World of Wacraft: Warlords of Draenor – Legendary Ring Story Summary

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So with Legion, Blizzard decided to remove the Legendary Ring storyline from the game.  Since this storyline does a lot to set up the explanation behind the Legion expansion, as well as go into many of the motivations for staying around on Draenor after the destruction of the Dark Portal, I felt that it was deserving of a story summary so that people can have some level of reference if you want to know what went down in Warlords of Draenor.

Chapter I: Call of the Archmage

Upon reaching max level, you will find a familiar glowing friend wandering around your garrison.  This arcane construct brings word to you from Archmage Khadgar who requests your aid with a mission he has and asks that you come meet with him at his tower in Zangarra.  There he, along with trusty Watcher bodyguard Cordana Felsong, explain that to accomplish this mission he will need your help and to do so you will need a special tool that will help you along the way. A powerful piece of equipment that will not only give you the strength for the challenges that lie ahead but tether you to Khadgar so that he can keep an eye on you and your actions in the dire days to come.  He suggests the item be a ring and asks you to seek out the Arrakoa of Skyreach to retrieve a ring made of pure Solium, a rare metal heated and infused with the raw power of Draenor’s sun, to act as a base material for your new ring.

After fetching the material, Khadgar begins work on infusing your ring with new power and bringing out its own latent strength.  While working he explains that while the Horde and Alliance continue their battle against the forces of the Iron Horde, Khadgar has a different and far more threatening target in mind: Gul’dan.  The Orc Warlock who forged a pact with the demons of the Burning Legion and has a noted history of manipulating events from the shadows to get what he wants.  Khadgar wants to flush the warlock out of the shadows and the best way to do that would be to start by gathering powerful reagents for a tracking spell.  Khadgar requests that you retrieve a Core of Flame from the Slag Mines belonging to the Bloodmaul Ogres in Frostfire Ridge, the Core of Iron that is used to power the Iron Horde’s Iron Star trains that depart from the Grimrail Depot in Gorgrond, and finally to adventure deep into the Everbloom to extract the Core of Life from the closest thing on Draenor to the progenitor of life – a Genesaur.  Khadgar has also heard word from Talador that Gul’dan’s Shadow Council has infiltrated the hallowed halls of the Auchindoun and suspects that Teron’gor, Gul’dan’s right hand, is behind it.  He wants you to retrieve a sample of Teron’gor’s foul fel-touched blood to be used a focus for the tracking ritual.

In exchange for your assistance, Khadgar offers to empower your ring even further but to do so he will require additional materials.  This time he wants to imbue the solium with the magic from the crystals of the Apexis, an ancient Arrakoa civilization that first learned how to harness the power of the sun.  To enhance your ring, he needs precisely 4,986 crystals.  Any less than that number would be inadequate and the wizard insists that any more would be simply ridiculous.  You can trust him. He’s a mage. He did the math.

Once you’ve retrieved all the reagents, Khadgar will attempt to perform a scrying ritual to find Gul’dan only to find that the warlock is actively countering the spell leading Khadgar to deduce that Teron’gor’s death must have spooked the old orc into running.  Unfortunately, this means that Khadgar will need even more power to contend with Gul’dan’s magic and complete the ritual to locate him.  However, he has an idea.  The Archmage knows of a certain dragon – Kairozdormu – that came to Draenor’s past attempting to help Garrosh Hellscream flee his war crimes trial.  Since this modified timeline permeates with Kairoz’s influence, Khadgar should be able to use the dragon – alive or dead – to connect to this age of Draenor and spread his magical power across it.  So you head to the eastern hills of Nagrand where you find time-lost illusion detailing what followed shortly after Garrosh & Kairoz’s arrival in the past version of Draenor.  It would appear that the dragon’s plans quickly soured after arriving back in time as Garrosh immediately betrayed and murdered Kairoz.  However after meeting his bloody end, Kairoz’s angry spirit still dwells in its final resting place of the Time Lost Glade where his spirit and timeline has seeped into the very land of Draenor.  To master this power, Khadgar beseeches you to finish Garrosh’s work and end the dragon’s existence.  As the battle goes on, it is finally revealed why Kairozdormu freed Garrosh and fled to Draenor.  Kairoz saw something in his experiments on the Timeless Isle.  Something that drove him to seek out a way to make not just an army, but an infinite number of armies to fight against it.  To become infinite himself.  His first goal was to use Garrosh to convince Grom Hellscream to unite the Orc clans into becoming the first of Kairoz’s infinite army, but Garrosh’s backstabbing quickly ended that.

You return to the tower in Zangarra victorious.  Khadgar has tapped into Kairoz’s remaining essence and expanded his power and uses the Apexis Crystals you gathered to upgrade your Solium ring into a more powerful incarnation: a Time Lost Solium ring!

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Chapter II: Gul’dan Strikes Back

Armed with the ability to tap into the very essence of Draenor, Archmage Khadgar now needs a means to penetrate the powerful fel magic that Gul’dan uses to shroud himself.  To do so means having to delve into what the Kirin Tor would consider ‘fringe arcane science’ at best.  The knowledge possessed by the ogres of the Gorian Empire would fall under such a category.  Khadgar says that the Sorcerer King of the Gorian Empire, High Imperator Mar’gok, has mastered the art of something called “Felbreaking.” A technique designed to surpress and nullify magic including the vile powers of fel magic.  This knowledge would prove invaluable.  The Archmage asks that you venture deep into the ogre capital of Highmaul and retrieve a Fel Breaker’s Tome as well as the magical sigil of the Sorcerer King himself to help in learning the practices contained in the tome.  Khadgar also recommends picking up Abrogator Stones as you penetrate the ogre city.  These ancient and powerful magical stones that have been passed down through the generations of ogre mages would be a useful fuel to empowering your ring even further – a fair exchange for overthrowing an empire.

Once you have brought an end to the Gorian Empire and retrieved the requested items for Khadgar, the wizard will attempt once more to scry Gul’dan’s location.  Utilizing the fel breaking techniques to tear through the warlock’s veil, Khadgar finally makes contact with the orc.  The victory is short lived however as it seems that Gul’dan has been inquiring about the human mage he witnessed in the escape from Tanaan Jungle.  Gul’dan mentions Khadgar by name and mentions that it would appear that they have quite the history with each other.  This means that the warlock is now aware of the transgressions of the original timeline of your native Azeroth, where Khadgar killing his master, Medivh the Last Guardian of Tirisfal, shattered the mental link that the Guardian shared with Gul’dan and plunged the warlock into a coma that cost him and his Shadow Council control of the Horde.  Khadgar happily announces that they’ve located Gul’dan to which the old orc replies in jest that likewise he has found the Archmage.

Just then a figure draws out from the shadows and before Cordana has a chance to act an orc assassin stabs Khadgar with a poisoned blade. The assassin flees into the marshy lower levels of Zangarra and Cordana orders you to track her down.  You climb down the rocks into the swamp like valley and begin to play a dangerous game of cat and mouse before finally chasing the assassin to a cave and battling it out until either you perish from the poison in your blood or the assassin is captured. You return to the tower with the assassin – Garona Halforcen – in tow where you find Khadgar being kept stable by Jaina Proudmoore, the current leader of Dalaran’s Council of Six. You use the poison to quickly form an anti-venom to help aid in Khadgar’s healing and as the Archmage wakes, Jaina helps him up.  However, if you are a member of the Horde, Jaina will chastise Khadgar for allying himself with you and the Council does not approve of this choice either.  Khadgar will simply shrug it off and say that he needs all the help he can get on Draenor and it won’t be the first time he disappointed the Council.  However before Jaina departs, Khadgar makes one request that she helps transfer the power of the Abrogator Stones you gathered into your ring since he has been weakened by the ordeal.  The process turns your ring into a Spellbound Solium Ring.  Jaina wishes Alliance members well with their newfound power and threatens that she will be keeping her eye on you if you are a member of the Horde.

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Chapter III: The Foundry Falls

Now that he has healed, Khadgar is willing to admit that it was perhaps foolish to go after Gul’dan with magic alone.  Fortunately, an opportunity has arisen with Garona, the assassin you captured.  If he can find some means to break the magical hold that the warlock has on Garona’s mind, she might be able to assist bring down her master.  Khadgar has a plan but to enact it he must ask you to venture into the very heart of the Iron Horde’s war machine: The Blackrock Foundry.  There he will need you to pry out the heart of a primal elemental fury that fuels the massive furnaces below the foundry, steal a Flamebender’s Tome that describes the secret techniques that the Blackrock Clan uses to channel and control the powerful elemental forces of Draenor, and lastly to reclaim a magical Thaumaturgical Orb that was stolen from the Draenei during the Iron Horde’s siege of Karabor.

Once you’ve collected the three components, Khadgar will begin to pour over the Flamebender’s Tome that speaks of a ritual to the elements that required a sacrifice from the chieftan of a clan.  This causes the wizard to ponder on what Blackhand must of sacrificed to gain such knowledge and deduces that it must be his eponymous hand.  Khadgar asks you to break into the core of the foundry and kill the Warlord of the Blackrock Clan, then bring back his arm to utilize as a focus for the ritual to free Garona.

Meanwhile, Khadgar also has a plan to further enhance your ring by utilizing the knowledge sealed in three distinct Elemental Tablets that pre-date written history itself that hold the methods of tapping into the primal power of the planet itself.  However, the tablets will likely have shattered throughout time and thus will require you to find all the pieces scattered throughout the foundry to reassemble them.  Once you do, he performs a ritual to infuse the ring with Draenor’s elemental power.  However in doing so – he accidentally kills you.  While you are dead, you witness a vision of Gul’dan speaking to Grommash Hellscream.  The warlock taunts the warlord by telling him that the Iron Horde is collapsing under the assaults of the outsiders (that would be you) and even the foundry has now fallen.  He tells Grom to drink from the demon’s blood and that it will be the only way to guarantee success for Hellscream’s Iron Horde.  Grommash angrily declines and yells at Gul’dan to leave his sight just before Khadgar resurrects you with a pair of goblin jumper cables much to Cordana’s surprise that they actually worked.

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Chapter IV: Darkness Incarnate

With everything gathered from the Blackrock Foundry, Khadgar attempts to break Gul’dan’s hold on Garona by torturing her until she gives up the information on where Gul’dan is hiding.  In the wakes of the orcs screams, Cordana stops Khadgar horrified by what depths the wizard is willing to sink to and that he is losing himself in pursuit of the mission.  The Archmage relents, agreeing with Cordana that what is the point if they are willing to become just as vile as the warlock himself to accomplish their goals.  He however does have another suggestion: an Orb of Domination.  A relic used by the Shadow Council to ensnare minds into serving and joining their cause.  The old mage suggests that he may be able to reverse engineer the Orb and use it free Garona.  He directs you to a cavern below a Draenei village where the Shadow Counil has been using a orb to brainwash people and to bring the orb back to him.  Cordana is against this idea vehemently since using the orb would be tapping into the dark powers that they sought to stop in the first place, but the orb does its job and rips out Garona’s inner demons for you to battle and ultimately break the warlock’s hold on her.  In thanks, the assassin pledges herself to you and Khadgar while Cordana takes the Orb of Domination away to see it destroyed.

