Solo Game Vacation: Week One

So as I said before in my previous posts, I had decided to take some time off of the hustle and bustle of the non-stop worlds of MMOs and what not and get in touch with my roots of single player games.  Single player games are actually my preferred form of story, outranking movies, books, and comics.  There’s something just satisfying about playing a story to its completion and feeling like you actually changed things in the world.  That’s something MMOs have always sorely lacked for me.  Even if SWTOR, where choices can affect a great deal, you are ultimately on a straight path that has a clear and set beginning and end with a few dashes of flavor.  The events of the Imperial Agents chapter two always occur, though not necessarily for always the same reasons.  In the end, whether you are a cut throat bounty hunter, or a member of the fricking Dark Council, you still get called on to work the front lines of Makeb.

So when I feel in the mood for games where the story actually can change and alter the world around me as I play through them, I enjoy these breaks to come back to my roots and dig in with some games I may have put on the shelf, haven’t gotten to yet, or want to revisit from yesteryear.  Hence, Chrono Trigger.

Chrono Trigger

There’s not much I can say about Chrono Trigger that hasn’t already been said a thousand times across these worlds wide web.  The game is still fantastic.  It’s solid, tells a good story, and is fun.  However, there is a lot of things I didn’t notice when I first played it.  Which admittedly was like… middle school age I think.  So around 12?  Anyway, first and foremost that this game is actually incredibly simple.  I mean compared to Squaresoft’s other offerings at the time. The older Final Fantasy games can seriously kick my butt still at times to this day, especially in the extra boss or final boss sense.  Chrono Trigger?  There’s always a trick, always some weakness, that once you know it, reduces a fight to mere child’s play and this includes the final boss.  The final form of Lavos can be quite simply boiled down to: don’t attack the thing you THINK is the boss, kill the little thing to the right of it.  Bam. Done. Many bosses have a weakness in the form of some kind of magic that nullifies their defenses.  Really, the hardest boss fight in the whole thing was probably Magus because it’s a) early on b) the trick isn’t obvious and c) he has a wide range of heavily damaging and/or party wide attacks.  The whole thing in retrospect feels like a beginners RPG.  One to introduce people to the genre before graduating up to things like Final Fantasy.

The other thing I should note on my replay is that the game is really short.  I completed the whole story the long way, completed all the optional side missions, collected every little doodad, unlocked every tech, and did quite a bit of grinding and the whole thing still took only about 23 hours to do.  Now admittedly, if I was being honest about completion I’d have to include the X hours it would take to do a New Game+ and get all 15 other endings. But for a strict single playthrough that was surprisingly short for an RPG.  Right? Or is it just me?  Still, if you want an amazing old school RPG that isn’t gonna devour all your time, here ya go.  The same however cannot be said for its sibling.

Chrono Cross

Well, I finished up Chrono Trigger, and I said, “What shall I play next?” and my game shelf answered “How about the sequel?” which was odd because my shelf usually recommends that I play Mega Man every time I ask it.  Chrono Cross is one of those games that I played once, enjoyed it tremendously, and never picked it up again.  The reasons being twofold.  The first is that the plot is insanely confusing and requires a great deal of thinking to wrap your head around the combinations and consequences of time and dimensional travel presented, and second that the only way to get the “good ending” is complete bullcensored.  Having to toss the correct color combo of magic (magic and attacks have colors in this game. Don’t ask me why.) and then smack with a special magic.  That’s all well and good but the boss ALSO is tossing out color magic and it messes up the whole thing.  TEDIOUS.  So why did I start replaying it? (Still haven’t finished)  Well, unlike when I was 16 (a literal half a lifetime ago now), I didn’t have access to things like FAQs on the internet.  So that helps immensely with the ending.  And I’m older and wiser now.  Kind of.  Stop giggling.  So the convoluted plot so be a bit easier to follow. I hope.

As I said, I haven’t finished this one yet but I am enjoying it.  The combat system is not nearly as frustrating despite  five different components and resources to keep track of (Hit chance, Tech points, Tech color, Field Color, and Stamina), it becomes a fairly intuitive dance after a while.  Hit to generate tech points, spend tech points to use techs, and keep in mind your colors to maximize damage.  The story is also pretty cool and seems designed with the intent of multiple playthroughs.  For instance, early on you can take 3 different paths to get to the next objective. Each path requires different things, and recruits a different party member.  I don’t know if you can still get the other party members later in the game, or you need to grab them in a new game+ set up to recruit them all.  Not too worried since this game hosts a multitude of companions (It’s in the double digits at least).  But that’s kind of a cool mechanic you don’t see very often.  Three paths that lock you out of the other two when you pick one?  Bold and interesting choice.  I didn’t even realize it was there until I accidentally locked myself out of one of the other paths.

However, if Chrono Trigger is a beginner RPG then Cross feels like a fricking Advanced Placement class. There is so much here in terms of plot, collectibles, recruitable characters, and mechanics that I can’t imagine jumping into this one right after Trigger without playing some other RPGs in between.  Luckily there were YEARS between the two games when they first came out.  I still look forwarding to playing this one some more and seeing how the rest of it holds up.

FINAL FANTASY VII

Okay.  Alright.  Confession time, readers.  I…  never finished FF7 before.  Yes, you may laugh, jeer, throw things, etc.  But I never did.  I got to the point where Aerith dies and then I was done.  Not because I was heart broken by the loss. Oh heck no.  I NEVER liked Aerith.  She always came off to me as a cheerleader mixed with a purity sue that continuously got shoved in my face because “LOOK! IT’S A TRAGIC ROMANCE!”  No.  It’s that by that point in the game, I had utterly stopped giving a damn about the greater plot that confused me worse than Chrono Cross, and I decided to just walk away.  To give you a time frame, I bought FF7 when it was just given its greatest hits release.

Now, I can’t click anything Final Fantasy related on the internet without hearing about how no game in the entirety of the Final Fantasy series could hope to hold a candle to the MAJESTY that is Final Fantasy VII.  Alright, internet.  Here’s your chance to prove me wrong.  I got the game again. This time on Steam.  I’m playing it. I won’t stop until it’s done.  And if this thing doesn’t blow me out of the water, we are having words.  And I’m not going to declare this whole thing moot before then, but I have played a while so far and I am less than impressed.  I mean, I get the nostalgia factor.  I get the technical WOW! factor with the cutscenes and music.  But that’s not what people rave to me about, they say “Vry, the characters! Vry, the story!”  and I’ve only just gotten to Junon but thus far the story is pretty simple: Help the terrorists win.  Yea, there’s a lot more going on with Sephiroth and the Ancients, and the Planet, but that stuff has only been set up for what I assume is coming later.  Right now, I’m helping the terrorists win.  I’m blowing up buildings, cutting power to innocent civilians, and doing so in the name of the Planet.  Also I’m cross dressing to save my friend from a fat slum lord pimp. (Is there any actual reason for the Don Corneo stuff beyond padding and some frighteningly inappropriate rape-y dialogue?)

However, if anything has been enlightening so far it’s that the characters are so very much NOT the characters the fandom and the movie portray.  Cloud is not a brooding whiny emo, he’s a snarky jerk who delights in ticking Barrett off.  Sephiroth is not the cold noble warrior, he’s psychotic and obsessed and not in the entertaining Kefka/Joker way.  Aerith is not the kind gentle soul, she’s a cheerleader crossed with a purity sue.  Wait.  Didn’t I? Lemme scroll up.  Huh.  Looks like I remember the annoying flower girl correctly.  I also didn’t remember Tifa being as ‘teenager with a crush’-y around Cloud.  Barrett and Yuffie are one note characters that can’t be incorrectly portayed.   And Red XIII (who is not named Nanaki in my game.  His name is “NotNanaki”) hasn’t had a ton of dialogue so far so I have no clue.  Far as I know, he’s Clifford in a weird crossover.

The gameplay is standard Final Fantasy fare.  You can’t make me Oooo Aaaah at pretty summons.  I accidentally killed a whole village of Summoners in Final Fantasy IV.  This is old hat.  Although the developers seemed a but full of themselves with this new fangled CGI animation stuff.  Airbuster, one of the earliest bosses you face, has animations that are so slow that you can take three turns in the time it takes it to do one.  Annoying.

