Sith Nazgul: Run!!!

I know the motivational poster meme is as old as Yoda’s grandmother, but for me it still engenders plenty of laughs, and none better than this:

I think Peter Jackson and George Lucas need to put their heads together….

Pic courtesy of here and thanks to Ken for the heads-up

Finally: a good bad guy!

What is it with the bad guys always becoming weenies? I mean, come on, Darth Vader was the ultimate bad guy. Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were notable films in a lot of ways, but the main focus was always Darth Vader. He was big, clad in black and very scary with his mechanical breathing and that nasty little thing that he did when someone displeased him. ‘I find your lack of faith disturbing’. THAT is bad guy. Sure he wimped out at the end, the love for his son undid him, redeemed him and let him die a Jedi. That was the whole point of the Star Wars story, Episode 1-6, the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. But… Why are all the other bad guys only bad guys for a while and then become weenies?

Ok, let’s look at Exar Kun. Jedi who becomes a Dark Jedi, bad news bad guy, right? Wrong. Sure he wreaks havoc for awhile, and then his base is discovered, he gets obliterated and turned into a Force Shade. And then what happens? Several thousand years later, he gets beaten and destroyed by a group of student Jedi, not even full blown Jedi Knights. Talk about going out with a whimper… *sigh*

Lets look at someone different, a non Force user. Mitth’raw’nuruodo, more commonly known as Grand Admiral Thrawn. He was probably the best bad guy ever created for Star Wars. He didn’t need the Force, he was just that good, always three or four steps ahead of everyone else. He was not about fighting for the sake of fighting. To quote one of his subordinates, ‘Thrawn always stood for order’. He wasn’t a proponent of the New Order, he wanted a stable galaxy, and the Rebels upset the galaxy. So he fought the Rebels. The only time that he was outfought was when two of his enemies outsmarted each other and wound up working together against him in the novel ‘The Last Command’. And then he died knifed in the back? By his bodyguard of all people…? Aw COME ON…! *Double sigh*

I am not even going to go into Isard, Prestage, Zinj, the list goes on and on… They are all weenies. Dangerous for a time and then they went out with whimpers. Whatever happened to bad guys you feared? Darth Vader was scary, Emperor Palpatine was scary in Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi. Malgus at least seems scary at the moment, but will he too go the way of the weenie? I hope not.

Ok, we come to last week’s update. A new timeline, ‘Rebirth of the Sith Empire’ and a new bad guy. The first Grand Moff Odile Vaiken, is long dead by the time of The Old Republic, but his legacy is the strong and overwhelming Sith military. Born on Korriban, and utterly loyal to the Sith, Vaiken seems to be a new direction in the evolution of bad guys.  He is skilled, intelligent and loyal. He was not in it just for himself, he wanted his empire to succeed. And to die the way he did, on the bridge of a Star Destroyer in battle, well, that was anything but weenie like. Wait a sec… Star Destroyer…? Hmmm… *evil grin* Very few problems cannot be solved with a Star Destroyer in orbit.

We had some good news this Friday as well. It looks like we are going to see more of Darth Malgus now, with the announcement of a new book, based on him. I truly hope they do not do what they did to Anakin. I don’t care if the man has issues. I want evil. I want blood! I want guts and horror and war and carnage! I want my bad guys to be bad guys! Not weenies!

To sum it up, Sith and servants of the Sith have always had to lose in Star Wars. The good guys always win in Star Wars, maybe not right away, but always in the end, the good guys win. But… Um… Who ARE the good guys in The Old Republic? The Republic with its fractional corrupt government or the Empire with the Sith leading it and all the stuff they do?  With the massive amount of reviews that were dropped on us recently, we have received some hints that there may not BE any ‘good guys’. It all may be shades of gray. And that is typical Bioware, always the moral choices with lots of room for interpretation. I for one can’t wait.

If Odile Viaken is any indication of the sort of people who follow the Sith Empire now, well… I look forward to fighting them as Republic and fighting beside them as Empire. They will make great allies and enemies. Memorable ones, and that is what we want. We don’t want weenies.

Well, what do you think? Are the bad guys going to go out with bangs or whimpers? And bad guys may be either Republic OR Imperial.

What is this, the Inquisition?

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Um… Wait a moment, no, that was Monty Python… oops, sorry.

No one expects the IMPERIAL Inquisition!

We all know what inquisitors are, right? According to Star Wars anyway. Beings who are trained to ferret out secrets, to work behind the scenes, to plot, and to seize as much power as they can through nefarious means. Where the Sith Warrior prefers much more straightforward methods, such as crushing the skulls of anyone who gets in their way, the Inquisitor is much more subtle. But what IS an Inquisitor?

