Orcs orcs orcs ORCS orcs? Orcs orcs, orcs orcs… ORCS ORCS ORCS ORCS ORCS ORCS ORCS ORCS! Orcs orcs orcs orcs orcs orcs? Orcs! Orcs Orcs Orcs. Orcs orcs. Orcs, orcs orcs orcs orcs orcs orcs orcs? Orcs orcs. Orcs orcs. Orcs orcs orcs orcs, orcs orcs orcs. Orcs orcs Hellscream orcs. Hellscream orcs orc orcs. Orcs orc ork ork orcs. Orcs orc orcs orc goblins? ORCS!
Orc Orc Orcs
Orcs orc orc ork orcs. Orc orc orcs? O-R-C-S. Orcs orcs orky orcs! Orcs orc Garrosh? ORC. Orc orky orcs Grom! Orc orc orcs orca orc orky orky GUL-ORCING-DAN? Orcs orc orc orc orcs orc orcs ork. Orcs orc ork orcs Hellscream orc Bladefist? ORC! Orks orcs orc orc Mork ork? Orcs orcs… orcs orc orc orcs… orcs, ORCS, HELLSCREAM!
Hellscream Hellscream? Orc!
Grom orc, Garrosh orc, orc orc orcs pork. Orc orcs orc orc. Orcs, orc orc orcs orc ork. Thrall orc? Kek. Orc orcs orca orcs ork ork. Zug zug.
Well, time trudges on and games get played. And I have finally finished Final Fantasy VII and put it back on my metaphorical shelf to sit. You know, I don’t know what I can say at this juncture that won’t invoke the ire of many internet dwelling denizens. Final Fantasy VII has taken on this mythic larger than life position that has rendered it untouchable by so many, like Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Mario 64. And part of my really gets why that is. It’s solid from a game play standpoint, even if the materia gets a bit grindy toward the end. The minigames are fun, and reminds me so often how much I’d LOVE a Gold Saucer style area in an MMO with racing, PvE arena battles with handicaps, little arcade minigames, etc to win prizes and have fun. And for the time, the technology was indeed a huge leap forward in the genre and it is really easy to see how it would endear itself to a generation of gamers both as a jump forward and as a first glimpse into the Final Fantasy series. I mean, the Playstation was how many people’s first console? FF7 was how many people’s first Final Fantasy? Yea. There’s a nostalgia factor and it’s not hard to see why.
I suppose all this complimentary stuff is being dumped up front because I am trying to build a shield with it. You see, after completing the game. Doing everything I could save for the Ruby and Emerald Weapon and mastering 100% of the materia, I can honestly say that I found the story to be ATROCIOUSLY LACKING.
Did I get your blood boiling? Good. I’ve just gotten started. I talked about this with some people on Twitter yesterday, but I keep coming back to it as the greatest single problem with Final Fantasy VII. The gameplay, solid. The music, beautiful. The technology, amazing for its time. The story? OH MY GOD WHY?! Not only is the plot so complicated to Evangelion proportions (Starting to see why this one is so popular with anime fans), it is told is the most sideways methods that David Lynch would stop the game to say “Wait. What?” with buckets of exposition tossed on you combined with misinformation that has some fans of the games stunned when I mention the bit that Jenova ISN’T a bloody Cetra.
Worse yet, the way the story is conveyed is usually via the party talking, which means you spend most of the time with the characters trying to figure out the story instead of getting to know these character’s personalities. Combine that with the fact that so little time is spent with their individual stories save for usually one town on Disc One that serves as that character’s “backstory town” and then you move on and never bother with them again. Red XIII does a complete heel turn about his father. Any and all resentment is just dropped and now he is the proudest frickin’ lion dog thing ever to be the son of Soto. If it was that damn easy, why didn’t Bugen just tell him that crap years ago? “My dad sucks.” “Your dad was a hero.” “I love my dad!” “Good, now heal the party and don’t be relevant till disc 3.”
I know I’m really harping on this, but come on people. With the exception of Cloud, Tifa and maybe Barrett, these aren’t characters. They’re cardboard cut outs that can cast spells. Even Aeris falls victim to this, hence why I had no emotional weight to her death (Spoiler warning for a 15 year old game by the way). She was cheerful? And she offered Cloud a date in exchange for protection? And then she was a Cetra. And she summoned holy. And she’s dead now. Sure, you get a bit more time with her if you do the Gold Saucer date, but by that point I didn’t give a damn about her and was much more interested in the childhood friend who clearly knows something isn’t right with her friend and shares an emotional tragedy with the loss of their mutual hometown and their parents. And you know that much about them by the time you get your first chocobo. Aeris’ backstory is… she’s a Cetra. She dated Zach. Her mom died… somehow? And she’s a Cetra.
Not convinced? How about Cid? Cid who becomes the de facto leader when Tifa stays with Cloud at the hospital for a few missions on Disc 2. Captain of the airship in the game. Clearly an important figure. Why does he join this mission to save Planet? Well, in his own words: My time in that town is over, and my business with Shinra is through… So yea, why not? Why not indeed. Why not join a bunch of terrorists? Got nothing else to do. And it’s true. He has no reason to get involved, but he does because the plot says so.
It just drove me nuts. I’d take a simple plot with great characters over a complex plot with bland characters. I mean, if I can have both, sure. But this ain’t it.
So I’m glad I played it. I enjoyed the game. But I wish the story were handled better. It wasn’t a bad story. Just… not told well. I remember the problem being similar in Final Fantasy 8 – another on my list to revisit someday – but right now we’re going back to a game I know I love that I’ve been wanting to replay forever.
A game beneath cerulean skies…
Oh! I suppose I should note in terms of offline gaming, my fiance and I picked up Age of Empires III on sale and decided to give it a try. First impressions were… mixed? I guess it’s like an historical warcraft game essentially? I think we were both hoping for something more like a more realtime active Civilization, but hey at least it’s on the cheap. And it fulfills that “Lets blow up the other country!” feeling.
So now that we’ve gotten the characters out of the way, we should discuss the story a bit. Really, pretty much everything in Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a step up from the original. The crystarium offers more choices, there are side quests, the plot doesn’t really require a crap ton of external reading to make sense, and the whole thing is more of a fun adventurous romp through time and space than a dreary struggle to survive and usurp the god-like powers that rule over us. Sort of. In the end, it’s best explained that XIII-2 is a more complicated Chrono Trigger, but not as complicated as Chrono Cross. Which is a very good description, unless you haven’t played those games at all. Which in case you haven’t… shaaaame.
Allow me to go into things a bit more so you have a better idea of what I’m talking about. Fair warning, ye travellers of the interwebs, thar be spoilers ahead. Of course, most people hate the now titled Lightning Trilogy of the Fabula Nova Chrystallis, so I’m not sure anywhere cares if I spoil things. Still, you will complain about the lack of warning regardless of whether you cared. I know you too well internet.
