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Making Sense of Final Fantasy Type-0’s Ending

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So I finally dove back into the deep deep upscaled waters that is Type-0 HD and decided to actually try finishing the game and in a tradition dating back to Garland’s time-travel dance turning him into Chaos in the very first Final Fantasy, the plot only becomes apparent when the game is 95% done.  In the case of Type-0 this takes the form of Chapter 8: Tempus Finis, or ‘The point where the developers remembered that this is a Fabula Nova Crystallis game’ – No, seriously.  They completely forgot this was supposed to be part of the shared mythology until the game was almost completed.  Hence why things like the l’Cie and fal’Cie are only briefly involved in the plot for the majority of it.  Heck, the name ‘Etro’ is not brought up until after the final boss I believe, and if Pulse and Lindzei are ever named its only in the Big Book of Exposition that sits in the library.  So yea, the first seven chapters of Final Fantasy Type-0 are pretty straight forward.  It’s a war.  You want to win it.  Your a super special awesome team of space explorers magic users that gets used and scapegoated and thrown under the bus to help win and take control of the four crystals.  Once you do that however, is when plot happens.  Tempus Finis.  The End Times.  Heralded in with a fade to black and some enigmatic words that leave you scratching your head going “Waaaah?”  That’s the ACTUAL plot arriving, and I will do my best to try and make some of this make sense.  Fair warning, from this point out there will be big time spoilers.

First, a little mythology.  Type-0 and the world of Orience were built on the shared Fabula Nova Crystallis mythology that is also used in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, and theoretically in Final Fantasy XV (Though recent interviews say that while the general concepts may remain, most of the names and plot elements have been changed up to make XV more of a standalone game).  The Mythology speaks of the God Bhunivelze who seeks to break through from the Seen Realm (Land of the Living) into the Unseen Realm (Land of the Dead).  The reasons for which can vary and are usually very complicated & ‘Greek Mythology’-y.  To accomplish this, Bhunivelze creates two fal’Cie – Lindzei and Pulse – and tasks them with the goal of breaking into the Unseen Realm.  In Type-0, this takes the form of breaking the seal on The Gate of Etro (Etro being a fal’Cie or sometimes called goddess of death).  To accomplish this, Lindzei and Pulse create their own fal’Cie with their own agendas for accomplishing this.  Lindzei creates Arecia and Pulse creates Gala.  Arecia and Gala are the primary figures that more or less set the plot of the game in motion via ‘The Spiral’.

Essentially, The Spiral is a cycle of 999 years when one of the four nations controls all four Crystals, a period known as Tempus Finis begins.  Tempus Finis is heralded by two things:  The appearance of Pandæmonium where a Judge awaits to see if any in this cycle are worthy to become “Agito” or the chosen ones powerful enough to open The Gate of Etro.  If no one proves worthy enough to be Agito, the second thing takes place – an army of unkillable neverending soldiers sweep across the world of slaughter every living thing with the goal of hopefully bombarding the Gate of Etro with enough souls that it breaks.  If neither of these events are successful, Arecia and Gala restart The Spiral back to Year 0 and the whole thing starts over for another thousand years.  Each iteration of the Spiral has the various nations start to discover their Crystals after about 157 years (Hence why the 999th year is marked as 842 RG on the calender. 842 years after the discovery of the first crystal.)  During which the Crystals will compete by creating l’Cie – superhuman warriors that are bound to the will of their crystal.  Only a l’Cie can enter Pandæmonium.  That is until the 600,104,971st cycle aka the events of the game.

In Chapter 8 of Type-0, Class Zero – Arecia’s pet project of prime candidates for Agito – manage to reach Pandæmonium and complete most of Gala’s – who has possessed a human host to act as Judge – trials and only failing because Gala becomes bored with giving a bunch of mortals a fighting chance at becoming Agito.  Class Zero actually has a chance to become l’Cie halfway through the dungeon but doing so only leads to the bad ending where they are pulled away from Pandæmonium and back to their home town to defend the Crystal they are bound to and eventually die prompting Arecia to restart the Spiral.   Instead, if you stay mortal, two friends of Class Zero who do become l’Cie give the rest of Class Zero the strength to battle the Judge and ultimately defeat him by ripping out his ‘phantoma’ (soul) – a talent that only members of Class Zero can do.

This marks the first time in 600,104,971 cycles that Class Zero refused the mantle of l’Cie.

However, despite defeating the Judge, Class Zero can’t open the Gate of Etro.  Instead they return and with their ‘Mother’ that keeps them resurrected when they fall in battle missing they must face the real possibility of death after supposedly saving the world.  This breaks them and they start to panic, cry, etc. but they come together in the end and choose to face death together.  Their memories, along with everyone else who died, is passed on in a book to Arecia by Tiz and Joker – two characters that popped up from time to time but are actually supposed to be ‘Ten’ and Joker or the missing two “cards” from Class Zero.  Arecia observes the memories and sees how her ‘children’ – Class Zero – didn’t want to die in vain and didn’t want to be reborn or be forgotten.  Touched by these words and the confessions of the two friends turned l’Cie about all the journeys they had been on, Arecia decides to abandon the Spiral Project and to deactivate the Crystals.  She sends the two friends out into the world, freed from the l’Cie curse, to live and to thrive in a world where the dead are not forgotten.

So yea, that’s basically – as I understand it – what all happens at the end of the game.  Again, much like Final Fantasy XIII there’s a lot that isn’t explicitly stated but to its credit you could at least follow the basic plot thread all the way to the end without any additional reading.  You might be confused by things like… Why Dr. Arecia can stop The Spiral or why the heck the General from the White Tiger army is suddenly a god-like jerk.  Or even “Why is sky raining blood and everyone is dying?”  Valid questions.  The game does take an ungodly sharp left turn at the conclusion of Chapter 7 which pretty much just ends with the defeat of the White Tiger army cut to black and then uh-oh-apocalyps-o.  That’s why I figured I’d try to piece together everything I could to explain that ending so that other people wouldn’t get lost with the jarring shift in tone.

Also because sometimes knowing the ending can inspire you to try something out just to see it all.  That’s actually why I decided to play through Type-0, and why I read Stephen King’s Dark Tower…  which both are eerily similar in certain ways. Hmm.

