save choice. Unlike the repentant Leeha or the stubborn Warren, Braga begs you to finish him so that he won’t have to live with himself. The choice is of course yours. This decision is just yet another isolated case in a vacuum that won’t matter in the grand scheme.
However, what DID matter in the grand scheme was all those missions you sent your Jedi forces on during the course of the story here on Corellia. See, if you took bribes, acted vengefully, and were all around abusive with your power (read: took all the dark side choices) then your forces have dwindled, the military denied access to resources, and the enemy allowed to run off with more powerful toys. The final fight to hold off the Imperials is an uphill battle that costs lives. Namely, the life of General Var Suthra. That’s right, depending on your choices across Correllia will decide whether a named, plot relevant NPC lives or dies. There is no immediate choice that affects this. No (Save Him) or (Kill Him) choice to be found. Just if you chose the dark side choices leading up to this, the military will be out-gunned and out-manned in the final confrontation and the General will die. If you chose the Light Side options, the opposite will occur.
Holy crap guys. Your choices actually affect things not directly related to that choice? Like there are repercussions beyond the immediate numbers game of Light and Dark points? That almost sounds like a BioWare game. See, this right here is the kind of stuff I am hoping to see more of in things like Knights of the Fallen Empire. Where your choices have outcomes that may not be immediately apparent but also make sense why that would happen. If you send your Jedi to loot the CEO’s office for her instead of stopping the Imps from raiding the weapons factory, then the Imps will have better guns than you! I won’t lie, the first time I played through the Jedi Knight I was your typical Lawful Good Paladin of Justice Jedi (One of my favorite character tropes) and I just thought Var Suthra was meant to live. It didn’t even occur to me he COULD die, since he was a major character in all three chapters and never turned villain. It wasn’t until my second playthrough as the complete asshole dark side Jedi that I found out that yeah, people actually die based on your choices. It’s not a de facto win. That was an awesome surprise here.
With the three Sith Jedi dealt with and the Emperor’s plans put on hold, there is really only one thing left to do: Kill the Emperor. No, we are going to go parlay with him, or make him see the error of his ways. Tried that, and look where that got us? Instead, Lord Scourge will help us land in the heart of the Imperial capital of Kaas City on Dromund Kaas and have your team fight their way through the city to find a shuttle that will get you to the Dark Temple. It really feels intense as Imperials spawn all around you, and the cut scene as you board the shuttle feels really dramatic with everyone wishing you luck and hoping you come back. Oh, did I not mention they weren’t coming? Yea, since the Emperor can do his whole mind control thing, it was judged best to not have anything living come with you. Luckily, you have a lil’ droid buddy to help out. T7 to the rescue!
The Dark Temple of course is crawling with guards and soldiers, and at one point there was a cool puzzle you could do in the temple to get a full set of gear. Apparently, the puzzle was removed at some point, but all you originally did was push six buttons to change the light pattern on the ground until it made the Imperial logo. The puzzle didn’t have an obvious hints to how to solve it, and the lights would randomly flicker which is why I suppose they took it out. But if you just played around with it a bit, it became obvious pretty quick that you could make the Imperial logo with it and then it was just working out how many times to push each button to get the right layout. It was a cute distraction. It rewarded you with a set of level 50 gear for T7, so if you hadn’t used the droid since Coruscant like me, you could actually bust him out without the lil’ guy dying instantly. Fear not about the puzzle being removed though, because the gear is still present in the form of a broken down droid on the spiral stairway up to the Emperor.
There is a moment where T7 will inform you that one of your crew – who all split up to help distract forces from dogpiling on you – has bit off more than they can chew. I don’t know if this changes based on affection or something, because I can’t remember who it was on my first playthrough (I want to say it was Rusk) but this time it was Doc. You can choose to go help them, or stick to the mission and go fight the Emperor. The only thing you really for going is an additional scene, some Light Side points and I believe some affection gains.
The good stuff begins when you get up to the Emperor and finally reveal that he is… some random old wrinkly dude with red eyes. Well, it’s no shock twist but we can’t all have that can we? The battle with the Emperor is actually pretty awesome and is up there with some of the harder bosses to down at the end of the storyline. In fact, the first time I fought him I was dying constantly until someone online showed me this little trick to defeating the Emperor: at the top of the platform where his throne is, there are big pillars. Use those pillars to constantly break his line of sight. Everytime he casts anything just dive behind to the opposite side to make him stop, when it comes around smack him some and then repeat. His only attacks will be instants and they are far from his horrible AOEs and Super Damaging Thunderblasts. You just dance around the pillar. The second time I guess T7 or the gear he gets was buffed somewhat because the little droid actually lived for most of the fight and tanked the Emperor. I didn’t need to resort to the pillar dance until around the 20% mark. When you finally beat him, you can try to finish him or offer him a chance to convert like before. It really doesn’t matter because a giant rock crushes him and he dies anyway (Okay, so both the Jedi Knight and Consular end with a rock crushing the final boss? Apparently all you need to kill a super powerful Sith is a boulder. Why do we have lightsabers again?).
After that you get your big damn reward ceremony in front of everyone and get many thanks from anyone who didn’t die. If you are a Light Sided Jedi, then Satele will reward you the position of Master (only two acts behind the Consular you meat-headed Jedi Jock) but if you are a Dark Side Jedi, Satele says that despite your deeds and her desire to reward you with the position for them, your journey has welcomed darkness into your heart and she cannot. However, the military steps up and says that you did a ton for them (which makes sense, many of the dark side choices place military tactical strategies above compassion and trust) and they award you the title of Honorary General. Which would be cool until you realized that the Honorary prefix pretty much makes this whole title business mean diddly and squat. Either way, your character gets the ‘Master’ title since back in the beta, people complained about not becoming a Master because they made dark side choices (Anakin Skywalker, SWTOR Beta Tester) so they replaced the dark side title of ‘General’ with just everyone getting ‘Master’. A shame really. I always liked how Jedi in the prequels were automatically on par with Generals and even were called such. That option sounded cool. Oh well.
