Vry takes a whirl in the new Platinum Demo of Final Fantasy XV and plays around with the prettiest coma he’s had the pleasure of playing through.
Oh. Oh sweet merciful fal’Cie. What the hell did I watch? My fiance and I went to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the Funimation Films presentation of ‘Empire of Corpses’. A title that sounded quite promising. In fact, the whole idea was quite promising. A world where Victor Frankenstein’s experiment gave rise to an entire society built on and around essentially zombie slaves powered by steampunk-style “NecroWare” that program the reanimated corpses for a variety of tasks from simple clerical jobs, to military deployment. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Doesn’t that seem like there are a ton of cool stories to tell in a world like that? I bet you’ve already thought of some. And I also bet that they are WAY more interesting than anything this movie does with the premise. /sigh
The film comes to us from the works of the late Project Itoh (real name Satoshi Itoh) whose death in 2009 inspired the creation of a trilogy of animated films based on his science-fiction novels. The last of which, published posthumously, was Empire of Corpses in 2012. The trilogy of films will also feature “Harmony”, based on the novel of the same name that was given a special citation by the Phillip K Dick Award and will be shown state-side in late May, and “Genocide Organ” which currently stands as yet to be completed. But surely with a stack of awards including a special citation from the Phillip K Dick Awards (a special citation being code for ‘throwing you a bone without actually winning’), surely the story will be an immensely riveting tale? Won’t it? Well, how should I begin?
The film begins with medical student John Watson (Yes, THAT John Watson) resurrecting his dead best friend as a living corpse that he names Friday (Not that Friday, but close) who he trains to be his servant, bodyguard, and to write down everything he sees and hears in a journal. He is recruited by ‘M‘ the head of British secret intelligence who has a secretary named Moneypenny and teamed with a famed British soldier named Burnaby to go to Afghanistan (under the fake cover of being a field surgeon) to find a rogue Russian scientist Alexei Karamazov who is supposedly in possession of Victor Frankenstein’s notes on how to create a living corpse that has a soul like he did with “The One”. Along the way Watson meets up with other characters like former president Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas Edison, and Hadaly Lilith (who later renames herself Irene Adler).
If you haven’t gathered from the copious amounts of links in that last paragraph, there isn’t a single character that is based on, inspired by, or flat out IS, some sort of fictional or real historic person. The only person who possibly escapes this fate is Friday whose name draws inspiration from Robinson Crusoe but that where the similarities end. This is mostly because we are told next to nothing about who Friday was in life beyond being John Watson’s best friend and potential lover (never confirmed, but there’s more than enough evidence to have that interpretation of their relationship) and that Friday was exceptional interested in Corpse Reanimation that he built an illegal lab to conduct NecroWare experiments in and then bequethed it Watson under the explicit details to ‘desecrate his grave’ and to bring him back to life.
Beyond that the characterization is all over the map. Burnaby is fiercely devoted to bringing back the notes of Victor Frankenstein because that’s the mission for queen and country and all that, until the veteran soldier sees another spy that he had grown close to (via minute long montage) die and be ressurected that he immediately makes it his life goal to see the notes completely destroyed. Almost every character in a cast of a dozen is given at least one big plot twist/betrayal/reveal through the course of the movie, to the point where you almost need a chart to keep it all straight.
The Story (Spoilers Ahead!)
The first half of the movie is an entirely different beast than the second half. The first half is the pursuit of Victor Frankenstein’s notes. It tackles a lot of questions that you’ve probably already seen done and done better in things like Fullmetal Alchemist. Is knowledge for the sake of knowledge an end that justifies any mean? Where is the moral line when it comes to science and knowledge (Especially in a world where reanimating the dead to become waiters, butlers, soldiers, etc to do the bidding of the living is standard practice). The pursuit has Watson, Friday, Burnaby, and the Russian Spy Nikolai Krasotkin pursuing Karamazov in the high hills of… somewhere? They start in Afghanistan and end up in what looks like Tibet. On foot. Anyway, Karamazov has perfected a new form of living corpse that has problem solving skills, faster reaction time, and near living intellect (Watson tortures one into almost speaking at one point – because Watson’s leading theory is that language is only possible with a soul. Also that a soul weights 23 grams that vanishes from your body when you die.) They find Karamazov in a scene that is eerily familiar to Apocalypse Now when they first find the encampment of Colonel Kurtz, and have a nice meal with him where they discuss philosophy and whatnot. Then they find out the secret of Karamazov’s new zombies: He isn’t resurrecting the dead. He’s killing the living. By putting a living person in a trance with music and opium then ripping into their spinal cord and programming them with NecroWare, you create a far more capable undead. Karamazov says Frakenstein’s notes are in Japan, Burnaby is horrified, Watson wonders why Karamazov is such a wussy that he didn’t keep experimenting on the subjects to find the truth of the soul (He’s apparently done this murder procedure to an entire village at this point). Then to… uh… prove a point I guess? Karamazov turns himself into a zombie. Awkward. You honestly could have made this the whole movie in a big send up to Apocalypse Now/Heart of Darkness. The isolated village of the dead, stretch out the mystery of the secret of how to make the new zombies, big reveal at the end with a realization that some costs are too high. The end. Good flick. But no, it keeps going. Clearly we’re building up to something big. Oh well, off to Japan.
The Japan ‘chapter’ is fairly short. They meet another historical figure, they find out what lab the notes are being kept in, and they break in. Inside they find engineered zombies that can carry diseases like cholera as biological weapons. This matches something earlier in the movie where there are exploding zombies that are engineered to break down their own body fat into glycerin so they explode. Again, another neat idea. Zombie arms race. Would explain the need for the notes. But no, that’s not where this is going either. Watson finds the notes, but instead of destroying them he has Friday analyze them (Because Zombies are also computers that can break electronic locks and crap) Because at the end of the Japan chapter, we get zombies going on a rampage, the lab in flames, Watson almost dead and the notes being stolen by none other than “The One” aka Frankenstein’s Monster.
This is where the plot completely goes off the rails, so let me bottom line some of the weirdness that transpires for the next 45 minutes. The One is making zombies go insane using massive analytical computers built out of human brains in various cities while ‘looking for something’ before he is captured by ‘M’ so that M who is now a bad guy for some reason can create his perfect utopia of everyone being a zombie so there will be no war. Watson does more experiments on Friday, Friday goes insane and tries to kill Watson but doesn’t, Friday might have a soul but nothing comes of it. Burnaby gets drunk, and hits Watson for not destroying the notes. Hadaly is a robot that is identical to a human but with no emotions (ie no soul) and wants a soul. No, we’re never really going to go into that. Or how a robot got made. Or why we’re relying on zombies when robot technology is available. Zombies apparently can turn other people into zombies by biting them, but only sometimes when the plot necessitates it for M’s utopia idea. Before that? No turning people to zombies via biting.
So after all that mess of confusing plot lines that go mostly nowhere, how do we end this? What is the grand idea that so many other ideas were set aside or discarded for? Well, the heroes rush from San Francisco to London in a few hours using the super-hyper powerful USS Nautilus (YES. THAT NAUTILUS.) that has been retrofitted by Hadaly’s father… Thomas Edison (Just go with it, movies almost over). There they stop M’s evil plan of turning everyone into a zombie, while Burnaby tries to shut off the power to the whole evil lab by… battling the Universal Movies’ Frankenstein Monster who is guarded the power station for some reason.
Once M has been defeated, now it’s time for the REAL villain to show up and enact his REAL villainous plot: The One breaks out his chains, and uses Victor Frankenstein’s notes and brain (that M had for some reason) to… ugh… /sigh… suck the souls out of everyone on the planet so he can uses them as a massive… um… thing to resurrect his bride’s soul that was somehow trapped in Victor’s brain into Hadaly’s body, then transfer himself into Friday’s body.
No. I’m not joking. One hour and forty minutes of story was actually all about just getting Frankenstein’s monster laid. That’s the groundbreaking idea that this movie had for this premise.
Of course, the power of ‘not wanting to lose Friday’ causes Watson to defeat The One, who may or may not have died in the tower falling down (We see him get up from the ground as the tower falls apart around him), there’s an almost kiss with Hadaly and Watson before Burnaby who repeats his superpower of somehow never dying or getting hurt no matter what happens to him shows up to interrupt. The movie ends proper with a repeat of the initial experiment that ressurected Friday at the start, only with opium and music as Watson does the ‘turn the living into a zombie’ thing Karamazov showed him so he can hopefully understand Friday better. The End.
Only not really, because there’s another scene after the credits that fans of this trainwreck call ‘The Real Ending’ which is honestly just Watson and Sherlock Holmes running around, Watson has no memory of anything that happened, Friday stalks him like a scorned lover but apparently now has a soul, Hadaly has changed her name to Irene Adler, and Burnaby is still an ass. The “REAL” end.
