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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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?
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 >>
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 >>
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
This was my girlfriend’s reaction to my reaction to meeting Akaavi:
And this is us working out our differences between her reaction and my reaction:
I’m sure it will all work out just fine. Right?
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?
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.)
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.
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.
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.
In this post I will be talking about the ending of Final Fantasy XIII and the plot overall. If you wish to avoid spoilers about how the game ends, I would stopping right now. Back there. No, not here. Over there. That period you reached? After the word “now”? That’s where you should have stopped. Yes, that’s it. Wait, you’re still reading aren’t you? Okay, well, I warned you.
So with Gran Pulse in the rear view mirror it’s time to head back to Cocoon and finish this whole thing. But wait, isn’t that what the villain wants? Why would they do that? All they had to do to save Cocoon was just sit on Gran Pulse and live out their lives there. Or get crushed by a giant turtle. Again. So why go back? Well, the game offers a few reasons for it. One is that if they didn’t go back, they were essentially dooming others to their same focus. That was a big one because it leads to their ultimate resolve to “save” Cocoon by ending the rule of the fal’Cie. By killing them. It really didn’t seem too logical considering that killing the fal’Cie – especially Orphan – is dooming Cocoon to plummet to the Gran Pulse and kill everyone right? Well, the answer is kind of embedded in the themes of the game. The idea that humans are always capable of moving forward, building their own destiny, and never giving up is touched upon repeatedly. Ultimately, the hope seems to be that by removing the shackles of the fal’Cie even at the cost of destroying their home, humanity itself will persevere. At least that’s what I took away from it. They may not save “Cocoon” the giant ball of land, but they’ll save “Cocoon” the people.
Of course that’s not the only reason they had to go back to Cocoon. Barthandelus is pretty much putting all his cards on the table by manipulating the military into attacking Eden to assault Orphan, who’ve they’ve been led into thinking is the fal’Cie that enslaved their leader AND Barty has awoken and unleashed all the Gran Pulse nasties on the Ark that you spent hours hanging out on earlier. So the Gran Pulse baddies are killing the people, the military is going after the fal’Cie that’s gonna drop Cocoon onto Gran Pulse but they don’t KNOW that… Essentially, it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Thanks to the protagonists intervention however, the military is mostly diverted to helping out people (the military that isn’t turned into crystal monsters) and it seems that overall that is what helped make sure that a lot of folks survived when Cocoon drops at the end. Oh, did I mention that Cocoon DOES fall?
Yes, after facing off and finally killing Barthandelus (or so they think), Barty seems to merge with Orphan giving “birth” to some three-faced monstrosity. It then proceeds to try and force Fang to become Ragnarok, a monster of incredible power, to destroy Orphan-tandelus and blow up Cocoon. Faced with the choice of becoming Ragnarok or seeing Vanille die, she chooses Ragnarok. Meanwhile, everyone else has turned into Cieth zombies. But in the midst of Fang-narok’s rage, the heroes are visited by visions of all that they struggled through and overcame through their journey, and BAM! No more Cieth Zombies. And honestly, there is never given any sort of explicit reason why this happens. Oh you can infer from the fact that they have whited out “burnt” l’Cie brands that something happened involving their focus. Most interpretations I’ve read is that they overcame their curse by sheer willpower of how much inner strength they had built over their journey. Hence seeing all the hardships they overcame in the flashes. Other theories stand that it was Etro who intervened, but the official answer says that doesn’t happen till a bit later. Ultimately, they overcame their focus and found a new one. A rather ambiguous focus of them all smiling. So a happy ending. Their focus is to have a happy ending now.
Actually, that works for me. We’ve seen twice that humans possess the power to make their focus whatever they want if they have the fortitude and faith to do so. So why not? Anyway, the team is re-assembled and Fang calmed down, its time to kick fal’Cie butt. Barty and Orphan both go down and Cocoon starts to plummet. And our heroes? They hope for a miracle. Yes, that’s right. They kill the thing holding Cocoon up and then hope for the best. Honestly, as much as I defend this story that’s a pretty WAFFy Anime facepalm moment for me. Luckily, Fang and Vanille DO have an idea what to do. THEY turn into Ragnarok.