And please, don’t jump on me because I’m being snarky.  I’m gonna play the whole game.  I’m going to think about the whole game.  And I get that I’m barely into Disc One of a three disc game so I can’t expect the story to be leaping off the page yet.  They are doing a great job at establishing a mystery with the whole Sephiroth and Jenova thing.  The Ancients are wonderfully under-explained despite apparently everyone knowing what they are already.  Though the biggest problem I have so far with the game is that I have NO clue what AVALANCHE stands for and I have no clue how they know without the text boxes when someone is referring to SOLDIER (All caps) or soldier (no caps) – one being a military organization and the other being well… a soldier.  Can the characters read the text boxes in game? Is that how they know?

SWTOR Class Story Summaries Complete!

Good news, everybody!  After I don’t know how long, the Class Story Summaries are finally complete!  Every class, every act, and completely spoiler free.  So now if anyone wants to know what a certain class’ story is like, you have a place you can point them to.

Now of course not all of the spoiler-ific reviews are done yet, but those will come in time.  A lot of them are just classes I want to replay so I can get a better idea of what to say about them.  They’ll come out as I replay through a lot of this stuff, but I really wanted to focus on getting the summaries done as soon as possible so people have that as a reference.

Meanwhile, now that I’ve finished up the summaries, I plan on taking a bit of a break for TOR until Galactic Strongholds releases to scratch the offline single player itch I’ve been having.  Nothing is being abandoned, just being put on the back burner while I relax some. So expect to see some various posts about other games, or some other stuff, and hopefully some more videos.

And thank you all for your support in turning the TOR Summaries into one of the most popular features on this blog.

Class Storyline Reviews: Jedi Consular – Chapter Three

<—  Chapter Two ||

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

No, Sir. We weren't trying to steal Pay Per View.

(Sorry, no new photos this time.  I did Chapter Three on vacation so I didn’t remember to screen cap any on the laptop.)

So a little bit of a recap, the consular has just spent 10 whole levels sucking up to the Rift Alliance, a group of whiny planets that want stuff.  At the end of the whole thing, you find out that one of the representatives is not only a traitor but an imperial sleeper agent known as a Child of the Emperor.  There’s apparently lots of these people out there.  Who knows how many! But I’ve got a hunch that we’ll meet probably about oh…  one per planet?  Just a hunch.  But to fight this mysterious new menace, we need a mysterious new army.  So for that, it’s up to Jedi Consular and the Rift Alliance (Worst band name ever.) to gather strange and powerful new allies to help fight the Empire.

To do that, we need to figure out a heading.  The first clue is actually back on Hoth.  Funny, I thought we just left Hoth.  I was pretty sure I mentioned something about never wanting to go to Hoth ever again.  I distinctly remember Kill-It Felix agreeing with me.  Yet, here we are.  Blowing up a small ice cavern to unearth an ancient Rakata roadmap.  Okay, it’s like one of those mind trapped sentience thingies, but come on, all it’s there for is to give directions.  And to lie to.  I lied to it A LOT.  Which points us to…

Belsavis

Oh. Shocker. The next planet on the narrow linear leveling path of planets.  Honestly, would it have been that much effort to mix things up a little bit?  Like do Belsavis or Voss in whatever order you choose, and then follow it with Corellia?  Honestly.  Darn leveling system.  Anyway, yea. There’s a great and powerful army you are seeking to recruit on Belsavis. They are called the Esh-Kaaaa WAIT A MINUTE.  NO! I know the Esh-Ka.  I’ve had them shoot at me constantly, and try to kill me, and break out of their prisons and try to conquer the galaxy.  In fact, about half of what the Republic does on this planet is try to seal that can of evil back up.  Including in the bonus series! And we want to recruit them?  Oh but wait a minute.  These are different Esh-Ka.  Nice ones, that totally didn’t deserve to be locked away for millennia. Well…  that changes things.  I’m still suspicious.

So you’re first task is to find this military dude who knows more about the deep vaults than anyone, but when you go to find him every member of his squad is dead.  In fact, everyone but him is present and dead.  Apparently this was triggered by his assistant back at base camp telling him that a Jedi was coming to find him.  Hmm.   An evil Esh-Ka defector?  Brainwashed by Esh-ka?!  WHAT ELSE COULD IT- Oh, he’s a Child of the Emperor.  That didn’t stay a mystery for long.  Now begins a long cat and mouse game across the planet, where the Child of the Emperor has control of all the security systems, cameras, and can send waves of droids after you (if people had this level of control over Belsavis, why is there a prison riot again?)  Luckily you get aid from some unknown voice that instructs you in ways to bypass the security and to lock out the Emperor’s Kidz so that you can find the “good” Esh-ka.

Now, I say ‘unknown voice’ but if you’ve been playing this far you should have bumped into the Imprisoned One on Tatooine, and if you put two and two together you will quickly realized from the sound of the voice and the alien dialect that you’re talking to a Rakata the entire time.  Apparently, this Rakata regrets imprisoning the ‘Good’ Esh-ka, and wants to help you free them while helping you kill the bad Esh-ka.  Not that I honestly think the Rakata are deserving of a ton of trust, every one thus far has been a psycho trying to resurrect the Infinite Empire a few thousand years too late. But I don’t really have a choice here.

The story ends with you freeing the good Esh-ka who then immediately ditch you so you have to fight a Child of the Emperor aall by yourself.  Well, not just the Child of the Emperor, the gold level Child and two silver level mobs backing him up.  Unfair! Really, your only hope is to CC the Child and kill the two silvers, try to heal up and then finish off the Child. This of course leads to freeing the leader of the Good Esh-Ka who has some weird name like “Deep Throat” or something. I’m just gonna call him that. And he actually wants to help you out.  Well that’s nice.  My eyes are on you buddy.

Interlude

A brief interlude comes when you discovered upon leaving Belsavis that Senator Grell… HAS BEEN KIDNAPPED! Now you and Nadia (She demands to come, not shocked, it’s her dad.) must board the kidnappers vessel – tracked down by Theran and Holiday because they are insanely awesome like that – and save her dad!  The kidnapper it turns out is NOT a Child of the Emperor.  No, it’s some creepy former Sith who did or said something and got his brain wiped.  No name, no memories, no emotion. (My guess is that he was a mage.  That’s a Dragon Age joke, folks.) He hopes by screwing with you he can earn his memories back.  He is wrong, as I just kill him.  Sadly, you aren’t ever fast enough to stop the death of Senator Grell, who apparently spilled the beans on everything you were doing.

The interlude ends with the Jedi Council reading the senator’s will.  For some reason.  I honestly haven’t a clue why the Jedi had his will.  Are Jedi also notaries?  Anyway, apparently the will was made fairly recently as it asks that Nadia be made a padawan and you be her master.  Well, it only took an extra 28 levels, but hey sweet fetish fuel has arrived for the Consular too!  Also, again, we have someone being made a padawan of yours solely by virtue of “Oh, okay, sure. Whatever.”  Nadia doesn’t even have to train on Tython, or do her Youngling warm up excercises, or anything.  She’s a Jedi now.  You’re in charge.  Bye.  Screw you, Master Syo Bakarn.  I hope you die.

Voss

The next crazy ally you get is the Voss.  Yes, you heard me.  You are going to recruit the Voss.  I won’t go nearly in depth on this one because honestly, this is the most chores you’ve ever done since the Great McGuffin Hunt of the Prologue.  You essentially are tasked with making sure a potential Voss mystic goes through his trials correctly and safely, and then you can recruit him and his entire entourage into your galactic war.   Wait.  Why does this not sound like it’s going to work?

You do everything from run around and gather stones, perform dangerous healing rituals to keep your lemming of a Voss alive, and kill any and every little thing in his way to have a vision.  Which time and time again he fails to have.  He just fails, then asks to be taken someplace else where he might have one.  While it’s not the most annoying mission you have to do as a Consular, it really feels like babysitting a complete n00b.

Really, the payoff comes at the very end.  Because while you have had run ins with Imperials and Sith here and there, you never bump into a Child of the Emperor.  Not once.  Until the end, when it is revealed that the diplomat that sent you to find the Voss wannabe is the Child of the Emperor.  She sent you to essentially prep the Vossling and then when he was ready, she’d swoop in, kill you and take the freshly awakened mystic for the Sith.  That.  is.   BRILLIANT.  No, seriously.  This is probably the smartest villain in the entirety of the Consular storyline.  She actually uses you to get what she wants, and you never suspect her for a moment.  Honestly, a lot of these ‘hiding’ in plain sight villains are pretty easy to spot early (Bounty Hunter Chapter One, we will be getting to you soon.) But I was floored by this one.  I didn’t even appreciate it until way after and was looking back at everything that happened. I WISH the Inquisitor story was more like this.  Sadly,  her plan fails.  She didn’t account for one thing: Me killing her.  Twice the pride, eh?