Despite everything, the film is really pretty. Supposedly the studio that worked a lot on things like Attack on Titan worked on this film (if the advertising is to be believed) and the polish really shows. The detail to all the little steampunk gadgets really helps sell the setting and the look of the world. The zombies seem to vary in detail depending on how many are in the scene but they do a good job animating the dead to look like they are just puppets and that helps a bunch when it comes to visually seeing why things like the newer zombies or Friday are different or special just in the way they move or stand.
Character designs are a little less inspirational. You have your standard bishie protagonists, Hadaly has torpedo boobs to such an nth degree I was half expecting a joke about that being where her power cells are stowed or something, the villains look completely stock, and the only one who looks out of place in Burnaby who honestly from his face to his build to his animation just feels like he belongs more so in a Studio Ghibli flick than this.
The Voice Acting
We did get to see the Funimation dub of the film at our screening which was a welcome surprise since the Alamo Drafthouse’s website did not list any of the English cast. It might just be me but there didn’t seem to be any sort of stand out performances for this movie. My fiance however enjoyed J. Michael Tatum’s performance as Burnaby, but also stated that she couldn’t help continuously thinking of a certain Butler the entire time despite the completely different and fairly thick accent Tatum put on the film. On a whole, the acting was good. Nothing great to me, but also no where I could point and say “WTF is that?” Except maybe with the Russian accents. Those seemed to be a bit… Hetalia meets James Bond villain. But hey, that’s only for the first third of the movie.
I said it as soon as the house lights went up in the theater. This film is a hot mess. Plot twists come out of nowhere and are legion in number. The film can’t decide what it wants to be about. Is it a monster movie? Is there some kind of message it wants to convey? What message? What is the primary conflict? The One, despite being mentioned a few times, doesn’t enter the film until the halfway point. His character is never explored nor are we ever treated to any motivation or character for him beyond exposition dumps from other characters that have no way of actually knowing the info they’re spitting out which is only glossed over by crap like “My theory is” or “They say that”. Yet by the end, apparently The One trying to resurrect his dead bride (who is shown once at the start of the film, and never mentioned as The One’s bride until 15 minutes from the end) is the central goal of the villain that our heroes are trying the thwart? Heck, before that we had little to no motivation for our heroes to oppose ‘The One’ until after M becomes the villain for 20 minutes before being unceremoniously killed off so The One can take center stage. M would have made sense as a villain because we see him throughout the film making vague mentions of scheming and plotting and how it’s his job to ‘predict the future’ and what not.
Then there’s the whole Watson and Friday thing that is given no resolution, is never really explored beyond using Friday to find out if there’s a soul, and in the moment where that seems like a possibility it’s treated as a huge shocking moment and then immediately forgotten about for the rest of the film. Heck, it can even be interpreted that Watson flat out kills Friday’s regained soul immediately afterward to create a better puppet/tool for fighting M/The One.
In the end, the film and the story feels very much like it wants took inspiration from several early science fiction writers without taking or even understanding why those ideas worked. Like a filmmaker who sees a cool shot and decides to use it over and over regardless of whether it works or not because it was cool but they didn’t understand WHY it was cool. So the film ends up completely falling apart after the half way point as it tries to throw more and more into the film without any understanding of how to use the elements it adds. It could have been something great. There were a lot of amazing ideas to be explored in this film. What it needed to do was just pick one and stick with it.
Vry takes a whirl in the new Platinum Demo of Final Fantasy XV and plays around with the prettiest coma he’s had the pleasure of playing through.
As I’m sure regular readers of this site will know, the conclusion of the Smuggler reviews means that there is only one class storyline I have no yet done any reviews on. This is quite intentional as unlike most of my reviews which were done in either binge sessions with skipping everything outside of the Class Stories or in long drawn out bits and pieces of the course of years, I wanted the Imperial Agent – the storyline I consider to be the best of all eight – to be something different and to really focus on exploring the choices presented to you and to see exactly how much changes.
My original Agent was a strictly gray aligned, straight down the middle, do-the-mission until *coughcoughcoughhack* happened and then things changed for her. But what about the other paths? The ending of Chapter One establishes three distinct scenarios that can emerge from the situation, and I’ve always wanted to see them all. So with that in mind, I have rolled two characters: Cipher Agent Zero-Sum and Cipher Agent Crim’son, my Light Side operative and Dark Side sniper.
I’ll be playing through the Imperial Agent storyline twice. Each Agent will only progress to the end of each planet until both are ready for the next. Each will make their morality choices based on their predetermined alignment. And then I will write about not only what happens but what some of the key differences in the playthroughs will be.
I wanted to explain this because as of late I’ve received many eager messages from a great number of people across a variety of platforms asking me when the rest of the reviews were coming out. While I have always said that these are something I do for fun and in my spare time, and that regardless of how long it takes me I have no intention of abandoning the project, I want to ensure I give my readers ample status updates to the progress of my work. The Imperial Agent reviews will likely take longer than any of the others. Between playing through it twice, the fact that SWTOR is only one of three MMOs I play on top of my single player games I play and write about (Such as my Final Fantasy retrospectives, enjoying Fallout 4, and my video series of Lets Plays), and I also started a full time job last year that has decreased my gaming time significantly (but increased my gaming budget immensely) – I am here to say I cannot make any firm promises about the timing of these last four class storyline reviews other than yes, they will be completed eventually.
Thank you all for your patience and your readership. You’ve all turned this little backwater blog into a hub of SWTOR info and brought my views up from the dozens a day to a whopping 400-1000 views a day. And while I don’t advertise or anything, it still warms my heart to see so many people coming to a remote corner of the web to read something I wrote. You all are awesome, and I hope not to let you down. In the mean time, I will continue to write. Be it TOR stuff, or Final Fantasy, or some WoW observations, or even post more funny videos for people to enjoy. Keep it tuned to the Land of Odd.
Thank you all so much.
|| IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter One –>
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the prologue of the Imperial Agent storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
Welcome to the cleaning crew, Agent. From this day forth you will have no identity, no friends, and no allegiances to anyone but us. You are a ghost, a shadow, a passerby that is forgotten as quick as you are seen. Your mission will be to protect the Empire’s interest across the galaxy, to serve the orders of the Sith and to tidy up their messes. This is your life now, Agent. Welcome to Imperial Intelligence.
The Imperial Agent is exactly all that and more. While the bounty hunter claims a paycheck, and the Sith war for power with each other, it’s you that will be behind the scenes of everything, picking up the pieces and ensuring that no matter what happens – the Empire wins. Imagine James Bond, meets Ghost in the Shell, meets Mission Impossible, meets the Bourne Identity, all tossed in a blender of intrigue and action with a finger fully pressed on frappe. That’s what you are in for. You’ve probably heard murmurs across the internet about how the Agent story is probably one of the best stories in the game, and this is not blind hyperbole. But that’s for later, and now you are a fresh faced agent, just created, completely green and arriving on Hutta. Let me give you the sit rep on the Prologue for the Imperial Agent.
Oh of all the places to get stuck on your first mission. This has got to be some kind of form of Imperial Intelligence hazing. Hutta, the stinkball, is home to a powerful hutt named Nem’ro. Nem’ro controls a ton of the resources here, and it’s up to you to secure a partnership with the hutt and the Empire by any means necessary. Your handler, named “Keeper”, which I guess is supposed to be cute because of the ragged mangy akk dogs we are that we need a keeper not a coordinator or a commander, wants you to secure a new identity from an alien in town and make a good impression with the Hutt-in-charge and get to working on setting up an alliance. The alien – Jeeg – has the identity of ‘The Red Blade’ set up for you. It’s the name of a criminal of some renown, no one knows what they look like and the Real Blade is supposed to be on the other side of the galaxy by now. The only real hiccup with this plan is that a couple of low life parasites made off with the crate of goods you were supposed to present to Nem’ro, so it’s up to you to get them back and get to Nem’ro for a meeting. The meeting can go well or decent based on your choices really. Either way you get introduced to several members of Nem’ro’s crew: Karrells the old timer, Kaliyo the muscle, and Tothrezen the… uh… dumb one that Nem’ro likes? Really Toth doesn’t do much other than he’s the current favorite, a complete jerk, and dumber than bricks so Karrells always has to pick up his messes. Keeper identifies as Karrells as the best target to get buddy buddy with and you go off using a bit of overhead info to help put Karrells back in Nem’ro’s limelight.
