Class Storyline Review: Jedi Consular – Chapter One

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

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

consular1

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

Taris

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

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

Nar Shaddaa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tatooine

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

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

Alderaan

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

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

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

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

consular2

FINALE

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Vry versus The World (Of Warcraft)

draenor

Believe it or not, enthusiasm comes fairly easy to me.  A well cut together trailer will do the trick without incident.  Some good news or an awesome character design can spur my wheels to pre-order.  Heck, one glance at the Crusader on the character creation screen and a mere hour playing with Loot 2.0 not only had me dropping cash to pre-order Reaper of Souls but also nab the digital deluxe edition while I was at it.  I am exceptionally easy to please, and like to think I maintain a level of optimism and excitement for things I enjoy.

That being said, let’s talk a moment about Warlords of Draenor, the upcoming expansion for World of Warcraft.

I have never felt this lack of excitement for a WoW expansion.  NEVER.  Even expansions that seemed dubiously “not up my alley” like Cataclysm was able to get my smile on with stuff like the remade old world.  But Warlords?  Man oh man and I struggling to find something to get happy about.  There’s Garrisons I suppose.  Player housing has always been a dream of mine, and then combining it with a potentially more elaborate (or just as likely identical I suppose) version of SWTOR’s crew skills (which I liked). That’s something right?  There’s also new models.  They are very cute.  Puff the Death Gnome will be adorable, I just know it.

But then I hear things like “plan is no flying at ship and see how it plays out” or the big proud emphasis on NO dailies whatsoever with everything being based around a Timeless Isle like system of dynamic events.  Man, you just took all that Garrison happy and beat it into the ground with a Gronn sized club. No amount of gnome cute can help that.  Maybe a kitten?

Even a free level 90 doesn’t seem that tempting to me, even with all my alts.  It’s clearly not an offer designed for me, and I recognize that.  But likewise it feels like this entire expansion is pretty much one giant bag of nope for Vry.  Flying? Gone, potentially for the whole expansion.  Dailies? Gone. There goes my favorite way of experiencing the world.  Timeless Isle random events are so short lived that there’s no time to join in if you aren’t constantly camping or getting lucky.  At least in Guild Wars 2, the events seemed to be spaced out with spawns and objectives or multistaged, and  had a teleportation transit system that gets me most places in a blink of an eye.  Warlords seems to be more so “Events will die quick, so always be ready, and if you aren’t within 1 minute of it via ground mount, just forget it.”  I hope that isn’t true, but I haven’t seen anything to support otherwise.

I honestly don’t care much about the whole Proving Grounds Silver to do the dungeon finder,  despite that the fact that it still reeks of pointless exclusionary tactics, because you would supposedly be able to gear up for LFR in normals, and I don’t do anything BUT LFR anymore in terms of raiding, because I got sick of watching guilds implode and explode because of raiding.

So what am I trying to say?  That my long drawn out love affair with WoW is over?  Well, maybe not that extreme.  I might pick up Warlords on a black friday sale or something and give it a whirl, then level up my main-ish-es. But really, yea.  This will likely be the first expansion launch I’m not going to be there for.  I’ve found other MMOs that I have fun with, and WoW seems to be going in a direction that quite honestly isn’t fun for me.  If others find it fun, more power to you.  But I’m gonna sit this one out it seems.  Maybe just maybe I’ll get lucky and the next expansion will have gnome lore. Till then, expect more focus on stuff like The Old Republic, Final Fantasy, and more Lets Plays. Sorry devoted WoW playing readers, but you know regardless if I’m playing or not I’ll still be weighing in on any big news that goes down.

(Okay, honestly. I think we can trace all of WoW’s problems to Basic Campfire NOT getting to be Warchief. Don’t you?)

Class Storyline Reviews: Trooper Chapter Three

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

<< Class Storyline Review: Trooper Chapter Two ||

trooper1

So the war is on, Rakton is invading the core systems, and it’s time for the Republic’s finest to shine once more.  Or shine at all in the case of that last set of missions.  Can chapter three pull this story out from the depths and raise it to some truly amazing?  Well, let’s find out as we join in the all out war for the galaxy.

BELSAVIS

Well, it’s back to the old grind stone as Havoc Squad is needed to go pick up a group of pilots out of Belsavis prison.  That’s right. Prison.  Apparently, the entire squadron got a bad rap and were sent up the river because bad intel had them dropping bombs on civilians instead of a Sith lord that was their actual target.  So command made an example of them and sent them to this outer rim nightmare.  But now with a galaxy wide war erupting, the Republic needs the best, and that means putting the illustrious Dagger Wing back on active duty.  Which means getting them out of Belsavis alive.  Which means Havoc Squad.  I guess. When you arrive it seems that you actually have your work cut out for you because Dagger Wing hasn’t been content to sit a prison cell.  They are tried and true Republic soldiers and they stick by that even after being tossed on a prison planet for something that wasn’t really their fault.  So in the wake of the prison riots (because the Empire has decided to start opening all the cages looking for something it can use), Dagger Wing stepped up to help out the prison staff keep order across the various districts on the planet.  Well that’s awesome and all, it means you will be scouring the entire planet looking to piece together the whole squad and bailing them out of trouble as they continue to push themselves neck deep in imperials and crazy inmates.

The story actually ends with you chasing down the Dagger Wing CO to the super secret double maximum security prison, where you are actually given a fairly meaningful choice.  The entire planet you’ve been aware that Dagger Wing got screwed over by command, and they’ve made their peace with that and are STILL willing to not only come back to active duty again but also have been helping keep the prison secure.  Now you face the choice of leaving the Commanding Officer to die in order to capture a Sith Lord that can prove Dagger Wing’s innocence, or completing the mission and grabbing the CO and letting the Sith go.  It’s actually a very nice moral quandary to start out Chapter 3 on, and a HUGE step up from the boring paint-by-numbers chapter that was Chapter Two.  Especially since it’s not a clear cut “this is good, this is bad” kind of choice.  Dagger Wing will still have a commander if you let the current one die, but he won’t be as experienced nor have the respect, but you will be able to prove their innocence.  It’s a delightfully muddy choice.  I honestly just grabbed the CO and booked it without bothering with the Sith Lord.  Proving their innocence was not my mission.  Plus I got to fight an “Ancient Beast” which was actually a rancor.  Yay! I killed a rancor.  Take that Skywalker. I did with nothing but a gun.  And explosives.  And a gravity well that nullifies armor.  And a robot.  Okay, not quite as impressive I’ll admit.  Still, who has two thumbs and killed a rancor? This guy!

INTERLUDE (A-77)

After you take off from Belsavis, you are contacted by Garza with urgent news that our old friend Sergeant Jaxo is trapped in an imperial prison that is holding 300 or so republic troops. Seems like an excellent opportunity for Havoc Squad to kick some butt.  The actual place is quite small, it is an interlude after all.  But it does provide one of the more interesting choices in the trooper story thus far. See, ultimately it turns out that the whole thing is a trap by General Rakton who was waiting for you to show up and then blow the entire prison up.  So now with the pendulum swinging over your head and the hourglass emptying quick, you have a choice:  Do you vent the lower levels to power the shields long enough to get the prisoners out, fully knowing that Jaxo will be killed (she is hiding down there), or do you save Jaxo leaving 300+ republic servicemen and women to die. The part where it gets interesting is that you sort of can build a personal attachment to Jaxo.  She has shown up at least once per act, including a party night side quest during act two that I didn’t really mention before (it didn’t seem important to be honest). Also, if Forex is in the party during this bit, he’ll mention that the cost of training and equipping a special forces troop like Jaxo far outweighs the cost of 300 random standard infrantry. So financially at least, Jaxo is more valuable.  On the other hand, your mission was the free the 300 people.  So there’s that too. Again, another wonderful choice where there is no clear cut easy answer.  That’s my favorite kind of light/dark choice because they come down to sheer roleplay.  What would YOUR character do?  Well, my character is a cyborg programmed to complete the mission at any cost.  So…  so long Jaxo!

