!Patch 7.3 Spoilers Ahead!
Illidan “The Betrayer” Stormrage. Imprisoned for 10,000 years for creating a second Well of Eternity at Mount Hyjal in an attempt to preserve the Night Elves’ magic and immortality after the War of the Ancients. Consumed the Skull of Gul’dan to empower himself into a half demon monstrosity so he would have the strength to take on the Burning Legion’s second invasion. Forged an army of Demon Hunters and enslaved Demons to prepare for a third conflict with the Legion. Used the Sargerite Keystone to open a gateway between Azeroth and Argus to force the champions of the world to deal with the demon threat once and for all.
Illidan is a character for whom the ends have always justified the means. Even his own life has been regarded as but a tool to achieve his ultimate goal of eradicating the Burning Legion. For some, this can be a noble endeavor that one should risk it all to stop a unending evil in the universe. However, this same traits can be that of a monster that destroys everything in his path to achieve that end. It’s probably one of the best recipes possible for a divisive character that people will either love or hate.
Which brings us to the latest World of Warcraft patch, in which Xe’ra – the Naaru we have been working with through our Order Halls and has been showing us the past events of Illidan’s life to show us how The Betrayer was truly meant to be the Chosen One to end the age of demons – is destroyed in a confrontation with Illidan who has no desire to be bound to a greater power once again or playing the part of a chosen one. The action shadows the conversation Illidan has earlier with the Prophet Velen where Illidan says that the Draenei have been using their faith in the Light to justify doing nothing in the face of the horrors that befell their people:
Not stopping the Eredar from dealing with Sargeras? Gotta trust in that Light.
Lead the Burning Legion in a chase across the Great Dark causing the eradication of world after world? Gotta trust that Light.
That’s the thing about Illidan that makes him such a complex character. Not that his motivations or personality are very diverse or even terribly interesting but that despite the horrible methodology that harms countless numbers of people for the greater good – he’s usually right. Without Mount Hyjal, Elven society would have likely fell apart. The Legion would continue to come to Azeroth until its world-soul was dead or corrupted. The Naaru are not the benevolent creatures people treat them as.
Some people have noted that there’s a quick mention that Xe’ra sealed Alleria Windrunner in a void pit for 60 some odd years for disobeying her. Which is weird considering how kindly and nice the Naaru are, right? Except we’ve known the Naaru weren’t to be trusted since the Burning Crusade. Kirrik the Awakened, an Arrakoa who converted to Light worship under the Naaru A’dal from traditional Terokk/Shadow worship, says: “Those who have not given themselves over to the Light are mere servants of evil. They must be destroyed.” These are the teachings of the Naaru. Join us or die.
So was Illidan right to destroy Xe’ra? There’s definitely a worthwhile debate to be had there. Was Xe’ra wrong to try and perform a forced purification on Illidan? Oh yea. Of course, that would have been where the Naaru would draw the line as well I expect. Based on what Kirrik the Awakened says, and the fact that he tasks you with such things as destroying Arrakoa eggs so they would not be born of Terokk instead of the Light, I would say that if Illidan resisted that Xe’ra would have simply destroyed him.
Stuff like this is why I never could get on board with the I-Hate-Illidan train or the Notice-Me-Illibeans-Senpai bandwagon. He’s in neither camp. Heck, I’d struggle to call him a Hero or even an Anti-Hero. He acts more like a force of nature than anything. He just acts in a purely utilitarian manner without worry about the consequences because the potential good outweighs any cost. It’s like saying Voting is a hero or an anti-hero. No, it’s just a thing we do as a society to improve things and it’s not perfect but damn it’s better than being gnawed on by a literal infinite number of demons. I may have mixed up a few wires in that last sentence.
In another side note, the thought occurs to me that I have no idea why the Naaru are against the Legion. The cosmology that Blizzard has set forth thus far is that the opposing element to Fel is actually Arcane, with them representing the spheres of Chaos and Order respectively. The Naaru are born from the Light whose opposite is the Void with the Void Lords and Old Gods being the opposite of the Naaru. But the Burning Legion – in its original incarnation – was started because Sargeras decided it was a safer bet to destroy worlds infested with the Void than chance them infecting a world-soul and creating a Void Titan.
So if the Burning Legion hates the Void, and the Naaru hate the Void… Why do the Naaru hate the Burning Legion? Other than apparently the Light is the natural enemy of all ‘negative’ elements since it also apparently can one-shot creatures of the Death domain when its opposite is Life (overseen by the Wild Gods like the Ancients or Loa.) The Light is overpowered. No wonder they nerfed paladins to the ground, baby.
A final note on Illidan that I stumbled upon while researching some of this but couldn’t work it in anywhere else. Apparently, during the Illidan novel, the events of Legion are foreshadowed when an elder naaru visits Illidan while he controls the Black Temple in Outland and shows him a vision of one possible future where Illidan leads the Army of Light against the Legion. Illidan views his image as being cool, level headed and hopeful – and at that moment, because the vision showed him happy-ish, Illidan decided that he could not trust the Naaru. And I think that’s hilarious. Illidan is probably the most self-aware character in the game right now. “In the future I’m happy? I’m NEVER happy! You and your kind are liars!” “Chosen One? Are you kidding me? Have you seen my approach to problem solving?”
So what do you all think about Illidan’s recent developments? Good? Bad? ‘I Hate Blizzard and Deliberately Seek Out Posts About Them on the Interweb to Voice My Displeasure’?
(P.S. Kudos to the animation team at Blizzard. From the blood on Illidan’s arm to the facial change when Xe’ra mentions how “Little” he got for his sacrifice – great subtle touches that sold that scene that for me)
If you’ve ever rolled a Goblin in the World of Warcraft and played through their starting area where Deathwing descends to erupt Mount Kezan after getting hit with a football (Or at least that is my interpretation of events) you’ll get a cutscene after boarding the ship to get the heck off the island where the goblin ship stumbles upon a fierce naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance. Strangely enough its the Alliance who turns cannons on you first and blows the goblin shipped pack with you in the prison hold below due to being tricked into being sold as a slave. Now of course this is a good reason for the goblins to want to join the Horde right? That the Alliance are a bunch of jerks and the Gobbies were just sooooo innocent. Of course the goblins had no way of knowing that it was the Alliance that shot them from below deck and even more interesting to me is the comment that the Alliance commander makes before they fire on you – No witnesses. They want no witnesses to what they’re doing.
It’s no strange concept to anyone on Azeroth that the Horde and the Alliance have been at each others throats since the Wrathgate broke whatever hope there was for the vulnerable peace that was forged in the wake of the Third War and the Legion’s attack on the World Tree Nordrassil. So what were the Alliance doing that was so suspicious that they didn’t want any witnesses to their actions? Well, we do get a few clues as we continue our quest to find a new home on the Lost Isles. One is that the ship that attacked us was carrying a very important prisoner: Goel the World Shaman, Former Warchief Thrall or Green Jesus depending on how you want to view him. Thrall was on his way to the Maelstrom to help the rest of the Earthen Circle protect the churning hole in the center of the ocean from imploding the planet after Deathwing, that Old God driven mad dragon aspect of being a nuisance, destroyed the World Pillar in the Plane of Earth that held things together. And wow wee does this sound like Chris Metzen’s D&D campaign notes when I write it all out like that. I should steal some of this for my own campaign.
