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SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Chapter Two

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

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

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Welcome Back, Agent.

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

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

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Taris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interlude

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

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

Quesh

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

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Hoth

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

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

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

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

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

Hunter tells you that Raina needs to die.

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

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

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Finale

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Smuggler – Chapter One

<— Prologue|| SMUGGLER || Chapter Two —>

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

smuggler_ch1_01

Oh the life on the open space-way.  The thrill of adventure, the sights and sounds, the constantly having a jerk tail you around and try to kill you.  Yes, when last we left the Smuggler we had just retrieved our starship from the dirty double dealer known as Skavak, who had stolen it in the first place while you were trying to unload some ‘illicitly transported’ guns to the war torn world of Ord Mantell.  Seems that Skavak was working with a woman named Risha and he was stealing everything they needed for some epic quest to obtain the long lost treasure of the fabled space pirate Nok Drayan.  Course now that all that stuff is on your ship and you have your ship, Risha is more than willing to deal with you instead of Skavak. Which puts you on the fast track for fame and fortune as soon as you finish the most epic of trading side quests since trying to get Big Goron Sword in Ocarina of Time.

Taris

The Treasure Hunt begins. First you need an astro map from a vault on the bombed out world of Taris.  Risha has a contact that doesn’t much like her, so it’s up to you alone to seal the deal and get the map.  But as always, there’s a hitch.  To get to the map, Beryl Thorne needs to finish her jobs on Taris and her partner came down with a slight case of the Dead.  So it falls to you to finish the jobs and make the deliveries so you can get your map.  First task? Deliver some sensors to a scientist.  Turns out he needs some help setting them up and is willing to pay as well, so that’s a quick hop into Rakghoul territory to lend a hand.

Next is to go pick up the second delivery, which were found with the tattered remains of Beryl’s partner who got Rakghoulified it seems and dropped off with the Republic Outpost.  To make matters worse, you seem to have gained the special attention of one major workaholic customs official that seems to constantly pop up wherever you go.  Luckily, the sergeant that has your next delivery is willing to make a sweet deal. Turns out he knows Risha too! (Who doesn’t?) And for a little help dealing with the local scavengers, he’ll make sure you get not only your next delivery but a tasty side of diplomatic immunity.

Now with the last delivery, it’s time to collect the core samples and get back to Beryl. Right? WRONG! Turns out the core samples were stolen by scavengers during a raid.  Aw man.  Time to recover the supplies and find the core samples which reveals that Beryl’s old partner was neither dead nor a rakghoul. In fact, that deveronian son of a hutt actually just backstabbed Beryl to steal the core samples – which are really Tarisian relics – and sell them on the Imperial market, instead of selling them to Taris survivor descendants for a modest finder fee. What scum! So a pox on him and back with the core samples so Beryl can tell us where to find our vault.  Which she does!  Only there is – say it with me now – a problem.

Turns out the vault is in “Zone Zero” a no-mans land area of Taris where there are worse things than Rakghouls wandering about.  So it’s time to check back in with Risha and see if you two can whip together a plan for how to get into that vault! Luckily Risha is prepared. Because Risha is always prepared. So you get to the vault deep in Zone Zero to find that Skavak’s men are already hammering away trying to get into the vault, and boy oh boy are they not happy to see you.  Skavak is, however.  This is the perfect chance to kill you and get the map.  Not that it happens that way.  You kill the goons, grab the map and hop back in the ship on your way to Nar Shadaa.  Even Risha gives you props.

smuggler_ch1_02Nar Shadaa

You know, it never occurred to me until this point that despite it being essentially the Hutt capital not many class stories actually deal with the giant slugs themselves.  I mean granted a lot of the time you are there for some kind of clandestine operation and getting the authorities (if you can call them that) would be detrimental to your cause.  But would be really be so hard to say “Hey, have you seen this guy? Also, here’s a thousand credits. You never saw me.”  I dunno.  Nar Shadaa seems like an easy place to buy people off is all I’m saying.

The reason I bring this up of course is that unlike most class stories the smuggler is dealing with a Hutt directly.  Well, some of the time.  Most of his time you’re dealing with his assistant/butler/majordomo person thing. Apparently our dear friend Risha has lined up a deal (or as the Hutts refer to it – a non-binding passing interest) to exchange a rare animal that is identical to but named differently than the hundreds that I’ve slaughtered across multiple worlds for an experimental starship engine.  Problem is that the Hutt wanted it as part of a pair – the last male and female of its species – to eat (Yes. Eat. He wants the ‘rarest’ meal in the galaxy.) And since some PETA wanna be’s stole his female, he doesn’t exactly have any need or desire for the male.  However his butler-person suggests that the Lord of the Feast is frivolous when it comes to changing his mind, so if you can find the other beast then the worm’s interest in yours may be renewed.

And that’s the general set up for the most of the planet. Running around and trying to track down the Alien Animal Liberation Front to get back the creature they stole so a Hutt can gorge himself on it.  I’m not saying the hippies don’t have a leg to stand on here – these are the last two of an entire species after all – but there’s no room for mercy when you want to be King of the Space Pirates.  Or at least not for ill tempered carnivorous beasts that look the same to species that I know for a fact aren’t about to die out because they keep bloody respawning!  Your adventure eventually leads you to a mad scientist who in a delicious bit of irony has the PETA-phile locked up in a cage to experiment on.  She apparently wanted to deal with the mad scientist to get the animal off world but instead became a test subject for what I will assume will ultimately be some sort of cyborg human centipede thing. Silly mad scientists, but not stupid because as soon as you explain who the animal actually belongs to the doc quickly returns it via hover sled because he maybe insane but he’s not crazy enough to cross a Hutt. Beyond that the only real choice is whether or not to leave the activist in the hands of the mad scientist.  Do you want to fight for the safety of the rich girl with a token cause that just dragged around all of Nar Shadaa?  Or just leave her there to get some… new life experiences? Up to you really.

There’s also a B-plot to this planet that comes up every time you meet with the Hutt’s traveling all-you-can-eat pleasure cruise of hedonism that sails around Nar Shadaa involving a wookie named Bowdaar.  It seems that Bowdaar is a slave to some random gambler that couldn’t pay his debts to the Hutt and thus left Bowdaar as collateral until he could return with the payment.  He never came back.  So now the Hutt uses Bowdaar for ‘entertainment’ and pits him again mercenaries, gangs, starved wild beasts, and anything else the worm can dig up all the while trying to handicap Bowdaar by doing things like poisoning him, draining his blood, and putting him up against massive odds.  I think the point of this whole thing was meant to contrast with the PETA Patrol trying to save the alien porkchop but it never really clicked for me.  Wookies are intelligent, the mutated Akk Dog thing is not. Wookies have societies, can use tools, build homes.  The combo platter again does not.  So it seems weird to try to equate either of these things.  Then again, I have met people who view animals such as dogs as more valuable than people, so maybe that’s what their going for.  Except the Hutt was going to eat it and render its species extinct…  so…  Hutts are horrible. That’s the moral.  Hutts are ****ing horrible.

Once you prove to the Hutt that you and Bowdaar are more trouble than your worth, you get your engine and you get to keep the wookie.  Bowdaar is one of the BEST companions because a) You get him in Act One and b) he’s not Corso.  So now you can bring someone else along instead the space hillbilly.  He’s honorable, enjoys fighting, but not brutal massacres.  He also apparently knows how to bar tend based on a few cutscenes on the ship.  Generally the big thing with Bowdaar is that he honestly just wants to be treated like a person.  Not a slave. Not a ‘thing’.  Keep that in mind and his affection will soar during your conversations with him.

Interlude

So before you can head off too far you pick up a distress signal from a lovely lady.  Her ship broke down waaaaaay waaaaaaaaaay out in deep space and she needs a hand.  You know, because this doesn’t sound suspicious at all. But hey sure anything for a lovely lady, not my smuggler has made any headway on the whole Risha angle.  Speaking of which, Risha warns you that this may be a trap and she’d rather not get stranded out in space with no captain and all the cargo.  She advises bringing the wookie.

This interlude is short.  Extremely short.  The whole area consists of maybe three rooms with a few fights dotted in them.  When you reach the end, you find out that it is actually – dun dun dun – a trap.  Looks like the stranded lady is actually one of Skavak’s presumably many ex-girlfriends and figures killing you will win back his heart for her.  Unlikely, as Skavak is just as convinced as I am that this young woman is a bit unhinged.  She sics a bunch of robots on you and when that fails falls back on her portable blaster shield to protect her. Which is does until Skavak reminds her that the batteries on those things are notoriously short and hangs up.  Sure enough like a well timed comedy routine the shield comes down and you can then deal with her as you see fit: blast her or let her go for being a poor deluded sap trapped in the web of love and lies that is Skavak’s dating life.

The best part for me though was coming back to the ship to start working on my own web of love and lies by blatantly lying to Risha when she immediately assumes it was a trap and you were a fool for even bothering by telling her that it wasn’t that at all.  The lady just needed some space gas.  That’s all.  All handled. No prob.  I’m the man now uh… dawg?

smuggler_ch1_03Tatooine

Meanwhile, in a completely different plot.  A lone Jedi searches the galaxy for a ruthless Sith. Her journey has taken far and wide but she has finally cornered the enemy of all things good on the backwater world of Tatooine.  There she seeks out information and bumps into a smuggler who literally knows nothing and normally that’s where it would end.  Except the story isn’t about the Jedi is it?  Yes, Tatooine is a quirky little chapter of our storyline where our smuggler gets trapped in the middle of an epic feud between the forces of Light and Dark and pretty much has nothing at stake in the fight.  Really! You’re there to find some reclusive gangster and make a trade for a rare navigational computer, and that’s it.  You got meet with his lieutenants, figure out how to enter his secret desert hideout, and go make the swap.  But somehow you keep stumbling into this massive battle between a Jedi and Sith almost like your the cast of Blazing Saddles breaking through the sound stages for other movies.