Looking Back/Final Thoughts
The Jedi Knight story is a classic epic space opera tale. You start as a simple student with some special ‘Main Character’ sense about you, and then rise of to save the Republic from a devastating super-weapon, only to then take things up a notch in assaulting the secret fortress of the Emperor and then finally stopping the Emperor himself. The whole thing just builds and it never feels like it stalls out in terms of plot progression at any point. I’ve gone on record to call the Jedi Knight the ‘essential Star Wars experience’ and I mean it. Pretty much everything you may have enjoyed about the Star Wars movies – original or prequels – is in here at some point. Heck at times you are pretty much hitting the same journey as Luke Skywalker note for note.
The Jedi Knight also sets up a great deal of the world building for the expansions and patches that followed. The defeat of the Emperor becomes a major plot point that resurfaces at the end of the Makeb story and is a major component of Shadows of Revan leading up to the Emperor’s attempted resurrection on Ziost. All of this is set in motion by the events of the Jedi Knight. Now you might note that I did say the ‘defeat’ and not the ‘death’ of the Emperor. That’s because you don’t kill him. Not really. For those confused about how this happens, you’ll want to play the Sith Warrior storyline or read my reviews starting here. Essentially, the Emperor you face is the Emperor’s Voice. One aspect of the Emperor. Technically his second voice, since the first one in this timeline of events died on Voss and then this new one took its place and now its dead. Dang. The Emperor keeps losing his Voice. Maybe he should try gargling? This also plays in the difference between what the Republic sees on Makeb versus what the Imperials see on Makeb, because Saresh announces that you killed the Emperor, but Marr reveals that he may be dead but it’s just as likely that he’s in hiding and regaining strength.
For these reasons alone, I always recommend the Jedi Knight as a ‘must play’ for those interested in the story. While the Sith Warrior gives some ideas on how Emperor Vitiate actually functions as an entity, it’s the Knight that details his motivations, goals, and the way he operates as an enemy. Oh and after Ziost, I have no doubt we’ll be seeing him again. So I recommend this storyline wholeheartedly. It may be a bit cliche, but let’s be honest – so is all of Star Wars. If we didn’t want classical tropes in a space setting, we would have stuck to Star Trek or Lord of the Rings.
<– Chapter Two || JEDI KNIGHT ||
Leonardo: For too long, the miserable corner store has been a haven for ludicrous price gouging, and rude, poorly-trained clerks.
Dante: You think he’s talking about us?
Leonardo: With names like ‘Dante’, and ‘Handel’.
Leonardo: Today marks the dawn of a new era. I give you, the people of Leonardo – the future!
[Pulls rope, unveiling another massive building]
[Crowd is silent, except for an isolated cough]
Leonardo: …It’s a new convenience store! Quick-ER Stop!…Eh? Yes?
Guess I’m out of a job. Back to blogging about Final Fantasy and making videos about how the hell I’m going to pay the rent in the Sims 4 when seven writers don’t want work.
Well, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t get at least a few hits on the site for people looking for what the ‘best’ storyline in Star Wars The Old Republic is. It’s a tricky subject matter because it is almost entirely subjective. What does someone define as ‘the best’? It’s like all those people who claim that the game isn’t “Star Wars”-y enough but can never actual explain what the hell that means. And while all the reviews aren’t finished yet, I have indeed played through every single class story at this point. So I might as well give people what they keep asking for. This is my personal Worst to Best Class Storylines for Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Anyone who has read my review for the Trooper should not be surprised to find this at the bottom of the list. The problem is just that the entire Trooper story pretty much ends with Chapter One. Chapter Two and Three feel like filler. There’s nothing built up to them. There’s nothing tying them together. Chapter Two is a horrific abomination of sheer pointlessness and Chapter Three does very little to improve on that already low bar. On top of that, these two very bland chapters then go out of the way to try to paint your character as the instigator for the renewed war. Not just that the war has begun while you were fighting like some other class stories. No, that the Empire has renewed it’s attacks directly on the Republic as immediate retaliation for your actions. Granted, it might just be an excuse but damn is that being thrown under the narrative bus.
The shame of the whole thing is that the prologue and first chapter are actually really solid and I would actually recommend playing through them. But once you get to level 30 and start Chapter Two the whole story takes a hard nose dive and never truly recovers.
#7: Sith Inquisitor
The Inquisitor is a classic case of biting into a Peanut Butter Cup and finding it filled with Cookies & Creme filling instead. It might not be bad, but it sure as hell isn’t what you signed up for. Look anywhere for what the Inquisitor is pitched as and you’ll find comparisons to the subtle machinations of Palpatine, manipulating forces into completing your ends, and being a grand puppet master with all the powers of the dark side at your beck and call. What you actually get is more akin to Indiana Jones in space. You find relics, pursue ghosts, and end up using more magic in this space opera than your average D&D game and the Mass Effect 3 ending combined. In other words, it doesn’t deliver on what’s promised. In fact, it rarely even tries to. It goes off in some completely different direction and then shouts back at you that it doesn’t know what your problem is, this is the way it always intended to go.
Of course, that’s not what puts the Inquisitor so low on this list. Not alone at least. No, the real reason this one got marked down so much was quite simply that it spends so much time painting your character like a complete and utter idiot. You walk in traps, blindly trust those who clearly are trying to kill you, and routinely must be saved by a third party to avoid certain death. None of these are a result of your choices or actions either. These just happen to you regardless. Then somehow you get a seat on the Dark Council out of all of this. Talk about fricking failing upwards. I honestly can’t play through the Inquisitor story without feeling that the game is actively insulting me at times.
#6: Jedi Consular
Let me just say this, because I know some of you are reading this and saying ‘Didn’t Vry like the Consular in his reviews?’ I adored the Consular… Once the plot actually got started. Honestly, the Consular is almost the antithesis of the the Trooper. The best stuff comes after Chapter One. The downside is that those first 30 levels? They can be nightmare of tedious repetition. The same tasks over and over with only slight changes. Chapter One at least has the mystery element to it, but you can only really appreciate the mystery once you reach the end and can see all the threads connecting things.
But honestly? If I wasn’t writing a review for this website, I don’t think I ever would have made it out of Chapter One. Hell, I don’t know if I could pull of getting past the prologue. But if you can do that, then you are in for an amazing story about galactic diplomacy, building alliances, and commanding your own personal army to do battle against an enemy that could literally be anyone. It sometimes feels a bit more like Star Trek instead of Star Wars, but that’s okay. It’s different and in a good way. By the end of Chapter Three, your Consular has done more to preserve the Republic than any other class. So yea, the first two parts of the story knock this one pretty far down on the list, but don’t think that it is by any means a terrible story once you wade through the boring parts. Especially with the 12x XP thing going on, now is really the time to see where the Consular shines cause you can get through the boring crap in a day now.
