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.
<– Chapter Two || SITH INQUISITOR ||
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Sith Inquisitor storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
So where were we? Ah right, left for dead and saved by our friends again. The fact that I have to append again to that statement speaks worlds on how we got this far. Now that our super nasty ghost binding ritual has gone and blown up in our own face, it’s time to head back to the ship to recover. Only that’s pretty much not going to happen. The force walking ritual backfire is apparently now ripping apart your mind and body and if you don’t find a way to fix it and fast, there won’t be a… uh… ‘You’ anymore. Khem Zash has been researching a solution but can only find trace bits of info on a way to solve your problem. It turns out this is because Darth Thanaton has completely duplicated an entire volume of a widely circulated public multi-volume book series and no one has noticed till now. Just as a reminder in case you forgot between chapters that Thanaton is oh so smarter than you will ever be. Thanks game. So the only solution is to break into Thanaton’s secret library on Dromund Kaas and steal the books you need. Because apparently Thanaton just has a ton of super secret hidey holes all over the big Sith headquarters on the Sith homeworld that are ingeniously hidden by… ELEVATORS! So Thanaton’s a mastermind and likes to rub it in your face.
You can fight through the library if you really want, but a simple mind trick will let you just wander around without a single alarm being raised by anyone, even the guards you didn’t mind trick. There you find the books you need. One speaks of an ancient Rakata healing device in the bowels of Belsavis, and the other of the strange healing techniques practiced by the Voss. Since it’s mentioned in other storylines that the Voss was only recently discovered to the point where many don’t even know about it, one must wonder how old these books are. That or Sith are just generally #$%&s to map makers. Either way, we have our first two destinations and since they have set level ranges and the plot states that Khem Zash and Ashara need to research the Voss, it looks like we’re going to…
Yay. Prison world. So apparently we’re looking for an ancient Rakata healing machine and that’s going to be fun as heck since like 90% of this planet is just random Rakata junk. Luckily, Zash gave us a lead: The Circle, a gang of technology junkies imprisoned somewhere on the planet. Which is good. The planet is also in the middle of a massive break out and no one is where they should be. Which is bad. Luckily we can score some prison records to figure out roughly where they were and go from there. Which is good. Even better is when the person guarding the records knows exactly where they went, rendering the need for records to nil. The Circle has been hanging out in some ruins, and they will happily help you provided you help them set up a broadcast relay so they can send their signal out across the Galaxy. This just means fighting off several waves of enemies before fighting a big one, and boom. All done. You then get warned by a mysterious person speaking in a language no one has ever heard before but everyone understands (I assume the characters just read the subtitles along with you) telling you to stop your pursuit.
In exchange, the Circle provide you the means to break into a secure Republic research lab where some Rakata tech was being looked at before the jail break. Once you get in, you scan the hunk of junk which leads you to another research lab where the actual supposed healing machine is, but considering the Darth who came looking for it before you is lying dead in front of it (and perfectly preserved) I think I will be finding another solution. Luckily, a bunch of robots attack! Followed by that weird language speaking fellow who turns out to be a Rakata and calls you a ‘slave race’, but agrees to allow you to use their healing machine in exchange for letting them ‘borrow’ your genetic data to help their science project and to use a data chip to put the healing machine – “Mother Machine” – back under their control. Because apparently the lifeform generating genetic supercomputer became sentient. Funny how that always seems to happen.
You track down the Mother Machine deep in the tombs and you finally get a decent morality choice: enslave the machine (light side) or let it remain sentient and free (dark side). I am not joking about which of those is which. I think the logic is that Mother Machine will use its terrible power to maybe create a doom army and take revenge on being enslaved? Or something? I honestly am really confused on this one. But yea, it’s a light side choice to use the data chip to leash to computer. Go fig. Also, another fun fact that gets revealed here: the Rakata were essentially trying to pull a Jurassic World. Yea, in order to discover why their species lost its own force sensitivity (did you try injecting midichlorians into yourself?) they genetically engineered a bunch of new species to test how the ‘lesser slave races’ would gain the ability to use the force. Specifically, the Esh-Ka, the Twileks and the Zabrak. Is… is this canon? That the Twileks and Zabrak were the result of a lab experiment? Daaaamn. What a weird bit of trivia to drop here of all places. Is there anything the Rakata DIDN’T help create? Ewoks?
Anyway, regardless of your choice, Mother Machine will boot up and let you rebuild your body. Yea, apparently the “Healing Machine” actually just reconstructs your entire body from your genetic code, and yet my face is still covered with scars. Go fig. But we still got voices in our head that are not our own, so it’s time to head to our next destination. But wait! There’s a call coming in!