VOSS

Oh geeze.  Okay, so the whole nothing is morally black or white choices thus far have been nothing compared to this planet.  Welcome to Voss, folks.  Home of the most frustrating trooper story thus far.   Okay, so essentially there is a large number of ground troops being held up on Voss at the request of a senator there who is chummy with the Supreme Chancellor.  The so called “Vacation squad” wants to join the war proper, but the senator is convinced that the Empire is going to sneak attack Voss and won’t let them leave because of it.  Your job is to convince the senator to release the troops by removing any possible threat of a sneak attack.  General Garza also very specifically mentions that you have to be on your best behavior because of the senator’s relationship with the Supereme Chancellor.  Which means playing kiss up to a jerky politician for the entire planet. And oh geeze does he not make it easy.  He yells at you for not miraculously bringing in an imperial agent alive when the agent flat out tells you he has no intention of surrendering, constantly volunteers you for random tasks for the locals that have nothing to do with why you are there, and is generally a jerk about things.  Luckily, the senator is a man with two sides to him.  The other is the sniveling coward who cringes at violence, and a political weasel.  In case you can’t tell, I hate this guy.  I really do.  You are given the choice to smart mouth and berate him, calling him a coward and a weakling but that’s not my character… not matter how tempting. You do get a nice blast from the past however when you discover the Imperials plan to use the ZR-57 (the bomb from waaaay back on Ord Mantell now finally repaired from your meddling) to threaten the Voss capital to get the people to do what they say. This leads to some nice callbacks like remembering to use the radiation to detect where it is.  And you wrap things up by stopping the senator’s rival, a sith lord jerk, who you can choose to kill or let live. Which is kind of a mundane moral choice at the end, but the rest of the plan really tests your role playing with dealing with the senator, so I didn’t mind so much.

trooper2

INTERLUDE 2 (Meeting the Senate)

After getting the now former Vacation Squad back to the front lines, it seems that we have yet another interlude.  This time it is another trip to the senate for a formal inquiry about special forces, and specifically Havoc Squad.  You find out when you land that the senator responsible for the hearing is actually being bought off by the Empire thanks to some detective work by the SIS (with a nice callback with the SIS agent from back on Nar Shadaa).  You are given some evidence to show the other senators and get the whole thing dismissed so you can get back to active duty, and if you follow Garza’s script that’s pretty much exactly what happens. However, there is the dark side option here.  And it’s probably one of the most awesome, bad ass, complete jerkwad choices you can make in the Trooper storyline.  Ready for this?  When the senate first ask you to offer a counter to the jerky corrupt senator’s claims that you are useless and blowing the Republic’s cash…  You can shoot him.  As in, dead.  Right there in the senate building. And you get away with it.  Okay, well, people are super mad at you for it.  But seriously, you just flat out kill a politician in the senate at a hearing about Havoc Squad abusing authority and resources, AND YOU GET AWAY WITH IT.  There are very few moments I’ve seen in this game that can be considered THAT awesome.  Oh geeze. Anyway, no matter what you do, you find that by the time you are done General Garza has already shipped off world to Corellia to directly command forces to confront the Empire’s invading forces.  General Rakton has touched down there as well, and she wants Havoc there on the double.  Time to finish this? Hell yea.

CORELLIA

Welcome to the front lines.  Finally.  It’s only taken, what? Forty-six levels?  Corellia is a mess of a warzone, with a constant struggle across the city world for control of various resources.  General Rakton however only seems interested in one of those: The Bastion, the intelligence nerve center of the Republic.  With control of the Bastion, Rakton would have information on every operation, strategy, tactic, secured channel, you-name-it in the Republic. So it’s up to the Republic Military and Havoc Squad in particular to stop him. But there’s one problem with that plan. The Bastion is across the city, and there’s no direct route there for a massive ground force.  It’s time to find a way through.  Luckily, you have the aid of the Corellian resistance and their uh… “Freelance” pilots with an abundance of cargo space and expertise in getting through blockades.  Not smugglers though.  Not at all.  Nope… Anyway! They’re all set to help you out except their ships are locked up by the Empire.  Your first task is to free those ships.  The second task which quickly follows behind it is that the Empire appears to firebombing civilian areas and you get a choice – save the civilians, or use this opportunity to seize an imperial dropship.  The dropship is actually kind of handy because you will be able to sneak past defenses ala Return of the Jedi, but you can also save the people.  This is the first in a few dark side/light side choices and it pretty much sets the primary morality conflict for the planet.  Dark Side: Help the Military. Light Side: Help the Resistance.  The Resistance seems heavily occupied with doing whatever it takes to help Corellia, which makes sense since its the Corellian Resistance. However, the Military decisions tend to be things that are designed to deal with the situation quickly and efficiently to bring a faster end to the conflict and deal with the Empire at large, usually at the expense of the Corellian people.  Sacrifice a few to quickly save the rest essentially.  The Resistance argues that what’s the point of helping if you’re just going to do just as much damage as the Imperials in the process.  Also a fair point. After dealing with either the fire bombs or capturing a dropship, is to mobilize troops to set up an ambush in the factories for the Imperials.  Mostly this mission just involves going around and notifying various cells that the mission is go and then joining them at the factory for the assault.  It’s really a super simple task only complicated by a brief discussion on whether blowing up the factory to stop the Imps is worth it or not.  Some argue that they’re destroying their place of business and will have no jobs once Corellia is freed, the others argue that if they don’t it becomes less certain if Corellia will be freed at all.  A decent question of short term vs long term risk and reward.  But beyond that this whole thing is talk to three dudes, blow up some Imps, go to next mission.  Not terribly exciting, but on the other hand it is showing more of the people of Corellia getting involved in the op.

The penultimate mission involves creating a landing zone for those totally-not-smugglers to drop off the ground troops close to the Bastion.  Again this mission follows the same pattern of do you help the Resistance or the Military, but this time its about whether or not you destroy an antique starship in a museum to make room for a landing strip, or fight your way into a fortified Imperial landing strip and “borrow” it. Naturally, blowing up the antique to make room is quicker and less risky, but if you do it really is the final straw with the Resistance.  They were mad, like sent me a letter talking about how much of a scumbag I am mad.  This is probably the most petty choice of them all, and really just falls to who do you want to listen to.  I can’t imagine landing in a museum is any more practical than an imperial outpost, other than you probably will draw some extra attention and have to fight a few more people with the outpost.  Still, it IS kinda funny to see the Resistance get so completely out of shape over it.  Oh fine, admit it, I’m just a bad person.