You first bump into the Jedi at a local bar where she deals with some local rapscallions before chatting up with you.  She advises you to leave, to give up your wicked ways and is completely ignorant to any attempts at flirtation.  Unfortunately for her, you have business to do.  Business that requires breaking into an overrun warehouse and getting a fancy horn, because only the person holding the horn may speak to the gangster (Apparently the gangster learned how to run his operation from kindergarten teachers.) On your way to pick up the horn, you bump into the Sith who is also looking for the gangster for some other unrelated to what you want reason.  The Sith says that since you and she are both looking for the same guy, why not team up?  If you’re a male smuggler, she even not-so-subtly offers you a uh… “once in a lifetime experience” behind closed doors if you agree to work with her.  Well…   that’s a first.   I don’t think my bounty hunter ever got the ‘Don’t freeze me in carbonite and I’ll jump your bones’ conversation option.  Though personally, I find in my best interest of NOT DYING to stay as far away as possible from between a Jedi and a Sith, so I declined and went along my merry way.

Except that when I go meet up with the lieutenant to pass along the horn so he can show me the way to his boss, the Sith shows up AGAIN.  Only this time with a battalion of Sith Troopers to take the horn by force.  The henchman scoots away through a hidden door, leaving me to fight them all myself.  I’d be more upset by this, but lest we forget who we are dealing with here.  This is the fabled scum & villainy of Tatooine after all.  They would leave you behind as they save themselves.  Luckily – kinda, sorta, not really – just as the last of the troopers falls, the Jedi shows up to help.  She warns you again to give up your ‘wicked ways’, is blatantly oblivious to any kind of flirtatious subtext, and is devoutly set on finding the Sith… still. Luckily, now you know where the Sith will be and it’s time for the dramatic showdown.

The setting? A picturesque oasis hidden in a cave in the Dune Sea.  The objective? Try not to get killed by the wacko light and dark side zealots while making a deal.  It’s a duel of the fates, a battle of the heroes, and I am really just trying to stay out of the way here.  I just came for that computer over in the corner.  Can I just… no? Sigh.  So sure enough things get nice and heated once all the parties assemble, and the fact that the gangster is a recluse who hates people and noise makes this even worse.  You do get the choice in the end of who to help – the Sith or the Jedi – and the game is nice enough to offer a ‘This is none of my business’ option (which mechanically means you help the Jedi kill the Sith and the Gangster).  If you don’t help the Sith willingly, she will try to mind control you which you have the option to simple laugh at her for, then she tries to mind control your companion.  Now I don’t know if this is different for other companions, but I had Treek with me (I usually do) and Treek just stared blankly at the Sith which was hilarious.  The gangster gets fed up and calls in a bunch of droids to kill everyone – you, the Jedi, the Sith, his own lieutenant – and the rumble begins!

And when the dust settles it’s just you and whoever you helped left (and maybe the gangster if you help the Sith, but I doubt it. She just wanted a little red box, so why keep him alive?)  You stroll over to the corner, grab the computer you came to this litter box of a world for and leave. The end.  Oh okay, you can flirt some with the Jedi or Sith.  It actually finally clicks that you want some lovin’ with the Jedi too and she promptly shuts you down BECAUSE SHE’S A JEDI!  It’s kind of a core tenant that they don’t get their freak on, and everything about this girl has indicated that she is a tried and true Captain flippin America of a lawful good light side Jedi.  Not a shocker.  Funny. But not a shocker.

smuggler_ch1_04Alderaan

Alright, home stretch on this treasure hunt.  We only got three delivery/trades left and then we can go grab that sweet sweet loot.  Luckily, two of them are here on Alderaan.  The first is that old junker robot that Skavak stole way back on Ord Mantell.  It’s going to a pair of siblings from House Teraan who want to prove that their house is owed a considerable debt from the other houses and want to use it to propel their family back into the big dogs of the Alderaan Nobility Circuit (Now on ESPN-15).  However, they need an ancient datapad ‘acquired’ from their former holdings now controlled by their dreaded rivals of House Baliss.  Of course. Is there anyone or anything on Alderaan that doesn’t have ties to the Noble Houses? Like some farmer off in the hills named Larry Smith who has no ties to nothing save his land, his nerf, and his shotgun?  I’d like to see that.  I really would.  You go and shoot your way through a bunch of Baliss goons, grab the datapad, and bring it back. Easy as pie and you got a new radiation shield schematic for your ship.

The second delivery however is where things start to get more complicated.  This one is to deliver that creepy head in a jar to the museums of House Alde.  And because I’m sure someone will bring it up if I don’t – Yes, the head belongs to Darth Bandon from the original Knights of the Old Republic who killed Trask Ulgo, distant ancestor to the current King Boris Ulgo of Alderaan.  Trask is apparently revered as a hero, and thus the head of the Sith who killed him is some way for House Alde to kiss up to the King, despite the fact that Trask didn’t even make it out of the prologue/tutorial level of that game alive.  Oh, but I said it got more complicated didn’t I?  Well, here’s the thing.  Someone already delivered that head you just walked in with.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Someone else already sold the Head of Darth Bandon, and it was already authenticated by the Curator’s lovely female assistant Neva who confirmed that it was authentic. So clearly yours is a fake.  Right?  Well after finding that Neva has vanished and some double checking (What? Check something more than once for authenticity?! Truly a scandal for any museum!) it turns out that YOUR head is the real one and the other was a fake.  But why would Neva lie?  Well, if you’ve been playing the smuggler – and I have – you probably already have a guess as to why the pretty female character lied about something.  Say it with me now in your best Seinfeld ‘Newman’ voice: SKAVAK!  It seems our persistent annoyance has jumped ahead of us in line to grab the Arkanian Hyperdrive Engine that the museum promised as payment.  Not sure what Skavak is going to do with it without all the other bits, but he could probably sell it at least.  Another strange note here is that I don’t think we ever actually SEE Nava.  Like at all.  Which I thought was weird since we’ve had face time with every other traitorous Skavak groupie.

So now begins another Skavak hunt.  You run to the space port where he left a nice note mocking you and introducing you to the team of Mercs (who I’m sure have ties to House Gorgonzola or something) he hired to kill you and also drop the plot point that he hasn’t had time to install that hyperdrive yet.  So he does plan on installing it.  Without all the other pieces.  That’s kind of like stealing the remote without the TV or DVD player and then running off into the night laughing about how you are so going to use the remote to watch a movie when you get home.  It’s not gonna work.  Skavak is either really dumb, or just being a #$%&.  I’m going to assume the latter. Risha says she knows where Skavak got to, but it’s in a House Thul (the house that works with the Empire) hanger.  I’m assuming the Imps have just forgotten about that whole incident on Coruscant.  So to sneak into the hangar, you meet up with a baron who speaks exclusively in Huttese because no one else on Alderaan does and thus its easier to keep secrets with and he’s happy to help you sneak in.  Mainly because Risha is blackmailing him with photos of unknown content or context from a ‘vacation’ on Nar Shadaa.

When you bust into the hanger, you find not Skavak but his mechanic there waiting for you. Skavak apparently had to run some errands.  The mechanic however will happily hand over the engine to you. He was kidnapped to install it and has no loyalty to Skavak but he wants to get the heck outta there before Skavak comes back and finds out what the mechanic did.  You get the choice of letting him go, killing him, or forcing him to sabotage Skavak’s ship first.  The last two are both dark side options, namely because the mechanic won’t have enough time to get out if he sabotages the ship essentially dooming him at Skavak’s hands instead of yours.

So you’ve made your deliveries and got your ship parts, so now it’s time to leave right? Noooope.  This mess of a planet won’t let you go just yet.  See those two House Teraan siblings have one teensy little favor still to ask.  It seems your smash-and-grab visit to House Baliss kinda was noticed (Dunno how. I was really subtle with those 20 corpses in their courtyard.) So their champion gunslinger duelist demands a formal duel to settle their grievances.  The siblings have come to you because you have a gun, and they suck at anything involving danger, pain, weapons, leaving the house, etc.  So you go and help them by fighting their fights for them.  You can have your silly honorable duel between men, or you can have some fun and play dirty.  I enjoyed shooting the gunman before he was ready by shouting “READY? GO!” really quick.  Then I did it a second time just to drill in the point.  That got the Baliss twerp to shut up and leave.  Now I can leave Alderaan.  Finally, no more nobility.

smuggler_ch1_05Finale

With everything in place there’s only one thing le- hold on. We’re getting a call.  A pair of Togruta you say?  Kidnapped?  Demand to see Risha alone.  I see.  Why are you calling me then?  Oh fine.  Apparently we need to go help Risha’s childhood friend and her husband.  The childhood friend has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom in some mine on Tatooine, her husband wants Risha (and by Risha’s insistence – You) to go get her back.  Risha arrives to find the kidnappers who apparently multi-criminal-classed into assassins ready to kill your…  I guess Risha is kind of like a boss.  Maybe a partner?  I dunno. They’re gonna kill Risha on orders of ‘His Majesty’.  No clue there, but that sounds Noble.  Buddies, I just got back from Alderaan. I’ve had it with Noble.  You are all dead.

Once the assassin-nappers are down, Risha meets up with her friend and reunites her with her husband.  They then never want to see Risha again.  Ever.  Cause they say it’s Risha’s fault any of this happened in the first place.  You can be a good person and help Risha patch things up with her friend, or you can join the friend in on the suspicion that there’s more to Risha than being JUST a business mogul/treasure hunter/starship mechanic/negotiator.  After all, there have been a lot of people we’ve bumped into that have had bad blood with Risha.  Heck, the only person that has anything good to say about Risha is Vette, and she’s in another class’ storyline! So what is going on here? Well, Risha can only ask you and her friends to trust her and that all will be explained soon.