It would seem that a big wig moff named Pyron is trying to figure out who he should back in the battle between you and Thanaton. He says that the Imperial Military would definitely be swayed if you could help them finish a little ol’ superweapon that Thanaton axed: The Silencer. All it needs is this not-technically-legal-anywhere chip that hey it sounds like your cult on Nar Shadaa might have access to. What’s that? You forgot we had a cult? So did I! But we do. So it’s off to Nar Shadaa.
However, it looks like the intel that my cult had the chip wasn’t exactly right. It seems that another black market dealer that turns out to be three dudes whose minds are cybernetically linked and synced have taken over the entire market on these computer parts. What jerks. However, they’ll happily give you them and so much more if you relinquish the cult over to them to lead instead of the Sith and/or orphan cultist pair. Honestly, since the Sith has proven to run cults for his own vanity and Sith tradition dictates he eventually try and kill me – he’s out. But what about the two cultists that helped me in the first place? If you left them in charge you would periodically get emails from them talking about how they almost ran the bloody thing into the ground. So yea, putting a trio that “single”-handedly took over an entire corner of the black market sounds like a much better management team. Oh, they cry and moan when I tell the old leaders they’re not in charge anymore. But they’ll get over it. Or die. Probably die.
With the chip secured and off to Moff Pyron, you seem to be making a lot of connections but you still got a broken noggin. Time to Voss it up!
Hope you got a d20 ready because Voss is pretty much where we ditch any aspect of science fiction left in this space opera and go on full Dungeons & Dragons. Let me break this down for you: The healing ritual is being held by a cult of outcast voss called ‘Dream Walkers’ who despite being outcasts have their own area in the Shrine of Healing where the ritual is kept, but to access this room you must join their cult and dream walk where you fight all the ghosts in your head. Now you go get the ritual but in order to complete it you’ll need a force-sensitive gormak, a species that can’t use the force, and then free him from his prison. Then you go to Nightmare Lands, convince the gormak not to smash everything, have the gormak use the “dream rock” to turn your “nightmares” into reality so you can kill them and then take the dream rock from the gormak which will then remove the “Nightmares” and heal your mind. All the while you need to walk carefully because the Voss fricking HATE you because a Mystic foresaw that you would destroy the Voss by leading the gormak to the stars, which you do since you trade safe passage off of Voss to the gormak shaman in order to help you. Got all that?
I was NOT joking about this planet being Dungeons & Dragons. On top of the ridiculously long string of events needed to complete this quest and each step usually requiring its own substeps, there is an abundance of what can only be described as ‘magic’ used to make it all work. Oh you can dress it up as ‘The Force’ but between rocks that turn nightmares into reality, a lone magic-using outcast member of an already outcast race that normally can’t use magic, and everything from silly robes to a shrine of healing, you may as well be throwing magic missiles at the darkness here. It just seems really weird to do a magical ritual with a dream rock in the ruins of a temple called the Dark Heart in the Nightmare Lands one minute, and the next minute be flying off in a space shuttle. That is what I call mood whiplash. Voss is full of that crap, especially in this storyline. I mean, the Inquisitor already kind of danced that line. We had an immortality ritual in Chapter One, binding g-g-g-ghosts to increase your power via a blood pact, and now this. This is a STAR Wars game still, isn’t it?
The big pay off at the end of this is of course being rid of the ghosts in your mind. Which doesn’t much do much but reduce the number of voice actors needed for the storyline. Supposedly they’re in your mind, twisting your thoughts and actions in some sick game for their amusement, but all you see of that in-game is that they chime in on the dialogue every now and then like some kind of spectral Mystery Science Theater. They do try to mess with you by taking on the forms of people you’ve betrayed or used during your adventure… and a wampa, but it isn’t convincing at all. Like I really am going to believe that Zash is in the dream world striking up a casual conversation. Heck, the only one who calls you out for your actions is the Jedi from Alderaan. If it’s really a dream, I would have rather seen the whole thing go to some real mind **** territory. Like waking up on your ship to have all your companions turning on you, or when Thanaton shows up actually play it up like he could actually dream walk as well and has come here to put an end to you in a dingy cave on some backwater planet like Voss. Instead we get a few people we KNOW can’t be here spouting the usual “You suck” lines and the ghosts going on and on about how you will lose and they will win. In the end, the whole thing was rather forgettable.