Everything comes to a head for the final mission to assault the Bastion and stop General Rakton.  This is where it aaaaall pays off.  You start out by shutting down security and capturing an Imperial transport to sneak into the Bastion Trojan Horse style, then after clearing everything out you meet the rest of the assault: the safecrackers from the Gauntlet mission, a heavy infantry team piloting walker tanks, and a squad of elite ground troops.  Oh, the best part? They all answer to you. That’s right. You are commanding an army. And that’s actually relevant this time as the plan is to assault all three guarded corridors at once to reach the Bastion.  One with traps and droids, one with walker tanks, and one with infantry.  I split it up so my walker tanks stepped all over their infantry, my infantry and safecrackers outmaneuvered their tanks, and Havoc Squad (Okay, you and your companion. The rest of the squad covers the rear) personally handled the droids and traps – what? I have to fight the boss afterward. I SHOULD get the easy job.  Not that it was terribly easy. The droid/trap hallway has the most insidious of obstacles: Companion Pathing Errors!  Yea, Forex continually would get stuck places while I had to try and take down groups of droids and turrets all by my lonesome.  I died in that hallway more times than I did the rest of Corellia. You finally rendezvous with the other teams in a courtyard to prepare for the final assault.  Which of course means that they are gonna hold the courtyard while you and your companion go kill Rakton.

The final showdown isn’t as impressive as the lead up, but it’s still a hell of a lot better than the random gold enemy at the end of the Gauntlet.  You face off with Rakton’s two goons – who really are the hard part in my opinion – and then Rakton himself.  Rakton wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for my tank companion continually standing in the massive AOE that he drops.  Still, with a little Heroic Moment, he fell all the same. Huzzah! And then you are given the ultimate choice: Do you kill Rakton or force him to work for the Republic?  Well, since this guy’s strategies almost brought down the entirety of the Republic in one fell swoop, I’m gonna put him in the “Too dangerous to let live” category and execute him.  And I did.  After that, the rest of the army drops you off back at your ship, and it’s happy trails to Corellia to meet with the Supreme Chancellor and Garza.  Time to treat the team to some drinks.

trooper3

FINALE

Suprisingly… there isn’t one.  Unlike a lot of the class stories which send you to one final confrontation after Corellia, the Trooper story ends right there on the planet with the defeat of General Rakton.  Which was shocking really.  I was expecting Rakton to make me face his goons, run off and I’d have to assault his super special awesome dreadnaught or something to kill him.  Which I happily didn’t have to do.  Especially since three chapters in a row of super special awesome dreadnaught assaults would be kind of annoying.

LOOKING BACK: A FINAL OPINION

The Trooper storyline really is a mixed bag for me.  I’ve heard this called the “Hero of the Republic” storyline and I can kind of see why.  You are pretty much the one who gets it done for the military, but it really didn’t feel as epic as say the Jedi Knight storyline.  The first chapter is really where the story shines in my opinion.  A mission of revenge against those who betrayed not only the Republic, but you personally.  It requires you to draw the line on where your loyalties lie: to the Republic? To the Military?  To your own ends?  And then continually tests you with your choices.  There’s a bit of a throwback to that in Chapter Three with Belsavis and Voss, but not nearly to the same degree and with not nearly as much on the line because there isn’t a personal investment with Rakton.  He’s pretty much just a giant threat to the Republic, but whoop de doo – so is everything in the Sith Empire.  If not Rakton, then the Dark Council, or Imperial Intelligence are just as threatening.  It really is a shame that Grand Moff Kilran got shifted to purely a Flashpoint only affair, because he would have been a much better villain to face in Act Three.  Rakton had the devotion and believed fully that the Imperial way of life was a good and just thing that everyone should have to live by, Kilran was a tactical, and ruthless butcher that had one hundred times more presence when he was on screen than Rakton.

But what about Chapter Two?  Chapter Two was blatantly unnecessary and was padding of the worst kind. It’s the only middle chapter I’ve run across thus far that does next to nothing to advance the narrative of the characters.  You could have had Rakton appear after the defeat of Tavus and nothing would have changed.  The Gauntlet was poorly done, poorly named, and ultimately just turned out to be a big filler mission to give you two more companions.  The only really shining moment was the opening battle on the Gauntlet and really that is all I can say about it.  The super mcguffin from Hoth? Never comes back.  Instead the Safecrackers from Quesh you saved not only show up in the side mission with Jaxo, but also on the final mission to assault the Bastion during the War for Corellia.  And they’re not interesting. AT ALL. There’s nothing memorable about them in the slightest.  If they didn’t blatantly mention they were with the Safecrackers, I wouldn’t have remembered them at all.  Honestly, I would have moved the A-77 interlude mission with Jaxo and made THAT the grand finale of Chapter Two.  At least then you would have the risk of losing Jaxo right after having that fun side mission with her back on Coruscant (So fresh in the mind) versus losing hundreds of people, it would have raised the stakes when you finally met Rakton and found out he was responsible for those deaths as a trap to remove Havoc Squad from the game before his big assault on Republic Space and then it wouldn’t have the unintended final consequence of blamng Havoc Squad – THE HEROES OF THIS STORYLINE – for re-starting the War proper by destroying Rakton’s new toy.  Rakton would have already been planning to assault the Republic, and this was a pro-active advanced trap to remove the biggest threat to his plans.  That would have been interesting in the overall story.

Chapter Three was still a welcome relief from the dismal Chapter Two.  While the fact that you spent Belsavis and Voss doing exactly what you did in Chapter Two with gathering troops for the battle was a bit annoying, it was certainly handled better and given a certain weight within the context of the war at large.  Belsavis is a prison planet that you need to save convicts imprisoned due to getting the shaft by command – something you can easily see happening to Havoc Squad – and the other with a paranoid senator monopolizing an entire platoon for his own fears in the wake of war.  This is made even more bearable and even downright poking fun at Chapter Two when you meet with the Senate and they complain that Havoc Squad has been doing nothing to help the war on the front lines.  I’m just glad they don’t blame you for starting the war (although it is a missed opportunity in that scene.  Especially when you can kill the senator.  How good would that feel? “YOU STARTED AN UNNECESSARY WAR!” “AND YOU ARE A TRAITOR! /Blast”).  The glory moment is surely Corellia, but it doesn’t truly feel that way until the end.  You get the same kind of Military vs Rebels vibe for most of the planet as you did with Balmorra, but with more extremely blatant “Screw you Rebels, we do it our way” moments.  It’s really hard to look at Garza in a positive light in some of those moments where she’s like “There’s no time. BLOW UP THE PRICELESS MUSEUM!” Still the extremely epic ending with the Assault on the Bastion, where it feels like your choices DO matter some.  If only I could actually reload the game back to just that mission, I would love to go and see if there actually is anything interesting that happens if you send the teams differently.  Would the walker tanks handle the traps and droids okay?  Would there be more casualties if you went ground troops to ground troops?  I really would like to explore that.  But not so much that I’d wade through Chapter Two again. No Sir. So that’s the end of the Trooper storyline.  My first finished write up for a whole story.  Wow.  Hopefully the others will be a bit less frustrating than the trooper.  I really wanted to like this one. And it wasn’t terrible (except for Chapter Two), but it seemed like it could have been a lot better too.  Well, here’s to next time.

<< Class Storyline Review: Trooper Chapter Two ||

Vry Plays: Shadowrun Returns (Part One: Sprawling Out)

Well, I’ve been talking about it for nearly two years now and I’ve finally done it.  Me maniacs. My very first Let’s Play in what hopes to be a new tradition here around the Land of Odd.  We’re kicking things off with a bit of Nostalgia playing Shadowrun Returns.  Well…  Shadowrun is nostalgic for ME at least.

Note: I know the audio is not the best quality, something went wrong with the clean up on the audio files.  If I get a chance I’ll see if there is someway to fix it.  If not, I at least know what NOT to do for the next one.

EDIT: Uploaded a new version with fixed audio.

Hope you all enjoy!