So you get the Voss mystic, his team of Voss healers, and a squad of elite Voss commandos (I assume they’re like Asari commandos) and they’re all on your ship and joining you on your mission to defeat the Sith and protect the Republic.  Hooray!  Wait.  Aren’t the Voss neutral?  Likely, ridiculously neutral to the point of absurdity?  Doesn’t this violate that?  I mean, they say that the Voss will study the light and the dark and see both sides.  That’s nice. YOU ARE HELPING ME KILL THE OTHER TEAM.  You have officially picked a side now.  Debate over.  You fight for the Republic.  Or is this somehow not registering through your bald blue heads? GAH!

Interlude 2

The second interlude is an attempt to take over an Imperial flagship descending on Corellia.  If you and your crack squad can take over that ship, you will gain powerful intelligence on what the Imperials are after (It’s the Bastion) and stop them from succeeding (You can’t. They’re in the Bastion already.)  The whole thing is yet another giant ship to fight through, but luckily way less tedious than the one in the first act.  You work with your companions who hack doors, disable canons, and sabotage alarms.  And I really hate to say it, but they do it way better than the Trooper squad handled the Gauntlet in the Chapter 2 finale.  However, unlike the Trooper story, this thing actually turns out to be a giant trap.  Yea, you get to the bridge to find a droid who simply explains that the ship is rigged to blow for the sole purpose of removing you and your team from the picture.

At that point, the tone switches to you and your team trying to disable the bombs.  You get a few of them, and your team goes after the others that are near them but in the end there are too many bombs and no time to turn them all off.  So you all book it off the ship, except Nadia.  Nadia has found a computer with all the data that might reveal the identity of the First Son, the leader of the Children.  So no matter what you say to her, she will stay to get that data.  She’s not stupid however, as she does take an escape pod off the ship before it blows and falls to Corellia below.

You stand at the end of the interlude with no ship, no defeated Sith, and down one padawan.  It’s kind of a loss.  Which actually can be mirrored in some of the choices in dialogue.  Your crew is actively worried about Nadia being trapped on a war torn planet.  It’s actually pretty well done tonally. There’s even some nice dialogue if you demand to pursue Nadia at any cost that Theran talks to you about trying to get her back.  Which makes sense because if you do the companion conversations, Nadia is pretty friendly with Theran.

Corellia

Corellia starts pretty much with the search for Nadia.  You are able to find a smuggler?  Freedom fighter?  Hacker?  A person in a vest that can help you find her in exchange for some favors.  It’s a classic scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours scenario but I like how once he gives you the coordinates to find Nadia – deep in Imperial controlled territory – he asks you for one more favor and you can totally blow him off.  YES!  I’ve wanted to do that for ages in this game.  Best class storyline ever! I CAN SAY NO AND NOT GET RAILROADED!  Nadia’s still holed up in her escape pod and very week, luckily your favors have earned the help of the Selonians (Ferret people) who help you get Nadia out and back to health.  She does have the data that reveals the identity of the First Son, but it requires the Jedi Library to decrypt.  Luckily, and somewhat shockingly, you can just go to the Jedi Library website from anywhere in the galaxy and get whatever you need.  So finally we get the revelation of who the First Son truly is…

Master Syo Bakarn.

Oh.  Oh snap.  Uh.  You mean that guy who has been helping us since like level 1?  Damn.  That’s brilliant.  Seriously, right on the heels of that great twist you get another sort of just as great one.  Hear me out.  The trick to this whole thing is that Master Syo doesn’t KNOW he’s the First Son.  He’s a sleeper agent, only activated when his First Son persona chooses to manifest itself and Syo has no idea what happens during that time.  So it’s less OMGSECRETZPLOT! and more OHCRAPHEZOURD00D! Still, it’s a surprising turn that does carry a weight.  This is an NPC that has been part of your story for 50 levels.  I really wonder how much he was actually behind.  Believe me when I say this revelation has confirmed at least a second play-through of this class just to see.  But now that the cat is out of the bag, The First Son springs his plan into action.  Activating Children of the Emperor hand picked and placed across Corellia by Syo to take over the super secure bunkers called Guardian Holds that Syo was in charge of protecting for the Republic.

So now the Sith have control of the most secure bunkers from which they can hold Corellia indefinitely.  So it falls to the best one for the job, the Jedi Consular, to take back the Guardian Holds with his army of Voss, Esh-Ka, and crew. And that’s pretty much what the rest of the planet is.  Go to a sector of the city, find a way into the guardian hold there, and remove the Child of the Emperor in charge.  I mean, yea there are some moral issues when you are fighting people who had been loyal to the Republic and/or Jedi for years now suddenly switched to evil by a glowy red eyed puppetmaster. Which leads to obligatory Light Side/Dark Side choice of trying to save them or just killing them.  While I was pretty dark side for this part so I killed them all, I am really curious how one actually saves these guys.  I mean, the were given a piece of the Emperor where they were infants.  They are ingrained with loyalty to him. How do you break that?  Well, that’s my second play-through to find out.

You finally get to the end of the road, the final guardian hold, and from there you are treated to a showdown with the First Son himself.  Master Syo is no more, it is only evil that stands before you.  And oh man is this a great showdown that will test your ability to interrupt, LOS, and keep up heals in order to take down your foe.  Mostly I just busted out Theran.  Even in lower level gear, he was able to keep me going while I pummeled Syo down with rocks.  Speaking of rocks, he does a giant rock drop where he caves in the ceiling and you must interrupt it or instant KO.  After words, you can shield Syo or kill him.  And if you choose to kill him, like I did. You don’t even get the final blow.  He actually comes back at you and you knock him away in to the wall causing a giant rock to crush him.  What kind of Disney Death is that?

Grand Finale

Well, much like the trooper, the story actually wraps up on Corellia.  With the First Son defeated, you are pretty much done.  You get invited back to Coruscant where you meet the new Supreme Chancellor (Former Governor) Saresh, and for the first time in any of the Republic stories, it actually makes mention that she is indeed newly elected and that something happened that forced them to elect a new Chancellor.  They don’t say what that is, but I’m sure we’ll found out in one of these reviews.  Still I like the fact that SOMEONE acknowledges the fact that the Supreme Chancellor for 1-49 is not the same as the one you meet at level 50, cause the trooper doesn’t bat an eye, the Jedi Knight shrugs it off, and the Smuggler probably doesn’t know what a Supreme Chancellor is.

You get a big award ceremony at the end too. But unlike the one for the Jedi Knight or Trooper, here you can totally milk the Republic for stuff for your allies.  Esh-ka want a planet? Yo, Saresh. Give them a planet!  Oh hey, Voss dudes wanna train with Jedi.  I don’t care if you are uneasy with it, Satele. Did you just save the Republic? Let them in.  It was a nice moment where you and your crew essentially get whatever they want from the Republic.  But you know what they SHOULD have asked for?  To not pay taxes again.  Ever.

Looking Back…

So was the Jedi Consular story the KOTOR3 we never got? Or was it the boring slogfest that forum dwellers claim?  Well, the answer is the classic ‘Neither’.  Honestly, the Consular story more than any other requires time to get the most out of it.  It can seem like a boring slogfest at first, and really it’s not until the end of Chapter One that it all starts to come together and become interesting.  If I had only played the first 15 levels? Oh Yoda, I would have dropped the class faster than Physical Education.  But I stuck it out, and honestly I’m glad I did.  It has a sense of completeness by the end, where it actually feels like every part – not just the last chapter or so – was a vital piece of the conclusion.  The Noetikons, the shielding technique, the Rift Alliance, and the Children of the Emperor all came together in a glorious symphony at the end.  But up until that conclusion, you could see it as very hit and miss.

