Looking Back at Warlords of Draenor

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Well, with Legion just around the corner and the movie all abuzz across the internets (Good and bad), I figured it was time to take a look back at the latest expansion of the World of Warcraft and share my thoughts on what it did right and what it did wrong.

Garrisons:  Garrisons were one of those features I was dreading being utterly disappointed in. The whole idea had been trimmed, cut down, slashed and burned from the original pitch way back at Blizzcon.  From a customizable fortress that could be established in any zone and would have room for trophies and what not to… well, what we ended up getting. A static spot in your faction’s starting zone with the only customization being from a fairly limited number of building types into certain spots, the ability to change the race of the guards and a couple of the flags, and the trophies really just being spots for your pristine archaeology finds and “monuments” that are unlocked by doing super specific expansion long goals.  It was a shadow of the cool feature that we were told about.  And yet, I still love my garrison.  Granted, I love my Alliance garrison more than my snowpile in Frostfire.  But I do actually love my garrison.  I love being the commander of my own forces, ordering them out to complete tasks and then seeing them off as they march around.  I like seeing my followers and other characters I’ve met on my journey wandering around.  I enjoy setting my music and saluting my gnome guards.  I like building it up and fortifying my base.  I even liked defending it from attackers the few times I was able to get it to happen.  So much so that I actually kind of hope that my garrison hearthstone sticks around with me after the expansion is over so I can go back and visit my little corner of the world.

Past & Present Collide:  One of the more interesting things I liked in the expansion was to see where the things in Outland came from. I am still stumbling upon connections and putting together things when I’m out doing stuff.  It was only just recently that it hit me that the Podlings would eventually become the Sporelings of Zangarmarsh.  Or what was in this area before the world got ripped up.  The only real sad part to this was the fact that Farahlon was passed over and forgotten along with several other smaller islands that are clearly shown on the map but never added in game.

The Story:  Oh, the story.  What a mangled tale it did weave.  So much excitement, so many threats, and all of it – entirely – was for absolutely nothing.  Seriously, what were the lasting repercussions of this plotline? Garrosh is dead. Maraad is dead.  Gul’dan was thrown into the Nether so he can reach other universes.  Those are the three things that were actually accomplished in terms of the overall narrative of Warcraft.  Everything else? Those epic battles? Those heart warming reunions and soul crushing sacrifices?  All take place in an Alternate Universe that has zero effect on anything once we go home.  Talk about a dissapointment.  Heck, the Iron Horde never posed any risk after 30 minutes in Tanaan Jungle.  You blow up the Dark Portal in the intro mission. The Iron Horde now has zero threat to the real world from their weirdo elseworld. But now we’re stuck right? Nope. We can just open a mage portal across dimensions back home. lol.  WHY ARE WE BOTHERING TRYING TO SAVE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE DRAENOR? Nothing that happens can affect us beyond people from our universe dying (which they do).

How about this instead – it IS our Draenor.  The Timewalkers and the Bronze Dragons have temporarily locked it off in time so that we – the heroes – can go back, track down Garrosh and his accomplice and set things right before it has a chance to permanently destroy our universe.  Then there is an actual risk to us failing to stop the Iron Horde.  There’s a reason for us staying once you broke the Dark Portal and stopped the Invasion.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to end up being the same.  As long as the important plot pieces remain (Nerzhul becomes the Lich King, Gromm lives long enough to free the Orcs from the Blood Curse, Thrall ends up being raised by humans) you could pull a comic style reboot and brought the Movie plotline into canon with the games.  Maybe not flawlessly, but that would have at least been something. Instead we are left with a lackluster resolution with minimal lasting effects.  This whole expansion should have been a novel.

The Ending:  Speaking of lackluster…  WHY DOES GROMM GET OFF SCOTT FREE?  After using the Iron Horde to complete destroy Draenor, wage war on the Draenei and other citizens of the world, and murder and pillage as they see fit – he suddenly gets welcomed with open arms by those he and his chieftans have wronged just because Gul’dan is the bigger asshole?  I hate to go Godwin on this, but that’s kind of like the Allies welcoming Hitler into their ranks, saying let bygones be bygones, all because some space aliens attacked in the last few years of World War II. You don’t get a Get Out of Jail Free card just because there is someone worse than you.  And yet, here we are.  With that being the exact note the expansion ends on.  Gromm is the big damn hero that will help rebuild Draenor with the Draenei and there will be peace and butterflies.  I don’t even have words for how BAD that ending was.  Oh, but at least Gromm didn’t killsteal Archimonde. That makes it alright then, right?  God that ending pissed me off and the fact that more people weren’t pissed off also pisses me off.  You could have at least made it Durotan that extends the hand of peace!  He was willing to join forces to fight the Iron Horde.  All frickin’ Gromm did was get tied to a rock for not drinking EctoCooler.

The Legendary Ring:  Weirdly enough, the Ring quest actually did feel Legendary. Even though the whole thing didn’t even result in an item that you will ever be able to display to others.  The story behind the Ring was really what made it strong.  Joining Khadgar in his elaborate chess game with Gul’dan.  Khadgar who is old enough to actually be aware of the threat that Gul’dan poses (Having encounter him through Gul’dan’s dealing with Medivh in the First War and using the Skull of Gul’dan to close the Dark Portal in the Second War).  Khadgar dances back and forth on his morality quite a bit – stooping to torture, dealing in dark magic, and ultimately getting his bodyguard and confidante to be swayed over by Gul’Dan’s power.  It’s clear that this was the intended ‘real story’ behind the expansion given what we know about Gul’dan’s eventual take over of the Iron Horde and being thrown across realities to help instigate Legion.  A shame that once the expansion comes out, no one will ever be able to see it as they are burying the questline.

Getting Out in the World:  When Blizzard first spoke about the leveling experience of Draenor being less questing and more Timeless Isle, I was filled with dread.  That didn’t sound fun at all.  Racing with others to grab spawns and fighting for kills to grind.  Luckily, the traditional questing method did make it in but traces of the Timeless Isle are felt everyone. From the treasures to the rare mobs to the tedious rep grinding of 2 rep per mob, it was everywhere.  Luckily, there were improvements made.  The Rares spawned pretty quickly outside of the endgame areas, the chests were all account specific so you never had to fight for them, and it was kind of fun seeking things out.  However I did miss my dailies (Shut up, I like them) and was glad to see them return in Tanaan along with the option of grinding for the Saberstalkers.  However, I guess this just didn’t get that many people out in the world since all I’ve heard from the general player base was “We just sit in our garrisons”.