An Inquisitor, or ‘truth officers’ are servants of an Inquisition. Historically, the Inquisition was an arm of the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages and actually up until near the end of the 19th century. The whole point of the historical Inquisition was to combat heresy. Of course, who defined heresy? The church did. This led to some of the most gruesome excesses in religious history. But this is not real life, this is Star Wars.

In the Expanded Universe, there have been several organizations called Inquisitions from the time of the founding of the Old Republic. The court that tried Ulic Qel Droma when he was captured, before his rescue by Exar Kun, was called an Inquisition. And the leader was the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. It was interesting that in that particular form, the defendant had no right at all to legal counsel.

Over three thousand years later, Emperor Palpatine created the Imperial Inquisition to hunt down and exterminate the remainder of the Jedi knights. They were dark side adepts, willing and able to do anything it took to get the job done. We don’t know how many Inquisitors were around at this time, but apparently there were enough that they could cover the galaxy with their nets. Their power and influence was feared. As was their authority, they answered only to Palpatine and to Vader.

During the time of Star Wars: The Old Republic, there will probably be many players who play the class Sith Inquisitor. The class looks fun. The advanced classes, what we have heard of them, also sound fun. But this class is not likely going to be for the people who want to wade into battle without thinking. Sith Sorcerer and Sith Assassin are the names for the advanced classes, and just from the names, we can assume that both will do ungodly amounts of damage.

All of us remember the Force lightning from Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, right? It has shown up in games as well. Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight, Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy, and then The Force Unleashed where it was truly insane what you could do with it. The idea of throwing lightning around is nothing new, magicians and sorcerers have had that ability in story and myth since the dawn of time. Odin and Zeus in particular were fond of thunderbolts. So in story or game, it’s cool.

But in practice? Just the thought of holding 1.21 jigawatts worth of power in my hand gives me goosebumps. Lightning is an elemental force, it is awe inspiring, magical in so many ways. And it is utterly terrifying when one is caught out in it. I speak from experience. You have not lived until you have had a lightning bolt detonate a tree less than a hundred yards from where your tent is set up. There was nothing left of that tree but a crater. Lightning is a powerful symbol as well, speed and power.  Anyway, back to Star Wars. How many of us could watch the Emperor throw Force lightning and NOT be a bit awed by it? I mean, here is an old, decrepit looking man, who can kill with a thought. Yeah, it is scary, and that is the point.

While we do not know a lot about the Inquisitor class yet, and likely won’t for awhile, we do know a few things. They specialize in Force lightning and have some very cool looking abilities with it. They have lightsabers, and use them, but their main ability will be with Force powers. I am hoping for a ‘mind trick’ like ability, Force Persuade or something like that, something to confuse enemies, and maybe make them allies for a time.

The whole idea of a Sith Inquisitor is not straight up fighting, although he or she can. It is about sneakiness and power. What better way to win a fight than to use your opponent against his allies? The power of the Dark Side will be manifest in these sneaky beings, and I for one hope to see a lot of them.

What do you think? Does the Sith Inquisitor sound like a good play style for you?

Photo from

Good Sith and Evil Jedi? Wha…?

Light or Darkness

Jedi and Sith. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Simple, right? Bioware seems to be hell bent on making what we thought was simple complicated. The whole good/bad thing gets kind of fuzzy, like Dr. Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters put it. Those of us who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy know about good and evil. Darth Vader was evil, Luke Skywalker was good. Empire was evil, Rebel Alliance was good. Stormtroopers, brainless soldiers following orders to the letter with no questions asked, were evil. Smugglers and… um… murderers (Han shot first in the original) …were… um… good? Ok, so he turned good at the end of that movie, but is it so easy to define?

What is good? Oh, man, I doubt I could put that in words if I had a hundred pages to try. We all have our own definitions of good. Selflessness, heroism, courage, kindness, etc. But in the first movie, Star Wars: A New Hope, good was fairly easy to define. The people fighting the bad guys were the good guys, even if all of them were not ‘good’ themselves. Han Solo in particular was a mercenary, out for one thing and one thing only: money.  He took the charter job to carry Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids to Alderaan not out of a sense of helping others, but for one HECK of a payout promised by the Jedi. He certainly did not attack the detention bay of the Death Star to rescue Princess Leia out of the goodness of his heart. He would not have lifted a finger without the promise of a massive reward.  Yes, at the end of the movie it was shown that he was not simply a greedy, self centered scum, but it took most of the movie. But for the most part, in A New Hope, good was fairly easy to recognize. Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi were good.

Now as to evil. Again, where to start? We all have our own definitions of evil. Selfishness, greed, lust for power or other gains, or simply an excess of pragmatism. Why did Darth Vader strangle people with the Force? Was it pragmatism? The easiest and quickest way? Or was it because it was the most terrifying way to do it? Did he enjoy cowing his subordinates, or was it simply the fastest and most efficient method of promoting an underling? From the time of Episode IV until the end of Episode VI, Darth Vader stood as the personification of evil to most movie goers. He wore black, he was big and scary and treated his subordinates like dirt. It wasn’t until the end of Return of the Jedi, when we see his redemption that the entire story comes to head.  Until then, he was always the bad guy, the ULTIMATE bad guy. A sound of heavy breathing still scares me to this very day, wondering if my own throat is about to be compacted by icy insubstantial fingers of the Force. Darth Vader was evil.