In terms of light or dark choices, they were all pretty much what you expected for a Jedi.  You have more than enough reasons to kill most of the people, but do you overcome that and show them forgiveness because they are not themselves.  And really that’s the best way to summarize the Consular story.  It’s a tale of enlightenment and overcoming our passions and baser instincts to become something more.  Killing the Jedi in Chapter One is justified and full of anger by those who had suffered at the hands of their mind controlled friends or leaders, but we can shield them and overcome that hate.  The Rift Alliance’s own desires and wants come before the needs of the Republic, but they find by working with and through the Republic they get everything they wanted and more.  Looking past the uncertainty and threats of the Esh-Ka and Voss give rise to a powerful army, the Rakata want to make amends to the Esh-ka, you can overcome the betrayals and welcome back to the light all those who were tainted by darkness. On the flip side, the story can be just as much about the accumulation of power.  Taking out other Jedi to secure a more prominent position for yourself, manipulating the wants of the Rift Alliance to make them indebted to you, building an army that answers to you alone and crushing those who would think to betray you.

So would I recommend this story?  Yea.  It had enough for me to merit a second play through, I’d say it’s worth it to try it once.  It’s a slog at the start, but once you get into the thick of the Dark Plague arc, it starts picking up.  I’d especially recommend it for fans of shows like Star Trek or Babylon-5, as the diplomatic parts of Chapters Two and Three really seem to share a similar vibe with shows like those.  Anyway, that’s it for the Consular.  Whenever I finish up my light side character I might come back for one more post about it from the other side of things.  Until then, May the Force Be With You.

<—  Chapter Two ||

Mass In-Effect-Ive

I’ve been watching a Twitch streamer play through the Mass Effect Trilogy for the first time, and it’s been bringing a whole bunch of new discussion out of it.  Some old topics, such as the ending of Mass Effect 3 – an ending I still whole heartedly enjoyed and supported but could understand why other people were unsatisfied (Granted, not to the level of rioting and threats across the internet that we got.) But also some new ones, like nature of choice and consequence in the games.

I’ve heard some say that Mass Effect 2 is the last time in the series that choice had any real meaningful impact in the series, and I really don’t agree with that at all.  There are exactly 5 choices that make any significant difference: Who leads secondary teams 1 & 2, who opens doors, who does the biotic shield, and do you I make them loyal?  Some could say I’m cheating with that last one because you have to decide who is loyal out of 12 team members, but really it’s the same choice 12 times, not 12 separate choices.  Loyalty is a boolean switch, there’s no sliding scale of loyalty like there is in the Dragon Age games.  And really, let’s be honest, everyone is going to do a play-through where they make everyone loyal regardless of Paragon/Renegade or role playing, just so we can ‘beat’ the game.  And those choices simply decide if anyone dies.  “But Vry,” you say, “You can possible lose enough people that Shepard dies! That’s an impactful choice.”  Yes it is, voice in my head.  Because you actively have to choose to do that.  You know how many people have to die to get that ending?  No more than one squad member can survive the suicide mission.  Two lived? Bam. Shepard lives.  You have to actively sabotage yourself to get that impact.  You have to work to level up without making people loyal, you have to make all the wrong decisions, and you have to really want that ending to get it.

The only time in my opinion that your choices had any significant impact in the overall sense of the trilogy was in the third and final game. Because throughout the third game, you see the results of your decisions throughout the series.  That one NPC you lent a hand to in ME1 that did nothing?  Well, he’s on the Citadel and he remembers you. Missions take on a very different tone based on whether someone lived or died in previous games.  In ME2, if someone died, you couldn’t use them in the suicide mission. That’s it.  That’s the impact.  And EVERY role had at least 3 people who could do the job.  In ME3, if those people didn’t live, things tend to go badly.  The entire third game was a massive denouement that shows you the outcome of your play-through of the trilogy.

Of course that raises the question, since them living or dying is the result of a choice in ME2, doesn’t that make ME2 more meaningful? Well, that’s debatable. Since it wasn’t till ME3 that made those deaths meaningful.  If ME3 made them meaningful, and you replay ME2 with that in mind, isn’t ME3 that makes the choice significant and not ME2?  Regardless of where the choice comes from, it’s the third game that gives the choice weight.  So I’d say that it deserves the credit for it.

Now, granted I’m not gonna stand here and say that was executed perfectly.  The choice of destroy or keep the Reaper base didn’t do much but shift some numbers around, and change the scenery for one scene.  But the other games are just as guilty of null and voiding your final decisions.  While the weight of saving or destroying the Destiny Ascension will loom over interactions, your choices in terms of the council afterwards are either nullified in ME2 or completely tossed out the window by ME3.  My all human council didn’t even last two years while I was dead!

Ultimately, choice is a nebulous thing in the Mass Effect series and always was.  The best you could usually hope for is a cosmetic nod or a brief conversation.  If there was any game that took in all your choices and gave them more oompf I’d still say it was the last one. Not at the part everyone was expecting but throughout that entire experience.  And I’ll say this for the infamous RGB choice:  It had a hell of a lot more impact on the narrative than ‘Do I save/destroy the Collector Ship’ or ‘Who do I put on the Council’.

Class Storyline Reviews: Jedi Consular – Chapter Two

<—  Chapter One ||  Chapter Three —>

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

He is called “Lord of the Large Pants”

With the Jedi Order saved from the threat of the Dark Plague, it’s time for you to get a new job to save the day.  Namely, it’s time to play Star Trek and escort a bunch of diplomats around the galaxy to convince them not to break away from the Republic.  Not even joking.  Meet the Rift Alliance, a coalition of worlds that are thinking of leaving the Republic because they feel neglected and their needs ignored by the senate.  These worlds include but are not limited to places like Manaan and Balmorra.  Although I don’t think Balmorra is a Republic world actually.  However it is funny to see the Manaan representative make mention of the ecological nightmare left on his planet after the events of Knights of the Old Republic.  That made me giggle.  But I’m getting a head of myself here. Before you get to hang out with the representatives, you have to save them.

See they were all on this big party ship that they were going to use as a base camp while working with you, but it got hijacked by the Empire!  So you have to fight your way to save them.  After that, it’s decided that they’d be much safer on your ship than the party boat.  Which, okay, kind of makes sense. But my ship doesn’t even have enough beds for my crew, let alone the rest of these people.  So…  I hope the chairs are comfy?

Balmorra

The first stop on our “fix the galaxy” tour is Balmorra. Essentially the mission is to put the representative from Balmorra in charge of the planet, and in exchange he will make sure that Balmorra joins the Republic.  So it’s NOT part of the Republic at the moment.  In order to change things over, we need to find the old president and have him pass over the authority to the representative.  Because that’s apparently how presidents work now.  No elections, just point a finger and say “Tag, you’re it!”

The real issue is that the now currently in charge Sith overlords have got the president in hiding somewhere, and that’s where I come in.  Well, me and the rebellious revolutionary known only as Zenith.  Zenith is a jaded freedom fighter, and I don’t much blame him considering the history of Balmorra: abandoned by the Republic and handed over to the Sith, and depending on what happened during the Imperial storyline their unofficial support from the Republic Military not only pulled out but also publicly confessed ensuring no future support.  Yea, I’d have a chip on my shoulder too.

You pretty much spend most of the planet playing back up for Zenith in an effort to track down and save the president.  Fortunately, you are a bad enough dude or dudette to do so.  Downside, President is being guarded by Darth Lachris, the sadistic Sith you met at the end of the Imperial Balmorra storyline (Yes, this is what happens to her).  Upside, you get to kill a Sith! More downside, she royally messed up the President’s brain so he can’t do anything even if you save him.  This leads to the somewhat disturbing option of using the president like a meat puppet to pass the torch of leadership.  It’s cruel, unethical, and I did it in a heartbeat.  What? My job was to get a new president for Balmorra, not to make sure the old one lived to a ripe old age.

Quesh

Quesh is the usual short single mission that really isn’t worth talking about usually.  This one does set up some important plot threads for later, so that’s a step up from the Trooper.  The gist is that the Rift Alliance had a secret science lab on Quesh that they totally didn’t mean to neglect telling you about but oh by the way the Imperials are attacking it and it has some superpowerful tech hidden there please oh god fix it.  The super tech in the lab really doesn’t do much except offer you a choice of how they develop it.  Maybe this comes up in Chapter 3? I don’t know.  So far all it did was get me a piece of mail with a severely under level blue quality companion gift.

What Quesh does introduce is two ideas:  the first is that a tracking device was found on your ship, which means that you might have a spy on board.  This is actually a great diplomatic conundrum.  Do you tell the diplomats – one of which may be the spy – and diminish their already low opinion of the Republic’s ability to keep its house in order, or do you keep it quiet and risk worse damage being done by the spy as you try to figure out who it is without letting the others on.  I actually really liked that twist.  Sadly it doesn’t last long as we’ll see.

