Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Trooper storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
So the war is on, Rakton is invading the core systems, and it’s time for the Republic’s finest to shine once more. Or shine at all in the case of that last set of missions. Can chapter three pull this story out from the depths and raise it to some truly amazing? Well, let’s find out as we join in the all out war for the galaxy.
Well, it’s back to the old grind stone as Havoc Squad is needed to go pick up a group of pilots out of Belsavis prison. That’s right. Prison. Apparently, the entire squadron got a bad rap and were sent up the river because bad intel had them dropping bombs on civilians instead of a Sith lord that was their actual target. So command made an example of them and sent them to this outer rim nightmare. But now with a galaxy wide war erupting, the Republic needs the best, and that means putting the illustrious Dagger Wing back on active duty. Which means getting them out of Belsavis alive. Which means Havoc Squad. I guess. When you arrive it seems that you actually have your work cut out for you because Dagger Wing hasn’t been content to sit a prison cell. They are tried and true Republic soldiers and they stick by that even after being tossed on a prison planet for something that wasn’t really their fault. So in the wake of the prison riots (because the Empire has decided to start opening all the cages looking for something it can use), Dagger Wing stepped up to help out the prison staff keep order across the various districts on the planet. Well that’s awesome and all, it means you will be scouring the entire planet looking to piece together the whole squad and bailing them out of trouble as they continue to push themselves neck deep in imperials and crazy inmates.
The story actually ends with you chasing down the Dagger Wing CO to the super secret double maximum security prison, where you are actually given a fairly meaningful choice. The entire planet you’ve been aware that Dagger Wing got screwed over by command, and they’ve made their peace with that and are STILL willing to not only come back to active duty again but also have been helping keep the prison secure. Now you face the choice of leaving the Commanding Officer to die in order to capture a Sith Lord that can prove Dagger Wing’s innocence, or completing the mission and grabbing the CO and letting the Sith go. It’s actually a very nice moral quandary to start out Chapter 3 on, and a HUGE step up from the boring paint-by-numbers chapter that was Chapter Two. Especially since it’s not a clear cut “this is good, this is bad” kind of choice. Dagger Wing will still have a commander if you let the current one die, but he won’t be as experienced nor have the respect, but you will be able to prove their innocence. It’s a delightfully muddy choice. I honestly just grabbed the CO and booked it without bothering with the Sith Lord. Proving their innocence was not my mission. Plus I got to fight an “Ancient Beast” which was actually a rancor. Yay! I killed a rancor. Take that Skywalker. I did with nothing but a gun. And explosives. And a gravity well that nullifies armor. And a robot. Okay, not quite as impressive I’ll admit. Still, who has two thumbs and killed a rancor? This guy!
After you take off from Belsavis, you are contacted by Garza with urgent news that our old friend Sergeant Jaxo is trapped in an imperial prison that is holding 300 or so republic troops. Seems like an excellent opportunity for Havoc Squad to kick some butt. The actual place is quite small, it is an interlude after all. But it does provide one of the more interesting choices in the trooper story thus far. See, ultimately it turns out that the whole thing is a trap by General Rakton who was waiting for you to show up and then blow the entire prison up. So now with the pendulum swinging over your head and the hourglass emptying quick, you have a choice: Do you vent the lower levels to power the shields long enough to get the prisoners out, fully knowing that Jaxo will be killed (she is hiding down there), or do you save Jaxo leaving 300+ republic servicemen and women to die. The part where it gets interesting is that you sort of can build a personal attachment to Jaxo. She has shown up at least once per act, including a party night side quest during act two that I didn’t really mention before (it didn’t seem important to be honest). Also, if Forex is in the party during this bit, he’ll mention that the cost of training and equipping a special forces troop like Jaxo far outweighs the cost of 300 random standard infrantry. So financially at least, Jaxo is more valuable. On the other hand, your mission was the free the 300 people. So there’s that too. Again, another wonderful choice where there is no clear cut easy answer. That’s my favorite kind of light/dark choice because they come down to sheer roleplay. What would YOUR character do? Well, my character is a cyborg programmed to complete the mission at any cost. So… so long Jaxo!