See the story went that Fang and Vanille were always supposed to turn into the beast together, but Vanille was scared so Fang did it alone, hence why her mark is burned out but Vanille’s isn’t. It’s also why the attack on Cocoon hundreds of years failed, and why Fang-narok alone couldn’t do anything to Orphan. But together, Ragnarok is fully powered and able to do amazing and miraculous things that no normal human could do. Ragnarok then dives into a massive volcano in Cocoon, spilling a pillar of lava below the falling sphere. They then turn the whole thing into crystal and envelope the whole thing in a crystal cradle to hold it aloft.
The interesting thing I found about this was the way the crystals formed was very much akin to the way everything was turned into crystal when Animus, the fal’Cie in the Bodhum Vestige at the beginning of the game, died or completed IT’S focus (because as it’s been established, fal’Cie are bound to focuses as well, but lack the free will of humans to do anything about it). Does this mean that Ragnarok is a fal’Cie or of fal’Cie like power? We’re never really told much about Ragnarok other than it was the ultimate monster to destroy Cocoon both at the present and during the War hundreds of years ago. But it’s not summoned the way the eidolons/summons are. Two l’Cie are tasked with transforming into the creature. So it’s certainly possible that Ragnarok is a fal’Cie created by merging two l’Cie together, or of an ascended l’Cie like “Fang-narok”.
Then finally at the end we have a glimpse of Etro’s actual involvement in the story. After saving Cocoon through Fang and Vanille’s sacrifice, the rest of the party is turned to crystal for fulfilling their new self-appointed focus of saving the world. However, they are turned back into flesh and blood along with Serah and Dajh (Sazh’s son), with their l’Cie brands removed entirely. This is the action of Etro intervening as a reward to protecting human lives. Of course, Etro piercing through from the Unseen World (Dead Land) to the Seen World (Not-Dead Land), is what allows the Chaos in the Unseen World to spill out and kick start the plot of XIII-2.
So now at the end of the game and looking back, how was it? Well, I’m not going to claim it was the best Final Fantasy game ever. That title still belongs in my mind to the sixth installment. Still, I don’t think this game is deserving of the completely and utter spite it gets. The characters are far from flat, displaying a range of complex and difficult to deal with emotional struggles and trying to come to terms with both their faults, regrets, and fates. They each develop and come to terms with things in their own ways, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatically. Sazh being given the choice to kill Vanille for costing him his son, Lightning facing the fact that her way of thinking is setting Hope on the path to becoming a murderer, or Snow having to deal with the fact that he isn’t an invincible hero and can’t always save people. All of which I felt were handled magnificently.
Where the game really hurt was the sometimes frustrating game of keep away the plot plays. Not explaining everything in favor of a situation where no one has all the cards, and you never know if someone is lying or telling the truth. This is used to great extent with characters like Vanille, and handled horribly with characters like Barthandelus. The game requires an extensive amount of in-game and out-of-game reading and knowledge that it often felt like watching the later episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion (Another series where the plot is actually fairly simple but is obscured heavily to the point of utter BS.) To compile the problem is the pacing, in which it takes 25-30 hours of gameplay to find out what the villain hopes to actually achieve.
The saddest part is that it makes a rich and fantastic mythology very difficult to get in to. The Fabula Nova Crystalis has a great narrative to it but this first game does very little to deliver on it. And really it all comes down to scope I think. The story is centered entirely on the six main characters, and their perceptions shape everything we see. So if they don’t know, we don’t know. Now that works in a lot of stories and games, but not when you’re trying to tell Lord of the Rings. Imagine Lord of the Rings if you only focused on Sam and Frodo. Now try to think how you can relate to the reader what was happening at Helm’s Deep or Gondor from the point of view of two hobbits wandering into Mordor. Can you think of a way? Me neither. Other than a LOT of foot notes (or “Datalogs” if you will).
Overall, I enjoyed it. Most of the issues had work arounds in the form of Wiki articles or extra reading. I didn’t mind the linearity so much. Some of the story elements required interpretation but it’s not anything more than your average anime fan has to probably deal with. However, it might be worth a second look for people.