The other thing that happens is that we see Nadia Grell, daughter of one of the diplomats, join you on a mission and display an impressive use of Force power.  Yes, it appears that little Nadia is a force sensitive and a powerful one at that.  Nothing comes of that immediately, but it does come up more later that I can promise you.

Behave! Or the Jedi will eat you.

Hoth

Your final job for the Rift Alliance is to help a team of their soldiers finish their job and back on their way home.  A task the Republic troops on Hoth have been most unhelpful in completing (Of course, the troops on Hoth just got hit by a surprise attack that knocked out their power, are getting cornered by pirates and Imperials, and are seeking a powerful weapon to use to help win the war. But taking care of the one squad of Rift troops that wanna leave the cold planet while they’re stuck there? Not a big priority shockingly.) The job is to kill one Captain Valon, a two bit pirate who was attacking the Rift Alliance’s shipping routes that has suddenly become a lot more problematic.  See, the word on the street is: Valon is immortal.  Yup. Can’t kill him.  Why even try? And these poor guys are stuck on the ice ball until the Immortal Pirate is dead.  Wow.  Sucky job.

Of course, one quick smack around from a Jedi and the jobs done right? Sadly, no.  While the rest of the team is often getting ready to celebrate leaving, you get a message proving that while you did seemingly kill the man and leave him cold and lifeless on the floor, he is still alive and kicking. It’s up to you know to figure out putting him in his grave. Luckily, you find out that the Empire is after Valon as well.  Something about stealing an experimental healing armor?  No… you don’t think…  I see.  Well, time to bust up a lab for answers.  And after ransacking and pillaging the Empire for some sweet sweet secrets, you find out that yea it’s the armor that keeps him coming back.  You also find out that Valon’s plan is to raise a massive star ship from the ship graveyard and use it as his new flagship as the future immortal pirate leader of the White Maw. (Aaaand he might be searching for One Piece.  Maybe.  No clue.  But hey, it gives us an excuse to rap on the way! Ready Qyzen?)

Ultimately, you find the pirate, use the secret technique of ‘Keep killing him until he stays dead’, and you and the troops get to leave this Popsicle stand.  Afterward, you get a new crewmember! Lt. Felix Iresso has joined the brawl! I’d love to tell you all about Felix but so far at least, he’s a bit of a cardboard cut out.  Seriously, the guy doesn’t have any really stand out-ish qualities while you talk to him on Hoth beyond he is willing to straight up lie to his men if it means not destroying morale.  Beyond that, he’s a soldier aaaand that’s about it.  I mean, he seems like there’s definitely some backstory stuff that I’m sure to get into as I keep shoving gifts into his face.  He seems perfectly happy to leave the military behind to sign on with you. But that’s it.  Kind of a weak sauce companion compared to the fairly strong personalities we’ve met so far.

 

No, Sir. We weren’t trying to steal Pay Per View.

Finale

The finale is short.  Like seriously short.  You finally track down which of the diplomats is the traitor/spy/guy who keeps stealing the cable, but oh no! He was JUST sent off on an important diplomatic mission with Royalty! I sure hope that hi jinks don’t ensue.  To make a long story short, everyone’s dead when you show up.  You just walk through the ship littered with dead bodies until you find the King and Queen of WePaintsOurFaces-vania with the traitor diplomat who to the shock of no one is actually a Sith. Dun dun yea yea.  More importantly, he is one of the Children of the Emperor.  Ah, now that IS different.  You fight, you win, you save the King and Queen. And that’s it.  The finale is seriously just that one fight.  Well, two if you kill the bonus gold star robot boss trapped behind a door.  But it does set up the next leg of the journey with the introduction with the Children of the Emperor.  I do wonder if Miss Kira Carsen will be showing up for  cameo?

Final Opinion

The second chapter of the Jedi Consular story is a lot of set up for whats to come it seems.  The whole traitor thing REALLY doesn’t get played up to its full potential, and it really could have been something great.  With diplomats constantly pushing for more info, the risk high of angering them and the Rift Alliance continually looking for a reason to abandon the Republic that, quite frankly, they owe nothing.  Instead, the diplomats are grumpy but mostly content to just sit around, give you your space, be polite in the face of whatever happens.  It’s not a catastrophic let down because I really do dig the whole political angle of the Jedi being explored, so I would definitely rate it above something like Trooper Chapter 2, but it really could have been something amazing but became satisfied with being meh.

Our new companions feel like two variations of the same archetype.  Both Zenith and Felix are soldiers, but while one seems worn out and just wants to be done, the other is super jaded from broken promises.  Still, recruiting them back to back just makes the comparisons even more startling.  Especially since Zenith is introduced with so much more character and gusto than Felix.  Almost like they blew all their cool ideas with Zenith and had nothing left for Lt. Iresso.

In the end, Chapter Two decides to just settle with doing what it does.  It doesn’t strive for amazing, it doesn’t break down into terrible or tedious – it just is.  Which is a shame.  It really did have potential.  But the whole thing still hasn’t lived up to the horrendously boring snoozefest I’ve heard it claimed to be on the forums.  So who knows what awaits us beyond in Chapter 3.  I mean, besides the Children of the Emperor. (OH YEA!)

<—  Chapter One ||  Chapter Three —>

Doctor Yuel: Final Fantasy XIII-2 Part 1

doctorwho_ff13-2

I was all getting ready to write up a post on Lightning Returns when it suddenly struck me: I never talked about 13-2! Oh golly gee, I feel bad now.  I actually finished 13-2 way back in February but was thinking so much about revisiting I never even thought to write a post about it.  “Revisit? Surely you don’t mean you actually WANT to play a Final Fantasy 13 trilogy game more than once, do you Vry?”  In fact, I do!  Especially since both 13-2 and Lightning Returns make liberal use of a New Game+ feature and I really enjoyed them ESPECIALLY 13-2 which is my favorite of the trilogy.  But more on the whole new game+ thing later.  Let’s get in to talking about the characters first shall we?

While most of the cast of Final Fantasy XIII appears mostly in cameos and DLC, even Lightning who appears front and center on the box as well as the title logo, the game focuses on the always mentioned, sort of present, but only got like three lines Serah Farron- Lightning’s younger sister who spent 99% of the first game as a crystal.  She’s on a mission to find her sister, whose story got a bit wonky at the end of Final Fantasy XIII.  See at the end of the last game, everyone was reunited thanks to the Goddess Etro’s intervention.  Lightning blessed Snow and Serah’s engagement and even smiled for the first time in the game.  But here’s the twist: Only Serah remembers this happening.  Everyone else seems to think that at the end of the last game Lightning vanished and is assumed to be trapped in the crystal pillar with Fang and Vanille (again from the end of the last game).  So is Serah crazy?  She starts to think so, until we meet our second main character -

Noel Kreiss.  Whose name I’ve started using as a substitute for other exclamations (Noel Tap-Dancing Kreiss on a cracker!)  You spend most of the game not knowing a ton about Noel other than a) he’s from the future, b) he’s the last human and c) Lightning sent him to Serah to help her.  The future? Yes, the future.  You see, Noel here is the one that introduces the primary idea that the entire game spins around: Time Travel.  Being a time traveller himself, he guides Serah through the timelines, and to alternate timelines, in hopes of reaching Valhalla (Which is shown as being at the end of time, but is also the unseen realm of the dead.  How are these the same thing? Well, Lightning Returns sooort of answers that.)  Noel also seems to be very familiar with our villains, but again the answer to how isn’t revealed until the late game when you learn about Noel’s past.

The sort of third main character is little Mog.  That’s right, for the first time since… Final Fantasy VI? We have an honest to goodness Moogle party member.  NO CAIT SITH DOESN’T COUNT.  He’s a ROBOT.  Granted, Mog doesn’t exactly occupy a party slot.  He kind of is actually Serah’s weapon.  Yea…  Given to Noel to pass on to Serah from Lightning, Mog has the unique ability of turning into a bow that can also turn into a sword. However, he does provide a lot of utility as you explore the game world.  He can reveal hidden items, you can learn to chuck the little guy across pits or up onto ledges to get items for you (You can also throw him into pits if he annoys you.  He’ll come back in a bit.)  He also has a storyline about where he comes from, and offers a good deal of both comedic relief and cuteness to the story.