I hope you enjoyed this little summarized lore dump on probably one of the most depressing Final Fantasy games I’ve ever played.  Seriously, Square Enix, way too many dead kids in this one.  Seriously.  (If you chose to play it, do keep in mind that it’s the only Final Fantasy rated ‘M’ for a reason.)

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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 –>

Announcing FFXIV: A Realm Reborn Story Summary

While I continue to work on my SWTOR class reviews proper, the summaries for all of the various class stories are pretty much done. I decided to tackle yet another project. With the launch of Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward, I realized how many people were probably coming back to the game and that with as much space as there is between patches, some folks may not recall exactly what happened in the story leading up the expansion. Especially since Final Fantasy XIV significantly expanded the main scenario storyline with each patch. So I thought, how about a summary for that too?

Announcing the Realm Reborn Story Summary!

Unlike the SWTOR story summaries, this one is chock full of SPOILERS, so be warned before reading down the page. After all, the SWTOR page was mostly designed as a spoiler free way of seeing if the storyline would interest you before sinking 50 levels into the narrative but Final Fantasy it’s more of a catch up/reminder tool.  It’s heavily summarized so don’t expect too much in the way of a point-by-point quest-by-quest breakdown.  It also assumes you have some familiarity with names and places in the world of Final Fantasy XIV.  Though some reoccuring elements such as Hydaelyn and the Primals are explained somewhat.

Anyway, I hope you Final Fantasy XIV fans get a kick out of it.  It’s broken down by patch, so you can go and read just the parts you want.  I plan to expand it into including stuff like the story for the raid content that is now kind of outdated with the expansion, so I don’t know if as many people will get a chance to see the AWESOME tribute raid to Final Fantasy III: The Crystal Tower or the lore filled bits of the Coils content.

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Jedi Consular – Chapter One

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter of the Jedi Consular storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

<- Jedi Consular Prologue || Jedi Consular Chapter Two ->

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Ah yes, the proud Jedi Consular. Fresh off to save the galaxy from the horrors of the Dark Plague that was set up in the prologue.  Will this be another whirlwind tour of fetch the macguffin?  Or will substantial choices that affect the destiny of the whole galaxy be made?  Eh, probably something in between. Let’s get into it.

Taris

Taris.  Oi.  Taris.  No matter how many times I visit this planet no matter the class, I hate Taris.  Luckily, I’m here on better pretenses than to kill rakghouls or rakghoul infecting terrorists.  No, this time I am here to find a Dark Plagued Jedi conservationist.  And if you ever thought those Green Peace guys were nuts and just wanted to sock’em, well this is your chance.  You meet up with a group of soldiers who were working with the Jedi before his recent dissappearance and they help you track down his whereabouts along with his Padawan.  Seems like the Dark Plague has jacked the Jedi’s priorities up to 11 though because when you find this Jedi he has a new mission: DESTROY ALL LIFE ON TARIS.  More specifically he wants to save Taris by removing any non-native life off of it so it can regrow to its natural state.  (Considering that when it was destroyed it was a city planet to supposedly rival Coruscant, does anyone even know what its natural state IS?)

Your mission quickly becomes to track down and stop the insane Jedi.  Between the padawan and the troop of soldiers, you slowly make your way across the planet.  But it’s not without problems.  The Jedi attacks the soldiers while you are out in the field with the only survivor being the commander of the group.  He begs you to avenge his men and kill the Jedi which drives his padawan out to go save her master.  The whole shebang ends with you trying to stop the Jedi from unleashing a chemical apocalypse across Taris, with his now turned padawan at his side.  The choice of how to stop the Jedi and his padawan is up to you. You possess the knowledge to heal the master from the Dark Plague, but his crimes are immense and brutal… maybe it would be best to simply put them down?  Honestly, I must say the conflict of whether to kill or heal the Jedi is probably what makes the best Taris storyline I’ve played so far.  There are legitimate arguments for both sides, and it falls to you to make the decision.   He committed horrible deeds, but did so because of the Dark Plague.  Does that excuse him from punishment? He was willing to kill an entire planet worth of people if you hadn’t stopped him.  Should that be overlooked?  It all comes down to your decision on how to handle it.  This one is definitely a harder choice than say the one on the next planet.

Nar Shaddaa

The second dark plague affected Jedi has taken over the Guiding Hand cult.  With the assistance of the engineering genius, business man, and likes to think himself a ladies man Theran Cedrax, you must infiltrate the Red Lancer gang, prove your worth to them to gain an audience with ‘The Master’ – Dark Plagued Jedi Duras Fain.  You confront Fain and either cure him, or toss him to the authorities for the crimes he’s committed on Nar Shaddaa.

So another Jedi that’s gone off the deep end is one Duras Fain.  His corruption becomes a little less noble than our friend on Taris as he has taken over a cult calling himself ‘The Master’.  The entire goal of the storyline here is to infiltrate the cult and square off against him.  Seriously, that’s all.  He doesn’t even show up till the very end really. Most of the story is actually you working with your new contact/future companion Theran Cedrax and his virtual assistant Holiday trying to get in good with the Red Lancer gang so you can meet ‘The Master’.

Theran is a character.  Gambler, inventor, genius, and would probably be a ladies man too if he wasn’t so devoted to Holiday. Honestly, I don’t have much of a strong opinion of the guy.  He’s pompous and narcissistic, thinks he knows it all and sure that can get a bit annoying.  But for my narcissistic pompous Sage, well, I think I might have just found a drinking buddy.  And who knows, we might end up killing each other! The only thing that worries me is that I’ve heard that Theran is a bit of a pacifist.  Well that’s no good when I kill everyone I meet.  So he stays on the ship with Holiday, thinking up new cocktails.

So you run with the gang and try to get in good by lending some Jedi assistance to their criminal activities.  You are pretty much always given the chance to sabotage their illegal acts or carry them through the help keep up the facade. The choice is pretty much yours because like many moral choices, it’s in the spirit of your character’s actions not an actual choice because it always ends up working out in the end somehow.   I honestly just did what they told me.  My Jedi Sage is pretty much devoted to the idea that since he is a Jedi he’s above the normal mundane concepts of right and wrong, because hey, I’ve got the force, that inherently makes me a better person than you.  So if the ends justify the means that’s fine for me, not for you.  In case you haven’t noticed my dude is a bit on the dark side.