Garona leads you to Bladefury’s Command in northern Talador where Gul’dan was headed to a meeting with the Warlords of the Iron Horde.  You sneak in past the guards to discover what the warlock is up to.  There you witness Gul’dan overthrow the Iron Horde by subduing Grommash and convincing the other warlords of his ineffective leadership by bringing up the countless loses including that of Hellscream’s own son – Garrosh.  Turned by the warlock’s arguments, Kilrog Deadeye steps forth to embrace his foreseen fate and drink of the demon blood, his body twisting and breaking to reform into the first of a new Fel Horde.  Shocked by this news, Khadgar is terrified that history may repeat itself and Azeroth is now more in danger of the Iron Horde than before.  He asks you to use your resources as a General of your faction’s forces to build a shipyard to assault Tanaan Jungle from the sea while your allies assault the gates at the Iron Front.  Garona also agrees herself to your growing army and becomes a legendary follower.

With a foothold established in Tanaan and you and your allies primed to storm the gates of Hellfire Citadel itself, Khadgar suggests a two pronged attack.  First he wishes for you to rip the Tomes of Chaos, the foul books bound with tortured souls that are used to train new warlocks, out of the hands of Gul’dan’s followers.  He also wants you to use your shipyard to chase down Gul’dan’s flagship – ‘The Master’s Call’ – that has been scouring the seas of Draenor and charting the arcane leylines of the world.  That chart must not reach Gul’dan’s hands and could prove useful to the Archmage in bringing your ring to its apex of power.

Once you’ve collected all the tomes full of their disgusting pictures, Khadgar asks you to take them back to Cordana for proper disposal.  However when you arrive back at the tower in Zangarra, you find Cordana intently staring into the Orb of Domination which she apparently did not destroy.  She quickly dodges any question you ask about why she has the orb. She takes the books from you and begins to place them around the room to prepare to destroy them, but instead the erupt into a ritual circle of fel flame.  As the green flame engulfs the room, Cordana demands that you hand over your ring and that she needs it.  You decline with a choice of saying “No.” or “OH HELL NO.” and she declares that she will take it by force.  You fight with Cordana who unleashes both her Watcher training combined with the cinders of fel magics.  She screams that the Orb has shown her the truth: Khadgar is a just child who dabbles in forbidden powers too great for him to control. Gul’dan however has true mastery of these dark arts.  As you weaken her she breaks off the battle and states that nothing will stop Gul’dan and the Burning Legion from burning this world, Azeroth and every other world to the ground.  She opens a portal and walks into it saying that your leaders will ultimately betray you and that the Legion will be victorious.  When you return to Khadgar, he bursts into a rage against Gul’dan and his trickery before quieting and staring off at the horizon to mourn the loss of his bodyguard and friend to the darkness.

Now that the books have been dealt with and you have retrieved the ley line chart, Khadgar can identify three primary points of leyline connections: His tower in Zangarra which he knew since that is why he built it there, the Throne of Elements in Nagrand, and the Temple of Karabor in Shadowmoon Valley.  He says with this knowledge he should be able to bring your ring to its maximum potential and create something truly legendary.  The wizard is a bit apprehensive however after killing you the last time he tried to do this (which he apologizes for again) he will need some assistance.  Luckily, you have made powerful allies in your time on Draenor, and you head off to one of the leyline sites to perform the final ritual.  Members of the Alliance will travel to meet with Yrel and the rest of the Council of the Exarchs and the Naaru K’ara where they work with Khadgar to infuse your ring with the blessing of The Light and awaken it to its true potential.  For the Horde, you will find that the Frostwolf Clan (including the spirit of Ga’nar) has come out in mass to the Throne of the Elements to watch their shaman Drek’thar call upon the Primordial Elemental Furies to beseech them to give your ring their blessings.  With its power fully awakened, your ring has become a power unequaled on Draenor.  Khadgar only hopes it will be enough to stop Gul’dan.

With your ring firmly fastened on your finger, you assault the Black Gate and stop Gul’dan by defeating Archimonde the Defiler and sending the demon general back to the Twisting Nether, but not before Gul’dan manages to escape by being hurled through the very Black Gate that Archimonde had emerged from. No one is sure of where the warlock had escaped to, but Khadgar picks up the old orc’s fel charred walking cane and utters that he knows that this is not over.  He invites you to enjoy your victory celebration with your allies, but he must depart back to Azeroth to prepare for whatever will come next.

He hopes that you will be present and ready for when the call goes out for heroes once more.

Leave No Witnesses: The Lost Isles SI:7 Mystery

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If you’ve ever rolled a Goblin in the World of Warcraft and played through their starting area where Deathwing descends to erupt Mount Kezan after getting hit with a football (Or at least that is my interpretation of events) you’ll get a cutscene after boarding the ship to get the heck off the island where the goblin ship stumbles upon a fierce naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance.  Strangely enough its the Alliance who turns cannons on you first and blows the goblin shipped pack with you in the prison hold below due to being tricked into being sold as a slave.  Now of course this is a good reason for the goblins to want to join the Horde right?  That the Alliance are a bunch of jerks and the Gobbies were just sooooo innocent.  Of course the goblins had no way of knowing that it was the Alliance that shot them from below deck and even more interesting to me is the comment that the Alliance commander makes before they fire on you – No witnesses.  They want no witnesses to what they’re doing.

Why?

It’s no strange concept to anyone on Azeroth that the Horde and the Alliance have been at each others throats since the Wrathgate broke whatever hope there was for the vulnerable peace that was forged in the wake of the Third War and the Legion’s attack on the World Tree Nordrassil. So what were the Alliance doing that was so suspicious that they didn’t want any witnesses to their actions?  Well, we do get a few clues as we continue our quest to find a new home on the Lost Isles.  One is that the ship that attacked us was carrying a very important prisoner: Goel the World Shaman, Former Warchief Thrall or Green Jesus depending on how you want to view him. Thrall was on his way to the Maelstrom to help the rest of the Earthen Circle protect the churning hole in the center of the ocean from imploding the planet after Deathwing, that Old God driven mad dragon aspect of being a nuisance, destroyed the World Pillar in the Plane of Earth that held things together.  And wow wee does this sound like Chris Metzen’s D&D campaign notes when I write it all out like that.  I should steal some of this for my own campaign.

Back on topic, we also learn that the ship is being crewed and overseen by the SI:7, the Alliance’s black ops secret forces. Which would make sense if you wanted someone to go on a secret mission to capture the former warchief of the Horde and the current holder of the title ‘World Shaman’ that was made up just for him.  The real question comes in the form of WHY the SI:7 and in turn the Alliance would want to capture Thrall.  The Alliance leadership KNOWS he has stepped down from his position with the Horde and left Garrosh Hellscream to lead to rabble.  They KNOW that Thrall is on a diplomatic mission to aid the Earthen Circle to help stop the world – that place that they too live – from shaking itself apart. So why try and stop him?

I think the answer strangely enough comes 80 levels or so later on the opposite faction.  When doing the quest chain for the Alliance to head into the Twilight Highlands, you find yourself investigate some strange activity around Stormwind with the young Prince Anduin who has begun to take a more active interest in his people’s welfare.  Throughout the questline you make something of a disturbing discovery that the current head of SI:7, the man standing to the right hand side of the King himself, is a member of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult devoted to the Elementals and Old Gods that seeks to bring about the End of the World.  You ultimate stop him and prevent an assassination plot on King Wrynn but this plot element may in fact be the missing piece to solving the question of the Goblin starter zone all the way back at the start of the game.

Allow me to speculate.  The SI:7, a powerful organization with little oversight that carries out secret missions for the safety of the Alliance and headed by a man who is secretly in a cult that wants to bring about the apocalypse, attacks and kidnaps the former leader of the Orcs who just so happens to be on a mission of peace to help stop the apocalypse.  They attack the Horde ships hoping to sink them and chock the whole thing up to inter-faction conflict while they secure their prisoner and inadvertently aid Deathwing in bringing about the Hour of Twilight (ie said apocalypse.) However, a group of goblins accidentally happens on the scene and knowing if the word got out that this was more than just two groups that hated each other attacking each other got out – especially by the hands of goblins who are by nature greedy, not above blackmail, and have had dealings with both factions previously –  well, you’d probably want to make sure that your secret activities of abusing your authority to help further the goals of an insane dragon would remain hush hush and thus give a simple order: No witnesses.

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I submit for your approval that the leader of the SI:7 ordered those ships to destroy any witnesses because they actively sought out Thrall’s ship and Thrall himself to stop him from ever reaching the Maelstrom.  Does my idea seem far fetched?  Perhaps, but remember this is the same expansion that required you to play an Undead to level 20 to find out what happened to the rest of the Worgen starting zone story as well. Or the truth behind the Tragedy of Camp Taurajo that required playing both the Alliance and Horde side of the story AND had additional information in the Jaina novel about what happened. The Cataclysm expansion is full of weird intersects in the story.  So is it that hard to believe that they planned this?  I would argue that no, it’s not.  In fact all the pieces fit together a bit too well for this to just be a coincidence in story telling.

Because I will say this: I don’t have a ton of love for the content of the Catalcysm expansion, but damn did it have some great story moments in there.

SWTOR Class Storyline Reviews Now Complete!

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And now, an Important Announcement from the Dark Lord Emperor Person of the Land of Odd:

Well, this is it. Four years and five months ago, I published my first Class Storyline review.  Now 112,500 words later, I can proudly announce that the Star Wars: The Old Republic Class Storyline Reviews are complete.  To put that in perspective, the average length of a published novel is around 80,000 words with the minimum number to qualify as a ‘novel’ is 40,000.  That’s how massive this project was. I clocked in at around 350 screenshots, totalling about 50MB to capture as much of the story as I could visually.  I’m not even sure I want to know what my /played time was for all of this.  The main Class Storyline Summary page that links to each of the reviews has been viewed to date over 66,000 times and I haven’t even tallied how many views each of the individual review posts.  For all this and so much more, I want to thank you all for reading.

This is by far the biggest project I’ve ever successfully completed and it was your views, your links, your kind words and discussions that kept me going through all of it.  I would like to do the unprecedented and tip The Hat to all of you.  You who turned this backwater little website of silly theories, rants and videos into a mecca that comes up as number two when you search ‘SWTOR Storylines’ on Google. NUMBER TWO! You all did that, not me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of the support.  So what’s next for the Land of Odd?  We’ve got more weird theories, more fun videos, more storyline reviews for both World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV in the works.  We’re not going anywhere folks, and I do hope you all stick around and see whats to come. I’m glad to have been a part of all of this with you.

Thank you all.