#5: Bounty Hunter
Oh Bounty Hunter, I do adore thee. Probably one of my own personal favorite stories. I just like the flavor. So why is it only at number 5? Well, probably because it is a straight-shot, middle of the road, nothing terrible but nothing blow your mind away amazing story. It’s solid, with no doubt. But there aren’t many instances I can look back and go – yea… that was f***ing awesome. But there’s also nothing I can point to you and say “this completely sucked”. It’s an average story that will be made better if you like the concept of a bounty hunter or mandalorians. Which I do.
#4: Sith Warrior
The Sith Warrior is another example of a very solid narrative that has no real hitches in it that I can look back at and wail about and it would be just another solid middle-of-the-road choice like the Bounty Hunter other than a few shining highlights. Namely, the Corrupting a Jedi Padawan into becoming your apprentice storyline, the sheer amount of information you learn about the Emperor and how he works, and what is probably the best written villain in the entire game. The villain essentially does everything that the bad guy from the Inquisitor story wants to do, but without constantly having to make your character look incompetent to make the villain look more menacing.
I described the Sith Warrior in my review as the quintessential Sith experience, and I stand by that statement. If you ever wanted a taste of being Darth Vader would be like, then look no further. You’ll find no problems here.
If there were three words to describe the Smuggler story it would be: Silly. Fun. Adventurous. The story is full of laughs as you roam across the galaxy dealing with the back alley scum that no other class gets nearly as much access to. Pirates, shady deals, backstabs, all mixed with a hefty dose of charm and chuckles, this is THE story for a good time. The best part is that it actually does a great job at telling a pretty grand story that ends up turning into something much larger by the end.
If there was something I could say that was shining about the Smuggler that puts it so high on the list it would be that the story just snowballs itself down a mountain. It starts small and simple and then builds in both size and momentum, but instead of just becoming a bigger narrative in terms of scale it actually builds on what has come before. Chapter One is an excellent example of this when by the end of it you’ll look back at the events of the Prologue and see exactly how much of it was actually spent setting things up that you probably didn’t even think twice about.
The story also shares some traits with our #1 on the list in that several story elements actual vary wildly depending on your light and dark choices. Another reason the story feels so much more alive than many of the others on this list.
#2: Jedi Knight
What do you think of when you hear the name ‘Star Wars’? Brave heroes struggling against an impossible enemy? Epic battles waged across planets? A showdown between the forces of Light and Dark? The Jedi Knight story has all of that. From earning your first lightsaber, to a final duel against the Sith Emperor himself (sort of) I would go as far as to describe the Jedi Knight story as being the essential Star Wars experience. It’s everyone people imagine a Star Wars video game would be like, and hit pretty much hits a ton of the same notes as the Original Trilogy. Straight to the not uptight but wise mentor being killed off only to guide you via force ghost to your next plot point.
But beyond the simple Star Wars experience, the Jedi Knight also plays with some of your expectations. What if you became evil? How would those around you react? What about when faced with the moral decision of what to do with your enemies? Your choices early on do help shape the story later. Mostly in flavor, but in rewarding flavor regardless when you get to see so many old faces return to help you in your moment of victory.
If you want to play through the epic space opera adventure story, this one if for you.
#1: Imperial Agent
So if Jedi Knight encapsulated the perfect Star Wars story, why is it not at number one? Well because for all it’s solid strengths, the Jedi Knight is a straight forward plot with only flavoring changing based on your choices. What if the whole story changed based on your choices? If the actions you took would have radical different impressions on what rise to power your character had? That may not be the essential Star Wars experience, but that certainly sounds like what we’d expect from a game brandishing the name of BioWare. It’s for that reason that our number one spot goes to the Imperial Agent.
The Agent’s story is not only full of mystery and exciting well done plot twists, but also delivers many of the crucial details of how the story of The Old Republic shakes down. Want to know why the Voss are so brutally neutral? The answer is here. How the hell is the Empire losing the war? The answer is here! You combine that with tons of amazing plot twists that build and build in a massive web of intrigue that reveals the Star Wars equivalent of the Illuminati pulling the strings behind everything? That’s fricking awesome!
And oh yes, your choices do matter in the Imperial Agent story. There are THREE completely different directions the second chapter can take depending on your choice at the end of Chapter One. Oh sure, you still have to go the same planets in the same order, but the greater narrative is shifted drastically depending on who you are working with and why. For once in this game do you actually feel like your actions have consequences and are not pre-determined with only slightly different dialogue. At several points I actually had to step back from my keyboard and THINK about which dialogue option to choose knowing that this may well indeed alter events and since it’s a MMO with no saves to fall back on – it’s all for reals.
An amazing story with amazing plot twist and actual consequences to player choices that will keep you on the edge of your seat for each cut scene. That’s why the Imperial Agent is my Number One Best Class Storyline.
If you want to find out more about these storylines you can find my Spoiler Free Summary page here that also has links to the far far less spoiler free reviews.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter of the Jedi Knight storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
Alright, welcome back to the epic quest of the Jedi Knight to stop the forces of evil. Only we already did that at the end of Chapter One. As I said, just like the Trooper and Bounty Hunter, the Prologue and First Chapter of the Jedi Knight’s story is a complete narrative and wraps everything up nicely at the end. It could have easily been the end if not for that pesky “We’re only level 30” thing. So we have two more chapters. But UNLIKE the Bounty Hunter and Trooper stories, the Jedi Knight knows exactly what story to tell with the remaining chapters: We’re going after the Sith Emperor. Oh joy! Could the stakes be any higher? I think not. Yes, this is probably one of the most defining plot developments in the game, since the result of Chapters 2 and mostly 3 of the Jedi Knight will set the stage for what we would later see in the Shadow of Revan and the happenings on Ziost.
The story begins with you returning from R & R on your ship only to be contacting by the spectral image of Master Orgus Din. He’s a ghost! Which I suppose means we need to watch out for the Sith Inquisitor. Orgus reveals that there is a trapped and dying Jedi on the planet Tatooine that needs your help, and carries information that will be vital to fulfilling your destiny. So you travel to the middle of fricking nowhere in Jundland to find a crashed starship and a bunch of Sith gold mobs. The Jedi is chilling out and meditating in the ship. So… he is saved? I think? Was I necessary?