The Flying Achievement:  I liked it.  I liked the idea of once you have mastered the outdoor PvE elements of the expansion that you unlocked flying account wide.  So all of your alts will have it as soon as they enter Draenor.  I like that a lot better than paying 2000 gold per character at least.  Plus as an achievement fan, it gives me something big to work toward.

I guess what it boils down to was the fact that while the gameplay in Warlords of Draenor really succeeded for me, the story felt like it was a complete after thought and didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved.  The whole expansion kind of felt like just something to tide players over and test out some new ideas while Legion was being worked on. I came in without a ton of excitement, but I found some fun and a lot of angry ranting.  Which is… good?  I dunno. Certainly looking forward to Legion though.

 

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Chapter One

<– Prologue || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Two –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter 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.

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The hunt is on the find ‘The Eagle’ and all his little terrorist buddies across the Galaxy.  But before that can start, you’ve been called to a special meeting, with a special little insane someone.  That someone would be Darth Jadus’ daughter – Darth Zhorrid.  She has taken her late father’s seat on the Dark Council and she’s not about to give it up to anyone.  Of course, she also delights in being an utter disappointment to her daddy.  Where Jadus was cool, calculated, and seethed with a undercurrent of hate, Zhorrid is just plain batty.  She sics her guards on you as soon as you walk in the door, then giggles when you kill them for instance.  She comes off as completely insane right at the go and worse yet, you HAVE to work for her.  She demands it.  Of course, even that isn’t simple because while she is fine with you running around and going pew pew with terrorists, she wants you to also find the REAL killers of her father.  Which in her head are decidedly not the terrorist but some vast conspiracy within the Dark Council.  She wants that dealt with.  Not for revenge on her father though. Oh no.  But because she REAAALLY likes having his seat on the Dark Council and doesn’t want anyone to try and oust her.  With that demand given, she shoos you on your way where Watcher Two drops your next assignment – destroy the terrorist cells on Balmorra and Nar Shadaa.

And since this is the last time I will be talking about a ‘Chapter One’ story…  what the heck is the point of giving you both of these at the same time?  They do the same thing with Alderaan and Tatooine.  Watcher Two even mentions to handle the order you do them in “your discretion” BUT there’s a clear leveling curve to the game.  The enemies on Nar Shadaa are several levels higher than Balmorra.  You are meant to do them in order, but then they hand you both quests and say “Do them in any order” but you CAN’T.  I dunno. That irritated me all the way back in Beta and I just wanted that off my chest.

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Balmorra

The war torn planet of Balmorra is just ripe for trouble.  It’s not exactly a shock that the first terrorist cell would turn up here.  Actually what’s more surprising is that it’s just a singular terrorist cell.  The Eagle could probably have the entire resistance and the Republic “defectors” in his back pocket. Instead, it’s just one dude named Gray Star and his team.  Aside from the fact that Gray Star sounds like a character on some weird SatAM space western cartoon, this should be cake, right?

Well your first job is to get in touch with your local contact in Imperial Intelligence who hangs out in the office of a warehouse.  He points you to HIS inside man who has already infiltrated the Resistance – one Sanju Pyne.  You go and get the official introduction with the Resistance’s number two: Chemish Or (Her last name drove me nuts, because the quest instructions always say ‘Return to Chemish Or’ and EVERY SINGLE TIME I immediately asked in my head ‘Or what?’ before it finally dawned on me at the end of my third playthrough that it was her name).  She wants you to do a quick job to run over to the Droid Factory and snag a crate of power cores.  Depending on your conversation options, Chemish can be quite upfront with you about what they’re for – turning them into explosives to blow up Sobrik, the Imperial town on Balmorra.

Honestly, this is probably one of the more annoying missions here simply because it uses one of those big square rooms with a pit that you have to fight around clockwise to reach the destination (it pops up a few places in the game, and I always hate it) but you eventually find the power cores and get contacted by Sanju.  Sanju warns you that a lot of innocent imperials will die if you hand back those power cores but he suggests a way that there is no possible means to detect foul play but render them harmless.  Stick them in a giant magnet.  Okay, not really but that is pretty much the idea. You run the crate through the machine and it fries all the cores.  This is your Light Side option and the results work out in your favor.  Kind of?  Sure, Chemish is still super suspicious but there’s nothing she can pin directly on you. Even her own people attest that the cores are old and could have failed at any time.  The dark side option of course is just bringing Chemish the cores.  She pretty much trusts you that point.

How you chose to resolve the last mission determines how the next one begins.  Either you are in the doghouse with Chemish and get one last chance to prove yourself, or she has a vital mission for her new cohort.  The job is pretty much just ‘Go into a cave and download some data before wiping it’ but the complication comes in the form of the entire place being gassed with toxins that either drove the terrorists insane or just killed them.  So you get to fight your way through to get the data.  Again though, Sanju calls in with some brilliant advice.  You should send him a copy of all the data so he can make sure that the Imperial spies on the list can all get extra protection or removed from the planet.  Which you know, won’t be suspicious at all.  I’m starting to think that Sanju is trying to get me killed.  But it turns out I’m wrong.  See, if you give them the data you are immediately make Chemish’s ‘suspect list’ but you are given a dark side option to instead throw Sanju under the bus and blame him for it all to keep your cover.  Which may seem cruel, but if you don’t give Sanju the data, he’ll try and duplicate the list on his own and start sending off protection anyway and he will be killed by the Terrorist Cell (or you) when you return to their secret base.

So at this point, you are either on the Cell’s bad side or their star quarterback (or um… a midfielder I guess for anyone outside of the states?) regardless there will be one final super-special-awesome mission that only you have the skills to complete.  So of course the game disregards your choices, right? Well, not exactly but we’ll get to that in a moment.  The mission is to break out an unknown terrorist cell member from the Republic base holed up in the Balmorran Arms Factory.  To do this you need to find said agent, deliver a package as well as coordinates to a safe house.  Now when you arrive, provided he is still alive Sanju will contact you to reveal that this ‘agent’ is actually Gray Star himself, and Sanju has a plan to divert Gray Star to a different safe house where he can be apprehended by the Empire with Sanju replacing him and sending out dummy orders that essentially turn the cell into an unwilling arm of the Empire.  This is probably Sanju’s best plan yet, but it can only come about if you make all the right choices leading up to this point (Light Side at the ‘Get the List’ mission, don’t take the dark side to sacrifice Sanju) otherwise you’re only real option is to just kill Gray Star and make a split back to Sobrik for debriefing.  When you get back to the ship, Watcher Two contacts you to update you that they have intercepted terrorist information that refer to a mysterious new weapon called “Eradicators”.