How you do that is pretty much taking care of problems for Nem’ro around the planet. Doing things like reclaiming ore from the renegade evocii (the locals that sold their planet to the hutts) that was stolen from Nem’ro’s mines, and breaking into the the rival hutt Fathra’s factory and blowing up a drilling shaft that’s being used to pillage Nem’ro’s gas deposits. You’ve pretty much ensured yourself a man on the inside with Karrells until a slight problem arises. Karrells’ kids? His sons that he won’t shut up about? Turns out they were just killed. By a Sith. So the chances of Karrells being sympathetic to joining the Empire pretty much will be blasted into space as soon as he gets the news. Thus Karrells turns from your best asset into your biggest liability and we all know what to do with liabilities. Actually, beyond the straight order to just kill Karrells, you can technically just tell him to lay low, get the heck out of town, and not to contact anyone in order to spare his life. Which seems counter to doing your job, but hey, he was a nice guy for a gang leader murderer thug.
The plan at this point radically shifts as you actually pin the murder of Karrells (or the attack if Karrells hid) on the rival hutt Fathra and using a Republic computer spike so it looks like the Republic and Fathra joined forces to take out Nem’ro. But Nem’ro needs proof before he goes to war. You volunteer to find said evidence for justice for poor Karrells (he was your buddy after all. Mwahaha.) and Tothrezen accepts your help. However, Kaliyo is more suspicious. She follows you to your room and confronts you about killing Karrells. Your only choice really is to let her in on the loop because as it turns out – She’s not mad! She actually wants in on the heist. So you introduce her to Keeper and he offers her a job working for Imperial Intelligence under your command. She takes the job under the condition that if Keeper ever refers to her as a loyal servant of the Empire again she’ll break his jaw. With that settled it’s off to Fathra’s!
The ultimate goal inside the palace is pretty easy. You kill lieutenants to get their security badges and then download the altered files that show that Fathra has been dealing with the Republic. Of course, a bunch of Fathra’s goons try to stop you but that really doesn’t slow you down. The actual choice to the whole thing comes in the form of whether you scorch part of the files or not. Why? Well these are all of Fathra’s records. This shows that Fathra has had dealings with the Republic now, but also that he’s been in cahoots with half of the businesses that work for Nem’ro. If Nem’ro finds out, Hutta’s gonna run red with blood which will make Nem’ro happy but destroy a lot of his merchant empire on the planet. So it’s actually a nice real difficult choice. You risk exposing this whole thing as a scheme if you damage the files, but you protect Nem’ro’s assets or you can just focus on keeping Nem’ro happy and if he slaughters his own city it’s his own dumb fault. Either way, the records are proof enough that Nem’ro’s hated rival is working with the Republic and that he needs just as much help, so he gets on the holo contacting the Empire for assistance. Mission complete. Almost.
It would seem that on your way off world that the actual, real Red Blade is here and he’s not pleased that you’ve been using his identity. How did he find out? How did he get here so quick? I dunno, but I blame Jeeg. To me though he’s just another loose end to wrap up. And by that I mean bury in the ground completely. Or I suppose technically just leaving him dead on the hangar floor. That works too.
Welcome to the home world, Agent. Here you are the secret police and the clean up crew. Which is a weird position to be in when people are terrified of you and at the same time you have to clean up their messes. Speaking of messes, no sooner than you arrive at Imperial Intelligence HQ and you bump into Keeper and Darth Jadus himself. Jadus is a creepy ol’ big sith dude who always wears a mask. Honestly, he’s probably one of the cooler Sith NPCs in the game. He’s very philosophical, not afraid to exert his power, has a unique agenda (more on that in a moment), and looks bad ass. He’s not interested in the power plays like Baras or untold hidden power like Zash. Best of all (or worst of all depending on your outlook) he seems to have taken a liking to you in particular, and tells Keeper he wants you to be the agent for the job he was apparently describing before you arrived. That job? Eliminating a terrorist cell on Dromund Kaas. A uniquely boring terrorist cell at that, as they have no formal name, no motive or connections, and their only reason for resorting to terrorism is literally “we are not satisfied with Imperial policy.” I’ve seen tweens on Tumblr with better reasons to get upset, let alone resort to terrorism.
Keeper sends you out to go find an alien slave that was once used to transport messages between political dissidents and supposedly kept copies of said messages “encoded” in his native language. It’s encoded in the sense that Imperial nobility are too fricking racist to bother to learn any language other than Basic, I guess. Oh yea. And if you play an agent that’s not a cyborg, human or pureblood? Get used to putting up with the incredible racism from your team mates and other Imperials. They love bringing it up. Like calling you a ‘creature’ or ‘alien’. Lots of “you people” crap. You can also get to know the rest of the Imperial Intelligence team before you head out. They are:
If you are wondering where Watcher One is at the moment, he’s gone supposedly AWOL working with Darth Angral in the Jedi Knight storyline. Anyway, you head off to find the slave in question – one Jurithus by name – who got caught up in the slave rebellions surrounding the giant statue in the jungle. You hunt down and question a rebellion leader named Rebellion Leader and inject him with a serum you picked up before you left HQ. This pretty much turns his mind into Jello so you can extract info from him. Unfortunately the info you get is that Jurithus died in the jungle (or on the opposite platform from the one you’re on it turns out. Again, Jello.) You can then put rebellion leader Rebellion Leader out of his misery and shoot him (Dark Side) or command him to turn himself in (Light Side). You go grab the datapad and since it’s “encoded” it’s off to Lodenth to translate. Keeper checks in with you and tells you to head back right away – Darth Jadus wants a word with you.
Darth Jadus finally lays out his grand design to you personally, since you are his ‘personal agent’ now it seems. He no longer wants Dromund Kaas and the Sith to be central repository for hate and fear in the Empire. He wants to ‘democratize fear’ so that every citizen of the Empire on every world – be they human, Sith or alien – can experience true fear and absolute hatred. This is something he clearly cares deeply about and it’s weird. On one hand, that’s messed up. On the other hand, he wants everyone – not just the Elite – to experience the same thing. Which is a unique perspective in the Empire where society is firmly divided between Sith and pretty much everyone else. Jadus is planning on taking a starship with a few thousand dignitaries, sith and even slaves around the Galaxy to show them his ‘vision’ for the Empire and he wants to ensure that these dissidents don’t do anything to stop this. He asks you to trust absolutely no one, since he knows that the terrorists to have contacts in the highest levels of power throughout the Empire. He finishes the meeting by asking you to kneel before him. Which you can. Or not. If you choose not to – he kills you. Not just in a cut scene. You die. You have to rez. He seems to expect you to be able to come back from being killed also. Which officially makes Jadus the first character that I know that is aware that death is temporary and may in fact be leaning on the fourth wall a bit.
After the meeting and possibly coming back from the grave, Watcher Two sends you to the cantina for your next lead. Apparently, a weapons designer by the name of Theovor Mindak has contacts with the terrorists. But Mindak works for the rogue sith lord Grathan. You need a better in. Luckily, Mindak has a spoiled party girl daughter who is upstairs at the moment. You can try to use diplomacy to cut a deal where she inherits all her daddy’s wealth and power (Light Side), flirt with her (She’ll see through it), or just beat her (or a combination!) to get the info out of her and get her access codes. You can also kill her when its over if you want to tie up loose ends (Dark Side). Using the access codes, you can find Mindak in his lab and you find out why he helps the terrorist – because he is dissatisfied with Imperial policy. Okay, actually he’s a bit more specific. It seems that Imperial Intelligence grabbed his wife one night and hauled her off to who knows where and she was never seen again. No word on WHY she was hauled off, but I can see how this would sour his outlook. It doesn’t matter if you go light or dark, sincere or snark with Mindak, you’ll have to fight him and his robots either way. Once he’s dead, you grab his files and head back to base while Watcher Two deciphers them.
Once you get back, it’s time for a meeting. Darth Jadus phones in as he’s readying his ship – The Dominator – for launch. We know the terrorist’s target: The power conduits to Kaas City. By blowing just one it would set off a chain reaction that destroy every power source across the capital. All the conduits are under strict military guard save one – the one that lies under the Dark Temple. At this point we finally get some explanation as to what the deal with the temple is. Like that apparently the temple was only opened up just under a month ago and after workers started vanishing to an ‘unknown phenomena’ (ghosts) they blocked access to it. No I don’t know how they built a conduit under it without ever being able to go inside until just recently. Especially since the access tunnel is IN the Temple. Though I suppose the terrorists could have just used that tunnel to blow a hole into accessing the conduit. Still, this is the first but far from the last time we’ll receive information about the game’s setting that is exclusive to the Agent’s storyline. Keeper wants to send in a squad of agents to suppress the terrorists, but Jadus says that the Temple is sacred and he will not allow non-Sith to just run about willy nilly in there. Jadus decides it will be you and you alone that goes into the temple. Keeper is not pleased, doubly so if you thank Jadus for the job.