Our villains this time are luckily not the insane and poorly scheming fal’cie, but a man named Caius Ballad.  Caius is a great villain in my opinion because his goals are relate-able, and for a good long while you can kind of see his point and it can make you question if you are really the bad guy in this story (And honestly, the big divide comes down to methodology and the concept of the needs of the many over the needs of the few.) Caius also doesn’t adhere to the Final Fantasy stereotypical villain that thinks the world is full of suffering so he wants to destroy the world to end the suffering (Logic!)  All he really wants is to save the various incarnations of the girl he’s been tasked to protect through all time.

Which brings us to Yuel.  Yuel is interesting.  You see, Yuel is a seeress who can see the future, but keeps dying for reasons you’ll find out about late in the game.  However, there are “Other Yuels”, each with a different personality and Caius guards each of them.  Caius differentiates all the Yeuls by their interests or personality: The Yuel Who Liked Dancing, The Yuel Who Loved Flowers, The Yuel Who…  etc etc etc.  Yuel isn’t really a villain or hero in the story.  She’s more of a force, and a motivation. Some Yuels are actually pretty nice.  Others see Serah and Noel as a threat since they keep changing the timeline.

Last and probably least is Lightning.  Yes, Lightning is in the game.  Yes, she’s fairly important to the plot as she is pretty much the instigator for the entire thing.  And no, you will not be seeing a lot of her.  She spends the vast majority of the game in Valhalla battling Caius to protect the Goddess Etro.  If you find yourself asking how she can be fighting Caius while you keep bumping into him, welcome to a time travel plot.  Lightning’s main role in this is that she is the one who sends Noel and Mog to find Serah and set them on the path to reach Valhalla, and she shows up at the ending.  She also gets her own DLC that explains her fate a bit better after the ending of the game, but I’ll get to that when I talk about the DLC later.

As for secondary characters, you do bump into Snow and Hope throughout the main story.  Hope actually shows up multiple time across the timeline trying to save the world in his own way. You also meet Chocolina, the chocobo dressed sales lady who seems to defy time and space and has a bigger tie to the overall plot than she is willing to say.  And there’s Hope’s assistant, Alyssa who actually is fairly involved in the plot but requires some reading between the lines to grasp her full involvement.  The rest of the NORA team is living with Serah and keeping an eye on her at the beginning after Snow leaves to find Lightning for Serah.  And that’s pretty much it for side characters.

The whole thing is a pretty condensed list of characters that mostly gets utilized fairly well compared to the first game in the series, who would introduce interesting characters then do nothing with them followed by just killing them off at some point later which left you kind of sitting there going “That’s it? That’s all they did?”  I mean, again I get why they did it, with the whole being told through the main six’s eyes thing, we wouldn’t be privy to a lot of the behind the scenes work.  But that and 13-2 both show why that form of story just doesn’t work for those games.  13-2 is perfectly willing to show you things that are not directly seen by the protagonists and it helps immensely flesh out the story.  But we’ll get to that more next time when we discuss the plot of the game.

My RPG Rogue’s Gallery

serata nerd elf

You know sometimes I find myself reminiscing about characters long past, usually holding a glass of brandy and a cigar while staring deeply into a roaring fireplace.  Which is really odd because I don’t drink, I don’t smoke aaaand I don’t have a fireplace.  But the point still stands.  I’ve had so many random RPG characters over the years, I like to look back at them and think “What if someone else could use some of this potential?”  I mean, I’ve met so many folks who quite honestly could use some neat ideas to use for their characters.  Not that theirs were bad.  Just flat.  So I figured I’d share some of mine.  Which you might think that’s the dumbest thing next to telling people about how you totally rolled 3 18′s on your stats or about this awesome idea you have for a homebrew, but I stopped listening to you along time ago voice in my head.  So story time!

Scythe the Revenant Ranger

Scythe was a character I made for a campaign that I really didn’t know what the setting was going to be.  I knew it was using the standard D&D 4e stuff in terms of mythology and cosmology, but that was about it.  So I wanted something broad enough that would give him a call to action and a reason to continue on with the adventure no matter what it was.  So I began thinking about the constants in Dungeons & Dragons.  What do you almost always do in a campaign?  Well, how about kill monsters?  Yes!  His goal will be to kill things.  That’s a good reason to pretty much always be in for whatever adventure you go on.  So what I ended up working with was that before being raised as a Revenant, Scythe was a bounty hunter.  However, his own dealings left him the target of plenty and he soon found himself tied to a rock at the bottom of a lake.  When he saw the Raven Queen and was about to have his soul dragged to the afterlife, he instead made a bargain with the Goddess of Death.  He would be HER bounty hunter.  He would reap souls to help her build an army to defend the Shadowfell from Orcus (at this point I had heard that the campaign was going through the Heroic Tier adventure series by Wizards of the Coast which I knew tied somewhat into Orcus in the long run.)  The Raven Queen accepted the bargain and raised him as a revenant to reap souls, and if he reaped enough he would earn his freedom to live again.  Unfortunately in his desperation to strike a bargain, a number was never specified.  So he was doomed to reap souls until the Raven Queen decided he had done enough.

The downside to this is that it kind of made him a tad bit psychotic. Like violence became his go to solution for pretty much anything, because hey, more souls. The epitome of which became this somewhat infamous moment in my blogs history that sparked much more of a debate then I was expecting.  Really, the character started to get darker and darker and became more and more prone to violence.  When you get to the point where you can’t go back to the center of commerce in an area because you killed too many or the wrong people – it may be time to rethink your motivations.  It didn’t help that Scythe was cocky.  Really cocky.  When threatened at point blank with an arrow, he didn’t flinch and told the woman holding the bow to wait while he discussed things with the party.  He was a revenant! Death wasn’t exactly a stopping block for him.  But it was getting out of control, so we decided to retire the character. Pulled back to the pits of the Shadowfell by the Raven Queen for blatant disregard for life.

Vrykerion the Half Elf Warlock

Scythe’s replacement on the mission, was someone less violent, and a lot more slimy.  Vrykerion the Vestige pact warlock.  Vestige pact warlocks, for those you don’t know, are warlocks who draw their power from making pacts with the souls of the dead for their power.  This character actually took that mentally a bit farther and flat out stole souls for power.  Each vestige he possessed was another person he tricked, swindled, or bargained their soul away.  His employ for The Raven Queen was a bit more of a debt to pay off for disrupting the “natural” order of things (namely, souls belong to the Queen of the Dead – not him.) Of course, he had his own desires being put on the mission that Scythe failed to do.  The quest the party had was tied into a powerful and ancient dragon that bordered on demi-god or god status that was sealed beneath the island they were on.  Scythe wanted that soul or even a piece of it.  His plan was to use the group’s loyalties to get close enough to try and bargain his way to part of the dragon’s soul in exchange for release, or something along those lines.

Of course, none of that happened.  Shortly after the appearance of the warlock, I ended up leaving the campaign due to a variety of reasons.  Would have been interesting to see how and if the story would have played out.

Operative X09 (Shadowrun/d20 Modern)

Probably my most controversial character I’ve ever played. X09 is a bit of robocop situation, where to appease his corporate masters his body was replaced entirely with a cybernetic android (using a homebrewed race) with the exception of his brain, which was simply purged of most of his memories.  However, upon learning that he once had things like a family, a life, and a bunch of other things in that vein that were taken from him he decides to go rogue and become a mercenary.  That’s really not that interesting and is a bit vague.  I was playing with a first time GM and wanted to give him plenty to work with since I knew he was a big fan of story and role play.

However, where this character started to get interesting was what happened when you mixed him with the rest of the party.  Other members had characters that were pretty much “good hero” types, and renegade hero types.  I was a cutthroat merc in it for the money.  I take a job, I do the job, I kill any and all loose ends or anyone who gets in my way.  I think the moment this truly came to shine was we were given a mission to infiltrate a top secret military base and stop a potential terrorist.  While trying to locate said secret base, we had an encounter with a gas station clerk out in the boonies.  We asked them a series of questions, paid him off for the answers, bought some stuff in exchange for what we wanted, and the whole thing went smoothly.  Where it turned was after the exchange was done, my character reached to pull out his wallet and instead pulled a gun and shot the clerk.  My teammates were horrified, but my logic was sound.  He had seen us, he could identify us, and thus was a loose end that needed to be dealt with.  Especially in the light that we were up against some potentially nasty black ops military fiends.