The general plot follows four characters and their separate goals. There’s Serah who wants to travel to the end of everything to find her sister who fights a never ending war in the land of the dead. Her partner in all this is Noel, the last human who was conscripted by Lightning to help Serah who wants to change history so that his time doesn’t completely suck as much with everyone being dead and whatnot. Next is Hope, who is now aged up since the first game and is working on advancing humanity to prepare for the potentially doomed future and also enjoys freezing himself with hundreds of years at a time to do so. Finally, there’s our sort of villain Caius who wants to create a world where Yeul will stop dying over and over.
Serah and Noel travel around time and space using time gates (Chrono Trigger people, starting to see similarities yet?) and by travelling through different times, they work to solve Paradoxes – errors in the time stream – to find anachronistic fragments of time that will allow them to open other time gates and eventually work their way to Valhalla at the end of time. The hitch to this whole thing, is that every time the timeline changes, Yeul the Seeress gets a vision of the new future and it sucks a bit of her life away, hence her constant dying. This puts Noel and Serah in direct confrontation with Caius, who is either trying to preserve the timeline, or destroy time completely by flooding reality with a force known as Chaos that dwells in the Unseen World of Valhalla. How does he plan to do this? Why by finishing the fal’Cie’s goal from the first game and killing a ton of people to open Etro’s Gate wide enough that the Unseen World pours into the Seen Wold.
It’s at this point that I feel it’s important to revisit the cosmology of the Fabula Nova Chrystallis mythology. In reality, there is the Seen World – the physical real world where time flows, the fal’Cie of Lindzei and Pulse once ruled, and was shaped and formed by Bhunivelze, God of Light – and then there is the Unseen World – the land of the dead, also called Valhalla, floating in a sea of Chaos where no time exists and God (Bhunivelze) cannot see into, hence the name Unseen World. The whole set up for the Lightning Trilogy is that God wants to find the Unseen World, so he goes into hibernation while his servants: Lindzei and Pulse, and their servants – the lesser fal’cie and thus the l’Cie – search for a way to get into the Unseen World. That’s ultimately very important to what happens in Lightning Returns.
There’s also part of the mythos that when Etro killed herself and descended to the Unseen World, her blood was to shape the first humans. The very first one being a girl named Yeul, formed to look like Etro herself. However, something strange happened when Yuel passed on to Valhalla: she did not fade away like other souls. Trapped there alone and without anyone, Etro pitied her and sent her back to the land of the living, gifting her with the Eyes of Etro which allowed her to see the future and giving her a protector and eternal companion – the Guardians, a long line of warriors entrusted with the heart of Etro herself.
Caius plans to do this by destroying Cocoon and dropping into on to Gran Pulse just like the fal’Cie did. He works throughout the time stream to cause the crystal pillar formed at the end of the last game to erode. But Caius isn’t the kind of person to let things ride on a single plan that has already been thwarted once before. No, no, no. Caius has a secondary plan. He plans to die. That’s right, because you see, part of his charge as the protector and companion to Yuel, Etro had to make sure he wouldn’t die and fade away like everyone else besides Yuel. So the Goddess gave Caius her heart. The Heart of Chaos as it has been called. Which makes him effectively immortal. It heals him, it gives him eternal youth, and it makes him nigh indestructible. But if someone were to kill him, they would effectively kill the Goddess at the same time and destroy the only force holding back the chaos and keeping it sealed in the Unseen World. So if he wins or loses, he wins.
And that’s the big thing at the end of the game. After all the altered time lines, changed futures, and more Yuels than you can shake a stick at, you finally showdown with Caius and defeat him, and he demands that you kill him. You can choose to refuse, but if you do all it does is Caius forces himself onto Noel’s twin blades and impales the Heart of Chaos. And thus the timeline changes, Yuel dies and so does Serah as she also gained the “gift” of the Eyes of Etro along the journey (Potentially due to Etro’s involvement on the Day of Ragnarok at the end of the first game, which would explain how Serah knows about Lightning surviving and everyone else thinks she is trapped in the crystal pillar) and with the Goddess’ heart destroyed, the chaos pours out of the Unseen World and floods the Seen world, merging the two into a new reality with no time. Caius wins.
Yea. You heard me. In the end of the game, Caius wins. Bad guy victorious. World doomed. The real downside is you just spent half a game trying to work with Hope to find a way to save all of humanity and now it’s all null and void. On the upside: HOLY CRAP THE BAD GUY WON! How often does that happen? There’s even a secret ending showing Caius smugly looking victorious as the world reshapes itself.
In the end, the story is really good. It’s downright enjoyable. It’s not a slog to figure out exactly what everyone is doing and why, motivations are simple and to the point but still grand in scale. The ending however puts a damper on things. It undoes most of the work you’ve done through the game, which really makes things feel like a waste of time. Of course, none of those things would have happened. And I’ll admit that was irritating, but not wholly a deal breaker for me.
As I said, they did away with all the countless pages of external research to understand the basic plot. Oh sure, the deeper nuances like the nature of Etro, or the history of the Seen and Unseen worlds are not fully fleshed out except in the datalogs. There’s also some random little elements in the game that are never really explained at all in the game or the logs. Like when you run into Snow. How did he get lost in time? Why does he have a l’Cie brand again? This is apparently all spelled out in a novel that was released in Japan. There’s actually like three or four novel tie-ins to the game that explain a lot of the details for the smaller elements. More explanation for Caius and Yuel’s relationship, details about Snow, and a bunch of other things. Though in the greater plot, these don’t really bear any great weight. The paradoxes that occur are more than enough explanation for the weirdness that pops up in the plot, like Snow and Sazh’s inexplicable time leaps (Hope’s is actually given a fairly thorough explanation.)
So in terms of sheer narrative after playing the entire Lightning Trilogy, this game is really my favorite story. It’s a fun adventure.
Next time I’ll to talk about the mechanics a bit more.
(Just an afterthought, I know some people often wonder why it’s Lightning and Caius on the title logo instead of Serah and Noel. Really, the entire story is a giant chess match between Lightning and Caius. Serah, Noel, Mog and Hope are Lightning’s pawns in trying to thwart Caius’ attempts to end the world. So that would be why.)
So as I said before in my previous posts, I had decided to take some time off of the hustle and bustle of the non-stop worlds of MMOs and what not and get in touch with my roots of single player games. Single player games are actually my preferred form of story, outranking movies, books, and comics. There’s something just satisfying about playing a story to its completion and feeling like you actually changed things in the world. That’s something MMOs have always sorely lacked for me. Even if SWTOR, where choices can affect a great deal, you are ultimately on a straight path that has a clear and set beginning and end with a few dashes of flavor. The events of the Imperial Agents chapter two always occur, though not necessarily for always the same reasons. In the end, whether you are a cut throat bounty hunter, or a member of the fricking Dark Council, you still get called on to work the front lines of Makeb.
So when I feel in the mood for games where the story actually can change and alter the world around me as I play through them, I enjoy these breaks to come back to my roots and dig in with some games I may have put on the shelf, haven’t gotten to yet, or want to revisit from yesteryear. Hence, Chrono Trigger.