Oh geeze. Okay, so the whole nothing is morally black or white choices thus far have been nothing compared to this planet. Welcome to Voss, folks. Home of the most frustrating trooper story thus far. Okay, so essentially there is a large number of ground troops being held up on Voss at the request of a senator there who is chummy with the Supreme Chancellor. The so called “Vacation squad” wants to join the war proper, but the senator is convinced that the Empire is going to sneak attack Voss and won’t let them leave because of it. Your job is to convince the senator to release the troops by removing any possible threat of a sneak attack. General Garza also very specifically mentions that you have to be on your best behavior because of the senator’s relationship with the Supereme Chancellor. Which means playing kiss up to a jerky politician for the entire planet. And oh geeze does he not make it easy. He yells at you for not miraculously bringing in an imperial agent alive when the agent flat out tells you he has no intention of surrendering, constantly volunteers you for random tasks for the locals that have nothing to do with why you are there, and is generally a jerk about things. Luckily, the senator is a man with two sides to him. The other is the sniveling coward who cringes at violence, and a political weasel. In case you can’t tell, I hate this guy. I really do. You are given the choice to smart mouth and berate him, calling him a coward and a weakling but that’s not my character… not matter how tempting. You do get a nice blast from the past however when you discover the Imperials plan to use the ZR-57 (the bomb from waaaay back on Ord Mantell now finally repaired from your meddling) to threaten the Voss capital to get the people to do what they say. This leads to some nice callbacks like remembering to use the radiation to detect where it is. And you wrap things up by stopping the senator’s rival, a sith lord jerk, who you can choose to kill or let live. Which is kind of a mundane moral choice at the end, but the rest of the plan really tests your role playing with dealing with the senator, so I didn’t mind so much.
INTERLUDE 2 (Meeting the Senate)
After getting the now former Vacation Squad back to the front lines, it seems that we have yet another interlude. This time it is another trip to the senate for a formal inquiry about special forces, and specifically Havoc Squad. You find out when you land that the senator responsible for the hearing is actually being bought off by the Empire thanks to some detective work by the SIS (with a nice callback with the SIS agent from back on Nar Shadaa). You are given some evidence to show the other senators and get the whole thing dismissed so you can get back to active duty, and if you follow Garza’s script that’s pretty much exactly what happens. However, there is the dark side option here. And it’s probably one of the most awesome, bad ass, complete jerkwad choices you can make in the Trooper storyline. Ready for this? When the senate first ask you to offer a counter to the jerky corrupt senator’s claims that you are useless and blowing the Republic’s cash… You can shoot him. As in, dead. Right there in the senate building. And you get away with it. Okay, well, people are super mad at you for it. But seriously, you just flat out kill a politician in the senate at a hearing about Havoc Squad abusing authority and resources, AND YOU GET AWAY WITH IT. There are very few moments I’ve seen in this game that can be considered THAT awesome. Oh geeze. Anyway, no matter what you do, you find that by the time you are done General Garza has already shipped off world to Corellia to directly command forces to confront the Empire’s invading forces. General Rakton has touched down there as well, and she wants Havoc there on the double. Time to finish this? Hell yea.
Welcome to the front lines. Finally. It’s only taken, what? Forty-six levels? Corellia is a mess of a warzone, with a constant struggle across the city world for control of various resources. General Rakton however only seems interested in one of those: The Bastion, the intelligence nerve center of the Republic. With control of the Bastion, Rakton would have information on every operation, strategy, tactic, secured channel, you-name-it in the Republic. So it’s up to the Republic Military and Havoc Squad in particular to stop him. But there’s one problem with that plan. The Bastion is across the city, and there’s no direct route there for a massive ground force. It’s time to find a way through. Luckily, you have the aid of the Corellian resistance and their uh… “Freelance” pilots with an abundance of cargo space and expertise in getting through blockades. Not smugglers though. Not at all. Nope… Anyway! They’re all set to help you out except their ships are locked up by the Empire. Your first task is to free those ships. The second task which quickly follows behind it is that the Empire appears to firebombing civilian areas and you get a choice – save the civilians, or use this opportunity to seize an imperial dropship. The dropship is actually kind of handy because you will be able to sneak past defenses ala Return of the Jedi, but you can also save the people. This is the first in a few dark side/light side choices and it pretty much sets the primary morality conflict for the planet. Dark Side: Help the Military. Light Side: Help the Resistance. The Resistance seems heavily occupied with doing whatever it takes to help Corellia, which makes sense since its the Corellian Resistance. However, the Military decisions tend to be things that are designed to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently to bring a faster end to the conflict and deal with the Empire at large, usually at the expense of the Corellian people. Sacrifice a few to quickly save the rest essentially. The Resistance argues that what’s the point of helping if you’re just going to do just as much damage as the Imperials in the process. Also a fair point. After dealing with either the fire bombs or capturing a dropship, is to mobilize troops to set up an ambush in the factories for the Imperials. Mostly this mission just involves going around and notifying various cells that the mission is go and then joining them at the factory for the assault. It’s really a super simple task only complicated by a brief discussion on whether blowing up the factory to stop the Imps is worth it or not. Some argue that they’re destroying their place of business and will have no jobs once Corellia is freed, the others argue that if they don’t it becomes less certain if Corellia will be freed at all. A decent question of short term vs long term risk and reward. But beyond that this whole thing is talk to three dudes, blow up some Imps, go to next mission. Not terribly exciting, but on the other hand it is showing more of the people of Corellia getting involved in the op.