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Nar Shadaa

Our next stop is Shadowtown in Nar Shadaa, an Imperial prison for dissidents that need to just be tossed someplace to rot away the years.  Our contact here is in the high security cells and goes by the name ‘Watcher X’.  X was imprisoned when he went mad and starting becoming more and more paranoid and making strange connections claiming conspiracies everywhere.  But  he’s still trustworthy as a former Watcher he has the sensation of physical pain when he disobeys are an order from a superior (part of the Watcher genetic programming and training) and if that doesn’t do it, he also has a bomb lodged in his head.  So you know, incentive to not mess around.  That doesn’t mean it’s not risky because Watcher X is a genius and been playing the game a lot longer than you have, as demonstrated by his ability to walk you through the steps of sizing him, the room, and the situation up when you first meet.  Watcher X gives you the run down of the situation: the terrorists are manufacturing and testing a new genetic modification called ‘Cyclone’ that enhances the users speed and agility allowing anyone off the street to become a natural assassin.  Downside is that the stuff is lethal, it will burn you up from the inside not long after injecting it.  You need to shut down the manufacture and distribution of this stuff to cripple a potent tool of the terrorists.

Watcher X however will need a sample of the drug in order to track down its maker.  This can be done by getting a sample of the stuff or having it in the bloodstream by getting it injected.  He points you to a genetic modification black market dealer that would probably have connections and then offers to make it more convincing as a buyer by injecting you with a toxin that will temporarily mimic genetic damage (No, I don’t know how that’s possible. It’s science. I don’t have to explain it.)  You can take the shot and it will give you a better ‘in’ with the buyer if you plan to go the peaceful route, yet sadly the dealers (a brother and sister pair) tell you that they just sold their last vial of cyclone to some evocii (The natives from Hutta).  If really play up the fake the weak and broken act though, you’ll get some extra dialogue from Kaliyo.  You then can track down the evocii dead in an alleyway and extract a blood sample.  Of course, if you want to go the dark side route with this you’ll quickly find out that those sibling dealers were lying as after you blast their kneecaps and say some nice threatening words, they’ll take you for a slaver and hand over anything you want to leave them alone – including a vial of cyclone.

The next bit of the mission has Watcher X sending you to Duros to find a Bio-scanner in an old lab.  This will lead you to discover the…  /sigh ‘genetic markings’ identify that the company who produced it is called Synchet.  Synchet however went out of business five years ago. Luckily there’s a former Synchet executive holed up still here on Nar Shadaa in a palatial casino suite that no one but his droids (and his one non-droid assistant) can gain access to.  What you need again is an ‘in’, something to make this guy – Jordel Tlan – NEED you.  Watcher X’s suggestion?  Poison him.  Use the chemicals in the lab with the bio-scanner and whip something up, then give it to a drink delivery droid and enjoy.  Or I suppose if you didn’t want to be needlessly cruel (although not earning Dark Side points), you could just convince Netula, the assistant, to let you speak to Tlan by telling her to tell him it’s about Cyclone.  There’s that I suppose.  But really it’s much more fun to watch the fat jerk squirm a bit while you interrogate him and dangle the antidote like a juicy bait.  Either way will net you the intel you want:  VerveGen, the subsidiary of Synchet that dealt with genetic mods, was sold off in the liquidation years ago to an anonymous buyer who paid in cash.  Well if that ain’t a big yellow “TERRISTS IZ HUR” sign, I dunno what is.  Tlan points you to the VerveGen offices in upper Nar Shadaa where Watcher X has you hack into the HoloNet around the area because he’s blockaded from doing so.

You head back to Shadowtown to meet with X who has discovered a rather large deal is about to go down for a batch of Cyclone.  Undoubtedly, the terrorist cell leaders will be in attendance and thus security will be higher than ever and all employees dismissed early for the day.  The only ones permitted to enter or exit will be the mindless droids.  Which thankfully Watcher X wants to turn you into.  Okay not really, but he does want to stick implants into that will fool any sensors as well as project a hard light holoprojection giving you the appearance of a droid.  He offers to give you anesthesia to knock you out for the surgery but you can refuse to let yourself be unconscious around Watcher X and get the implants put it while fully awake and not numbed up at all.   You make it into the VerveGen offices no problem and can sit in on the meeting with the local terror cell leaders on HoloCall with The Eagle, and you are given ample chances to ‘spring the trap’ and announce your presence or just keep waiting until they all start wondering why the heck there’s a droid standing behind them.  If you wait, you’ll get the option of letting the non-terrorists corporate flunkies go for some Light Side points.  Then you fight!  Afterwards, you find the sole survivor – a cyborg – shivering on the ground and you get the moral choice of either letting Watcher X hack his brain or convincing him to confess in exchange for his safety.  Either way, you get your final target now that the leaders are dead: a massive communications hub used to schedule meets and drop offs with other terrorist cell members.

The adventure on Nar Shadaa ends with you destroying the massive array which sends a ripple effect across the HoloNet and glitches out systems planet-wide… including the Shadowtown prison complex.  Yeah, you get a call from Watcher X right after who explains that yes, he has escaped.  Yes, this was his plan since the moment you stepped into his cell.  But the whole thing was mutually beneficially.  He asks you to lie to Intelligence about his escape and in exchange will give you a ton of intel on everything from Watcher Two and her mental conditioning to Kaliyo’s full background and all known aliases.  A tempting offer really without much time to decide since his call is nearly interrupted by Watcher Two’s.  If you choose to confess that Watcher X escaped, you are tasked with hunting him down at the spaceport and eliminating him.  Otherwise, well, good job agent. Head back to your ship. Job is done.  Oh and Kaliyo thinks you’re a coward.

Interlude

Did I say we were done with Nar Shadaa? I’m sorry. I meant Darth Zhorrid is here to be a pain in the patoot and send us right back there.  Oh yes, how could we have forgotten our new dark lord Darth Zhorrid?  She is most cross with us for failing to find Jadus’ REAL assassins.  Not those silly terrorists, but the Dark Council members who are planning to usurp Zhorrid as well! Of course!  But the Darth has a job for you to redeem yourself with.  Go back to Nar Shadaa, find this guy named Vyord Yanol who used to be an advisor of Darth Jadus, and drag him back to Zhorrid so she can extract all of her daddy’s secrets from the “force-blind” (which I can’t help but feel is some manner of slur in this context, like mudblood or muggle) in exchange for a pat on the head.  Or you can kill him and get slapped in the face.  Also, fun fact about this interlude:  If you do the mission normally, you find that Zhorrid’s office is covered in corpses from people she’s been torturing to make ‘music’ (Why do the good Darth’s all die and we get stuck with fruitcakes?) but if you make mention of blaming Keeper in the dialogue with Zhorrid at the start of the mission, you’ll arrive at the end to Keeper being tortured by Zhorrid instead.  After that, Watcher Two contacts you with another clue about the Eradicator weapons:  the terrorists want to “burn the galaxy” with them and they require targeting codes.  My guess is either a satellite or an internet mob.

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Tatooine

Tatooine is home to a terrorist cell called the ‘Ghost Cell’ due to their expertise in stealth and infiltration.  Watcher Two directs you to a recent defector from the cell who left as a ‘matter of conscience’ who will only meet you in person.  You then get in touch with them from holocall terminal.  Not entirely sure that this person knows what “in person” means.  She asks you to destroy the Imperial but easily hackable holocam droids all over the city and then trade them to a junk dealer who will give you a mouse droid for them.  In your confusion about the trade, the mouse droid rushes off and you chase it to your meet location.  Where the defector gasses the room and then points a gun at your head.  Ah, isn’t a government job grand? Once its clear who you are and that neither party was followed, she apologizes and introduces herself as Mia Hawkins.  Mia is a former resistance fighter against the Empire turned member of the Ghost Cell who left the cell when they started kidnapping civilians to use as ‘target practice’.  She explains that the cell is insanely difficult to track because not only are they stealthy masters-of-disguise, they have hard-light holoprojectors that allow them to look like anyone.  Crazy? Not really when you pulled the exact same stunt to pass off as a droid not one planet ago.  The Cell is instructed by an individual simply called ‘The Old Man’ who carries out his teaching in ‘The Village’ (Not associated with M. Knight Shammylammy). Unfortunately, despite fleeing from there, Mia has no idea how to reach the Village.  But she does know that there is a supplier that hangs out in the local cantina called ‘Dragon Eyes’.  She suggests tagging suspicious people with trackers and then follow anyone that heads off when you announce you are looking for Dragon Eyes.  Sure enough, Mia lets you know that she’s got the beat on a rodian who rushed off right after, but also that you have Ghost Cell assassins tailing you.  Mia says she’ll go after the rodian, and directs you to a windfarm to deal with the assassins and… uh… hide the bodies afterward.  Well, at least there’s an honest understanding between the two of you.

When you reach the wind farm and clear out the former inhabitants (Tusken Raiders, nothing lost) and set up some traps to blow up the assassins.  After which, Mia shows up!  She even starts to flirt with you some.  How nice of her.  And not suspicious at all that you said you were going to tail a rodian but are instead here and suddenly have become very attracted to me and oh gee is that your knife impaling my gut?  Yea, if you don’t call her out on being a fake she stabs and poisons you.  It’s actually one last assassin using that holographic disguise mentioned earlier.  So you really don’t have an excuse to fall for this one.  I mean, your not the Sith Inquisitor. HA.  Meanwhile, the REAL Mia has tracked down Dragon Eyes who turns out is actually a goon for the Exchange named Milosh Varta.  You head up to his home to find he’s not there, just his wife is home.  And some of you right now are realizing the dire consequences that sentence poses especially in the wake of the ‘hiding the bodies’ comment and you would not be wrong.  Indeed there are a variety of ways you can deal with Varta’s wife: you can force her to leave, you can force her to stay and then threaten and/or harm her to gain leverage or you can just kill her as a message to Milosh that you are not messing around.   When Milosh finally comes home, the pay out of your previous action comes full circle with the addition of a few more things like blackmail or bribing Milosh into helping. In the end the result is pretty much always being that Milosh tells you that he has no idea where The Village is and that he leaves the supplies in crates in the desert to be picked up.  When you return to Mia, you find that she has fled offworld knowing that no matter how things went down, you’d be forced to eliminate her as well.  Aww.  And we were having a nice/vaguely threatening relationship depending on which characters I was playing.  She sent all her intel files to Keeper though.  That’s nice.

So you hide in a box in the middle of the desert only to be whisked away to the far corner of the map. You fight through the Village to finally find the Old Man… and Mia.  Apparently they used the holographic disguise to pose as some Imperials and arrested her.  Apparently, Mia was part of the Old Man’s Big Plan (which would be a good name for this episode) in which he singled out Mia as the most likely to defect and ultimately lure an Imperial Agent out to the middle of nowhere to get killed and replaced by a Ghost Cell holo-disguised doppelganger.  Which I would criticize as a plan where a lot of things could go wrong, but at the same time it actually worked out for him and I came. So uh… who’s the real fool?  Anyway, you fight the Old Man and his team and then get a light/dark choice that ultimately doesn’t matter because if you don’t kill him, he’ll just kill himself.  Then you can deal with Mia by either: letting her go, asking her to surrender, or just kill her.  And that’s another cell wrapped up.  Back on the ship, Watcher Two has another update.  Intelligence had a failed raid on the Eagle’s base of operations.  They found the place trashed and the Eagle already gone.  However they have gained new intelligence on the ‘Eradicators’.  They are techno-organic weapons with organic batteries fitted inside a weaponized technological shell and that means the terrorists can grow more wherever they have land to grow crops.  That’s bad.  Yea, we’ll go with ‘bad’ for that news.

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Alderaan

Last we have Alderaan, home of the never ending dumb politics.  Here we are supposed to make contact with a man named Vector Hyllus who has been absorbed into the hive mind of the local insectoids, the Killiks.  He will hopefully provide direction to a financier of the noble houses that has been funneling money to the Eagle’s terrorist network.  Vector is our first new companion since we met Kaliyo way back on Hutta, and he’s also the female agent love interest.  He’s apparently also quite popular with the ladies?  I know of several people I’ve met online over the years that profess to adore the bugboy but honestly I always found him a bit off putting.  He’s kind and curteous as would be expected of a diplomat but everything is coated in this veneer of ‘not right’ that comes from his Killik joining.  Be it the black eyes, the tendency to refer to the first person as ‘We’ instead of ‘I’, or just the weird offhand comments about the songs and colors of the universe…  Vector always strikes me as a guy who is one secret away from being a stereotypical serial killer. As opposed to Kaliyo who is possibly an actual serial killer.  Anyway, Vector informs you that based on the documents he was given, the financier deals with a large number of Alderaan’s noble houses including House Cortess who is a vassal of the Imperial aligned House Thul.  He mentions that would be a good place to start your trail and then gives some tips on how to approach them (like show strength, be courteous, and DO NOT MENTION YOU ARE FROM IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE.)

House Cortess follows in the same vein as pretty much every other house on Alderaan: They like to make you work for it.  Favors, go here, go there.  For instance, before Cortess even lets you in the door, you have to go and find their droids that disappeared.  Not even their men.  DROIDS.  Then you get to meet the Baron and Baroness who have nothing more than a name to give you: Denri Ayl. The one person that seems to fit the profile given to you by Vector.  But Denri has been missing for months, and no one knows where he went.  The Baron assures you he will do his best to find it, but it’s probably not best to rely on the guy who lost droids five minutes from his front door, so we should probably check in with Vector again.  Luckily, the Killiks come through using their weird hive mind thing.  They ‘remember’ a member of House Alde who had dealing with Denri Ayl and that the House had extensive records kept their.  This leads you to break into the massive estate of House Alde and find Ayl’s journal in their databanks.  There you have some insight into what Ayl has been doing:  he brokered a deal with the Mindak family on Dromund Kaas (See: The Prologue),  helped set up a construction effort in the Broken Valley on Balmorra, and also meetings with individuals only referred to as “C” and “EE” that warn him away from dealing with House Thul (who has Imperial ties) just before the Jadus assassination.  Hmm.  Presenting these and more to Vector allows you to confirm that yes, it appears Denri Ayl bankrolled the terrorist attack on the Eradicator.

Taking the info you’ve gathered to the Baron will also net you an additional clue as he assembles your intel with his vaguely never defined gathered intel (my guess is that it’s actually nothing and he’s just reading the documents you have with local knowledge in mind), and he tells you that it appears that Denri’s last dealings were sending him to House Rist – likely for protection – and that since they are a house of assassins and thugs that you should avoid them and just wait for Denri to finish his dealings there. Should only be a month or two.  Which is kind of a no go.  Then the Baron’s wife – Chay – chats with you after her husband leaves.  She confides inn you that she believes you can turn the tide and show the other noble houses not to fear Rist.  Also she tries to seduce you.  For some reason.  I mean you can take her up on it.  It doesn’t really change anything from I can tell.  Just happens.

The trip to Rist is a pain in the rear – dealing with Rist always is in these missions.  Who the heck builds their home in a single long winding corridor? I get the whole Rist = Hiss sound alike and poison assassins thing but you don’t have to make your home into a giant snake too.  Anyway, you finally find Denri Ayl there and he taunts you saying that he knew you were coming and that you have his files before sending Rist goons at you while he runs away.  You kill a bunch of faceless mooks and then fight Denri proper to be given the choice to: Dark Side – Kill him OR Light Side – Offer to help and then have him die anyway.  These Light Side options don’t ever seem to work out in this storyline, do they? Well maybe his computer will have some info.  Oh lookie he had a phone call just before we got there. With Baroness Chay Cortess.  She cheated on my cheating with her! Or something.  Well perhaps we should just have a chat about that in person and see what she has to say about- oh.  We’re not allowed in anymore?  Siccing the attack droids on us?  Do they shoot bees?  Or is that Vector? Speaking of Bugboy, he’s got a plan to get us into House Cortess – break the generators using “fingerlings” (small killiks who nest on the fingers of big killiks. Which is disgusting. And creepy.)

Once the generators are blown, it’s back one last time to House Cortess to “visit” that is to say team up with the Killiks to completely rip apart their defenses until you get inside.  There you find the Baron and his wife arguing about what she has done.  The Baroness defends her actions as doing what was necessary to protect House Cortess’ interests which confuses me a bit.  Which part was protecting their interests? Joining forces with a faction of Anti-Imperial Terrorists? Sending a representative of the Empire to their deaths and then threatening them directly when they returned alive? Seducing you?  What part of any of this actually would have helped House Cortess in the long run?  You are a vassal of House Thul who is aligned with the Empire.  Your estate is literally adjacent to Thul’s territory.  There is no way this ends well for you.  The Baron seems very much aware of the utter stupidity his wife has committed and has her killed right in front of you to prove his loyalty.  However regardless of if view this as unnecessary, sufficient, or not enough it doesn’t matter. The Killiks want their share for helping out in this plot too and they’ve decided that they want House Cortess’ lands and estate for the expansion of their nest.  That means the er… ‘removal’ of the former residents by some means.  This is where it falls down to you to make the choice.  You can choose to defend House Cortess right after they put you through hell and tried to have you killed, thus having to fight several waves of Killiks and making Vector betray the nest out of loyalty to the Empire or you can give the killiks what they want and kill the remaining members of House Cortess who would rather die than have ‘bugs’ live on their land (It was established on the annoying droid mission way way waay at the start that Cortess dislikes the Killiks to the point of being borderline racist about it.)  Once the decision is made and the battle won, it’s time to send off the Baroness’ files back to the Watchers to comb over and to get off this planet.  Keeper contacts you to let you and Vector know that he has contacted the Diplomatic Service to have Vector permenantly reassigned to your command.

OH! And fun side note, after the Vector recruitment cutscene you can run back inside House Cortess.  If you gave the place to the Killik’s they’ve already begun converting the place into a hive.  Just a little easter egg that I missed the first few times.

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Finale

Back on your ship, there’s an emergency call from Watcher Two: They’ve tracked down The Eagle to a swamp on Hutta.  You take off and head into the base, fighting your way to the rear where you find The Eagle letting his people know that they need to scour the swamps for something.  As soon as they leave, he reveals that he knows you are there and the mission was a pointless errand to spare them from you.  The Eagle then waxes on and on about the growing revolution and how the rebellion won’t stop regardless of what ever you do to him. Typically freedom fighter rhetoric.  However there are a few bits of info that he will drop that is useful to know.  Namely that the Eradicators that have already been launched will not be stopped by killing him.  They are designed to just start randomly blasting things if they don’t get orders after so long.  Also that The Eagle has an accomplice, a mysterious partner that has aided him from within the Empire and provided him with the technology for the Eradicators.  The Eagle only holds half the codes for the Eradicators, and the unknown partner holds the other half. The battle with The Eagle is short and ends explosively as the terrorists seems to prefer taking himself out with a thermal detonator than be taken captive.  In the wake of the explosion, Watcher Three arrives with a team of soldiers to confirm the Eagle’s claims. The Eradicators will begun randomly blowing stuff up unless you find the mysterious partner and their half of the code.

Back on Dromund Kaas, Keeper has called a meeting with you and Watcher Two.  An operation to start dismantling Eradicators is underway based on the unlaunched one you found on Hutta, but the projections aren’t looking good.  It would take up to weeks to find and dismantle them, and there is no way of knowing how long it will be before they activate.  The only sure way to deal with this threat is to find the codes.  Luckily, Watcher Two has been analyzing the transmissions from The Eagle’s base and found a number being sent to the uninhabited Artus System, so that’s where your search will begin.  Before you leave however, Darth Zhorrid would like a word.  You can also have a brief aside and romantic entanglement with Watcher Two before you leave.  You find Zhorrid battered and bruised from going to make a scene at the Dark Council demanding respect and power and the Council in turn decided to kick her Sith butt.  She demands her revenge on the terrorists since they are the ones who put her in this un-respected position before her tutelage under her father & master was complete.  Naturally, you will be the one to do this for her because you are her most trusted agent or the agent who owes her for failing so many times.

When arriving in the Artus System, you find and land on an Imperial Dreadnaught drifting in the depths of space.  You rendexvous with Watcher Two who gives you an ear piece so she can talk to you through the ship.  Then you begin exploring the place.  There’s a bunch of crazed people who will wildly attack you if you get close all over the ship and some brief journal entries that just go to explain exactly how this all ended up being like this: The ships residents began as 100 or so survivors of a year long trip that became a disaster before they were saved and subsequently abducted by one they only refer to as The Master.  The Master subjects the survivors to psychological torture – depriving them of resources, randomly trapping them in darkness for unknown periods of time, and various other stress inducing acts – driving some to insanity, some into gibbering messes of fear, and others into a pure rage.  You eventually find the helm of the ship and find out who the Eagle’s ally, the Imperial Traitor and The Master is:

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That’s right. Darth Jadus.  The Sith whose assassination launched the entire drive to find The Eagle. He apparently faked his death to fall outside of the eyes of both the Empire and the Dark Council, he manipulated and supported the terrorist cells into uniting under the Eagle to manufacture the Eradicators and disperse them across the Empire, and then he drop all his responsibilities onto his inept daughter to ensure that the Dark Council had their hands full dealing with her spoiled tantrums and whiny demands.  Why did he do all this?  To use the Eradicators to annihilate the rest of the Dark Council’s power bases and strongholds, to spread fear of an unknown threat in the sky, and then to return from his self-exile to claim the Empire as his own and begin his ‘Epoch of Fear’.  All he needs now to complete his master plan is you and your half of the codes.

Watcher Two begins crunching the numbers in your ear and laying out the odds of survival in the various possibilities to counter Jadus’ plan.  Watcher Two recommends that you activate the Eradicators just long enough to gain Jadus’ trust and allow you to sabotage the ship so it can’t escape, then trap Jadus in a ray prison until the military arrives.  Of course if you don’t want to risk the few tens or hundreds of thousands of lives that might get wiped out while you handle things in Watcher Two’s plan, there’s the much riskier plan of shutting down the Eradicators completely which will leave you to directly deal with Jadus’ wrath and even if you manage to get away from him, it’s a suicide run to go set the ship to explode and then get off before it does – worse yet, if gives Jadus a chance to escape.  Of course, there’s the third option.  One that I don’t think you can actually do in any of the other storylines: You can join Jadus.  Yea.  Sign on with the villain.  We are talking about a man who wants to disable the Imperial’s obsession with a hierarchy of lineage and power and establish equality for all under a regime of eternal fear and terror.  Especially if you’re an alien in Imperial Intelligence I can’t say that would sound horrible.  I mean, your treated like scum despite being the secret police.  Watcher Two will protest, but if you agree with the “bad guy” you can by all means join him.  If you do, you won’t have to scramble across the ship, you can rat out Watcher Two in the hanger, and Darth Jadus names you his “Hand” (Formally, The Hand of Jadus) and sends you to Dromund Kaas while his Eradicators rain down destruction to clear up his chair – in other words he wants you to kill Darth Zhorrid.

The first chapter pretty much ends right after the mission.  Either Jadus is arrested, Jadus escapes or you serve Jadus.  The eradicators either did no destruction, minimally acceptable destruction, or ALL the destruction.  Now, of course, what becomes of you from some of these choices…  well, well see when we get our next big mission in Chapter Two.

Thoughts

The Imperial Agent story has been compared to James Bond in a favorable sense, and this is the chapter where quite honestly it probably shows that the best.  You are traveling around the galaxy in pursuit of an evil organization bent on destroying your government, and you have to infiltrate, sneak, lie and kill your way to success.  Each planet brings a little bit of something different to the formula, from working under cover to infiltrate the cell on Balmorra to dealing with a dangerous rogue agent on Nar Shadaa to having to work with the enemy on Tatooine.  Honestly, of any of the worlds it’s Alderaan that is probably the weakest.  I mean no one’s motivation is explored or even makes a lot of sense.  The secret intel you get from the financier does very little to give insight to the plans even once you know the truth of the ending.