The mission is actually really simple. You bust in, take down three whole bombs, and then find an injured terrorist to interrogate. You can talk or hit him all you want but what you get out of him is this: There are multiple cells across multiple worlds. Their reasons for doing this are vague but seem to center around the idea of standing up against Imperial Intelligence in particular. And if you let him talk long enough instead of straight killing him when given the opportunity, he’ll reveal he’s terrified of the ghosts taking his mind more than he is afraid of you. You can help him out by getting him out of there (Light Side) and he’ll be more ‘cooperative’ in looking for the Cells, or just ditch him in the Temple to let the ghosts have him (Dark Side).
When you get back to headquarters, the entire place is in chaos. It would appear that while you were out stopping the terrorists, they had a secondary target in mind – The Dominator. That’s right. They blew up Darth Jadus’ flagship just as it was leaving Dromund Kaas, killing all three thousand-ish people on board including Darth Jadus himself. This is followed by a proclamation by the terrorist leader – The Eagle – to the entire Empire. He explains that they have proven that the Sith are not all powerful by killing Jadus. That they will continue to strike. That the Empire is bad and needs fixed. That Imperial Intelligence can just grab you if you even think anything bad about the Empire and make you vanish. Really, it’s mostly generic freedom fighter rabble rousing but we know who was behind it. Time to go ge- wha? Oh there’s one more mission? Ah yes. The exciting conclusion of chasing down a starship before it leaves and planting a mouse droid on it before the military blows things up. You run in and click a crate, then watch a cutscene before leaving. That’s it. Whoo hoo. Despite the ‘we must beat the military there’, they never do show up. Kind of a let down after the awesome reveal of the Eagle and the destruction of the Dominator. I guess they had a quest quota to fill for the XPs? Meh, we get the new title of “Cipher Nine” out of it, and our own ship. Also, don’t be a goof like me. Just because Keeper says that they’re trying to leave the starport. THEY ARE NOT AT THE STARPORT. They are at a docking area just across from the Cantina in Kaas City. I quick traveled all the way to the actual starport only to be left very confused.
The start of the Imperial Agent is a full blown taste of what you’ll be getting in Chapter One. There’s intrigue, deception, manipulation and eliminating lots of enemies of the Empire. In a lot of ways it feels very straight and by the book, but on the other hand it offers you a real chance to get into the headspace of the secret police of the Empire. They aren’t exaggerating when they say that Imperial Intelligence can show up out of nowhere and make you vanish. You are fully authorized to kill whoever you want and rest assured that the Watchers will make sure that no one else finds out if need be. The only place you have to be cautious is outside of Imperial jurisdiction as shown on Hutta with Karrels. It’s kind of scary to think about what you can do as an Agent if you look at it from the outside.
It’s also quite interesting coming back and playing this story a second (and third I’m sure you noticed with the screenshots) time. While everything seems straight laced and by the books missions, there’s actually a metric ton of foreshadowing given in the prologue about the events that will transpire in the next chapter. Not to get too spoilery, but the Prologue gives you all the clues you need to piece together the mystery in Chapter One. But it also sets up red herrings, misdirection, and a sense of you don’t know who is on the level. Simply put, there’s a lot more going on in this chapter than you will realize on your first play through it. Which is awesome. You can come back later on a new character after you finished an agent and go, “Oh. OOOOOOH. I GET IT!”
We also get our first companion, Kaliyo. Who coincidentally at the time of this writing has just been re-introduced in the Knights of the Fallen Empire storyline. Kaliyo is anti-authority to the point of being an “anarchist”. Anarchist like punk bands in the 80’s and high school kids who draw that ‘A’ symbol on their folders use the word, not like the actual political manifesto way. She’s also a love interest of the male Agent. I have only had a few chances to flirt with her, but honestly Kaliyo comes off a LOT like Jack from Mass Effect 2 without all the emotional baggage and breakthrough that can come from that romance. So I’m not sure I can say I personally am the biggest fan.
Overall, I think the Agent has a good start. I can see how it can be deceptively simple and straightforward to a first time player. I remember thinking it didn’t get good until the end of Chapter One. But now re-playing it, I can see all the awesome connections and set ups that were actually going completely under the radar on this one.
|| IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter One –>
“I’m going to make my OWN Horde. With blackjack. And hookers.” – Garrosh Hellscream, probably.
No Campfire can best him, no Shadow Hunter troll can dissuade him, this time Garrosh Hellscream is out to prove he is the one true Warchief the Horde needs AND deserves… by emulating it in Democracy 3.
To find out more about the 2010 Warchief Election at https://oddcraft.wordpress.com/category/other-stuff/warchief-election-2010/
A few months back I picked up Super Mario Maker for my Wii U, and boy is that a fun way to kill some time. Whether I’m designing levels or just playing through random ones that other people made, I still have a blast every time. Well, almost every time. I’m not exactly a huge fan of those auto-Mario levels that play themselves. Or the musical levels that for some reason never and I mean NEVER sound like the song their supposed to be. I get that those kind of things have an audience and I know auto-Mario is a HUGE thing in other parts of the world and the game is built around an international audience but ya know, it just never really clicked with me. I never liked that kind of stuff in Little Big Planet either.
Anyway, I finally got around to uploading some of my more thoroughly tested levels to their online servers and I figured I’d share the level IDs on here for anyone who also enjoys some Mario Maker and wanted to try them out:
Don’t Get Phazed By the Maze!
Course ID: 71A2-0000-01AC-0388
Starting basic with a more classic feel, it slowly begins ramping up difficulties and challenging you to think in alternate ways before sending you into the maze proper. The maze has several paths, including a easy but tricky emergency bonus exit that rewards you with a hearty compliment to your endeavors and a straight shot to the top of the pole. Keep an eye out for hidden bonuses tucked away here and there.
Above, Below & WAY Below
Course ID: CFAA-0000-01AC-0AB2
The mentality of the ‘multiple paths’ in “Don’t Get Phazed By the Maze!” takes full force here. There are 3 separate paths per section with ample opportunities to cross between them. Difficult to reach paths on the ‘overworld’ are rewarded with easier paths in the ‘underworld’ areas. There are dozens of different combinations and methods to complete this level with hidden goodies to get you from here to there along the way. Can you find the best path?
Spooky with a Capital P Switch
Course ID: 6DB3-0000-01AC-1A9C
A short level built around a single P-Switch. The switch can make the level easier or more rewarding by either countering enemies or opening up new paths. Can you find the secret coin vault?
Do you have a Mario Maker level? Share your Course ID in the comments below! I’d love to try them out.
The countdown begins to the bills being due, and with only a handful of simoleons in our pocket can we rack up enough royalties to keep in business? Maybe. If one of these Sims could finish writing a FRICKIN BOOK! What else could possibly go wrong!?
…Do you smell that?
<– Chapter Two || SMUGGLER ||
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Smuggler storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
When last we left our intrepid smuggler, they had just foiled a scandalous attempt on the life of Senator Dodonna using cybernetically enhanced beasts of unknown origin. The Senator tasked us with the job of hunting down where these beasts came from and how Rogun the Butcher got them. To find this out, there’s only one place to go and one person to talk to: The man with his hands in every plan – Darmas Palloran who sits chilling at Port Nowhere. Turns out that Darmas is completely on the ball on this one and has already got your answer by the time you arrive. The animals come from the planet Voss, a newly discovered world with insanely strict laws governing the coming to’s and going from’s the planet. Somehow Rogun managed to get these beasts off world, and that means going to Voss for answers. Sadly that will take some time. See, you’re not a fancy Jedi and you ain’t Republic special forces, so you’ll have to get to Voss the good old fashioned bureaucratic way – by getting a permit. That means it will take time. Luckily, Darmas has another lead you can pursue in the mean time.
It seems that our good friend/headache Rogun the Butcher has a bit of business on the secret prison planet of Belsavis. He’s apparently aiming to break out his old mentor who goes by the name ‘Ivory’. Ivory taught Rogun everything he knew, so he’s a powerful asset to Rogun AND to you against Rogun. Also I feel its worth mentioning that somehow it is actually easier for me to get access to super secret prison planet than it is to get a parking pass on the diplomatically neutral world of Voss. Keep that in mind the next time you go through there. That every other class is pretty much in the express lane to getting to go to Voss compared to the Smuggler and the rest of the galaxy.
So your first task to go get Ivory from his cell. Bit of a problem there though. Belsavis is in the middle of the biggest prison riot in the planet’s history thanks to the Imperials. So the guards aren’t exactly sure if Ivory is where he should be nor can they guarantee safe arrival to the cell. Could be worse though. They could be out of Space Coffee and Donuts, which they clearly aren’t given the ABUNDANCE of guards and prison personnel just standing around at the main compound. Get to work, you lazy pieces of trash.