The penultimate mission involves creating a landing zone for those totally-not-smugglers to drop off the ground troops close to the Bastion. Again this mission follows the same pattern of do you help the Resistance or the Military, but this time its about whether or not you destroy an antique starship in a museum to make room for a landing strip, or fight your way into a fortified Imperial landing strip and “borrow” it. Naturally, blowing up the antique to make room is quicker and less risky, but if you do it really is the final straw with the Resistance. They were mad, like sent me a letter talking about how much of a scumbag I am mad. This is probably the most petty choice of them all, and really just falls to who do you want to listen to. I can’t imagine landing in a museum is any more practical than an imperial outpost, other than you probably will draw some extra attention and have to fight a few more people with the outpost. Still, it IS kinda funny to see the Resistance get so completely out of shape over it. Oh fine, admit it, I’m just a bad person.
Everything comes to a head for the final mission to assault the Bastion and stop General Rakton. This is where it aaaaall pays off. You start out by shutting down security and capturing an Imperial transport to sneak into the Bastion Trojan Horse style, then after clearing everything out you meet the rest of the assault: the safecrackers from the Gauntlet mission, a heavy infantry team piloting walker tanks, and a squad of elite ground troops. Oh, the best part? They all answer to you. That’s right. You are commanding an army. And that’s actually relevant this time as the plan is to assault all three guarded corridors at once to reach the Bastion. One with traps and droids, one with walker tanks, and one with infantry. I split it up so my walker tanks stepped all over their infantry, my infantry and safecrackers outmaneuvered their tanks, and Havoc Squad (Okay, you and your companion. The rest of the squad covers the rear) personally handled the droids and traps – what? I have to fight the boss afterward. I SHOULD get the easy job. Not that it was terribly easy. The droid/trap hallway has the most insidious of obstacles: Companion Pathing Errors! Yea, Forex continually would get stuck places while I had to try and take down groups of droids and turrets all by my lonesome. I died in that hallway more times than I did the rest of Corellia. You finally rendezvous with the other teams in a courtyard to prepare for the final assault. Which of course means that they are gonna hold the courtyard while you and your companion go kill Rakton.
The final showdown isn’t as impressive as the lead up, but it’s still a hell of a lot better than the random gold enemy at the end of the Gauntlet. You face off with Rakton’s two goons – who really are the hard part in my opinion – and then Rakton himself. Rakton wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for my tank companion continually standing in the massive AOE that he drops. Still, with a little Heroic Moment, he fell all the same. Huzzah! And then you are given the ultimate choice: Do you kill Rakton or force him to work for the Republic? Well, since this guy’s strategies almost brought down the entirety of the Republic in one fell swoop, I’m gonna put him in the “Too dangerous to let live” category and execute him. And I did. After that, the rest of the army drops you off back at your ship, and it’s happy trails to Corellia to meet with the Supreme Chancellor and Garza. Time to treat the team to some drinks.
Suprisingly… there isn’t one. Unlike a lot of the class stories which send you to one final confrontation after Corellia, the Trooper story ends right there on the planet with the defeat of General Rakton. Which was shocking really. I was expecting Rakton to make me face his goons, run off and I’d have to assault his super special awesome dreadnaught or something to kill him. Which I happily didn’t have to do. Especially since three chapters in a row of super special awesome dreadnaught assaults would be kind of annoying.