If that wasn’t enough to put the party on edge with my character, things only got worse when we got into the military base and we identified two unknown people in the tunnel ahead of us.  My character was able to deduce that one of these two was actually the brother of one of my team mates who we had heard was possibly brainwashed or flat out joined up with the terrorist cell.  I decided not to share this information with said teammate and instead ordered her (she was our team’s gun expert and professional sniper) to take them out.  My thinking of course would be that these guys are A) Potentially a threat, B) A possible emotional entanglement that could compromise the mission and C) Definitely in our physical way to complete the mission.  After opening fire and discovering who I just ordered her to shoot, my team mate clearly did NOT share my deductive reasoning for this action.  In fact, this was pretty much the straw that broke the camel’s back on the campaign.  She would shortly after this, use her first chance to blow my character’s brains across the wall.  Not exactly shocked, and she was well within her right to have revenge as far as I could see but the whole thing left everyone kind of shaken at the table and a bit distrustful in character and the campaign disbanded shortly after.

Still, first time I’ve ever had a character straight up die.  And to another player no less.

Vrykerion Oelarune the Eladrin Swordmage

Probably my most in depth role playing character, this Vrykerion (the first D&D character to use the name, the warlock came later) was actually part of a campaign where I got to do a bit of the world building.  His backstory shaped a chunk of the DMs world story.  The quick version is that in this low magic setting, he was part of a monastic order of eladrin who practiced the art of swordmagic, a powerful and ancient technique developed mostly for defense.  However, years ago his order was nearly complete wiped out in a mysterious attack.  Vrykerion only survived because he was in the lower levels of the monastery cleaning up as punishment for being an apprentice who tried to wield a master’s sword.  Only a handful of survivors (seven in all if I recall) made it out of there, and all swore to walk the earth trying to find whoever was behind the attack and to avenge our people.  This was nice because it always gave me two things whenever we visited a new place: Have any other eladrin been through here? And trying to find info on who attacked the monastery.

Still I mentioned that this was probably my most in depth character in terms of role play and there’s a specific story that goes along with that fact.  While investigating a ruined temple, we found a massive dragon frozen in ice along side a now deceased eladrin swordmage – one of Vrykerion’s seniors, a master who had been away from the monastery the night of the attack. Not only did the master have a journal that had valuable clues in it, but he also possessed a +1 Frost Longsword.  And at level 3 without a single magical item to my name, it seemed like a useful item.  But it was a master’s sword.  Even with the order gone, Vrykerion still knew that it was forbidden for him to wield that blade until he had passed his trials.  Especially since doing so is what landed him in punishment detail that spared him while his comrades died.  So there was a heavy guilt factor too.  I elected that Vrykerion would take the sword, but never use it.  He would carry the weapon until such that that he could return it to the monastery and place it with the swords of all those who had fallen before, as was the tradition of his people.

That may not seem like much, but especially in D&D passing up a +1 magical weapon for some fluff reason is pretty outrageous, doubly so in Fourth Edition where the monsters scale with the assumption that you do have those magical bonuses add in to your character (Another reason I have been a big advocate of using inherent bonuses in my fourth edition campaigns.  The freedom to role play without concern of ‘proper’ stat inflation.)  It was a bold move that was surprising to my DM, my fellow players and even dare I say to me.  But it felt like it made sense.  That my character wouldn’t use that sword.  Especially since his order was so very important to him, that he had dedicated the last nearly 100 years of his life to seeking out those who had destroyed it.

So that’s all for my RPG Rogue’s Gallery story time.  I hoped you maybe got some enjoyment about hearing some of these stories, or maybe got an idea for your own characters from it.  Have an interesting character of your own? Let me know in the comments below.  I love hearing awesome RPG stories of yester year.

Vry Plays Shadowrun Returns (Part 3: State of the Union)

This time we hit up a bar, meet a cultist, read a girl’s diary (giggle), and ask the most profound question of our time: What the heck is a Nerp?

Class Storyline Reviews: Sith Warrior – Chapter 1

 Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Sith Warrior storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  If you would like a spoiler free summary of the storylines you can find them here.

<– Sith Warrior Prologue ||  Sith Warrior Chapter 2 –>

sithwarr02

The Sith Warrior.  A powerful fearsome enforcer of Darth Baras.  Now armed with a starship capable of reaching the ends of the galaxy.  Fear is your weapon.  Your master’s enemies are your enemies. And with Darth Baras’ deep undercover spy network being found out and eliminated, it falls to you as the servant of your master’s will to put a stop to any possible threat to your master’s doings.

Balmorra

Baras’ spy on Balmorra is a big shot officer in the Republic forces that are “not officially part of the resistance”.  But before you do that, it’s time to make sure that you cut off any possible loose ends to the spy. That includes his son.  The blabber mouth kid has got himself taken in to the custody of the resistance, so it’s up to you to bust him out and either mind wipe the bugger or silence him for good.  Then you’ve got to take out the spy in the Balmorran arms factory.  This is probably my favorite scene in the whole planet, because you defeat the soldiers guarding the spy (his own squad that he commands) and the last one gets to live just long enough to witness the true betrayal of the commanding officer that he was moments ago ready to lay down his life to protect. The spy quite properly asks the Sith Warrior to just kill the trooper and put him out of his misery, and you can or you can force the spy to do it.  I honestly just killed the trooper because there’s no reason to be so mean to this guy.  Especially since he then explains to you quite plainly that he knows why you are here, that he is ready to die, and he knew that he was a liability as that would be cut out one day by Baras.  Really reasonable for a guy I was sent here to kill.  I mean seriously, based on every other class I’ve played in this game I’d expect him to just turn tail and run and try to buy his way out, but no.  He knows his place, and he knows it’s time to go.  Doesn’t mean he isn’t going to go without a fight though.  He’s a soldier after all, and if he’s going to go out, it’s going to be in honorable combat.  Which is fine by my dark knight Sith Warrior.  Honorable combat it is.

You also meet your second companion here.  Malavai Quinn.  And he’s an imperial trooper that helps you.  He proves to be quite skilled as after you eliminate the spy, he finds that an investigator was listening in on the whole thing and to make matters worse, the investigator is a Jedi.  You hunt and stop the Jedi who informs you that she already has sent the information off to Baras’ old foe Noman Karr and his padawan who can see people’s true nature.  This shocking twist is only interrupted by Quinn who scoffs at the whole thing and explains that he intercepted the information so that Karr never received it and the truth dies with the Jedi.  So Quinn is apparently a bad ass with communications, and is also quite adept at combat, and flying your ship, and many other duties.  He’s kind of just an all around bad ass who is stuck on Balmorra for some reason.  It’s mentioned that a lot of higher ups want to see him stay there,but Baras rewards him with a recommendation for officer-ship and says his debt with Baras is wiped clean.  Whatever that means.  Apparently I didn’t ask the right questions to find out what that was or it’ll come up later.  Anyway, Quinn is a proper Imperial soldier through and through. Kind of like the Empire equivalent to Elara Dorne I would say.

Nar Shadaa

Baras’ spy Agent Dellocon has run to hide under the protection of Darth Baras’ rival Lord Rathari. In order to get to Dellocon, the Warrior must draw Rathari out of the shadows and remove the protection.  To do this, you must disrupt all of his operations and dealings on Nar Shadaa forcing a confrontation that will give you an opening to the agent. Rathari kills the woman assisting you and challenges you to a duel.  He then refuses to duel a lowly apprentice and has his lackeys do it.  Finally, you defeat Rathari and he kills Dellocon for you (stealing your kill if you wish to offer some disapproval) and then you are free to do with Rathari as you see fit and he acknowledges your strength and takes whatever punishment you dish out.  Even asking for a swift death if you wish to kill him.

There’s a small interlude after Nar Shadaa where you assault a Republic tracking station that has been keeping tabs on you for Noman Karr.  You break in, kill everyone, and have a fun confrontation of taunting the Jedi and making your intentions generally known.  He becomes more resolved than ever to keep his padawan safe and out of reach, so Darth Baras decides the next course of action will be to lure her out by destroying everything she holds close and dear.  This will be interesting.