It turns out that the cell is not empty at all. It’s full of explosives! Seems like when Ivory flew the coop he wanted to leave a goodbye present. You find a tunnel after taking cover that was dug into the stone that clearly indicates good ol’ Ivory has been contemplating getting out of here for a while. I mean that’s not poured cement we’re talking about. It’s solid rock. That’s determination! So you know that Ivory is out, and it seems from reports that a lot of Ivory’s crew is being busted out as well. Except for one. You race to a guard station where they have the last member of Ivory’s team in holding to see if she has any ideas on where Ivory has gone. But sadly, the girl is insanely fanatical and just spouts gibberish. The bad news rolls in as it becomes very clear that the guard holding her their was holding her not for you – but for Ivory. Ah, corrupt prison guards. Nice to see that even in the level 40’s that we’re still slumming it as a smuggler. One of Rogun the Butcher’s personal assassins joins you from the rafters and kills the girl, so you quickly have to take out both the assassin and the corrupt guard. And we’re back to square one with the whole ‘no clues’ thing. But wait! The guard has a list of names. Names to set free! Potentially for Ivory! Another lead! HUZZAH!
This lead sends you down to the prisons to meet up with two more members of Ivory’s crew whose names I never bothered to learn because I immediately just started calling them Bebop and Rocksteady. Their comedy relief henchmen essentially who you can – through no great effort – convince to fight each other instead of you. With them out of the way, it’s time to deal with the big ol’ gendai they let out and try to get some answers. Honestly, I don’t know how we really plan to defeat a friggin gendai since they establish on Imperial Nar Shadaa that they essentially can regenerate from almost nothing to the point that they had to run the corpses through meat grinders to stop them from coming back. Here you just blast him and walk off. Maybe he does regenerate. Not much reason to worry about him staying down so long as you can get out the door. Anyway, you get your next clue about Ivory’s location – the Deep Vaults.
Now where in the Deep Vaults? Never really pinpointed but the mission marker tells me where to go and I follow. Apparently, Ivory headed to what at least appears to be an ancient Rakata starship hanger complete with repaired starship. I’m suddenly having flashbacks to the end of John Carpenter’s The Thing. Ivory says he’s going to use this ancient starship (Up next on The History Channel) to blast off and leave Belsavis. This is actual fairly funny considering that a few scenes back with Ivory he was ranting about he was mastering the ancient Rakata technology and no longer needed to escape. Meaning that he was going to use the Rakata technology to escape? I’m not sure. But sinister plotting is a foot as that assassin you killed earlier isn’t dead! But he is! He’s actually just got like a dozen identical twins! What the fu-?!
Cornered by the baker’s dozen, you quickly learn that they’re not just there for you. It seems Rogun considered Ivory too risky to have alive in or out of prison. This opens up the brilliant opportunity to negotiate. You and Ivory team up to wipe out the goons and then you can press your leverage on him to either get intel on Rogun from him and send him back to the prisons, just flat out kill the guy or – my personal favorite – bring him with you and smuggle him out of the prison to work under you and teach you the ways of being an underworld boss. Heck. Yes.
This first interlude is just a really weird brief break. A Jedi Master, Sumalee, who is apparently yet another old friend of Risha’s gets a hold of you and asks you to retrieve another old friend of Risha’s who is an SIS team member from Hoth. She’s pinned down and on a mission investigating something that isn’t really important to the plot at all but because of this she can’t trust anyone in the Republic base. In other words, she needs to be smuggled off world.
I honestly don’t know what the point of this was beyond reminding you that you are a smuggler and to introduce Sumalee who has a minor presence in the story ahead on Corellia. Beyond that it’s just an experience buffer. You could have easily stuck this in the Interlude-less Act 2 (unless you count Quesh as an interlude. Might as well given how short those class story missions are.) Sumalee isn’t so vital that she needs introducing, and we already know that Risha is friends with everyone in the galaxy (Heck, she’s friends with Vette from the Sith Warrior storyline! That’s cross storyline friendship!)
Well, looks like those permits have finally come through and we can land on Voss. Or more accurately the space station orbiting Voss and then take a shuttle down. But we’re totally allowed to be there now. Unlike all those riff raffs and undesirables. Like the Exchange. Who run a massive criminal base just outside of Voss-Ka… Why did I have to wait for the paperwork again? I thought I was a smuggler. Like just in the last mission I smuggled friggin PEOPLE. Can I just smuggle things off of planets? Can I not smuggle myself? To make things worse is that the Voss assign you a chaperon to keep an eye on things. That won’t put a kink in these plans at all. Seriously, Dodonna has to be the worst negotiator ever to get me here on just these terms. Luckily, our nanny isn’t completely useless. He actually leads us to the aforementioned Exchange base. Seems our babysitter has a eclectic taste for offworlder music that the Exchange can get him. He introduces you to a fixer who is willing to put you in contact with Rogun’s smuggling ring for a meet if you help him gather up some Voss artifacts to sell.
So once you get him set up, he sends you off to this meeting with Rogun’s team and this may come as a shock to you but Rogun’s lackeys recognize Rogun’s number one kill on sight most wanted. I know. I didn’t see it coming either. Shock. They’re not dumb either. These guys not only have found a way to work with the Voss’ hated enemies – The Gormak – but found a way to smuggle Gormak modified cybernetic animals off world. Better yet, they actually got a plan together as soon as the fixer arranged the meeting. They’re going to pin the whole thing on you. They knock you out and take off just in time for the Voss Commandos to show up and see only you and an entire smuggling operation. Wow. This sucks. Luckily, my chaperon is willing to do the talking while I sneak off. He apparently trusts me implicitly as long as I tell him that I’m not lying. How the heck have the Voss survived contact with the outside galaxy?
You rush back to the Exchange Fixer (Honestly, more than anything else I am utterly shocked how somehow the Exchange ends up being the good guys here) and explain what happened. He feels terrible about how sour the deal went since after all he’s a business man and has a rep to think about. But if the Gormak are involved, he does have a shipment going to the Gormak later and he can freeze you in carbonite (you know, it’s easy. Like going to pick up some milk from the store. Just a quick carbon freezing and then back to work on Monday. Takes years off your face, dahling.) so you can sneak past their lifesign scanners and get into Gormak territory.
When you arrive, you come face to face with “Gormak Zac” the ‘Human Gormak’. Essentially, a human who went native. He was momentarily in the earlier scene with the smuggling meet but we didn’t really get that much about him other than he was the contact between Rogun’s goons and the Gormak. However, he’s not loyal to Rogun and defnitely not on his payroll. Once you explain the situation and what Rogun’s been doing, Zac will happily help you since its against even Gormak law to sell abominations from the Nightmare Lands – a market Rogun’s female lackey is hoping to bust in on. He helps you escape if you promise to help stop her. Turns out that it’s two birds with one stone since while going after her in the Nightmare Lands, you get a chance to record a meeting between her and a Sith Lord that proves that you weren’t the smuggler to the Voss. Well, not THAT smuggler at least. You fight the abominations, the Sith and Rogun’s henchwoman and head back to Voss-Ka for your big fat… criminal… trial. Damn.
The trial isn’t even remotely fair either. You prove your innocence handily with the recording but then they change the rules after the fact and charge you with all this other crap you did while on the planet that you weren’t on trial for. So, in Voss law, it doesn’t matter if you can prove you didn’t murder a guy if you even DARED to jaywalk while proving your innocence. Forgive me, honeycomb eyes. You can choose to take your licks will gives you an entirely optional and don’t-need-it-to-progress side mission of delivering packages to various planets, OR you can throw your babysitter under the bus when he volunteers to shoulder the blame for the whole incident. Don’t be a dummy, kids! If you do the crime, let your buddies do the time.
So the words gone out. Between the hit on the Voss operation and the royal mess up with trying to eliminate Ivory, Rogun is calling in all his remaining lieutenants to a secret meet on Tatooine that you just happen to have got the deets on. Time to put an end to this pain in the rear once and for all. However, as you confront Rogun and square off with his goons, a pair of strange Sith appear. They delight in revealing the twist: The Voidwolf is the real bad guy! Okay that’s not the actual twist. It turns out that Darmas Palloran and Senator Dodanna are in league with the Voidwolf. They’ve been pitting you and Rogun against each other so the two of you wipe each other out, leaving Darmas to control the criminal underworld. Senator Dodanna’s privateer “project” was actually just a front for you to acquire things FOR the Voidwolf so she can earn ruling over an entire planet once the Imperials conquer the Republic. They both have been playing you for a sap!
Next comes the big choice. Rogun’s been hounding you since level 1. He’s come after you time and again. This is your chance to kill him. But that’s not the only option. You can also force him to work for you and for him to give you his share of the criminal underworld. Revenge or profit. It’s a race between my two favorite vices. Take your pick!