You finally get to confront Fain and it’s pretty much done at that point.  He knows you’re a Jedi and he’s got a pretty good idea why you’re there.  He gives you the chance to cash in and join the cult, which of course is a no go, so there’s a bit of battle and then you get your final choice.  Do you cleanse him?  Well, I said no. Because dangit, I need my strength.  I’m not going to parse it out to help some two bit Jedi with dreams of grandeur. (Unless it’s me that’s the Jedi with dreams of grandeur.) But wait, what’s this? Another choice?  The Nar Shadaa uh… “Law enforcement” (Do Hutts have cops?) shows up to arrest Fain for all his criminal actions under the influence of the Dark Plague.  You can refuse to hand him over and possibly upset the balance and give the Hutts more reason to side with the Empire, or hand over the nutjob and walk away clean.  Well, I washed my hands of the whole thing and handed him over.  All I got was a scowl for it from the Jedi masters, but I helped preserve the Republic’s influence on a neutral world.  That’s worth losing one Jedi that’s not me, right?

After Nar Shadaa, you get a side mission to go find a ship where another Jedi has gone nuts and is trying to blow it up.  It’s short and quick, but you finally get to meet Lord Vivacar the Sith behind the Dark Plague.  At least through a holo you do.  I loved that part because with my Jedi it was pretty much a battle of who is the more snooty and moral righteous about the whole thing.  When the shortest interlude mission ever is done, you can head back to your ship to find out two more Masters have gone silent and it’s up to you to “deal” with them, cause honestly I can’t believe the Jedi Council doesn’t know what I’m going to do at this point and is just using me to help keep a lid on this and silence the problem.

Tatooine

Tatooine gives us yet another Jedi Master to track down.  Mostly following his footprints as instructed by a guide who has come down with “sand rot” from being in the deep desert for too long.  I’m not entirely sure how much of his attitude actually has to do with the sand rot or that he’s just a jerky sand billy to begin with.  Mostly you just retrace all of the Jedi Master’s footprints: Meet with the Jawa and found out that the Master told them to scrap their sand crawler to build war droids for some reason, then following him to a cave where he supposedly had a vision but actually he just found an ancient tablet that details the history of Tatooine.  And for the first time since we found out that vaporator’s speak bocce, we learn something new about Tatooine in the Star Wars universe.  It was apparently a fairly green planet at one point, and was dominated by four species. Of these four, only two remains to survive as the planet eroded away into desert: the sand people and the jawas.  This leads to the revelation that the Jedi may have been doing something with the sand people in the Dune Sea.  A good hunch since the first thing you find is an overrun settlement that the Master has been sending sand people to attack like clockwork. But it leads you right to where our Jedi friend is hanging out.

Turns out that this lost master is looking for a way to stop the “coming darkness” that everyone seems to be harping about.  By studying how the Sand People have survived to be one the oldest species on the planet, he comes to the conclusion that the issue is that the weak and the sick must be cut out of society to strengthen it as a whole. That the Jedi are hurting the galaxy by protecting the weak.  Of course, the guide steps forward and now we finally see what the deal with the sand rot has been.  He asks if the Jedi Master would kill him too because he’s sick.  Which gives you a chance to stop him with the usual shield him or kill him choice.

Alderaan

The last Jedi Master we’re looking for and that may have contracted the horrible Dark Plague that turns normally peaceful jedi into violent loons just happens to be overseeing a peace…  treaty…  on Alderaan.  Crap.  Well, time to crash a summit.   But how do we do that?

At first you try to go through the Republic’s designated ally on the great planet of in-fighting, House Organa, but they’ve already sent a representative along with a Jedi knight, the master you are supposed to find, and a single house sending two jedi for a peace talk is probably gonna reek of attempted intimidation and strong-arming the debate.  With that in mind, perhaps its time to look for a house that HASN’T sent a representative yet.  That narrows down the search to just one: House Teral.  House Teral is in a bit of a rut as it is apparently being constantly targeted by House Ulgo by killing their couriers, sending killiks to attack, and generally being jerks to make sure that Teral is stuck where they are (the reason is a bunch of junk about the inter house politics of Alderaan and I care for it about as much as I care to remember who all the damn houses in A Song of Ice and Fire are – which is to say: Not at all, now kill something!).

Your job on this planet is pretty much “Do whatever House Teral wants” to get you into the summitt.  This is mostly putting an end to the constant attacks and improving their position in the hierarchy among the houses by getting the daughter of the head of House Teral and one of an ever growing number of Organa cousins hitched.  Seriously, I would love the see the Organa family tree.  It’s gotta be like a frickin throw rug.

After you finish with taking care of the mercs and playing love doctor, it’s time to meet at the summit.  Here is where you find out about the somewhat completely insane plan of the last Jedi Master: In order for their to peace in the galaxy, Alderaan must be in constant war.  I don’t really know where that idea came from, but she has brought out every dirty secret that each of these houses had to use against each other.  Luckily I was able to use my inner diplomat to just jedi mind trick the entire room to get them to fall in line (Why is politics hard again?) and starting working to peace.   This of course does not make our crazy Jedi friend happy and you duel her with the all too familiar shield/kill choice.

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FINALE

Well now that all the Jedi Masters have been dealt with. Shielded in some cases, or gutted with a lightsaber in all of my cases (What? Like I was going to weaken myself to help them?)  It still doesn’t bring you any closer to finding the Sith Lord Vivicar.  Or does it? I didn’t really mention it but there were plenty of re-occurring notes being sung by each of the masters during their madness.  A planet: Malachor 3. A person: Parkanas. And a great darkness coming.

When you get back to Tython, it’s your old master Yuon that connects the dots.  All four of the Jedi Masters plus Yuon and one other named Parkanas, had an expedition to Malachor 3.  There they found the spirit of a sith known as Terrak Morrhage, who was mentioned by the noetikons on Coruscant in the prologue. Terrak’s spirit tormented the Jedi and drove them mad, except for Parkanas who remained strong.  However, in the attempt to escape Malachor 3, Parkanas became stuck when rescuing one of the others and they left him there to become prey for the sith ghost.

This leads to the the revelation that these attacks were revenge, and that Lord Vivicar IS Parkanas.  Using this knowledge, the Consular and Master Yuon try to reverse the shielding to try and get a beat on where Vivicar is hiding.  This also sadly causes Master Yuon to turn against you, and begging you to end her life (Naturally you don’t have to).  But you find Vivacar’s location, way out in space.  And now you alone have to defeat him! All by yourself.  And… not with all the jedi…  um..  Miss Shan…  WHY AREN’T YOU HELPING?  What is the Jedi Drizzt too busy sitting in her little room to lend a hand to stop the plaguemaster of a disease that may wipe out the whole order?  Well, if I have to make some sort of huge sacrifice because no one thought to send me with back up just because I was the only one with the shielding ritual, YOU ARE TO BLAME MISS SHAN.