LOOKING BACK: A FINAL OPINION
The Trooper storyline really is a mixed bag for me. I’ve heard this called the “Hero of the Republic” storyline and I can kind of see why. You are pretty much the one who gets it done for the military, but it really didn’t feel as epic as say the Jedi Knight storyline. The first chapter is really where the story shines in my opinion. A mission of revenge against those who betrayed not only the Republic, but you personally. It requires you to draw the line on where your loyalties lie: to the Republic? To the Military? To your own ends? And then continually tests you with your choices. There’s a bit of a throwback to that in Chapter Three with Belsavis and Voss, but not nearly to the same degree and with not nearly as much on the line because there isn’t a personal investment with Rakton. He’s pretty much just a giant threat to the Republic, but whoop de doo – so is everything in the Sith Empire. If not Rakton, then the Dark Council, or Imperial Intelligence are just as threatening. It really is a shame that Grand Moff Kilran got shifted to purely a Flashpoint only affair, because he would have been a much better villain to face in Act Three. Rakton had the devotion and believed fully that the Imperial way of life was a good and just thing that everyone should have to live by, Kilran was a tactical, and ruthless butcher that had one hundred times more presence when he was on screen than Rakton.
But what about Chapter Two? Chapter Two was blatantly unnecessary and was padding of the worst kind. It’s the only middle chapter I’ve run across thus far that does next to nothing to advance the narrative of the characters. You could have had Rakton appear after the defeat of Tavus and nothing would have changed. The Gauntlet was poorly done, poorly named, and ultimately just turned out to be a big filler mission to give you two more companions. The only really shining moment was the opening battle on the Gauntlet and really that is all I can say about it. The super mcguffin from Hoth? Never comes back. Instead the Safecrackers from Quesh you saved not only show up in the side mission with Jaxo, but also on the final mission to assault the Bastion during the War for Corellia. And they’re not interesting. AT ALL. There’s nothing memorable about them in the slightest. If they didn’t blatantly mention they were with the Safecrackers, I wouldn’t have remembered them at all. Honestly, I would have moved the A-77 interlude mission with Jaxo and made THAT the grand finale of Chapter Two. At least then you would have the risk of losing Jaxo right after having that fun side mission with her back on Coruscant (So fresh in the mind) versus losing hundreds of people, it would have raised the stakes when you finally met Rakton and found out he was responsible for those deaths as a trap to remove Havoc Squad from the game before his big assault on Republic Space and then it wouldn’t have the unintended final consequence of blamng Havoc Squad – THE HEROES OF THIS STORYLINE – for re-starting the War proper by destroying Rakton’s new toy. Rakton would have already been planning to assault the Republic, and this was a pro-active advanced trap to remove the biggest threat to his plans. That would have been interesting in the overall story.
Chapter Three was still a welcome relief from the dismal Chapter Two. While the fact that you spent Belsavis and Voss doing exactly what you did in Chapter Two with gathering troops for the battle was a bit annoying, it was certainly handled better and given a certain weight within the context of the war at large. Belsavis is a prison planet that you need to save convicts imprisoned due to getting the shaft by command – something you can easily see happening to Havoc Squad – and the other with a paranoid senator monopolizing an entire platoon for his own fears in the wake of war. This is made even more bearable and even downright poking fun at Chapter Two when you meet with the Senate and they complain that Havoc Squad has been doing nothing to help the war on the front lines. I’m just glad they don’t blame you for starting the war (although it is a missed opportunity in that scene. Especially when you can kill the senator. How good would that feel? “YOU STARTED AN UNNECESSARY WAR!” “AND YOU ARE A TRAITOR! /Blast”). The glory moment is surely Corellia, but it doesn’t truly feel that way until the end. You get the same kind of Military vs Rebels vibe for most of the planet as you did with Balmorra, but with more extremely blatant “Screw you Rebels, we do it our way” moments. It’s really hard to look at Garza in a positive light in some of those moments where she’s like “There’s no time. BLOW UP THE PRICELESS MUSEUM!” Still the extremely epic ending with the Assault on the Bastion, where it feels like your choices DO matter some. If only I could actually reload the game back to just that mission, I would love to go and see if there actually is anything interesting that happens if you send the teams differently. Would the walker tanks handle the traps and droids okay? Would there be more casualties if you went ground troops to ground troops? I really would like to explore that. But not so much that I’d wade through Chapter Two again. No Sir. So that’s the end of the Trooper storyline. My first finished write up for a whole story. Wow. Hopefully the others will be a bit less frustrating than the trooper. I really wanted to like this one. And it wasn’t terrible (except for Chapter Two), but it seemed like it could have been a lot better too. Well, here’s to next time.