There’s not much I can say about Chrono Trigger that hasn’t already been said a thousand times across these worlds wide web. The game is still fantastic. It’s solid, tells a good story, and is fun. However, there is a lot of things I didn’t notice when I first played it. Which admittedly was like… middle school age I think. So around 12? Anyway, first and foremost that this game is actually incredibly simple. I mean compared to Squaresoft’s other offerings at the time. The older Final Fantasy games can seriously kick my butt still at times to this day, especially in the extra boss or final boss sense. Chrono Trigger? There’s always a trick, always some weakness, that once you know it, reduces a fight to mere child’s play and this includes the final boss. The final form of Lavos can be quite simply boiled down to: don’t attack the thing you THINK is the boss, kill the little thing to the right of it. Bam. Done. Many bosses have a weakness in the form of some kind of magic that nullifies their defenses. Really, the hardest boss fight in the whole thing was probably Magus because it’s a) early on b) the trick isn’t obvious and c) he has a wide range of heavily damaging and/or party wide attacks. The whole thing in retrospect feels like a beginners RPG. One to introduce people to the genre before graduating up to things like Final Fantasy.
The other thing I should note on my replay is that the game is really short. I completed the whole story the long way, completed all the optional side missions, collected every little doodad, unlocked every tech, and did quite a bit of grinding and the whole thing still took only about 23 hours to do. Now admittedly, if I was being honest about completion I’d have to include the X hours it would take to do a New Game+ and get all 15 other endings. But for a strict single playthrough that was surprisingly short for an RPG. Right? Or is it just me? Still, if you want an amazing old school RPG that isn’t gonna devour all your time, here ya go. The same however cannot be said for its sibling.
Well, I finished up Chrono Trigger, and I said, “What shall I play next?” and my game shelf answered “How about the sequel?” which was odd because my shelf usually recommends that I play Mega Man every time I ask it. Chrono Cross is one of those games that I played once, enjoyed it tremendously, and never picked it up again. The reasons being twofold. The first is that the plot is insanely confusing and requires a great deal of thinking to wrap your head around the combinations and consequences of time and dimensional travel presented, and second that the only way to get the “good ending” is complete bullcensored. Having to toss the correct color combo of magic (magic and attacks have colors in this game. Don’t ask me why.) and then smack with a special magic. That’s all well and good but the boss ALSO is tossing out color magic and it messes up the whole thing. TEDIOUS. So why did I start replaying it? (Still haven’t finished) Well, unlike when I was 16 (a literal half a lifetime ago now), I didn’t have access to things like FAQs on the internet. So that helps immensely with the ending. And I’m older and wiser now. Kind of. Stop giggling. So the convoluted plot so be a bit easier to follow. I hope.
As I said, I haven’t finished this one yet but I am enjoying it. The combat system is not nearly as frustrating despite five different components and resources to keep track of (Hit chance, Tech points, Tech color, Field Color, and Stamina), it becomes a fairly intuitive dance after a while. Hit to generate tech points, spend tech points to use techs, and keep in mind your colors to maximize damage. The story is also pretty cool and seems designed with the intent of multiple playthroughs. For instance, early on you can take 3 different paths to get to the next objective. Each path requires different things, and recruits a different party member. I don’t know if you can still get the other party members later in the game, or you need to grab them in a new game+ set up to recruit them all. Not too worried since this game hosts a multitude of companions (It’s in the double digits at least). But that’s kind of a cool mechanic you don’t see very often. Three paths that lock you out of the other two when you pick one? Bold and interesting choice. I didn’t even realize it was there until I accidentally locked myself out of one of the other paths.
However, if Chrono Trigger is a beginner RPG then Cross feels like a fricking Advanced Placement class. There is so much here in terms of plot, collectibles, recruitable characters, and mechanics that I can’t imagine jumping into this one right after Trigger without playing some other RPGs in between. Luckily there were YEARS between the two games when they first came out. I still look forwarding to playing this one some more and seeing how the rest of it holds up.
FINAL FANTASY VII
Okay. Alright. Confession time, readers. I… never finished FF7 before. Yes, you may laugh, jeer, throw things, etc. But I never did. I got to the point where Aerith dies and then I was done. Not because I was heart broken by the loss. Oh heck no. I NEVER liked Aerith. She always came off to me as a cheerleader mixed with a purity sue that continuously got shoved in my face because “LOOK! IT’S A TRAGIC ROMANCE!” No. It’s that by that point in the game, I had utterly stopped giving a damn about the greater plot that confused me worse than Chrono Cross, and I decided to just walk away. To give you a time frame, I bought FF7 when it was just given its greatest hits release.
Now, I can’t click anything Final Fantasy related on the internet without hearing about how no game in the entirety of the Final Fantasy series could hope to hold a candle to the MAJESTY that is Final Fantasy VII. Alright, internet. Here’s your chance to prove me wrong. I got the game again. This time on Steam. I’m playing it. I won’t stop until it’s done. And if this thing doesn’t blow me out of the water, we are having words. And I’m not going to declare this whole thing moot before then, but I have played a while so far and I am less than impressed. I mean, I get the nostalgia factor. I get the technical WOW! factor with the cutscenes and music. But that’s not what people rave to me about, they say “Vry, the characters! Vry, the story!” and I’ve only just gotten to Junon but thus far the story is pretty simple: Help the terrorists win. Yea, there’s a lot more going on with Sephiroth and the Ancients, and the Planet, but that stuff has only been set up for what I assume is coming later. Right now, I’m helping the terrorists win. I’m blowing up buildings, cutting power to innocent civilians, and doing so in the name of the Planet. Also I’m cross dressing to save my friend from a fat slum lord pimp. (Is there any actual reason for the Don Corneo stuff beyond padding and some frighteningly inappropriate rape-y dialogue?)
However, if anything has been enlightening so far it’s that the characters are so very much NOT the characters the fandom and the movie portray. Cloud is not a brooding whiny emo, he’s a snarky jerk who delights in ticking Barrett off. Sephiroth is not the cold noble warrior, he’s psychotic and obsessed and not in the entertaining Kefka/Joker way. Aerith is not the kind gentle soul, she’s a cheerleader crossed with a purity sue. Wait. Didn’t I? Lemme scroll up. Huh. Looks like I remember the annoying flower girl correctly. I also didn’t remember Tifa being as ‘teenager with a crush’-y around Cloud. Barrett and Yuffie are one note characters that can’t be incorrectly portayed. And Red XIII (who is not named Nanaki in my game. His name is “NotNanaki”) hasn’t had a ton of dialogue so far so I have no clue. Far as I know, he’s Clifford in a weird crossover.
The gameplay is standard Final Fantasy fare. You can’t make me Oooo Aaaah at pretty summons. I accidentally killed a whole village of Summoners in Final Fantasy IV. This is old hat. Although the developers seemed a but full of themselves with this new fangled CGI animation stuff. Airbuster, one of the earliest bosses you face, has animations that are so slow that you can take three turns in the time it takes it to do one. Annoying.