Tatooine

So first up on the whole “destroying everything she holds close and dear” road trip is a visit to the sandy dunes of Tatooine and slaughtering her old master that helped develop her unique power.  Of course, the master just happens to be a remote hermit who know is sure where he lives.  But your assigned assistant from Darth Baras has an idea: let’s retrace the padawan’s steps. So first up is to ‘subdue the devil of the desert’ and bathe in its… shiny… stuff.  Maybe blood.  They’re not very specific.  I’m going to go with blood.  And subduing it with a lightsaber to the face.  Quinn, do you object? No? Excellent. Stab the giant desert bug and become shiny.  Then you can enter the sand people encampment and figure out what happened next because heck, I wouldn’t mess with someone covered in shiny sand demon bug blood juice stuff.

So the next thing the padawan did was bathe in a spring to purify herself.  Really?  We’re doing this?  The game is actually gonna make me take a bath.  Dangit.  Okay actually it’s more so like meditating at a spring and facing your inner self, who you must defeat to move on.  This is one of those things that makes me really want to do a second character with the opposite alignment to see if it changes.  Because my encounter was extremely dark side orientated which made sense because I was dark side.  So I have to wonder if you have a light side Sith Warrior, if this whole thing changes.  Either way, when you defeat yourself (Insert “That is why you fail” joke here), you receive a vision of the deep desert where the Jedi lives.  Your assistant says she will not follow because no one goes to the deep desert and survives, which is funny because I’m pretty sure I’ve done it AT LEAST 7 OTHER TIMES.  You think an experienced tracker would know about all the other people, and the established bases in the dune sea that are not filled with dead people but whatever.

Finally, you get to meet the Jedi proper.  He goes on with his usual Jedi blather about how I will fail, and how I will now die here, and how I will never find out anything. Luckily, he has a little buddy.  One that is more than willing to spill the beans to save his master.  Unluckily, I killed them both anyway because such was the will of my master, Darth Baras! (I’m a good Sith. We’ll a bad Sith.  Who does good.  Good to his master, not to like other people.  You know what I mean.)  But we do learn a very important clue, a name: Jaesa Wilsaam.  Well how about that.  Time to put that intel to use.

Alderaan

I wasn’t joking when I said we were gonna put that intel to good use.  We’re going after Ms. Padawan’s family.  And we are going to kill them.  Or that’s what Baras wants at least.  You don’t HAVE to technically. But as we’ve stated that this playthrough is me being a good bad sith of bad done good but bad-ness.  So we’re killing them.  But first we have to find them.  And to do that we have to use this sniveling Thul politician to locate them.  Unfortunately, he’s a fricking weasel.  So he constantly tries to divert the conversation, blame others (including you), and poorly manipulate others to do his own personal bidding.

Case and point, he tells you that a House Alde noblewoman had Jaesa as a servant at one point and that you should kidnap her and bring her back to him to be properly interrogated.  Well, it turns out that no.  She was not this noblewoman’s servant.  Actually, the Thul jerk has been attempting to woo her unsuccessfully because he’s a creepy freak so he just figured he’d get you to kidnap her so he can…  well, I don’t want to think about how he’d “interrogate” her.  Because that’s kind of sickening to be honest.  I actually let her go after threatening some good information out of her.  Just to irk the Thul Jerk Creep.

Next is a bunch of filler about trying to track her down, breaking into a high security station, hacking the planet, blah blah blah.  Ultimately, it leads to the fact that you find the Wilsaam family in the center tower of the Organa palace/castle/estate/I-hate-nobles.  Upon entering, you are challenged by their sworn guardian: a Jedi Knight.  Oh fun.  They think they can stop me.  And if you choose to kill the family, you get probably what is the FUNNIEST moment in this entire chapter.  Instead of dueling the Jedi Knight to kill the family, you just force push the Jedi out of the way, and double force choke Mommy and Daddy at the same time, and THEN the Jedi fights you.  Because he failed.  Failed so hard, I dare say this falls into the Epic Fail category.  This probably wouldn’t have been nearly as funny if it wasn’t for the fact that it pretty much subverts EVERYTHING ELSE in the game, where you declare your intention, then fight the gold mob, and then deal with the target. The Sith Warrior is just like “NOEP. KILL TIME.” and I was on the floor.

After dealing with the family, Darth Baras gets a hold of you and says that the Slimy Thul Jerk Creep has been telling your master that you’ve been goofing off and messing around this entire time, trying to further your own agenda.  Not shocked.  However, upon clarifying the whole mess, Darth Baras gives you a present: You can deal with the Slimy Thul Jerk Creep anyway you see fit.  Ooooh yes.  And his Sith bodyguards will do nothing to you, because they are more loyal to the Darths then they are to a loser politician.  It’s murder time again! HAHAHAHAHAHA!  Ahem. I mean.  Goodie.

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Grand Finale

The finale of chapter one comes at first in the form of an invitation from Jaesa to meet her and settle this between the two of you, since it’s clear that both of you are just pawns in a battle between your masters.  And you’ve already guessed what happens, haven’t you?  Oh yea. Jaesa isn’t there when you show up.  Just two of Nomen Karr’s Jedi goons who have big heads about wanting to beat up a Sith.  They also are dead. (Okay, you CAN send them packing with their injuries as a message to Karr, but why?) Turns out Jaesa did plan on meeting you as she said, but Nomen Karr stopped her and sent the goons as an uh… “elaborate” trap.  Like you didn’t expect it to be a trap to begin with.  This however is immediately followed by an actual message from Karr sent to Darth Baras, challenging him on Hutta.

This is the fun part.  On Hutta, you have to fight Nomen Karr three seperate times (Protip: Heal before talking to him each time) and taunting him into releasing his anger.  During these fights, he stops using his Jedi Knight abilities and starts using more abilities from the Sith Warrior arsenal (Force chokes, slams, ravage, etc) and he goes further and further dark side. Swearing up a storm about how he’s going to kill you, maim you, hurt you, and is going to enjoy doing it.  Meanwhile, innocent lil’ ol’ Jaesa makes her entrance to see her master frothing at the mouth.

At this point there’s two distinct paths that the rest of this encounter:  you can use dark side choices to complete break her and destroy her world view by forcing her to use her “true nature revealing” power on her own master to expose the darkness he’s had in his heart all this time, thus causing her to doubt the power of the light side and convert.  That for the record is the way I went.  The other choice is just to disillusion her into joining you without completely breaking her, and thus becoming much like the Inquisitor and having a doubtful Jedi join you, but doesn’t want to go Sith.  Either way, she becomes your new apprentice.  But she can only be romanced if you converted her to the dark side.

Final Thoughts

Despite how simple everything seems to be described here, the Sith Warrior storyline is actually really amazing and enjoyable.  Mostly not because of the plot, but because of the conversations and interactions.  If you ever wanted to be the supremely bad ass dragon to a big bad, and just wander around terrorizing the universe – you can be that! If you are the noble servant to a dark master, who only kills when necessary – YOU CAN BE THAT! If you want to serve your master loyally or start to subvert him to overthrow him later – both are viable paths to take!  The story may be simple, but how to get to tell it is extremely varied based on your choices.  And really choice seems to be the big thing for this leg of the Sith Warrior’s journey.  You can choose to obey or disobey, you can choose to kill or spare, you get to choose to convert or simply recruit an apprentice.  The choices are really what makes this storyline shine.

I’m not saying the actual plot is that bad either. Just simple.  Your master’s spy network has been compromised against impossible odds. Time to eliminate any possible loose ends and then stop the source of the problem: a padawan. But the padawan is in hiding! Well, start killing everyone she has a close bond to, that should lure her out.  It’s a simple but well executed story.  There’s no real twists or turns, no mystery, but still exciting as you serve as the right hand of Darth Baras and execute his will across the galaxy (or not).  It’s fun because you already feel powerful going in, there is no build up to earning your place.  You are Vader at this point. Full stop.  And it’s pretty awesome to have that much authority and power in Chapter One.

I’d say more about your new apprentice Jaesa Wilsaam but you literally get her right at the completion of Chapter One.  And considering the girl has two distinct versions you can get to know, I’d rather play around some with that before I say my piece on it.  I will say this: Dark Side Jaesa? She is one freaky lady.  Like makes me wanna take shower after talking to her dark side.  So, there’s that.  Now I have to shower from thinking about it.  Yuck.

<– Sith Warrior Prologue ||  Sith Warrior Chapter 2 –>

Vry Plays: Shadowrun Returns (Part 2: This is Halloween)

Vry is back with his semi-trustworthy buddy Jake Armitage to beat up some trick or treaters. Or something like that.

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