Now, as to good and evil in games. Most video games through the history of them, you play a good guy. From the earliest games like Defender and Galaga, you were trying to protect others, fighting unending waves of bad guys to win. There was no question, you were the hero, and what you were doing was ‘good’. Not so more modern games. Role playing games in particular have always catered to all kinds. People who wanted to play ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. Baldur’s Gate II was probably the best of its era in games where you could choose. You could be an amoral mercenary, killing anyone and everyone who got in your way, a cynical ranger dealing death to orcs and scum from a distance with a bow, or a noble paladin sworn to serve your gods and dealing holy fury to the enemies of truth and justice. Or anything in between.  And in all things, there was choice. You COULD play as a paladin and do evil. You then lost your powers and had to play the rest of the game as a fighter with a few odd quirks. I personally loved playing as a monk, always Lawful Neutral, that way I had to choose VERY carefully what to do and when.

And then games like Mass Effect, and Dragon Age: Origins where your choices for good and evil have a massive effect on the game. Do you support the noble good guy, even if he really seems to have no clue what he is doing? Or the schemer who had his brother murdered to try and snatch the throne? He knows how to get things done after all. Do you play the good cop, bringing truth and justice to dark places? Or the evil scum who is only in it for themselves? Only speaking for myself, I almost always play good guys. I see too much evil in daily life to want to perpetuate it in any way even virtually. Maybe that makes me a wimp, but I think it makes me a better person than many I meet on a daily basis.

Bioware has not given out a lot of information on the actual story of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Part of this is intended to whet potential player’s appetites, which it does very well. Part is likely because they have not finalized everything yet. I mean, come on, how COULD they have finalized it all by now? In any MMO there is a lot of stuff to get done, and in this MMO…sheesh… If half of what they tell us is true, it will put all the others to shame content wise.

But they have said that it will be possible to be a light side Sith. Or a dark side Jedi. My first reaction, like many people probably, was to say ‘WHA…?’ But then I thought about it. Jedi are not necessarily ‘good’. They have to do what it takes to protect the galaxy as a whole. Does this mean they can be paragons of virtue all the time? Heck no. Obi-Wan lies to Luke. Forget the ‘different point of view’ garbage. He flat out LIED to the young man. He did it because the truth would have caused all kinds of problems. We see Anakin, as a Jedi, act Dark Side. And that is what started his fall, in Episode II, avenging his mother.

But we never saw any Light Side Sith in any of the movies, probably because Lucas didn’t like the idea. Jedi were good and Sith were evil, period. Right? But now we have this quandary. If you are serving evil, does that make you evil? Do Sith warriors, Sith Inquisitors, Bounty Hunters and Imperial Agents HAVE to be evil in SWTOR? Bioware’s answer seems to be their stock one. ‘It is all up to the player.’

I personally am looking forward to playing a Dark Side Trooper or a Light Side Sith Warrior. How about you? What do you want to play?

Yin-yang image courtesy of: Dreamstime.

Courage and ‘Hope’

Last year was absolutely EPIC at E3. The cinematic trailer for The Old Republic was a masterpiece. The Sith assault on the Jedi temple on Coruscant in ‘Deceived’ has to be seen to be believed. No one doubted that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going to be epic before that trailer.

After it? There was such a huge response that the SWTOR website crashed. Everyone was looking forward to E3 this year. But then Lucasarts and Bioware did it to us again – I expected a meal and they gave me a five course, full service banquet. They were not content to give us a new trailer, no…

Players will have personal starships. Oh did I not say that right? PLAYERS WILL HAVE PERSONAL STARSHIPS!!!!! Ah! I very nearly went in my pants when I heard that. I don’t CARE if there is space combat now. Knowing Bioware and Lucasarts, if they have starships, there will almost certainly be more to do with them that use them as houses. But I don’t care now. I get my own personal Republic Gunship! YAY! The images were just so cool, and the bits of PvP footage rocked as well.

But then, on the heels of that… They rocked my world. I have so few words. I am almost unable to type, I was so dumbfounded. If you have not seen the ‘Hope’ trailer, do it. Now. You will not be sorry. Spoilers follow this so watch the trailer first.

Oh my god. I have never been a huge fan of Jedi. They were too overpowered, too strong, too fast, too tough for normal people to beat. Sith likewise. Can you possibly imagine someone like Darth Vader falling to a Rebel Alliance trooper? I couldn’t. Until now.