And yes, I do plan on playing and likely talking about FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns.
Okay, so after like a full 24 hours holy crap that’s an actual full day of following the storyline from point to point, you finally get off Cocoon and to Gran Pulse. At this point, most of the details of the plot have been offered. Although the explanation requires some extra explanation. Honestly, the whole thing is a fascinating attempt at telling a story where no one, and I mean NO ONE, is holding all the cards and knows all the details. The villain? As mustache twirly as he is, he doesn’t know everything. Heck, he doesn’t even know if his scheme will actually work. Like at all. To even begin to figure out what is going on in the story at this point you either need to do a LOT of reading between the lines or use a wiki. I did a bit of both and honestly felt very comfortable with what was going on. It felt a lot like watching an old anime where the story is coherent only within the themes being explored. In this case, the nature of free will and overcoming one’s past. The l’Cie are told they have to complete their focus or are doomed to a terrible fate, but twice they’ve seen people turn to crystal (eternal slumber in happy dreams being the reward for fulfilling a focus) by doing something they’ve been told wasn’t their focus. So it’s implied that they can kind of set their own focus.
That of course makes sense when you know the never mentioned in game at all mythos for the Fabula Nova Crystalis. Humans were formed by the god Lindzei out of the blood of the goddess Etro. Etro being one of the three “deity fal’Cie” being created by the Maker, but unlike Lindzei and Pulse, Etro was never given a focus of her own. So she had the freedom to do as she pleased, but with the grief of not being given equal treatment or power like the other two, she used her freedom to off herself. Bam. Done. Dead. The blood of a “free fal’Cie” was the building blocks of humans. So it stands to reason that despite being branded with the l’Cie curse, they still possess the power to do as they please including deciding their own fate or focus. It’s a shame they neglected to add the Fabula Nova Crystalis myth to the game in any proper sense, because it really does clear up a ton about what the fal’Cie wish to do, why the humans can break their curse, and the nature of the Goddess Etro whose mercy intervenes at different points in the game from the Unseen World (Land of the Dead) and also sets up the primary conflict of the second game. And yes, I fully plan on talking about the second game when I get to playing it. Because despite all the rage and hate this game has gotten (and admittedly, a LOT of it is certainly understandable given the amount of extra-curricular work you have to do to assemble the larger narrative), I STILL like them. A lot.
Anyway, back to Gran Pulse. Hell on Earth. Despite no one having the vaguest concept of what hell or earth are. This is the point where the game actually appears to open up a bit more instead of the run from plot point to plot point down tunnels that we have experienced thus far. You get access to a few wide open areas, some side missions that unlock things like chocobos or better items, and the freedom to wander around these areas and complete whichever tasks you can as you see fit. Granted, this is the only area like this in the game, but it does offer a great reprieve in comparison to what you’ve done so far. There is no overworld map still, and the only transportation you get around Gran Pulse is chocobos that move about 50% than you do on foot and can dig up hidden treasures, and certain mission stones can be used as teleporters to the different areas. The teleporters are honestly the most limiting aspect of this. They tend to drop you right at the edges of areas, and can only be accessed by using a stone to go to another stone. So if you’re grinding at the end of a tunnel, you have to go through 3/4ths of the tunnel to teleport out to somewhere else. It’s not as bad once you get the hang of dodging enemies so you don’t have to do every battle along the way.
The mission stones, called c’Ieth Stones technically because they are actually the final devolved form of what happens to a l’Cie that doesn’t complete their focus, offer a ranked mission starting from the easiest (D) to the hardest (A) and usually involve you finding and killing a monster. They’re not all unlocked as once as you need to complete the difficulty ranks or use abilities that some of them unlock (like Chocobos) to reach. Around the mid-B rank is where things go from “Need to take a minute to figure out the strategy here” to “OH GOD I AM DEAD AGAIN BEFORE I CAN DO A THING?!” and it starts to become clear that some of the missions are not meant to be done on your first visit to Gran Pulse in Chapter 11. Oh no. They are for the “End game” after you’ve beat the final boss and unlock your final tier of progression to go grind out. I was able to beat one A-rank boss by using Vanille and spamming the hell out of the Death spell on it. It only took like 12 retries with about 10 spell casts per try I think before it finally insta-killed the boss and then just had to widdle away his insanely powerful minions. I didn’t really plan on doing that more than just that once.