Class Storyline Reviews: Smuggler – Prologue

smuggler_prog_01

Are your morals too loosey goosey for the Jedi Order?  Do you prefer to be your own boss instead of enlisting in the Republic Military?  Is the Space England accent of the Empire too hoity toity for you?  Well my friend, you may have a future in smuggling.  Ah yes, the Smuggler.  That class that sort of doesn’t make sense in the grand scheme of this two faction system we call The Old Republic.  You don’t really have any invested interest in the Republic winning beyond the Empire is probably gonna check your cargo hold more often and give you more discerning looks at the docks.  I mean heck, the bounty hunter has more ties into this whole war due to the fact that the Mandalorians are semi-permanently hired en masse by the Empire, but you?  The smuggler has no real official ties to the Republic when the story starts.  Heck, you are pretty much on an imaginary third side where you don’t like the Republic, but are scared of the Empire more so, and thus enemy of my enemy…  is still my enemy?

So what do you get for a story when you have nothing at stake in this cold war?  Well…  a lot of fun actually.  Let’s take a look at the Smuggler Prologue.

Ord Mantell

Knights are born heroes, Consulars are the top of their class, Troopers are members of the most elite troop in the military, and you, dear smuggler, your story begins with you getting your ship stolen and getting duped by two timing weasel.  If that doesn’t set the tone for you, nothing will.  Yes, the story of the smuggler is one of the underdog fighting for his cut in the world in seems.  On a routine potentially less than legal delivery of some weapons to a local crime boss/”importer” working for an even bigger crime lord, a dirty backstabber going by the name Skavak steals the weapons and your ship and heads off.  Now unless you can get those blasters back, you and the crime boss named Vidu are gonna to be having an unpleasant visit from your mutual employer: Rogun the Butcher.  I’m sure he got that name because he LOVES to make roast beef sandwiches.

So the job quickly turns from deliver blasters to get blasters back or get dead, and the only way to find out that is to figure out where Skavak was taking them.  He mentions in his last holo transmission that he was apparently working for the separatists so that’s a great place to start.  And the easiest way to do that is to get the data from the Mannett Point computers, but how?  Well it just so happens that Vidu has an old buddy that knows how to smuggle goods through the back tunnels of Mannett Point, so it’s time to pay him a visit and drop off some supplies for the intel.  You show up and find out the supplies are for him and his… uh… lady friends?  The implications are kinda scuzzy in my opinion.  But it also does something for the tone of the story.  This isn’t a trooper.  This isn’t a jedi.  You are not necessarily on the right side of the law.  You are essentially a criminal, granted a criminal that may have a noble cause, but a criminal nonetheless. And as such you get to see the seedy underbelly of everything. Including books on bird watching!

Yes, apparently the secret to getting into the tunnels below Mannett Point are disguised as a treatise on bird watching that you get the code to decipher. Ugh. Reading.  About birds.  Such is the trials and tribulations of the lowly Smuggler.  No damn Jedi have a mission to go read about birds for hours.  But you get down into the lower area and slice into the computers, with the possibility of some fun antics with the separatists.  Which highlights yet another difference in the Smuggler story compared to some of the others: It’s funny.  Like really funny.  Not just a general chuckle here and there.  But the smuggler can easily be played for full on yuks if you want.  Hell, his first line when you start the game can be an instant dismissal of how you immediately hate being on Ord Mantell.  If the Jedi Knight is an epic hero tale, the trooper is a war story, then the Smuggler is a wacky buddy comedy at its heart.  Or it can be at least.  But it’s so unique in that regard why wouldn’t you play it that way?

Following retrieving the files, your friends back at the base start working on cracking it while they send you on a mission to make a bit of cash to hopefully distract Rogun.  A suicidal wacky side quest to go meet an insane old man and get his “Boom Juice” and bring it back.  The quest is honestly just filler, but continues the comedy vibes of the smuggler’s tale.  The old man you meet with is particularly humorous with his strange remarks of confirming that you are definitely not a gundark and other weird quips.  His wife immediately offers you dinner as soon as you run into her as well.  They’re like a homelier and more insane version of Miracle Max and his wife from the Princess Bride almost.  Though Billy Crystal is missed here.

After the boom juice death run (or if you are like me, you just quick traveled with the stuff as soon as you got it) the files have been cracked open and you’ve got a lead on Skavak.  Seems like he’s got a meeting with the Separatists inside their secret volcano base.   Secret…  volcano…  base?  The heck?  Do they also have sharks with laser beams?  Or at least ill tempered mutant bass?  Anyway, it’s off to stop Skavak, get the blasters and save the ship!  Except this time you’re not going alone.  Vidu is sending you with Corso.  Oh Corso.  How I hate you.  I honestly believe Corso is one of those love/hate companions.  I don’t know many who have experienced long periods of time with the boy and not developed a sense of fondness or utter loathing for him.  When playing my smuggler it seems that “SHUT UP CORSO” has become a reoccurring catch phrase for the entire class story.  I don’t know if it’s his country bumpkin attitude, old fashioned ways, or simply his insistence on being overly chivalrous that makes me want to punch him.  Like he wants to be a white knight for everyone, unless it involves his own revenge fantasies. THEN it’s okay.

So you get through the uh… *cough* SecretVolcanoBase… only to find that Skavak ain’t there.  Naw.  He tricked them just like he tricked you.  Stole a robot too.  An old beat up useless robot that no one would ever want or find a use for.  Well, if that’s not foreshadowing, I don’t know what is.  The separatists start a fight because if you’ve played through Ord Mantell before you know they ain’t that bright.  Corso wants to kill them because his family was killed by separatists.  Fine, whatever shuts you up.  But not before it’s revealed that Vidu’s girlfriend was actually working with Skavak the entire time! Vidu’s girlfriend that you had the option to flirt with.  A lot.  Heh… heh… ehhh…  Okay, I said already that we’re dealing with the scum of society right?

So it’s a rush back to the base to confront her and find out where Skavak’s gone.  Turns out she’s killed Vidu and Skavak is mid-dumping her as you walk in.  Bad day?  She spills that Skavak is on Coruscant, and then you get the option to kill her.  I don’t believe much in second chances when it opens you to getting shot in the back so I killed her. Oh yea.  Course that gets Corso’s boxers in a bunch about how you shouldn’t treat girls that way, it ain’t right. God damnit, Corso. Not ten minutes ago you shot a defenseless man who never did a thing to you in cold blood. DON’T GO SOFT ON ME CORSO.  And then on your way out, Rogun the Butcher has sent bounty hunters after you.  So clearly, the boom juice didn’t go far to getting him off his back proving once and for all that it was just a pointless fetch quest so you’d go and get all your travel points on the map.  The bounty hunters die with NO complaints from Corso and we’re off to the Big City!

Coruscant

Ah Corsucant, city of dreams.  And buildings.  Lots of buildings.  It’s kind of easy to see why Skavak would run to Coruscant.  The various levels of the city are swamped with the worst scum outside of the Empire and there are lots of places to hide.  Pretty much right off the boat we are treated to a reminder of exactly where in the social strata the smuggler falls, as you have to hack the customs machine to recognize a false ID so you can get in while Corso distracts a security droid.  I suppose since you technically had your own ship, you didn’t have to deal with official channels THAT much before (or considering how quickly you trick the system into thinking you are an admiral, maybe way too much.)  Of course now that you are in, the question of how to find Skavak is the real task.  Corso suggests finding a gambler/info broker named Darmas Palloran.