And please, don’t jump on me because I’m being snarky. I’m gonna play the whole game. I’m going to think about the whole game. And I get that I’m barely into Disc One of a three disc game so I can’t expect the story to be leaping off the page yet. They are doing a great job at establishing a mystery with the whole Sephiroth and Jenova thing. The Ancients are wonderfully under-explained despite apparently everyone knowing what they are already. Though the biggest problem I have so far with the game is that I have NO clue what AVALANCHE stands for and I have no clue how they know without the text boxes when someone is referring to SOLDIER (All caps) or soldier (no caps) – one being a military organization and the other being well… a soldier. Can the characters read the text boxes in game? Is that how they know?
Good news, everybody! After I don’t know how long, the Class Story Summaries are finally complete! Every class, every act, and completely spoiler free. So now if anyone wants to know what a certain class’ story is like, you have a place you can point them to.
Now of course not all of the spoiler-ific reviews are done yet, but those will come in time. A lot of them are just classes I want to replay so I can get a better idea of what to say about them. They’ll come out as I replay through a lot of this stuff, but I really wanted to focus on getting the summaries done as soon as possible so people have that as a reference.
Meanwhile, now that I’ve finished up the summaries, I plan on taking a bit of a break for TOR until Galactic Strongholds releases to scratch the offline single player itch I’ve been having. Nothing is being abandoned, just being put on the back burner while I relax some. So expect to see some various posts about other games, or some other stuff, and hopefully some more videos.
And thank you all for your support in turning the TOR Summaries into one of the most popular features on this blog.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic class storyline for the Jedi Consular. If you would like a spoiler-free summary of the third chapter, please look here. You have been warned.
(Sorry, no new photos this time. I did Chapter Three on vacation so I didn’t remember to screen cap any on the laptop.)
So a little bit of a recap, the consular has just spent 10 whole levels sucking up to the Rift Alliance, a group of whiny planets that want stuff. At the end of the whole thing, you find out that one of the representatives is not only a traitor but an imperial sleeper agent known as a Child of the Emperor. There’s apparently lots of these people out there. Who knows how many! But I’ve got a hunch that we’ll meet probably about oh… one per planet? Just a hunch. But to fight this mysterious new menace, we need a mysterious new army. So for that, it’s up to Jedi Consular and the Rift Alliance (Worst band name ever.) to gather strange and powerful new allies to help fight the Empire.
To do that, we need to figure out a heading. The first clue is actually back on Hoth. Funny, I thought we just left Hoth. I was pretty sure I mentioned something about never wanting to go to Hoth ever again. I distinctly remember Kill-It Felix agreeing with me. Yet, here we are. Blowing up a small ice cavern to unearth an ancient Rakata roadmap. Okay, it’s like one of those mind trapped sentience thingies, but come on, all it’s there for is to give directions. And to lie to. I lied to it A LOT. Which points us to…
Oh. Shocker. The next planet on the narrow linear leveling path of planets. Honestly, would it have been that much effort to mix things up a little bit? Like do Belsavis or Voss in whatever order you choose, and then follow it with Corellia? Honestly. Darn leveling system. Anyway, yea. There’s a great and powerful army you are seeking to recruit on Belsavis. They are called the Esh-Kaaaa WAIT A MINUTE. NO! I know the Esh-Ka. I’ve had them shoot at me constantly, and try to kill me, and break out of their prisons and try to conquer the galaxy. In fact, about half of what the Republic does on this planet is try to seal that can of evil back up. Including in the bonus series! And we want to recruit them? Oh but wait a minute. These are different Esh-Ka. Nice ones, that totally didn’t deserve to be locked away for millennia. Well… that changes things. I’m still suspicious.
So you’re first task is to find this military dude who knows more about the deep vaults than anyone, but when you go to find him every member of his squad is dead. In fact, everyone but him is present and dead. Apparently this was triggered by his assistant back at base camp telling him that a Jedi was coming to find him. Hmm. An evil Esh-Ka defector? Brainwashed by Esh-ka?! WHAT ELSE COULD IT- Oh, he’s a Child of the Emperor. That didn’t stay a mystery for long. Now begins a long cat and mouse game across the planet, where the Child of the Emperor has control of all the security systems, cameras, and can send waves of droids after you (if people had this level of control over Belsavis, why is there a prison riot again?) Luckily you get aid from some unknown voice that instructs you in ways to bypass the security and to lock out the Emperor’s Kidz so that you can find the “good” Esh-ka.
Now, I say ‘unknown voice’ but if you’ve been playing this far you should have bumped into the Imprisoned One on Tatooine, and if you put two and two together you will quickly realized from the sound of the voice and the alien dialect that you’re talking to a Rakata the entire time. Apparently, this Rakata regrets imprisoning the ‘Good’ Esh-ka, and wants to help you free them while helping you kill the bad Esh-ka. Not that I honestly think the Rakata are deserving of a ton of trust, every one thus far has been a psycho trying to resurrect the Infinite Empire a few thousand years too late. But I don’t really have a choice here.
The story ends with you freeing the good Esh-ka who then immediately ditch you so you have to fight a Child of the Emperor aall by yourself. Well, not just the Child of the Emperor, the gold level Child and two silver level mobs backing him up. Unfair! Really, your only hope is to CC the Child and kill the two silvers, try to heal up and then finish off the Child. This of course leads to freeing the leader of the Good Esh-Ka who has some weird name like “Deep Throat” or something. I’m just gonna call him that. And he actually wants to help you out. Well that’s nice. My eyes are on you buddy.
A brief interlude comes when you discovered upon leaving Belsavis that Senator Grell… HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED! Now you and Nadia (She demands to come, not shocked, it’s her dad.) must board the kidnappers vessel – tracked down by Theran and Holiday because they are insanely awesome like that – and save her dad! The kidnapper it turns out is NOT a Child of the Emperor. No, it’s some creepy former Sith who did or said something and got his brain wiped. No name, no memories, no emotion. (My guess is that he was a mage. That’s a Dragon Age joke, folks.) He hopes by screwing with you he can earn his memories back. He is wrong, as I just kill him. Sadly, you aren’t ever fast enough to stop the death of Senator Grell, who apparently spilled the beans on everything you were doing.
The interlude ends with the Jedi Council reading the senator’s will. For some reason. I honestly haven’t a clue why the Jedi had his will. Are Jedi also notaries? Anyway, apparently the will was made fairly recently as it asks that Nadia be made a padawan and you be her master. Well, it only took an extra 28 levels, but hey sweet fetish fuel has arrived for the Consular too! Also, again, we have someone being made a padawan of yours solely by virtue of “Oh, okay, sure. Whatever.” Nadia doesn’t even have to train on Tython, or do her Youngling warm up excercises, or anything. She’s a Jedi now. You’re in charge. Bye. Screw you, Master Syo Bakarn. I hope you die.
The next crazy ally you get is the Voss. Yes, you heard me. You are going to recruit the Voss. I won’t go nearly in depth on this one because honestly, this is the most chores you’ve ever done since the Great McGuffin Hunt of the Prologue. You essentially are tasked with making sure a potential Voss mystic goes through his trials correctly and safely, and then you can recruit him and his entire entourage into your galactic war. Wait. Why does this not sound like it’s going to work?