 

– Vrykerion & The Hat   

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Chapter Three

<– Chapter Two || IMPERIAL AGENT ||

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third 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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Chapter Three starts right away after the events of Chapter Two with you returning to Imperial Intelligence to be debriefed from your deep cover mission in the SIS.  However, instead of being debriefed by Keeper, you meet with her predecessor the current Minister of Intelligence. He states that he is completely aware that you stole files from the archives and that you broke your mental programming.  He also assures you that no, he has no plans to tell anyone what you’ve done.  In fact he confesses that he only went through with using the Castellan Restraint because the only other option was killing you to insure you didn’t attack another member of the Dark Council.  However, if you serve as the Hand of Jadus this conversation is a bit different.  The Castellan Restraint was invoked by the Dark Council to have ‘insurance’ on the Jadus’ actions and you tell the Minister that what he has done is essentially treason and that his days are numbered.  The Minister is not phased by your threats.  He’s far more concerned with Hunter and whoever his true employers are.

It seems they found Ardun Kothe’s shuttle abandoned in deep space with all traces of the Shadow Arsenal erased and no record of a SIS agent code named ‘Hunter’ ever existing.  However, judging by the fact that Hunter was able to easily infiltrate the SIS as well as having access to your code phrase it is clear that his employer has access to both Imperial and Republic resources – a concern unto itself.  Working the Hunter lead, the Watchers were able to find someone matching Hunter’s description heading to the Isen IV Mining Colony.  This actually raised flags because the very next day, Isen IV contacted the Empire directly to discuss terms of surrender.  The Minister isn’t sure if the two are directly linked but it is worth investigating.

You arrive on Isen IV to find the place as a complete wreck. Reprogrammed droids have begun killing any and all citizens and everyone is under the assumption that the Empire did it. You trace the disruption back to a computer being remotely controlled by some strange unknown technological device and sure enough the person controlling it remotely and calling you right now is Hunter.  He warns that you need to stop interfering with him or he will make your whole operation VERY public.  He also drops hints that if you want to start a war, you need to grease the wheels which is why he arranged it to look like the Empire slaughtered an entire Republic colony of non-military civilians right after they surrendered.  Watcher Three agrees that if anyone finds out about this that it will cause a major incident and that the situation must be silenced.  You have the choice here to either refuse and save the people unconditionally or save them and use it as blackmail to keep them silent. You also have the option of just killing everyone outright or sabotaging the oxygen generators and leaving them all to die.

When you return to Dromund Kaas, the Republic announces that the Empire has broken the Treaty of Coruscant and the war has begun anew.  The Minister of Intelligence however is more concerned with the strange technology you found.  He notes that there have been ‘incidents’ in the past where something similar was found just before a pirate ship was miraculously destroyed right before it annihilated an Imperial outpost.  He dug deeper and found over sixty cases of similar ‘lucky’ incidents dating back centuries to a time before the Sith Empire revealed itself to the greater galaxy. They even found a recording from one such ‘lucky’ incident where Hunter is speaking to an unknown person.  While the former Keeper acknowledges that the start of a war is not time to chase conspiracies, it can’t be helped: Someone is manipulating this war and that someone may have been manipulating for a lot longer than just these few recent events. The Watchers have drawn up a list of targets to investigate, with Belsavis being your first stop.

That is unless you are the Hand of Jadus, in that case you have one additional stop – Darth Jadus. Your master was notably absent for most of Chapter Two and sadly won’t be around much here either. He’s leaving the field of battle to the other Sith Lords to prepare for the future – namely that he has discovered the Emperor’s true goals and as he puts it “either way will be victorious”. He instills you with all his authority. Anything you do, you do in his name and with his power. But he also cannot protect you while gone either.  He warns you not to make needless enemies with this newfound authority but if the conspiracy is worth your time, destroy it in Jadus’ name.

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Belsavis

Your goal on Belsavis is to find a structure that the Conspirators had built when they first helped finance the Republic’s conversion of the old Rakata facility into a Republic prison.  The structure, known only as “Megasecurity Ward 23” was sealed after its construction and has supposedly never been opened since.  You will need to break into it.  However, it will be impossible to do alone.  Your mission is to infiltrate the prison under the guise of being an inmate and create a gang with the express purpose of breaking into the Ward and finding what the conspirators hid in there.  You retrieve mission details, explosives, tools and prisoner dossiers from the Imperial base and then go around planting the explosives to blow the doors to the cells from a central location.  You make them a demand: You freed them and now they will help you.  You direct them to a safe house to meet in person.  Before you head off however you are greeted by a voice identifying itself as “The Scorpio Sanction” who notes that your choice in criminals is subpar and that your slicer is only the third best on Belsavis. The Sanction also notes that it killed the other two slicers which confuses me because that means my slicer WOULD be the best then, right? Maybe this Scorpio thing can’t count.

You meet at the safe house/cave to talk with your group of criminals: a space Texan whose brother tried to break into Ward 23 a few years back and died, the first/third best slicer on Belsavis, a bug man with a knack for technology and a big guy named Ohta.  If you want to exert your dominance over this pack you can just kill Ohta the first time he opens his mouth to complain.  Then you order them to make a list of what you need to break in.  The first goal is the medical facility to pick up what you need.  While in there The Scorpio Sanction activates again and decides to fill the room with gas that increases aggression and while you are immune to chemicals that alter the mind, your companion and newfound gang are not.  You have to break the vents and defeat your friends to snap them out of it and then they get to shopping.  They find almost everything but are missing a couple things. This includes stuff like a carbonite trap, a power battery and an anti-radiation serum.  You go grab all that while the rest of the team moves into the next zone of the prison where they find a guard to beat up on.

The next big task is dealing with the Scorpio Sanction.  Whatever it is it’s quickly proving to be a pain in the rear and that could prove deadly when you’re down in the ward.  The slicer on the team has deduced that the Sanction is based out of Megasecurity Ward 23 and has access to all of the prison’s security systems.  The gang’s suggestion is to take control of a bunch of warden droids so you can trigger alarms all over the prison to distract the program.  You upload the virus to the droids and then head into the maintenance plant to shut down the auto-repair functions that would remove your virus.  The Scorpio Sanction chimes in again and says it released nano-machines that will drill through your companions body and I will just tell you right now – This. Does. Not. Happen.  At all.  It’s a complete lie or it was something that BioWare changed after the dialogue was already scripting and in the game. Once that’s done you head back to the rendezvous to grab your gear only to have your team try and turn on you wanting some kind of assurance they’ll get rich from this. You can pay them some upfront cash, assure them with promising words or just threaten them into obedience.  I mean, these are criminals after all.

Finally with the plan all set in place, it’s time for the big heist. I mean mission. I mean heist.  You find the entrance to Megasecurity Ward 23 way back in the deep prison in the center of a volcano lava lake.  Makes you wonder if our secret conspirators were Sith cause they sure took a page from ‘Evil Lairs Quarterly’ on this one.  If you think I’m joking, the elevator down is a death trap that will shut down and leave you locked inside if it detects any life signs.  So pretty much just droids and corpses can go down into the Ward.  Luckily, you grabbed a carbonite trap earlier that your ‘friends’ in the loosest sense have rigged up to automatically unfreeze you on a timer so you can get past the check.  Beyond that is a bunch of killer droids guarding a massive door of completely unknown metallic composition (My guess is week old Olive Garden breadsticks) that requires you to erode to metal using that radioactive battery and then blowing up said battery after the radiation turns the wall into hours old Olive Garden breadsticks.  Oh, and take that anti-radiation scrubber serum before you die.  That’d be a good idea too.

The final security lock (Yea, apparently there’s only three if you don’t count the easy to kill droids) is a series of force fields operated by the Scorpio Sanction.  The slicer is ready to trigger every alarm on the planet, but the other prisoners – namely the Space Texan – wants to use this opportunity to “re-negotiate” the deal.  Yea, of course. The guy who wanted money upfront is now trying to screw me for more money. Not shocked. Essentially he (and Ohta if you didn’t kill him before) want to be paid out NOW and enough to make sure they can leave Belsavis.  You have two choices here: You can pay them out yourself and they take their leave, or say you won’t bow to blackmail which coincidentally the bug man who has done nothing much in the plot so far decides he agrees that blackmail is wrong and kills the troublemakers for you, and the slicer will then chew you out for risking her life with a gun against the temple.  Meh.  So long as the security goes down.  Which it does when the slicer throws the switch and the Scorpio Sanction screams in pain causing the force fields to momentarily glitch out.

Now you can finally see what the big secret kept in the depths of Belsavis is – people in jars!  Actually they’re in kolto tanks but able to communicate through holocall terminals on each tube.  They speak to you and reveal that they are former members of a galaxy wide conspiracy dating back over 800 years to the end of the Great Hyperspace War.  In the wake of the Jedi and Sith nearly destroying everything in their conflict, some of the most influential members of technology industries, commerce, politics and even spies and criminals got together and asked how the hell they – the most powerful people in the galaxy – could have let this happen?  Their resolve was to begin gently manipulating the Galaxy through their influence to ensure that nothing like the Great Hyperspace War happens again. From then on forth, for generations, this group of the Galaxy’s elite has been its secret masters: THE ILLUMINA-  I mean, Star Cabal. They maintain secrecy by letting the Jedi and Sith believe that their orders wield the supreme power locked in with force power and hereditary might instead of technology, money and information. But unfortunately, over the generations the Cabal has become corrupt and greedy with their power.  So in the spirit of stopping the malformed descendant of a noble organization, these tubed ‘trophies’ of former members decide to help you by showing you how to reprogram and add restrictions to the heart of the Scorpio Sanctions – a hyper-intelligent self-improving AI droid – that holds the key to the Cabal’s database.  That is how you recruit your last companion: Scorpio.

With Scorpio in tow, you head back to the rendezvous to find the Slicer and Bug Man where you can either keep your bargain and pay them out for their loyal services and get them off world, tell them that their freedom IS their payment or keep the whole thing under wraps by just killing them right there.  You would think that’d be it, right? Just head back to the ship and see what this database that Scorpio has contains?  Oh no.  We have one more visitor: Pashon Cortess, heir of House Cortess!  I know what you’re thinking: Who?  Well, House Cortess and its leader Baron Peyar Cortess helped/hindered things for you back on Alderaan.  This is the Baron’s kid apparently.  He wants revenge for his house’s fall from glory (Ha!) and a unknown “friend” of his told him that you were to blame and where you were going to be.  Oh really? Was this friend maybe named Rogue? Or Mage? Or perhaps…   HUNTER? Well you give the spoiled brat a worthy spanking and can choose to deal with him by having him imprisoned for assaulting you, send him back to House Thul to have them deal with the wayward vassal house, or just outright kill him.  There. Now we can leave.

ia_chap03_03

Interlude

The Watchers have been working their own angle on this whole thing with Keeper.  They apparently dug up a more recent holocall between Hunter and an unknown party but all they can find is the record that the call happened but not what it was about.  Keeper wants you to find an actual recording of said holocall by infiltrating the Rings of Tytun – a cyberized planet-size data nexus with rings of scrapped ships that serve as extra storage that archives every single bit and byte of HoloNet data that has ever been transmitted since the nexus went online.  Holy. Flipping. Yoda.  Are you serious? That thing EXISTS? And we are just now learning about it?  Screw the Cabal-inati, THIS is the real interesting thing that shows up in this chapter. I have SO many questions.  Who controls it? Who maintains it? Can anyone access it? Can ANYBODY access it normally?  Why won’t the game give me any more answers?!