Speaking of which.  After you slaughter your way through legions of mind controlled Republic soldiers (No, you cannot shield or spare them. There lot is to die.) You face off with Vivicar himself.  Of course this leads to the staunch revelation that if he dies, everyone connected to him through the plague will die as well. Hundreds of Jedi he says.  Now, is he bluffing?  Is this some kind of a Sith trick?  Or perhaps you will doom them all?  Well, that’s for you to choose.  You can shield him, or kill him and damn the consequences.

I said damn the consequences, this dude has put me through 15 levels of pain and he’s gotta burn.  This of course is met with praise and reward back on Tython, where I get to record my experiences in my own holocron and get bestowed a title that only six other Jedi ever have received. And all I had to do was kill a bunch of Jedi and one Sith.  I am truly the savior of the order.

Final Thoughts

The first chapter of the Jedi Consular is best described as greater than the sum of its parts.  Each planet is pretty much the same thing over and over: find the Jedi and stop them.  Similar to how the prologue enjoyed playing “Get the thing” over and over.  And on each of the parts alone, I’d rank this down there with the second chapter of the Trooper storyline.  A lot of meh.  However, a funny thing happens when you view the chapter as a whole.  It’s not a tiring search for the same thing over and over.  It’s a mystery story.  Throughout the chapter you get bit by bit more information as to what these Jedi have in common, the true nature of what happened on Malachor 3, and who Parkanas was.

The Dark Plague is also used incredibly well, since it’s actual nature is never fully fleshed out.  You don’t see it manifest in people the same way twice beyond the repetition of the coming darkness, and tortured visions of the events on Malachor 3. In fact, it’s not till the end that you actually find out what the full extent of the plague is when Vivicar reveals that it siphons each infected Jedi’s power into Vivicar. It especially got played with on the last two planets, where no one knows if the Jedi have the plague or not (Alderaan is the best about keeping it ambiguous really).

The Light/Dark choice pretty much was continually the question of whether to sacrifice your own potency to shield the affected, or simply kill them.  Good cases are made for both many times like on Taris, where they killed an entire troop and tried to blow up the planet ( …Again), and while I haven’t tested it with a light side character, it does appear that Vivicar actually calls you out on your actions.  More so than the Jedi Council does, which usually ends up being a “You couldn’t save them? Oh darn.”  Even when you kill your master, it’s treated with “Well, she did ask for it.  Guess that makes it okay.”  I got more scolding from them for prideful remarks like claiming I was the best more than killing their ‘d00dz’. But who knows. I didn’t expect to see so many faces from the Jedi Knight chapter one to make a re-appearance later, so maybe they’ll turn up again (or not in the case of my dark side sage who kills without provocation).

So overall, the chapter was actually really enjoyable.  But the enjoyment didn’t really come until the end of the chapter, so keep that in mind.

<- Jedi Consular Prologue || Jedi Consular Chapter Two ->

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Bounty Hunter – Prologue

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“There was someone following me.”
“I’ll put him on my ‘To Kill’ list.”
“You are so fantastically simple sometimes.”
– Mako & The Bounty Hunter

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the prologue of the Bounty Hunter storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

|| BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter One –>

The Bounty Hunter is my favorite class story in the game you guys.  For reals.  It may not have the complexity, betrayals, surprise twists or earth shattering revelations that the Imperial Agent story has (My number two favorite story thus far).  But it does have a fun action packed romp of revenge, rising to stardom, and walking the lines between neutrality and servitude as well as lawfulness and savagery.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  We’re only on the prologue for now.

But just to let you know, I am writing this about my second bounty hunter.  Yes, I did it twice.   One if a strictly neutral hunter that always completes the job he is hired for.  He can’t be bought off or bribed.  He follows the bounty hunter code of take them alive unless ordered to kill.  No depravity bothers him, but he doesn’t indulge in unnecessary violence.  At level 50 my first bounty hunter end up completely neutral.  My second hunter however is a bit greedier.  He isn’t a psychopath, but he doesn’t put a ton of value on life if there’s money to be made.  He does take bribes and pay offs, unless doing so puts him at a disadvantage to what he wants.  He holds very few allegiances, and honestly views people as means to an end.

So with these very different personalities, I’ll hopefully give you a good idea of what paths of the bounty hunter story can take and share with you my thoughts.

Hutta

The tale begins with the Hunter arriving on Hutta and meeting with his team: Jory the muscle, Braden the veteran hunter, and Mako the computer prodigy. You’ve essentially been brought on as the shining star of this team to get them in to and hopefully win the Great Hunt, a massive bounty hunter competition made up of Mandalorians and Crime Lord sponsored bounty hunters.  Since you’re not a Mandalorian, it’s time to schmooze a Hutt.  Most of your time on Hutta is spent doing jobs for Nem’ro, the Hutt that runs the town you start in.  But first you have to make a name for yourself.

Sadly, while you were out taking down a bounty that feels oh so good to make fun of, your team sans Mako got themselves a slight case of dead.  Turns out that a rival has appeared.  The Blue to your Red, or the Red to your Blue, if you will.  His name is Tarro Blood and oh geeze does this guy have a problem with voice so doesn’t match the face.  He’s got this deep guttural voice that’d you expect from a grizzled bastard like Michael Ironside, but he has the face of a tattooed Justin Bieber.  Seriously, he has that hair cut.  His side kick, Snidely Whiplash (no that’s not his name but that’s so who he reminds me of) has a voice that matches his ugly mug, but Tarro Bieber still freaks me out.  Anyway, Tarro Blood had his lackies kill your lackies so you didn’t have a support structure in hopes of kicking you out of the Hunt.

With only you and Mako left, it’s time to work double time to get into the Hunt for a shot at revenge. So you start your slog of doing tasks for Nem’ro which mostly involve cutting off someone’s head and then placing it on the floor somewhere.  First is a local that wants the Hutts off the planet revolutionary leader type, and the second is an accountant that went to work for Nem’ro’s rival.  Both times you are given the option of not killing them if you want and returning with something else instead.  Though personally  I was never able to bring myself to do that.  Namely because the entire reason you’re doing this is to kiss up to the slug to get into the Hunt for riches, glory and now revenge.  Why would risk that?  You don’t want to kill?  You’re a bounty hunter! Sure, it’s not assumed that you have to kill them, but dangit if that’s what your employer wants you should be ready to deliver.