Darmas is quite happy to help put you on the right track with his various contacts, and because he was friends with Viidu and doesn’t want to take advantage of a man down on his luck with no ship, he does so for free.  He points you first to a slicer for the Migrant Merchant’s Guild (worse gang name ever) named Kixi.  Turns out Kixi is being held there against her will to do the Guild’s bidding and is happy to not only undo the scrubbing clean she did of Skavak’s record, but also dirty it up even more (my favorite is noting that Skavak is an undercover agent for the Republic. Ouch!)  So after all that you are given a choice to either free Kixi likes she wants, keep her locked up because you might need her still, or just kill her.  I don’t know about you, but killing someone who is essentially enslaved who happily helped you is probably one of the scummier things you can do in a prologue. And I’m including the Empire here.  I can maybe see the whole keep her locked up because you might need her, but what exactly is her incentive to help you the next time?  Oh yes, you totally will get free *snrk* this *chuckle* time… for *HA!* realsies. I generally just let Kixi go free.  That gives her incentive to help me in the future cause I helped her, and is not a totally monstrous thing to do.

After completely ruining Skavak’s record, your next tip from Darmas leads you into Black Sun territory to find a holo-recording of Skavak’s meeting with the gang.  It appears that our good buddy Skavak is having issues with the law now as well, as a Sullustan cop – whose name I couldn’t be bothered to remember but I remember is had alliterative M’s so I shall call him Meow Mix for now – is hot on his trail and Skavak wants Black Sun to deal with him.  So it’s off to the spaceport to save Meow Mix, who reveals that Skavak stole a precious gem that the Sullustans worship.  Meow Mix mistakes you for a good hearted, noble, and helpful citizen and deputizes you with the deal that you will track down Skavak together.

Darmas’ next lead has you headed into Justicar territory to meet up with some punk teens with bad attitudes that apparently have zero education beyond what they learned wandering around the pipes of Coruscant (they call cameras ‘Droid Eyes’ and have no clue what the actual name for them are).  Mostly it seems a throwaway mission to pad it out because all you do is rescue the brother of the sibling duo from the justicar jail (the jay-jay if you will) because only he knows where Skavak went and also happen to find Meow Mix there, who you can leave in there or let him out. All you that you gather is that Skavak made a run for the Works, the industrial machinery area below Justicar territory and I refuse to believe that the sister DIDN’T know that because the elevator that goes there is 25 feet away from their hideout.  Or maybe they don’t know what an elevator is either.  People tube or something.  Damn kids and they’re lingo.

You finally find Skavak deep in the works meeting with some of his imperial buddies where he trades the gem for some “gruesome trophy” that is being delivered to his (read: YOUR) ship.  Meow Mix then makes the scene and confronts the Imps, demanding the return of the gem and then gets himself shot.  I should have left his funny face back in the jail.  He might still be alive then.  So you blast the Imps, watch Meow Mix die, find out the gem is a fake, and high tail it back to the hangers to get your ship back from the sleazy ship salesman who is holding it for Skavak.

On your ship, you find a bunch of weird cargo.  An old robot, a weird alien mutt, a carbonite frozen person, a head in a jar, and a pretty lady.  Wait.  Lady?  Ah yes.  Risha.  Risha is your new boss apparently. She offers you a simple deal, help her deliver all this stuff and she’ll lead you to the fabled treasure of Nok Drayan, a gangster who accumulated more wealth than some outer rim planets and then hid it before his death.  Her former partner in this endeavor – Skavak – was (surprise surprise) unreliable, so now she’s offering you the same deal which naturally angers Skavak and pushes the plot into Chapter One.

smuggler_prog_02

Final Thoughts

The smuggler story is just plain good fun.  It has a light hearted feel with plenty of jokes, but it doesn’t do any of it at the expense of the story.  I loved the story here.  It was one of those plots that seems really simple until you look at it in hindsight because then you start noticing things like what Skavak is actually trying to do.  The old robot? The grisly trophy?  All things Risha needs to trade with.  It all seems random and petty, but as you go forward it all builds and builds and that continues all through chapter one as you’ll see.

The only thing I didn’t like – and this is strictly personal – is Corso.  Oh the force, does Corso grate me.  The joke when we play at home is whenever Corso says anything, it’s pretty much immediately followed with “Shut up, Corso(tm).” We had to trademark it because it’s a fricking slogan for the class thus far.  I don’t know if it’s just the country bumpkin act or the blatant hypocrisy of “We can kill people in cold blood as long as they are tangentially related to our problems but don’t you dare be mean to girl.”  I’m not saying that women should be hit, and by no means is that any kind of default response.  I’m not donning a fedora on this.  But killing someone who just joined up with the separatists for something other separatists did YEARS ago is fine, but don’t you dare harm a woman who we just caught backstabbing us, selling us out, killed our boss, and is working with the guy who royally screwed us and lying about it is somehow crossing a line that shan’t be crossed?  Bite me, Corso.

So that’s my take on the prologue for the Smuggler storyline.  Hope you enjoyed, and I’ll be back soon-ish with more Class Storyline reviews.  I want to say Trooper Chapter 3 should be done next.

First Reactions to Final Fantasy XIV

ff14logo

So since my girlfriend and I spent this last weekend holed up in the house sick as can be, we decided to explore a new game.  The game in question as I’m sure you already figured out from the title was Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, the newish MMO addition to the Final Fantasy series.  It was on sale for $15 on Amazon, I was curious, and it came with a free month.  So we bought it to give it a try.  Before you even ask: No, I am still playing SWTOR and I am still working on the class reviews.  And yes, I am still playing Final Fantasy 13-2 and actually enjoying quite a bit, and I’ll be writing about some of that soon as well.

So 12 painful hours of downloading later, we finally got to play.  She made an Arcanist and I made a Marauder.  Kind of a tanking/healing duo.  Which works out nice as we can tackle a lot of content like the random world events ala Guild Wars 2 called FATEs (Which is an acronym for something I couldn’t be bothered to remember) that it would frustrating or painful to do solo.  I smack the thing, she keeps me alive, I keep the thing from killing her.  It’s the circle of MMO roles, Simba.  Don’t be a n00b.  Lionesses don’t dig n00bz.  Sorry! Tangent. Sick. As I said before.

Overall, the game seems fun.  We’re fairly early on it only getting to level 10 so we could unlock all the other classes.  See, in FF14, you don’t just play one class like you do in WoW or SWTOR.  Okay you do. But only for the first 10 levels.  Then you can unlock the other classes by visiting their trainers/guildmasters and taking a short quest.  Once you do, you can switch between the classes by switching to a different weapon (more Guild Wars 2 flashbacks with the whole ability sets being tied into weapon choice) and each class keeps its own level.  So I may be a Level 10 marauder, but only a level 1 Arcanist, and a level 5 cook! Because yes, even your professions are baked into the class system.  On one hand, this is pretty cool.  You can pretty much experience EVERYTHING you want with a single character.  Play any class you feel like.  Level all the professions!  On the other hand, it seems like doing that will be insanely grindy.  See your base class levels pretty quick at first because you are doing a lot of unique low level quests.  But those quests are gone once you do them.  That means you’ll eventually have classes to level and have nothing to do it with except for FATEs and grinding mobs. But hey, you don’t have to level the other classes right?  Well, sort of.  See on top of the classes, there are Jobs.  Jobs are kind of like Advanced Classes, or even more accurate a LOT like Prestige Classes in the sense that they have a requirement tied to them.  Like the Warrior job requires having Marauder leveled to 30, and the Gladiator class leveled to 15.  And jobs are like where it’s at.  You want the job.  The job is cool.  For uh… reasons.  I guess?  I assume the usual MMO rigamarole of more abilities, more power, more etc.  And you can unlock all of those too but that pretty much will mean you need to get every class to at least level 30 (out of 50).  Be prepared to kill a whole lot of lady bugs and rabbits.