Sigh, so we go there and piece together the conversation using a bunch of terminals and fighting droids.  The conversation is actually a bit interesting because it drops some revelations like Nok Drayan being part of the Star Cabal and calling in for what would be his ‘last meeting’ thus indicating the call had to happen right at the end of the Smuggler’s Chapter One story, and another part of the call mentions The Old Man from the Tatooine terrorist cell who apparently had some Star Cabal links before we dealt with him.  You take the rest of the pieces back to Dromund Kaas where the Watchers assemble the whole thing to watch.  Apparently it’s a conference call featuring Hunter, an unknown person simply called The Prince, Yem Leksende the CEO of the Czerka Corporation, another strange figure just called The Creeper, and Kolovish the Twilek matriarch from Tython that was part of the Jedi Knight story.  The call references a lot of other events that occur in the other storylines such as the power plays of Darth Baras (Sith Warrior) or Darth Angral (Jedi Knight) and the awakening of the Children of the Emperor (Jedi Consular) but they also note that for each problem that arises on the Imperial Side, a Republic countermeasure has been prepared (the Jedi Knight and Consular respectively.)

However, while watching the Holocall there are frequent glitches of what appears to be a bald man that kind of reminds me of Watcher X but without the cybernetic implants or the filth.  One by one everyone else in the call blinks out, then the actual people in the room blink out, until in the end its just the bald man and Keeper.  The Bald Man then tries to choke Keeper. Snap back to reality where everyone is just watching the holocall and Keeper suddenly screams followed by her and every one of the Watchers collapsing.  Well… that sucks.  Seems that the recording was laced with an overlay to fry the minds of anyone with an augmented brain like the Watcher, coincidentally the only people who code decode the damn thing. So now Imperial Intelligence is without their Keeper or their Watchers.  It’s going to be a rough go.  Not to mention Hunter calls in as soon as you get back to the ship to rub it all in your face and flirt a bit.  You can actually respond that he obviously honestly cares about you to which he admits that he enjoys saying sweet nothings to you and promises that once the Empire is destroyed, Intelligence broken and if you are still alive – your freedom shall be his gift to you.  Yeah.  He says that.  I’ll be right back. I need a hot shower and some steel wool to feel clean again.

ia_chap03_04

Voss

With the intelligence part of Imperial Intelligence pretty much rendered comatose for the foreseeable future, the only remaining Watcher that wasn’t present at the ‘brain hacking’ – Watcher Three – passes along Keeper’s files on your next lead.  She apparently arranged a meeting for you on the planet Voss with a tea shop owner named Bas-Ton.  When pressed as to why, Watcher Three has no idea and mentions clearly Keeper saw something in this data that eludes him but Keeper never operated on a hunch.  Okay, Call me curious.  You arrive on Voss to find that Bas-Ton is actually an Imperial in deep cover who underwent intensive cosmetic surgery to appear as a Voss.  He replaced the real Bas-Ton and has been living out his days with Bas-Ton’s wife and children while extracting information on the Voss for the Empire.  Keeper had him dig up some intel on a human who showed up five years ago and went from completely untrusted outsider to lavishly honored voss-friend in mere weeks.  Something that the Empire and Republic have found impossible to even inch towards.  This man, named Albathius to the rest of the Galaxy and “The Shining Man” to the Voss, knew everything about Voss society and culture, not just what to do but also how to do it and how to use it all to move up the ranks.  He died and was buried with honors not long after unfortunately. Bas-Ton recommends starting with the tomb and that he’ll arrange a dead drop with a disguise for you.

You investigate the tomb of the “shining man” only to find that the sarcophagus is empty other than some dust and a scroll.  There’s no real way for a body to decay into dust in such a short of time, so you grab the scroll and take some sample and hoof it back to Bas-Ton.  Bas-Ton invites you to sit down for dinner with his “family” and you get to know some of them, namely the son and daughter who have taken an interest in an outsider like yourself.  After dinner, Bas-Ton says he sent the samples of the dust to be analyzed but he can translate the scroll which talks about The Shining Man as “A Man of Prophecy who was made whole in the Wellspring of Healer”.  The Wellspring is located in the Shrine of Healing where mystics heal the spiritually wounded but Bas-Ton warns you to heed the mystics’ instructions.  Once you arrive the mystics offer you a chance to go through a ritual to revisit your past to help cleanse yourself.  You can skip the whole thing with a dark side choice to just knock out or kill the mystic and move on.  Either way you’ll end up in the ‘Vitalicron’ (No, I have no idea what it is or what it does. I just assume its like a Force Fitness App) chamber where you can snatch The Shining Man’s vitalicron and using the genetic code from the ashes (which according to the lab analysis I guess actually was The Shining Man) you unlock the glowing box and see a scene that talks about The Shining Man emerging from the forbidden Nightmare Lands with a scroll of prophecy from the “Chamber of Ash” that was one thought lost.  By a complete coincidence, if one were to say forge a scroll of prophecy you would need materials from said Nightmare Lands. Hmm. Food for thought.

When you get back to the Tea House – and yes, in case you haven’t noticed EVERY portion of this mission ends with you going back to the Tea House in Voss-Ka, and YES. IT IS ANNOYING. – There you find that Bas-Ton has been taken hostage by a bounty hunter who is waiting for you in the Gormak’s territory.  You do some more hoop jumping with finding corpse that have more messages and shorting out security stations, but ultimately you get to meet this bounty hunter and something is up.  First of all, the cave you’re meeting in isn’t stocked with Mandolorians like you’d expect, but Hutt Cartel Security. Oh. That’s not good.  That’s not good at-  Oh Hi Faathra.  Yup. Another face from the past, or technically face of someone associated with something you did in the past as you never met the young Cortess heir nor Faathra in person. But someone is sure making sure that these people know what you did to them.  You take on Faathra and his goons but Bas-Ton is fatally wounded in the process. You can spare or kill the Hutt, but Bas-Ton is pretty much done for and has to be left to die in a cave because while he looks Voss, he sure as heck don’t bleed like one. He tells you to ask his Voss family to help you get into the capital and find a map to the Chamber of Ashes in the sacred carvings stored there before he passes.

ia_chap03_05

So believe or not this is where it gets tricky.  See, only a Voss may view the sacred carvings.  The only way to get you in would be for Bas-Ton’s family to make you a Voss and the only way to do THAT is to marry one of Bas-Ton’s kids.  So yea.  You get hitched right there and then.  Congratulations?  Okay, you don’t HAVE to marry one of the kids.  You can always threaten, injure and force them to fetch the carving for you.  I mean, torture is momentary but marriage is forever right? So which is REALLY the Dark Side choice?  Okay, yea. It’s the torture.  Anyway, the carving will detail how to reach the Chamber of Ashes and when you find it, you’ll find something you probably weren’t expecting – a starship.  Uh huh.  Around the ship you find a gormak named Xanar who is waiting for the Shining Man to return because he watched the Shining Man and he too wants to “shed his skin and become Voss”.  Well, that’s wonderful.  And impossible. But mostly wonderful. But bad news, Xanar. Shining Man is dead.  Oh, and Xanar doesn’t like that one bit. He attacks you and then activates the ship’s self destruct when he loses. The only positive things out of this is ripping a copy of the Shining Man’s data archive out of Xanar’s hands and  a recording of The Shining Man begins to play that reveals exactly what the deal was with coming to Voss anyway.  Apparently, The Shining Man was an agent of the Star Cabal who was scouting a location for the Cabal to send initiates to learn how to resist the Force.  The Nightmare Lands was apparently one such possibility but it proved to be too much.  The Shining Man also asks to “Send Hunter his love” once again hinting that same sex couples were in the game before the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion.

Pretty much as soon as you leave the exploding Chamber of Ashes, you get a call.  The Three – the leaders of all of Voss – would like to speak to you.  So first thing is first – I prepare my defense: “Hey, I never even MET these %*&holes before, okay?”  Excellent. Now let’s go politics.  Inside the grand ol’ chamber of the Three, you are told that you have been brought here to meet just as the Shining Man was because the prophecy that applied to Shining Man also applies to you.  They explain that when the Shining Man came, he offered a deal to the Voss: Remain neutral from both the Empire and the Republic for 3,000 days and in exchange the Gormak will be defeated, no outsiders will ever step foot on Voss again, and the Empire and Republic will cease to be.  Since the Three viewed it as a very small risk for a potentially great reward they agreed to the Shining Man’s and thus the Star Cabal’s terms.  They then dismiss you and you can go on your merry way.  Of course you can also turn it back around and say that since the prophecy said they would help the Shining Man, that you should be able to ask something of them as well.  This gives you the choice of either asking them to aid Bas-Ton’s family (obvious light side), for the Voss to join the Empire or just to give you guns, lots of guns (That’s the dark side in case you’re curious).

When you get back to your ship, there’s a call from Watcher Three informing you to return to Dromund Kaas and head back to headquarters.  These orders come from the only higher source than the Minister of Intelligence – The Sith themselves.

Interlude II

This is a fairly short interlude that mostly sets up the last world’s storyline.  A Sith Lord named Lord Razer (giggle) has come to announce that Intelligence has failed to pull its weight in this war and thus will be dissolved.  The Operations Division (The Ciphers) will be distributed to more “deserving” Sith Lords who can better utilize their talents.  If that heartbreak wasn’t enough, Razer has Kaliyo arrested for being an anarchist and she’s dragged away screaming about how she’ll kill you and everyone else.  Finally, Lord Razer personally delivers your reassignment.  You will serve under Razer directly on his conquest of the frontlines of Corellia.  Interestingly, he mentions that you were given this post at the request of the Minister of Intelligence.  He then sends you back to your ship until you meet again on the battlefield.  To kick you while your down, there’s a message waiting when you get back on the ship.  Hunter has called to let you know that the dissolution of Intelligence was the Star Cabal’s way of getting back at you for poking around on Voss.  Okay, this is starting to get ridiculously personal.  Even with all that, your remaining crew asserts that they’re with you till the end of all of this, so it’s off to Corellia.

ia_chap03_06

Corellia

Ah Corellia. The last world on our little circuit where the Empire is making their big push into the Core Worlds.  Lord Razer directs to meet with his top brass in the war room, where if you aren’t playing a human be prepared to have some racist… species-ist… hate speech uttered in hushed tones as you walk in.  You’ll be assigned for the rank of Lieutenant for being ex-intelligence or Major if you are the Hand of Jadus.  Razer calls the meeting where he declares his first mission for you is to pinpoint precision targets for his bombers on the ground so that they can lay siege to the outer defenses of the Republic’s precious and highly fortified Aegis Base.  Once the defense have been destroyed, you are to take a portable warhead and detonate it inside the base.  You SHOULD have enough time to get out.  As you leave, you are contacted by an unknown female voice who refers to you by your old intelligence codename – Cipher Nine – who wants you to transfer troop data from the Republic computers to her to help identify patterns of the ‘Invisible Enemy’.  The data is a bit of a shocker: Massive reinforcements coming from General Garza’s special forces (That’s the Havoc Squad assault on the Stronghold from the Trooper storyline) and a contingent of alien races bringing a myriad of troops (I can only assume that’s the Jedi Consular’s army) but the Empire is completely in the dark about all of this. The female voice tells you that you are free to warn Razer about this, and that you should finish up dropping off that warhead.