The setting, Alderaan. All Star Wars fans know about Alderaan, the homeworld of Princess Leia, the world destroyed in Episode IV by the Death Star to make a point. The cinematic opened with peace, and then, darkness. The Sith of course as is their wont, invade and destroy. The only thing in their way? A small force of elite Republic Special Forces troopers. But cannon fodder these guys are NOT.

The Sith in charge of the attack on Alderaan is the same one that later lays utter waste to the Jedi Temple – Darth Malgus. This is at the start of his career, he doesn’t have the mask yet. But after the ending, we know why he wears it. I am amazed he survived at all. I guess hate makes a good anaesthetic.

The Republic set an ambush for Malgus and his troops. They don’t have the personnel to fight him one-on-one. So they fight guerrilla style. And when the narrator said ‘For the Republic’ I very nearly jumped out of my chair to charge myself. Dark Side of the Force, ha! Meet grenade launcher, heavy repeaters, thermal detonators and courage! They were swatting black robed forms right and left until Malgus himself entered the act. But even the kind of courage that the troopers had, has its limits. I was stunned when the senior trooper got his tail kicked by Malgus’ Force lightning.  When he was kneeling there about to be killed, I was almost in tears. And then she made her entrance.

I said I never cared for Jedi, and that is true. They always seemed too over the top. But the consular who dropped into the fight made my day. She wasn’t the focus of the battle, but she kept Malgus busy long enough for the troopers to win. She wasn’t invincible. Malgus was obviously better with a lightsaber than she was, cutting her double bladed one in half. She was powerful, I mean, come on! How many people can block a lightsaber with a bare hand? I think it was the same kind of thing Yoda did when he faced Dooku and Palpatine’s Force lightning in Episodes 2 and 3. A lightsaber blade is energy right? That means it can be deflected with great effort. Maybe a bit over the top, but it was very cool to see.

And then the TROOPER saved the day. How many times does a lowly trooper save a mighty Jedi? And how he did it… Omg, that was epic! The look on that Sith Lord’s face was just priceless. I mean I can see the guy thinking…

‘This Republic scum is pathetic! Tackling me, trying to hit me with his hands? Sheesh… How stupid can he be? Wait a moment, what is that in his hand??? A GRENADE!!!’

I laughed out loud when I saw that. High and mighty Sith might be tough, but raw courage can take them down if given the chance. Admittedly Malgus was still on his feet and the trooper was not. But it gave the Jedi time to recover and prepare to hit Malgus with the Force. And THAT is the whole point of this. Teamwork wins wars. Individual prowess means nothing, it is working as a team that makes such things possible. Sith are mighty combatants, true, but if they fight as individuals, they can be taken down, albeit at a massive cost in lives. And that was what won the battle for the Republic, the Jedi and the soldiers of Havoc Squad working as a team to fight and die if necessary.

If you notice, the Jedi’s arrival allowed the troopers time to regroup and fight back effectively. And that means more to me than any special effects or showy force powers. She was not the prime focus of the battle, she was there to keep Malgus occupied until the soldiers, the common foot slogging soldiers, could win the day. Smashing Malgus into the mountainside was almost an afterthought. This was after he had been burned by incendiary grenades, showered by blaster fire, and had a grenade go off in his face. No wonder he wears a mask now…

I found myself crying at the end of that trailer, and I strongly doubt I was the only one as the Republic fleet came to the rescue. It was… I truly have no words. It was epic was about the best I can do.

Such a game as Star Wars: The Old Republic is shaping up to be will be good no matter what. But if THIS is what we can look forward to, such surprises, such epic stories, such… sheer scope and grandeur… Such… Star Wars!

I personally think we have a contender here. We have something epic that may finally, after so long, live up to the franchise.  It may finally be Star Wars. Oh, by the way, the website crashed again, I read something about 25000 hits in about ten minutes or something like that. I have occasionally had my doubts. But now I truly have ‘Hope’…

And we have personal starships!!!!!! YAY!!!!

Over to you, what do you think of this announcement? I know I am going to watch the trailer again. And again, and again.

Hoth and Sith: a big fortnight

On the Bioware side of things it’s been an interesting fortnight. Last week it was the announcement of Hoth as one of SWTOR’s planets.

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and rightly so – it’s one of those iconic planets that deserves some in-game love. How can you beat a desolate, cold planet with starship wreckage everywhere?

This week it’s the fleshing out of the Sith Warrior, with the confirmation that there are two advanced classes: Juggernaut and Marauder.

Bioware have released a 90-second video to give a sneak peek:

What’s encouraging is the ongoing growth in gameplay footage seeing the light of day. It’s expected to some extent as development matures but still not a surety.

So for those of you rolling Sith Warriors – does the updated Holonet entry give you much food for thought? And how many people are keen on exploring Hoth? I somehow doubt I’m the only one.