However, the game is still fresh and fun and the grind has yet to set in, so I plan to fiddle around with it for this first month and see how it goes.  Maybe it will be added to Vry’s Regular MMO Arsenal of Killing Time.  There is one thing I am dreading but haven’t quite reached yet, which is apparently around level 15 in the main storyline (the main storyline being the thing that sets when certain in game capabilities like being able to make guilds, use airships, get mounts, etc are unlocked with) you have to do a series of dungeons to progress.  Oh.  Oh boy.  Um yea.  Forced grouping to advance.  Lovely.  I’m sure someone is rolling their eyes at that and saying “Oh forbid you interact with people in a MULTIPLAYER game” or some such.  But yea, I’m all cool with interacting with people.  When it’s my choice to do so.  It was bad enough in school whenever we had a group assignment and had to find a group of students to work with and no, doing the project by yourself is NOT an option, Lil’ Vry.  I’m not good in those situations.  Never have been.  So why play an MMO?  Because I like the idea of a living world that updates and changes as time goes on where as single player games remain static and unchanged year round unless you have massive modding support (I <3 you, Bethesda) or are something like Animal Crossing but even that just repeats every year with nothing new being added (Oh, imagine Animal Crossing meets Skyrim.  Real time calender and time events in the game? How cool!)  Anyway, back on topic.  Yea.  Forced groups.  Not looking forward to it.  Especially since you need to do them to do things like…  use a mount.  And I know there’s a dungeon finder tool but the horror stories of 4-5 hour waits for each of these three consecutive forced dungeons does not exactly leave me hopeful.  Oh well. We’ll see I guess.

Finally, I suppose the Final Fantasy series has a uh… reputation for more…  er…  “Feminine” male figures than most game series out there.  I mean, you could play a game of what sex is this character with a great number of both main characters and random NPCs throughout the series since it went to CD format (And the earlier concept art for the NES/SNES games by Amano was the same way, don’t get me wrong. But that seldom got translated into the game sprites. If you even could.)  But can we please discuss the early armor quest reward I got for my Marauder?

ff14_crab_battle

That is not a tabard, chest piece or tunic.  That is a dress.  A pink dress, with pink gloves, and pink sneakers.  On my MARAUDER.  Normally I’d compliment the game on trying to buck gender stereotypes here, but honestly I can’t think of a situation where any gender would find this acceptable clothing for an axe wielding barbarian.  But I won’t deny that jokes of Pretty Pretty Barbarian Princess were uttered all night long at this ridiculous outfit I found myself wearing.  Oh, and those little pantaloons sticking out from beneath the “tabard”?  Those are his pants.  They are described as such in game.

Behold! The rare and exotic male upskirt shot!

Behold! The rare and exotic male upskirt shot!

On your first guess, would you say those were pants?  Or even shorts?!  I know that was the first thing that came to our mind.  Oh no.  And what about that poor kid I’m saving from the vicious giant crabs of doom?  Kid is scarred for ****ing LIFE.  Look at his face:

ff14_poorkid

To be fair, if you just got saved from giant evil crabs of death-like doom or doom-like death (GECDLD for short) by someone wielding a giant axe and dressed like that of any gender or sexual orientation, wouldn’t you have that look on your face too?  Seriously, Square Enix.  WTF?

Class Storyline Review: Trooper Chapter Two

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

<< Class Storyline Review: Trooper Chapter One || Class Storyline Review: Trooper Chapter Three >>

trooperChap2_01

Last time on the Trooper storyline…  We killed a bunch of traitors.  Now you’re caught up.  As you can see from the above picture, I hit up the Cartel Market to outfit Havoc Squad with a bit of the ol’ technological superiority going into chapter two. So what is chapter two anyway?  Well, if you recall from Chapter One, we pretty much exterminated, arrested, or generally dealt with all the traitorous former members of Havoc Squad while picking up a few replacements of our own in the forms of Aric Jorgan (aka Sgt Meowmers), Elara Dorne (aka The nice imperial lady in my medic bay I never talk to) and M1-4X (aka THE MOST AWESOME ROBOT EVER).  I neglected to mention and folks pointed out in the comments that the Trooper has one of the quickest accumulation of companions in the game.  Reaching three companions (not including the Ship robot) before even reaching Tatooine.  Continuing that tradition, we’re going on a recruitment drive in Chapter Two picking up our last two companions and building a complete squad of companions before even hitting Chapter Three (An honor shared also by the Smuggler and the Sith Warrior who both pick up their last companions on Hoth as well.)

Why the neccessity to fill out the ranks? Well, the Republic Army has a new target for Havoc Squad to tackle, a mysterious new star destroyer – er… whatever we call them in The Old Republic timeline – called the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet has the ability to blow up ships while they are traveling in Hyperspace.  Which is impressive.  And problematic.  And quite possibly impossible but who am I to question physics of hitting an object traveling at lightspeed in a galaxy where space wizards fight with laser swords that just stop after a yard for no reason.  The name intrigues me though.  The Gauntlet.  So either a hazardous obstacle course of doom…  or a glove that one throws down to challenge people.  Neither of these really fit the situation though as we’ll find out.  The ship has a fairly standard design in it’s layout.  In fact a lot of it gets re-used in the False Emperor flashpoint and several other Imperial base/starship areas.  And it’s not really a challenge because… well, I’ll get to that at the end.  So in order to stop the Gauntlet, we need three things: An explosives expert, an infiltration team, and a security/electronics whiz.  Luckily, all those things just happen to be on the next three planets we can level through!  So grab some pamphlets, it’s time to recruit us some new Havoc-ers.

Balmorra

So it’s time to start our recruitment drive on Balmorra.  The goal is to find and recruit one Tanno Vik, an explosives expert that was discharged from the Republic military.  However, this hunt is fraught with unexpected complications.  It seems our Mr. Vik is a bit of a con-man.  You routinely find people that enlisted Tanno’s aid to perform some manner of operation with the reclamation of Balmorra, but he usually just takes their equipment and runs off with it before completing the job.  This leaves you in the unfortunate position of having to do his work for him and help those who he’s left high and dry all across the planet until you can figure out what he’s up to.  Yaaaaaay.

But you find out soon enough as you eventually make contact with the jerk and discover that he’s been “borrowing” the equipment to help break in to a top secret Balmorran Arms vault to “liberate” these high tech weapons from the Imperials.  I have to use the quotation marks there, because Tanno Vik isn’t the type to be honest as illustrated by all the friggin’ messes of his you just had to clean up.   It’s not a far off assumption either.  After using the stolen equipment to launch a homemade missile into the factory, he breaks into the vault to take the weapons.  Actually, he gives you the choice.  Turn the weapons over to the resistance, keep them for havoc squad, or sell them for a profit. Really, only the last option seems like the clear cut jerk move.  The other two are clearly up for debate.  True, SpecForce could use the weapons to further their goals, but giving them to the resistance could endear trust with the Republic.  Both good uses really.  I kept them for Havoc squad since my Trooper is very pro-military and my orders did not include ‘assist the resistance’.