There’s also the matter of the vision of the mystic that says you will bring doom to the Voss by leading the gormak to the stars. You are warned by a voss commando as soon as you step out into the airlock about this and they don’t let up. They harass anyone that helps you about it and keep trying to shoo you off the planet. You ignore them, say you won’t do that, say you’ll stop it from happening, say it’s all just stupid mumbo jumbo, and then… you uh… lead a gormak to the stars. It’s not even a fricking option as far as I can tell. You just do. Worst of all? NOTHING HAPPENS. There’s no doom, there’s no threat at all actually since the gormak shaman wants to go to space to find a new home for the gormak so they won’t try to kill each other. The only way this spells doom is a) waaaaay down the line and b) you are aware of all the storylines that happen on Voss that bring up that the voss and the gormak were once one species, and that if they don’t reunite they will both die out. So naturally the gormak leaving would kind of spoil that reunion. But in terms of this singular story? Nothing. Zilch. No pay off to that threat. Just a voss yelling at you as you leave and a diplomat who gets upset if you anger the voss. Of course you can always just do what I did and mind-wipe them both and head off.
This interlude has two parts: first is to go check on your new apprentice. Apparently they’re just finishing up their final trial on Korriban. And the winner is…. The Twilek! Wait, wha? Oh nevermind. Xalek comes in and beats him to death. Harken has a fit over someone dying at the Sith Academy (and being caught) and goes off to tell Thanaton. Xalek then joins your party. The end. No seriously, that’s all that happens. Xalek barely speaks. Heck for me he just grunted at me then wandered off to the ship. So glad to have such a story rich character along for the ride. He’ll fit in nicely with Pirate Who Tagged Along For No Reason, and Scientist Who Quit His Promising Career For No Reason To Come Bum Around With You. Seriously, the only companions that seem to have any significant plot reason to tag along are Khem and Ashara. Damn.
Moving on, you soon get a call that the superweapon is complete. You head off to the ship carrying it and test it out on an unsuspecting fleet of Republic goons. Also there’s apparently another Imperial ship in the fray. It’s headed by a Darth that’s a lackey for Thanaton, so we’re presented with a choice: Kill him with the fleet, or tell him to GTFO while we kill the fleet. Either is a valid choice really. Opting to let him live will get you a transmission with a string of insults and threats that he would totally make good on if you hadn’t just saved his life. Either way impresses the moffs who pledge their loyalties to you. Also it catches Thanaton’s eye… somehow. Who is impressed that the superweapon project that he canceled for no reason works. Did he have reason to think it wouldn’t? Who knows! Because before we can talk about the superweapon, Thanaton declaes a “Kaggath” – an ancient sith duel that will pit power base against power base across the arena of… all of Corellia. Wow, really? Dang. Okay dude. Now… does anyone have a power base I can borrow?
So apparently my ‘Power Base’ is just that one moff I helped out. Corellia is essentially one big brawl across the planet that plays out with Thanaton doing something and you trying to stop him followed by Thanaton running away. The only exception to that plan is your very first mission that Moff Pyron suggests which consists of pumping Thanaton’s apprentice for information. You can do this by either beating it out of him or making him a better offer to join your side. The apprentice is kind enough (or willing enough depending on how you pried the intel from him) to let you know that since your entire power base is that one moff’s fleet, Thanaton plans to blow up the fuel dispensary so they can’t refuel. Beyond the fact that it boggles my mind that a frickin’ star ship in the Star Wars universe still requires the use of a gas station, Thanaton’s actions are tantamount to treason for acting against the Empire. Of course, he’s also a Dark Council member, so he gets a ‘Do whatever I want’ card (Sith Warriors know what I’m talking about.)
So begins the song and dance of chasing after Thanaton around the planet like looking for Princess Peach. You stop him at the refinery, beat him, and he runs away. You attack his base in a museum, he sics a robot on you, and runs away. He attacks your Moff dude and before you even get there – He. Runs. Away. So finally, you have your final showdown of the Kaggath. Everyone’s watching. You beat him in a duel and then… you guessed it – he runs away. I don’t know what’s worse the fact that the mastermind villain for two chapters is reduced to Zoidberg-esque levels of fleeing or that he pulls rank about being a Dark Council member when he loses. Yea, the punk actually tells you that since he’s a Dark Council member, you don’t have the authority to defeat him in the Kaggath. Nice to know that I was doomed from the start.