After blowing up the Aegis Base, you report back where you can warn Lord Razer about the reinforcements where the news is met with general uninterest.  After all, who can stand against a Sith? Right?  Anyone?  Oh bother.  Everyone begins to back up and leave the war room to move to another forward location and you get a chance to contact that female voice.  Turns out it’s Keeper. She’s used the reports of her being ‘brain dead’ as a cover to work on setting up a final strike at the Star Cabal.  We know that the Cabal has been manipulating military intel, but to know how much the numbers are being changed Keeper will need the raw data of the current standing forces and units lost on Corellia from Moff Zamar who is just finishing his report. If that report is entered into the system, the Cabal will change everything and we will never know how much they are altering.  So you need to get his skyhopper to land prematurely by setting up false signals of attacks around Labor Valley so they think they have no choice but to land. Keeper gives you a code phrase to give Zamar if you want but warns that it will either make him comply completely or make him incredibly suspicious of you.  When you reach the landed ship at the top of a building, you can skip the code phrase entirely and just shoot your way into the ship or actually use the handy code phrase which will cause the guards to escort you in where Zamar states that he “owes him this much.”  They never actually say who ‘he’ is but considering all the possibilities of people who can’t be dead at this juncture in the story, I’m gonna go with the Minister of Intelligence.  He gives you the report and then you get another choice to either ditch him there as the Republic closes in on his position for some Dark Side points, just flat out kill him for even more Dark Side points, or score a couple of Light Side points by escorting him out of the building and past the Republic assault team.  Once you are done with however you choose to handle things, you send the intel back to Keeper who tells you that every advantage that the Empire thinks they have is an outright lie. Between Darth Baras, Darth Vowrown and Darth Thanaton all blowing troops on personal power plays (That would be the events of the Sith Warrior and the Sith Inquisitor storylines on Corellia) combine with the Republic’s reinforcements, the Republic and Empire are poised to completely wipe each other out.  Unfortunately, in the wake of such a huge reveal, Lord Razer calls all his troops to the new forward base to push back against the Jedi.  Argh! Stupid Razer and his stupid war.  I hope someone just kills him.

So you arrive at the forward base to see a Jedi just kill Lord Razer.  Huh.  However that leaves all his subordinates now officially without a boss and they’ll just wander back to be assigned to a different Sith.  You can always make a Light Side choice to tell them to go AWOL and form a guerrilla fighting force instead. Probably a good idea considering the completely boned odds we have just learned about, but how the heck is THAT a Light Side choice? “Yea, disobey your orders, go completely AWOL, kill people with no oversight! +10 Good!”  Keeper has a better plan for you than either a guerrilla group or reporting back however.  There’s apparently a deluxe airship floating around Corellia decked out with a massive party while observing the war.  You get docking codes from some mercs, use them to sneak aboard when they are refueling their snacks (Pizza rolls don’t refill themselves!) and then once on board your goal is to get captured and leak fake intel about Imperial reinforcements coming to cause the Cabal to scramble to change things and giving you a window.  There’s just one snag with all of that.  Hunter is here.  Well, okay he’s on holo.  Apparently, this whole shindig is his ‘Apocalypse Party’ to occupy Corellia’s movers and shakers to keep them distracted with their own decadence so they won’t try and “do something” about their world burning down.

He finally lays out the Star Cabal’s big scheme (because it’s that point in the Bond films, kiddies.) Get the Republic and Empire, the Jedi and the Sith to wipe each other out completely, so for the first time in 1,400 years the ‘normal people’ can rule the galaxy for themselves.  Naturally, the ‘normal people’ will be ruling from under the guiding hand of the Star Cabal, but is that really that much of a change?  And right on queue from your Bond Movie Script for Dummies, the droids gas you with sleeping gas (or activate a neutralizer field if you had the forethought to bring Scorpio along for this) and take you downstairs to torture you for information.  Why do they want information if they rule the roost already?  Well, I can only assume it’s because there had to be some dumb reason to convince you to just stroll on up to the party like a boss so they better find out what.  That’s when you get the chance to drop that fake intel that Keeper gave you which you can immediately follow with a quick break out by beating them up and running or just wait till they’re tired of hurting you and they’ll just drop you in a bush saying something about not being able to kill an Imperial officer without arousing suspicion.  “No, I’m just going to leave them there to die, go someplace else, and just assume my evil plan went as planned.”  /sigh.  Whenever you escape or wake up I guess, you call into Keeper to get updates.

Keeper has one final move to make on the chessboard now that the Star Cabal is distracting with altering their master plan: eliminate the Star Cabal.  But first, she needs you off the radar.  You get some explosives and rig them around a building that has an escape tunnel hidden beneath it so you can fake your death.  Right when you finish, an SIS operative who was a former member of one of the Eagle’s terrorist cells (apparently after the Eagle’s demise, the SIS went on a recruiting spree for former terrorists. Not shocking how you managed to get in during Chapter Two.)  This operative is named Nyella Hawkins and if that scratches a memory or two it’s probably because she is the sister of Mia Hawkins, the terrorist cell member who helped you on Tatooine back in Chapter One. You fight her off and the SIS demands your surrender via holocall where you just taunt them, blow the building, and escape in the tunnels below.  However, there is an alternate version of the events here that only take place if you spared Ardun Kothe and his team in Chapter Two.  Ardun shows up and you can convince him of what Hunter is doing.  Ardun will offer to help you take down the Star Cabal.  So yea, there’s an option if you really liked those SIS guys who used your brain against you earlier.  Once you leave the tunnels, Keeper contacts you with coordinates to the Starship Tenebrous to meet.

ia_chap03_07

Grand Finale

You arrive on the Tenebrous to find both Keeper and Kaliyo who was extracted en route to prison and has been doing jobs and getting payback from behind the scenes for the remnants of Intelligence.  Keeper is less than well herself, trying to recover from the damage done to her mind by the Star Cabal.  However, reunions are cut short by the Minister of Intelligence who needs to speak to you in private.  He tells you that they have pinpointed a small space station in the Null Zone (which is apparently a thing that exists because I had to look it up on Wookiepedia but I’m not going to explain it here because it REALLY isn’t important to anything. Simply put it’s just a big area of empty space.)  The Minister wants you to get on board, eliminate everyone, and retrieve any records they have that deal with their members, projects or dealings.  This way the Empire can hunt down every last one of them.  Then of course the Sith will want to keep that knowledge in ‘good hands’.  That thought apparently takes the former Keeper down memory lane about how we started off in Intelligence thinking it was a distraction, then a means to enact change as he rose in the ranks, but slowly all of his ideals and dreams where replaced with goals and objectives.  He states that for those in your line of work, you can only change so much. He then dismisses you and says that you have a ship waiting and a timetable before the Cabal escapes.

You arrive at the Star Chamber, the home base of the Star Cabal.  The entrance is decorated with flags of every society, planet and great house you can encounter in the game.  You sneak in and infiltrate through the air vents to reach the inner sanctum.  There you can spy on the Cabal proper and identify the members.  While they’re talking you can pick up on the mention of the death of Tol Braga from the end of the Jedi Knight Chapter Three story. You can wait and try to identify them all but Hunter will catch you and bring you down to fight, you can also choose to interrupt as a Light Side and talk to them but this pretty much has the same effect of a few fighting you and the rest running away, or you can shoot at them as a Dark Side choice which instantly kills one of the people you normally would fight which makes the combat a bit easier.  If you’ve been Light Side and walk in announcing yourself, Hunter will sound overjoyed that you are alive before he makes a break for it, otherwise he’ll just express annoyance at your intervention.  Once you deal with the members of the Star Cabal that didn’t run away (which is two provided you didn’t shoot one in the cutscene which in that case it would be… one) Hunter shouts out that you don’t just ‘get’ all the secrets of the galaxy.  You then have to chase him through a series of insane puzzles that makes me wonder if The Shroud designed them.  Finally, you reach Hunter in the chamber of the Black Codex, a datacron holding the collected knowledge of over a millennia of secrets that the Star Cabal hoarded and within it the power to reshape information and knowledge at will.  But to get the Black Codex you must defeat its guardian – Hunter – who is willing to die to protect the Star Cabal and its mission.  You have a fierce battle until Hunter collapses, on his death bed he reveals his final secret:  He is a she.  Trained by the best spies and assassins, including the Old Man on Tatooine, “Hunter” used the hard light holographic disguise technology that the Old Man offered The Eagle to pose as another person.  It was easier she says than trying to remember her real name and homeworld that were “erased” by the Cabal when she was just a child.  That’s why she liked you so much.  You of all people could understand her plight.  To have no real name, no true self, and forced to wear mask after mask until there’s was nothing left of you inside at all – just the job.  If you played a male agent, she’ll admit that she’s even fallen in love for you.  So I guess just take back all that stuff I said earlier about Hunter and same sex romance options.  Boo on you Bioware.  But hey that was actually great foreshadowing for this reveal, so kudos Bioware.  Male agents can also kiss her just before she kills herself having failed her goal.  Of course, if you chose the Dark Side option earlier in the conversation you just blew her brains out before she reveals ANY OF THIS, YOU MONSTER.

At this point is where the endgame for the storyline begins and it’s a doozy.  A total of five different endings are open to you and while some of those are just variations on each other, they are different.  So let me boil down what happens bit by bit.  After Hunter’s death, either a pair of Sith will arrive and ask you to turn over the Codex to them.  There are two different versions of this depending on whether Jadus is alive or not.  However, if you didn’t kill Ardun Kothe and his team in Chapter Two and DID choose to ally with them on Corellia, Ardun will show up instead and ask for the Codex so it can be kept safe from those who would abuse it.  At this point you have three choices: Take the Codex, Give the party that shows up the Codex, or Destroy the Codex.

Let’s start with that last one since it’s the easiest.  You tell Kothe or the Sith that NO ONE should have the power of the Black Codex and destroy it, you go back to the Tenebrous and get yelled at by Keeper for letting a prime opportunity slip through your fingers.  That’s endings #1 and #2 (Sith or SIS).