However, all things must come to an end and the freedom of Gran Pulse gives away to the linear corridors of plot as you head back to Cocoon for the final mission: To free humanity from the tyranny of fal’Cie once and for all! Which may or may not involve dooming Cocoon in the larger sense. But they will die free!
Continuing in my grand “Seriously, I don’t give two damns about Garrosh and seriously SoO feels way to grindy even on LFR” vacation from MMOs, I decided to finally boot up my copy of RPG Maker VX Ace. I bought it on a steam sale over a year ago for like 60% off or something, and never really got around to using. In fact my girlfriend was using it most of the time making seriously awesome stuff that would just make my jaw drop. So I decided, Hey I like to run D&D campaigns, I’ve spent more time in Final Fantasy games than I have homework over the course of my life, why not give this thing a try?
Like being zapped by the MCP and taking my first few steps out onto the Grid, my life was forever changed.
RPG Maker is like handing a kid the world’s biggest LEGO construction kit and just saying have at. It has a ton of power, lots to learn, and great deal of freedom. It comes with everything you need to start making your own role playing game and even comes with built in pre-sets that allow to start tinkering as soon as you open the box. I started with just using the basic tutorials that are on the website(LINK), which sadly appear to be incomplete. You get to the last lesson and it just stops, teasing you with a “In our next lesson” bit that dangles a juicy fruit of useful information just beyond reach. Luckily the web is vast and infinite and full of other non-official tutorials that offer thorough explanations of both the basics as well as the more advanced features of the game.
While the advertisements for the software will boast that no programming is required, some basic knowledge of programming is incredibly useful. Knowing how concepts like loops, if…then…else’s, and variables will prove vital in working your way through making your story come alive. Luckily they’re not the hardest programming ideas to grasp. But yea, the more experience you have with programming the more you’ll be able to do. You can also add scripts to your game to add additional functionality using the Ruby based RGSS3 engine. For instance, I’ve added a World of Warcraft like Reputation system as well as a crafting system with the scripts in the game.
Still the sheer amount of power you wield to tell any kind of story you wish complete with cutscenes, characters, classes, monsters, etc from the get go is an amazing feeling. Once I finished the tutorial I began work on a slightly more sandbox-y style game, where you would find clues and tips about where to go next but no clear goal or marked areas. For instance, someone in town mentions that the statue in the park had the gem stolen from it. That’s it. Where is the gem? Dunno. Maybe you’ll find it. Maybe you’ll find more clues. Maybe an unrelated clue will actually lead you to the same thieves that stole the gem. It’s awesome and fun to just lay clues down. Especially since this allows me to do a sandbox style adventure when I don’t know if I could ever accomplish one in my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.
However, even more than a D&D game using RPG Maker requires a lot of planning ahead of time if you don’t plan on using the built in pre-sets for everything. Just testing a formula for how much damage a character can take or dish out was a long process of trial and error. Then planning things like stat growth, abilities, experience rates (which are somewhat limited by the software itself. Like you can’t set it to take more than 90 XP to get from level 1 to 2. Though you might be able to change this with a script. Probably can. There hasn’t been much I’ve found that you CAN’T change with a script.) So before I’ve gotten too far in the game I’m already buried neck deep in spreadsheets. But hey kids, let this be a lesson. Learn Excel. It can be used for fun someday!
The sheer joy is in the creation though. You’re making something. Something new and yours. It’s the kind of feeling that ignites your passion when you built the Three-Headed Dragon Super Space Ship With TWENTY Lasers So It Can Totally Blow Up Mark’s Ship Yes It Can Mark Shut Up Mark III with building blocks when you were a kid. I have no idea if anything I make will ever turn out to be decent, or even great. Nor does it matter if I can or can’t monetize it. For now, I’m having fun with it all. However, I might upload a copy of the first city as a ‘demo’ or something. I’d love to hear what people out there in the Interwebs might think of it and get some feedback. Who knows?