Back on topic, we also learn that the ship is being crewed and overseen by the SI:7, the Alliance’s black ops secret forces. Which would make sense if you wanted someone to go on a secret mission to capture the former warchief of the Horde and the current holder of the title ‘World Shaman’ that was made up just for him. The real question comes in the form of WHY the SI:7 and in turn the Alliance would want to capture Thrall. The Alliance leadership KNOWS he has stepped down from his position with the Horde and left Garrosh Hellscream to lead to rabble. They KNOW that Thrall is on a diplomatic mission to aid the Earthen Circle to help stop the world – that place that they too live – from shaking itself apart. So why try and stop him?
I think the answer strangely enough comes 80 levels or so later on the opposite faction. When doing the quest chain for the Alliance to head into the Twilight Highlands, you find yourself investigate some strange activity around Stormwind with the young Prince Anduin who has begun to take a more active interest in his people’s welfare. Throughout the questline you make something of a disturbing discovery that the current head of SI:7, the man standing to the right hand side of the King himself, is a member of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult devoted to the Elementals and Old Gods that seeks to bring about the End of the World. You ultimate stop him and prevent an assassination plot on King Wrynn but this plot element may in fact be the missing piece to solving the question of the Goblin starter zone all the way back at the start of the game.
Allow me to speculate. The SI:7, a powerful organization with little oversight that carries out secret missions for the safety of the Alliance and headed by a man who is secretly in a cult that wants to bring about the apocalypse, attacks and kidnaps the former leader of the Orcs who just so happens to be on a mission of peace to help stop the apocalypse. They attack the Horde ships hoping to sink them and chock the whole thing up to inter-faction conflict while they secure their prisoner and inadvertently aid Deathwing in bringing about the Hour of Twilight (ie said apocalypse.) However, a group of goblins accidentally happens on the scene and knowing if the word got out that this was more than just two groups that hated each other attacking each other got out – especially by the hands of goblins who are by nature greedy, not above blackmail, and have had dealings with both factions previously – well, you’d probably want to make sure that your secret activities of abusing your authority to help further the goals of an insane dragon would remain hush hush and thus give a simple order: No witnesses.
I submit for your approval that the leader of the SI:7 ordered those ships to destroy any witnesses because they actively sought out Thrall’s ship and Thrall himself to stop him from ever reaching the Maelstrom. Does my idea seem far fetched? Perhaps, but remember this is the same expansion that required you to play an Undead to level 20 to find out what happened to the rest of the Worgen starting zone story as well. Or the truth behind the Tragedy of Camp Taurajo that required playing both the Alliance and Horde side of the story AND had additional information in the Jaina novel about what happened. The Cataclysm expansion is full of weird intersects in the story. So is it that hard to believe that they planned this? I would argue that no, it’s not. In fact all the pieces fit together a bit too well for this to just be a coincidence in story telling.
Because I will say this: I don’t have a ton of love for the content of the Catalcysm expansion, but damn did it have some great story moments in there.
<– Chapter Two || IMPERIAL AGENT ||
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Imperial Agent storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
Chapter Three starts right away after the events of Chapter Two with you returning to Imperial Intelligence to be debriefed from your deep cover mission in the SIS. However, instead of being debriefed by Keeper, you meet with her predecessor the current Minister of Intelligence. He states that he is completely aware that you stole files from the archives and that you broke your mental programming. He also assures you that no, he has no plans to tell anyone what you’ve done. In fact he confesses that he only went through with using the Castellan Restraint because the only other option was killing you to insure you didn’t attack another member of the Dark Council. However, if you serve as the Hand of Jadus this conversation is a bit different. The Castellan Restraint was invoked by the Dark Council to have ‘insurance’ on the Jadus’ actions and you tell the Minister that what he has done is essentially treason and that his days are numbered. The Minister is not phased by your threats. He’s far more concerned with Hunter and whoever his true employers are.
It seems they found Ardun Kothe’s shuttle abandoned in deep space with all traces of the Shadow Arsenal erased and no record of a SIS agent code named ‘Hunter’ ever existing. However, judging by the fact that Hunter was able to easily infiltrate the SIS as well as having access to your code phrase it is clear that his employer has access to both Imperial and Republic resources – a concern unto itself. Working the Hunter lead, the Watchers were able to find someone matching Hunter’s description heading to the Isen IV Mining Colony. This actually raised flags because the very next day, Isen IV contacted the Empire directly to discuss terms of surrender. The Minister isn’t sure if the two are directly linked but it is worth investigating.
You arrive on Isen IV to find the place as a complete wreck. Reprogrammed droids have begun killing any and all citizens and everyone is under the assumption that the Empire did it. You trace the disruption back to a computer being remotely controlled by some strange unknown technological device and sure enough the person controlling it remotely and calling you right now is Hunter. He warns that you need to stop interfering with him or he will make your whole operation VERY public. He also drops hints that if you want to start a war, you need to grease the wheels which is why he arranged it to look like the Empire slaughtered an entire Republic colony of non-military civilians right after they surrendered. Watcher Three agrees that if anyone finds out about this that it will cause a major incident and that the situation must be silenced. You have the choice here to either refuse and save the people unconditionally or save them and use it as blackmail to keep them silent. You also have the option of just killing everyone outright or sabotaging the oxygen generators and leaving them all to die.
When you return to Dromund Kaas, the Republic announces that the Empire has broken the Treaty of Coruscant and the war has begun anew. The Minister of Intelligence however is more concerned with the strange technology you found. He notes that there have been ‘incidents’ in the past where something similar was found just before a pirate ship was miraculously destroyed right before it annihilated an Imperial outpost. He dug deeper and found over sixty cases of similar ‘lucky’ incidents dating back centuries to a time before the Sith Empire revealed itself to the greater galaxy. They even found a recording from one such ‘lucky’ incident where Hunter is speaking to an unknown person. While the former Keeper acknowledges that the start of a war is not time to chase conspiracies, it can’t be helped: Someone is manipulating this war and that someone may have been manipulating for a lot longer than just these few recent events. The Watchers have drawn up a list of targets to investigate, with Belsavis being your first stop.
That is unless you are the Hand of Jadus, in that case you have one additional stop – Darth Jadus. Your master was notably absent for most of Chapter Two and sadly won’t be around much here either. He’s leaving the field of battle to the other Sith Lords to prepare for the future – namely that he has discovered the Emperor’s true goals and as he puts it “either way will be victorious”. He instills you with all his authority. Anything you do, you do in his name and with his power. But he also cannot protect you while gone either. He warns you not to make needless enemies with this newfound authority but if the conspiracy is worth your time, destroy it in Jadus’ name.
Your goal on Belsavis is to find a structure that the Conspirators had built when they first helped finance the Republic’s conversion of the old Rakata facility into a Republic prison. The structure, known only as “Megasecurity Ward 23” was sealed after its construction and has supposedly never been opened since. You will need to break into it. However, it will be impossible to do alone. Your mission is to infiltrate the prison under the guise of being an inmate and create a gang with the express purpose of breaking into the Ward and finding what the conspirators hid in there. You retrieve mission details, explosives, tools and prisoner dossiers from the Imperial base and then go around planting the explosives to blow the doors to the cells from a central location. You make them a demand: You freed them and now they will help you. You direct them to a safe house to meet in person. Before you head off however you are greeted by a voice identifying itself as “The Scorpio Sanction” who notes that your choice in criminals is subpar and that your slicer is only the third best on Belsavis. The Sanction also notes that it killed the other two slicers which confuses me because that means my slicer WOULD be the best then, right? Maybe this Scorpio thing can’t count.