Tanno Vik’s personality is pretty much summed up in these missions.  He seems to be a guy who believes the end justifies the means, in doing the right thing so long as he gets something in return.  He’s eager to skim off the top when you get the weapons, he steals equipment for ultimately a good cause – okay, he’s attacking the Empire.  Other than that, I dunno if plowing a missile into apparently the largest factory on the planet is a ‘good cause’ – but doesn’t use them for the job he was hired to do.  If anything, I’d describe him as somewhere between Chaotic Good and Chaotic Neutral.  He seems noble enough in his intentions, but he’s also quite self serving in the same stroke.

Quesh

Next up is hitting the backwater adrenal manufacturing planet of Quesh. Quesh has always been something of a filler planet that usually only has a single class quest that teases something coming up in the plot.  Like for the Jedi Knight it’s the first time you meet a powerful npc that plays heavily into the plot twist at the end of Chapter 2, the Bounty Hunter has a run in with the antagonist that drives the plot into Chapter 3.  However in case of the trooper, we’re just picking up some buddies for later.

Yea, that’s apparently it. Along with the new recruits from Balmorra and Hoth, you need to get a team of infiltration experts that appear to have broken in but can’t break out of an Imperial camp on Quesh.  Since you need them for the Big Mission(tm), it’s up to you to break them out and cover their escape.  Namely fighting wave after wave of baddies at the front door.

And that’s it for Quesh.  I wish I could say there was more to it for the Trooper, but really it’s just do this one thing and extract the pinned down team so they can join you in the big assault later.  Yaaaaay.

Hoth

This is the final stop on our recruitment drive. This time we have to get a gant (bug person) named Yuun.  Luckily, he’s not running off and making us chase him like Senor Grumpy Pants Vik.  Oh no. You meet Yuun quite quickly. But the catch is you need to help him finish his assignment before he can depart.  Okay, say it with me now: Yaaaaaaaaaay.  Essentially, our Bug Man is trying to assemble the Umbra Encrypter – a device responsible for decades of uncrackable Imperial codes.  Yuun wants to remake one from parts scattered across the frozen snowball of a planet, that quite frankly I hate with a burning passion.  Why? Well, everything is white with a blue-ish tint.  That means the lights from dropped items are harder to see, quest items are harder to see on the ground, and it just hurts my eyes after a while.  So I hope I can cling to my patience and sanity while trying to help Yuun.

This process is not made any easier by Yuun’s strange methodology which is akin to that guy from Ancient Aliens mixed with Sylvia Browne playing with a tarot deck drawn in crayon.  He reads the signs and energy wavelengths and other oddities and uses that to know exactly how to proceed.  And it works! Which I would say is weird, but this is the same setting as the Jedi and Sith, so let’s give the non-Force using Bug Man some credit.  Your tasks are generally simple retrieve X, where X can be people or an object, punctuated in the middle of the chain by a mission that requires you to distract the Imperials while another team fetches X.  The only real moral dilemma is do you warn Yuun of the approaching pirate attack or use him as bait to catch them off guard.  I used him as bait. What? He’s a psychic/bug type poke-companion, I’m sure he saw it coming even if he never said anything about it.

So you rebuild his thingie, he is happy and gets on the ship.  The end.  No, seriously.  That’s really all it is.  It feels like it takes forever, and it’s really just four fairly basic tasks and then he puts together a device that we are told is really, really, REALLY important and will save countless lives and we never see it do anything and I REALLY hope it comes back later on or this will be the most disappointing over-hyped mcguffin thus far.

trooperChap2_02

Finale: The Battle of the Gauntlet

So now that you’ve reassembled a brand spanking new Havoc Squad it’s time to assault The Gauntlet.  A big old star ship that can blow up other ships while they are in hyperspace (which is bad, and also previously thought impossible).  Two of your squad will take the bridge, Yuun will accompany you to disable security, and then you’ll switch over with Tanno Vik to plant the explosives and blow this joint! Oh and the last team member will offer support.  It’s kinda cool to see the entire squad of companions getting involved like this. Especially right at the beginning when you burst onto the Gauntlet only to find a gold, two silvers, and a squad of weaker goons there to swamp you, and all six of you unleash hell in a huge opening battle!  It’s epic! It’s awesome! Aaaand that’s where the excitement ends.

After that opening battle, the rest of the mission is visit a couple quest markers with Yuun and watch some cutscenes of taking down bad guys, then switch over and visit a few more quest markers with Vik and watch a cutscene, then fight a random gold mob and leave.  That’s it.  That’s the mission.  Yes, there’s a bit where you’re contacted by the bridge team and they say they got pinned down by Imperial reinforcements and then you have the choice of “Send them back up to help them run away”, “Run away” or “RUN AWAY NOW!”.  I don’t think there was a single light side/dark side choice in there.  No daring rescue on the bridge even.  Just ‘Bombs are set, let’s skidoo!’ and away you go to get your reward and promotions.  Talk about a let down of a finale.  No, I’m serious.  That big explosive battle should have been at the end, not the beginning.  Or have that energy continued the entire way through.  Because despite everyone knowing you are there from that first initial blow up of a battle, absolutely no one is acting on alert.  Hell, the droids are still mopping and the engineers are doing routine maintenance. And it’s not like you are the only threat here either! There’s a big space battle going on outside, a huge shoot out on the bridge, and you see NONE of it.  Instead it’s escort and chat with the new companions while killing the bored janitors.  What a joke.

When you finally get back to Coruscant, General Garza lets you know that a message has arrived from the Imperial who designed the Gauntlet and explains it was meant to be a tool for peace.  That they hoped the threat of the Gauntlet would be enough that the Republic would back down and just let the Empire do whatever it wanted.  You know, like nuclear deterrence. Only without the mutually assured destruction.  Or the arms race that leads both sides to have a Gauntlet pointed at each other causing them to reach a standstill.  So nothing like nuclear deterrence.  But see what I mean earlier about the whole challenge aspect of ‘throwing down the gauntlet’ not applying either? They made the thing with the hopes that it was so powerful and threatening that no one would challenge it.  So maybe the name is ironic?  No clue.  Anyway, the Imperial jerkface has decided that since the Republic can’t be REASONABLE PEOPLE and just lay down and die or convert, that there’s no stopping it.  It’s all out war now.  So there’s the reason the war starts up again in Chapter Three that you hear about in every other class story.  It’s because the Trooper and Havoc Squad broke the Empire’s new toy.  That’s all.  Actually that about makes sense considering they just wanted an excuse.  Hey, maybe that was the challenge to throwing down the Gauntlet.  They made something that the Republic had no choice but to attack to give them an excuse to go to war.  Ha!

Final Thoughts

I had mixed opinions of Chapter One due to the weird moral choices you were presented with, but Chapter Two just STUNK.  There was nothing gripping or exciting.  It never felt like anything was building or the stakes were being raised.  Nothing felt like it was going to the next level at all.  No, it’s a bloody recruitment drive.  That’s it. For all of Chapter Two you are finding people to help you, and when they do they payoff is next to nil.  I was hoping that after a meh-ish experience the Battle of the Gauntlet would add some serious excitement to the end and it didn’t.  It just kept up the feeling of nothing big happening at all.  You got a team, they all did their jobs, the f-ing end.  That’s it.  Nothing was risked, everything worked out with next to no complications or messy situations.  Oh, one of the bridge team was critically injured? Oh shoot. Good thing that all we have to do is take them two steps to the ship and heal them because hey, mission is already done.

Again, if the big battle was at the end, then being one person down would have been interesting.  It was a choice of who you sent where, so now that choice matters because it would affect who was injured and couldn’t help in the final battle. Maybe you could shake that up by sending Yuun or whoever was on support to help and then THEY would be injured for the final battle.  Instead the entirety of the who is on the Bridge assault and who is on support is apparently MEANINGLESS.  It doesn’t matter who you send.  One will be injured, but that’s after everything is said and done and nothing will be lost for it.  You can’t switch out with any of them – including whoever you left for support – during the mission because you will always be stuck with either Tanno or Yuun (or if you have her, Treek. Because they didn’t think of that when they first designed the mission).