That soon is actually soon for once as it comes right after your next and final delivery – the man frozen in carbonite – to a medical facility on Nar Shadaa.  It’s there that the man is unfrozen and is revealed to be…  DUN DUN DUN! Nok Drayan himself!  The legendary space pirate himself! In the flesh!  And cyborg bits!  And in a stranger twist… DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN! He’s Risha’s dad!  Did we just stumble upon a soap opera episode?  Who changed the channel on my computer?  It seems old Nok is dying from a horrible disease inflicted on him by a mutinous crew years ago.  Before he dies though, he wanted to ensure that his family’s fortune was found and retrieved.  He froze himself in carbonite with instructions for Risha on all the things she’d need to gather to get to the fortune which is on a ship headed directly for a black hole.  Nok promises you the entire fortune save one family heirloom which is reserved solely for Risha.  That heirloom being the family crown.  See Nok’s not just a pirate king, he’s an actual king.  The King of Dubrillion to be precise.  The Drayan line is the rightful rulers of the planet, but they were ousted years ago.  Meaning Risha is a princess.  Because every scruffy looking smuggler type needs a princess to romance.  (Does that mean now that Disney owns the rights that Risha is a Disney Princess?)

With surprise revelation theater now come to a close it’s time to go get that treasure.  Using every single new fangled gadget that Risha scrapped together, you make your way to the ship.  Which again makes me incredibly curious what on Hoth Skavak was going to do with JUST the Arkanian Hyperdrive.  Was he going to go after Risha on your ship next to get everything?  The ship with the wookie.  Yea, I would have loved to see that.  The ship is fairly simple.  Just a bunch of rooms filled with lethal robots who are on orders to kill any living thing on the ship.  Including the former crew you find out.  Apparently way way long ago, before even Nok Drayan’s peak, Nok and Risha’s ancestor –  Arak Drayan III – sent this here ship on a slow stroll to the edges of the galaxy and into a black hole.  He then activated the droids to kill all the loyal citizens that were operating it to ensure it would never be found.  Which is a perfect setting to end a pirate story on.  With a black hole.  So a space pirate story.  Also, I know this is nit picky and this is just one of those suspension of disbelief things you have to just go with in an adventure story on the high space-seas but daaaaaaaaaamn Arak III had some insane good planning skills.  He sent a ship on course for centuries to fall into a black hole?  It never hit a planet, an asteroid, got noticed, or nothing?  That is some skill.   Anyway, you grab the treasure and head back to the ship to head home only to find someone waiting for you.

Sigh… Skavak.  It just had to be Skavak.  He apparently knocked out your crew, stole Corso’s favorite-est blaster (Torchy) and is now gonna kill you, take the treasure, and steal your ship.  Oh, and if your a female smuggler you can apparently sleep with him.  Cause there’s time for that on the ship falling into a black hole.  It pretty much always ends up with fighting him though and he dies.  No there’s no choice in that matter.  He doesn’t even die in a cutscene.  You just kill him and loot Torchy.  Kinda wish I could have left him on the ship to get sucked into the hole though.  That would’ve been a fitting way for such a sucker to go.  Honestly, it’s a bit of an anti-climax but on the same hand it’s also not like there was some huge rivalry post getting your ship back.  Hell, his insane ex-girlfriends gave you more trouble than he ever did.  So in a way it’s almost fitting that the weasel goes out with a whimper instead of a bang.

Once you get back to Nok and Risha, Nok tells her that as a Queen she must now make the hard decisions and that a single spacer’s loyalty isn’t worth a fortune.  She should kill you and take everything.  Risha then actual defends you and says your a decent if not good man.  Wow.  I think that’s the first non-sarcastic comment she’s paid me this entire playthrough so far.  Nok collapses and dies cursing the ‘weak’ daughter that was raised in his absence.  Risha (Queen Risha?) ends the story of Nok Drayan’s fortune by deciding to stay with you on the ship.  She may have the birthright to the throne of Dubrillion, but she doesn’t have the means to claim it or to keep it once she doesn’t.  No army, no fleet – just a crown and a captain, and neither of those are gonna change the minds of the current rulers who are already sending assassins to kill her.

So Chapter One of the Smuggler’s tale ends with you being the hero that found Nok Drayan’s Lost Fortune.  Not that it actually means anything in terms of in-game money.  Do you how hard it is to pawn off priceless relics of antiquity?  So for now it’s kind of like having a lot of high priced stock in some major company.  You’re rich in theory, but not so much in the pocket book.  For now at least.

My Thoughts

Chapter One continues the prologue’s tone of fun and wacky adventure across space.  You flirt, make smart ass remarks, and generally can be as nice or as mean as you want without it ever really coming off as out of character.  The storylines are diverse and despite it being a looping task of trade X for Y planet to planet, it never goes about it in the same way – or at least never feels like it does.  It kind of reminds me of the Bounty Hunter in that regards only without the unsatisfying conclusions some of those bounties had.  Instead, everything in the smuggler story feels like it has some kind of weight to it.  Like you could honestly see these people come back and remember you later on in the story and for the most part you’d remember them.  With the Jedi Knight I saved so many people I started to forget faces and names (luckily there’s always one conversation option to remind you who they are) but with the Smuggler most of the NPCs you deal with are positively memorable and fun.  Even the bad guys as one note as they can be at times are some of the most memorable in the game.  Skavak is right up there with Tarro Blood as a guy you learn to love to hate (or for the female smugglers, just learn to love.  And then kill.)

Your companions feel fleshed out as well even before they join your party.  As much as I never did and still don’t like Corso, I would be lying if I didn’t ‘get’ his character by the end of the prologue. Same thing with Bowdaar.  You only briefly interact with him during the B-plot on Nar Shadaa, but when you do it is 100% character development and getting to know this wookie.  His plotline does nothing to advance the plot of trying to find the PETA wannabes, so it’s free to just give you tons of personality for the walking rug.  Risha spends most of her time doing two things: telling you what the next job is, and talking about Nok Drayan. There are a few gems of character development for her like when she actively shows concern for you when you leave on the interlude mission only to cover it in classic tsundere fashion with that she doesn’t want to get stranded in space.  To be fair, the lack of personal story on Risha’s part does play the bigger role of making her very mysterious.  She has contacts for days, continuously exhibits proficiency at task after task, and knows encyclopedic knowledge about the illustrious gangster for whose treasure you hunt.  By the time you get to the hints starting to drop in the early parts of the finale, you are on the edge of your seat ready to find out exactly who this woman is, and the payoff doesn’t disappoint – heiress to both a planet and the legacy of a pirate king, spent over a decade preparing for this mission, and pulled it all off to boot?  Risha’s one of those characters that you actually appreciate more on a second playthrough and can see what she’s doing and why.  One of my favorite companions to be sure.

In the end, like so many of these class stories, the prologue and first chapter form a complete narrative.  Unlike some of the others however, you will find that some of the groundwork has already been laid for where the story goes next.  Next time we dive into the exciting world of selling out to ‘The Man’ and becoming a privateer.

<— Prologue|| SMUGGLER || Chapter Two —>

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Jedi Knight – Chapter One

<– Prologue || JEDI KNIGHT || Chapter Two –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter of the Jedi Knight 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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Last time on the Jedi Knight story, a Sith in disguise stole the plans to a bunch of superweapons that the Republic military was working on.  The Sith was defeated but not before the plans got out and his father, Darth Angral swore revenge on the Jedi Knight. Instead of begging General Garza to use their own elite team – Havoc Squad – General Var Suthra enlists the aid of a team of Jedi to track down the missing super weapons.  Master Orgus Din and Master Kiwiks were sent after two of the research facilities, while the young Jedi Knight and their new padawan Kira Carsen are being entrusted with less risky but totes still important tasks.

TARIS

Our first stop on this whirlwind world saving tour is the planet of Taris where no doomsday weapon awaits us but a scientist who makes doomsday weapons: Doctor Godera. Godera was the man who designed all of the superweapons for the Republic but left behind everything when the Treaty of Coruscant was signed.  He was convinced it was a bad move and that it was just the Empire buying time to regroup and wipe out the Republic once and for all.  So now he putts around in a swamp.  Not exactly my top choice for a retirement destination but hey, a good chunk of Florida is swamp and it seems popular enough.

We aren’t the only ones looking for Doctor Godera. Watcher One with Imperial Intelligence is also looking for him.  So if any of you Imperial Agents have been wondering why the Watchers start at ‘Two’, this is why.  This also raises some interesting flags if you are familiar with the Agent’s story because Watcher’s jobs are to do just what they’re name implies – watch.  They are not field agents normally. That’s the Cipher’s job.  So the fact that a Watcher is here looking for the Doc implies that this may not be a task that was issued by Keeper directly and sure enough that’s 100% true as it is revealed that Watcher One is reporting directly to our super villain for this chapter: Darth Angral.

Watcher One is actually one of the more competent villains you face. He reasons with you and tries to come to a result where you can both get what you want (he extracts the info he wants from the Doc, then hands him over to you with no fuss).  He uses decoys and disguises to ensure that he doesn’t risk personal injury in the pursuit of his goal.  He even sets up diversionary tactics like having arranging a meet between a Sith and some pirates to deal in lost Jedi relics to throw you off the chase long enough to interrogate the Doctor.  I kinda wish that Watcher One stuck around to be Angral’s right hand for this chapter but he is sadly a one and done villain.  Probably for the best though as I can imagine he would run out of tricks fairly quick over the course of an entire chapter.

The only other character of note is the good Doctor’s droid, who is an extremely snarky hunk of junk.  It calls the Republic cowards, it questions your more questionable decisions, and it is generally a fairly good comedic addition to the plot for this one world.  He’s kind of a HK-51 Lite, without all the ‘wanting to kill meatbags’ that comes with being a Hunter-Killer droid.  All the snark and none of the murder.  In fact the robot actually notes that it is NOT designed for combat and has no clue what to do if the Imperials come back for it.

I’d talk more about the plot but it’s really nothing of note other than just chasing the Doctor and Watcher One around the planet.  Most of the memorable bits come from Watcher One’s brilliant tactics that don’t feel forced or contrived, which considering I’m playing this right after dealing with two straight chapters of Darth Thanaton’s crap…  That’s a relief.