You meet at the safe house/cave to talk with your group of criminals: a space Texan whose brother tried to break into Ward 23 a few years back and died, the first/third best slicer on Belsavis, a bug man with a knack for technology and a big guy named Ohta. If you want to exert your dominance over this pack you can just kill Ohta the first time he opens his mouth to complain. Then you order them to make a list of what you need to break in. The first goal is the medical facility to pick up what you need. While in there The Scorpio Sanction activates again and decides to fill the room with gas that increases aggression and while you are immune to chemicals that alter the mind, your companion and newfound gang are not. You have to break the vents and defeat your friends to snap them out of it and then they get to shopping. They find almost everything but are missing a couple things. This includes stuff like a carbonite trap, a power battery and an anti-radiation serum. You go grab all that while the rest of the team moves into the next zone of the prison where they find a guard to beat up on.
The next big task is dealing with the Scorpio Sanction. Whatever it is it’s quickly proving to be a pain in the rear and that could prove deadly when you’re down in the ward. The slicer on the team has deduced that the Sanction is based out of Megasecurity Ward 23 and has access to all of the prison’s security systems. The gang’s suggestion is to take control of a bunch of warden droids so you can trigger alarms all over the prison to distract the program. You upload the virus to the droids and then head into the maintenance plant to shut down the auto-repair functions that would remove your virus. The Scorpio Sanction chimes in again and says it released nano-machines that will drill through your companions body and I will just tell you right now – This. Does. Not. Happen. At all. It’s a complete lie or it was something that BioWare changed after the dialogue was already scripting and in the game. Once that’s done you head back to the rendezvous to grab your gear only to have your team try and turn on you wanting some kind of assurance they’ll get rich from this. You can pay them some upfront cash, assure them with promising words or just threaten them into obedience. I mean, these are criminals after all.
Finally with the plan all set in place, it’s time for the big heist. I mean mission. I mean heist. You find the entrance to Megasecurity Ward 23 way back in the deep prison in the center of a volcano lava lake. Makes you wonder if our secret conspirators were Sith cause they sure took a page from ‘Evil Lairs Quarterly’ on this one. If you think I’m joking, the elevator down is a death trap that will shut down and leave you locked inside if it detects any life signs. So pretty much just droids and corpses can go down into the Ward. Luckily, you grabbed a carbonite trap earlier that your ‘friends’ in the loosest sense have rigged up to automatically unfreeze you on a timer so you can get past the check. Beyond that is a bunch of killer droids guarding a massive door of completely unknown metallic composition (My guess is week old Olive Garden breadsticks) that requires you to erode to metal using that radioactive battery and then blowing up said battery after the radiation turns the wall into hours old Olive Garden breadsticks. Oh, and take that anti-radiation scrubber serum before you die. That’d be a good idea too.
The final security lock (Yea, apparently there’s only three if you don’t count the easy to kill droids) is a series of force fields operated by the Scorpio Sanction. The slicer is ready to trigger every alarm on the planet, but the other prisoners – namely the Space Texan – wants to use this opportunity to “re-negotiate” the deal. Yea, of course. The guy who wanted money upfront is now trying to screw me for more money. Not shocked. Essentially he (and Ohta if you didn’t kill him before) want to be paid out NOW and enough to make sure they can leave Belsavis. You have two choices here: You can pay them out yourself and they take their leave, or say you won’t bow to blackmail which coincidentally the bug man who has done nothing much in the plot so far decides he agrees that blackmail is wrong and kills the troublemakers for you, and the slicer will then chew you out for risking her life with a gun against the temple. Meh. So long as the security goes down. Which it does when the slicer throws the switch and the Scorpio Sanction screams in pain causing the force fields to momentarily glitch out.
Now you can finally see what the big secret kept in the depths of Belsavis is – people in jars! Actually they’re in kolto tanks but able to communicate through holocall terminals on each tube. They speak to you and reveal that they are former members of a galaxy wide conspiracy dating back over 800 years to the end of the Great Hyperspace War. In the wake of the Jedi and Sith nearly destroying everything in their conflict, some of the most influential members of technology industries, commerce, politics and even spies and criminals got together and asked how the hell they – the most powerful people in the galaxy – could have let this happen? Their resolve was to begin gently manipulating the Galaxy through their influence to ensure that nothing like the Great Hyperspace War happens again. From then on forth, for generations, this group of the Galaxy’s elite has been its secret masters: THE ILLUMINA- I mean, Star Cabal. They maintain secrecy by letting the Jedi and Sith believe that their orders wield the supreme power locked in with force power and hereditary might instead of technology, money and information. But unfortunately, over the generations the Cabal has become corrupt and greedy with their power. So in the spirit of stopping the malformed descendant of a noble organization, these tubed ‘trophies’ of former members decide to help you by showing you how to reprogram and add restrictions to the heart of the Scorpio Sanctions – a hyper-intelligent self-improving AI droid – that holds the key to the Cabal’s database. That is how you recruit your last companion: Scorpio.
With Scorpio in tow, you head back to the rendezvous to find the Slicer and Bug Man where you can either keep your bargain and pay them out for their loyal services and get them off world, tell them that their freedom IS their payment or keep the whole thing under wraps by just killing them right there. You would think that’d be it, right? Just head back to the ship and see what this database that Scorpio has contains? Oh no. We have one more visitor: Pashon Cortess, heir of House Cortess! I know what you’re thinking: Who? Well, House Cortess and its leader Baron Peyar Cortess helped/hindered things for you back on Alderaan. This is the Baron’s kid apparently. He wants revenge for his house’s fall from glory (Ha!) and a unknown “friend” of his told him that you were to blame and where you were going to be. Oh really? Was this friend maybe named Rogue? Or Mage? Or perhaps… HUNTER? Well you give the spoiled brat a worthy spanking and can choose to deal with him by having him imprisoned for assaulting you, send him back to House Thul to have them deal with the wayward vassal house, or just outright kill him. There. Now we can leave.
The Watchers have been working their own angle on this whole thing with Keeper. They apparently dug up a more recent holocall between Hunter and an unknown party but all they can find is the record that the call happened but not what it was about. Keeper wants you to find an actual recording of said holocall by infiltrating the Rings of Tytun – a cyberized planet-size data nexus with rings of scrapped ships that serve as extra storage that archives every single bit and byte of HoloNet data that has ever been transmitted since the nexus went online. Holy. Flipping. Yoda. Are you serious? That thing EXISTS? And we are just now learning about it? Screw the Cabal-inati, THIS is the real interesting thing that shows up in this chapter. I have SO many questions. Who controls it? Who maintains it? Can anyone access it? Can ANYBODY access it normally? Why won’t the game give me any more answers?!
Sigh, so we go there and piece together the conversation using a bunch of terminals and fighting droids. The conversation is actually a bit interesting because it drops some revelations like Nok Drayan being part of the Star Cabal and calling in for what would be his ‘last meeting’ thus indicating the call had to happen right at the end of the Smuggler’s Chapter One story, and another part of the call mentions The Old Man from the Tatooine terrorist cell who apparently had some Star Cabal links before we dealt with him. You take the rest of the pieces back to Dromund Kaas where the Watchers assemble the whole thing to watch. Apparently it’s a conference call featuring Hunter, an unknown person simply called The Prince, Yem Leksende the CEO of the Czerka Corporation, another strange figure just called The Creeper, and Kolovish the Twilek matriarch from Tython that was part of the Jedi Knight story. The call references a lot of other events that occur in the other storylines such as the power plays of Darth Baras (Sith Warrior) or Darth Angral (Jedi Knight) and the awakening of the Children of the Emperor (Jedi Consular) but they also note that for each problem that arises on the Imperial Side, a Republic countermeasure has been prepared (the Jedi Knight and Consular respectively.)