The next task is to go and kill Nem’ro’s supposedly treacherous Beastmaster.  I say supposedly because not only does this turn out to be a trap as the Beastmaster was warned by Nem’ro himself that you’d be coming but then you are made to fight the beast pit for the Hutt’s amusement, but also because while the other two targets had very good explanations for why Nem’ro wanted them dead, the Beastmaster is simply called a traitor and nothing else.  No more details are given.  Which should be your first tip that this job was not like the others.  But with the Beastmaster dispatched it’s time to confront Nem’ro and demand your earned entry token.  But shocked upon shocked, Nem’ro the upstanding worm that he is, has given it to someone else.

All the while, Tarro Blood keeps sending goons after you as well.  A Rodian shows up to blast you which leads to one of my favorite gags as you start counting down as she keeps running her mouth.  Finally when you get to zero, you blast her.  More or less the exact way you get introduced to Calo Nord in the original Knights of the Old Republic. Tarro also makes it a bad habit of tipping off enemies, cutting off resources, and generally being an annoying pest.  But you better get used to it, because he does it through ALL of Chapter One too.

So now it’s time to go get that entry token.  Some Trandoshan has it and you’ve got to get it back.  So how do you do that? Well, the best bet is probably laying a trap.  So you find the biggest bounty on Hutta that you haven’t already pocketed: a scientist/medic/something smart lady in the employ of Nem’ro’s biggest rival: Fathra.  So you have to bust into a Hutt palace, and hold the nice lady hostage until the rival bounty hunter shows.  Which he – predictably – does.  Once you claim the token off his body, it’s time to decide what to do with the scientist.  Technically, there IS a bounty on her.  There’s also the matter of her being a willing hostage in an “aggressive negotiation” with a fellow hunter.  So it really comes down to you what happens.  I collected her bounty.  Money is money. Honor doesn’t buy us a ticket off Hutta.  And I have GOT to get me to Dromund Kaas.

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Dromund Kaas

Alright. I got my golden ticket. I got me a girl. I got myself to Dromund Kaas. What else could go wro-  WHAT DO YOU MEAN THERE ARE TOO MANY ENTRIES? Oh for Cad Bane’s sake, are you serious? You overbooked the biggest tournament in the galaxy? That’s a load. But yes, it’s true. Turns out that there are way too many bounty hunters showing up for the few spots in the brackets left, so it’s time to thin the herd out a bit.  So the Huntmaster has the idea of pitting hunter against hunter in a race to successfully complete three bounties on the Imperial home world.  That means not only finding and capturing your bounty, but you have to deal with the Empire’s anti-Alien, anti-Non-Imperial, and generally just Anti attitude.

You also meet Crysta Markon who is your contact for this little party.  Now I’ve made jokes about Space England and Space Scotland and all sorts of other jokes about the myriad of accents that the Imperials use.  But behold, dear readers, Crysta Markon is apparently from the ever elusive Space Texas.  Oh yea.  An honest to goodness Southern gal in a galaxy far far away. It just raises so many questions.  Where is she from? Where did she get that accent? Why doesn’t anyone else have it? Maybe the Empire blew up Space Texas and she is the last surviving member of her kind. Her parents worked for Space NASA, and shot her out of a rocket to Dromund Kaas were given her lack of alien traits she would be raised as an equal, but when she got to be in her teens she learned she was not like the other kids with their fancy Dromund Kaas accents. No, she said things like “Y’all” and punctuated sentences with colorful strange terms like “Shoot, son. I ain’t nevah seen nobody do that before.”  Outcasted by her weird vocal inflections, she turns to the Mandalorians who offer her a home working with up and comers so that they may find acceptance somewhere, even if it’s not with their home or with the Imperials.

Or it just could be that the division of Bioware that made SWTOR is from Austin. That too.

So your first bounty is to track down a Republic noble that somehow got sold as a slave on Dromund Kaas and is now stuck in the middle of a slave riot. His family would like him returned, preferably alive but hey slave riot, so a corpse to send back will also pay some too.  Wow.  Uh.  Okay.  That seems kinda chaotic. But that’s not all! Once you find the camp, he’s not there! It turns out that he once had a fling with an Imperial noble, who has found out that he is a slave on the planet and arranged for an escape.  The two lovers are now posing as brother and sister (which seriously creeps Mako out) and hanging out in Kaas City at the Cantina.  Well, time to go break up that date.  You’re given a few choices with this one too.  You can capture the bounty, kill the crazy pseudo-incestuous noble and capture the bounty, or kill the bounty and the crazy pseudo-incestuous noble will pay you the difference between the live and dead payments.  Really there is no reason to harm either of the nobles, other than sheer squick factor.  There’s also a small bit where Tarro Blood (AGAIN?) sends a squad of Imperial troops to stop you.  They didn’t live long.  But the best part is when Tarro calls and the other troops demand a cut of their leader’s pay off to kill you.  How many times does a thousand credits split DEAD ways? Oh yea. You guys! That’s how many. HA!

The second bounty is a bit more straight forward if not a bit more depressing.  A big to-do officer in the Imperial Navy has a daughter who is a Sith. They are all very proud. She has a master. Aw, that’s awesome. Her master is insane Sith Lord who rebelled against the Dark Council.  Isn’t that cu- WAIT! If people find out that might make us look bad.  We must hire a bounty hunter to KILL her!  Yea. That’s the next bounty. Kill the dude’s daughter before anyone can find out they’re related and potentially cost him his job and his life for siring a kid who got picked by an evil dude. Evil-er dude.  Okay, wait.  Where on the moral spectrum IS a rebelling Sith Lord?  How does a Sith Lord rebel? Do they do charity work? We know they like ergonomic chairs.

Despite the bounty being to kill the target, you can actually elect to spare her.  This will actually lead to a scene where the guy who hired you expresses the deep regrets he was having about essentially sending an assassin after his daughter.  That family is more important to him than his career.  It’s really touching.  And I’ve only seen the scene by looking over someone else’s shoulder.  Yup, I always have killed the daughter.  Why? Why would I do something so heartless and cruel?  Because that’s what I was being paid to do.  If you get hired to install a TV in the bedroom, do you install it in the living room instead because you feel watching TV in bed is unhealthy and that you are sure that the people paying you will agree after it’s all said and done and pay you anyway? Do the job you get paid to do.  If he had any doubts, he shouldn’t have put out the contract I say.