Apparently, he couldn’t send a distress signal because techno babble and the plot demands we save him but he is carrying news that he must deliver to the Jedi Council on Tython and urges you to deliver it while the medical crews arrive for him. So you go to Tython – a statement for the record you will be hearing A LOT in these next two chapters. You waste a ton of time going back to Tython for one cutscene again and again. The Jedi Council reveals there master plan that the info was for: Their going after the Sith Emperor. But first, they will need some things. You are tasked with helping other Jedi Masters on planets to help gather the necessary resources to have everything you’ll need for a successful assault on the Secret Invisible Space Stronghold of the Sith Emperor (Ask them about their Seafood Combo Platter) and capture him. Yes, capture. Apparently they don’t want to kill him because it would create a power vacuum. Boo.
This planet is where the Secret Invisibile Space Stronghold of the Sith Emperor’s (Try the Veal) cloaking shield was developed. The hope is to find the original prototype of it so the Jedi can jury-rig a device to cancel out the cloak. Of course, since Balmorra is heavily entrenched in a battle to oust the Sith Empire who have a hold on everything here, that means teaming up with the Resistance. Who don’t like the Republic. This will be fun. You also get to meet your liaison with the Resistance – a man named Doc.
Doc is one part humanitarian and one part sleazy skinamax star, right down to the mustache. When he’s not trying to save lives or protect the innocent and making sure everyone gets a chance to live, he’s flirting with anything that remotely resembles a female. If you bring Kira with you, he flirts with her endlessly. If you are a female, he will flirt with you endlessly. And I mean ENDLESSLY. It accounts for nearly 80% of his dialogue on Balmorra. If you ever want to feel some empathy for women who have to deal with men hitting on them and swinging widely with pick up lines like they were a scythe – play a female Jedi Knight and meet Doc. Dear god, I wanted to punch him. He’s also the female love interest, which is all sorts of weird to me. But hey, it takes all kinds right? Someone has to enjoy that kind of person.
The next couple of missions are basically just grunt work soldier-ing for the Resistance. Collect med packs for the wounded, take out guards and sensors so the Resistance can break into the computers to grab intel, and ultimately saving one of their spies that was trying to secure the prototype from an Imperial jail. This spy however is ultimately revealed to be in great health for being imprisoned by the enemy for two weeks. Like suspiciously good health. It seems she cut a deal with the Empire to spill intel on the Resistance in exchange for safety. The Resistance wants her dead on the spot, but it ultimately comes down to you – the Jedi – to decide. It’s also during these missions you meet up with the Jedi Master you’re helping: Warren Sedoru. He’s an old grizzled scar-covered Jedi who has a natural talent for reading people and tactical thinking. He also happily admits to letting you do all the work since you’re youthful and far more skilled with a saber. I like his honesty. He’s a keeper. Can I have him on the ship instead of Doc?
You finally grab the prototype by breaking into the Balmorran Arms Factory, a task that’s honestly way easier than it sounds. You kill your way through some nameless Sith guarding the thing, likely tipped off from our spy friend that people were interested in the prototype and then go in to grab it to find that the Resistance is already there and ready to cart off with it. Okay. First. What? Second. That’s mine. Third. What? How did they get in here? How did the Sith not notice them? Were they crawling around the vents or something? If that’s the case why didn’t I get to climb the vents? Bah. The Resistance says that since the prototype was made on Balmorra it belongs to them and no one else, screw you and screw the Republic. You can either negotiate with them or just threaten them for it, you don’t have to fight either way I don’t think. You get the prototype and get the heck off the planet.
Time for a small side track from the mission. It appears that Master Tol Braga (the Jedi who came up with this Kidnap the Sith Emperor plan) has a padawan that was a former Sith stationed on the planet of Quesh that he hasn’t heard from in a while. Braga is worried about him since the tensions are rising between the Republic and Empire on Quesh, and he wants you to go make sure everything is alright. Which, of course, isn’t the case.
Apparently, the former Sith is having a bit of a hard time getting over some his old bad habits. Namely slaughtering a bunch of unarmed Imperial prisoners when they mentioned he was a traitor and that the Emperor’s Wrath was coming for him. Now you can honestly help this Sith-Turned-Jedi overcome his temptation to the Dark Side, or you can convince him to embrace it fully because ‘Hey, it’s a war. Go kill people.’
The really interesting bit comes when the Empire breaks into the base and you have to repel them. When you finally wipe them out, all of them, you bring up the force field for the door only to be greeted by a massive hulking Sith Pureblood named Lord Scourge. Scourge is the Emperor’s Wrath. The very hatred of Emperor embodied in a living person. This is important because this is first time on the Republic side we are introduced to the concepts of the ‘Aspects’ of the Emperor. Be it his Voice, Wrath, Hands, etc the Emperor has many servants who act as vessels of his will. They literally become a part of the Emperor. There’s a lot more of this to be found in the Sith Warrior storyline where they go into it with greater detail, but this is an important thing to remember for what comes at the end of the Jedi Knight story as well.
Scourge’s appearance here however is little more than a glorified tease and cameo. He talks to you, says some cryptic things, and then buggers off. Okay? Thanks for the visit, Scourge. Quesh then ends with the padawan deciding to either return to Tython to cleanse himself of his Dark Side emotions, or to meditate on the concept of embracing them as a weapon for justice in what is a clearly soon to erupt war.
The second piece of the Secret Invisibile Space Stronghold of the Sith Emperor (Every Thursday is Sith Ladies’ Night) caper is to get the schematics and floorplans to the Stronghold. Impossible, you say? Well not to Jedi Master Leeha Narezz. She’s discovered that the only non-Sith to see the interior of the space station – the architect (because there are no Sith architects, silly. They don’t build up, only tear down!) – and apparently that individual crashed on Hoth with the schematics on board. So we’re off on a scavenger hunt to find it. Which seems to be just what you do on Hoth. Go looking for things that crashed here. This is what? The fourth time we’ve done this?