With Rogun dealt with in one way or another, it’s time to go for the Voidwolf and his partners in crime – Darmas and Dodanna. You reunite with Master Sumalee (Yup. Super vital to establish earlier for this express purpose) and try and convince her of the Senator’s guilt but without proof there’s not much hope. After all, Dodonna’s a well respected senator of Coruscant, not scum like Darmas. Speaking of which, you do scope out Dodanna’s partner – Darmas’s – safehouse and find he’s working with the Corellian rebels to blow open Supply tunnel 26, which happens to be the ‘artery’ of the underground tunnel network that many soldiers died to seal up so the Imps couldn’t use the tunnels to invade all of Corellia. You find Darmas preaching to a bunch of Corellian revolutionaries who have all been told that you were a traitor who stole White Maw cloaking tech and Balmorran weapons for the Voidwolf (Technically accurate, but not knowingly). You can respond by either opening fire, try to convince the angry mob that Darmas is an Imperial, or you can be like me and convince them that Darmas is trying to steal the women of Corellia – which apparently turns out to be somewhat true as he’s been flirting and asking girls back to his ship since he got there. (Who knew?) He flees back to the Imperial’s base when cornered by siccing droids on you.
To get to Darmas, you need to get inside the Imperial base that is in a commandeered hospital. Only way to get through that many guards is to attack various targets to lure them out and then sneak in using the revolutionaries’ doctor contact. Once you make contact with the doctor, he mentions he was expecting a captain with an injured leg and notes that the only way in is on a stretcher – so he shoots you. Once inside you find Darmas talking to a weasely Corellian politician that helped sell out the planet to the Imps, and here you can either kill him, turn him into the Republic to testify against Dodonna, or let him escape in exchange for all the info he has on Dodonna.
Next is to get to Dodonna, who fled to the Voidwolf’s men as soon as she caught wind that this was going down. They’re holed up in the Museum of Alien History, but the only ‘safe’ way in is through an old abandoned selonian tunnel that was caved in. After blowing through some walls, and fighting escaped zoo animals that decided to live there (Raising the question of how long they’ve been down here. Did they escape the zoo during the invasion and get stuck? Or did the zoo just really suck at its job?), you find Dodonna affixed with a slave collar and cleaning the floor for an Imperial Lieutenant. She’s willing to tell you about the Voidwolf’s plans – that he’s building a pirate fleet to attack the Republic ship yards – but will mock your attempts to arrest her since she knows she’ll just walk free in exchange for all she knows about the Voidwolf. Instead she wants ‘free free’ – to just be turned loose and let vanish into the greater galaxy. You can let her do that if you want, or you can lie to her and then kill her once she’s turned over the evidence. After all, it’s just a lie for a lie. However as a nice touch, if you do take the lie and kill route, your smuggler will look away as they pull the trigger. Just one of those ‘not completely heartless’ moments that I really enjoyed.
Finally it’s time to go for the Voidwolf. To get to him, you’ll need to break into the weasely senator from earlier’s home and stow away or catch a ride with him to the Voidwolf’s flagship. After the Jedi Master Sumalee gives some not-so-Jedi advice on breaking-and-entering (She was Risha’s friend, remember?), you go and deactivate all the cameras and sensors from around the house. Then you defeat the guard captain and force him to walk you through the security system that will fry anyone who isn’t authorized or not with someone who is. You then meet the senator who offers you a deal to work with the Voidwolf. In the moment you might sped thinking that offer over, he calls the guards on you. What a toad. Then you have to chase him down to get the codes to take off in his shuttle by either just killing him or forcing him to give you the codes before letting him go. Either way you take his ship and we’re off to see the Voidwolf.
The finale starts IMMEDIATELY as you board the Senator’s ship, so be ready. From there it’s your standard ‘fight through the ship’ mission that if you’re like me and are playing every class mission – you’re quite used to. There’s a mini boss in the form of the Voidwolf’s Underboss at the end of the first area which is actually a refreshing change of pace. There’s also a small easter egg I found of a female officer kicking back with her feet on the table watching a double than life size holo of a female twilek pole dancing. So there’s a fun bit of same sex… uh… interest? When you finally reach the end of the ship, the Voidwolf is ordering his new pirate fleet around when you interrupt, and the various captains decide that they will serve whoever wins. Because as pirates they all work on some weird Mad Max style set of rules where only the strongest is worthy of loyalty or some such. You fight and defeat the Voidwolf, who tries to trick you with activating a thermal detonator when you kick over his assumed dead body, but you throw it back at him blowing him up.
With the Voidwolf dealt with, your new pirate fleet wants to know orders. You can tell them to pay a tribute to you and then disperse, to attack the Imperials, or to serve you as pirates and to plunder from the Imps AND Pubs while they fight each other. Then, because the Voidwolf is an ass and has to pull ever villain card from the deck, your crew informs you that a self destruct is imminent so you have to go find an escape pod. AND THE IMPS ARE STILL FIGHTING YOU ALL ALONG THE WAY. WHY? DO YOU WISH FOR DEATH THAT MUCH?! And in case you didn’t finish up any business planet side – good news! You crash back down on Corellia after escaping.
The ending of the story depends entirely on what you chose on the Voidwolf’s ship. I’ve done this storyline twice and have got two completely different endings to this story: When you chose to have the fleet attack the Imperials or take the money & have them disperse, you get a medal ceremony with Supreme Chancellor Saresh and Master Sumalee where I was proclaimed a Republic hero. If you choose the pirate option? Well the three captains show up to give you a share of the haul, Ivory and Rogun show up too if you had them join your team. They announce that galaxy wide you are being called ‘The Bandit King’ and you can reopen Port Nowhere as your personal pirate fortress. So Galaxy’s greatest hero or greatest crime lord. Not bad for a two bit smuggler who just wanted to run some guns to a bunch of freedom fighters on Ord Mantell.
Chapter Three is a really solid cap on an overall solid storyline. Again, I think the thing that seems to really encapsulates the smuggler story is momentum. The stakes keeping getting raised, the dangers escalate, the threats get more menacing – that kind of thing and Chapter Three carries on that whole process really well. I was initially very worried when Skavak was defeated at the end of Chapter One that we would have a repeat of the situation in the Bounty Hunter or Trooper storyline but no, because the story had the foresight to neither string us along with the annoyance of Skavak for three chapters but to also include a secondary villain to wait in the wings and occassionally send goons after you to remind you of his presence with Rogun the Butcher. Rogun is first mentioned right there on Ord Mantell and you don’t actually ever come face to face with the guy until right before Corellia. All the while he exists as a threat to you. The Voidwolf may write you off as insignificant but Rogun wants your head on a plate and he keeps gunning for you the entire storyline.
That’s the kind of momentum this story has. No matter whats going on, there isn’t a lull in the danger. It never diminishes or even stays constant. It’s always growing. From Skavak to Rogun & the Voidwolf to the surprise betrayal of Dodonna and Darmas, you find yourself constant fighting an uphill battle – which is what good drama should do. In the Trooper storyline, there is no major threat to fill the gap of losing the first chapter’s villains. The Bounty Hunter kind of meanders around in Chapter Three without a clear cut idea of what you’re doing beyond ‘earning favors’ to cash in for the ‘where to fight the bad guy’ coupon. Here though? Everything ties together. Everything plays a part in the overall story. That junk robot Skavak wanted from the Seperatists? The ‘freaky trophy’ from the Imps? All used as items for trading to get what you need for the treasure. Your seemingly unrelated privateer missions? That’s how Dodonna and Darmas buy their way into the Voidwolf’s inner circle. The only point where the connections are stretched at best is a few of the interludes and even they aren’t pointless – just not necessary. The smuggler story just builds until you – a lone plucky starship captain with no backing from any major organization – either takes down an Imperial admiral and his pirate fleet to save the day or rises up to become the most notorious pirate king since the days of Nok Drayan.
The one other perk to the story is that it’s funny. Like honest to goodness funny. I found myself constantly laughing while playing through this. Especially if you play it with kind of a gray morality. The light side stuff falls on the side of ‘help the innocent, save the day’ and the dark side stuff is mostly ‘get paid and kill anyone in your way’ but the gray choices usually fall firmly in the snarky category, and it is SO worth it to pursue that route.
There’s a reason I listed this storyline so high on my list of Worst to Best storylines. It really is a well constructed and fun storyline. It has two distinct endings that change based on your choices instead of just some basic fluff of a changed line in a default ending like the Jedi get. It never feels like it slows down or stalls, and it always has some new wacky card to pull out to put a smile on your face. It also exposes you to a side of the Star Wars universe you don’t get to see much of in the other storylines – the seedy underbelly. Oh sure the bounty hunter starts on Hutta and there’s scum everyone on a Hutt controlled planet but beyond that your clientele seems to be those who can afford your fees. Here? Your a smuggler. By definition you are working below the legal line. Which leads you to meeting the more colorful characters in Star Wars.