The third and final bounty at first seems like the most cut and dry of the three. Imperial Intelligence sent a squad into the Dark Temple to investigate the strange going ons in there. But the team went insane from the Temple’s power. But since the Sith are kind of touchy about not wanting anyone but Sith in the Temple, Intelligence needs to clean up the mess. Enter the bounty hunter, tasked with collecting the ID cards of the troops sent in to the Temple so no one knows that they were sent by Intelligence.  Straight forward, yea?

Well, the first kink in the plan turns out to be when you find the squad commander and are given the choice of making sure no one comes back alive, or snapping him out of his psychotic babbling.  Then, to make things even worse, the guy who hired you tries to kill you when you get back.  Oh yea.  You’re not a Sith either, so technically you weren’t supposed to be in that Temple.  Time to eliminate loose ends.  And by that I mean beating the crap out of the Intelligence officer until he pays you. Damn spies and their cloak and dagger crap.  They should have kept the whole thing in-house. I hear that Cipher-9 is pretty good. (That’s the Imperial Agent storyline, FYI.)

With the three bounties done, it’s time to hit up the Melee.  Yea, everyone who actually finished their three bounties now gets tossed in an arena to viciously battle until only one remains.  Why didn’t we just do this from the start?  I mean, it would have been a hell of a lot more entertaining to have a royal rumble of like twenty-five bounty hunters going at in an arena, each chosen to represent a murderous thug of a crime lord.  That’d be pretty cool, right?  Instead there’s like six of you. And it’s pretty clear who is gonna come out on top. The only weird thing is that it says clearly “No assistants” at the beginning, but sure enough Mako is there healing you for the whole thing. A long-standing bug? Flavor versus mechanics error? No clue.

So now that you’ve taken care of the scrubs, the Huntsmaster (a big ole wookie) welcomes you to the great hunt, where Tarro Blood makes yet another huge stink about how this a contest of prestige and honor and I am somehow sullying it.  Tarro, I’m curious.  How?  How am I sullying the contest?  Is it because I’m a Chiss? No, you say the same thing about a human. Is it because I’m not a Mandalorian? There are plenty of those in the contest. All I can think is I am not worthy of this honor because I’m not you.  That’s it.  Your entire argument is less based in facts that your average internet troll. Hell, you’re bordering on 24 hour news channel editorial territory.  If this was tumblr, I think they’d already have photoshopped a trilby on your head, called it a fedora and burned you in effigy.  Actually, I’m gonna do that now. But no, now I have deal with your crap for at LEAST 15 more levels. But oh, chapter one will be fun.  Because I know – I KNOW – that as long as I keep winning, I’m gonna get a shot at your head, Blood. Oh yes. TARRO BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD.

Tarro Blood in a Fedora. You're welcome.

Now all that’s left is to get off world and on with the Great Hunt.  That’ll be fun right?  Get a new ship, get a new droid, get some freedom.  Oh, but it’s not that simple.  See in every other class except smuggler you’re given a ship and the smuggler is reclaiming a ship that is already theirs.  You?  You get to steal someone else’s ship.  It’s apparently a new hunter in the big hunt hazing ritual.  Find a ship, steal the ship and get the hell off the Imperial homeworld.  Of course, Tarro Blood messes with that too by tipping off the authorities and the owner of the ship.  Seriously? That’s like trying to prank order pizzas to someone’s door to annoy them.  Is this what the great Tarro Blood amounts too? Petty pranks?  Oh geeze. I am gonna enjoy killing that man.

Final Thoughts

I already gushed about the storyline at the top, so I won’t repeat my adoration here.  I hope you can maybe see why I like this story so much.  From the get go you have a villain that is absolutely loathsome to the point where it is enjoyable to hate him.  Like Joffrey in a Song of Ice and Fire you find yourself craving a gruesome death for him.  There is nothing to like or respect about Tarro.  He is an absolute weasel.  And the story is richer for it.  In a game where the stories are all over the map in terms of sympathetic villains, themes of redeeming the fallen and giving second chances, it is nice to have one guy you can just hate without a single doubt.

Otherwise the story is fairly straight forward.  You want into the Great Hunt. You try to get into the Great Hunt.  You get into the Great Hunt. But that’s not bad. Simple is not bad.  You are given plenty to overcome on the road to getting your butt a spot in the Hunt, Tarro is throwing wrenches at you but never to the point where it is annoying.  It’s only like one in three missions where he actually tries to mess with you, so it doesn’t become too petty or annoying. The other obstacles have to deal with either being set up, betrayed, or drawing on your moral sensibilities of what is right or wrong.  And sometimes – SOMETIMES – everything just goes as planned.  But overall things seem to be spaced out so nothing is too repetitive.

In the end, the prologue of the bounty hunter’s tale is a solid start without the feeling of staggering to the start. Something I can’t say for every prologue.  You get a real sense of being outside the system since you are the only Imperial class that does not tie in to the government at all.  You have your own goals that are outside of the Imperial scope, you go about them without aid from the Empire for the most part, and while yes they are your main source of income on Dromund Kaas (surprise surprise) it never feels like you are doing anything for them.  You are being hired by them as a means to further your own agenda.  And maybe that’s why the Bounty Hunter story stands out so much for me.  It IS about your own agenda.  There is no superior force commanding you to fulfill their wishes.  You are in the Great Hunt because you want to be, you are doing these jobs because you want to take them, and you ultimately answer to no one but yourself.  Heck, that even makes the moral choices seem a bit more interesting as you never have to worry about your master or boss condemning your actions.  Oh sure, you can mess up the contract and upset the person you hired you. But that’s temporary.  That’s one job.  That’s hardly a blemish on your entire record that will stick with you for years to come.  But the bounty hunter is his or her own master.  That’s kind of an awesome feeling of agency you don’t get that often.  Even in the Smuggler storyline you are furthering someone else’s agenda.  No spoilers on whose yet though.