Though I should be fair about something. I said your entire power base was just that one moff, but that’s not true. If you save the Sith during the Silencer superweapon test, he will refuse to fight you when Thanaton asks him to, and that one less annoying assistant from Balmorra (the aide to your liaison that you may or may not have killed when you may or may not have killed his son) is here and he’s happy to see you. So that’s something. I suppose. But no, your cult regardless of who is running it has no power here. The superweapon doesn’t come into play at all. Lord Cindaquil never comes back from partying on Nar Shadaa. It’s pretty much that one guy from Balmorra, the Darth you didn’t kill with the superweapon, and Moff Pyron. That’s your power base to throw against Thanaton. Maybe if I had actually spent time in the storyline cultivating a power base instead of looking for relics/ghosts/a cure, there might have been some merit to it all but nope. /sigh
So Thanaton being the wimp he is runs all the way back to Korriban to ask the Dark Council for help in killing you. You give chase only to be stopped by a Darth and his stooges at the door to the chambers. He tells you that there are many others who agree with what Thanaton is doing. By that I’m assuming ‘purifying’ the Sith Order with an emphasis on tradition and ancient values (I hear he wants to post the Sith Code outside the Dromund Kaas courthouse too) but any point he wants to make is quickly rendered moot once you realize that he’s just here to be one more fight before the actual final boss.
Speaking of which Thanaton is making his passioned cry about how you should be put to death for ‘corrupting traditions’. I swear that this man is becoming more and more like a weird Sith Fox News anchor or something (Thanks Obi-Wama.) But it seems that even the Dark Council is sick and tired of hearing this guy whine on and on about this crap. To the point where they actually are chatting to each other that if someone doesn’t shut him up, they will after all they just got done listening to Darth Baras’ long winded speech (I like to pretend that the Sith Warrior ending was just a few hours earlier.) Luckily, you are there to help with that.
The final battle is actually pretty much the same as the other times you’ve faced Thanaton, only it appears that he’ll deal some extra damage and have shorter cooldowns. He mostly will just drop massive AOE death fields on the ground and spam Lightning Storm, with an occasional whirlwind or stun tossed in for good measure. It does however seem that his AOEs are at least somewhat based on Line of Sight, so you can use the thrones around the room to dance circles around and keep him from casting some of his nastier abilities. If an AOE gets dropped, just switch to another throne and continue smacking him when you get a chance with your saber or instant cast abilities. It may take a while, but he’ll go down. Just don’t count on your companion last long unless you are actively healing them.
After you beat Thanaton, the other Dark Council members finish him with a force neck snap. They congratulate you and over you his seat on the Dark Council. Of course, to be on the council you need to be a Darth and in what is probably the coolest part of this ending that sets apart from all the rest is you are actually granted a Darth title based on your alignment: Dark side characters get Darth Nox for your mastery of the Dark Side, light side gets Darth Imperius for their loyalty to the Empire and the select few gray morality Sith get the title Darth Occlus for having an inscrutable reputation.
After that you get to go all the way back to Dromund Kaas where you meet your followers in YOUR new meditation chambers. While many of these characters are just generic stand ins there are a handful of people you will recognize from your journey along with your companions. Most notable however is that apparently your old Sith Academy instructor and all around legendary hard ass Harkun is at the ceremony. Apparently he decided to jump on board once Thanaton was dead? He’s in for a rude awakening. Finally there’s the matter of the ghosts. You may have promised/lied to free them once its done. Your given a choice to either enslave them permenantly or let them leave and in the case of the latter a few will actually stick around with you. There’s actual a third option I stumbled upon though in which you use your “light” to release them from their ghostly trappings and free them to the afterlife proper. I dunno if this is only for light side characters or not, but it’s neat that it’s an option.
While I can’t in good conscious say that the Inquisitor storyline was worse than some of the others, I can say that it does something worse than be bad: it wastes potential. The entire storyline has so many amazing bits that could easily bump this into one of the best storylines in the game, but it doesn’t go for them. It plays it safe and simple, it prefers to do the predictable and the dull, and it never tries to escape the trappings of a plot designed to go along with a rigid MMO leveling experience. The relics in chapter one have no significance and even their bizarre powers are only mentioned a few times and have zero impact on the story. The ghosts are actually interesting in the sense that you can choose to forcefully bind them or bargain with them. The broken mind/body aspect has zero gameplay effect other than a few scenes where the ghosts talk to you. They don’t take over your actions or manipulate your senses and when they try to make you see things in dreams they are flat out BAD at it. The whole power base thing comes right out of left field and I had no idea I was even supposed to be bothering with a power base the first time I played this. In the end, the whole thing felt like it had a ton of neat ideas and wanted to touch on them all but not commit to any one of them. The result is a mish mashed plot where nothing feels like it has any weight to it. Who do you leave in charge of the cult? It doesn’t matter. What if you let that scientist on Balmorra live? Nothing. Lord Cineratus? Might as well call him Lord Not-Appearing-After-This.
To make all that feel even worse, you have a villain you is played up at being so completely competent at every aspect of politics and strategy that you can literally never get the upper hand on him until you beat his face in at the last planet. Ah yes, Thanaton’s vital weakness: pain! Thanaton honestly turns from ‘Villain you can’t hope to defeat because the writers keep pulling the rug out from under you’ to ‘complete joke’ in the matter of four quests on Corellia. It’s hard to believe the man who knew not only that I had survived his instant kill blow, was returning to kill him, and the location and time of where I was going to do it so he could be there and ready for me ends up whining to the Dark Council and begging them to maim me because he got his butt handed to him in what the other Sith literally call a playground game. What’s worse is that there is another villain who does all this and does it SO much better: Darth Baras from the Sith Warrior story. Baras remains a vital threat to you through the majority of the third chapter and sets up a scenario that makes it so that every move you make actually helps him win, so your only choice is to strike him down in combat. As opposed to Thanaton who never feels like he’s earned his victories. He just knows things to make the player’s life difficult. He’s the SWTOR equivalent to a meta-gamer.
So was it bad? Eh, it had it’s moments where it shined. A handful of individual planet stories really show where the story shined and where it could have been used as an inspiration to become amazing. But if anything that makes it okay and that’s the best I can say for the Inquisitor story: It was okay. There’s some great ideas, but your character is treated like an idiot. The planet stories can be really enjoyable, but the overall story and villain are a complete mess. I honestly felt like they were just making it up as they went along and didn’t have any sort of concrete idea or theme for the class in general. So it becomes very hit and miss. If anything it feels a lot like it WANTS to be like the Consular storyline only evil, but doesn’t want to put the work into getting to that level of interconnecting storylines. Yea, so this one was a firm, middle of the round ‘Meh.’ I won’t be bothering leveling up another Inquisitor, that’s for sure.
<– Chapter Two || SITH INQUISITOR ||
While I continue to work on my SWTOR class reviews proper, the summaries for all of the various class stories are pretty much done. I decided to tackle yet another project. With the launch of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, I realized how many people were probably coming back to the game and that with as much space as there is between patches, some folks may not recall exactly what happened in the story leading up the expansion. Especially since Final Fantasy XIV significantly expanded the main scenario storyline with each patch. So I thought, how about a summary for that too?
Announcing the Realm Reborn Story Summary!
Unlike the SWTOR story summaries, this one is chock full of SPOILERS, so be warned before reading down the page. After all, the SWTOR page was mostly designed as a spoiler free way of seeing if the storyline would interest you before sinking 50 levels into the narrative but Final Fantasy it’s more of a catch up/reminder tool. It’s heavily summarized so don’t expect too much in the way of a point-by-point quest-by-quest breakdown. It also assumes you have some familiarity with names and places in the world of Final Fantasy XIV. Though some reoccuring elements such as Hydaelyn and the Primals are explained somewhat.
Anyway, I hope you Final Fantasy XIV fans get a kick out of it. It’s broken down by patch, so you can go and read just the parts you want. I plan to expand it into including stuff like the story for the raid content that is now kind of outdated with the expansion, so I don’t know if as many people will get a chance to see the AWESOME tribute raid to Final Fantasy III: The Crystal Tower or the lore filled bits of the Coils content.
Welcome back one and all to yet another installment of Vry desperately tries to convince the world that Final Fantasy XIII doesn’t completely suck. Today we’re going to be tackling the main story and the characters of Lightning Returns, since the two are pretty much interwoven. Much like the Final Fantasy XIII prime, much of the story is driven by Lightning, her personal mission, and her interactions with her friends and enemies. Which is important to note, because as you find out as soon as the short prologue mission you’ll find out that who falls on which side of that distinction may have shifted in the intervening 500 years that Lightning was snoozing in crystal. This will also cover a good chunk of the story for the game, as most of the main story missions for Lightning are tied directly to her friends. Fair warning, beyond this point there be SPOILERS for the entire trilogy.
We should probably start with our main protagonist: Claire ‘Lightning’ Farron. A lot has happened to Lightning over the course of the trilogy. She was branded a l’Cie, changed her destiny and defied the will of god-like beings known as fal’Cie, was sucked into the Unseen Realm of the Dead, became the knight guardian of the Goddess of Death, got out-chessmastered by a near immortal mad man, and sealed herself away in crystal slumber to avoid the apocalypse. That was before this game starts. At the beginning of this game, Lightning was drawn out of her crystal slumber by Bhunivelze, the ‘true’ god of the world and the being that created the first fal’Cie (Lindzei, Pulse, and Etro) and the world. Bhunivelze tasks her with becoming the savior and to secure as many souls as she can before his arrival to erase existence. In exchange for providing this service Bhunivelze will resurrect Serah, Lightning’s sister who the catalyst for the first game and the hero of the second game that met with a tragic end. Lightning agrees and sets out on her mission, but as things progress she begins to note things are amiss. Like the fact that while she knows she should and normally WOULD be outraged at God using her sister as a bargaining chip, she feels utter indifference towards it. She is driven solely by the goal she made for herself when she entered the crystal slumber – be reunited with Serah at any cost.
Helping Lightning in her mission is Hope Estheim. Hope was Lightning’s travelling partner and pseudo-student in the first game who later would start an organization to help save the world by building a new world for everyone to avoid the apocalypse in called New Cocoon and later just The Ark (Hint: It didn’t work!) Hope’s appearance in this game is that of his younger self as shown in the first game. No one knows why. Not even Hope. He vanished some 169 (Get it? 13 x 13 = 169. HA!) years prior to the game, and when he returned he was regressed to the young boy that Lightning last saw him as and filled with all the knowledge he would need to help Lightning complete her mission. Hope is weird. He routinely tries to push Lightning to focus on her mission and to ignore all the questions she has about her changed behavior. He speaks like he is ancient but with the body of a child, something to be expected when no one has aged in 500 years but here’s the kicker – NO ONE ELSE DOES. In fact, no one ages or matures or anything in that time. Children still act like children, despite being so for hundreds of years. So what’s up with Hope? Well, that is explained later and we’ll get to that.
Next up is Snow. Snow is now the “ruler” of the City of Yusnaan, which considering the last we saw was him continuously beating up a giant Flan monster like Sisyphus in XIII-2, I’d say that’s a step up. Snow has had a depressing turn since his fiance, ‘SERAH!’, died 500 years prior. He’s taken up the habit of becoming the protector of the city and thus its ruler mainly because he feels so much regret that he couldn’t save anything else. He failed to find Lightning for Serah, he failed to protect Serah, and then he failed to protect the world from the Chaos – so now he feels he’s making up for that. It’s also interesting to note that Snow is a l’Cie – a servant bound to a fal’Cie – and no, it’s never explained how he got re-l’Cie-ed after having the brand removed from him by Etro at the end of XIII. Well, it technically is but only in an external light novel that was never published outside of Japan. I really wish Square Enix would stop doing that. These games can be confusing enough as it is without them putting out plot info in other books that I can’t get my hands on. It’s like if the Hobbit movies only made sense if you were familiar with the Lost Tales books… oh wait… Oh! And they were only published in Germany. That’s more like it.
I’ll just tell you though. During Snow’s Most Excellent Adventure through time and space during XIII-2, he found himself struggling to accomplish… well anything. After all, at that juncture Snow was just a normal dude with a super-powered trenchcoat (Yes, that’s still a thing in these games). He can’t jump through time and space willie nilly. But luckily he comes across an actually friendly fal’Cie called Cactuar. They make a pact that Snow would help Cactuar, and Cactuar would make him a l’Cie so he could carry out his mission. That’s why Snow has the l’Cie brand in XIII-2 and Lightning Returns. Back to the actual plot!
Snow has decided that the best way to protect Yusnaan from the Chaos is to absorb all the Chaos into his own body. Hey, he’s a noble protecting of the people. Just not a SMART noble protecting of the people. Actually it seems more like his own personal honorable form of suicide since he’s pretty much lost everything he cares about. Even when Lightning returns (See what I did there?) he makes it perfectly clear that she is NOT the Lightning he knows. Which raises the question, who is she? Snow has a cool mechanic in the game in that the longer you put off fighting him, the more and more he turns into this crystal monster and becomes MUCH more dangerous. So first time players, fight Snow BEFORE Day 7 ends. You’ll be glad you did. Save Monster Snow for your New Game+ or New Game++ playthrough.
Now with Snow out of the way, what about Vanille and Fang? Well aren’t they still trapped in the crystal pillar? NO! For some reason (the will of God? Who knows…) they both thawed out of the pillar thirteen years ago. Vanille also came out of the pillar with the strange ability to hear the dead. All of them. Like everyone who has died since the chaos swept through the world. So 500 years of dead people constantly screaming at her. This has turned her into something of a religious icon for the church in Luxerion. They plan on having her perform a giant ritual to ‘send’ the souls and ‘free them’ as per God’s will. Turns out the truth is a bit less Disney-esque: She is literally purging the souls from the universe. People will forget that the souls and the individuals that once possessed them ever existed. Oh, and it will kill Vanille too. This is all part of Bhunivelze’s big plot to save only the souls HE deems worthy and as chosen by HIS savior. Dude’s a control freak (Not shocking from the ‘diety’ who literally destroyed time itself to find out if his dead mommy was plotting against him.) Enter Fang – who does NOT want Vanille to die. She’s been in the desert trying to find the “Holy Clavice” which is a relic from ancient times needed to perform the ritual. Her idea is to beat the Church to the relic and then destroy it so Vanille can’t perform the ritual. Vanille refuses to listen to Fang about how the ritual is going to kill her, because she feels this is a higher calling and that sacrificing herself to save all these poor souls is worth it. Vanille has had this self-sacrificing guilt thing going on since the first game, and it’s finally coming to a head here. So Fang’s storyline is essentially a Indiana Jones vs the Nazis style race to the huge religious artifact. But at least not before we get some Les Yay laced dialogue between Fang and Lightning (No, this isn’t fan service. It’s CANONICAL fan service. Remember, Fang did use the “Let’s see how far your mark is progressing” excuse to scope Lightning’s breasts in the first game. Fang also has a relationship with Vanille that – to paraphrase the developers – ‘transcends friendship and sisterhood’.)
Rounding out the first game’s crew there’s Sazh. Last we saw of ol’ Sazh was that he was trapped in an outside-of-time Casino playing cards for his son’s life, and then he appears 500 years in the damn future to help during doomsday with no explanation how he got there. Oookay, I was unfair when I said that. It is somewhat explained in the Sazh DLC for XIII-2 when he asks the Casino owner to send him somewhere that he can make a difference. However, it seems that all of that card playing was for not because in the post-chaos world of Nova Chrysalia, Dajh’s soul is missing! His body is fine, just sleeping away in Sazh’s bed, but the soul is gone to who knows where. Thus Sazh’s quest for Lightning is to get Dajh’s soul back. The kid’s soul is split into five pieces scattered across the world. However the easiest to get is the one from Chocolina, who for those who don’t recall is essentially The Doctor from Doctor Who if he decided to open up a store where he landed and dress like a giant chicken. Chocolina is also the baby chocobo that Sazh bought for Dajh in the first game given the power to change into human form by Etro. In this instance, Etro may have been too nice. Chocolina loves to tease Lightning about this and constantly remind Light that Chocolina knows who she is, but Lightning has NO CLUE who Chocolina is.
Well, that’s the original team but how about the XIII-2 characters? Well, you’ll be happy to know that the fates of Noel, Yuel, and Caius are discussed here and oh boy is this one a doozy. Strap in kids. First we’ll get Noel out of the way. Noel is actually the mysterious leader of the Children of Etro that have been killing off anyone who looks like Lightning in Luxerion in hopes of stopping the Savior. Noel wants to kill Lightning not because of her jerking him around like a puppet in the previous game but because Noel has spent 500 years losing his mind obsessing over how to save ‘his’ Yuel, or the last of the Yuels that died in his arms. He was given a Prophecy Drive (an old device used to record the prophecies of the Seeress Yuel) that shows him killing Lightning and being reunited with Yuel. Who gave him this drive? We’ll get to that. Anyway, Lightning and Noel end up butting heads across Luxerion until she finally beats him and leaves him a broken man pretty much.
Caius and Yuel on the other hand? They’re having a much worse time. Caius succeeded in his plan to break open Etro’s Gate and destroy time, and even somehow lived to tell about it. But now 500 years later, his life is a living hell. Why? Because of Yuel. Yuel the girl he fought so hard to save. Yuel, the girl he destroyed time itself so she wouldn’t have to suffer. Yuel, the first human and blessed by Etro to be reborn each time she died because her heart did not fade into the chaos like everyone elses. Wait. Does that mean? Yes siree. When the Unseen World poured out into the Seen World, every single incarnation of Yuel came with it. Now Caius is stuck with them all. The Yuel who loved Poetry, the Yuel who liked Flowers, ALL OF THEM. And worse, they can’t decide what to do with Caius. Some pity him and want him to die so he can at last have peace, but some adore him and want him to live forever with him. Now Caius is trapped and wants to be put out of his misery by Lightning. The irony is not lost on him. However, the more important thing we learn is that the Chaos, this stuff that seems to eat away at reality itself – that’s Yuel’s fault. As she puts it, the Chaos is her ‘love for Caius’ but what that actually means is that her constant resurrections to be with her guardian was the reason that the Chaos was growing and bleeding through into the Seen World. Her very nature of being reborn whenever she died was damaging reality and thus was responsible for pretty much everything that went wrong from the ending of XIII to now. Again, the pity of Etro has messed things up. Then again, that’s the way with fal’Cie isn’t it?