Speaking of the ending, I will say that I am NEVER going to get tired of that twist.  Even more so than the first time I saw it, which had my jaw on the floor, the second and third times I had the fun of actually getting to see exactly how much of that twist is set up in advance.  Oh and it is.  The first time I saw it did seem to come out of left field, but damn there is PLENTY of hinting in the Prologue about what Jadus is planning to do. All his talk of the democratization of fear and showing people his new vision of the galaxy.  Yeah, that’s this.  That is exactly what the Terrorists are doing.  They are democratizing fear.  How did Jadus survive? Well, he knew the attack was coming.  He was the one commanding the terrorists.  That’s also why he would do seemingly stupid things like demand that one lone agent be sent to stop them in the Dark Temple instead of squad.  He wanted you specifically – his chosen – to see his machinations.  Jadus was evil, but a genius as well.  Heck, I was honestly expecting that The Eagle didn’t even really exist outside of holo-broadcasts.  Then the fact that you can actually join him?!  Oh man, how different would that be if the Jedi Knight could chose to join Darth Angral at the end of Chapter One?  Or have the Trooper realize that Tavus was right and go rogue?  That’s pretty much what this story is offering you.

Now is the first chapter flawless? Naw. There’s little bumps and problems here or there. The interlude mission here is pretty pointless, then again it’s a job for Zhorrid so isn’t that just par for the course.  The characterization can seem weird on some of the NPCs, especially the one-world-only characters.  Darth Zhorrid pretty much only exists to be annoying and make you hate working with the Sith that rule over you, and then she just vanishes from the story completely without closure unless you chose the join Jadus and kill her.  Supposedly she comes back to play in one of the six endings of Chapter Three as the founder of Sith Intelligence, but she has no affect on the rest of the story.  The Intelligence team however is given a lot of time to shine and get to know them, I had no issue recalling Watcher Three when he came back at the end of the Eagle’s base, Watcher Two is a great character as well as Keeper.  The only new companion you get here is Vector, and as I said before I have never been a fan of the bug man.  Though to be fair, I think that was part of his design.  He seems to be very ‘alien’ in a Lovecraftian sense in terms of what he says, how he speaks and of course those pure black eyes.  More power to you if you like the guy, but honestly I think he fits in more with the ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ crew than on my ship.

I will say that just like the prologue before it, this chapter does a wonderful job of setting up things of whats to come.  From plot elements that will become more relevant further down the line, to just setting the tone of mistrust and deception that oozes from every chapter of this story.  This isn’t the Jedi where good and evil are oh so easy to differentiate and this isn’t the Sith where power plays are these massive spectacles on par with the Red Wedding. This is the world of espionage – and you have no allies here.  Till next time.

<– Prologue || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Two –>

Update on Imperial Agent Storyline Review: Part Deux

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Hey all, just a quick little up date to let everyone know who has been waiting for the last of the SWTOR Class Storyline Reviews that I was able to push my way through to the end of the Imperial Agent twice over the last Double XP weekend and have all my notes from those playthroughs written up.  I believe I last clocked the total at somewhere around 11,000 words for JUST the notes.  Now I have take all those notes and turn them into (semi) coherent blog posts which is another long task but I’m working on it bit by bit when I have the time (Hey, I have a full time job too ya know.)  But I figure I’d let you all know that we’ve stepped into the next phase on this one and hopefully Chapter One will be on the site soon-ish.  Thank you all for your patience.

Odd Thoughts: The James Rolfe Ghostbusters ‘Controversy’

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Some may be aware of the recent kerfluffle involving James Rolfe aka The Angry Video Game Nerd posting a video that quickly rose to infamy across the net where he spoke out about how he refused to watch the new Ghostbusters film.  The reaction to the video has been mixed and draw heat from many different sides.  I’ve seen people calling James ‘sexist’ for not backing the new all-female cast, I’ve seen others stand by him and pledging their support to help him weather the onslaughts of “Feminists and SJWs”, and I’ve mostly seen people chiming in with a just a simple “Is this really what all the huff is about?”  And that’s the interesting thought to me. Why is this such a big deal?  A guy can just have opinions right?  Of course.  But how one voices their opinion can sometimes be an opinion in itself.

Let me first say that I am in no way condemning anyone with this post.  This issue was already a massive clash of a growing cultural divide in nerd culture that predates the announcement of this film’s production.  This video was much like that one offhand comment made on a day time talk show that sends the just starting to calm down guests right back in the heat.  James doesn’t want to see one of his favorite movies rebooted.  That’s fine. We’ve all been there with something.  Especially geeks and nerds.  I know I pretty much stopped seeing the Transformers movies after the first one.  I know a lot of people who didn’t want to touch the newest Ninja Turtles or even the 2003 TMNT movie for pretty much the same reasons.  The issue comes from the fact that this movie already had a ton of heat associated with it due to the number of voices decrying it because the cast is female becoming mingled with the voice of people who just aren’t interested, and nothing ever stays simple when gender politics enters the picture.  Likewise, I don’t think the gender flip is a bad thing.  I’d like to see it done more often – especially with reboots.  Explore another side to things.  After all, what good is a reboot if you don’t try to do SOMETHING different with it?  It might not work, but that’s true with anything.  I don’t know if anyone would have wanted to see a shot for shot remake of the Original Ghostbusters either.  But the gender issues being brought to the fore front by this remake are a discussion worth having.  A lot of ugliness has been brought to bare in the wake of this movie’s announcement and trailers.  And everyone who has a personal stake one way or the other in the fight are pretty much coming to this movie with all or nothing mindsets.  We win or we die.

So perhaps it was a wider view of the landscape that James lacked when making his video.  After all, all the video says is that he is going to do a “non review” because he refuses to see it.  And why couldn’t they do a ‘good reboot’ like the Star Trek movies (a subjective comparison if I ever saw one) along with the feelings of how he wasn’t wow’ed by the trailer and all the cgi looks dumb.  So what’s wrong with that? Why am I even writing this?  I can only speak to my problem with the video, one that I have spent several days thinking about what bothered me about it, and say that I honestly think it’s the way he said it.  If it had been made as an offhand comment on Twitter in reply to people wondering if he was going to review it, I don’t think this would have been a big deal.  But this was a 6 minute video: lighting, camera, editing, visual effects, the whole thing – not just to say but to ANNOUNCE that you are REFUSING to see and review a new movie, on your YouTube channel that is mostly video games and classic horror movies.  Oh sure, there’s a few vlogs, but I don’t think that’s what your channel is known for.  Just like I don’t need to produce a 5 minute video to tell people that I don’t much care for the new menu numbers are McDonald’s when everything else on my channel is a Let’s Play.