The choices you make in the finale don’t matter at all in the outcome of the finale.  That’s it. There is no bigger insult to this game than that.  The bland moral choices, the dull friendship drive and it all culminates in a pointless final mission that leaves you with the rank of Major, 10 more levels added to your belt, and two new buddies to play with.  Talk about a frickin’ disappointment of a chapter.  I can only hope that Chapter Three is an improvement.  I can’t see how it couldn’t be.

<< Class Storyline Review: Trooper Chapter One || Class Storyline Review: Trooper Chapter Three >>

Class Storyline Reviews: Bounty Hunter – Prologue

BHPro03

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

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

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

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

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

Hutta

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

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

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

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

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

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

BHPro02

Dromund Kaas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tarro Blood in a Fedora. You're welcome.

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Irreconcilable Differences on Balmorra

So I’ve been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic again with my girlfriend lately.  Shooting up bad guys, leveling, having laughs, and saying extremely mean – and deserved – comments at Corso (She plays a Trooper, I play a Smuggler).  However, as we traversed the threshold that is Chapter 2, we came to a slight… problem.  See, at the start of the Smuggler storyline in chapter 2, you meet one Akaavi Spar:

qRbsu

She’s a bad ass Mandalorian Zabrak on a mission to avenge the death of her clan. Her early appearances are marked with events such as blowing up a small army of dudes, beating you getting into a highly fortified prison, then walking through a door with Imps beyond it, the door shutting only to open seconds later and for the Imps to be dead.  She is the very embodiment of Bad Ass and stands with other paragons of Bad Assitude like Spike Spiegal, Master Chief, The Road Runner, and Clint Eastwood.

This was my reaction to meeting Akaavi:

verVSdes01

This was my girlfriend’s reaction to my reaction to meeting Akaavi:

verVSdes02

And this is us working out our differences between her reaction and my reaction:

verVSdes03

I’m sure it will all work out just fine. Right?

Frozen Treats

Disney-Frozen-Logo

So I finally got around to seeing Frozen.  Yes, you can pick your jaws up off the floor, I know it took me a while.  But I’m not a young spry chap with infinite free time that can see every animated film that comes out like I was back in college.  But those who know me know that I am a lover of all things animated, so I felt that writing a short review and sharing my thoughts on the film.  Why? Because it’s my blog.  And I have a whole category over there on the side clearly labeled “Cartoons & Anime”.  That’s why. Is that not enough?

The Premise

For those who aren’t familiar with the general plot of the story, it revolves around two sisters: Elsa and Anna. When Elsa was born she was gifted and/or cursed with magic over ice.  However, after an accident with Anna, her parents try to help her learn to control her powers. By locking her in their palace, and letting no one – not even Anna – interact with her until she has mastered her magic.  But the parents die, as they do in Disney films, and now Elsa is left as the Queen of their small but prosperous kingdom. However, during the coronation Elsa looses controls of her powers and is driven out by fear to the north mountains where she builds an ice palace in her own private idaho ice kingdom completely unaware that her actions have left the kingdom buried and frozen in a deep snow in the middle of summer. Now Anna has to try to convince her sister to thaw the kingdom.

It sounds REALLY simplistic, but actually it constantly messes with your expectations and rarely do things like this stay so simple.  Treason, treachery, trolls, and snowmen also make appearances and often not where you expect them.  I don’t want to go into much or else I’ll spoil some of the awesome of the film but the film does a great job of screwing with your typical “Ah of course it’s Disney” stereotypes and tropes.  All the way down to the ending and how the plot is resolved challenges the way you would think a film like this would play out.  Honestly, it feels more like a Dreamworks story but the classic Disney quality to it and next to zero pop culture references (Seriously, Dreamworks. Tone that **** down.)

The Visuals

Gorgeous.  That’s all I can say.  Starting back when Disney Animation put on Tangled, I think they really hit on something with the overall emphasis on using facial animation to depict emotion.  It added an energy to the characters’ expressions that you didn’t see in a lot of other CGI films.  Combining that with the enjoyably cartoony body movements and you honestly have some of the most delightful characters to watch on screen in a long time (in my opinion at least.)  That same energy is brought to bare in Frozen, emphasized on the emotional turmoil that Elsa goes through over the film and the manic pixie girl like tendencies of Anna.  It’s an animated film that’s fun to watch and re-watch just to look at all the little details that each character has in a scene.  Something I’ve missed since the later seasons of Jimmy Neutron on Nickelodeon when the animators started really having fun putting gags in the background or with characters that are not the center of focus for the audience.

Of course, I’d be called on it if I didn’t bring up the overly emphasized clipping errors that have been making the rounds on the internet.  Yes, Elsa’s hair clips through her arm at one point.  It’s not even a half second long and unless it’s been beaten into you by sites like Tumblr or wherever it’s being passed around you wouldn’t likely notice it. Honestly, I barely noticed it all even knowing it was there with all the other glorious visual being poured directly into my eye balls.  Like the ICE.

Oh geeze, if there was ever a reason to buy a Blu-Ray player, watching this movie in high definition just for the ICE is going to be worth it.  Even in theaters the fractals of ice just look gorgeous.

The Acting

Honestly, this is probably where I have the least to say.  I’ve never been a huge critic of actors.  Everyone did really well here.  That’s about all I can say.  If there were any shows stealers it would be Olaf the Snowman voiced by Josh Gad who turned in an amazingly happy over the top and blissfully innocent snowman.  Honestly, we were astonished about how darn loveable that performance was.  Kirstin Bell (Anna) and Johnathan Groff (Kristof) turn in performances with a great chemistry between the two with well timed oral jabs at each other.  Idina Menzel as Elsa was…  well that’s complicated the more I think of it.  She does the high drama moments incredibly well (Not surprising for a Broadway star) but in the less tense moments felt a tad… meh.  It may be partly because outside of the fervent emotional turmoil, Elsa doesn’t have a ton going on as a character, especially in comparison to Anna who deals with her repressed worldview, her is she/isn’t she evil relationship with her sister, and her spontaneous and insane love life.  Elsa is just a bit more of a one trick character.  But that one trick is rendered masterfully.

Other Things

You know the theory has been passed around that Elsa’s story in Frozen is very much akin to dealing with a mental illness, and more specifically depression.  As someone with a mental illness, I can say that yea. There IS a lot of that. It did strike a serious cord in parts with things I’ve experienced in my own life.  And it handles them well.  Repeated phrases like Don’t show, don’t let them know and the insistence of just trying to control it. After all how many times have someone heard “Have you tried just being happy and stop being depressed?”  The message continues with the idea that no matter how bad, or how awful, or how much damage you might unintentionally cause – there will always those who care about you. Be it family or friends.  It was a nice message that really made me feel warm fuzzies walking out of that theater and I won’t lie – I teared up more than once.  (Okay, fine I tear up at the drop of a hat. I was flat out bawling tears at the end of Metal Gear Solid 3.)

So would I recommend the film? Absolutely.  No matter how old or young you are there is something wonderful and powerful to be found in this film.  I have been beaming about it since we saw it and I don’t imagine my utter dumbfounded shock at how amazing it was will subside anytime soon.  So yes, go see Frozen. Do it.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 816 other followers

%d bloggers like this: