Everyone is sleeping, eating, or having a lovely chat with death but no one is writing anything! How will we ever get to 1 million? Better question: HOW WILL WE PAY THOSE MASSIVE AMOUNT OF BILLS?!
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?
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 I plan to expand it into including stuff like the story for the raid content that is now kind of outdated with the expansion, so I don’t know if as many people will get a chance to see the AWESOME tribute raid to Final Fantasy III: The Crystal Tower or the lore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!
<– Chapter One || SITH INQUISITOR || Chapter Three –>
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second 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.
Well, you have sort of outsmarted your former master and become a powerful figure within the Sith ranks. Let’s see how quick this goes downhill for you, shall we? Chapter Two kicks off with meeting Darth Thanaton who you might remember popping up in the Prologue and Chapter One at points. He is impressed with you – you’re NOTHING like Zash – and wants to test you to see if you are ready to enter his super special hidden circle. He just needs you to go into a super dark and spooky tomb, way off in some corner of Dromund Kaas where no one goes all alone to fetch a dead Sith’s notes on alchemical poisons for him. Do you see where this may be a bad idea? Good. Because you’re character doesn’t! You get ZERO agency in this. Your character will just stumble into this trap as blindly scripted. Yes, that’s how we’re starting out this Chapter, by walking head first into ANOTHER trap.
And just like before with Zash, it’s up to Ghost Grandpa to bail you out and save you from the insane Sith ghost that was trying to kill you. You know… Ghost Grandpa… who said at the end of Chapter One that his task was done and we wouldn’t be seeing him again. He’s here. To save us again. Somehow. But this time he REALLY is using the last of his strength to help us. For truth-sies. Anyway, Ghost Grandpa tells you to find a different Sith ghost who will teach you the art of Spirit-walking – the ability to bind the souls of the dead to yourself and absorb their power. Before you even ask, NO. There’s is NO Shang Tsung jokes anywhere in this storyline. I will probably be making a few to make up for it. Now you can go back, steal the Sith ghost’s soul (Flawless victory) and get his notes.
When you take the notes back to Thanaton he is less than pleased. He kinda wanted you to die in that tomb (Wha? Noooo. Say it ain’t so.) and he needs you dead because Zash’s entire power base must be destroyed (No one tell him about Khem!) So, he kills you. The end. OR IS IT? Well, we know it’s not. It seems you actually survived thanks to binding the dead souls to you. They actually seem to function as ‘Extra Lives’. Your barely alive body is dragged off to safety by your two apprentices whose names are not important enough to remember so I’ll just call them Jesse and James. Which… wait. Hold on a minute.
Remember in the Chapter One review, where I mentioned the ‘people saving you streak’? Yea. Assuming you didn’t break between Chapter One and Chapter Two, you have just walked into your doom THREE times only to have your butt pulled out by a third party each time in less than an HOUR. A. SINGLE. HOUR. Do you know how much of an idiot your character looks like at this point? You routinely walk into traps, sometimes after being TOLD it is a trap, with no plan prepared other than ‘wing it and hope we live’. Would it be so hard to have a moment where your character actually PREPARES for these things, or comes off as a slightly hesitant or cautious? Maybe show how they stand to gain from doing these dumb things? Like planning on surviving due to the Spirit-Walking so you can let Thanaton think you are dead so you can strike at him from behind. You know, SOMETHING?!
Anyway, you use this revelation of your survival to formulate a new plan: gather more souls to kill Thanaton. Well, at least we’re not a lackey anymore.
Our first destination is Taris, where there have been stories about a grumpy ghost hanging around. The thing is that there’s only one person who can actually get this ghost to show up is a Jedi padawan. So your first goal on Taris is to gather some intel on this padawan and as you soon find out – it’s Ahsoka Tano er… I mean Ashara Zavros! Who is kind of an Ahsoka Tano expy, I won’t lie. She’s disobedient, rude, and somewhat short tempered. Her emotions tend to get the better of her and that kind of has her on the outs with her Jedi Master and peers and thus provides an excellent opportunity to manipulate her into getting what you want.
The first task is to bribe another Sith Lord to use his assassins to stage a scene. You go and dig up some random thing of no significant importance (and no, that’s not setting up a dramatic reveal that it IS important. It’s not. It’s just a random errand.) Using the bartering power of the McGuffin, you convince the Sith to borrow the assassins. The fun part about the whole exchange is actually being able to decide how much information you let the Sith have about what you are doing. Do you let him in on the plot? Do you play coy? It is his man power at risk here, especially since the plan is to have them ambush Ashara and then you save her to gain her trust.
Honestly, the whole plan comes off as simultaneously dumb and yet it works brilliantly because Ashara is just that kind of dense. She gets jumped by a bunch of Sith Assassins and you just in and stop them (either by killing them or by less lethal means) and just like that she trusts you enough to let you help “cast out” the ghost. She actually sits there and dumb foundingly asks why a Sith would attack other Sith. Really? Do they teach you ANYTHING about the Sith work? Or just to kill them wholesale? And this is pretty much Ashara in a nutshell. She is not bright, she doesn’t think she’s through, she simply reacts to her emotions and follows her gut instinct. Sometimes this makes her a sweetheart, and other times you just wanna bop her with a rolled up magazine and say “NO! THINK!” Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like Ashara but DAMN is she a teenager in the worst sense.
SO you actually manage to convince the teen to let you into the Jedi Sanctuary to help purge the ghost, and you make sure to tell her not to tell anyone. So of course she tells two Jedi Masters. Fricking Narc. You fight them, you bind the ghost who appears to be a VERY ticked off ancestor of Ashara – who was also Sith? I think? It’s not exactly clear but he does wear Sith Inquisitor Columni armor. The choice is the usual: Fight the ghost and enslave it, or make a pact with it promising to free it once you’ve done what you need it for.
Then… then the plot gets stupid. Okay, so this entire time some no-name office clerk of a Sith has been helping you to put this whole thing together. Actually, it’s more like he gets you started. He shows up. Says Thanaton will make him a Lord if he delivers your head. So that whole element of surprise, Thanaton thinks you’re dead thing? Apparently not. Thanaton clearly knows you are alive, and is hiring goons to come and finish you off, despite you finishing off his goons before and forcing him to take you out himself. Do I even have to go into how completely counter to the established plot this reveal goes? And it doesn’t stop here. Oh no. You’ll see.
Because no sooner are you done with recruit Ashara and getting back on the ship, than your other two apprentices phone in. Ya know, the two that jumped the Zash ship at the end of Chapter One and dragged your charred unconscious body out of a ditch and right back into Thanaton’s office at the start of Chapter Two? Well apparently they decided to wander off and steal the key to Thanaton’s private meditation chamber. Now they’re being chased around the galaxy by another one of Thanaton’s flunkies. Now it’s never established, and certainly never explained or answered – but do we think that these two little morons are the reason Thanaton knows I’m still alive? Cause I’d venture a guess that yea, that’s the case. Thanaton, despite being a mustache twirling snively whiplash of a villain, is not stupid. These two however will believe whatever they are spoon fed. So they crash on Quesh and you have to go save them.
Or not… I guess? By the time you show, they’re dead. Lord Cineratus has killed them. Now he is on orders to kill you too. In a nice and brilliant tactical move, you can buy him off, not only skipping having to fight him but also gaining his loyalty, service and most importantly silence. Or you can just shut him up by killing him too. That works.
Now that you’ve lost two of your three apprentices (Aww… you almost collected the whole set), Zash Val recommends you head to Korriban to pick you out a fresh one from your old pal Harkun. This mission is short, sweet and only really serves to lord over your new position as an actual Sith Lord to Harkun while also setting up a later companion. I guess which of the random assortment of scum it will be? Maybe the one that killed two potential recruits already and the camera holds on for an uneasily long time? Hmmmm? (I warned you there’d be spoilers. It’s Xalek.)
And of course now we come to Hoth. Apparently we are here because Andronikos heard some stories about some weird stuff happening and a ship carrying Sith artifacts crashing a while back and they were all spoopy about it. Like the laaaaamp was tuuuuurning itseeeelf on! OooooOOoooOoo! Yea, anyway since Hoth is a giant ice ball where anything sitting outside for more than a few days is pretty much buried and frozen in a block, you’re going to need some help for this one. Enter Talos Drelik. Oh, so THIS is where the damn elves sent Talos after the White-Gold Accord. (Ha. Crossover humor.) He’s a wormy little archeologist that is a certified genius when it comes to figuring out where crap is. He’s also delightfully fun, warm, and intelligent. Thus making him the only one on the ship with a college education (No, Zash doesn’t count. Her brains didn’t exactly work out in her favor. Seriously, ‘Go ahead and bring the Dashade’ HA!)
Talos essentially helps lead you across a giant version of World of Warcraft’s archeology profession, only not as tedious. It does however lead you to the ghost p0ssessing an ortolon (those blue elephant looking things) who demands that you ran sack Naga Sadow’s ancient assassin training school because he reeeeeally didn’t like Assassin’s Creed Unity. Talos of course helps you break in to raid the tomb, because hey it turns out that is exactly what he was on Hoth looking for. It’s a giant hole in an ice wall. I am suddenly regretting complimenting Talos’ intelligence.
This leads to the hands down dumbest light/dark choice ever: Do you let Talos scan the relics before you bust them, or just say tough noogies and start smashing. Seriously. You don’t even have to do anything extra or get punished for choosing the Light Side option here other than watching a short cutscene of Talos scanning stuff. That was pointless. Really. Oh and a little tip for this mission: There will be a time when Talos leaves your party to open a door and you have to defend him from three waves of progressively harder droids. If you step back to where Talos is before the first wave spawns, you won’t immediately draw agro and can summon another companion to help you fight them off. Very useful for say… a healy sorcerer.
Finally, you get your last bit of direction to finding the ghost’s actual resting place: a crashed starship in the starship graveyard. Good thing we didn’t even think to look in the Starship Graveyard of crashed starships for our crashed starship, which we now find out didn’t actually crash but landed gently after being piloted to safety by the ghost after the crew died and/or bailed. Only downside is you have to fight through a ton of dudes who are mind controlled by the ghost because… the ghost is a jerk who likes making you jump through hoops. No really, that’s his reasoning. So you do the whole sacrifice/deal schpeal and then head off to space. But wait! Talos is there and he wants to come along. Resigned from the IRS (That’s Imperial Reclamation Service) and everything. Well, okay bookworm. Head on board. We gotta go kill us a Sith, and you’re a healing companion so you might be handy.
Back to Dromund Kaas to sneak into Thanaton’s secret meditation chamber with our secret key and oh bugger he’s waiting for us isn’t he? Yeeeeup. With a hench goon that we’ve never seen before to actually fight no less while Thanaton sits in a bubble. But not before he taunts us about how if we bribed Cinderblock on Quesh that he’s already wasted our money on women and drink on Nar Shadaa. So there’s another brilliant play that went down the toilet. Oh well, kill the bastard. Or the bastard’s assistant, I guess.
After which you face off with Thanaton proper in a cutscene! You channel all your ghostly powers and when their powers combine you are… apparently dead. Yea, it seems that the binding ritual was only meant to be done with ONE ghost at a time. Any more than that and you leave yourself vulnerable to the spirits taking control of your body and mind and doing who knows what. Of course, the ghost that taught you the ritual didn’t say that because he knew you were the schmuck that would dig up as many souls as possible and then he and the others could – as they literally put it – have some fun with you. I AM AWARE OF THE MANY WAYS TO INTERPRET THAT LINE. Also, Thanaton got thrown into a wall and ran away.
So Chapter Two ends with your companions showing up to help/save you from yourself YET AGAIN, and depending on your dialogue choices you can crack a joke and everyone has a hearty laugh. Freeze frame. Roll credits with sappy 80’s sax solo rendition of theme song! The end. Of chapter two at least.
While this isn’t as completely POINTLESS as the Chapter Two Trooper storyline, there is a LOT of wasted potential here. Every chance your character has to look intelligent or cunning is either pulled out from under them making them look like a complete idiot or is swiftly undone off camera somewhere. Enemy thinks your dead giving you the upper hand? NOPE. Get the secret key to the secret meditation chamber? He’s there and waiting for you. Bribe an enemy agent to work for you instead? Pisses it away on booze and lets your enemy know about it. The Inquisitor does not catch one break this entire chapter, and boy does it get frustrating to have your plans get foiled instantly over and over.
I mean, I kind of get it right? They want to show you that Thanaton is this super mastermind that can totally outplay you and write it off as child’s play. But you’re doing it at the expensive of making the protagonist – the PLAYER – feel like a complete moron. Even worse when OTHER NPCs are saving you from obvious traps and then explaining how it totally was an obvious trap. Why not have Thanaton think he has outplayed you, make him counter your every move but him thinking that your goal is different. Like you were looking for relics or some ancient weapon or something Zash would do to help defeat him. Then have it be established among you and your crew that – say around just after Quesh – that because of something Lord Cementtruck said you learn that Thanaton has it all wrong. WHAM. He seems to be winning and outplaying, you get to see what a master at playing the game Thanaton is, and then you have the ace up your sleeve of the ghosts to smack him, but then it goes all wrong.
And that ending I will say is done very right. The ghosts turning on you and the force walking being your undoing is not only a great twist, but is also not a knock against your character. There is no WAY the Inquisitor would have seen it coming because the Ghosts ALL LIED. Not one even tipped their hand or showed the slightest hint that this ritual had unintended side effects when used this way. But they knew. They knew and they waited to use it against you. That I did like. Downright LOVED.
So yea, that was the Inquisitor Chapter Two. A lot of potential, and a lot of screw ups. Not the worse, could have been one of the best, but no. It just falls in the middle somewhere. Pity.
<– Chapter One || SITH INQUISITOR || Chapter Three –>
Well… that was… uh… short?
Heck the Plants Vs Zombies guys got more time. Yeesh. I was expecting to have a chance to say more, but really almost all they did was cover was the exact same bullet points as they did in the press blurb and didn’t go into much more details. Yes, Bioware storytelling where choice matters. Yes, ally or betray with new and old companions. Yes, brand new story focus. Join now! Play now!
About the only thing NEW we got from this E3 presentation was a teaser trailer, a date – October 27th, 2015 – and the news that this expansion will be free to subscribers from the get go. Which considering the attempt at trying to rebuild the often toted and mostly eroded ‘Fourth Pillar’… giving it away to your subscribers is a pretty good idea.
The trailer definitely sets up something epic coming. An empire – not THE Empire mind you. Two twin heirs growing in the force. Their trials and battles and their attempt to overthrow their father. It definitely feels like something big is coming. What’s more interesting is how we will play into it.
Now, the ACTUAL info we want to know is over at THIS website.
There’s also a bunch of cool Subscriber rewards for joining earlier including:
– Nico Okarr companion (He’s that Smuggler from the Republic opening video, I think) – Subscribe by July 31st.
– Nico Okarr’s Blasters (Hey! Cool guns!) – Subscribe by August 31st.
– Nico Okarr’s duster jacket (Oh yessss…. gimme gimme gimme!) – Subscribe by September 30th.
– KOTOR inspired Swoop Bike mount – Subscribe by October 19th.
– And finally, if you are a subscriber for AAAAAALLL of those (and I assume uninterrupted), you’ll get 7 days of early access starting October 20th.
The website also dives into a bunch of the characters that will be featured including the twins, their father – the Immortal Emperor, and returning faces such as Lana Beniko and HK-55. Some of the character descriptions seem to imply that we will choose who we can ally with as the Outlander. Be it joining forces with the Emperor, or helping the Dark Prince overthrow the Eternal Empire perhaps? It also has concept art and the names of a bunch of the chapters already posted. This is looking to be a HUGE expansion. Almost like a relaunch of the game. Except that the old stuff doesn’t appear to be going away.
Actually in that exact vein, it seems like its very much the intent that the old stuff doesn’t go away as it’s all that F2P and Preferred Players will have access to. The FAQ states quite clearly that Subscribers get KotFE for free, but only subscribers will get it as well as the following 7+ chapters. If you unsubscribe, you keep whatever you’ve gained access to – the first 9 chapters after 10/27 and one would assume whatever chapters you ‘unlocked’ by being subscribed. This is backlogged to whatever has been released, so if you wait until all 16 chapters are out and then subscribe, you’ll get all 16 right there. If you unsubscribe then, you’ll still have those 16 chapters unlocked to your account.
The wording is vague but it seems like the post 60 experience will be re-introducing the 8 class stories concept along with the dynamic your-choices-matter storytelling. Thus building on the 1-50 is for free, 50-60 is purchasable and 60+ is unlocked for subscribers. With all this focus on the ‘new’ story coming for Level 60+ players (Which makes an interesting note that NO WHERE does it say there will be a level cap increase. Maybe they are very much focusing on making this a playable storyline and doing away with leveling for it? Would be kind of a radical move. But I’d back it. Leveling is kind of archaic concept that often proves to be a barrier to narrative. Heck, we’ve nearly completely chopped it out of my D&D game. It’s an afterthought really. SEE UPDATE BELOW) I would not be surprised if the Cartel Market saw it’s own version of the ‘Jump to Level 60′ service/token/thing that so many other MMOs have added.
Overall, it definitely has my perked my interest. I am definitely looking forward to this one. What all this ‘dynamic’ story means for my Class Story Summaries? I dunno. Worse comes to worse they’ll still be an excellent tool for the 1-50 experience. I’ll try and keep up with the news here and give my take on it. Meanwhile, Heavensward is also just around the corner and it’s time to take to the skies on my black chocobo once more (Hey, do you remember when Black Choco’s meant FLYING? Congrats. You are also old now. Welcome to the club, we meet on Thursday in Uldah.)
Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ – The largest story-driven expansion to date, Knights of the Fallen Empire, marks a renewed focus on cinematic storytelling in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The expansion will deliver on the hallmarks of what makes a great BioWare™ game: new worlds to explore, new companions to recruit, and a dynamic story that players will be able to shape based on the choices they make.
They’ve said there will be more news coming during their press conference on Monday, making it officially the first time I’ve ever wanted to watch EA’s E3 conference because honestly if they can deliver on what this small pitch is promising? Oh I will be one major happy camper. I mean, consider this: new worlds – plural – to explore. I mean, that one can go either way really because technically The Shadow of Revan had worlds plural. It had Rishi and Yavin-4. Even though together they were about the size of Korriban and Tython put together (heck, even the layout of Yavin-4 resembles Korriban a bit, with the raid being where the Sith Academy is, followed by tombs to the East and then wilderness on the far east. Wait… you don’t think that was intentional with the heavy Sith influence on both… do you?) but hey, I will take two planets of a single biome each over one. The new companions to recruit also sounds promising. Again, companions plural. What does that mean? Well, it could mean a couple of things. The first is of course we can recruit multiple companions in the expansion to our crew. The second is something like each class gets one new companion each leading to multiples, or finally that there will be multiple possibilities for what companion will join your crew. Like ‘choose one person from these two to live! The survivor joins your crew’. Honestly, the more exciting news is the possibility of Bioware Austin turning their gaze back to the companions. The devs have posted multiple times that they’ve been hoping to get a chance to do things like expand on the companion stories, and this may be the opportunity to do so. Finally, and really let’s be honest – the big one – is “a dynamic story that players will be able to shape based on the choices they make.” Now the key here isn’t the choices part. We’ve had choices all along. It’s just that most of our choices are the illusion of choice, or create a minor detour before hopping back on course (fight this mob, go to this one room and flip and switch, etc.) The key thing in this phrase that actually excites me is the word ‘Dynamic’. Dynamic is one of those things that screams ‘Fluid!’ ‘Multiple paths!’ ‘Different outcomes!’ and why the heck not. After all, SWTOR has been very much been “single player” in terms of it’s storylines. Not every bounty hunter is the canonical winner of the Great Hunt simultaneously, nor is every Consular the Barsenthor of the Jedi Order. Your character is – in terms of the narrative at least – the only one. So why do we all have to follow the same trail? Dynamic stories is something I have wanted since the game launched. Well, that and scaling planets so you could do them out of order (Imagine accomplish all your act one objectives in the order YOU choose!) which honestly has sort of been implemented with the Rakghoul and Bounty Contract events. Honestly, this is exciting to me. I am really looking forward to see what they have to say on Monday, and what news is to come about Knights of the Fallen Empire, which by the way is kind of a cool homage name to KOTOR. I likey.
UPDATE: See my recap and take on the E3 Presentation and other assorted news coming out about Knights of the Fallen Empire here!
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first 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.
Ah, the Sith Inquisitor. Are you a raving madman or cunning deceiver, brilliant tactician or brutal murderer? I will say this, more so than any other class in the game the Sith Inquisitor has a very clear line between Light and Dark sides, to the point where you could easily make a Goofus & Gallant style comic about the two paths. With most classes, you can see the merits of mixing things up and sometimes making light and dark choices by need. I would argue that is very much NOT the case with the Sith Inquisitor. The Light Side choices are almost always about freedom/kindness/manipulation, the Dark Side ones just boil down to ruthless torture and murder. So you can kind of see how the two concepts REALLY don’t mesh well.
To those who don’t recall where we left off – because it has been a while – we defeated a ghost that turned out to be our great-great-great-great-great-grandpa and have been tasked by our master, Darth Zash, to find four relics of Tulak Hord, none of which include that cool armor set from the Nightlife cartel packs. So it’s essentially a mcguffin hunt, but as you’ll see this one is a bit more interesting than the early Consular mcguffin hunts. Because it’s rarely not about finding the relic, but finding a way to get to it.
This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. You know exactly where the relic is as soon as you arrive in Balmorra. The real problem is that it’s at the bottom of a toxin filled mine shaft that would instantly kill you as soon as you got even halfway to the bottom. Indeed, it’s explained to you by the kindly Imperial officer you meet that the only thing that can survive the toxin is the mutated genetically engineered colicoids. So the task is simple: become a colicoid.
While that does sound insane, there is merit to it. You’ll need to get some additional research and the de-defect a scientist to help construct a formula to resist the toxic waste. The scientist is hesitant but you can persuade him by promising that no harm will come to him and he’ll be allowed to return to the Republic once his work is finished, or you can just taze him bro with sith lightning. Once you recruit the scientist, your Imperial officer liason uses his cooperation as leverage to force you to go save his Sith son who was caught by the resistance while looking for an ancient sith relic. You have to do this mission sadly. The good news is you can just kill the kid and get the relic yourself (Note: it’s a crappy lightsaber. Not work it other than to piss off Officer-Dad.) or just send the kid on his way and dealing with his lip. I mean it too. Whether you help him or attack him, he will not shut up about how you are lousy Sith compared to him, how dumb his Dad is, how pathetically slow you are at saving him. They REALLY made it easy to want to kill him.
Of course if you do that you have to deal with the Sith’s Dad, who will promptly try to kill you if you harmed his son. Either way you then deal with the scientist by letting him go or killing him and take your injection to climb down the glowing green hole and get your relic. I hope you can start to see what I mean about having a hard time with a ‘gray’ play through of the Inquisitor. Dark side is torture with lightning and kill, light side is bargain and honor your deals. I suppose you could always promise to reward them and then kill them instead, but it certainly doesn’t work the other way around: “Zap! ZAP! Do as I say! Zap! Okay, now you can go. Toodles!” Unless you are completely insane. Of course, there’s enough dialogue options for the Sith Inquisitor that work in that vein that you could easily play your character as someone who makes the majority of Batman’s rouge gallery seem like down to earth sensible folk.
The Gambler’s Moon is where we see the introduction of the second major theme in the Sith Inquisitor storyline. Along with usual lost and ancient techniques & relics for power, there is also the ever running concept of the ‘power base’. While it won’t play a major role in the story until much later, we are introduced to it here with the opportunity to establish a small cult in your name. Why would you do this? Well, so you can take down another Sith’s cult. Another Sith who happens to have a relic of Tulak Hord.
Your cult starts with just two people: an angry young man who is fed up with the world, and a young woman who idealistically is hoping for change. Yes, that is cheesy. But how are YOU going to start a cult? With well rounded and fulfilled individuals? Ha! Anyway, it’s time to start spreading your good-ish name around. You get a choice of how to accomplish this: you can either break into a pharmaceutical company and steal a cure to a disease called the Rot and cure people with it, or kill of a local gang that has been terrorizing the locals. The choice is really up to you, it’s a light side/dark side choice though even the light side choice of stealing a cure is a bit dark. After you complete the task, your cultists will contact you about finding a new location for your ‘church’ and ask you to meet them there, where you are immediately jumped by the other Sith’s goons. Yay for security!
There is a bit of a hidden dialogue at this juncture where you can actual have an ‘intimate’ encounter with at least the female cultists – not sure about the male one as I never played a female inquisitor. You just need to talk to them before you head off to the next mission. Though be warned, it is dark side points to have your way with them, and the non-dark side points option is pretty much “Ew, your icky. Go away. Stupid head.” So you’ve been warned.
The next objective is to steal the Sith Cult Leader’s followers by performing a miracle during his big meet & greet shindig. To pull this off you convince a municipal employee to blow the gas pipes under the building when you give the signal (how you convince him is entirely up to you) and thus create a ‘groundquake’ – a name that only make sense once you realize there’s no ‘earth’ so what else are they gonna call it? This is enough of a feat to steal a good chunk of the Sith’s followers, and successfully tick off the Sith Lord. Which was the goal, I think? Either way, it works and the Sith invites you to his base of operations to deal.
And lo and behold the whole thing turns out to NOT be a trap. No, serious. There’s a bunch of enemies standing around in the usual pack layouts like you would have to fight them, but they stay green and non-hostile. It’s probably one of the better psych outs in the game, because you totally are waiting for them to start attacking and they NEVER do. Instead you just run in to meet with the Sith Lord, who has his own surprise in store. It seems that the Tulak Hord relic drains people of their force power and then he attacks you himself. This fight is really annoying because of the aforementioned force drain. You don’t recover force naturally, and all your abilities take twice as much to use. The one way to actually sneak by this whole thing is to die and then resurrect, which removes the debuff. You won’t get it re-applied because the Sith Lord doesn’t put it on you, it’s triggered by the cutscene ending and since you don’t have to watch the cutscene again, you are free to beat the Sith senseless.
So you got the thingamajig but now what is left to deal with but the cult. You again get three choices: Screw’em and leave, leave the Sith in charge, or leave your loyal flunkies in charge. As far as I know, the only thing this really changes is a few letters you get as you level up. I might be wrong on that, and I’ll be sure to mention it in future installments should these people ever re-enter the picture.
After completing Nar Shadaa and Balmorra, you will be visited once more by Ghost Gramps who tells you that Zash is planning something. While the general response is “No duh.” you can actually respond in the hilarious “No! Zash would NEVER do that to MEEEE!” way that leads to Ghost Grandpa plainly stating, “You are naive.” Why call attention to that? Well because it is probably the best way to summarize the Sith Inquisitor storyline as a whole. We haven’t got there yet, but trust me – your character is dumber than rocks at times. Anyway, to prepare you for battle the Ghost Granpappy sends you back to Korriban to retrieve his helmet. A mask model that is usually reserved for level 40-something Sith Warriors, so that’s cool.
The whole mission is fairly short and just involves fighting through a dude’s house and then either killing him or persuading him to give up the helmet, then running back to the ship. Really, the worse part in my opinion is getting back to Korriban to do this whole thing. The entrance is right by the Dark Council chamber so you have to go all the way to the Academy, up the elevator, and down the hall and that’s before the mission STARTS. Gah!
Okay, I’ll be straight with you here. This is the worst planet in the entire first chapter. I mean, the others are not about FINDING the thing but how to GET the thing, right? Yea, this is just find the thing. With a side order of revenge for your new companion Andronikos Revel. The mission is literally: 1. Find Andronikos, 2. Find the Pirate, 3. Find the Sand People, and 4. Find the Thing. This is quite literally a straight line across Tatooine. The only thing that diverges or affects anything is whether or not you deprive Andronikos of his revenge and kill the guy yourself. That is it.
Even Andronikos is a weird mixed bag. You are first told that he doesn’t like people or trust people, but by the end of one job that doesn’t even end well he wants to sign on to your ship’s crew. His backstory is also familiar: a pirate captain that was left adrift and almost went mad after his crew mutinied, only for his former crew to end up going insane from a cursed relic. Next he’ll be insisting that he’s CAPTAIN Andronikos Revel. Blah, can we just move on?
Compared to where we are coming from, Alderaan is my favorite world in Chapter One. This is just one of those times you get to be manipulative and sneaky as an Inqusitor and it really feels like how I wish the entire class would play. The whole situation is that the final relic is stored in a vault, and only House Organa has the key. In order to get that key, you will need some sort of dirt to manipulate them which you find in House Alde. It seems that the heir to the House abandoned his duty and more importantly his fiance to go train as a Jedi. A Jedi in love? Tender.
To lure the Jedi back to Alderaan, you go and break into House Rist and find their heir, the scorned woman from the holo that totally doesn’t still have feeling for the Jedi, not at all, b-baka. And this is where it gets fun, you can actually take the story down a few paths here. The first is to lure the Jedi back by forcing the Rist woman to call him and ask to meet at their ‘special spot’, you can kill her if you want and then go and kill the Jedi for the key. On the other hand, you can convince the two to work things out. They’ll both meet at the special spot and you can help them reconcile, convincing the Jedi to abandon his oath to the Jedi Order to be with his beloved. To reward you, he gives you the key. So instead of killing your way, you can actually manipulate a Jedi to fall from grace.
I really like the whole manipulation angle and using your enemies weakness against them. It was really what I was hoping the Inquisitor would be for the most part, and this world really shows how strong that approach is. You can mastermind a way to either have a Jedi fall, or lure a Jedi to his doom in a way that no one will be able to find his body or even know where to look which simultaneously strikes a blow against the Jedi, House Organa, and gets you the key to go and nab the relic from the vault.
The end of the story comes in two parts. The first is another visit by Ghost Grandpa who wants you to retrieve his lightsaber that has given to a retainer of your ancient family before Tulak Hord destroyed everything. The ancestor of the retainer is now working off her father’s debt at a Nar Shadaa casino, a debt incurred when her father bet everything – including the lightsaber – to a corrupt known-for-cheating gambler. You need to go and get it back so she can unlock the case for you (because Bioware wanted you to visit the casino twice since it wasn’t being used for much else). Now that you have your grandpappy’s lightsaber, it’s time to go and deal with Zash.
Now here’s where you either saw it a million miles away or got an awesome twist: Zash wants to betray you! You can’t say there wasn’t ample warning for it. In fact, her wretched form is starting to rot away. So she wants to put her soul in your body. Which sounds a bit too fantasy even for Star Wars, but hey I’ll roll with it. Your morose monster of a pet, Khem Val, disrupts the ritual and somehow ends up body sharing with Zash. The two of them now trading off who controls the body. Of course, Zash is furious. All her planning gone to waste. She even made sure that her loyal apprentices were to become YOUR apprentices, and to ensure YOU became a Lord of the Sith so when the conversion happened she would be ready. So she tries to attack you in Khem’s body but that pesky loyalty oath is apparently biologically ingrained so even when it’s not Khem, Khem Val cannot hurt you.
So the chapter ends with all your new loyal servants coming to hail you as the new Lord Kalig. Yay you!
The first chapter of the Inquisitor’s story is… good. I can’t call it great because it does have some missteps, but at the same time it fixes the biggest issues I had with the Consular story. With the exception of Tatooine which is honestly just a straight up treasure hunt find-the-thing mission, each story explores a different facet of working around complications to obtain your goal. You have the deal with Imperial command and bargaining on Balmorra, you have to build a power base and use it against an opponent on Nar Shadaa, and you have to manipulate your enemy into a trap on Alderaan. While you are still looking for the same Mcguffin over and over, it’s handled so different each time that you never really notice. It makes for a very enjoyable playthrough that keeps you engaged fairly well.
The downsides on the other hand are more so to do with the over arching plot. Zash’s scheming is poorly handled, and this really carries over from the Prologue. Every single person you meet flat out tells you not to trust Zash, and at no point past Korriban are you ever given a worthwhile reason to trust her. She constantly makes enigmatic promises of your rise to power, but that’s all it is – vague promises. By the time Lord Kalig shows up and flat out tells you she wants to betray you, well what reason do you have to keep going along with this plan? But for some reason, you do. You bring her all the relics, and then guess what? She betrays you! Shocker. The only reason you don’t die is because Khem Val saves your butt, establishing sadly what will be a long series of “Someone saving your butt” moments that extend well into chapters two and three. I would rather have had one of the interludes be something along the lines of finding some means to counter Zash’s ritual, the two counter rituals exploding and resulting in Zash and Khem Val sharing a body. SUPPOSEDLY this is what Kalig’s helmet is for, but when the time comes it is never brought up, so I have no idea.
The only other thing would be a small one but I would really have liked to see the relics have more effect than just be a macguffin. I mean, on Tatooine we establish that one can drive you insane (something we hear about but never see) and the one on Nar Shadaa can drain force power. The other two are essentially trapped under rocks, but still could affect things around them. The Alderaan vault IS guarded and the Balmorra altar was surrounded by colocoids. It was just a little something that I think would have added some flavor. Not a big complaint.
No the BIG complaint is going to be next time as we dive into Chapter Two of the Sith Inquisitor story.
Long time readers know that I regularly flip back and forth between 2+ different MMOs for the sake of preventing burn out. Lately it’s been going back and forth between Final Fantasy XIV and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Two games that – while not perfect – are damn good at satisfying different cravings I have in games.
Final Fantasy put me in a tight spot recently. I really REALLY wanted to see the conclusion of the Main Scenario before the 12x Experience boost went live in SWTOR, and finally climb over that damn Story Wall of Ishgard, but I ran into a block with what has clearly become the guardian of the story wall: The Steps of Faith.
‘Oh, Vry! The Steps of Faith isn’t hard if you know what to do!’ I hear the internet shout as a collective hive mind that I have somehow tapped into but retained my sentience from. Well, yes. It is a bit different, and all you really need is to know what to do, and guess what? I DO know what to do. I know exactly what to do. But apparently 5-6 other people in the Duty every time do not, and their struggle wears on other’s patience and it ends up with us standing in front of the dragon, unable to pull, because we are constantly in the queue trying to pull new members out of the magic hat. I REALLY want to finish that place, because I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to see what happens to the Sultana!
So after a week of failed attempts, I just said screw it. I need some epic heroic time to cleanse the pallet of dying to this dragon over and over and came back to a galaxy far, far away. Mostly because I do have a job to finish there, and the 12x XP boost makes that job so much easier. I am kind of curious what the deal with Ziost is, as I have somehow managed to remain completely spoiler free on the plot there. To which I must say, kudos SWTOR community for actually keeping a lid on things. Others could learn from your example.
Although the first thing I did when I got back was grab up a few cartel packs, including the Grand Nightlife Pack which gave me a Dathomir Rancor. Not having any desire to ride piggy back on a monster, I flipped on the GTN (Auction House for those who aren’t familiar with SWTOR) for a cool cold 15 million credits, and officially netting me the most cash I’ve EVER had in the game. Combine that with Amazon’s sale for 14,500 cartel coins for $80 and I could get started the grand process of unlocking and decorating my strongholds. Because if I’m going to be building a bigger legacy, I need a place for them to crash. I hope to share some photos of them here soon, I think folks’ll be impressed.
So what should you expect here on the Summer of the 12x XP? Well, hopefully to finish up all my class story summaries and reviews. That’d be my big goal. I’m looking forward to seeing some alternate character choices too. Especially the Imperial Agent. Finally, with my resurgence of interest in writing fan fiction in my spare time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some short or flash fiction bits about some of my characters appear now and then. I do have an idea for the three brothers (Vrykerion the Bounty Hunter, Vrykarion the Jedi Knight, and Vrykerius the Sith Warrior) have a family get together over some cards to catch up. That might be fun. Regardless, there will be more reviews coming soon.
You know I realized while writing all these little posts and reviews and talking about my experiences with the Final Fantasy series as I go back and explore the latter half of the series I never really played when I was growing up, that I’ve never actually talked about my actual favorite Final Fantasy game and exactly why its my favorite. I have to warn people here though, that the story I am about to tell might be profoundly troubling to some people, oh and there will also be spoilers. So let me tell you about how I came to love Final Fantasy VI.
Unlike many people I’ve spoken to over the years, my favorite Final Fantasy game is not the first one I played. Oh no. That would have been Final Fantasy IV (then localized to be Final Fantasy II) which I would stay up playing at my best friend’s house with pizza and bread-sticks and times of immense joy all around. But no, my first was not my favorite. For several reasons really. I mean, I never finished it. I never actually owned it for one, and it’s hard to beat a JRPG in a 3 day rental. Combine that with a very difficult boss and a very naive Vry who really had no head for strategy. Not to mention I never got far enough for the characters to stick with me as likable. Except Rydia. I always liked Rydia for some reason.
I actually received Final Fantasy VI for my 11th birthday. I was so excited about it that I almost got in trouble at school because I wouldn’t stop humming the Chocobo song in class. I just couldn’t wait to play the newest Final Fantasy game. Oh and it did not disappoint. I got to meet fabulous characters, beautiful music, and while I know the Woolsey translation is frowned upon by many nowadays, it was one of the best stories I was ever treated to in my short life. Oh, I couldn’t stick with the damn hobbits long enough to get out of the Shire in Fellowship of the Ring but I was hooked till the end by the time I actually got to name Terra (And you better believe I used all their real names).