However, we do make a new friend in the process. The Republic Military is lending a hand with this ‘save the galaxy’ mission and giving you full authority over the 301st. Or what’s left of them as when you find them there are two remaining and one of them is dying. Our last good soldier standing is Sergeant Rusk, who is brutally efficient at his job. He lists off success and failure in terms of percentages, he doesn’t care if you are wounded or dying you will finish the mission, and he’s not actually that much of a jerk for it. Just a guy who wants to be the best damn soldier out there and expects anyone who signed up for the Military to be willing to die for the cause. It’s an extreme viewpoint, sure. But he never comes off as mean. Just a bit odd. His men however don’t feel that way. Even after replenishing the 301st’s numbers, everybody else views Rusk as a hard ass trying to make them do things like eliminate threats proactively and other things that equate to ‘work’. I dunno. I dig Rusk. I would like to trade Tanno Vik on my Trooper for Rusk. Please?
The rest of Hoth plays out pretty simply with only the occasional diversion where the military calls you up wanting things in exchange for borrowing the 301st. The first one of these is to take out Imperial turrets and its mandatory. The second is to destroy ammo dumps set up by the pirates and you can talk Rusk out of doing it or just doing it himself without you. The whole mission ends with you getting to choose whether you want to square off with pirates or Sith (There’s a meme waiting to happen) and breaking into a massive dreadnought ship to grab the schematics. Narezz happily heads back to Tython to await you there.
I didn’t talk much about Narezz because she doesn’t seem to have much in the way of personality. She instead has robots. Two droids – the Meedees – that she claims will one day have the power to wield the Force like any living thing. There. That’s her whole schtick in just about every conversation. “We need to get X oh bee tee dubs my robots are awesome.”
You want a big flashy finale to a middle chapter? Here it is. This thing is huge, so pardon me if I may miss a beat here or there. You return to Tython to get ready for the big assault on the Emperor when it’s revealed by Master Tol Braga that the endgame of this whole plan is not just to capture the Sith Emperor but to bring him back to Tython and convince him – through what I can only imagine is a well thought out and reasoned debate – to TURN TO THE LIGHT SIDE. Oh geeze. I am so suddenly having doubts about this plan. Not just me either, as the rest of the Jedi Council shows up to talk about their own trepidation with this plan. Namely that the Jedi I saved way back on Tatooine at the beginning of Chapter Two who was told he couldn’t go on the big important save the universe mission and you are going in his stead JUST had a vision! That you would turn EVIL if you went, so he should go in your place and save the day. I clearly sense absolutely zero ulterior motive here.
You do convince the council the let you go and you begin the assault on the Secret Invisibile Space Stronghold of the Sith Emperor (Now serving breakfast) where you infiltrate and work your way through the base. For those who have already completed the story on Ilum at some point, you might recognize the layout of this place. I don’t know if it’s intentional but the Secret Invisible Space Stronghold of the Sith Emperor ( Original Fortress. DO NOT STEAL. ) has a very similar construction, layout, and design as the Not Secret But Totally Invisible Space Stronghold of Darth Malgus ( My OF is better than Your OF ) and I want to say that considering they are both cloaked, they are either the same fortress or Malgus totally intentionally stole the Emperor’s idea. Anyway, you finally breach the Emperor’s sanctum and face off in combat with his Wrath, Lord Scourge.
Once you defeat Scourge, the other Jedi show up (Thanks for the help, guys), the attack on the Emperor begins proper and then promptly ends as the Emperor kicks everyone’s butt almost instantly. You are the last one standing and even then you still go down to the POWAH! of his Sith lightning. Once you wipe, the Emperor talks about how you all shall become his new weapons and his dark work begins. Yes, indeed. You become Evil. In a cutscene at least. You train to become a powerful Sith, you kill innocents – or at least it’s implied. I get kind of this weird disconnect at this point, because they say you have been under the emporer’s control for a long time. Long enough that the other Jedi you were with become fully fledged generals of the Sith, but you never leave the Stronghold. You are always shown fighting droids, and even at the end are “just” being given the privilege and training to interrogate prisoners. So did you wage war in the name of the Sith? I think you do, but it’s never explicitly shown. It sure as hell makes less of an impact to reveal that while you under Sith control you spent months killing Imperial droids over and over.
After an unknown period of time, you are finally freed of the Emperor’s control thanks to a handy visit from Master Orgus’ ghost. Who apparently took his sweet time getting in touch. I guess Jedi force ghosts are less reliable in manifesting than Sith ones, because those jerks are always around. You jail break your companion from the Emperor fight and then book it to the hangar to get out. It’s useful that you’ve been helping the bad guys for X amount of time, because now no one fights you on the way out. However, when you get to the hangar, you find someone has already sprung all of your friends and unlocked your ship: Lord Scourge. Yes, the big raspberry has decided to join forces with you to help stop the Emperor. He has foreseen it. No, seriously. That’s not a clever Star Wars joke. He really did. He forsesaw you fighting the Emperor. He wants to help because it turns out that the Sith Emperor isn’t out to win this war. No… He wants to devour and absorb all life in the Galaxy to become a super-god. And since Scourge lives in the galaxy, he kinda has a vested interest in seeing it not die. You all hop on board the ship and… /sigh. You head back to Tython. Once there, you relay all this info to the Jedi Council and you begin your new mission: Stop the Emperor from killing everything. Good plan. I like it. I’m happy to be apart of it.
Can someone else do it?
The second chapter of the Jedi Knight storyline is essentially the set up for the big climax. The equivalent to the Prologue to Chapter One. However instead of being a step back, it does very much feel like a step up in terms of scale. You are preparing for what is probably the biggest mission any class in the game gets to experience. On top of that, it gives you short but solid characterization for all of the Jedi Masters you are fighting with so that their defeat and ultimate fate in Chapter 3 actually carries some impact.
This chapter and the one that follows actually has some of the most crossover potential in terms of information given next to the revelation of what exactly happened to the Supreme Chancellor to cause the switch to Saresh from the Bounty Hunter story. Here we find out what happened to the Emperor’s Wrath, which not only gives us a sense of how the third chapter of the Sith Warrior starts, but when since we also find out that Scourge doesn’t defect until after your “long time” in service to the Emperor. Apparently the break between Chapter 2 and 3 of the Sith Warrior was quite a break.