You do everything from run around and gather stones, perform dangerous healing rituals to keep your lemming of a Voss alive, and kill any and every little thing in his way to have a vision. Which time and time again he fails to have. He just fails, then asks to be taken someplace else where he might have one. While it’s not the most annoying mission you have to do as a Consular, it really feels like babysitting a complete n00b.
Really, the payoff comes at the very end. Because while you have had run ins with Imperials and Sith here and there, you never bump into a Child of the Emperor. Not once. Until the end, when it is revealed that the diplomat that sent you to find the Voss wannabe is the Child of the Emperor. She sent you to essentially prep the Vossling and then when he was ready, she’d swoop in, kill you and take the freshly awakened mystic for the Sith. That. is. BRILLIANT. No, seriously. This is probably the smartest villain in the entirety of the Consular storyline. She actually uses you to get what she wants, and you never suspect her for a moment. Honestly, a lot of these ‘hiding’ in plain sight villains are pretty easy to spot early (Bounty Hunter Chapter One, we will be getting to you soon.) But I was floored by this one. I didn’t even appreciate it until way after and was looking back at everything that happened. I WISH the Inquisitor story was more like this. Sadly, her plan fails. She didn’t account for one thing: Me killing her. Twice the pride, eh?
So you get the Voss mystic, his team of Voss healers, and a squad of elite Voss commandos (I assume they’re like Asari commandos) and they’re all on your ship and joining you on your mission to defeat the Sith and protect the Republic. Hooray! Wait. Aren’t the Voss neutral? Likely, ridiculously neutral to the point of absurdity? Doesn’t this violate that? I mean, they say that the Voss will study the light and the dark and see both sides. That’s nice. YOU ARE HELPING ME KILL THE OTHER TEAM. You have officially picked a side now. Debate over. You fight for the Republic. Or is this somehow not registering through your bald blue heads? GAH!
The second interlude is an attempt to take over an Imperial flagship descending on Corellia. If you and your crack squad can take over that ship, you will gain powerful intelligence on what the Imperials are after (It’s the Bastion) and stop them from succeeding (You can’t. They’re in the Bastion already.) The whole thing is yet another giant ship to fight through, but luckily way less tedious than the one in the first act. You work with your companions who hack doors, disable canons, and sabotage alarms. And I really hate to say it, but they do it way better than the Trooper squad handled the Gauntlet in the Chapter 2 finale. However, unlike the Trooper story, this thing actually turns out to be a giant trap. Yea, you get to the bridge to find a droid who simply explains that the ship is rigged to blow for the sole purpose of removing you and your team from the picture.
At that point, the tone switches to you and your team trying to disable the bombs. You get a few of them, and your team goes after the others that are near them but in the end there are too many bombs and no time to turn them all off. So you all book it off the ship, except Nadia. Nadia has found a computer with all the data that might reveal the identity of the First Son, the leader of the Children. So no matter what you say to her, she will stay to get that data. She’s not stupid however, as she does take an escape pod off the ship before it blows and falls to Corellia below.
You stand at the end of the interlude with no ship, no defeated Sith, and down one padawan. It’s kind of a loss. Which actually can be mirrored in some of the choices in dialogue. Your crew is actively worried about Nadia being trapped on a war torn planet. It’s actually pretty well done tonally. There’s even some nice dialogue if you demand to pursue Nadia at any cost that Theran talks to you about trying to get her back. Which makes sense because if you do the companion conversations, Nadia is pretty friendly with Theran.
Corellia starts pretty much with the search for Nadia. You are able to find a smuggler? Freedom fighter? Hacker? A person in a vest that can help you find her in exchange for some favors. It’s a classic scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours scenario but I like how once he gives you the coordinates to find Nadia – deep in Imperial controlled territory – he asks you for one more favor and you can totally blow him off. YES! I’ve wanted to do that for ages in this game. Best class storyline ever! I CAN SAY NO AND NOT GET RAILROADED! Nadia’s still holed up in her escape pod and very week, luckily your favors have earned the help of the Selonians (Ferret people) who help you get Nadia out and back to health. She does have the data that reveals the identity of the First Son, but it requires the Jedi Library to decrypt. Luckily, and somewhat shockingly, you can just go to the Jedi Library website from anywhere in the galaxy and get whatever you need. So finally we get the revelation of who the First Son truly is…
Master Syo Bakarn.
Oh. Oh snap. Uh. You mean that guy who has been helping us since like level 1? Damn. That’s brilliant. Seriously, right on the heels of that great twist you get another sort of just as great one. Hear me out. The trick to this whole thing is that Master Syo doesn’t KNOW he’s the First Son. He’s a sleeper agent, only activated when his First Son persona chooses to manifest itself and Syo has no idea what happens during that time. So it’s less OMGSECRETZPLOT! and more OHCRAPHEZOURD00D! Still, it’s a surprising turn that does carry a weight. This is an NPC that has been part of your story for 50 levels. I really wonder how much he was actually behind. Believe me when I say this revelation has confirmed at least a second play-through of this class just to see. But now that the cat is out of the bag, The First Son springs his plan into action. Activating Children of the Emperor hand picked and placed across Corellia by Syo to take over the super secure bunkers called Guardian Holds that Syo was in charge of protecting for the Republic.
So now the Sith have control of the most secure bunkers from which they can hold Corellia indefinitely. So it falls to the best one for the job, the Jedi Consular, to take back the Guardian Holds with his army of Voss, Esh-Ka, and crew. And that’s pretty much what the rest of the planet is. Go to a sector of the city, find a way into the guardian hold there, and remove the Child of the Emperor in charge. I mean, yea there are some moral issues when you are fighting people who had been loyal to the Republic and/or Jedi for years now suddenly switched to evil by a glowy red eyed puppetmaster. Which leads to obligatory Light Side/Dark Side choice of trying to save them or just killing them. While I was pretty dark side for this part so I killed them all, I am really curious how one actually saves these guys. I mean, the were given a piece of the Emperor where they were infants. They are ingrained with loyalty to him. How do you break that? Well, that’s my second play-through to find out.
You finally get to the end of the road, the final guardian hold, and from there you are treated to a showdown with the First Son himself. Master Syo is no more, it is only evil that stands before you. And oh man is this a great showdown that will test your ability to interrupt, LOS, and keep up heals in order to take down your foe. Mostly I just busted out Theran. Even in lower level gear, he was able to keep me going while I pummeled Syo down with rocks. Speaking of rocks, he does a giant rock drop where he caves in the ceiling and you must interrupt it or instant KO. After words, you can shield Syo or kill him. And if you choose to kill him, like I did. You don’t even get the final blow. He actually comes back at you and you knock him away in to the wall causing a giant rock to crush him. What kind of Disney Death is that?