The middle option is to give the party that shows up the Codex.  For the Sith this will either mean it gets turned over to Jadus or to some unknown party, a promise from the Sith that the traitorous Minister of Intelligence will be punished, and you are given a promotion in the new Sith Intelligence founded by Darth Zhorrid (or Darth Jadus if he’s alive).  You get a chance to go back and give the Minister a piece of your mind and chew him out by either telling him that you were just looking out for number one and Sith have all the power, or that you want to help create an Intelligence where such blatant racism against Aliens isn’t so damn prevalent, or I think there’s a few other options.   Or if you give the Codex to Ardun Kothe, you are invited to help make the Galaxy a better place by becoming a double agent for the SIS inside the Empire. All of your own free will this time – no mind control. Choosing to become a double agent is especially notable because it triggers an extra scene at the end of the Shadow of Revan expansion where you report in the Ardun Kothe after dealing with Revan.  So that’s endings #3 and #4.

The final ending is taking the Codex for yourself. You give the Sith or Ardun a fake and take the real one back to the Minister of Intelligence.  He tells you that he’s proud of you and that now you have the power to become a true force of power in the Galaxy.  From the shadows, you will right wrongs for the Empire with no oversight from the Military or the Sith. True freedom to act by your own discretion or with your own conscious.  Your first step is firing up the Black Codex and erasing all trace of yourself from existing.  You are now a ghost and it’s time to get to work.  That’s ending #5.

Some people say there’s a sixth ending as well, but try as I like I can’t really find one.  I think they probably count the Jadus is alive/Jadus is dead versions of the ‘Give the Sith the Codex’ ending as seperate because there is some different dialogue between the two and I think a few different choices for your dialogue.  Like being able to cite the ‘equality of fear’ doctrine that Jadus put forth as part of your reasoning for supporting Jadus.

All the endings end the same though. Sending out the intercom call on your ship and calling the entire crew to meet. One by one, they break from their usual tasks on the ship to join you.  It’s a messy galaxy out there, people.  Time to call in the cleaning crew.

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Looking Back

A lot of people say that the Imperial Agent is the best story the game has to offer, and it is not hard to see why they think even if you don’t agree.  It’s bold, it’s daring, and it does things that none of the other storylines dare to do.  From the sheer mind#%@$ery of the second chapter, to the ruthless moral choices of who lives and who dies where there isn’t a clear cut line.  It’s the ultimate gray morality play where there are no right or wrong answers.  If you like playing a character more than a role, you’ll have a fun stress-inducing time here.  I spend a lot of time on my first playthough standing up and walking around the room before deciding which button to push.  I’ve played it three times and I would be happy to play more.  But let’s talk about it in a more individualized aspect.

The first chapter was all about realizing exactly what Intelligence’s role in things are.  You make deals with enemies, you let thousands die to save millions, and you pick up the messes of the Sith.  There’s a real exploration of the fact that you are both the most terrifying thing in the Empire with the ability to silence and make vanish at will but in actuality are forced to cow tow to the Sith in almost every way imaginable as shown by the tiring ordeals imposed by the not entirely stable Darth Zhorrid who comes across more Queen of Hearts than Emperor Palpatine. The twist of Darth Jadus being the mastermind behind his own assassination really did a good job of setting the tone of ‘don’t trust anyone’.  A theme that gets firmly cemented the further the story goes on.  You get backstabbed by Imperial Intelligence, you learn that everyone and everything is having its strings pulled by the Space Illuminati, and the Sith are only interested in their own petty agendas.  In the end, your crew is about the only people who don’t betray you at any point and even that seems to be on borrowed time with the likes of Kaliyo and Scorpio.

Speaking of the Space Illuminati, oh boy was that a base breaker in this chapter.  Apparently people either love the Star Cabal being behind everything or they hate it.  But honestly, I didn’t get that they WERE behind everything.  They just nudged things.  They didn’t create the Jedi Knight, but just set things up that they would be a counter to and be on a collision course with the Sith Emperor.  The idea was to keep both size at dead even without letting them know that, so when the time came they would blow each other up with none left standing.  The big threats seem to be countered through the individual storylines but how much of that was the Star Cabal ‘playing the player’ and how much of that was laying breadcrumbs and letting the natural hatred of the Jedi and Sith or the Republic and Empire opposing each other do the rest.  That’s the way it felt to me at least.  I did like how much of the other stories got tied in here though.  It made the Imperial Agent feel like the center story that all the other stories overlapped just a little bit with.  It’s not new.  I mean, Risha from the Smuggler story was childhood friends with Vette from the Sith Warrior story, and Doc from the Jedi Knight seems to know Kaliyo somehow. But the Imperial Agent overlaps with most of the storylines instead of one or two.

Not only does it crossover with those storylines but explains some of the mysterious background details of the setting as well.  Why are the Voss neutral? The Cabal arranged a deal. How did the Empire end up losing Corellia? In fighting between Sith and faulty numbers about how many loses there actually were.  What the heck is ‘Sith Intelligence’ that comes out of nowhere at the end of Shadow of Revan? It was founded by Darth Zhorrid or Darth Jadus in the wake of the Star Cabal dissolving Imperial Intelligence.  There’s just a lot to be gained by playing through the Imperial Agent if you enjoy the story of SWTOR.  Even more so it contains a very possible hint of whats to come: Darth Jadus is still out there.  While he can be stopped, he is never killed only imprisoned.  He knows what the Emperor’s true plans and whether you join him or not, we know he flees the known galaxy to amass power and return to enact his plans to take over.

…Are we sure that Valkorian was Vitiate? Hmm.  But hey, that just a theory – a SWTOR Theory. Thanks for reading!

<– Chapter Two || IMPERIAL AGENT ||

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Chapter Two

<– Chapter One || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Three –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second 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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Welcome Back, Agent.

Aaah, what better way to relax after Annihilation Day than a nice vacation?  Yea! No.  Your back on the clock, Agent.  Chapter Two kicks off with a call with a call to report back to Intelligence ASAP for a meeting with Keeper.  However, when you arrive at Keeper’s office you only find Watcher Two there.  Like in Keeper’s chair.  All by herself.  Oh no.  No no no no no.  Sigh.  Yes.  It seems that there’s been some promotions handed out while you were out.  Watcher Two has been promoted to Keeper, and the former Keeper is now the Minister of Intelligence.  You still don’t learn their names. They just get referred to as Keeper and Minister.  Anyway, we have a job yes?  Well it seems that the new Keeper wants you to take on a job of going under deep cover to track down Ardun Kothe – the Republic’s best spymaster that has been turned loose from SIS and now is operating with unlimited budget and no oversight in pursuit of crushing the Empire.  You need to infiltrate Kothe’s team as a defector from Imperial Intelligence.  Keeper and the Watchers have been dropping leaks and hints of a top Cipher wanting to defect for some time now, and it’s time to cash in.

You head off the Nar Shadaa where you meet your contact with Kothe’s band of spies: Hunter.  Hunter has been assigned to test you to make sure that your capable and willing to do what’s needed for the mission. Not long ago the Empire arranged a partnership with a notorious Hutt crime lord called Nem’ro.  That partnership built a massive new droid factory and Hunter wants you to blow the place up.  While on the mission, you are introduced via radio to two more of Kothe’s band of miscreants – Chance the Slicer and Wheels the tech expert droid.  Once you’ve stolen the droid blue prints and blown up the factory, you meet up at the team’s hide out.  That’s where you meet the last member of the team – Saber the weapons expert and sniper.  There at last you get to have your meeting with Ardun Kothe.  The mastermind himself.  He invites you into his office where he assigns you your codename: “Legate” which is either pronounced Leg-Ette or Ley-Gah-Tay or a few other ways over the course of the next three worlds, once again confirming that there was very little communication with the voice directors on this game.  However, the whole things goes topsy turvy on you in a second as Kothe utters a single phrase: “Keyword: Onomatophobia.”  You black out and hear the familiar voice of Watcher X run through your mind.  When you come back to, you find yourself obeying Ardun Kothe’s every command.  He explains he just activated your mental programming and that you cannot tell anyone that it has been activated or that it exists and you cannot enact any harm on Ardun or his team.  You can try to express rage, or question the situation but no matter what conversation option you choose on that dialogue wheel that shows up – you simply acknowledge Ardun’s orders.  Kothe orders you to go to Taris as his double agent inside the Empire.  When you get back to your ship, Keeper will contact you to see if you met up with Kothe and ask if you’re alright. Again, you can’t mention the programming so any option you choose will result in a monotone “everything is fine”.  Before you head off, you hear Watcher X’s voice once again telling you to wait and watch for your chance.

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Taris

Your mission on Taris is to use your Imperial strings to track down a rogue Jedi named Ki Sazen who has reportedly been building up a power base on the planet. Chance, the geeky little slicer, will be your mission contact and watchdog for your time here.  Your first objective is an old laboratory that Sazen was snooping around in and try to find what she was after.  There you find another member of Imperial Intelligence – Doctor Lokin or ‘Fixer Fifteen’ as he is called in Intelligence – who says he was sent by Watcher Four to scavenge anything he could from the lab of Doctor Godera – a name Jedi Knight player’s will recognize – but it appears that Ki Sazen got there first and stole one ‘Ultrawave Emitter’.  Lokin says he has no idea what it is capable of and thus probably shouldn’t be in the hands of a crazy power hungry Jedi (Best keep it for a mad power hungry Sith, right?)  Lokin offers to join forces so he can triangulate the next lab that Sazen will strike that was lost somewhere in the swamps.

As your scouring the forsaken swampland of Taris, Chance gets in touch to tell you that he checked out what he could on Doctor Lokin and confirms that while there wasn’t a ton of information available, he is confirmed to be Imperial Intelligence. So he wasn’t lying. Chance also mentions that he doesn’t ethically agree with the mental programming and won’t use the code phrase on you unless he absolutely has to.  You finally dig out the lab in an old transport station. No, I don’t know why a Bio-research Lab was sitting in a subway station.  Maybe there was a reason these people were all dumb enough to get bombed 300 years ago. (You don’t need to correct me on that in the comments, I’ve played KotOR1 and yes, I know how Taris got this way.)  Here you find a cult of Nikto who worship Ki Sazen.  The three nikto leaders are each finding some item for Ki so that she can use the Ultrawave Emitter and create a Rakghoul army to take over all of Taris.  The Nikto here are getting Rakghoul biological data, and the others are looking for info on colony movements and the last is looking for a Republic doctor to help finish the device.  Chance says that the best well… chance you have is to split up.   You take the colony movement investigation and he’ll go save the scientist.

Your task is pretty much just running around to various spots and fighting a few waves of enemies before taking out the Nikto leader.  To do this you get a tip from Lokin on where he would look and he gives you a stim that will help your combat proficiency that I don’t think actually does anything beyond reinforce the plot point that Lokin is a biologist.  You think the elimination of two-thirds of the necessary components would be enough to halt Sazen’s plan but oh well.  After you take out the second Nikto commander, you get a call from Chance who unsurprisingly has failed his mission.  He’s been badly hurt and uses the code phrase – the prick – to force you to come to him.  He does this regardless of your intent – even if you wanted to come help him (Chance is the nicest of the Republic scum after all.)