The companions in this chapter are actually solid and interesting characters. They have well defined personalities that don’t require to unlock half of their ‘on the ship’ conversations to get to know them. You know that Doc is a flirt that cares about the well being of everyone, and that Rusk views the world in terms of calculated risk and victory. Rusk is honestly one of the better ‘soldier to a fault’ characters I’ve seen done in the game. Even Elara Dorne cracks that ‘by the books’ exterior here and there, but Rusk? You either do the mission or die trying. There is no quitting, no hesitance, no questioning a superior. If you die, you will die in the service to the Republic and protecting the freedoms and people of it. Doc on the other hand is the opposite and they contrast each other well. Doc believes everyone deserves a chance to be healthy and safe. He believes in prisoners over killing and that no one is above getting a fair shake. He also constantly flirts with anything resembling a female to the point where I think Scorpio in the Imperial Agent storyline would be in trouble (until she fried him to a crisp.) It’s interesting because it’s creepy, annoying, and ever present but at the same time – and I fully admit that as a man I might be completely misreading this and be so completely off base, so if any woman would like to weigh in on the comments by all means I welcome your experiences with Doc – but it never felt as… insulting as Corso’s hypocritical attempts at chivalry. It felt more like Ron Stoppable from ‘Kim Possible’ trying to get a date for the dance, keeps getting shot down but also keeps trying. Then again, Ron Stoppable didn’t continuously try with the same girl that rejected him over and over and over. So yea, back to creepy in a way.
Scourge spends all his characterization going, “Hmm. I see. Unexpected. Interesting.” over and over and then he joins your crew at the literal last minute of the Chapter. I will say that I did LOVE that his justification when challenged that Sith only act for selfish reasons is that wanting to save the Galaxy from the Emperor is horribly selfish as he does not want to die. That right there made him my favorite companion for Chapter Three. Sorry Kira, gotta bench ya.
The ending of the chapter is probably one of those things that really could go either way depending on how you interpreted the events. You’re told you are the Emperor’s tool, that you have been for a long time, and yet it never explicitly shows you doing anything outside of killing droids for training under a Sith overlord. If you honestly believe that you have been attacking the Republic under mind control, that is a big impact that not only confirms the visions about you, but would make the final chapter one of atonement as well as saving the galaxy and gives the eventual battle with the Emperor that personal edge of revenge that would tempt you to the dark side in a classic Star Wars fashion. But how that actually plays out is to be seen next time. Till Chapter Three, folks.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter of the Jedi Knight storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
Last time on the Jedi Knight story, a Sith in disguise stole the plans to a bunch of superweapons that the Republic military was working on. The Sith was defeated but not before the plans got out and his father, Darth Angral swore revenge on the Jedi Knight. Instead of begging General Garza to use their own elite team – Havoc Squad – General Var Suthra enlists the aid of a team of Jedi to track down the missing super weapons. Master Orgus Din and Master Kiwiks were sent after two of the research facilities, while the young Jedi Knight and their new padawan Kira Carsen are being entrusted with less risky but totes still important tasks.
Our first stop on this whirlwind world saving tour is the planet of Taris where no doomsday weapon awaits us but a scientist who makes doomsday weapons: Doctor Godera. Godera was the man who designed all of the superweapons for the Republic but left behind everything when the Treaty of Coruscant was signed. He was convinced it was a bad move and that it was just the Empire buying time to regroup and wipe out the Republic once and for all. So now he putts around in a swamp. Not exactly my top choice for a retirement destination but hey, a good chunk of Florida is swamp and it seems popular enough.
We aren’t the only ones looking for Doctor Godera. Watcher One with Imperial Intelligence is also looking for him. So if any of you Imperial Agents have been wondering why the Watchers start at ‘Two’, this is why. This also raises some interesting flags if you are familiar with the Agent’s story because Watcher’s jobs are to do just what they’re name implies – watch. They are not field agents normally. That’s the Cipher’s job. So the fact that a Watcher is here looking for the Doc implies that this may not be a task that was issued by Keeper directly and sure enough that’s 100% true as it is revealed that Watcher One is reporting directly to our super villain for this chapter: Darth Angral.
Watcher One is actually one of the more competent villains you face. He reasons with you and tries to come to a result where you can both get what you want (he extracts the info he wants from the Doc, then hands him over to you with no fuss). He uses decoys and disguises to ensure that he doesn’t risk personal injury in the pursuit of his goal. He even sets up diversionary tactics like having arranging a meet between a Sith and some pirates to deal in lost Jedi relics to throw you off the chase long enough to interrogate the Doctor. I kinda wish that Watcher One stuck around to be Angral’s right hand for this chapter but he is sadly a one and done villain. Probably for the best though as I can imagine he would run out of tricks fairly quick over the course of an entire chapter.
The only other character of note is the good Doctor’s droid, who is an extremely snarky hunk of junk. It calls the Republic cowards, it questions your more questionable decisions, and it is generally a fairly good comedic addition to the plot for this one world. He’s kind of a HK-51 Lite, without all the ‘wanting to kill meatbags’ that comes with being a Hunter-Killer droid. All the snark and none of the murder. In fact the robot actually notes that it is NOT designed for combat and has no clue what to do if the Imperials come back for it.
I’d talk more about the plot but it’s really nothing of note other than just chasing the Doctor and Watcher One around the planet. Most of the memorable bits come from Watcher One’s brilliant tactics that don’t feel forced or contrived, which considering I’m playing this right after dealing with two straight chapters of Darth Thanaton’s crap… That’s a relief.
Now we actually get into dealing with a super weapon: The Power Guard Project. A super-secret project as in that only those working on it and General Var Suthra know it exists. The Power Guard Project is designed to take any normal jane or joe and turn them into a cybernetically enhanced killing machine on par with a Jedi in terms of strength and ability. Sounds awesome and morally questionable. Truly this is the sci fi military we’ve been longing for. One that would happily try to tame genetically engineered dinosaurs regardless of how many pesky civvies die along the way. The only downside is that because its so super secret and no one knows about it, if a hypothetical Sith were to hypothetically take over – who would know? Well that’s the not so hypothetical case here, and the SIS isn’t happy about it.