Well, much like the trooper, the story actually wraps up on Corellia. With the First Son defeated, you are pretty much done. You get invited back to Coruscant where you meet the new Supreme Chancellor (Former Governor) Saresh, and for the first time in any of the Republic stories, it actually makes mention that she is indeed newly elected and that something happened that forced them to elect a new Chancellor. They don’t say what that is, but I’m sure we’ll found out in one of these reviews. Still I like the fact that SOMEONE acknowledges the fact that the Supreme Chancellor for 1-49 is not the same as the one you meet at level 50, cause the trooper doesn’t bat an eye, the Jedi Knight shrugs it off, and the Smuggler probably doesn’t know what a Supreme Chancellor is.
You get a big award ceremony at the end too. But unlike the one for the Jedi Knight or Trooper, here you can totally milk the Republic for stuff for your allies. Esh-ka want a planet? Yo, Saresh. Give them a planet! Oh hey, Voss dudes wanna train with Jedi. I don’t care if you are uneasy with it, Satele. Did you just save the Republic? Let them in. It was a nice moment where you and your crew essentially get whatever they want from the Republic. But you know what they SHOULD have asked for? To not pay taxes again. Ever.
So was the Jedi Consular story the KOTOR3 we never got? Or was it the boring slogfest that forum dwellers claim? Well, the answer is the classic ‘Neither’. Honestly, the Consular story more than any other requires time to get the most out of it. It can seem like a boring slogfest at first, and really it’s not until the end of Chapter One that it all starts to come together and become interesting. If I had only played the first 15 levels? Oh Yoda, I would have dropped the class faster than Physical Education. But I stuck it out, and honestly I’m glad I did. It has a sense of completeness by the end, where it actually feels like every part – not just the last chapter or so – was a vital piece of the conclusion. The Noetikons, the shielding technique, the Rift Alliance, and the Children of the Emperor all came together in a glorious symphony at the end. But up until that conclusion, you could see it as very hit and miss.
In terms of light or dark choices, they were all pretty much what you expected for a Jedi. You have more than enough reasons to kill most of the people, but do you overcome that and show them forgiveness because they are not themselves. And really that’s the best way to summarize the Consular story. It’s a tale of enlightenment and overcoming our passions and baser instincts to become something more. Killing the Jedi in Chapter One is justified and full of anger by those who had suffered at the hands of their mind controlled friends or leaders, but we can shield them and overcome that hate. The Rift Alliance’s own desires and wants come before the needs of the Republic, but they find by working with and through the Republic they get everything they wanted and more. Looking past the uncertainty and threats of the Esh-Ka and Voss give rise to a powerful army, the Rakata want to make amends to the Esh-ka, you can overcome the betrayals and welcome back to the light all those who were tainted by darkness. On the flip side, the story can be just as much about the accumulation of power. Taking out other Jedi to secure a more prominent position for yourself, manipulating the wants of the Rift Alliance to make them indebted to you, building an army that answers to you alone and crushing those who would think to betray you.
So would I recommend this story? Yea. It had enough for me to merit a second play through, I’d say it’s worth it to try it once. It’s a slog at the start, but once you get into the thick of the Dark Plague arc, it starts picking up. I’d especially recommend it for fans of shows like Star Trek or Babylon-5, as the diplomatic parts of Chapters Two and Three really seem to share a similar vibe with shows like those. Anyway, that’s it for the Consular. Whenever I finish up my light side character I might come back for one more post about it from the other side of things. Until then, May the Force Be With You.
I’ve been watching a Twitch streamer play through the Mass Effect Trilogy for the first time, and it’s been bringing a whole bunch of new discussion out of it. Some old topics, such as the ending of Mass Effect 3 – an ending I still whole heartedly enjoyed and supported but could understand why other people were unsatisfied (Granted, not to the level of rioting and threats across the internet that we got.) But also some new ones, like nature of choice and consequence in the games.
I’ve heard some say that Mass Effect 2 is the last time in the series that choice had any real meaningful impact in the series, and I really don’t agree with that at all. There are exactly 5 choices that make any significant difference: Who leads secondary teams 1 & 2, who opens doors, who does the biotic shield, and do you I make them loyal? Some could say I’m cheating with that last one because you have to decide who is loyal out of 12 team members, but really it’s the same choice 12 times, not 12 separate choices. Loyalty is a boolean switch, there’s no sliding scale of loyalty like there is in the Dragon Age games. And really, let’s be honest, everyone is going to do a play-through where they make everyone loyal regardless of Paragon/Renegade or role playing, just so we can ‘beat’ the game. And those choices simply decide if anyone dies. “But Vry,” you say, “You can possible lose enough people that Shepard dies! That’s an impactful choice.” Yes it is, voice in my head. Because you actively have to choose to do that. You know how many people have to die to get that ending? No more than one squad member can survive the suicide mission. Two lived? Bam. Shepard lives. You have to actively sabotage yourself to get that impact. You have to work to level up without making people loyal, you have to make all the wrong decisions, and you have to really want that ending to get it.
The only time in my opinion that your choices had any significant impact in the overall sense of the trilogy was in the third and final game. Because throughout the third game, you see the results of your decisions throughout the series. That one NPC you lent a hand to in ME1 that did nothing? Well, he’s on the Citadel and he remembers you. Missions take on a very different tone based on whether someone lived or died in previous games. In ME2, if someone died, you couldn’t use them in the suicide mission. That’s it. That’s the impact. And EVERY role had at least 3 people who could do the job. In ME3, if those people didn’t live, things tend to go badly. The entire third game was a massive denouement that shows you the outcome of your play-through of the trilogy.
Of course that raises the question, since them living or dying is the result of a choice in ME2, doesn’t that make ME2 more meaningful? Well, that’s debatable. Since it wasn’t till ME3 that made those deaths meaningful. If ME3 made them meaningful, and you replay ME2 with that in mind, isn’t ME3 that makes the choice significant and not ME2? Regardless of where the choice comes from, it’s the third game that gives the choice weight. So I’d say that it deserves the credit for it.
Now, granted I’m not gonna stand here and say that was executed perfectly. The choice of destroy or keep the Reaper base didn’t do much but shift some numbers around, and change the scenery for one scene. But the other games are just as guilty of null and voiding your final decisions. While the weight of saving or destroying the Destiny Ascension will loom over interactions, your choices in terms of the council afterwards are either nullified in ME2 or completely tossed out the window by ME3. My all human council didn’t even last two years while I was dead!
Ultimately, choice is a nebulous thing in the Mass Effect series and always was. The best you could usually hope for is a cosmetic nod or a brief conversation. If there was any game that took in all your choices and gave them more oompf I’d still say it was the last one. Not at the part everyone was expecting but throughout that entire experience. And I’ll say this for the infamous RGB choice: It had a hell of a lot more impact on the narrative than ‘Do I save/destroy the Collector Ship’ or ‘Who do I put on the Council’.
Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Star Wars: The Old Republic class storyline for the Jedi Consular. If you would like a spoiler-free summary of the second chapter, please look here. You have been warned.