However, while watching the Holocall there are frequent glitches of what appears to be a bald man that kind of reminds me of Watcher X but without the cybernetic implants or the filth. One by one everyone else in the call blinks out, then the actual people in the room blink out, until in the end its just the bald man and Keeper. The Bald Man then tries to choke Keeper. Snap back to reality where everyone is just watching the holocall and Keeper suddenly screams followed by her and every one of the Watchers collapsing. Well… that sucks. Seems that the recording was laced with an overlay to fry the minds of anyone with an augmented brain like the Watcher, coincidentally the only people who code decode the damn thing. So now Imperial Intelligence is without their Keeper or their Watchers. It’s going to be a rough go. Not to mention Hunter calls in as soon as you get back to the ship to rub it all in your face and flirt a bit. You can actually respond that he obviously honestly cares about you to which he admits that he enjoys saying sweet nothings to you and promises that once the Empire is destroyed, Intelligence broken and if you are still alive – your freedom shall be his gift to you. Yeah. He says that. I’ll be right back. I need a hot shower and some steel wool to feel clean again.
With the intelligence part of Imperial Intelligence pretty much rendered comatose for the foreseeable future, the only remaining Watcher that wasn’t present at the ‘brain hacking’ – Watcher Three – passes along Keeper’s files on your next lead. She apparently arranged a meeting for you on the planet Voss with a tea shop owner named Bas-Ton. When pressed as to why, Watcher Three has no idea and mentions clearly Keeper saw something in this data that eludes him but Keeper never operated on a hunch. Okay, Call me curious. You arrive on Voss to find that Bas-Ton is actually an Imperial in deep cover who underwent intensive cosmetic surgery to appear as a Voss. He replaced the real Bas-Ton and has been living out his days with Bas-Ton’s wife and children while extracting information on the Voss for the Empire. Keeper had him dig up some intel on a human who showed up five years ago and went from completely untrusted outsider to lavishly honored voss-friend in mere weeks. Something that the Empire and Republic have found impossible to even inch towards. This man, named Albathius to the rest of the Galaxy and “The Shining Man” to the Voss, knew everything about Voss society and culture, not just what to do but also how to do it and how to use it all to move up the ranks. He died and was buried with honors not long after unfortunately. Bas-Ton recommends starting with the tomb and that he’ll arrange a dead drop with a disguise for you.
You investigate the tomb of the “shining man” only to find that the sarcophagus is empty other than some dust and a scroll. There’s no real way for a body to decay into dust in such a short of time, so you grab the scroll and take some sample and hoof it back to Bas-Ton. Bas-Ton invites you to sit down for dinner with his “family” and you get to know some of them, namely the son and daughter who have taken an interest in an outsider like yourself. After dinner, Bas-Ton says he sent the samples of the dust to be analyzed but he can translate the scroll which talks about The Shining Man as “A Man of Prophecy who was made whole in the Wellspring of Healer”. The Wellspring is located in the Shrine of Healing where mystics heal the spiritually wounded but Bas-Ton warns you to heed the mystics’ instructions. Once you arrive the mystics offer you a chance to go through a ritual to revisit your past to help cleanse yourself. You can skip the whole thing with a dark side choice to just knock out or kill the mystic and move on. Either way you’ll end up in the ‘Vitalicron’ (No, I have no idea what it is or what it does. I just assume its like a Force Fitness App) chamber where you can snatch The Shining Man’s vitalicron and using the genetic code from the ashes (which according to the lab analysis I guess actually was The Shining Man) you unlock the glowing box and see a scene that talks about The Shining Man emerging from the forbidden Nightmare Lands with a scroll of prophecy from the “Chamber of Ash” that was one thought lost. By a complete coincidence, if one were to say forge a scroll of prophecy you would need materials from said Nightmare Lands. Hmm. Food for thought.
When you get back to the Tea House – and yes, in case you haven’t noticed EVERY portion of this mission ends with you going back to the Tea House in Voss-Ka, and YES. IT IS ANNOYING. – There you find that Bas-Ton has been taken hostage by a bounty hunter who is waiting for you in the Gormak’s territory. You do some more hoop jumping with finding corpse that have more messages and shorting out security stations, but ultimately you get to meet this bounty hunter and something is up. First of all, the cave you’re meeting in isn’t stocked with Mandolorians like you’d expect, but Hutt Cartel Security. Oh. That’s not good. That’s not good at- Oh Hi Faathra. Yup. Another face from the past, or technically face of someone associated with something you did in the past as you never met the young Cortess heir nor Faathra in person. But someone is sure making sure that these people know what you did to them. You take on Faathra and his goons but Bas-Ton is fatally wounded in the process. You can spare or kill the Hutt, but Bas-Ton is pretty much done for and has to be left to die in a cave because while he looks Voss, he sure as heck don’t bleed like one. He tells you to ask his Voss family to help you get into the capital and find a map to the Chamber of Ashes in the sacred carvings stored there before he passes.
So believe or not this is where it gets tricky. See, only a Voss may view the sacred carvings. The only way to get you in would be for Bas-Ton’s family to make you a Voss and the only way to do THAT is to marry one of Bas-Ton’s kids. So yea. You get hitched right there and then. Congratulations? Okay, you don’t HAVE to marry one of the kids. You can always threaten, injure and force them to fetch the carving for you. I mean, torture is momentary but marriage is forever right? So which is REALLY the Dark Side choice? Okay, yea. It’s the torture. Anyway, the carving will detail how to reach the Chamber of Ashes and when you find it, you’ll find something you probably weren’t expecting – a starship. Uh huh. Around the ship you find a gormak named Xanar who is waiting for the Shining Man to return because he watched the Shining Man and he too wants to “shed his skin and become Voss”. Well, that’s wonderful. And impossible. But mostly wonderful. But bad news, Xanar. Shining Man is dead. Oh, and Xanar doesn’t like that one bit. He attacks you and then activates the ship’s self destruct when he loses. The only positive things out of this is ripping a copy of the Shining Man’s data archive out of Xanar’s hands and a recording of The Shining Man begins to play that reveals exactly what the deal was with coming to Voss anyway. Apparently, The Shining Man was an agent of the Star Cabal who was scouting a location for the Cabal to send initiates to learn how to resist the Force. The Nightmare Lands was apparently one such possibility but it proved to be too much. The Shining Man also asks to “Send Hunter his love” once again hinting that same sex couples were in the game before the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion.
Pretty much as soon as you leave the exploding Chamber of Ashes, you get a call. The Three – the leaders of all of Voss – would like to speak to you. So first thing is first – I prepare my defense: “Hey, I never even MET these %*&holes before, okay?” Excellent. Now let’s go politics. Inside the grand ol’ chamber of the Three, you are told that you have been brought here to meet just as the Shining Man was because the prophecy that applied to Shining Man also applies to you. They explain that when the Shining Man came, he offered a deal to the Voss: Remain neutral from both the Empire and the Republic for 3,000 days and in exchange the Gormak will be defeated, no outsiders will ever step foot on Voss again, and the Empire and Republic will cease to be. Since the Three viewed it as a very small risk for a potentially great reward they agreed to the Shining Man’s and thus the Star Cabal’s terms. They then dismiss you and you can go on your merry way. Of course you can also turn it back around and say that since the prophecy said they would help the Shining Man, that you should be able to ask something of them as well. This gives you the choice of either asking them to aid Bas-Ton’s family (obvious light side), for the Voss to join the Empire or just to give you guns, lots of guns (That’s the dark side in case you’re curious).