The SIS for those who are new to The Old Republic is the Republic’s equivalent to Imperial Intelligence – the Strategic Information Service. They are the so called ‘good spies’ in this whole mess and they reaaaaally don’t like being left out of the loop. So when you actual meet up with the SIS, they are less than pleased with you and General Var Suthra. Especially since it appears that someone is leaking SIS secrets, exposing agents and potentially compromising their secret location – down an not-hidden-at-all elevator in a completely empty shop with no doors in the business shopping district of Nar Shadaa. (Oh no! How did they find us!? /sarcasm)
Most of the story for Nar Shadaa is actually trying to figure out where the heck the base of operations for the Power Guard Project is located so you can shut it down and stop the Sith that has taken it over. Through out the adventure you do discover more about what the project is and how its been accomplished. You fight early prototypes of the ‘Power Guards’ and find they are little more than machines. They don’t speak or feel and pretty much any higher brain function has been shut off in favor of making ruthless killing machines. They don’t even question the fact that their loyalties have been literally switched over to the Empire. Worse yet is the reveal that these former people were all refugees that the Republic picked up and turned into these monsters. It’s only slightly SLIGHTLY helped by the information you discover that they were all supposedly volunteers. Did they know that they wouldn’t even have a mind to think with afterward? Eeeeh, not touched on.
So by the end, most of the SIS is dead and their base is destroyed, you find Agent Galen – your original contact – to find he’s been turned into a Power Guard but has his mind left intact so he can bear witness and be fully aware of his actions even if he can’t help but obey. You can opt to either kill or attempt to save Galen mark the first of a set of moral choices involving killing or saving people that seem inconsequential typical choices but actually do come into play later in the story. Much later though, so we won’t talk about it here. Finally, you take out the Sith – another flunkie of Darth Angral – who has upgraded himself into a Power Guard body but fully aware and in control. What’s left of the SIS shows up to ‘mop up’ and you get one last moral choice of either preserving the Power Guard research data or burying and let the whole thing burn.
Once you get back to the ship, you get a call that there is an Imperial admiral that is looking to defect. One of Angral’s entourage. He’ll only meet you at a secluded mining asteroid. Var Suthra insists that you and Kira go check it out. I mention its a trap. Var Suthra says the possibility of finding out Angral’s plan is too great to pass up. I ask for back up. Var Suthra says that he won’t risking spooking the Admiral. I think Var Suthra is fricking helping the Sith and the fish faced bastard won’t look me in the eye. I’m on to you, General.
So you get the asteroid and there’s no Admiral. Just some blonde Sith. Wonderful. He explains that Kira is a Child of the Emperor and serves as the Sith Emperor’s eyes and ears (And as someone who has played the Sith Warrior story I’m now wondering if that’s an official designation like the Emperor’s Voice and Wrath, or they’re just being metaphorical. I DON’T KNOW!) He tries to get Kira to come back with him to their ‘father’ and she refuses. Then you kung fu fight! Or just regular fight I suppose. And that’s it for the interlude. You find out that Kira is a Child of the Emperor, that she was born a Sith, that she ran away once she realized they had been mindwiping her, and became a Jedi. I’m sure nothing will come of this. Nooothing at aaaall. Still, you are given the choice of coming clean with the Jedi Council about this, or keeping Kira’s secret safe. Honestly I’m curious if there will be any long term repercussions to keeping the secret safe. Other than not being able to possible stop all the betrayal in the Jedi Consular Chapter Three…
Back to the main plot, it seems that the two Jedi Masters that were on this whole Super Weapon plan haven’t reported in. So now it’s time to go bail them out. First up is Master Kiwiks who went to Tatooine to check on the Shock Drum, an ultrasonic wave emitter than can shake a planet so much that it would disrupt the core causing a planetary collapse. In close proximity to it, it would cause your body to fall apart. Much more in line with what you think of when you hear superweapon or doomsday device. Again, I just love unrepentant military mad science.
Most of the story here involves one of the scientists who worked on the device and her ‘family’ of jawa that have been helping. They kind of start sending you around helping to reset the power and then the sensors so they can try and figure out where the Shock Drum got moved to. The answer of course is in the middle of the fricking dune sea. Yaay. But before we can go and stop it, you get contacted by another Sith flunkie of Angral’s. Because apparently since the Rule of Two hasn’t been conceived for a few hundred more years, Angral has like a dozen apprentices or something. This one is different though. He explains that he wishes to duel you honorably and should you win he will give you the codes to turn off the Shock Drum, which he naturally changed after stealing it.
So you show up for the duel and true to his word it’s no trap, no back up – just a straight up duel between two combatants. This is actually one of my favorite moments because you actually get to see an NPC example of what is essentially a Light Side Sith Warrior. He’s ruthless, passionate, vengeful and is more than willing to destroy a world on an order, but he is also completely true to his word and will give you a fair fight. He also chose not to attack non-combatants when stealing the drum. I don’t know what else to say other than I am incredibly impressed that this NPC made it into the game. Also that he can be saved and convinced to go to the Jedi temple and join up with the Light Side there, or you can respect his wishes to die a honorable death for failing his master and strike him down.
With the code and location now in hand, it’s time to save Master Kiwiks from the Shock Drum. And Tatooine. Of course. Not like we’d leave this giant sand ball to its fate or anything. You still have one more boss fight to go though, as the Shock Drum has roused a Sand Demon from its slumber and its attacking the Jawas who enthusiastically marched off to their doom to try and help you. You kill the Demon and turn off the Drum. With Master Kiwiks saved from the doomsday weapon, you send her back to Tython to heal. You get to choose what to do with the Drum – save or dismantle. Chances are someone will be upset with whatever you choose so just go ahead and pick whichever you like.
Finally, it’s time to track down Master Orgus Din aka Mister Old and Grumpy Master from Tython and deal with the project he was supposed to be tracking down – ‘The Death Mark’ (trademark pending). Which I suppose could have been worse. They could have called it the ‘DethMarc’ or something like a Rob Liefeld character from the 90s. You arrive on the scene and meet with your contact, an ambassador from House Alde who introduces you to the only survivor from the attack on the lab by killiks (giant bug people. Just getting all of our mad scientist tropes out at this point.) and then immediately the ambassador blows up. See the Death Mark is apparently just a really fancy name for a targeting RFID tag. You stick someone with the Death Mark and you can pin point blow them up with an orbital death cannon (trademark pending) and apparently the unlucky politician was one of those stuck with it. The guards bust in right then and try to arrest you for killing the ambassador but the escapee woman says to take her and she will be held prisoner while you look for the real culprit.