Now we have to see if that awesome feeling continues as we proceed on to the Great Hunt proper and have to deal with Tarro Manchild’s shenanigans.

|| BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter One –>

Final Fantasy XIII Part 5: The Big Fat Kill

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In this post I will be talking about the ending of Final Fantasy XIII and the plot overall.  If you wish to avoid spoilers about how the game ends, I would stopping right now.  Back there.  No, not here. Over there.  That period you reached? After the word “now”? That’s where you should have stopped.  Yes, that’s it. Wait, you’re still reading aren’t you?  Okay, well, I warned you.

So with Gran Pulse in the rear view mirror it’s time to head back to Cocoon and finish this whole thing.  But wait, isn’t that what the villain wants?  Why would they do that?  All they had to do to save Cocoon was just sit on Gran Pulse and live out their lives there.  Or get crushed by a giant turtle. Again.  So why go back?  Well, the game offers a few reasons for it.  One is that if they didn’t go back, they were essentially dooming others to their same focus.  That was a big one because it leads to their ultimate resolve to “save” Cocoon by ending the rule of the fal’Cie.  By killing them.  It really didn’t seem too logical considering that killing the fal’Cie – especially Orphan – is dooming Cocoon to plummet to the Gran Pulse and kill everyone right? Well, the answer is kind of embedded in the themes of the game.  The idea that humans are always capable of moving forward, building their own destiny, and never giving up is touched upon repeatedly.  Ultimately, the hope seems to be that by removing the shackles of the fal’Cie even at the cost of destroying their home, humanity itself will persevere. At least that’s what I took away from it. They may not save “Cocoon” the giant ball of land, but they’ll save “Cocoon” the people.

Of course that’s not the only reason they had to go back to Cocoon.  Barthandelus is pretty much putting all his cards on the table by manipulating the military into attacking Eden to assault Orphan, who’ve they’ve been led into thinking is the fal’Cie that enslaved their leader AND Barty has awoken and unleashed all the Gran Pulse nasties on the Ark that you spent hours hanging out on earlier.  So the Gran Pulse baddies are killing the people, the military is going after the fal’Cie that’s gonna drop Cocoon onto Gran Pulse but they don’t KNOW that…  Essentially, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Thanks to the protagonists intervention however, the military is mostly diverted to helping out people (the military that isn’t turned into crystal monsters) and it seems that overall that is what helped make sure that a lot of folks survived when Cocoon drops at the end.  Oh, did I mention that Cocoon DOES fall?

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Yes, after facing off and finally killing Barthandelus (or so they think), Barty seems to merge with Orphan giving “birth” to some three-faced monstrosity.  It then proceeds to try and force Fang to become Ragnarok, a monster of incredible power, to destroy Orphan-tandelus and blow up Cocoon.  Faced with the choice of becoming Ragnarok or seeing Vanille die, she chooses Ragnarok.  Meanwhile, everyone else has turned into Cieth zombies. But in the midst of Fang-narok’s rage, the heroes are visited by visions of all that they struggled through and overcame through their journey, and BAM! No more Cieth Zombies.  And honestly, there is never given any sort of explicit reason why this happens.  Oh you can infer from the fact that they have whited out “burnt” l’Cie brands that something happened involving their focus. Most interpretations I’ve read is that they overcame their curse by sheer willpower of how much inner strength they had built over their journey. Hence seeing all the hardships they overcame in the flashes.  Other theories stand that it was Etro who intervened, but the official answer says that doesn’t happen till a bit later.  Ultimately, they overcame their focus and found a new one.  A rather ambiguous focus of them all smiling. So a happy ending.  Their focus is to have a happy ending now.

Actually, that works for me.  We’ve seen twice that humans possess the power to make their focus whatever they want if they have the fortitude and faith to do so.  So why not?  Anyway, the team is re-assembled and Fang calmed down, its time to kick fal’Cie butt.  Barty and Orphan both go down and Cocoon starts to plummet.  And our heroes?  They hope for a miracle.  Yes, that’s right.  They kill the thing holding Cocoon up and then hope for the best.  Honestly, as much as I defend this story that’s a pretty WAFFy Anime facepalm moment for me.  Luckily, Fang and Vanille DO have an idea what to do.  THEY turn into Ragnarok.

See the story went that Fang and Vanille were always supposed to turn into the beast together, but Vanille was scared so Fang did it alone, hence why her mark is burned out but Vanille’s isn’t.  It’s also why the attack on Cocoon hundreds of years failed, and why Fang-narok alone couldn’t do anything to Orphan.  But together, Ragnarok is fully powered and able to do amazing and miraculous things that no normal human could do.  Ragnarok then dives into a massive volcano in Cocoon, spilling a pillar of lava below the falling sphere.  They then turn the whole thing into crystal and envelope the whole thing in a crystal cradle to hold it aloft.

The interesting thing I found about this was the way the crystals formed was very much akin to the way everything was turned into crystal when Animus, the fal’Cie in the Bodhum Vestige at the beginning of the game, died or completed IT’S focus (because as it’s been established, fal’Cie are bound to focuses as well, but lack the free will of humans to do anything about it). Does this mean that Ragnarok is a fal’Cie or of fal’Cie like power?  We’re never really told much about Ragnarok other than it was the ultimate monster to destroy Cocoon both at the present and during the War hundreds of years ago.  But it’s not summoned the way the eidolons/summons are.  Two l’Cie are tasked with transforming into the creature.  So it’s certainly possible that Ragnarok is a fal’Cie created by merging two l’Cie together, or of an ascended l’Cie like “Fang-narok”.

Then finally at the end we have a glimpse of Etro’s actual involvement in the story.  After saving Cocoon through Fang and Vanille’s sacrifice, the rest of the party is turned to crystal for fulfilling their new self-appointed focus of saving the world.  However, they are turned back into flesh and blood along with Serah and Dajh (Sazh’s son), with their l’Cie brands removed entirely.  This is the action of Etro intervening as a reward to protecting human lives.  Of course, Etro piercing through from the Unseen World (Dead Land) to the Seen World (Not-Dead Land), is what allows the Chaos in the Unseen World to spill out and kick start the plot of XIII-2.

So now at the end of the game and looking back, how was it?  Well, I’m not going to claim it was the best Final Fantasy game ever.  That title still belongs in my mind to the sixth installment.  Still, I don’t think this game is deserving of the completely and utter spite it gets.  The characters are far from flat, displaying a range of complex and difficult to deal with emotional struggles and trying to come to terms with both their faults, regrets, and fates.  They each develop and come to terms with things in their own ways, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatically.  Sazh being given the choice to kill Vanille for costing him his son, Lightning facing the fact that her way of thinking is setting Hope on the path to becoming a murderer, or Snow having to deal with the fact that he isn’t an invincible hero and can’t always save people.  All of which I felt were handled magnificently.