Chance says that you should split up, he’ll find the scientist if you find the colony movement investigation nikto. You’ll need Lokin for this, so it’s back to the old lab.  Lokin gives you a tonic to help boost your combat proficiency and tells you that if he were to try something like this, he would use the colonist’s sensors to set up a sweep.  So you travel around the swamps, shutting down sensor towers until you fight and kill the Nikto leader.  Then Chance contacts you, he failed his head and took some bad hits.  Fearing death, he uses the code phrase and commands you to come to him.  Even if you already say you were going to do that. Like before, any response you make is replaced by the monotone acceptance of the command but the Watcher X voice reminds you that they can force you to take action, hell they can’t resist doing it, but you can still think and that is your escape.  You go track down your handler – feels like that should be the other way around but the SIS are incompetent little lemmings – and find him bleeding out on the ramp leading into the Hospital where he tells you that Doctor Ianna Cel is waiting to meet with an SIS agent who will use the code phrase ‘Gemstone’.  He needs you to make the meet since he can’t.  He apparently had trouble with the four packs of not-even-gold mobs leading to the doctor.  Friggin’ lemmings.  Before Chance passes out however, he tries to order you with the mind control phrase but can’t get the words out.  Well, well, well, looks like we have an opportunity.  Of course you get some light side options. Namely ‘save him’ or ‘save him begrudgingly’ but the one I have no doubt everyone is eyeing is the dark side option.  See, you can’t HURT Chance.  Your programming won’t allow it.  But you don’t have to fetch any help either.  The Dark Side choice is just to simply let Chance die and go on your merry way.  I like that option.

You go down the ramp and kill the all too easy mobs that slaughtered poor Chance (May we never forget his… snrk… ‘heroism’… lol…) and meet with Doctor Cel who has been hiding in the hospital after getting repeated threatening holocalls from Ki Sazen.  While talking to Doctor Cel, you’ll get a call from Lokin who has an idea. You can hear him out or just hang up on him.  If you hang up, he’ll appear RIGHT NEXT TO YOU from some sort of cloaking tech.  Apparently he’s been following you around. Either way he’ll suggest the same plan: Let Lokin pose as Doc Cel’s assistant and then let Sazen capture him.  From there, you can trace Lokin right to both Ki and the Ultrawave Emitter. But to ensure that you can receive the signal, Lokin has you disable some Republic Jammers in the area.  Once you do, the call comes in that tells you where Sazen is holed up with her Nikto cult.  Time to deal with a Jedi.

Or not? As you approach the base, you get another call from Ardun Kothe.  He tells you that Chance is either injured (Probs.) or missing (Oh no. Say it isn’t so.) and that you are the new ‘primary agent’ on this mission.  He also uses that damn mind control phrase to tell you that retrieving the Ultrawave Emitter is now the primary goal and dealing with the Jedi is an optional secondary thing.  No, he won’t tell you why. Did you really expect him to? Once inside you get to meet Ki and boy is she the textbook definition of the fallen Jedi.  Okay, so she wants to use the rakghoul and the nikto to conquer all of Taris and turn it into a savage utopia but only for those who swear undying loyalty to her.  Wow.  Just… wow.  So I kicked her butt with the quickness and then you get several choices of what to do with her.  You can kill her (naturally), send her back to the Jedi to be redeemed, put her skills to use elsewhere by hiring her into the SIS, or you can fan the fires and send her to be trained at the Sith Academy (In the name of Darth Jadus no less if he’s still around).  The choice is entirely yours as beyond a letter following up your decision, I don’t believe Ki ever comes back to the plot in any way.  Though apparently if you send her to the Sith, she catches the eye of Darth Serevin.  So she’s probs dead by the time Makeb rolls around anyway.

You go to the lab to get the Emitter and to find Lokin, but instead you find a big ol’ rakghoul that turns into Lokin.  Huh.  Apparently he’s been working on a ‘perfected strain’ that allows him to turn back and forth but currently it only works with his DNA.  I’m sorry if it seems like I’m treating that as an afterthought, but the game seemed to think it was one too with how it’s just kinda tagged on the end of the quest chain like a sticky note.  “Oh btws, I can totes become a rakghoul whenever I want and maintain my human mind. Shall we go back to the ship?”  Doctor Lokin, man.  His entire story does that.  Even back on the ship.   Never really liked the guy, but apparently he gets along with the Bugboy from the diplomatic service. They discuss opera.  That is given more screen time in this story than the rakghoul transforming thing.  Seriously.

Once you are back on the ship, you contact Ardun Kothe who asks you to connect the Ultrawave Transmitter to transfer over… something.  Again, he doesn’t specify.  After the call, you start to break down however. Hallucinations of people you know, tiny versions of your crew flying out of the giant mouth of Ardun Kothe, a flaming Darth Jadus, those jerks from Alderaan lounging and drinking with a giant monster…  freaky stuff. It all ends with you passing out with a vision of Keeper (the old one… the Minister of Intelligence one) shooting you in the back.  You then see a vision of Watcher X who can’t confirm if you’re seeing him because of the stress of being a double/triple agent, the breaking down of the mind control, or the chip he shoved into your spinal cord back on Nar Shadaa. However, he does know that it wasn’t the SIS that brainwashed you – The Empire did.  He recommends you scoot back to Dromund Kaas to have a look at your personnel file and to try and be careful. You don’t have friends anymore.

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Interlude

Back on the homeworld, you infiltrate Imperial Intelligence and descend into the archives below the main room.  Yea, that elevator on the south side? That’s where this goes. The mission has you cutting the security systems so no one knows what you are up to down there and then slicing into computers to piece together the data on what they did to you.  What was that?  Well, in the wake of the end of the last chapter, the rest of the Dark Council expressed concern over either you attacking Jadus or being given such a distinguished position of power by Jadus.  Either way, they feel threatened by you.  However, instead of killing you outright they agree with the newly appointed Minister of Intelligence that you should be fitted with something called The Castellan Restraint.  A form of mental programming performed by injected a serum dubbed  IX (that’s ‘Eye-Ex’ not ‘Nine’) into the brain which will rewrite neural pathways over the next three to thirty days depending on the person.  Once it has finished, the individual can be programmed a key phrase and any commands.

Sadly, the Restraint doesn’t have a way to reverse it.  You find out that the only way to do anything with it is to ‘reset’ the whole process and assign a new phrase.  However, doing this can apparently be ‘inhibiting’ to the subject.  Not that they go into detail in the recordings about what that means. In the end that seems like your best bet so you gather up a list of supplies of what you need to mix up a new batch of the IX serum but sadly the Empire is fresh out of Dimalium-6.  The only known source is a backwater planet called Quesh.  So we have to go to Quesh.  Yay.

Quesh

Your first stop on the poisonous swamp of a planet is the chemical warehouse where you meet with Administrator Kroius about the chemicals needed to make the IX Serum.  He has everything on the your list except the Dimalium-6.  Which would line up with the whole ‘out of stock’ scenario.  Luckily, there’s a mine where the Dimalium is harvested just north of here. Bad news is that the Republic has taken over the operation and you’ll have to er… “liberate it” from them.  The spectral voice of Watcher X can’t help but chime in as well to inform you that Kroius is the one who has been providing Imperial Intelligence with the chemicals needed to mind control you and anyone else in the Empire.  This leads you to the choice of either ordering Kroius to stop distributing Dimalium all together, killing Kroius by igniting the flammable and explosive chemicals in the warehouse but then having the deal with the security droids, or just leaving.  After you decide what to do with the good Administrator, you are off to the mine which is actually little more than a hole in the side of a mountain.  I’ve seen Wampa caves bigger than this.  You snag the Dimalium-6 from the Pubs and then use the chemical mixer in the cave to whip a fresh batch of Serum IX and then shooting it right into your veins.  Seems… hasty?  Then again, what do you really have to lose here?  It might kill ya but the alternative would be being a mind controlled puppet of both the Empire and the Republic. Naturally, it’ll take some time before the Serum does its job and rewrites your brain again, in the mean time Watcher X says you should go back to working with the SIS until the time is right.

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Hoth

Looks like Kothe has another job for you.  He wants you to go to the planet Hoth and find a lost spaceship called the Starbreeze from the infamous Starship Graveyard.  Well, that should be easy.  It’s like finding a random person in a graveyard of unmarked graves.  How long could that take?  Luckily, an Imperial admiral named Davos is assembling a mission to the graveyard to find scrap to use – supposedly including the Starbreeze.  Oh, and apparently your liaison for this mission will be Hunter.  Joy.

Unfortunately, your first encounter with Davos is not a positive one.  He greets you, asks what you need, then informs his men to torture you until they find out everything you know and then kill you.  Oh because no one ever just wants to chat.  Still, having your goons try to kill an Imperial Cipher?  That takes guts. Not to mention it immediately shifts you from the asset column straight into the super suspicious bucket.  When you finish with Davos’ men – because let’s be honest, did they really stand a chance? – you are contacted by a Chiss named Thrent who you bumped into when you first arrived and asks you to come to a frozen lake nearby for answers about Davos.  The lake is actually a cover for a large underground Chiss Ascendancy base operated in secret from even the Empire. This is where you encounter Ensign Raina Temple, an Imperial who requested to work with the Chiss that has been monitoring the Davos situation.  Apparently the Chiss have been watching Davos ever since he started building up what seemed to be a private army of men, weapons and machines to head into the Starship Graveyard and then bribing people to look the other way.  The Chiss formally ask for Imperial Sanction to act from you so they can help deal with Davos, which you naturally grant. It’s good to have friends.

Your first task is to investigate supply drops that Davos had been leaving across the icy plains as he headed out to the Graveyard. You run around and find several drops to find that they are stolen Imperial tech and weaponry that was left as tribute to a group of pirates that control the region known as the Marauders to gain safe passage.  Of course, you always have the option to steal the tech and guns for yourself to the delight of Kaliyo if she’s with you.  Also while you are out hunting down boxes, you get a call from Hunter who has finally arrived on Hoth.  He asks for a status update, but none of the answers you can give are a direct answer or at least not a satisfying one to Hunter, so he uses the code phrase to demand an update.  This causes him to laugh and say that loyalty is so much easier when you don’t have a choice before hanging up on you.  I really, REALLY don’t like Hunter. He seems like the kind of jerk that kicks puppies or watches MTV.  Anyway, after your investigation Temple wants to meet up to take on a lightly enforced Marauder camp to try and get some answers.  When you arrive, the Chiss are severely pinned down until Raina uses a force trick to confuse all the pirates so you can attack and turn the tide.  Here you finally get the details on why an Imperial like Raina has been serving with the Chiss:  She’s force sensitive but not strong enough to survive the Sith Academy.  Thus if the Empire discovered her abilities, it would pretty much be a death sentence. She knows as the ‘secret police’ of the Empire, you’ll want to pursue this information but she asks that you please hold  off on that until you’ve dealt with Davos.  Meanwhile, the rest of the Chiss have got the intel you came for. Davos was bribing his way through the pirates territory and is currently meeting with the pirates in their base.  Attacking head on would be suicide, so they recommend going through the Bone Pit – a slightly less suicidal approach… slightly – and tapping the walls to get into the security system to spy on the meeting.