Okay, let me stop you right there plot. Wut? I mean how does that make sense? ‘You suspect this person is a murderer, so take me and let them go!’ Who would even do that? Just because I’m a Jedi that makes me trustworthy? You clearly have not been paying attention to how I play my Jedi. Why would they let you go? So the plot can continue I guess.
You go back to the lab and kill all the killiks and free Master Orgus from being locked in a room with scientists (truly a spiritual leader’s worse nightmare) and discover that – Oh no! That survivor girl was actual the one who STOLE the Death Mark! Dull surprise! Actually, they did a pretty good job not tipping their hands for that reveal. Unlike say, the Bounty Hunter story who might as well put up huge neon lights saying ‘YOUR OPPONENT IS RIGHT HERE HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT’, I honestly didn’t catch this twist at first and it does make a lot of sense since she was meeting with the ambassador alone right before you came in. It seems that she’s been targeting people at the behest of another Sith Lord who – say it with me now – is working for Darth Angral. Her targets are all people who have been advocating for peace in the Alderaan Civil War. The next likely target is the ambassador of House Thul that has been working with House Organa to draft a treaty of some sort. So you call up the Organa guard and tell them to not let her leave only to find that… well… she’s already gone.
Yea, plot I’m going to have to stop you again. So the prisoner you did keep. You let her just wander around your palace unsupervised for the entire time and then did little to nothing to prevent her from leaving? How the hell is House Organa even a contender in this bloody war?
So Master Orgus tells you to go save the Thul guy and stop the woman while he goes to try and stop the laser. You succeed easily since a true member of House Thul trusts no one, not even allies and you can kill or imprison the woman. The Thul guy also knows how to find the Sith Lord behind the attack and gives you coordinates. Time to team up with your master and kick some Sith butt. Obi-Wan and Anakin style! But no. It seems your trustworthy master lied to you. He didn’t go try to shut down the laser. He went after Darth Angral directly. He’s on his ship. Way off at the edge of the system. So it’s Obi-Wan and Luke style. You know what that means, right? Yea… By the time you’ve got to the Sith Lord in his secured bunker, Darth Angral has captured Orgus Din and executes him publicly on the Holonet. The Sith makes sure to tune in so you can watch.
Not terribly shocked, sad to say. I mean, Orgus was just kind of a bland guy who never struck me as someone I cared about. Yea, he wasn’t as clean cut as the other Jedi Masters, he looked the other way plenty of times, but hell until I got to Alderaan I had honestly forgotten his name. This death seemed to serve more as setting up a parrellel to Luke’s journey in the movies so you feel like you’re getting a real Star Wars experience rather than an established and necessary death.
After that the story wraps up on Alderaan with the usual: kill Sith, stop project, dodge giant death beams. Yea, Jedi can dodge those apparently. And giant death beams can also just penetrate the impenetrable underground bunker. Why bother with the Death Mark? Just use that death beam. It seems plenty useful on its own.
Luckily, when you get back to your ship you find out that Orgus had the last laugh: he hid a tracker on Angral’s ship. You can find him no problem now. You track him to the Euphrades system, where the majority of the Republic’s agriculture is grown. You know how Endor is nothing but forest, Tatooine is nothing but sand, and Coruscant is nothing but city? Apparently Euphrades is a planet that is nothing but farms. I would jump at the chance to be cut down by a Sith’s lightsaber then live on a planet that was nothing but farms. But good news, everybody! Euphrades is completely destroyed! Like the atmosphere was ionized and set on fire, the land is destroyed, the water ruined. It’s completely uninhabitable and any ship that enters the atmosphere is stuck there! Yes, it seems the Devastator weapon is online and functional.
You catch a distress signal from a nearby medical ship and have to fight your way to the bridge against Imperial goons to save them and more importantly their data that might show how the Devastator works. There’s a brief moral choice about whether you think the crew should risk their lives to go down to the surface and investigate a possible ping of life signs down below before heading back off after Angral’s ship who has reappeared at Tython.
It appears that the Jedi homeworld is the new target for the Devastator. You have to fight your way through another ship (TWO SHIPS! ONE FINALE! Breaking new ground here.) to square off against Angral directly. He gives you crap about killing his traitor son again, and then Kira starts talking like the Sith Emperor and tells Angral to finish this. You have your final battle with Darth Angral and strike him down, but then Kira get possessed again and you immediately have to fight her as well! With (or without depending on dialogue choices) your help, Kira breaks free once and for all of the Emperor’s grasp (See, easy as pie.) and you return to Tython to be proclaimed big damn heroes and get Kira promoted to a full Jedi knight.
Like the Bounty Hunter and Trooper, the prologue and first chapter of the Jedi Knight story is a complete cohesive narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. By the end of Chapter One, all the loose ends are resolved and all the established villains are defeated and it does it in a fairly heroic way. This story so far has proven to be the most pure ‘save the day’ super hero story you could get and as someone who likes that sort of thing, it was great to play through even as a super Light Side Lawful Good Jedi who never came off as preachy or holier than thou. The Dark Side Jedi seems more snarky and cynical, often proposing military and tactical advantage over having sympathy for those hurt by those advantages being used against the Republic.
The planets themselves each brought a different kind of story so nothing felt repetitive despite it being four straight worlds of ‘find the thing, stop the bad guy from using it.’ As for villains, it was more of a mixed bag. Watcher One and the Light Side Sith on Tatooine were stand out enemies that I thoroughly enjoyed watching every scene with. The other two? They’re pretty much interchangeable. They have nothing unique or interesting about them that makes you want to remember them and the only reason I can keep them separated in my mind is that the one on Nar Shadaa wore a helmet.
The Jedi Knight Chapter One also is unique in the fact that you don’t recruit any companions in it. At all. You get T7 on Tython, Kira on Coruscant and you don’t get your next companion until Balmora at the start of Chapter Two. On the flip side, you’ll get plenty of fun character moments with Kira and T7 depending on who you bring along on the missions, though due to the Child of the Emperor B-plot, Kira clearly gets more limelight than the droid. The Child of the Emperor plot isn’t bad but it really gets relegated to a B-plot. I don’t think it was super necessary to have it resolved so quickly. It’s not terrible though and it does carry a good amount of weight, I just think it could have been stretched out to build the suspense. Especially considering what we start working towards in Chapter Two and Three.
Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen. Just like the Prologue and Chapter One were one single narrative, so are Chapter Two and Three and they are doozy. But that will have to wait until next time. See you then.