Where the game really hurt was the sometimes frustrating game of keep away the plot plays.  Not explaining everything in favor of a situation where no one has all the cards, and you never know if someone is lying or telling the truth. This is used to great extent with characters like Vanille, and handled horribly with characters like Barthandelus.  The game requires an extensive amount of in-game and out-of-game reading and knowledge that it often felt like watching the later episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion (Another series where the plot is actually fairly simple but is obscured heavily to the point of utter BS.)  To compile the problem is the pacing, in which it takes 25-30 hours of gameplay to find out what the villain hopes to actually achieve.

The saddest part is that it makes a rich and fantastic mythology very difficult to get in to.  The Fabula Nova Crystalis has a great narrative to it but this first game does very little to deliver on it.  And really it all comes down to scope I think.  The story is centered entirely on the six main characters, and their perceptions shape everything we see.  So if they don’t know, we don’t know.  Now that works in a lot of stories and games, but not when you’re trying to tell Lord of the Rings.  Imagine Lord of the Rings if you only focused on Sam and Frodo.  Now try to think how you can relate to the reader what was happening at Helm’s Deep or Gondor from the point of view of two hobbits wandering into Mordor.  Can you think of a way? Me neither.  Other than a LOT of foot notes (or “Datalogs” if you will).

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Overall, I enjoyed it.  Most of the issues had work arounds in the form of Wiki articles or extra reading. I didn’t mind the linearity so much. Some of the story elements required interpretation but it’s not anything more than your average anime fan has to probably deal with.  However, it might be worth a second look for people.

And yes, I do plan on playing and likely talking about FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns.

Fallout: Adventure Time

Finn and Jake in the Land of OooWARNING: This post contains some spoilers and speculation for the show ‘Adventure Time’.

Somehow, until just a few months ago, the most epic show ever had escaped my field of vision. This coming from a guy who spends no less than 15 hours a week watching animation of some kind. Yet somehow I totally missed Adventure Time! An awesome show from Pendleton Ward (who previously worked on the Misadventures of Flapjack, a show that was very hit and miss with me) that I would simply summarize as a 10 year olds D&D game brought to life through animation, as the adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog quest for glory amongst the strange and delightful Land of Ooo meeting characters like Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, and squaring off with their nemesis the Ice King.  If that doesn’t pique your interest, don’t be dissuaded – these primitive constructs known as words can do little to properly contain the sheer amount of win that this show possesses.

At first I really just enjoyed the show, it was clever, fun and probably the most energetic thing since I replaced my hamsters water bottle with a can of Red Bull (his wheel is now powering my xbox 360) but then I learned something while surfing around the net. Something that would change my perspective on the entire show and propel it from cool show to a level of awesome not witnessed since ninjas first lifted guitars and unleashed a lick powerful enough to shatter Pangea: Adventure Time is set in a post apocalyptic world.

Did that just blow your mind? This cutesy, crazy and colorful cartoon world that bursts forth with rich childlike wonder actually takes place in a post apocalyptic Earth.  Granted, this is never directly addressed in the cartoon thus far. I can only imagine it’s something that Cartoon Network would be hesitant in bringing up (I’ll admit that they have loosened their standards. We’ve gone from Duo being ‘The Great Destroyer’ instead of ‘The God of Death’ in Gundam Wing to Jedi being killed outright in Clone Wars – Granted it’s usually offscreen, but still.)  The Word of God still has insisted that The Land of Ooo is very much a post apocalyptic Earth and there are quite a few hints of this throughout the show that reference back to the end of the world and the so called “Mushroom War.”

Title Card for the Adventure Time Episode Ocean of Fear

The Title Card for "Ocean of Fear" shows traces of just some of the strange things dwelling at the bottom of the oceans in the Land of Ooo

Some of the clearest examples is when the main characters, Finn the Human and Jake the Dog, encounter strange things that don’t seem to belong in their world.  Stuff like tanks, airplanes, or in the case of the episode ‘The Ocean of Fear’ they find an entire submerged and ruined modern day metropolis at the bottom of the ocean.  Finn and Jake never call attention to it, heck they don’t even seem to notice it – it’s a tease for the audience.  The fact that a major city that resembles something like New York or Los Angeles is sitting at the bottom of the ocean is probably the most direct they ever came to referencing Earth that was.

Subtler hints to how this could have happened have been tucked in places as well, like in the episode ‘Susan Strong’ Finn finds a tribe of hyoomans (which he mistakes for humans, a shocking development because as of up to this point in the show Finn had been the only human, hence the name ‘Finn the Human’) however it turns out that the hyoomans are…  well, let’s just say they don’t turn out to be humans.  However, in earlier edits of the episode, on the metal pipe that led down the hyooman tribe’s land, there originally was a radioactive hazard symbol.  A possible hint that nuclear radiation is responsible for the creation of the Land of Ooo?  Never been confirmed.  Yet.  But the fact that the world of Adventure Time is simply a silly and strange take on the same concept that brought us the Fallout series fills me with demented glee and horrifically wicked laughter.

A zoomed out picture of Adventure Time's Earth with a chunk missing from the episode the real you

A subtle tease from the episode 'The Real You' shows the world missing a large chunk from it. They blew it up! Those maniacs!

The sheer possibilities of this underlying concept makes my mind boggle with possibilities.  Every hint, every tease and every murmur from the show’s creative team about it drives me more into the lore of this nonsensical world.  Because it’s not nonsensical. It’s our world.  Just something happened to make it that way.  Talk about a tantalizing tidbit of toon teasery! If there is only one word to describe how much this show’s dark underlying secret, I would have to borrow from Finn’s lexicon and say it’s “algebraic” (which I suppose is slightly more complicated than Reboot’s “alphanumeric”?)  If you haven’t already taken a look at this show, I think it is totally worth it for this reason alone (the amounts of insane humor and ‘I can’t believe they got that past the censors’ moments always helps too. Reminds me of the stuff they got away with on Animaniacs sometimes.)

Adventure Time with Finn & Jake is currently premiering new episodes on Cartoon Networks Monday Comedy block at 8pm, with reruns throughout the week.

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