Turns out that the ‘Bone Pit’ is a stinking wampa cave…  and yes it IS bigger than the “mine” on Quesh.  You get to the back and tap into the security system to learn some of the details behind Davos’ scheme.  Apparently, he fought in the Battle of Hoth.  The one that resulted in most of the Starship Graveyard being there.  However he was shot down and crashed on the surface.  There he began to collect treasues, technology and Republic secrets then hid them all away so that someday he would be able to retrieve them and become insanely rich.  Wow.  That’s it?  I mean, that makes sense and all but I was hoping for something more grand than a get rich quick scheme with buried treasure.  Well, we can’t all be Darth Jadus. Your spying is interrupted by a pack of wampa that attack you but luckily Temple was listening in remotely and got all the details you missed while almost getting your head ripped off. Davos apparently struck a deal successfully and the Marauders will act as protection and escort for Davos’ team to the Graveyard.

In the Starship Graveyard you meet up with Aristocra Saganu, the leader of the Chiss on Hoth.  He explains where Davos’ treasure hoard is and proposes a plan on how to stop him.  Namely, you take the risks and the Defense Force will back you up.  Not a shocker, but I think its funny that a squad of trained Chiss commandos are worth less in an infiltration assault than a single Cipher agent.  Really puts the whole Agent position in perspective doesn’t it?  Anyway, once you infiltrate the super dreadnought ship that Davos is in and meet up with Temple, you go ahead to deal with Davos and the Marauders and Temple with the Chiss will deal with keeping the White Maw pirates who live in the dreadnought at bay.  Davos is actually quite reasonable when you find him.  He wants to make a deal and essentially pay you off to let him leave with the treasure.  You can choose to either demand his surrender or just try and kill him – both of which lead to a big fight with the Marauders and Davos – or you can take him up on his offer and ask about the Starbreeze.  He doesn’t really want to part with it but if you are willing to keep quiet and say… give him the location of the secret Chiss base under the frozen lake he’d be willing to part with it.  I really don’t know WHY he wants the location of the Chiss base.  I mean, yea, in general the Imperials and the Chiss don’t see eye to eye out of just generic xenophobia and racism, but Davos himself has never expressed a burning hatred for the Chiss.  But if you don’t mind selling out your new pals secrets you can walk away with the Starbreeze with no mess.  Well, almost.  As you finish up, Temple will show up and regardless of what you chose to do pretty much all the Chiss are dead and Temple is injured.  You bring her along with you on the Starbreeze to the meet up with Hunter who poses as Minder-Seventeen.  The “Minder” suggests that Raina should be promoted for her actions and then asks to speak to you in private.

Hunter tells you that Raina needs to die.

You can try to defend her and Hunter will sympathize or you can agree and Hunter will just mock you saying that you don’t really want to and that you want to keep her like a lost puppy.  Honestly, it seems like this was another moment where they originally planned on letting you kill her off permanently early in the game’s design but changed it later because the ‘I agree, let’s kill her. Oh no, you don’t want to do that.’ thing comes off terribly forced and completely out of left field. In the end, you get a new companion in the form of Ensign Raina Temple who is nice and serves as something of a protege to you, learning the ways of the Agent to be more like her father who was a Cipher as well.  However, Hunter does use that damn code phrase again and puts a command in your head that if Raina becomes a problem or learns of the SIS’s involvement at all that she is immediately terminated.

As you get back on the ship, you receive a call from Ardun Kothe.  He is happy with you.  Which is… yay?  He says that Hunter gives you high praise which is a feat in itself.  Not really considering he just mind controlled me into doing what he wanted.  Kothe says it is time for the final phase.  He wants you to meet him on a death trap of a planet called Quesh.  I er… uh…  never heard of it?  I certainly have no connection to a group of dead Republic miners or anything.  Oh! Also, if you happen to be a Chiss Imperial Agent, Aristocra Saganu will contact you and make you an honorary member of his house in the Ascendancy. That’s nice of him.

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Finale

When you reach Quesh, Ardun has you meet up at a facility called ‘The Shadow Arsenal’.  There in a group holocall wit Hunter, Wheel, Saber and Ardun, it’s explained that the Shadow Arsenal houses 200 stealth rockets with built-in hyperdrives to allow them to jump right to their destination and explode, and one single rocket carries a payload big enough to level Kaas City. The Arsenal was developed by Doctor Godera and a team of other scientists during the last war, but the cowards grew a conscious about their actions and sealed the whole project away on Quesh.  Kothe has been seeking out a way to find the Shadow Arsenal and wants to use it to win the war.  The Ultrawave Transmitter on Taris had Godera’s signature activation codes built into it and then the Starbreeze had the coordinates of where the Arsenal got stashed.  With both in hand, Ardun Kothe has the keys to the cookie jar.

Hunter starts assigning tasks to the team.  Your job is just to deactivate the shields around the place so they can land and load up the missiles.  Oh and to make sure of it, after everyone else disconnects from the call, Hunter uses the code phrase again to implant the order to open the shields and do everything you can to ensure the SIS claims the Shadow Arsenal.  That prick.  You infiltrate the facility and find a security station to deactivate the shields.  Easy.  Now you just go and… wait.  Oh.  Kothe calls you before you can do anything and while they are loading up the weapons.  He uses the code phrase to force you to stay behind while they leave with everything.  Kothe wants you back in Intelligence for a few months laying low until they call upon you again.  The voice of Watcher X chimes in once more to tell you that they are abandoning you and that the time has come to break the programming.  Oh sure, there’s a risk it could put you in a vegetative state, but there’s not exactly a lot of time here. Watcher X asks if you want anything else to be done with your programming which gives you the choice of ‘having payback’, ‘being free’ or ‘break the limits of your body’.  Beyond a line of dialogue, I don’t think this actually does anything.  I do wonder what your companion thinks of their boss talking to no one in particular about all of this.  They just kind of stand there.  Ultimately, the programming is changed and you will no longer accept any outside commands from anyone.  Now the real mission begins.

You head into the Arsenal proper and find Wheel and Saber handling the automated droid security inside to cover Kothe.  They’re shocked to find you there since you were just ordered to stay put.  You can bluff them into appealing to let you help Kothe and letting the pair live – Wheel will even give you some extra supplies for it – or you can just kill them.  After dealing with them, it’s time for the primary objective: Deal with Kothe.  You find him opening the vaults of the Shadow Arsenal and deactivating the security turrets.  A massive room full of some of the deadliest weapons that were ever created.  You confront Kothe, who reveals that the SIS tactician was once a Jedi who couldn’t bring himself to live up to the Code.  He pulls out his lightsaber and attacks you. You fight until you either kill him or seal him inside the vault and let the turrets blow him to pieces.  There’s also apparently a ‘good ending’ to this section where you let Kothe live.  I was never able to find the dialogue option to get that but I will say that it does open another ending at the end of Chapter 3 if you do. So be on the look out if you want the ‘True Light Side’ ending?

The story isn’t over yet though.  As you are leaving you get a holocall from Hunter.  He laments that you managed to break out your programming and that while he was done with Kothe, he still had big plans for you.  He notes that in the end, history will forget about ‘Imperial Intelligence’ and ‘Republic Strategic Information Service’ and now history will also forget you since he called in some bombers to blow the entire Shadow Arsenal sky high.  Before you flee, you ask Hunter who he REALLY works for and he just smiles and notes, “The Winning Side.”

Final Thoughts

Chapter Two is a complete mind #%$& of a story.  It’s more than just ‘you are brainwashed and must do as your told’ but also shows the effects of your mental state deteriorating as you start seeing hallucinations and hearing voices,  and then to actually take the whole thing further and use the fourth wall breaking technique of using the games own dialogue system and choices to emphasize the mind control aspect.  Giving you three choices of different things you can say and then disregarding your choice to reply in the same stock monotone phrase when prompted is just chilling to me every time it happens.  That kind of stuff doesn’t happen anywhere else in the game.  It makes the lack of free will personal to you the player as much as it does to the character, because you actual FEEL the frustration of being aware of making a choice and having your choice disregarded because of an outside force controlling you.  As Watcher X mentions, the programming affects your actions and responses, but not your mind. When you choose a dialogue option, your character is thinking that and trying to say that but the Castellan Restraint is overriding it.

Speaking of Watcher X, his role was primarily the biggest let down of the whole chapter (which is saying a lot because it’s not even BAD as much as confusing).  Not so much what he does but what he doesn’t do – that being explaining what the hell he is doing there.  It’s left frustratingly vague why Watcher X of all people becomes your mental guide through breaking your chains.  Is he just a fragment of your mind trying to help you piece yourself together?  Is it actually something to do with Watcher X’s implant as a back up plan from Nar Shadaa?  I’m more inclined to say the former than the latter because after this he never shows up again.  Oh no, instead we get to deal with Hunter and his true employer from here on out and THAT will be fun indeed.

We also meet two more companions over the course of the chapter and while I jest about them quite a bit, they at least have interesting personalities.  Lokin is a seasoned veteran of Imperial Intelligence, he almost comes across as a Watcher X type but with an actual personality.  He is actually a great adviser on matters of espionage and counter-espionage which makes him a good teammate with Vector who knows people and how to be diplomatic through tricky situations.  It’s easy to see why the two are often found chatting away. Raina Temple on the other hand is the fresh faced new recruit despite not being either.  She is part Elara Dorne (Trooper), part Nadia Grell (Consular).  A firm believer in the Empire but eager about becoming an Imperial Agent to serve it better.  Her own storyline gets more into what that means as her own secrets force her hand and seem to maybe jade her a bit to the idea.  The romance gets somewhat into the creepy teacher-student thing but is less squicky than the Jedi romances.  I’d say it’s more of a tutor/student situation.  Which I guess is better?  Eh, at least Kaliyo is still an option if that’s not your cup of tea.

Unlike a lot of Chapter Two’s in these class stories where the entire point is to set up the third chapter the same way that the prologue sets up Chapter One, the Imperial Agent’s second chapter acts as a bridge that connect the first and third chapters.  It’s made very clear that the situation you are in is the result of your actions in the first chapter, and will adapt itself properly depending on how that chapter ended (either by stopping or joining Jadus) but then also introduces you to the primary villain of the third chapter and starts the bigger mystery of the storyline.  On top of that, it actually begins to tie in other things from some of the other storylines – namely the Jedi Knight’s visit to Taris.  That’s where you first meet Doctor Godera who has gone into exile out of guilt for his creations made for the Republic during the war.  These creations were various doomsday weapons that the Knight must stop or retrieve.  It’s safe to say that the Shadow Arsenal were among these weapons that were clearly better hidden.  However, this also may explain some of Watcher One’s interests in finding Doctor Godera during that story as well.  The Shadow Arsenal may also have been what The General was referring to with ‘Missiles that could blacken out a sun’ during the Black Talon flashpoint.

Overall, I’d say that despite a couple of hiccups, this is probably the BEST chapter two experience in the game in terms of both story and a willingness to shake things up and offer a mind blowingly unique experience.

<– Chapter One || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Three –>

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.

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