You know, I’ve been quite kind to this game in my previous assessments. Talking about the characters, and the story, and how it is actually quite enjoyable if you can make it through the utterly confusing first few hours. But oh man, oh man, oh man, is there one aspect of this game that had me smashing my head into my keyboard just trying to find a way to UNDERSTAND how it worked: The Crafting System.
Oh yes. Final Fantasy XIII has a crafting system. Tucked away beneath the save menu and the shops like some stack of dirty magazines that while you are ashamed of, proved somewhat (cough) vital in your mid-”game”. The crafting system feels like this weird system that was tacked on to provide some semblance of more classical RPG systems with levels and experience since the actual characters did away with that in favor of the expanding Crystarium. What you have to do is apply various components you’ve gathered to your weapons and accessories to give them experience points, when they reach enough experience points that weapon or accessory goes up a level.
So YOU don’t gain experience, but your weapons do. By pouring stuff you ripped off a dead beastie on it. Seems somewhat simple if a bit confusing if you try to imagine how it works in any real world sense. Or in any physical sense beyond a menu screen. But that’s not all. See once you get your item to a max level (indicated by the level becoming a star), you can upgrade the item with a stone which will transform it to a new, more powerful weapon. So your weapons are also Eevees. Oh oh but there’s more. Sometimes you don’t WANT to upgrade the item with a stone, because when you disassemble (break down into more components… think disenchant in World of Warcraft) a star level item, you might get another item that could be useful as well. How do you know whether you should upgrade or disassemble an item? Well, that’s easy. You drop 20 bucks on a strategy guide or spend HOURS google-ing this crap like I had to.
Oh but before the whole “Do I upgrade or disassemble” thing, there’s the issue of how do you level up these things to star level to begin with? Oh you use components like I said. Tons of them. All kinds. Glow horns, sharp fangs, dull fangs, sparkle ooze, eye of newt, breath of frog, computer chips, various lengths of wire, this thing I found in a garage, parts of a bomb… the list goes on. And each one gives different amounts of experience for different items. Oh and some items give bonuses like adding a multiplier to future experience gains. Confused yet? Feel overwhelmed? Welcome to the club.
The worst part is that trying to make heads or tails out of this system is so convoluted, it took me 45 hours of gameplay before I figured out roughly how to make it work properly. So I will share my conclusions with you to prevent you from suffering as I did. All components can be broken down into two major categories: Organic and Technology. While there is no clear indicator of which category the component belongs to, you can usually tell from the name of the component or the name of the shop you are ordering from. Organic components have things like oozes, fangs, or claws. Technology components are usually wires, machine parts, cables, computer chips, or any other techie sounding thing. The two categories are used for different things. Organics are useful for building up multipliers but don’t offer as much experience. Technology components give large amounts of experience but will reduce the multiplier on the item after they’ve been applied. So you want to use organic things to get up to your 3x multiplier, then unload a single massive dose of a technology component to maximize that multiplier before it vanishes. That’s pretty much the ebb and flow of the crafting system. It only took nearly 2 full days worth of playing to figure that out.
The crafting system is just a pain. It’s a tedious grind, since until way late in the game, you will not have the money to buy components or finding them with enough frequency. Really, the whole thing doesn’t become doable until around Chapter 11 when you begin to wander around Gran Pulse and can do the repeatable missions for items, cash and components. Note that the system becomes available in Chapter 4. Out of 13. So for almost half of the game, the whole thing is pointless and for another quarter of it, it isn’t available anyway. Really, this is my biggest complaint with the game thus far. Heck, it’s an RPG. I’m used to grinding experience/crystarium points. I expect that! But this is grinding, so you can grind, to help you with grinding. It’s so frustrating that I’m not even going to use a “Yo dawg I heard you like…” joke for that, because I am just tired of it (The grind and the joke really).
So for people who HATED Final Fantasy XIII, and sought out any positive opinions they could on the internet to help fuel their rage and smugness… well, you got me. This part of the game really kinda stinks.