NAR SHADAA

Now we actually get into dealing with a super weapon: The Power Guard Project.  A super-secret project as in that only those working on it and General Var Suthra know it exists.  The Power Guard Project is designed to take any normal jane or joe and turn them into a cybernetically enhanced killing machine on par with a Jedi in terms of strength and ability.  Sounds awesome and morally questionable.  Truly this is the sci fi military we’ve been longing for.  One that would happily try to tame genetically engineered dinosaurs regardless of how many pesky civvies die along the way.  The only downside is that because its so super secret and no one knows about it, if a hypothetical Sith were to hypothetically take over – who would know?  Well that’s the not so hypothetical case here, and the SIS isn’t happy about it.

The SIS for those who are new to The Old Republic is the Republic’s equivalent to Imperial Intelligence – the Strategic Information Service.  They are the so called ‘good spies’ in this whole mess and they reaaaaally don’t like being left out of the loop. So when you actual meet up with the SIS, they are less than pleased with you and General Var Suthra.  Especially since it appears that someone is leaking SIS secrets, exposing agents and potentially compromising their secret location – down an not-hidden-at-all elevator in a completely empty shop with no doors in the business shopping district of Nar Shadaa. (Oh no! How did they find us!? /sarcasm)

Most of the story for Nar Shadaa is actually trying to figure out where the heck the base of operations for the Power Guard Project is located so you can shut it down and stop the Sith that has taken it over.  Through out the adventure you do discover more about what the project is and how its been accomplished.  You fight early prototypes of the ‘Power Guards’ and find they are little more than machines.  They don’t speak or feel and pretty much any higher brain function has been shut off in favor of making ruthless killing machines.  They don’t even question the fact that their loyalties have been literally switched over to the Empire.  Worse yet is the reveal that these former people were all refugees that the Republic picked up and turned into these monsters.  It’s only slightly SLIGHTLY helped by the information you discover that they were all supposedly volunteers.  Did they know that they wouldn’t even have a mind to think with afterward? Eeeeh, not touched on.

So by the end, most of the SIS is dead and their base is destroyed, you find Agent Galen – your original contact – to find he’s been turned into a Power Guard but has his mind left intact so he can bear witness and be fully aware of his actions even if he can’t help but obey.  You can opt to either kill or attempt to save Galen mark the first of a set of moral choices involving killing or saving people that seem inconsequential typical choices but actually do come into play later in the story.  Much later though, so we won’t talk about it here.  Finally, you take out the Sith – another flunkie of Darth Angral – who has upgraded himself into a Power Guard body but fully aware and in control.  What’s left of the SIS shows up to ‘mop up’ and you get one last moral choice of either preserving the Power Guard research data or burying and let the whole thing burn.

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INTERLUDE

Once you get back to the ship, you get a call that there is an Imperial admiral that is looking to defect.  One of Angral’s entourage. He’ll only meet you at a secluded mining asteroid.  Var Suthra insists that you and Kira go check it out.  I mention its a trap. Var Suthra says the possibility of finding out Angral’s plan is too great to pass up.  I ask for back up.  Var Suthra says that he won’t risking spooking the Admiral. I think Var Suthra is fricking helping the Sith and the fish faced bastard won’t look me in the eye.  I’m on to you, General.

So you get the asteroid and there’s no Admiral.  Just some blonde Sith.  Wonderful.  He explains that Kira is a Child of the Emperor and serves as the Sith Emperor’s eyes and ears (And as someone who has played the Sith Warrior story I’m now wondering if that’s an official designation like the Emperor’s Voice and Wrath, or they’re just being metaphorical.  I DON’T KNOW!) He tries to get Kira to come back with him to their ‘father’ and she refuses. Then you kung fu fight! Or just regular fight I suppose.  And that’s it for the interlude.  You find out that Kira is a Child of the Emperor, that she was born a Sith, that she ran away once she realized they had been mindwiping her, and became a Jedi.  I’m sure nothing will come of this.  Nooothing at aaaall.  Still, you are given the choice of coming clean with the Jedi Council about this, or keeping Kira’s secret safe.  Honestly I’m curious if there will be any long term repercussions to keeping the secret safe. Other than not being able to possible stop all the betrayal in the Jedi Consular Chapter Three…

TATOOINE

Back to the main plot, it seems that the two Jedi Masters that were on this whole Super Weapon plan haven’t reported in.  So now it’s time to go bail them out.  First up is Master Kiwiks who went to Tatooine to check on the Shock Drum, an ultrasonic wave emitter than can shake a planet so much that it would disrupt the core causing a planetary collapse. In close proximity to it, it would cause your body to fall apart.  Much more in line with what you think of when you hear superweapon or doomsday device.  Again, I just love unrepentant military mad science.

Most of the story here involves one of the scientists who worked on the device and her ‘family’ of jawa that have been helping.  They kind of start sending you around helping to reset the power and then the sensors so they can try and figure out where the Shock Drum got moved to.  The answer of course is in the middle of the fricking dune sea.  Yaay. But before we can go and stop it, you get contacted by another Sith flunkie of Angral’s.  Because apparently since the Rule of Two hasn’t been conceived for a few hundred more years, Angral has like a dozen apprentices or something.  This one is different though.  He explains that he wishes to duel you honorably and should you win he will give you the codes to turn off the Shock Drum, which he naturally changed after stealing it.

So you show up for the duel and true to his word it’s no trap, no back up – just a straight up duel between two combatants. This is actually one of my favorite moments because you actually get to see an NPC example of what is essentially a Light Side Sith Warrior.  He’s ruthless, passionate, vengeful and is more than willing to destroy a world on an order, but he is also completely true to his word and will give you a fair fight.  He also chose not to attack non-combatants when stealing the drum.  I don’t know what else to say other than I am incredibly impressed that this NPC made it into the game.  Also that he can be saved and convinced to go to the Jedi temple and join up with the Light Side there, or you can respect his wishes to die a honorable death for failing his master and strike him down.

With the code and location now in hand, it’s time to save Master Kiwiks from the Shock Drum.  And Tatooine. Of course.  Not like we’d leave this giant sand ball to its fate or anything.  You still have one more boss fight to go though, as the Shock Drum has roused a Sand Demon from its slumber and its attacking the Jawas who enthusiastically marched off to their doom to try and help you.  You kill the Demon and turn off the Drum.  With Master Kiwiks saved from the doomsday weapon, you send her back to Tython to heal. You get to choose what to do with the Drum – save or dismantle.  Chances are someone will be upset with whatever you choose so just go ahead and pick whichever you like.

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ALDERAAN

Finally, it’s time to track down Master Orgus Din aka Mister Old and Grumpy Master from Tython and deal with the project he was supposed to be tracking down – ‘The Death Mark’ (trademark pending).  Which I suppose could have been worse.  They could have called it the ‘DethMarc’ or something like a Rob Liefeld character from the 90s.  You arrive on the scene and meet with your contact, an ambassador from House Alde who introduces you to the only survivor from the attack on the lab by killiks (giant bug people. Just getting all of our mad scientist tropes out at this point.)  and then immediately the ambassador blows up.  See the Death Mark is apparently just a really fancy name for a targeting RFID tag.  You stick someone with the Death Mark and you can pin point blow them up with an orbital death cannon (trademark pending) and apparently the unlucky politician was one of those stuck with it.  The guards bust in right then and try to arrest you for killing the ambassador but the escapee woman says to take her and she will be held prisoner while you look for the real culprit.

Okay, let me stop you right there plot.  Wut?  I mean how does that make sense?  ‘You suspect this person is a murderer, so take me and let them go!’  Who would even do that?  Just because I’m a Jedi that makes me trustworthy? You clearly have not been paying attention to how I play my Jedi.  Why would they let you go?  So the plot can continue I guess.

You go back to the lab and kill all the killiks and free Master Orgus from being locked in a room with scientists (truly a spiritual leader’s worse nightmare) and discover that – Oh no! That survivor girl was actual the one who STOLE the Death Mark! Dull surprise! Actually, they did a pretty good job not tipping their hands for that reveal. Unlike say, the Bounty Hunter story who might as well put up huge neon lights saying ‘YOUR OPPONENT IS RIGHT HERE HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT’, I honestly didn’t catch this twist at first and it does make a lot of sense since she was meeting with the ambassador alone right before you came in.  It seems that she’s been targeting people at the behest of another Sith Lord who – say it with me now – is working for Darth Angral.  Her targets are all people who have been advocating for peace in the Alderaan Civil War.  The next likely target is the ambassador of House Thul that has been working with House Organa to draft a treaty of some sort.  So you call up the Organa guard and tell them to not let her leave only to find that… well… she’s already gone.

Yea, plot I’m going to have to stop you again.  So the prisoner you did keep.  You let her just wander around your palace unsupervised for the entire time and then did little to nothing to prevent her from leaving?  How the hell is House Organa even a contender in this bloody war?

So Master Orgus tells you to go save the Thul guy and stop the woman while he goes to try and stop the laser. You succeed easily since a true member of House Thul trusts no one, not even allies and you can kill or imprison the woman.  The Thul guy also knows how to find the Sith Lord behind the attack and gives you coordinates.  Time to team up with your master and kick some Sith butt.  Obi-Wan and Anakin style!  But no. It seems your trustworthy master lied to you.  He didn’t go try to shut down the laser.  He went after Darth Angral directly.  He’s on his ship.  Way off at the edge of the system. So it’s Obi-Wan and Luke style.  You know what that means, right?  Yea…  By the time you’ve got to the Sith Lord in his secured bunker, Darth Angral has captured Orgus Din and executes him publicly on the Holonet.  The Sith makes sure to tune in so you can watch.

Not terribly shocked, sad to say.  I mean, Orgus was just kind of a bland guy who never struck me as someone I cared about.  Yea, he wasn’t as clean cut as the other Jedi Masters, he looked the other way plenty of times, but hell until I got to Alderaan I had honestly forgotten his name.  This death seemed to serve more as setting up a parrellel to Luke’s journey in the movies so you feel like you’re getting a real Star Wars experience rather than an established and necessary death.

After that the story wraps up on Alderaan with the usual: kill Sith, stop project, dodge giant death beams.  Yea, Jedi can dodge those apparently.  And giant death beams can also just penetrate the impenetrable underground bunker. Why bother with the Death Mark? Just use that death beam.  It seems plenty useful on its own.

FINALE

Luckily, when you get back to your ship you find out that Orgus had the last laugh: he hid a tracker on Angral’s ship.  You can find him no problem now.  You track him to the Euphrades system, where the majority of the Republic’s agriculture is grown.  You know how Endor is nothing but forest, Tatooine is nothing but sand, and Coruscant is nothing but city?  Apparently Euphrades is a planet that is nothing but farms.  I would jump at the chance to be cut down by a Sith’s lightsaber then live on a planet that was nothing but farms.  But good news, everybody!  Euphrades is completely destroyed!  Like the atmosphere was ionized and set on fire, the land is destroyed, the water ruined.  It’s completely uninhabitable and any ship that enters the atmosphere is stuck there!  Yes, it seems the Devastator weapon is online and functional.

You catch a distress signal from a nearby medical ship and have to fight your way to the bridge against Imperial goons to save them and more importantly their data that might show how the Devastator works.  There’s a brief moral choice about whether you think the crew should risk their lives to go down to the surface and investigate a possible ping of life signs down below before heading back off after Angral’s ship who has reappeared at Tython.

It appears that the Jedi homeworld is the new target for the Devastator.  You have to fight your way through another ship (TWO SHIPS! ONE FINALE! Breaking new ground here.) to square off against Angral directly. He gives you crap about killing his traitor son again, and then Kira starts talking like the Sith Emperor and tells Angral to finish this.  You have your final battle with Darth Angral and strike him down, but then Kira get possessed again and you immediately have to fight her as well!  With (or without depending on dialogue choices) your help, Kira breaks free once and for all of the Emperor’s grasp (See, easy as pie.) and you return to Tython to be proclaimed big damn heroes and get Kira promoted to a full Jedi knight.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Like the Bounty Hunter and Trooper, the prologue and first chapter of the Jedi Knight story is a complete cohesive narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.  By the end of Chapter One, all the loose ends are resolved and all the established villains are defeated and it does it in a fairly heroic way.  This story so far has proven to be the most pure ‘save the day’ super hero story you could get and as someone who likes that sort of thing, it was great to play through even as a super Light Side Lawful Good Jedi who never came off as preachy or holier than thou.  The Dark Side Jedi seems more snarky and cynical, often proposing military and tactical advantage over having sympathy for those hurt by those advantages being used against the Republic.

The planets themselves each brought a different kind of story so nothing felt repetitive despite it being four straight worlds of ‘find the thing, stop the bad guy from using it.’  As for villains, it was more of a mixed bag.  Watcher One and the Light Side Sith on Tatooine were stand out enemies that I thoroughly enjoyed watching every scene with.  The other two?  They’re pretty much interchangeable.  They have nothing unique or interesting about them that makes you want to remember them and the only reason I can keep them separated in my mind is that the one on Nar Shadaa wore a helmet.

The Jedi Knight Chapter One also is unique in the fact that you don’t recruit any companions in it.  At all.  You get T7 on Tython, Kira on Coruscant and you don’t get your next companion until Balmora at the start of Chapter Two.  On the flip side, you’ll get plenty of fun character moments with Kira and T7 depending on who you bring along on the missions, though due to the Child of the Emperor B-plot, Kira clearly gets more limelight than the droid.  The Child of the Emperor plot isn’t bad but it really gets relegated to a B-plot.  I don’t think it was super necessary to have it resolved so quickly. It’s not terrible though and it does carry a good amount of weight, I just think it could have been stretched out to build the suspense.  Especially considering what we start working towards in Chapter Two and Three.

Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen. Just like the Prologue and Chapter One were one single narrative, so are Chapter Two and Three and they are doozy.  But that will have to wait until next time. See you then.

<– Prologue || JEDI KNIGHT || Chapter Two –>

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Sith Inquisitor – Chapter Two

<– Chapter One || SITH INQUISITOR || Chapter Three –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter of the Sith Inquisitor 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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Well, you have sort of outsmarted your former master and become a powerful figure within the Sith ranks.  Let’s see how quick this goes downhill for you, shall we?  Chapter Two kicks off with meeting Darth Thanaton who you might remember popping up in the Prologue and Chapter One at points.  He is impressed with you – you’re NOTHING like Zash – and wants to test you to see if you are ready to enter his super special hidden circle.  He just needs you to go into a super dark and spooky tomb, way off in some corner of Dromund Kaas where no one goes all alone to fetch a dead Sith’s notes on alchemical poisons for him.  Do you see where this may be a bad idea? Good. Because you’re character doesn’t! You get ZERO agency in this.  Your character will just stumble into this trap as blindly scripted.  Yes, that’s how we’re starting out this Chapter, by walking head first into ANOTHER trap.

And just like before with Zash, it’s up to Ghost Grandpa to bail you out and save you from the insane Sith ghost that was trying to kill you.  You know…  Ghost Grandpa…  who said at the end of Chapter One that his task was done and we wouldn’t be seeing him again.  He’s here. To save us again.  Somehow.  But this time he REALLY is using the last of his strength to help us. For truth-sies.  Anyway, Ghost Grandpa tells you to find a different Sith ghost who will teach you the art of Spirit-walking – the ability to bind the souls of the dead to yourself and absorb their power.  Before you even ask, NO. There’s is NO Shang Tsung jokes anywhere in this storyline.  I will probably be making a few to make up for it.  Now you can go back, steal the Sith ghost’s soul (Flawless victory) and get his notes.

When you take the notes back to Thanaton he is less than pleased.  He kinda wanted you to die in that tomb (Wha? Noooo. Say it ain’t so.) and he needs you dead because Zash’s entire power base must be destroyed (No one tell him about Khem!)  So, he kills you.  The end.  OR IS IT?  Well, we know it’s not. It seems you actually survived thanks to binding the dead souls to you.  They actually seem to function as ‘Extra Lives’.  Your barely alive body is dragged off to safety by your two apprentices whose names are not important enough to remember so I’ll just call them Jesse and James.  Which… wait.  Hold on a minute.

Remember in the Chapter One review, where I mentioned the ‘people saving you streak’?  Yea. Assuming you didn’t break between Chapter One and Chapter Two, you have just walked into your doom THREE times only to have your butt pulled out by a third party each time in less than an HOUR.  A. SINGLE. HOUR.  Do you know how much of an idiot your character looks like at this point?  You routinely walk into traps, sometimes after being TOLD it is a trap, with no plan prepared other than ‘wing it and hope we live’.  Would it be so hard to have a moment where your character actually PREPARES for these things, or comes off as a slightly hesitant or cautious?  Maybe show how they stand to gain from doing these dumb things?  Like planning on surviving due to the Spirit-Walking so you can let Thanaton think you are dead so you can strike at him from behind.  You know, SOMETHING?!

Anyway, you use this revelation of your survival to formulate a new plan: gather more souls to kill Thanaton.  Well, at least we’re not a lackey anymore.

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Taris

Our first destination is Taris, where there have been stories about a grumpy ghost hanging around.  The thing is that there’s only one person who can actually get this ghost to show up is a Jedi padawan.  So your first goal on Taris is to gather some intel on this padawan and as you soon find out – it’s Ahsoka Tano er… I mean Ashara Zavros!  Who is kind of an Ahsoka Tano expy, I won’t lie.  She’s disobedient, rude, and somewhat short tempered.  Her emotions tend to get the better of her and that kind of has her on the outs with her Jedi Master and peers and thus provides an excellent opportunity to manipulate her into getting what you want.

The first task is to bribe another Sith Lord to use his assassins to stage a scene.  You go and dig up some random thing of no significant importance (and no, that’s not setting up a dramatic reveal that it IS important. It’s not. It’s just a random errand.)  Using the bartering power of the McGuffin, you convince the Sith to borrow the assassins.  The fun part about the whole exchange is actually being able to decide how much information you let the Sith have about what you are doing.  Do you let him in on the plot? Do you play coy?  It is his man power at risk here, especially since the plan is to have them ambush Ashara and then you save her to gain her trust.

Honestly, the whole plan comes off as simultaneously dumb and yet it works brilliantly because Ashara is just that kind of dense.  She gets jumped by a bunch of Sith Assassins and you just in and stop them (either by killing them or by less lethal means) and just like that she trusts you enough to let you help “cast out” the ghost.  She actually sits there and dumb foundingly asks why a Sith would attack other Sith.  Really? Do they teach you ANYTHING about the Sith work?  Or just to kill them wholesale?  And this is pretty much Ashara in a nutshell.  She is not bright, she doesn’t think she’s through, she simply reacts to her emotions and follows her gut instinct. Sometimes this makes her a sweetheart, and other times you just wanna bop her with a rolled up magazine and say “NO! THINK!” Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like Ashara but DAMN is she a teenager in the worst sense.

SO you actually manage to convince the teen to let you into the Jedi Sanctuary to help purge the ghost, and  you make sure to tell her not to tell anyone.  So of course she tells two Jedi Masters. Fricking Narc. You fight them, you bind the ghost who appears to be a VERY ticked off ancestor of Ashara – who was also Sith? I think? It’s not exactly clear but he does wear Sith Inquisitor Columni armor.  The choice is the usual: Fight the ghost and enslave it, or make a pact with it promising to free it once you’ve done what you need it for.

Then…  then the plot gets stupid.  Okay, so this entire time some no-name office clerk of a Sith has been helping you to put this whole thing together.  Actually, it’s more like he gets you started.  He shows up.  Says Thanaton will make him a Lord if he delivers your head.  So that whole element of surprise, Thanaton thinks you’re dead thing?  Apparently not.  Thanaton clearly knows you are alive, and is hiring goons to come and finish you off, despite you finishing off his goons before and forcing him to take you out himself.  Do I even have to go into how completely counter to the established plot this reveal goes?  And it doesn’t stop here.  Oh no.  You’ll see.

Quesh

Because no sooner are you done with recruit Ashara and getting back on the ship, than your other two apprentices phone in.  Ya know, the two that jumped the Zash ship at the end of Chapter One and dragged your charred unconscious body out of a ditch and right back into Thanaton’s office at the start of Chapter Two?  Well apparently they decided to wander off and steal the key to Thanaton’s private meditation chamber.  Now they’re being chased around the galaxy by another one of Thanaton’s flunkies.  Now it’s never established, and certainly never explained or answered – but do we think that these two little morons are the reason Thanaton knows I’m still alive?  Cause I’d venture a guess that yea, that’s the case.  Thanaton, despite being a mustache twirling snively whiplash of a villain, is not stupid.  These two however will believe whatever they are spoon fed.  So they crash on Quesh and you have to go save them.

Or not… I guess? By the time you show, they’re dead. Lord Cineratus has killed them.  Now he is on orders to kill you too.  In a nice and brilliant tactical move, you can buy him off, not only skipping having to fight him but also gaining his loyalty, service and most importantly silence.  Or you can just shut him up by killing him too.  That works.

Interlude: Korriban

Now that you’ve lost two of your three apprentices (Aww… you almost collected the whole set), Zash Val recommends you head to Korriban to pick you out a fresh one from your old pal Harkun.  This mission is short, sweet and only really serves to lord over your new position as an actual Sith Lord to Harkun while also setting up a later companion.  I guess which of the random assortment of scum it will be?  Maybe the one that killed two potential recruits already and the camera holds on for an uneasily long time? Hmmmm? (I warned you there’d be spoilers. It’s Xalek.)

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Hoth

And of course now we come to Hoth.  Apparently we are here because Andronikos heard some stories about some weird stuff happening and a ship carrying Sith artifacts crashing a while back and they were all spoopy about it.  Like the laaaaamp was tuuuuurning itseeeelf on!  OooooOOoooOoo!  Yea, anyway since Hoth is a giant ice ball where anything sitting outside for more than a few days is pretty much buried and frozen in a block, you’re going to need some help for this one.  Enter Talos Drelik.  Oh, so THIS is where the damn elves sent Talos after the White-Gold Accord.  (Ha. Crossover humor.)  He’s a wormy little archeologist that is a certified genius when it comes to figuring out where crap is.  He’s also delightfully fun, warm, and intelligent.  Thus making him the only one on the ship with a college education (No, Zash doesn’t count.  Her brains didn’t exactly work out in her favor.  Seriously, ‘Go ahead and bring the Dashade’ HA!)

Talos essentially helps lead you across a giant version of World of Warcraft’s archeology profession, only not as tedious.  It does however lead you to the ghost p0ssessing an ortolon (those blue elephant looking things) who demands that you ran sack Naga Sadow’s ancient assassin training school because he reeeeeally didn’t like Assassin’s Creed Unity.  Talos of course helps you break in to raid the tomb, because hey it turns out that is exactly what he was on Hoth looking for.  It’s a giant hole in an ice wall.  I am suddenly regretting complimenting Talos’ intelligence.

This leads to the hands down dumbest light/dark choice ever: Do you let Talos scan the relics before you bust them, or just say tough noogies and start smashing.  Seriously.  You don’t even have to do anything extra or get punished for choosing the Light Side option here other than watching a short cutscene of Talos scanning stuff.  That was pointless.  Really.  Oh and a little tip for this mission: There will be a time when Talos leaves your party to open a door and you have to defend him from three waves of progressively harder droids.  If you step back to where Talos is before the first wave spawns, you won’t immediately draw agro and can summon another companion to help you fight them off.  Very useful for say…  a healy sorcerer.

Finally, you get your last bit of direction to finding the ghost’s actual resting place: a crashed starship in the starship graveyard.  Good thing we didn’t even think to look in the Starship Graveyard of crashed starships for our crashed starship, which we now find out didn’t actually crash but landed gently after being piloted to safety by the ghost after the crew died and/or bailed.  Only downside is you have to fight through a ton of dudes who are mind controlled by the ghost because…  the ghost is a jerk who likes making you jump through hoops.  No really, that’s his reasoning.  So you do the whole sacrifice/deal schpeal and then head off to space.  But wait! Talos is there and he wants to come along.  Resigned from the IRS (That’s Imperial Reclamation Service) and everything.  Well, okay bookworm. Head on board.  We gotta go kill us a Sith, and you’re a healing companion so you might be handy.

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Finale

Back to Dromund Kaas to sneak into Thanaton’s secret meditation chamber with our secret key and oh bugger he’s waiting for us isn’t he?  Yeeeeup. With a hench goon that we’ve never seen before to actually fight no less while Thanaton sits in a bubble.  But not before he taunts us about how if we bribed Cinderblock on Quesh that he’s already wasted our money on women and drink on Nar Shadaa.  So there’s another brilliant play that went down the toilet.  Oh well, kill the bastard.  Or the bastard’s assistant, I guess.

After which you face off with Thanaton proper in a cutscene!  You channel all your ghostly powers and when their powers combine you are…  apparently dead.  Yea, it seems that the binding ritual was only meant to be done with ONE ghost at a time.  Any more than that and you leave yourself vulnerable to the spirits taking control of your body and mind and doing who knows what.  Of course, the ghost that taught you the ritual didn’t say that because he knew you were the schmuck that would dig up as many souls as possible and then he and the others could – as they literally put it – have some fun with you.  I AM AWARE OF THE MANY WAYS TO INTERPRET THAT LINE.  Also, Thanaton got thrown into a wall and ran away.

So Chapter Two ends with your companions showing up to help/save you from yourself YET AGAIN, and depending on your dialogue choices you can crack a joke and everyone has a hearty laugh.  Freeze frame. Roll credits with sappy 80’s sax solo rendition of theme song! The end.  Of chapter two at least.

My Thoughts

While this isn’t as completely POINTLESS as the Chapter Two Trooper storyline, there is a LOT of wasted potential here.  Every chance your character has to look intelligent or cunning is either pulled out from under them making them look like a complete idiot or is swiftly undone off camera somewhere.  Enemy thinks your dead giving you the upper hand? NOPE.  Get the secret key to the secret meditation chamber? He’s there and waiting for you.  Bribe an enemy agent to work for you instead? Pisses it away on booze and lets your enemy know about it.  The Inquisitor does not catch one break this entire chapter, and boy does it get frustrating to have your plans get foiled instantly over and over.

I mean, I kind of get it right? They want to show you that Thanaton is this super mastermind that can totally outplay you and write it off as child’s play. But you’re doing it at the expensive of making the protagonist – the PLAYER – feel like a complete moron.  Even worse when OTHER NPCs are saving you from obvious traps and then explaining how it totally was an obvious trap.  Why not have Thanaton think he has outplayed you, make him counter your every move but him thinking that your goal is different.  Like you were looking for relics or some ancient weapon or something Zash would do to help defeat him.  Then have it be established among you and your crew that – say around just after Quesh – that because of something Lord Cementtruck said you learn that Thanaton has it all wrong. WHAM.  He seems to be winning and outplaying, you get to see what a master at playing the game Thanaton is, and then you have the ace up your sleeve of the ghosts to smack him, but then it goes all wrong.

And that ending I will say is done very right.  The ghosts turning on you and the force walking being your undoing is not only a great twist, but is also not a knock against your character.  There is no WAY the Inquisitor would have seen it coming because the Ghosts ALL LIED.  Not one even tipped their hand or showed the slightest hint that this ritual had unintended side effects when used this way.  But they knew.  They knew and they waited to use it against you.  That I did like.  Downright LOVED.

So yea, that was the Inquisitor Chapter Two.  A lot of potential, and a lot of screw ups.  Not the worse, could have been one of the best, but no.  It just falls in the middle somewhere.  Pity.

<– Chapter One || SITH INQUISITOR || Chapter Three –>

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Bounty Hunter – Chapter Two

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter 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.

<— Chapter One || BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter Three —>

bountyhunter_chap2_1

Welcome back from your vacation Mister or Miss Grand Champion of the Great Hunt.  Ready for a REAL job?  Well, that’s what Chapter Two brings you.  Fame, fortune, and work. Legitimate, actual, bounty hunting.  Some of the hardest bounties in the galaxy!  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have to meet Mandalore first.  Mandalore, as his name might suggest, is a Mandalorian.  In fact, he’s the leader of the Mandos. Like, all of them.  He has invited you to his personal starship (what, you need a guild to have a starship? HA! Don’t you wish you were Mandalore?) Where he gives you a task – not a job sadly – to go to Dromund Kaas and take down a giant beastie living in a cave there.  The cave in question is surrounded with Mandalorians who are trying and failing to kill this beast.  Which is weird, cause it’s just a gold mob.  You also meet a lad named Torian Cadera who I’m sure will be unimportant forever hence why I’m calling specific attention to him.  Anyway, you kill the beast and head back to Mandalore (Yes, you fly all the way back to Dromund Kaas to kill one thing and then fly all the way back to the Outer Rim.  Now I’m GLAD space travel is just pushing a button) to be told that congrats! You are a Mandalorian now!  That’s all it takes apparently?

Now whether you take Mandalore’s offer to become a Mandalorian is completely up to you.  You take the honor, or you can say ‘screw honor, I want money’ and forsake the noble warrior lifestyle for a shrewd cash grabbing merc way of life.  If you choose the latter, you enrage Mandalore who was hoping to make you take his place on the…  council…  thing of former Grand Champs…  I think?  It’s not terrible clear.  You’re not becoming the new Mandalore that’s for sure.  He’s going off to work for the Empire doing something.  You never find out what.  However, regardless of your choice you meet up with Grand Champs Bloodworthy, Jewla Nightbringer and yes, The Defenestrator (Cue the squeeing) who welcome you – and laugh at Mandalore if you shoot him down – to the club and offer you the Black List. The Black List is a premier listing of bounties that are exclusive to winners of the Great Hunt.  They are the toughest and more importantly best paying bounties in the galaxy.  This is the big leagues.  Your first job is actually an oldie but a goodie.  A bounty so hard to deal with that a betting pool has been establish for anyone who tries their hand at it.  Whoever finally brings in the target gets the whole pot.  You pay up your ante and get the info.  Looks like we’re headed to…

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Taris

Oh joy.  Okay, I don’t like Taris. At all. In any incarnation.  It’s a winding confusing mess of a world infected with rakghouls who by defeat cut through armor like butter which means lots of downtime healing.  But that actually works to the advantage of this mission, because we’re about to be reenacting a bunch of action movies from the 80s and hunting down a guerrilla warrior in the Jungle.  His name is Jincoln Cadera, and yes he is the father of that completely-unimportant-for-reals Torian Cadera, who has also shown up on Taris.

The majority of Taris plays out with you and Torian working together to take down Jincoln who has challenged you to a Mandalorian death game.  Which is a lot like capture the flag but with sniper rifles and pits lined with sharpened sticks that impale you.  So what I’m saying is that it’s not really so much like capture the flag but more like capture the flag at summer camp.  Torian helps you flush out his father, who then leaves his kid to die and you can either do the same (in fact, Torian insists that you do) or help Torian and loose the trail.  Either way it doesn’t make much in the way of a difference because Jincoln actually contacts you next for a formal declaration of the rules.  You need to find all of the ‘trophies’ that Jincoln has hidden in the jungle and then find his hiding spot to even earn the chance at a duel to the death.  You know, this is why I snubbed the Mandalorian invite on my second playthrough.  Honor bound war game grab ass bull.  Look, all you need is two guns and we’ll play ‘whose the better killer’.  I’ll even let you have the tea cup this time.

So you run around the jungle picking up little doodads like a sword, or a hat, or some such, and all the while Jincoln is taking shots at you from who knows where.  Torian is working on finding the hideout so you don’t have to worry about that step.  Once you got the four doodads, you meet with Torian who finally gets his revenge on Jincoln ruining the family name and you get paid!  Oh, you got to beat Jincoln first I suppose and if you don’t relish that after all the annoying loops he just sent you through, well then I don’t know what’s wrong with you!  After all is said and done with Jincoln and your ready to collect your sweet sweet credits from Bloodworthy, you find that Torian is waiting for you.  Seems like the kid wants to sign on  with you and see the galaxy.  Well, uh, sure? I guess, kid.  Guess you WERE important after all, huh?

I suppose I should say a few words about Torian Cadera.  He’s… uh… male.  He has hair.  Some tattoos I suppose.  Okay, I find Torian to be the most boring character you get as part of the Bounty Hunter storyline.  Pretty much everyone else has some weird personality quirk – even Gault for all his slime HAS a personality.  Torian is just…  well…  I’d say he’s a Mandalorian but he doesn’t even fit with any of the other Mandos you meet in this or any other class’ stories.  Even odder is that he’s the romanceable companion for female bounty hunters, and apparently he has quite the following.  I don’t know, I’m not a woman.  I’m barely even a human.  I’m a fricking hat.  What do I know about this guy’s appeal?  But I find him to be absolutely boring.  He’s like Corso if you take away all the annoying country boy junk.  A nice, boring, male human.  Welcome to the ship!

Quesh

Your next mission is actually a short diversion to the planet Quesh.  Seems that an adrenal company would like the Grand Champion of the Great Hunt to be the spokes-model for their newest line of combat adrenals.  This is actually my favorite mission on Quesh, because unlike almost every class mission on that planet, this one requires you to fight ZERO enemies to reach the door.  You just land and ride up on to the factory which is just a stone’s throw past the Imperial starter town.  However, when you actually show up for the meeting things don’t seem to go the way you expect.  No contract or credits are waiting for you. Just a team of Rebuplic SIS and if you let her live at the end of chapter one – a very angry apprentice. (Told you it was worth it to let her go.)  They are here under the orders of some big wig Jedi who is the right hand, top adviser to the Supreme Chancellor to bring you in for crimes against the Republic.  You can try to explain how the concept of a bounty hunter works to them – you know, you were hired to do a job by someone.  You’re the tool, not the user? Yea, none of this is getting through.  So you are stuck with surrendering (which you can’t actually, it’s not even an option in the game.  Just in a narrative sense.) and taking out your pursuers and getting a second chance to kill that padawan.  I did this time.  You get one freebie.  After that, I’m not mister nice bounty hunter.  Luckily, it has been dealt with and we can go back to getting paid now.

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Hoth

There’s another biggie on the Black List that’s been there forever and is just begging to be collected upon.  The Chiss Ascendency placed a bounty on a Trandoshan hunter/big shot pirate with the White Maw that has been terrorizing Chiss starship routes for years.  They want him brought in and alive to pay for crimes against the Ascendency.  Your only lead at the get go is a prisoner at the base – a small little jawa troublemaker named Blizz.  Blizz was an accomplice to the White Maw who used to tinker and make gadgets for the pirates until they kicked him out for some reason (too cute?).  Blizz gives you a lead on the Trandoshan and you actually find him.  Like right away, but he doesn’t want to mess with you because you’re not worth his time.  He just sicks his goons on you and walks off.  Call me Dangerfield because I still can’t get any respect here.  Blizz however has another idea to help you out.  You need to become worthy by taking down some of the biggest lieutenants in the White Maw.

So you start your Jagga-Point collecting spree across Hoth with Blizz’s tinkering helping you along the way.  Blizz builds a shield nullifier to help defeat a cyborg, boosts some heat shields to help dismantle a smelting operation in a volcano, and finally a freaky force sensitive alien that runs the White Maw’s day to day operations.  Once you’ve wiped out all of these goons, you can finally have your duel with the Trandoshan in his base.  The lizard does request that you kill him and give him an honorable death at hands of a superior hunter or you can deny him his wish and freeze him like the bounty contract stipulates.  Unlock a lot of contracts where you get a light/dark choice like this, the Chiss WILL be quite upset that you killed him and didn’t follow the conditions of the contract.  I actually want to say they stiff you on the payment too but I can’t confirm that.

However, you do get a chance to bring little Blizz with you.  In fact, if you have Mako with you she’ll practically beg to save the little guy from jail or whatever worse fate awaits him.  You agree and bargain to get him released into your custody.  If Torian feels like a blank slate, Blizz is all personality.  The wacky genius inventor who wants nothing more than to be “Boss'” (read: Your) best friend.  He talks fast, he’s constantly inventing weird little things, and he just always seems so happy to be around.  All that despite you never seeing his face.  He’s a Jawa, he looks like the rest of the Jawas (okay, he’s got fur around the edges of his coat.) But you would never mistake him for one once he starts talking.  I agree with the Bioware developers on this: I want a Blizz plushie.

Finale

After taking down two of the biggest bounties on the Blacklist in a row, your fellow grand champions would like to throw a party for you at the casino on Nar Shadaa! However, you arrive at the Casino to the sound of gunfire.  It seems the SIS are not done with you yet and have shown up ahead of the time with another Jedi – possibly by tapping your comm lines – and they’ve killed Bloodworthy, the Defenestrator and Jewla Nightbringer!  All three of them are gunned down and gone. Permanently.  Those bastards!

After killing the Jedi and the SIS, that top dog Jedi from Quesh appears via holo again to threaten you and to spout on and on about how you won’t get away with this.  This is all your fault for not surrendering. Blah blah blah. And he concludes by showing you a message being broadcast across the Republic from the Supreme Chancellor:  You are now the most wanted person in the entirety of the galaxy.  It’s no bluff either.  The team back on the ship confirms it all. The Empire is burning all bridges with you and disavowing having ever done business with you claiming that you are a rogue acting on your own.  The entire Republic is gunning for you.  Oh and you can bet that being Most Wanted to about to lure out all sorts of scum that would try to collect your head for money.  Glad I killed Tarro Blood. The only real hope is to go underground and lay low.  That is until you get a message from someone named Darth Tormen demanding you appear before him.  Hey, it MIGHT be good news? Bring the guns just in case.

My Thoughts

Chapter Two of the Bounty Hunter honestly is one of those things I have two minds about.  Namely because it was the first one I played through and now the most recent.  The first time I played it was the first time I actual ‘got’ the bounty hunter.  The idea of the hunt, and of Mandalorian honor and all that didn’t click until this point for me.  But I was also playing a straight laced ‘do the job’ bounty hunter, so the whole thing with the Republic came off as a pointless “Hey, I’m just doing my job” and nothing else.  So the entire story of the SIS coming after you and the Jedi wanting revenge wasn’t really something I even cared much about.   However, after revisiting the story I can see what it is.  This is the turning point.  You are being attacked, your friends are being attacked to remove any chance of supporting you, and you are being left with nothing to turn to.

Chapter Two takes on small bit of Chapter One that you probably didn’t think twice about at the time and turned it back on you.  It continually pushes you to the ropes and leaves you with nothing at the end.  It’s pretty much the perfect set up for a revenge story, which is pretty much what Chapter Three ends up being.  You’ve seen movies like this, we all have, about people set up to take a fall, pushed to the edge, and forced to take things into their own hands to set things right.  It’s that. Only you weren’t set up.  You did kill the guy. Just as a bounty.  The point is that the chapter does a really good job as a middle bit that builds on the first chapter and uses the established story to subvert and set up the conflict of the third part.

The concept of the Black List isn’t exactly ground breaking but it doesn’t need to be. It’s a hook, nothing more.  But it does a good job of not negating your efforts in the first chapter.  Take the Jedi Knight, or Trooper and there’s is very little connecting the first chapter to the rest of the story.  The first chapters seems to sit on little islands with their own self contained ideas.  But here?  You are doing Black List jobs BECAUSE you won the Great Hunt. You are chatting with and hanging out with former grand champions (that were conveniently set up all the way back in Mako’s first few lines of dialogue in the prologue as being BIG DEALS).  This chapter feels like it is the result of chapter one.  Which is a nice feeling.  We’ll get more of that when I eventually get around talking about the Imperial Agent.

The big thing I would have to say in this chapter is how much are you willing to bend your character?  Are you going to be the same person you were before?  My first character was a neutral but leaning toward light side bounty hunter who always did his job and never back-stabbed anyone.  The idea of taking revenge on the Republic was silly because it didn’t mesh with my character. I didn’t let the events of the story change my concept.  The second time, I ran with it.  If the Republic was gonna declare war on me, I’d declare war on the Republic.  Because of that, I will say that Chapter Two and Three became WAY more enjoyable to play through.  Just something to keep in mind from someone who has done it both ways.  This also applies to just role playing in general I think: Let the story change you just as much as you change the story.