When you get back to your ship, there’s a call from Watcher Three informing you to return to Dromund Kaas and head back to headquarters. These orders come from the only higher source than the Minister of Intelligence – The Sith themselves.
This is a fairly short interlude that mostly sets up the last world’s storyline. A Sith Lord named Lord Razer (giggle) has come to announce that Intelligence has failed to pull its weight in this war and thus will be dissolved. The Operations Division (The Ciphers) will be distributed to more “deserving” Sith Lords who can better utilize their talents. If that heartbreak wasn’t enough, Razer has Kaliyo arrested for being an anarchist and she’s dragged away screaming about how she’ll kill you and everyone else. Finally, Lord Razer personally delivers your reassignment. You will serve under Razer directly on his conquest of the frontlines of Corellia. Interestingly, he mentions that you were given this post at the request of the Minister of Intelligence. He then sends you back to your ship until you meet again on the battlefield. To kick you while your down, there’s a message waiting when you get back on the ship. Hunter has called to let you know that the dissolution of Intelligence was the Star Cabal’s way of getting back at you for poking around on Voss. Okay, this is starting to get ridiculously personal. Even with all that, your remaining crew asserts that they’re with you till the end of all of this, so it’s off to Corellia.
Ah Corellia. The last world on our little circuit where the Empire is making their big push into the Core Worlds. Lord Razer directs to meet with his top brass in the war room, where if you aren’t playing a human be prepared to have some racist… species-ist… hate speech uttered in hushed tones as you walk in. You’ll be assigned for the rank of Lieutenant for being ex-intelligence or Major if you are the Hand of Jadus. Razer calls the meeting where he declares his first mission for you is to pinpoint precision targets for his bombers on the ground so that they can lay siege to the outer defenses of the Republic’s precious and highly fortified Aegis Base. Once the defense have been destroyed, you are to take a portable warhead and detonate it inside the base. You SHOULD have enough time to get out. As you leave, you are contacted by an unknown female voice who refers to you by your old intelligence codename – Cipher Nine – who wants you to transfer troop data from the Republic computers to her to help identify patterns of the ‘Invisible Enemy’. The data is a bit of a shocker: Massive reinforcements coming from General Garza’s special forces (That’s the Havoc Squad assault on the Stronghold from the Trooper storyline) and a contingent of alien races bringing a myriad of troops (I can only assume that’s the Jedi Consular’s army) but the Empire is completely in the dark about all of this. The female voice tells you that you are free to warn Razer about this, and that you should finish up dropping off that warhead.
After blowing up the Aegis Base, you report back where you can warn Lord Razer about the reinforcements where the news is met with general uninterest. After all, who can stand against a Sith? Right? Anyone? Oh bother. Everyone begins to back up and leave the war room to move to another forward location and you get a chance to contact that female voice. Turns out it’s Keeper. She’s used the reports of her being ‘brain dead’ as a cover to work on setting up a final strike at the Star Cabal. We know that the Cabal has been manipulating military intel, but to know how much the numbers are being changed Keeper will need the raw data of the current standing forces and units lost on Corellia from Moff Zamar who is just finishing his report. If that report is entered into the system, the Cabal will change everything and we will never know how much they are altering. So you need to get his skyhopper to land prematurely by setting up false signals of attacks around Labor Valley so they think they have no choice but to land. Keeper gives you a code phrase to give Zamar if you want but warns that it will either make him comply completely or make him incredibly suspicious of you. When you reach the landed ship at the top of a building, you can skip the code phrase entirely and just shoot your way into the ship or actually use the handy code phrase which will cause the guards to escort you in where Zamar states that he “owes him this much.” They never actually say who ‘he’ is but considering all the possibilities of people who can’t be dead at this juncture in the story, I’m gonna go with the Minister of Intelligence. He gives you the report and then you get another choice to either ditch him there as the Republic closes in on his position for some Dark Side points, just flat out kill him for even more Dark Side points, or score a couple of Light Side points by escorting him out of the building and past the Republic assault team. Once you are done with however you choose to handle things, you send the intel back to Keeper who tells you that every advantage that the Empire thinks they have is an outright lie. Between Darth Baras, Darth Vowrown and Darth Thanaton all blowing troops on personal power plays (That would be the events of the Sith Warrior and the Sith Inquisitor storylines on Corellia) combine with the Republic’s reinforcements, the Republic and Empire are poised to completely wipe each other out. Unfortunately, in the wake of such a huge reveal, Lord Razer calls all his troops to the new forward base to push back against the Jedi. Argh! Stupid Razer and his stupid war. I hope someone just kills him.
So you arrive at the forward base to see a Jedi just kill Lord Razer. Huh. However that leaves all his subordinates now officially without a boss and they’ll just wander back to be assigned to a different Sith. You can always make a Light Side choice to tell them to go AWOL and form a guerrilla fighting force instead. Probably a good idea considering the completely boned odds we have just learned about, but how the heck is THAT a Light Side choice? “Yea, disobey your orders, go completely AWOL, kill people with no oversight! +10 Good!” Keeper has a better plan for you than either a guerrilla group or reporting back however. There’s apparently a deluxe airship floating around Corellia decked out with a massive party while observing the war. You get docking codes from some mercs, use them to sneak aboard when they are refueling their snacks (Pizza rolls don’t refill themselves!) and then once on board your goal is to get captured and leak fake intel about Imperial reinforcements coming to cause the Cabal to scramble to change things and giving you a window. There’s just one snag with all of that. Hunter is here. Well, okay he’s on holo. Apparently, this whole shindig is his ‘Apocalypse Party’ to occupy Corellia’s movers and shakers to keep them distracted with their own decadence so they won’t try and “do something” about their world burning down.
He finally lays out the Star Cabal’s big scheme (because it’s that point in the Bond films, kiddies.) Get the Republic and Empire, the Jedi and the Sith to wipe each other out completely, so for the first time in 1,400 years the ‘normal people’ can rule the galaxy for themselves. Naturally, the ‘normal people’ will be ruling from under the guiding hand of the Star Cabal, but is that really that much of a change? And right on queue from your Bond Movie Script for Dummies, the droids gas you with sleeping gas (or activate a neutralizer field if you had the forethought to bring Scorpio along for this) and take you downstairs to torture you for information. Why do they want information if they rule the roost already? Well, I can only assume it’s because there had to be some dumb reason to convince you to just stroll on up to the party like a boss so they better find out what. That’s when you get the chance to drop that fake intel that Keeper gave you which you can immediately follow with a quick break out by beating them up and running or just wait till they’re tired of hurting you and they’ll just drop you in a bush saying something about not being able to kill an Imperial officer without arousing suspicion. “No, I’m just going to leave them there to die, go someplace else, and just assume my evil plan went as planned.” /sigh. Whenever you escape or wake up I guess, you call into Keeper to get updates.
Keeper has one final move to make on the chessboard now that the Star Cabal is distracting with altering their master plan: eliminate the Star Cabal. But first, she needs you off the radar. You get some explosives and rig them around a building that has an escape tunnel hidden beneath it so you can fake your death. Right when you finish, an SIS operative who was a former member of one of the Eagle’s terrorist cells (apparently after the Eagle’s demise, the SIS went on a recruiting spree for former terrorists. Not shocking how you managed to get in during Chapter Two.) This operative is named Nyella Hawkins and if that scratches a memory or two it’s probably because she is the sister of Mia Hawkins, the terrorist cell member who helped you on Tatooine back in Chapter One. You fight her off and the SIS demands your surrender via holocall where you just taunt them, blow the building, and escape in the tunnels below. However, there is an alternate version of the events here that only take place if you spared Ardun Kothe and his team in Chapter Two. Ardun shows up and you can convince him of what Hunter is doing. Ardun will offer to help you take down the Star Cabal. So yea, there’s an option if you really liked those SIS guys who used your brain against you earlier. Once you leave the tunnels, Keeper contacts you with coordinates to the Starship Tenebrous to meet.
You arrive on the Tenebrous to find both Keeper and Kaliyo who was extracted en route to prison and has been doing jobs and getting payback from behind the scenes for the remnants of Intelligence. Keeper is less than well herself, trying to recover from the damage done to her mind by the Star Cabal. However, reunions are cut short by the Minister of Intelligence who needs to speak to you in private. He tells you that they have pinpointed a small space station in the Null Zone (which is apparently a thing that exists because I had to look it up on Wookiepedia but I’m not going to explain it here because it REALLY isn’t important to anything. Simply put it’s just a big area of empty space.) The Minister wants you to get on board, eliminate everyone, and retrieve any records they have that deal with their members, projects or dealings. This way the Empire can hunt down every last one of them. Then of course the Sith will want to keep that knowledge in ‘good hands’. That thought apparently takes the former Keeper down memory lane about how we started off in Intelligence thinking it was a distraction, then a means to enact change as he rose in the ranks, but slowly all of his ideals and dreams where replaced with goals and objectives. He states that for those in your line of work, you can only change so much. He then dismisses you and says that you have a ship waiting and a timetable before the Cabal escapes.
You arrive at the Star Chamber, the home base of the Star Cabal. The entrance is decorated with flags of every society, planet and great house you can encounter in the game. You sneak in and infiltrate through the air vents to reach the inner sanctum. There you can spy on the Cabal proper and identify the members. While they’re talking you can pick up on the mention of the death of Tol Braga from the end of the Jedi Knight Chapter Three story. You can wait and try to identify them all but Hunter will catch you and bring you down to fight, you can also choose to interrupt as a Light Side and talk to them but this pretty much has the same effect of a few fighting you and the rest running away, or you can shoot at them as a Dark Side choice which instantly kills one of the people you normally would fight which makes the combat a bit easier. If you’ve been Light Side and walk in announcing yourself, Hunter will sound overjoyed that you are alive before he makes a break for it, otherwise he’ll just express annoyance at your intervention. Once you deal with the members of the Star Cabal that didn’t run away (which is two provided you didn’t shoot one in the cutscene which in that case it would be… one) Hunter shouts out that you don’t just ‘get’ all the secrets of the galaxy. You then have to chase him through a series of insane puzzles that makes me wonder if The Shroud designed them. Finally, you reach Hunter in the chamber of the Black Codex, a datacron holding the collected knowledge of over a millennia of secrets that the Star Cabal hoarded and within it the power to reshape information and knowledge at will. But to get the Black Codex you must defeat its guardian – Hunter – who is willing to die to protect the Star Cabal and its mission. You have a fierce battle until Hunter collapses, on his death bed he reveals his final secret: He is a she. Trained by the best spies and assassins, including the Old Man on Tatooine, “Hunter” used the hard light holographic disguise technology that the Old Man offered The Eagle to pose as another person. It was easier she says than trying to remember her real name and homeworld that were “erased” by the Cabal when she was just a child. That’s why she liked you so much. You of all people could understand her plight. To have no real name, no true self, and forced to wear mask after mask until there’s was nothing left of you inside at all – just the job. If you played a male agent, she’ll admit that she’s even fallen in love for you. So I guess just take back all that stuff I said earlier about Hunter and same sex romance options. Boo on you Bioware. But hey that was actually great foreshadowing for this reveal, so kudos Bioware. Male agents can also kiss her just before she kills herself having failed her goal. Of course, if you chose the Dark Side option earlier in the conversation you just blew her brains out before she reveals ANY OF THIS, YOU MONSTER.
At this point is where the endgame for the storyline begins and it’s a doozy. A total of five different endings are open to you and while some of those are just variations on each other, they are different. So let me boil down what happens bit by bit. After Hunter’s death, either a pair of Sith will arrive and ask you to turn over the Codex to them. There are two different versions of this depending on whether Jadus is alive or not. However, if you didn’t kill Ardun Kothe and his team in Chapter Two and DID choose to ally with them on Corellia, Ardun will show up instead and ask for the Codex so it can be kept safe from those who would abuse it. At this point you have three choices: Take the Codex, Give the party that shows up the Codex, or Destroy the Codex.
Let’s start with that last one since it’s the easiest. You tell Kothe or the Sith that NO ONE should have the power of the Black Codex and destroy it, you go back to the Tenebrous and get yelled at by Keeper for letting a prime opportunity slip through your fingers. That’s endings #1 and #2 (Sith or SIS).
The middle option is to give the party that shows up the Codex. For the Sith this will either mean it gets turned over to Jadus or to some unknown party, a promise from the Sith that the traitorous Minister of Intelligence will be punished, and you are given a promotion in the new Sith Intelligence founded by Darth Zhorrid (or Darth Jadus if he’s alive). You get a chance to go back and give the Minister a piece of your mind and chew him out by either telling him that you were just looking out for number one and Sith have all the power, or that you want to help create an Intelligence where such blatant racism against Aliens isn’t so damn prevalent, or I think there’s a few other options. Or if you give the Codex to Ardun Kothe, you are invited to help make the Galaxy a better place by becoming a double agent for the SIS inside the Empire. All of your own free will this time – no mind control. Choosing to become a double agent is especially notable because it triggers an extra scene at the end of the Shadow of Revan expansion where you report in the Ardun Kothe after dealing with Revan. So that’s endings #3 and #4.
The final ending is taking the Codex for yourself. You give the Sith or Ardun a fake and take the real one back to the Minister of Intelligence. He tells you that he’s proud of you and that now you have the power to become a true force of power in the Galaxy. From the shadows, you will right wrongs for the Empire with no oversight from the Military or the Sith. True freedom to act by your own discretion or with your own conscious. Your first step is firing up the Black Codex and erasing all trace of yourself from existing. You are now a ghost and it’s time to get to work. That’s ending #5.
Some people say there’s a sixth ending as well, but try as I like I can’t really find one. I think they probably count the Jadus is alive/Jadus is dead versions of the ‘Give the Sith the Codex’ ending as seperate because there is some different dialogue between the two and I think a few different choices for your dialogue. Like being able to cite the ‘equality of fear’ doctrine that Jadus put forth as part of your reasoning for supporting Jadus.
All the endings end the same though. Sending out the intercom call on your ship and calling the entire crew to meet. One by one, they break from their usual tasks on the ship to join you. It’s a messy galaxy out there, people. Time to call in the cleaning crew.
A lot of people say that the Imperial Agent is the best story the game has to offer, and it is not hard to see why they think even if you don’t agree. It’s bold, it’s daring, and it does things that none of the other storylines dare to do. From the sheer mind#%@$ery of the second chapter, to the ruthless moral choices of who lives and who dies where there isn’t a clear cut line. It’s the ultimate gray morality play where there are no right or wrong answers. If you like playing a character more than a role, you’ll have a fun stress-inducing time here. I spend a lot of time on my first playthough standing up and walking around the room before deciding which button to push. I’ve played it three times and I would be happy to play more. But let’s talk about it in a more individualized aspect.
The first chapter was all about realizing exactly what Intelligence’s role in things are. You make deals with enemies, you let thousands die to save millions, and you pick up the messes of the Sith. There’s a real exploration of the fact that you are both the most terrifying thing in the Empire with the ability to silence and make vanish at will but in actuality are forced to cow tow to the Sith in almost every way imaginable as shown by the tiring ordeals imposed by the not entirely stable Darth Zhorrid who comes across more Queen of Hearts than Emperor Palpatine. The twist of Darth Jadus being the mastermind behind his own assassination really did a good job of setting the tone of ‘don’t trust anyone’. A theme that gets firmly cemented the further the story goes on. You get backstabbed by Imperial Intelligence, you learn that everyone and everything is having its strings pulled by the Space Illuminati, and the Sith are only interested in their own petty agendas. In the end, your crew is about the only people who don’t betray you at any point and even that seems to be on borrowed time with the likes of Kaliyo and Scorpio.
Speaking of the Space Illuminati, oh boy was that a base breaker in this chapter. Apparently people either love the Star Cabal being behind everything or they hate it. But honestly, I didn’t get that they WERE behind everything. They just nudged things. They didn’t create the Jedi Knight, but just set things up that they would be a counter to and be on a collision course with the Sith Emperor. The idea was to keep both size at dead even without letting them know that, so when the time came they would blow each other up with none left standing. The big threats seem to be countered through the individual storylines but how much of that was the Star Cabal ‘playing the player’ and how much of that was laying breadcrumbs and letting the natural hatred of the Jedi and Sith or the Republic and Empire opposing each other do the rest. That’s the way it felt to me at least. I did like how much of the other stories got tied in here though. It made the Imperial Agent feel like the center story that all the other stories overlapped just a little bit with. It’s not new. I mean, Risha from the Smuggler story was childhood friends with Vette from the Sith Warrior story, and Doc from the Jedi Knight seems to know Kaliyo somehow. But the Imperial Agent overlaps with most of the storylines instead of one or two.
Not only does it crossover with those storylines but explains some of the mysterious background details of the setting as well. Why are the Voss neutral? The Cabal arranged a deal. How did the Empire end up losing Corellia? In fighting between Sith and faulty numbers about how many loses there actually were. What the heck is ‘Sith Intelligence’ that comes out of nowhere at the end of Shadow of Revan? It was founded by Darth Zhorrid or Darth Jadus in the wake of the Star Cabal dissolving Imperial Intelligence. There’s just a lot to be gained by playing through the Imperial Agent if you enjoy the story of SWTOR. Even more so it contains a very possible hint of whats to come: Darth Jadus is still out there. While he can be stopped, he is never killed only imprisoned. He knows what the Emperor’s true plans and whether you join him or not, we know he flees the known galaxy to amass power and return to enact his plans to take over.
…Are we sure that Valkorian was Vitiate? Hmm. But hey, that just a theory – a SWTOR Theory. Thanks for reading!
<– Chapter Two || IMPERIAL AGENT ||
In this post I will be talking about the ending of Final Fantasy XIII and the plot overall. If you wish to avoid spoilers about how the game ends, I would stopping right now. Back there. No, not here. Over there. That period you reached? After the word “now”? That’s where you should have stopped. Yes, that’s it. Wait, you’re still reading aren’t you? Okay, well, I warned you.
So with Gran Pulse in the rear view mirror it’s time to head back to Cocoon and finish this whole thing. But wait, isn’t that what the villain wants? Why would they do that? All they had to do to save Cocoon was just sit on Gran Pulse and live out their lives there. Or get crushed by a giant turtle. Again. So why go back? Well, the game offers a few reasons for it. One is that if they didn’t go back, they were essentially dooming others to their same focus. That was a big one because it leads to their ultimate resolve to “save” Cocoon by ending the rule of the fal’Cie. By killing them. It really didn’t seem too logical considering that killing the fal’Cie – especially Orphan – is dooming Cocoon to plummet to the Gran Pulse and kill everyone right? Well, the answer is kind of embedded in the themes of the game. The idea that humans are always capable of moving forward, building their own destiny, and never giving up is touched upon repeatedly. Ultimately, the hope seems to be that by removing the shackles of the fal’Cie even at the cost of destroying their home, humanity itself will persevere. At least that’s what I took away from it. They may not save “Cocoon” the giant ball of land, but they’ll save “Cocoon” the people.
Of course that’s not the only reason they had to go back to Cocoon. Barthandelus is pretty much putting all his cards on the table by manipulating the military into attacking Eden to assault Orphan, who’ve they’ve been led into thinking is the fal’Cie that enslaved their leader AND Barty has awoken and unleashed all the Gran Pulse nasties on the Ark that you spent hours hanging out on earlier. So the Gran Pulse baddies are killing the people, the military is going after the fal’Cie that’s gonna drop Cocoon onto Gran Pulse but they don’t KNOW that… Essentially, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Thanks to the protagonists intervention however, the military is mostly diverted to helping out people (the military that isn’t turned into crystal monsters) and it seems that overall that is what helped make sure that a lot of folks survived when Cocoon drops at the end. Oh, did I mention that Cocoon DOES fall?
Yes, after facing off and finally killing Barthandelus (or so they think), Barty seems to merge with Orphan giving “birth” to some three-faced monstrosity. It then proceeds to try and force Fang to become Ragnarok, a monster of incredible power, to destroy Orphan-tandelus and blow up Cocoon. Faced with the choice of becoming Ragnarok or seeing Vanille die, she chooses Ragnarok. Meanwhile, everyone else has turned into Cieth zombies. But in the midst of Fang-narok’s rage, the heroes are visited by visions of all that they struggled through and overcame through their journey, and BAM! No more Cieth Zombies. And honestly, there is never given any sort of explicit reason why this happens. Oh you can infer from the fact that they have whited out “burnt” l’Cie brands that something happened involving their focus. Most interpretations I’ve read is that they overcame their curse by sheer willpower of how much inner strength they had built over their journey. Hence seeing all the hardships they overcame in the flashes. Other theories stand that it was Etro who intervened, but the official answer says that doesn’t happen till a bit later. Ultimately, they overcame their focus and found a new one. A rather ambiguous focus of them all smiling. So a happy ending. Their focus is to have a happy ending now.
Actually, that works for me. We’ve seen twice that humans possess the power to make their focus whatever they want if they have the fortitude and faith to do so. So why not? Anyway, the team is re-assembled and Fang calmed down, its time to kick fal’Cie butt. Barty and Orphan both go down and Cocoon starts to plummet. And our heroes? They hope for a miracle. Yes, that’s right. They kill the thing holding Cocoon up and then hope for the best. Honestly, as much as I defend this story that’s a pretty WAFFy Anime facepalm moment for me. Luckily, Fang and Vanille DO have an idea what to do. THEY turn into Ragnarok.
See the story went that Fang and Vanille were always supposed to turn into the beast together, but Vanille was scared so Fang did it alone, hence why her mark is burned out but Vanille’s isn’t. It’s also why the attack on Cocoon hundreds of years failed, and why Fang-narok alone couldn’t do anything to Orphan. But together, Ragnarok is fully powered and able to do amazing and miraculous things that no normal human could do. Ragnarok then dives into a massive volcano in Cocoon, spilling a pillar of lava below the falling sphere. They then turn the whole thing into crystal and envelope the whole thing in a crystal cradle to hold it aloft.
The interesting thing I found about this was the way the crystals formed was very much akin to the way everything was turned into crystal when Animus, the fal’Cie in the Bodhum Vestige at the beginning of the game, died or completed IT’S focus (because as it’s been established, fal’Cie are bound to focuses as well, but lack the free will of humans to do anything about it). Does this mean that Ragnarok is a fal’Cie or of fal’Cie like power? We’re never really told much about Ragnarok other than it was the ultimate monster to destroy Cocoon both at the present and during the War hundreds of years ago. But it’s not summoned the way the eidolons/summons are. Two l’Cie are tasked with transforming into the creature. So it’s certainly possible that Ragnarok is a fal’Cie created by merging two l’Cie together, or of an ascended l’Cie like “Fang-narok”.
Then finally at the end we have a glimpse of Etro’s actual involvement in the story. After saving Cocoon through Fang and Vanille’s sacrifice, the rest of the party is turned to crystal for fulfilling their new self-appointed focus of saving the world. However, they are turned back into flesh and blood along with Serah and Dajh (Sazh’s son), with their l’Cie brands removed entirely. This is the action of Etro intervening as a reward to protecting human lives. Of course, Etro piercing through from the Unseen World (Dead Land) to the Seen World (Not-Dead Land), is what allows the Chaos in the Unseen World to spill out and kick start the plot of XIII-2.
So now at the end of the game and looking back, how was it? Well, I’m not going to claim it was the best Final Fantasy game ever. That title still belongs in my mind to the sixth installment. Still, I don’t think this game is deserving of the completely and utter spite it gets. The characters are far from flat, displaying a range of complex and difficult to deal with emotional struggles and trying to come to terms with both their faults, regrets, and fates. They each develop and come to terms with things in their own ways, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatically. Sazh being given the choice to kill Vanille for costing him his son, Lightning facing the fact that her way of thinking is setting Hope on the path to becoming a murderer, or Snow having to deal with the fact that he isn’t an invincible hero and can’t always save people. All of which I felt were handled magnificently.
Where the game really hurt was the sometimes frustrating game of keep away the plot plays. Not explaining everything in favor of a situation where no one has all the cards, and you never know if someone is lying or telling the truth. This is used to great extent with characters like Vanille, and handled horribly with characters like Barthandelus. The game requires an extensive amount of in-game and out-of-game reading and knowledge that it often felt like watching the later episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion (Another series where the plot is actually fairly simple but is obscured heavily to the point of utter BS.) To compile the problem is the pacing, in which it takes 25-30 hours of gameplay to find out what the villain hopes to actually achieve.
The saddest part is that it makes a rich and fantastic mythology very difficult to get in to. The Fabula Nova Crystalis has a great narrative to it but this first game does very little to deliver on it. And really it all comes down to scope I think. The story is centered entirely on the six main characters, and their perceptions shape everything we see. So if they don’t know, we don’t know. Now that works in a lot of stories and games, but not when you’re trying to tell Lord of the Rings. Imagine Lord of the Rings if you only focused on Sam and Frodo. Now try to think how you can relate to the reader what was happening at Helm’s Deep or Gondor from the point of view of two hobbits wandering into Mordor. Can you think of a way? Me neither. Other than a LOT of foot notes (or “Datalogs” if you will).
Overall, I enjoyed it. Most of the issues had work arounds in the form of Wiki articles or extra reading. I didn’t mind the linearity so much. Some of the story elements required interpretation but it’s not anything more than your average anime fan has to probably deal with. However, it might be worth a second look for people.
And yes, I do plan on playing and likely talking about FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns.
Somehow, until just a few months ago, the most epic show ever had escaped my field of vision. This coming from a guy who spends no less than 15 hours a week watching animation of some kind. Yet somehow I totally missed Adventure Time! An awesome show from Pendleton Ward (who previously worked on the Misadventures of Flapjack, a show that was very hit and miss with me) that I would simply summarize as a 10 year olds D&D game brought to life through animation, as the adventures of Finn the Human and Jake the Dog quest for glory amongst the strange and delightful Land of Ooo meeting characters like Princess Bubblegum, Marceline the Vampire Queen, and squaring off with their nemesis the Ice King. If that doesn’t pique your interest, don’t be dissuaded – these primitive constructs known as words can do little to properly contain the sheer amount of win that this show possesses.
At first I really just enjoyed the show, it was clever, fun and probably the most energetic thing since I replaced my hamsters water bottle with a can of Red Bull (his wheel is now powering my xbox 360) but then I learned something while surfing around the net. Something that would change my perspective on the entire show and propel it from cool show to a level of awesome not witnessed since ninjas first lifted guitars and unleashed a lick powerful enough to shatter Pangea: Adventure Time is set in a post apocalyptic world.
Did that just blow your mind? This cutesy, crazy and colorful cartoon world that bursts forth with rich childlike wonder actually takes place in a post apocalyptic Earth. Granted, this is never directly addressed in the cartoon thus far. I can only imagine it’s something that Cartoon Network would be hesitant in bringing up (I’ll admit that they have loosened their standards. We’ve gone from Duo being ‘The Great Destroyer’ instead of ‘The God of Death’ in Gundam Wing to Jedi being killed outright in Clone Wars – Granted it’s usually offscreen, but still.) The Word of God still has insisted that The Land of Ooo is very much a post apocalyptic Earth and there are quite a few hints of this throughout the show that reference back to the end of the world and the so called “Mushroom War.”
Some of the clearest examples is when the main characters, Finn the Human and Jake the Dog, encounter strange things that don’t seem to belong in their world. Stuff like tanks, airplanes, or in the case of the episode ‘The Ocean of Fear’ they find an entire submerged and ruined modern day metropolis at the bottom of the ocean. Finn and Jake never call attention to it, heck they don’t even seem to notice it – it’s a tease for the audience. The fact that a major city that resembles something like New York or Los Angeles is sitting at the bottom of the ocean is probably the most direct they ever came to referencing Earth that was.
Subtler hints to how this could have happened have been tucked in places as well, like in the episode ‘Susan Strong’ Finn finds a tribe of hyoomans (which he mistakes for humans, a shocking development because as of up to this point in the show Finn had been the only human, hence the name ‘Finn the Human’) however it turns out that the hyoomans are… well, let’s just say they don’t turn out to be humans. However, in earlier edits of the episode, on the metal pipe that led down the hyooman tribe’s land, there originally was a radioactive hazard symbol. A possible hint that nuclear radiation is responsible for the creation of the Land of Ooo? Never been confirmed. Yet. But the fact that the world of Adventure Time is simply a silly and strange take on the same concept that brought us the Fallout series fills me with demented glee and horrifically wicked laughter.
The sheer possibilities of this underlying concept makes my mind boggle with possibilities. Every hint, every tease and every murmur from the show’s creative team about it drives me more into the lore of this nonsensical world. Because it’s not nonsensical. It’s our world. Just something happened to make it that way. Talk about a tantalizing tidbit of toon teasery! If there is only one word to describe how much this show’s dark underlying secret, I would have to borrow from Finn’s lexicon and say it’s “algebraic” (which I suppose is slightly more complicated than Reboot’s “alphanumeric”?) If you haven’t already taken a look at this show, I think it is totally worth it for this reason alone (the amounts of insane humor and ‘I can’t believe they got that past the censors’ moments always helps too. Reminds me of the stuff they got away with on Animaniacs sometimes.)
Adventure Time with Finn & Jake is currently premiering new episodes on Cartoon Networks Monday Comedy block at 8pm, with reruns throughout the week.