With the Jedi Order saved from the threat of the Dark Plague, it’s time for you to get a new job to save the day. Namely, it’s time to play Star Trek and escort a bunch of diplomats around the galaxy to convince them not to break away from the Republic. Not even joking. Meet the Rift Alliance, a coalition of worlds that are thinking of leaving the Republic because they feel neglected and their needs ignored by the senate. These worlds include but are not limited to places like Manaan and Balmorra. Although I don’t think Balmorra is a Republic world actually. However it is funny to see the Manaan representative make mention of the ecological nightmare left on his planet after the events of Knights of the Old Republic. That made me giggle. But I’m getting a head of myself here. Before you get to hang out with the representatives, you have to save them.
See they were all on this big party ship that they were going to use as a base camp while working with you, but it got hijacked by the Empire! So you have to fight your way to save them. After that, it’s decided that they’d be much safer on your ship than the party boat. Which, okay, kind of makes sense. But my ship doesn’t even have enough beds for my crew, let alone the rest of these people. So… I hope the chairs are comfy?
The first stop on our “fix the galaxy” tour is Balmorra. Essentially the mission is to put the representative from Balmorra in charge of the planet, and in exchange he will make sure that Balmorra joins the Republic. So it’s NOT part of the Republic at the moment. In order to change things over, we need to find the old president and have him pass over the authority to the representative. Because that’s apparently how presidents work now. No elections, just point a finger and say “Tag, you’re it!”
The real issue is that the now currently in charge Sith overlords have got the president in hiding somewhere, and that’s where I come in. Well, me and the rebellious revolutionary known only as Zenith. Zenith is a jaded freedom fighter, and I don’t much blame him considering the history of Balmorra: abandoned by the Republic and handed over to the Sith, and depending on what happened during the Imperial storyline their unofficial support from the Republic Military not only pulled out but also publicly confessed ensuring no future support. Yea, I’d have a chip on my shoulder too.
You pretty much spend most of the planet playing back up for Zenith in an effort to track down and save the president. Fortunately, you are a bad enough dude or dudette to do so. Downside, President is being guarded by Darth Lachris, the sadistic Sith you met at the end of the Imperial Balmorra storyline (Yes, this is what happens to her). Upside, you get to kill a Sith! More downside, she royally messed up the President’s brain so he can’t do anything even if you save him. This leads to the somewhat disturbing option of using the president like a meat puppet to pass the torch of leadership. It’s cruel, unethical, and I did it in a heartbeat. What? My job was to get a new president for Balmorra, not to make sure the old one lived to a ripe old age.
Quesh is the usual short single mission that really isn’t worth talking about usually. This one does set up some important plot threads for later, so that’s a step up from the Trooper. The gist is that the Rift Alliance had a secret science lab on Quesh that they totally didn’t mean to neglect telling you about but oh by the way the Imperials are attacking it and it has some superpowerful tech hidden there please oh god fix it. The super tech in the lab really doesn’t do much except offer you a choice of how they develop it. Maybe this comes up in Chapter 3? I don’t know. So far all it did was get me a piece of mail with a severely under level blue quality companion gift.
What Quesh does introduce is two ideas: the first is that a tracking device was found on your ship, which means that you might have a spy on board. This is actually a great diplomatic conundrum. Do you tell the diplomats – one of which may be the spy – and diminish their already low opinion of the Republic’s ability to keep its house in order, or do you keep it quiet and risk worse damage being done by the spy as you try to figure out who it is without letting the others on. I actually really liked that twist. Sadly it doesn’t last long as we’ll see.
The other thing that happens is that we see Nadia Grell, daughter of one of the diplomats, join you on a mission and display an impressive use of Force power. Yes, it appears that little Nadia is a force sensitive and a powerful one at that. Nothing comes of that immediately, but it does come up more later that I can promise you.
Your final job for the Rift Alliance is to help a team of their soldiers finish their job and back on their way home. A task the Republic troops on Hoth have been most unhelpful in completing (Of course, the troops on Hoth just got hit by a surprise attack that knocked out their power, are getting cornered by pirates and Imperials, and are seeking a powerful weapon to use to help win the war. But taking care of the one squad of Rift troops that wanna leave the cold planet while they’re stuck there? Not a big priority shockingly.) The job is to kill one Captain Valon, a two bit pirate who was attacking the Rift Alliance’s shipping routes that has suddenly become a lot more problematic. See, the word on the street is: Valon is immortal. Yup. Can’t kill him. Why even try? And these poor guys are stuck on the ice ball until the Immortal Pirate is dead. Wow. Sucky job.
Of course, one quick smack around from a Jedi and the jobs done right? Sadly, no. While the rest of the team is often getting ready to celebrate leaving, you get a message proving that while you did seemingly kill the man and leave him cold and lifeless on the floor, he is still alive and kicking. It’s up to you know to figure out putting him in his grave. Luckily, you find out that the Empire is after Valon as well. Something about stealing an experimental healing armor? No… you don’t think… I see. Well, time to bust up a lab for answers. And after ransacking and pillaging the Empire for some sweet sweet secrets, you find out that yea it’s the armor that keeps him coming back. You also find out that Valon’s plan is to raise a massive star ship from the ship graveyard and use it as his new flagship as the future immortal pirate leader of the White Maw. (Aaaand he might be searching for One Piece. Maybe. No clue. But hey, it gives us an excuse to rap on the way! Ready Qyzen?)
Ultimately, you find the pirate, use the secret technique of ‘Keep killing him until he stays dead’, and you and the troops get to leave this Popsicle stand. Afterward, you get a new crewmember! Lt. Felix Iresso has joined the brawl! I’d love to tell you all about Felix but so far at least, he’s a bit of a cardboard cut out. Seriously, the guy doesn’t have any really stand out-ish qualities while you talk to him on Hoth beyond he is willing to straight up lie to his men if it means not destroying morale. Beyond that, he’s a soldier aaaand that’s about it. I mean, he seems like there’s definitely some backstory stuff that I’m sure to get into as I keep shoving gifts into his face. He seems perfectly happy to leave the military behind to sign on with you. But that’s it. Kind of a weak sauce companion compared to the fairly strong personalities we’ve met so far.
The finale is short. Like seriously short. You finally track down which of the diplomats is the traitor/spy/guy who keeps stealing the cable, but oh no! He was JUST sent off on an important diplomatic mission with Royalty! I sure hope that hi jinks don’t ensue. To make a long story short, everyone’s dead when you show up. You just walk through the ship littered with dead bodies until you find the King and Queen of WePaintsOurFaces-vania with the traitor diplomat who to the shock of no one is actually a Sith. Dun dun yea yea. More importantly, he is one of the Children of the Emperor. Ah, now that IS different. You fight, you win, you save the King and Queen. And that’s it. The finale is seriously just that one fight. Well, two if you kill the bonus gold star robot boss trapped behind a door. But it does set up the next leg of the journey with the introduction with the Children of the Emperor. I do wonder if Miss Kira Carsen will be showing up for cameo?