<— Chapter One || BOUNTY HUNTER || Chapter Three —>

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Sith Warrior – Chapter Two

<– Chapter One || Chapter Three –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic class storyline for the Sith Warrior.  If you would like a spoiler-free summary of the second chapter, please look here.  You have been warned.

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So last time we completely dismantled a compromised spy network, rooted out a hidden padawan and then converted said padawan to our side using manipulation, lies, trickery and cookies.  So how do we follow that up?  Do we ascend to being a powerful Lord with a spy network and servants of our own? No!  We get to work for our boss’ boss.  That’s right, there’s someone even above Darth Barry and his name is Darth Vengean.  And while your first instinct may be to pronounce that Darth VEGEN (Also not to be confused with Dark Vegen, the toast loving villain of the Johnny Test TV show), it is actually pronounced like Vengeance but without the -ce. So like Ven-Gen.  Not much better.

Anyway, Vengean and Baras have a new job for you: Plan Zero.  Which despite it’s cool name, is actually just “Kill this list of big wigs in the Republic brass”.  Well, okay. I can do that. I’m very good at killing things.  Just like Jaesa’s family and master.  Right Jaesa?  Jaesa? OH GOD PUT DOWN THE MEDICAL TABLE!

Taris

Taris is where suprisingly four of the generals you need to kill are.  That’s convenient. So the entire planet quickly devolves to “find a general, kill a general, repeat.”  I’m not going to go into every little detail of tracking down these guys because honestly for the most part it isn’t worth it.  However it is worth noting that we do meet our next companion: Lt. Pierce.  Pierce is a soldier.  That is his defining characteristic.  He is not a boot kissing promotion craving soldier like Quinn, but more of a rough and tumble, down and dirty, smoking in the mess with the boys while playing poker kind of soldier.  But he also knows his stuff. And is bad ass to boot.  He actually holds off several hundred republic soldiers by himself. Now it’s important to note, he does this off camera.  When he’s actually in your party, he can maybe take like…  three?  That said he is a tank, so killing isn’t his strong suit. (Neither was tanking really so he stays on the ship)

No, the thing I really wanted to talk about here was the final mission on the planet.  You, Pierce, a small army, and all your other companions team up for a giant assault on the Republic base.  Yea, that only interesting thing from all of Trooper Chapter 2?  It’s just a regular planet mission here.  Oh, and they do it right in this storyline too.  See, the mission requires you to divide up your forces into three teams.  One is the assault team, one deals with the traps, and one deals with stopping reinforcements and Quinn stays at the base coordinating (There goes my healer…)  Now the big difference here is that it actually matters who gets sent where.  If you send the wrong person on a job, they will fail and it will make things harder for the assault team.  Extra mobs if the reinforcements arrive, turrets if the traps team fails, and dealing with mercenaries if you can’t apply the right pressure to make them run.  Quinn makes it fairly clear who should be assigned to each team, but you can put Vette, Jaesa or Pierce on any of them. I was just happy that there were consequences to incorrect team assignment.  See, Trooper storyline, THAT’S how you do a mission.

Narratively, the generals all seem to be working on a super power battery to fuel weapons, ships, droids…  anything really.  That increases the power of whatever they’re installed into tenfold.  Which doesn’t sound scientifically possible.  Wouldn’t that just break most things?  Don’t most devices have some sort of ceiling to how much power they can use, hence the term “overload”?  So they invested billions of credits in a battery that will overload their stuff?  I mean, if they were built to use that 10x power, sure that’d make sense.  But then it wouldn’t be 10x the power, it would just be the expected amount of power because it was built specifically to use those batteries.  Republic military! What the heck is wrong with you?  Anyway, it’s implied Vengean and/or Baras wants the tech, but I was just told to kill them, so I did.  Just left the stuff there.  They can send someone else to collect it if they really want it.

Quesh

Quesh actually begins not on the planet at all but on a ship floating in orbit around it. The ship is apparently being attacked by the forces of one Admiral Monk, another target of Plan Zero.  You have to fight your way through the ship and stop the attacking Republic forces but unfortunately, once you reach the bridge Monk is nowhere to be found.

According to the captain, Admiral Monk shot off in an escape pod to the surface of Quesh.  You get ready to depart, but the Captain appears to be quite upset.  He doesn’t want to be part of these ‘games’ of Darth Baras and attacks you.  Honestly, I pleaded the fifth.  I was just sent to kill these guys.  Not to play schemes & scenarios.  That’s my Inquisitor’s job.  So I had to kill the captain. It was self defense. And fun.  Lots of fun.

Down on Quesh, you finally find Admiral Monk who claims to be one of Baras’ deep cover agents, and that there’s some sort of scheme against Darth Vengean?  And that Monk knows the truth and he won’t be silence because he’s loyal and his cover is intact!  But I don’t know anything about all that, and honestly I am getting tired of being dragged above my pay grade.  I was told to murder kill destroy, and murder kill destroy I shall. Farewell Admiral Ninja!

Hoth

The final stage of Plan Zero sends you to the frigid world of Hoth, and the target is a Jedi master named Xerender.  A notoriously pain in the butt Jedi to find it seems as he constantly is able to give you and Baras’ flunkies the slip. (I am not Baras’ flunkie, I’m his apprentice.)  Not to mention that this troublesome Jedi has employed the help of an entire clan of Talz!  Okay, not an entire clan.  Apparently, the Talz are also being hunted by a former clan member that was ousted out and wants revenge: Broonmark.  You and Broonmark sort of compete for the kill as it where as you keep running into him, fighting him, and ultimately working with him to get what you both want.

The trick to finding the Jedi is really to find what he’s after.  Some sort of secret super weapon hidden among the icy caverns and wrecked ships.  Of course, the mystery is actually fairly quickly banished as you figure out that the Jedi is after not a “weapon” in a traditional sense, but his former master named Wyellett who crashed on Hoth years ago, and has been living off the Force ever since (cause you apparently can do that) and thus has granted him profound insight into the nature of the Force.  To make things interesting and way more personal, it seems that our stranded Super-Jedi was also a former rival of Darth Baras and even captured Baras’ lightsaber years ago.  Which honestly seems like a bit overkill in the ‘it’s all tied together’ area, but it also allows Baras to find the Wyellett because he can kind of sense his lightsaber? And read its mind?  Crystal?  I have no clue.  It’s space magic. I give up trying to make sense of this stuff since man first asked why the lightsaber stops at yay high.

So you find Wyellett and Xerender, and pretty much just kill them.  Yea.  That’s about it. Okay, well you also help Broonmark get his revenge and he agrees to come with you.  I like him.  He’s all super bloodthirsty and grumpy, but also fuzzy.  Kind of like a really tall Treek that can’t heal.  You are also given the chance to spare the Wyellett or even just hear out his gift of wisdom about the true nature of the Force.  Which I really didn’t take him up on either offer.  He’s a Jedi, I’m a Sith.  It just makes more sense to not listen and just kill the old man.

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Finale

It seems that all those people I killed talking about schemes and tricks may have been right, because no sooner do you get back to Darth Baras on Dromund Kaas then he explains that this whole thing was a trick to get his master, Darth Veggies, out of favor with the Dark Council so that he can (read: YOU can) kill him and Darth Baras can take his position on the Dark Council.

You end up teaming up with Darth Vegemite’s apprentice who has betrayed his master to join up with Darth Baras.  Clearly he wants to bat for the winning team.  Which is a sports metaphor or so I’m told. He helps you break in to the fortress of Darth VeggieTales by doing absolutely nothing as you kill your way through the Darth’s servants.  Supposedly he’s handling the security, but honestly I couldn’t tell you if he did or not.  I know he shows up at the end to help take his share of the credit.

The battle with Darth Vegeta is pretty epic as well, combined with the dawning revelation of Baras’ plot against him and the warnings that Baras will betray you as well it serves as a good capstone on the Chapter 2 plot.  The whole bit ends with a return to Baras who welcomes you and his former boss’ apprentice as his new lieutenants in his new order of his new Sith-y-ness.  Wonder how long that will last.

My Impressions

In terms of middle chapters, the Sith Warrior does a pretty good job.  It builds on the scheming nature of Darth Baras but no by blatantly letting you in on his plans.  Instead you find confused military officers and Sith that you kill for just doing what they were told.  You get to be in that position of ‘our mutual boss told us both to come here and kill each other…  hmmm….’ kind of plot that is so fun to watch unfold, but this time from the inside.

Maybe its just me but the idea of getting to watch a grand chess master scheme unfurling from the perspective of one of the pawns (ie YOU) is actually really cool.  It does a great job of establishing Baras as this powerfully manipulative magnificent bastard that really does have everyone around his finger.  Which you got a bit of that in the first chapter, but not nearly to this degree.

The villain of the chapter is however less than interesting.  Which I suppose is fine since his only real purpose is being someone to off so Baras can make a power play for a seat on the Council.  If there was anything else to be done with it I suppose he could have tried to make a deal with you behind Baras’ back to try and take out your master.  Something like “I know what Baras is up to. It won’t work.  Come join me.”  but then Baras knows that Veggie knows and plans around it with you retrieving some kind of powerful tool to get the upper hand. But that might have been a bit much for the short middle chapter.

As for your new companions…  meh.  Pierce makes an excellent foil for Quinn as the pragmatic soldier versus the cunning officer.  Quinn does things by the book, but Pierce realizes that the book isn’t prepared for everything and sometimes you have to go with your gut.  It’s a nice change of pace that shows the difference in the mentality of the troops that serve the Sith.  Broonmark on the other hand is a giant hairball that hangs out in the cargo bay of the ship.  Really all you get to know about him in his initial encounters on Hoth is that he is A) Ruthless and B) Out for vengeance.  Which naturally makes him useful but he does not make much of an impression.

<– Chapter One || Chapter Three –>

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 ->

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