The game was everything I had wanted even back then: good solid characters that you cared about and fourteen of them to boot! Eleven of which had fully fleshed out story lines and back stories that gave them a truly three-dimensional feel (the other three are really just optional characters. Though that is literally the only time you will EVER hear me say that Mog the Moogle is optional. Cause you are a cold-hearted monster if you don’t save that dancing furball.) There’s a love story that is so much more than ‘guy likes girl, girl likes guy’. It’s more like ‘guy likes girl, girl gets amnesia and shoos off guy, girl dies just as her memory returns, guy searches for way to resurrect girl and meets another girl, guy and new girl fall in love but new girl is afraid she’s just a replacement and also has trust issues, and so on.’ Then of course, there’s the little matter of the bad guy actually winning half way through the game. Holy crap, this didn’t happen when I was a kid. It blew my mind!
Of course, all these reasons why Final Fantasy VI is an amazing game that is well worth a play are well documented and can be found on any site that talks about it. Is it the best Final Fantasy? That’s personal opinion. I personally don’t feel that it’s ever hit that level of both technical and writing achievement since, but there are plenty who do. No, this isn’t why it’s my favorite game. If that’s all it took, there are games out there that have hit all those same notes and will never be a contender for my favorite game. Yes, not Final Fantasy. Favorite game of all time, hands down. That reason is not simple nostalgia either, though I’m sure it contributes a healthy bit to it. It’s because of what happens in the World of Ruin.
The World of Ruin is the second half of Final Fantasy VI. It’s not post-apocalyptic, it is just apocalyptic. The end of the world is now. The villain has risen up as a god in his giant tower of death and destruction and randomly smites people for no reason. Monsters of terrible power are now freely wandering around the destroyed world. Much of the world’s population is dead. But the core of the tale is what happens with the characters. You start out with Celes on an island, completely unaware that anyone but her and Cid, her pseudo “grandfather”, are left in the world. Cid falls sick and you have to feed him fish. Now, I know now two decades later exactly which fish to feed the old man, but at age 11 I didn’t have a clue. Hell, I wouldn’t even know what the internet was for at least 4-5 more years. So Cid dies, and Celes in her despair climbs the cliffs of the island and with a reprise of the Opera Scene from earlier, throws herself to her death as Cid said so many others before her had done.
This is when the game stopped being just a game. You ever have those moments? When you finally understand the material on a different level? I received this game for my 11th birthday. For my 10th birthday, I was in the middle of a 4 month stay in a mental health facility because when I was nine years old I had tried to kill myself on three separate occasions. One of those times was by trying to jump from a stairwell. Celes was no longer the player PROXY at that point to me.
I’ve never really talked about myself as a person much on that blog, and this is one of those reasons. It’s hard to explain who I am without invariably explaining that at the age of 10, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II. Which in 1994, was damn near impossible to get a diagnosis for in a child. Bipolar Disorder happened to people in their twenties or older, not kids. So with that frame of reference, I’m playing this game 6-12 months after being diagnosed, my medication isn’t quite solidified and my emotions have more control over my actions at times than I do.
Celes, for those wondering who haven’t played (and shame on you), doesn’t die. She awakes on the shore to find a bird wearing a bandanna that belonged to one of the other characters, her love interest Locke. However, it is exactly what she needs to spur her to action and leave the island in hopes of finding the others. Thus kicks off a heavily emotional journey as you find each person trying to seek out something, anything, in this dying world to hold on to. For some, they seek out hope or giving others hope, or family and friends, or love. Even Terra, who could easily be argued is probably the first asexual protagonist in gaming, finds the love she was looking for. Not in the arms of another man or woman, but in the maternal protection of a group of orphaned children who are threatened daily by monsters looking for a meal.
All the while, you have Kefka – our god-king villain – sitting on his tower and blasting those below completely randomly. Oh, he might collapse your house, or kill that one random dude, or sink a ship. It doesn’t matter. They’re random. You don’t have to have done anything to the guy, or done anything at all to be targeted. Which is probably the greatest metaphor for life in general. It just fucks with you. There isn’t any rhyme or reason as to why. There’s no karmic balance to it, even in the grandest of schemes. Sometimes, bad things happen. That’s Kefka. That’s life.
So at the end of the game, after the journey as a whole and gathering your friends and allies you march up to the top of Kefka’s horrific tower and that is when you get this exchange:
“Why do people rebuild things they know are going to be destroyed? Why do people cling to life when they know they can’t live forever? Think how meaningless each of your lives is!”
“It’s not the net result of one’s life that’s important! It’s the day-to-day concerns, the personal victories, and the celebration of life… and love! It’s enough if people are able to experience the joy that each day can bring!”
For an emotionally unstable, sometimes suicidal, 11-year old Vrykerion… this was a very powerful sentiment. Kefka was saying everything that my brain was bombarded with so often. Thoughts that would leave little Vry crying in his bed at night until the wee hours. Then here were the heroes, my ‘proxies’ that I learned to identify with back on that island when Cid died. They were saying that those things weren’t important. The important part was to just to live each day and experience life. To enjoy living.
Final Fantasy VI changed my life. I could even go as far as to say that it saved it. It gave me exactly what I needed, when I needed it the most. And I don’t know if I would be here today if it wasn’t for that experience. That’s why it’s my favorite video game.
Thank you all for reading. From the bottom of my heart. It means a lot to be able to share this story with you all.
Everyone is sleeping, eating, or having a lovely chat with death but no one is writing anything! How will we ever get to 1 million? Better question: HOW WILL WE PAY THOSE MASSIVE AMOUNT OF BILLS?!
The money is getting tight, everyone’s miserable, and just when this challenge is looking bleak by the day 2 mark, who else comes a knockin’ but the Great Equalizer itself? But for who?