Seriously, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed playing through this storyline. Do yourself a favor and give it a try. I never thought it felt like a slog and I’ve played through it twice already.
<– Chapter Two || SMUGGLER ||
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter of the Smuggler storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
So you’ve got the riches of Nok Drayan, you got a new partner who is the former crimelord’s daughter and the heir to the throne of an entire planet, you got nothing but wide open space ahead of you. What better time than to sell out? Yeah, well it seems like we had to put something in the story to justify why the heck the smuggler is a “Republic class” and not just some third neutral faction. The Bounty Hunters have that whole ‘The Mandalorians are on permanent contract with the Empire’ thing, so now Smugglers get this. What is this?
Well, after a quick holo call from Darmas Palloran (He’s that cheerful fellow from Coruscant that you beat handily at Sabacc and helped you find Skavak) telling you to come to Port Nowhere. Unfortunately, Port Nowhere is essentially a starship turned into a hangout for smugglers and pirates, which means it’s a rough crowd. Doubly so once they get wind about that bounty Rogun the Butcher put on your head. Rogun’s goons are even there waiting for you and they got Darmas! So now we have to save the gambler but for good reason. He’s got us a gig: Becoming a Republic Privateer under Senator Dodanna. Essentially becoming an officially government sanctioned smuggler. Doing the more nebulous jobs that can’t officially be on the Republic’s books and what not. All with a fat paycheck. Well, as they say: “A gig is a gig.”
However just as your leaving, Port Nowhere is attacked by the Voidwolf. Who is the Voidwolf? Well, he’s a big shot Imperial admiral who apparently has teamed up with Rogun the Butcher. And he’s got the place surrounded. Darmas sends Port Nowhere off into the hyperlanes to get away and you run off to your first official job as a privateer.
Our first job is the war torn world of Balmorra. Oh boy. Yay. Nothing like a stroll through the war ravaged hills of the factory and droid part ridden country side to get back to work and remind me that I’m not retired after scoring the treasure of a lifetime. Apparently, the job here is to work with the Resistance and smuggle some much needed provisions (You know, food, water, medical supplies, grenade launchers) from their double agent contact in the Empire codenamed ‘Golden’. All the while you keep bumping into a Mandalorian zabrak named Akaavi Spar who is looking to kill a man named Moff Tyrak to avenge her destroyed clan.
You eventually track down the shipment to an Imperial base warehouse, but low and behold it’s not actually there. However, ‘Golden’ is. And Golden is actually Moff Tyrak. And he wants out. In fact, there wasn’t any supplies. He just said that to the Republic so they’d send someone that could extract him because the Empire seems to be on to his whole double agent act. Something about not normally being able to afford multiple mansions and luxury speeders on a Moff’s salary. Shocking, I know. Moff Tyrak quickly proves to be an annoyance – but an entertaining annoyance. Kind of like that butt monkey that you like to see get kicked, and boy howdy do you get plenty of options to kick him. Since no one is willing to extract Tyrak just because he can’t manage his money without the actual shipment, Tyrak leads you to where you should be able to get what you need – the Balmorran Arms Factory. What a weird place to keep completely innocent humanitarian supplies. Huh.
You break into the factory with minimal assistance from the Moff, but as soon as you take your eyes off of him for like two minutes he ‘scouts the area for anyone coming’ and then somehow – I’m sure he has nooooo idea how – they all show up to stop you. With him in tow. Aaaand with him shouting crap like “That’s him! That’s the one!” Nerves on a Jedi on this guy I’ll tell you what. Luckily, Akaavi shows up again to help and to get her ultimate revenge on the weaselly Moff. She declares that she is here to avenge the deaths of Clan Spar. But the Moff doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She states that she knows that Moff Tyrak signed the order to kill her entire clan that had faithfully worked with the Empire until then. Tyrak then realizes what happened. See, he just signs any death order that comes across his desk. He doesn’t even read them. After all, their wouldn’t be a kill order if they didn’t deserve it. Akaavi is to say the least flabbergasted that her arch-nemesis is no mustache twirling super-villain but a moronic bureaucrat. You can encourage her to just let it go, or to take her revenge and be done with it before she decides on joining you on your ship because quite frankly she has nowhere else to go. You also get the choice of what to do with a fleet’s worth of high tech weaponry that you’ve just acquired. There’s a few options including give it to the Republic (you know, what the Republic sent you there for) or sending it to Port Nowhere to be sold off to the highest bidder (Because money). I took the Port Nowhere option myself. Being King of the Pirates isn’t cheap you know.
On your way off planet, you get word that your success in pillaging the Empire’s weapons has caused The Voidwolf to execute several captains under his command for the failures to stop you.
As you head off world and deal with the consequences of maaaaybe the Republic not receiving those high tech goodies like they were expecting, you also get a message of a bunch of other Republic privateers pinned down by the Voidwolf’s fleet on the Planet Quesh. They claim that if you help them, they’ll help you and I like people owing me things, so it’s off to the poison planet!
You make it to the hidden landing area and wipe the Voidwolf’s forces there, but the other captains explain that unless you take out the targetting computers in a nearby Imperial base, that the Voidwolf will just lock on and blast them as they try to leave. Also, as an added kick you find out that Beryl Thorne is there with the other Privateers. Beryl was the nice smuggler lady you met way back on Taris that A) Didn’t like Risha and B) You had a chance to sleep with. This naturally will make things awkward if you A) have romanced someone, B) Brought that person along and C) Triply so if that person IS Risha.
So once you blast your way into the base, you finally get to meet the Voidwolf. Sort of. It’s a hologram. He’s still on his ship. But you get to see him finally, and talk to him in person. He explains that you are no threat to his plans, that he is completely ready for anything you can throw at him, and he will see you dead. You can naturally point out that he’s going to a lot of trouble to be ready for you and wanting you dead for someone who is no threat to him. In fact, for being such a non-existent threat, he’s really gone out of his way to study up every detail of your personal adventures and life. His response is naturally to send more goons after you. You kill them and blow up the computers. You go back to the privateers and can tell them that in exchange for saving their worthless lives, they can either go back and do their duty for the Republic (Light Side) or that they now work for you instead and should report to Port Nowhere for further orders (Dark Side).
No, I wasn’t kidding about being the King of the Pirates.
For once, I actually enjoyed Hoth. No seriously, most times in these class stories Hoth feels like a complete drag. It’s a huge planet with only a couple of actually story missions that really just ends up with you running around on a speeder for 5-15 minutes at a time trying to get between point A and B, staring at the bleak endless white. But the smuggler story here? There’s actually crap going on. It’s not just a macguffin hunt. I mean technically if you distill it down to its raw parts it kind of is – but not how you might think at the beginning. Rather for the Smuggler, you end up trying to navigate and slip through the political power struggle of the major faction on the planet – The White Maw pirates.
The actual reason you’re on Hoth is actually that the Republic wants its hands on the White Maw’s top secret cloaking technology. Something so powerful it can hide an entire fleet. They send you there with nothing but the name of a Jedi master to get in touch with only to find that he’s not there – he’s dead. However, Jedi Master Guss Tuno is there to help you. He’s the assistant/replacement for the missing Jedi Master. His idea to get you in with the White Maw so you can swipe the tech is to make it look like your stealing some good stuff from the Republic’s storage depot/ice cave (Let’s be honest, they are all ice caves.) Only the higher ups will know, but the rank-and-file won’t to help keep it looking legit so you’ll have to fight your way in. However, once you do you find out that: No the higher ups don’t know, No there was no replacement for the missing Jedi, and yes you are very definitely really stealing this crap. Guss comes clean and explains that he works for the White Maw, enslaved by their boss – Shie Tenna – who he offers to introduce you to in exchange for his dirty lies.
Shie Tenna is a hulking brute that seems to be quite fond of keeping his men in line with fear and displays of power. You are introduced to him and his lover Alinna who vapidly hangs on his every word in his secret cantina base (read: ice cave) arranged by – but strangely not present – Guss Tuno. Shie wants you to help him take over the White Maw by removing the other bosses’ from the equation. By which he means killing the rival. However, once Shie Tenna is out of ear shot, Alinna speaks to you and reveals that not only is she not as vapidly moronic as she lets on to Shie, she’s pretty much the brains behind the White Maw. She manages the operations, handles finances, sets up plans – meanwhile Shie Tenna blows stuff up and postures. Her suggestion is to expose Shie’s rival as being an Imperial sympathizer who plans to sell out the Maw to the Imps. The White Maw may be a pack of psychotic pirates, but they all have a fierce passion for being free to do things their way. The Imps would not work out well in that equation. So the choice is yours whether the wipe out the rival base or to turn them against their leader. When you return, Shie Tenna declares you be brothers-in-arms! Only to reveal that he also apparently killed his brother and throws you into a wampa holding pen (Ice cave.) Luckily, good ol’ Guss is there to bust you out with another lead on getting in good with the White Maw.