The second chapter of the Jedi Consular story is a lot of set up for whats to come it seems. The whole traitor thing REALLY doesn’t get played up to its full potential, and it really could have been something great. With diplomats constantly pushing for more info, the risk high of angering them and the Rift Alliance continually looking for a reason to abandon the Republic that, quite frankly, they owe nothing. Instead, the diplomats are grumpy but mostly content to just sit around, give you your space, be polite in the face of whatever happens. It’s not a catastrophic let down because I really do dig the whole political angle of the Jedi being explored, so I would definitely rate it above something like Trooper Chapter 2, but it really could have been something amazing but became satisfied with being meh.
Our new companions feel like two variations of the same archetype. Both Zenith and Felix are soldiers, but while one seems worn out and just wants to be done, the other is super jaded from broken promises. Still, recruiting them back to back just makes the comparisons even more startling. Especially since Zenith is introduced with so much more character and gusto than Felix. Almost like they blew all their cool ideas with Zenith and had nothing left for Lt. Iresso.
In the end, Chapter Two decides to just settle with doing what it does. It doesn’t strive for amazing, it doesn’t break down into terrible or tedious – it just is. Which is a shame. It really did have potential. But the whole thing still hasn’t lived up to the horrendously boring snoozefest I’ve heard it claimed to be on the forums. So who knows what awaits us beyond in Chapter 3. I mean, besides the Children of the Emperor. (OH YEA!)
I was all getting ready to write up a post on Lightning Returns when it suddenly struck me: I never talked about 13-2! Oh golly gee, I feel bad now. I actually finished 13-2 way back in February but was thinking so much about revisiting I never even thought to write a post about it. “Revisit? Surely you don’t mean you actually WANT to play a Final Fantasy 13 trilogy game more than once, do you Vry?” In fact, I do! Especially since both 13-2 and Lightning Returns make liberal use of a New Game+ feature and I really enjoyed them ESPECIALLY 13-2 which is my favorite of the trilogy. But more on the whole new game+ thing later. Let’s get in to talking about the characters first shall we?
While most of the cast of Final Fantasy XIII appears mostly in cameos and DLC, even Lightning who appears front and center on the box as well as the title logo, the game focuses on the always mentioned, sort of present, but only got like three lines Serah Farron- Lightning’s younger sister who spent 99% of the first game as a crystal. She’s on a mission to find her sister, whose story got a bit wonky at the end of Final Fantasy XIII. See at the end of the last game, everyone was reunited thanks to the Goddess Etro’s intervention. Lightning blessed Snow and Serah’s engagement and even smiled for the first time in the game. But here’s the twist: Only Serah remembers this happening. Everyone else seems to think that at the end of the last game Lightning vanished and is assumed to be trapped in the crystal pillar with Fang and Vanille (again from the end of the last game). So is Serah crazy? She starts to think so, until we meet our second main character -
Noel Kreiss. Whose name I’ve started using as a substitute for other exclamations (Noel Tap-Dancing Kreiss on a cracker!) You spend most of the game not knowing a ton about Noel other than a) he’s from the future, b) he’s the last human and c) Lightning sent him to Serah to help her. The future? Yes, the future. You see, Noel here is the one that introduces the primary idea that the entire game spins around: Time Travel. Being a time traveller himself, he guides Serah through the timelines, and to alternate timelines, in hopes of reaching Valhalla (Which is shown as being at the end of time, but is also the unseen realm of the dead. How are these the same thing? Well, Lightning Returns sooort of answers that.) Noel also seems to be very familiar with our villains, but again the answer to how isn’t revealed until the late game when you learn about Noel’s past.
The sort of third main character is little Mog. That’s right, for the first time since… Final Fantasy VI? We have an honest to goodness Moogle party member. NO CAIT SITH DOESN’T COUNT. He’s a ROBOT. Granted, Mog doesn’t exactly occupy a party slot. He kind of is actually Serah’s weapon. Yea… Given to Noel to pass on to Serah from Lightning, Mog has the unique ability of turning into a bow that can also turn into a sword. However, he does provide a lot of utility as you explore the game world. He can reveal hidden items, you can learn to chuck the little guy across pits or up onto ledges to get items for you (You can also throw him into pits if he annoys you. He’ll come back in a bit.) He also has a storyline about where he comes from, and offers a good deal of both comedic relief and cuteness to the story.
Our villains this time are luckily not the insane and poorly scheming fal’cie, but a man named Caius Ballad. Caius is a great villain in my opinion because his goals are relate-able, and for a good long while you can kind of see his point and it can make you question if you are really the bad guy in this story (And honestly, the big divide comes down to methodology and the concept of the needs of the many over the needs of the few.) Caius also doesn’t adhere to the Final Fantasy stereotypical villain that thinks the world is full of suffering so he wants to destroy the world to end the suffering (Logic!) All he really wants is to save the various incarnations of the girl he’s been tasked to protect through all time.
Which brings us to Yuel. Yuel is interesting. You see, Yuel is a seeress who can see the future, but keeps dying for reasons you’ll find out about late in the game. However, there are “Other Yuels”, each with a different personality and Caius guards each of them. Caius differentiates all the Yeuls by their interests or personality: The Yuel Who Liked Dancing, The Yuel Who Loved Flowers, The Yuel Who… etc etc etc. Yuel isn’t really a villain or hero in the story. She’s more of a force, and a motivation. Some Yuels are actually pretty nice. Others see Serah and Noel as a threat since they keep changing the timeline.
Last and probably least is Lightning. Yes, Lightning is in the game. Yes, she’s fairly important to the plot as she is pretty much the instigator for the entire thing. And no, you will not be seeing a lot of her. She spends the vast majority of the game in Valhalla battling Caius to protect the Goddess Etro. If you find yourself asking how she can be fighting Caius while you keep bumping into him, welcome to a time travel plot. Lightning’s main role in this is that she is the one who sends Noel and Mog to find Serah and set them on the path to reach Valhalla, and she shows up at the ending. She also gets her own DLC that explains her fate a bit better after the ending of the game, but I’ll get to that when I talk about the DLC later.
As for secondary characters, you do bump into Snow and Hope throughout the main story. Hope actually shows up multiple time across the timeline trying to save the world in his own way. You also meet Chocolina, the chocobo dressed sales lady who seems to defy time and space and has a bigger tie to the overall plot than she is willing to say. And there’s Hope’s assistant, Alyssa who actually is fairly involved in the plot but requires some reading between the lines to grasp her full involvement. The rest of the NORA team is living with Serah and keeping an eye on her at the beginning after Snow leaves to find Lightning for Serah. And that’s pretty much it for side characters.
The whole thing is a pretty condensed list of characters that mostly gets utilized fairly well compared to the first game in the series, who would introduce interesting characters then do nothing with them followed by just killing them off at some point later which left you kind of sitting there going “That’s it? That’s all they did?” I mean, again I get why they did it, with the whole being told through the main six’s eyes thing, we wouldn’t be privy to a lot of the behind the scenes work. But that and 13-2 both show why that form of story just doesn’t work for those games. 13-2 is perfectly willing to show you things that are not directly seen by the protagonists and it helps immensely flesh out the story. But we’ll get to that more next time when we discuss the plot of the game.