Also, ‘refuse’ is a strong word. Refuse usually implies a command or a request that you are not willing to do.  If you were working for a paper, and they were sending you to see the movie, then you might refuse.  But no one is telling James to go see it.  In fact, everything else he describes is just that he doesn’t want to.  A personal preference.  But the use of the word Refuse in combination with producing an entire video about said refusal, makes it come off like you are taking a stand, protesting, or just straight choosing to be a martyr for the cause of not seeing this film.  Which is a bit over dramatic, and I can’t say that is what James intended with this.  He probably just wanted to voice his opinion, but the problem there is when you are a public figure – and we cannot deny the importance of the AVGN character or James Rolfe’s contribution to the internet media we have today – that how you say something can doom you.  Especially since this wasn’t a VLOG off the cuff thing but a produced & edited video.  There was time and thought put into this.  So it’s not like you don’t have the opportunity to think about the intent.

I imagine that might be what upset some people about this, why others don’t think it’s a big deal, and why others are throwing their unwavering support behind it.  Because through it’s language, design, and intent it can be all of those things and probably none of them as well.  Am I saying James shouldn’t have made the video?  No.  He has an opinion and his channel is his to say what he wishes on it.  But given his choices when making and releasing the video, there was going to be a volatile reaction.  Given his years doing ‘The Nerd’ I’m sure James is not stranger to all kinds of volatile reactions.  I also don’t think any kind of volatile reaction (barring threats of bodily harm and any illegal act) should be silenced either.  I just wanted to examine exactly why this whole thing even happened, really.  Goodness knows James’ ad revenue with YouTube probably just peaked for the year.

Oh and as for MY thoughts on the new Ghostbusters? Looks interesting.  Reminds more of the cartoon than the movies. Not a bad thing. Will probably check it out and maybe do a write up if I have something worthwhile to say.

Final Thought: Just… don’t go into the YouTube comments on these things.  That should be common knowledge for any Netizen, but I felt in this case it beared repeating.  Seriously. Don’t.

Review: Empire of Corpses

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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 Characters

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.

The Animation

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.

Final Impressions

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.

Fallout Will Never Make Sense To Me

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The Fallout franchise sure does love it some sci-fi doesn’t it?  From irradiated mutants that wander the wastes to laser guns & robots, you can find a lot of staples of science fiction.  Heck, there’s even the Mothership Zeta DLC where you are abducted by aliens and halt a planetary invasion.  There’s a lot about the Fallout universe that you have to swallow to buy into the premise of the world.  Especially the massively convoluted history about resource wars, nuclear escalation, America annexing Canada so it can fight a land war with China after China invades Alaska…  there’s a LOT of stuff going on in the story of these games. Most of which is irrelevant to the actual enjoyment of the games.  In fact, 90% of this stuff I didn’t even bother to learn until after I beat Fallout 3 years ago.  But you know what I can’t just ignore that completes breaks the entire ‘setting’ of these games for me?  That one thing that permeates every aspect of the series and drives me completely mad?

The 1950’s.

Yea. The 1950’s.  Not just that the style and visuals are rooted in the 50’s aesthetic and drawn from the futurist visions depicted at some World’s Fair expo.  But that somehow we are expected that a game set in the year 2277 hasn’t culturally advanced since the 1950’s in anything from fashion, to music, to art.  It’s just stuck there.  Oh but I hear people say, but Vry we’ve been living in a post-apocalyptic nightmare for centuries.  Culture can’t advance in that.

Um… why not?  Did people stop making music?  Did they stop painting?  Did no one want to wear a different style of dress?  We know that eventually someone developed the idea of making video games on holotapes.  So why is everything else stuck? Beyond even that point, the bombs didn’t drop until 2077.  That’s over 100 years of society being stuck in a single cultural period.  And we are talking about a society that currently must differentiate between ‘Early 90s’, ‘Mid 90s’, and ‘Late 90s’  as completely different styles of fashion, music, entertainment, and even things like slang.

The idea of any society only progressing in technology alone while every other aspect of culture being time-locked in one spot is just a baffling concept to me.  Especially since the only explanation we are given for any of this is: Transistors were never discovered.  The hell does that have to do with any of this?

I know that the Fallout universe is dear to some, but it just smacks of world building laziness.  I’m not saying you can’t do the whole 50’s culture retro-futurism thing… but give us a damn reason for it at least.  It almost feels like that movie Blast from the Past with Brendan Frazier and Christopher Walken, where a 1950s family seal themselves in a fallout shelter for forty years when they think a bomb is dropped on their house.  The difference?  That was a comedy.  You can excuse that sort of thing in a comedy.  Fallout wants to be taken seriously – roving gangs of Elvis impersonators aside.

I know probably a hundred people have probably complained about this before, but I don’t care.  It’s probably my biggest pet peeve with fictional universes in general.  It irks me when hundreds of years pass without any significant change in society.  I know that it bugs the hell out of people that it looks like Star Wars’ galaxy hasn’t changed a bit in the thousands of years between The Old Republic and the movies.  Or in fantasy settings where hundreds of years and a dozen wars can do nothing to alter the way society works.  But especially in post-industrial and sci-fi settings this is a far bigger disappointment.  That for three centuries, human forms of expression has stopped dead in its tracks.

So in the end, Ron Perlman was wrong.  It’s not war that never changes.  It’s culture.  It’s music.  It’s fashion.  It’s about human expression.  None of that ever changes in Fallout.  And that’s a far more depressing and cynical thought that any message about humanity’s ingrained desire to kill each other in my opinion.

HOLY EIDOLON EMOJIS, NOCTIS! | Final Fantasy XV: Platinum Demo

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.

Status Update on the Imperial Agent Storyline

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.

\\Vrykerion

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Prologue

|| 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.

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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.

Hutta

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.

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Dromund Kaas

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:

  • Watcher Two: Genetically engineered to be a ‘Watcher’.  But she has a quick tongue and can even keep up with Kaliyo in the insults department.
  • Lodenth: The token alien. He’s here to help understand Alien stuff. Like psychology. Or reading something other than Aurebesh.
  • Fixer Twelve: A former agent turned mechanic. He claims to be the guy who keeps the whole place running, which makes me wonder what the hell the other eleven fixers do.
  • Watcher Three: The new guy. I will not be shocked if he dies.  He is after all, the new guy.

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.

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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.

ia_prologue_04

Final Thoughts

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 –>

Welcome to the TRUE Horde! Garrosh Hellscream Plays Democracy 3

“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/

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