And I’m not even going to string this one along – yea, that lead is also a trap. A bunch of Gand bounty hunters waiting to take you out. Guss confesses when you save him from the bounty hunters as well. He isn’t a Jedi Master (though he is force sensitive. He dropped out of Jedi school), he’s not some White Maw slave – he works for Rogun the Butcher. Rogun sent Guss to arrange for you to be taken out. Guss sees that you’re a good guy and just can’t bring himself to go through with it. With that out of the way, he’s willing to help you break into the White Maw fortress (Not actually an ice cave for once) and to get the cloaking tech… which turns out to be a bit more complicated than you might have first thought.
So it turns out that once you breach the White Maw’s fortress and defeat Shie Tenna, you find their “Cloaking Tech” and it’s actually just an alien kid with severe brain damage. Turns out the species the kid belongs to has a defensive mechanism that renders them and everything around them invisible to the eye, scans, radar… everything (which is an impressive evolutionary feat I must say) but they can only do this when they are scared of something. So the White Maw beat him whenever they want the fleet cloaked. Alinna, Shie Tenna’s girl from earlier wants to actually save the alien kid and get him offworld somewhere safe. At this point there’s a bunch of different choices you can make to decide what happens next. You can smuggle them offworld, you can convince Alinna to take over the White Maw, YOU can try and take over the White Maw, you can force them to give the Alien Kid to the Republic, or you could give the Alien Kid to the Republic but also send Alinna with it to make sure it gets treated right and Alinna gets off of Hoth and being stuck with the White Maw… So yea, a lot more options than your typical “This is the Light Side” and “This is the Dark Side.” Which I really do enjoy. Not all these choices can be broken down into simple binary solutions and I get a kick out of the fact that the game will let you explore multiple solutions to a single problem. I personally sent the kid and Alinna to the Republic to ensure fair treatment (Cause it’s the job, but I don’t trust the Republic one bit in terms of treating the downtrodden fairly) and I personally took control of the White Maw faction.
So we’ve helped the Republic, we’ve lined our pockets, and we’ve got a good start on building our criminal empire. What’s left for this space jockey to do? Well, how about a sick burn on the Empire and snubbing both the Voidwolf and Rogun the Butcher while you’re at it? The job is the King’s Ransom – as in that’s the name of the ship. An Imperial treasury ship that transports all the wealth and trade between Nar Shadaa and Dromund Kaas. That’s right. It’s essentially a Star Wars train job. To help out there’s another chap who has been on the wrong side of Rogun’s ire and is looking to make a score. But before you can take off, you have to help save a safe cracker from the Hutts who plan to sell him off to Rogun’s goons to be… well… butchered. You get the choice of either simply killing the Hutts or bargaining with them and stealing their business right out from under Rogun. Either way you’ll have to deal with Rogun’s goons but at least you might get out of having to fight the Cartel thugs while you’re at it.
Once the team is all together (the safe cracker, the muscle, and you – the looks and/or brains) you hop on a private shuttle provided by Senator Dodonna herself to infiltrate the King’s Ransom. You fight through the ship until you reach the vaults and break into them, where you find a random assortment of awesome old antiques – several of which are actually references to the original Knights of the Old Republic games. In the final vault however, you find three Moffs hanging out and talking trash about the Voidwolf. They mention how he’s not Imperial born and yet rose through the ranks with unprecedented speed. Seems like a lot of the other Imps don’t much care for the Voidwolf, and yet as soon as they see you they don’t spare a moment calling him to get him to come and help.
The Voidwolf’s help however is not exactly what the Moff’s expect however. The nefarious admiral announces that since the war has just started up again, the Imperial military code dictates that if a ship is at risk of falling to the enemy (That’s you), then he is well within his rights to destroy said ship to prevent it from being taken. So he does. That would be the cue to GTFO. Grab whatever loot you can and make break for it.
Back on Nar Shadaa, you divvy up the loot (you can take your share, let the other two keep it all, or kill them and keep it all for yourself) and go your separate ways ala the end of any Ocean’s Eleven movie. But just as you round the corner, Senator Dodonna is there and being threatened by Rogun’s goons and a pack of strange beasts that are all wired up with some weird cyborg stuff. You dispatch the beasts and Dodonna thanks the stars you showed up when you did. She wants to know exactly what these are, where they came from and how the heck Rogun the Butcher got a hold of them and could transport them as weapons.
That little plot point ends up immediately kicking off chapter 3, so I’ll see you on the other side to find out what happens next.
I’ll admit, I was extremely skeptical of the whole ‘Republic Privateer’ plot point. It just seemed like a flimsy way to tie this into the whole two faction system. However, what it also ended up doing was opening up a wider array of moral choices. You weren’t just locked into ‘Selfless’ or ‘Greedy’ or ‘Live’ or ‘Kill’. There was also the matter of the job you were hired to do. So now things start to divide into three ways: Greedy, Selfless, or loyal. You can help the locals at the cost of the job and yourself, you can be greedy at the cost of the locals and the job, or you can do the job at the cost of the locals and yourself. This diversifies things a bit and starts to spread out the choices and implications of them. Do you become the loyal hand of the Republic? Do you play the dashing rogue hero? Or do you go full greed and become the new pirate king? All are viable directions you could take.
This really shines through in the Hoth mission. While there isn’t a ton of long lasting effects to these choices, it still feels like you are really given a solid choice. It’s not a simple binary choice either as I said. You get multiple different ways that story can end and you can even combo some of them up. If Alinna doesn’t choose to lead the White Maw, it opens up new options for what happens to the pirate gang that are independent of how you choose to deal with the Cloaking Alien. It really feels like you can actually role play in this chapter and feel like you are your playing YOUR smuggler and not just a light/dark smuggler. A feeling that does have the tendency to permeate a lot of the other stories. It’s not speaking less of the other class stories as much as it speaks much higher of the smuggler.
In terms of the chapter structure, Chapter Two felt mostly like a bridge between the end of Chapter One and the setting up the starting of Chapter Three. It does deal with the consequences of becoming the notorious finder of Nok Drayan’s loot and does a fair job showing how that kind of exposure ups the stakes for you. It also thrusts you into the realm of being not only the target of Rogun the Butcher – still on your tail since the prologue might I mention and one of the only main villains that spans all four parts of a Class Story – and starting to reveal the Voidwolf as a serious threat. The Voidwolf is ruthless, cut throat and efficient. Imagine Grand Moff Kilran if he was raised in the mob instead of an Imperial Academy. That’s the Wolf.
Chapter Two also starts to lay the groundwork for the more or less three major archetypes your smuggler can follow: The Republic Hero, the Contractor, and the Pirate King. To elaborate, you can tow the government line and support the Republic and try to do the right thing and end up being this mythic folk hero of the Republic. Not bound by rules, but still looking out for the little guy. The Contractor is more of a ‘in it for myself’ kind of vibe. You do the job, you get paid. No loyalties beyond yourself and MAYBE your crew. Finally, you can actively try to use the Republic’s work to your advantage, build alliances, and gain subordinates while putting together your own little criminal empire based out of Port Nowhere. Honestly, I found that route to be very fun. These three trends will continue to play out through Chapter Three culminating in the grand finale.
We also gained the remaining members of our crew in this Chapter. There’s Akaavi Spar who is a mandalorian. Her personality is that she is a mandalorian. It’s like honor this, and clan that. She doesn’t even like you very much when she first joins the crew, viewing you as some sort of cut throat merc without dignity or honor (to be fair, she can be entirely right.) If you prove her wrong, it can open up a romance option with her. Honestly, I didn’t find her to be anywhere near as intriguing as Risha in terms of the romance department. She spends most her conversations talking about revenge and how you surprise her. It doesn’t help it that her voice seems almost constantly monotone about everything unless she’s angry. So happy and sad Akaavi are creepily similar voice inflections.
The last member of the crew is Guss. Guss is a drop out Jedi who is force sensitive… kind of. He can do a couple of things with the Force – but nowhere near enough to do anything like the most basic padawan can achieve at the start of Tython. He left the Academy and fell in with Rogun and his goons. Guss can be viewed as annoying lost puppy that won’t start barking. He’s got a serious hero worship thing going and I can see how it would be annoying to some people. Honestly, beyond trying to teach good ol’ Guss to be a proper criminal and to come to grips with what he wants to do with his life, there’s not much to say about him. Oh, he’s a Mon Calamari. There’s that too I suppose.