For the final stragglers of the series: Serah is dead, her soul being the first one absorbed by Lightning while she was in Crystal Slumber to “protect it”. Odin, Lightning’s eidolon and ally, was turned into a majestic white chocobo by the Chaos (the Chaos is weird like that and transforms things a lot. Humans don’t get affected because they already have a touch of Chaos in them in the forms of “Hearts” that Etro gave them.) and Mog the Moogle is now the ruler of a village of moogle which is oddly hinted at being where he was from originally in XIII-2 making Mog’s very existence a weird time loop paradox, but since that’s an optional side quest in both XIII-2 and Lightning Returns, it never really gets addressed.
So that covers all the previous characters and most of the story but we’re missing something. Something to unite all this disparate stories into a cohesive whole and the game has given us that in the form of Lumina. Lumina is a brand new character for Lightning Returns who appears as early as the opening cutscene. She is inexplicable woven into almost every main story quest in the game. Who gave Noel the Prophecy Drive? Lumina. Who gives Sazh the box to store and recombine Dajh’s soul fragments? Lumina. Who is constantly pestering Snow? Yup. Who tipped off Fang about the Holy Clavice and the Church’s plot? You bet. So who the heck is she? Well, the long story short is and this is a BIG spoiler: She’s Claire Farron. She’s Lightning’s “heart” for the lack of a better term, given form by the Chaos. When Bhunivelze resurrected Lightning from Crystal Slumber and raised her to the status of ‘Savior’, he cast away her emotions and her heart, leaving her with nothing but her memories and her last goal: be reunited with Serah. She has no real emotional attachment to this goal other than it being ‘The Goal’ so when Bhunivelze uses it as a carrot on a stick to Lightning, she’s sees not someone using her dear sister as bait but as an opportunity to complete the goal. Her discarded emotions, her heart as it were, were discarded and took shape in the Chaos manifesting as Lumina who has a combination of Serah’s looks and Lightning’s snark and compassion for her friends. Throughout the game, Lumina pushes Lightning to realize what Bhunivelze took from her and to try to steer her back on the path to being reunited with her heart, her friends and ultimately her sister – who Bhunivelze never had any intention to return to life. Serah’s soul was to be flushed away with all the others during Vanille’s ritual and then since no one would have any memory of the souls, Lightning would be none the wiser.
Which brings us to the final piece of this puzzle. The grand architect of the Fabula Nova Crystalis himself: Bhunivelze, God of Light and yes, you actually get to meet him in this one. Actually you meet him a lot but you wouldn’t know it because it turns out that the Hope that is inexplicably younger to match Lightning’s last memories of him (She never met older Hope in XIII-2) is actually just a puppet for Bhunivelze himself to speak through. Oh, Hope has his memories buried somewhere, but Bhuni-boy won’t let him touch them unless needed. Hope is just there to help manipulate Lightning into being the Savior, to round up the ‘chosen souls’ and help usher them to his ‘New Perfect World’. Which brings us to Bhuni’s plan. A quick recap: Bhunivelze kills his Mom Mwynn so he can rule the universe himself. He worries that his mother is plotting against him in the Unseen Realm but doesn’t know because as the God of the Seen Realm, his eyes can see all except through the Chaos of the Unseen Realm. He tasks two fal’Cie – Pulse and Lindzei – with trying to break into the Unseen Realm to find out and then goes to sleep until the job is done. He wakes up to find the chaos EVERYWHERE. Yea, that crap he can’t see through? EVERYWHERE. Including in all these humans’ “Hearts”. So he says ‘Screw this, I’m starting over with my own universe where there is no Chaos, no hearts, and no Mom.’ Gets Lightning to do the dirty work and then plans to flush the old universe, dead not-gathered souls and all away so he can play with his brand new shiny universe with his perfect emotionless humans and his Mom won’t be able to stop him despite her being destroyed by the Chaos and turning over her guardianship of the Unseen Realm to Etro for ages already at the time all of this happens but since the Unseen Realm is still a thing where dead stuff goes, use the emotionless-and-has-no-memory-of-Serah Lightning to become the ‘New Etro’ and stand watch over the land of the dead. That’s his plan in a nutshell. I said it before: control freak.
I think that pretty much covers the characters and about 85% of the plot of the game. It’s a bit weird to go about it this way, but the game is extremely non-linear so the only really way to talk about it is by discussing the characters’ roles in each of the quest lines. Next time in our final installment we will discuss the ending of Lightning Returns and look back at the entirety of the XIII trilogy and the first chapter of the Fabula Nova Crystalis. Thanks for reading!