[Featurama] Let’s Hate: TOR Lore (from a Devoted Star Wars Extended Universe Fanboy)
(The following paragraph contains spoilers for the Extended Star Wars Universe)
Who is Kyle Katarn? The smuggler- turned scrappy Rebel Alliance member- turned Jedi from the Dark Forces series and its subsequent Jedi Knight and Jedi Outcast games, of course! Who knew that he also was stabbed through the chest by Jacen Solo, now Dark Lord of the Sith “Darth Caedus”, when Katarn was sent with a Jedi strike force to remove Solo/Caedus as Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance in 40 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin)? Me. I know that.
I’ve been reading Star Wars extended universe novels and graphic novels since I was twelve. I own exactly 111 Star Wars novels and 20 graphic novels. Though I am admittedly not a huge fan of the newer generation of The Clone Wars media, nothing shames me more than the excuse of a backstory and time period that was forced out to create The Old Republic (don’t worry, by the way; Katarn is dragged away to a sewer and manages to survive- you’re welcome).
Let me begin by saying that I do not own the game. I have seen the game played and it looks like WoW plus some fun player choice. WoW is fun; Mass Effect is fun; TOR must be fun. The originality of the gameplay can be disputed, but I’m not trying to address that. What truly bothers me is the absolute laziness behind creating the lore.
The sheer amount of content put out certainly is great, but I am disappointed at how everything looks so similar to the original movie trilogy: Republic vs. Empire. The troopers are in white armor. The Imperial officers wear grey uniforms and have crisp accents. The Empire has triangular Star Destroyer-esque ships. The Sith symbol just so happens to be incredibly similar to the symbol of Palpatine’s Empire. These are all relatively minor points, but together signify a glaring lack of originality for the sake of a pretty clever marketing scheme attempting to attract anyone and everyone who has seen and enjoyed Star Wars.
So let’s get nerdy and specific shall we? An overarching theme I have noticed is the inconsistency in acknowledging that Palpatine’s Empire emerged from the Republic. It did not appear out of nowhere as a new threat with its own symbol, ships, and soldiers. All of these things, as we know them from Episodes IV-VI, were seen as elements of the Old Republic and its clone army in Episodes I-III. Either the writers/George Lucas did something incredibly clever by doing this, which didn’t carry over to the rest of the writing of the prequel films, or LucasArts continued its tradition of heavily linking visual memory to its marketing by creating inconsistencies and stifling original ideas. This applies to TOR because the Sith Empire actually did appear out of nowhere yet shares noticeable characteristics with Palpatine’s.
Not Stormtrooper armor though, the Republic gets to keep that and now we casually forget that whole Empire-from-Republic-in-the-prequels deal. White Stormtrooper armor was exclusive to the creation of the clones and there are no white armor-clad troopers from any of the adjacent eras of this new Galactic Civil War era. Let’s flip-flop again and look at the Sith Empire’s symbol, which is a very close match to the Imperial symbol in Episodes IV-VI. The prequel films do emphasize the Republic ships with this on them and I find it hard to believe that, after the Sith wriggle back to where ever they magically appeared from for TOR, the Republic just adopted their insignia.
|Republic Emblem- the ACTUAL precursor to that of Palpatine’s Empire|
The origin of the Sith Empire is also in question. Apparently, a Sith Emperor survived the Great Hyperspace War and escaped into the Unknown Regions. First, there were no Sith “Emperors” during the Great Hyperspace War. There was one Dark Lord of the Sith who ended up on Yavin 4 after he murdered all of his rivals and subsequently lost the war. He died there after building those big temples you see in Episode IV. Here is a great example of taking something from the original films that is recognizable and making it more interesting. I was intrigued to learn an evil mastermind built these temples to do crazy experiments in and the Rebellion used them for a base thousands of years later. It felt like Star Wars canon became a little more interconnected; one more compelling piece to the puzzle. The Galactic Civil War is just jammed with all of these out of place references as if a child just jumps on the screen and screams ‘AHHHH!! DID YOU HEAR THAT SHIT?!’ right after someone tells you the Organa family founded Alderaan. There’s a difference between including a callback to the original movies as an easter egg and using nostalgia to market your game (and effectively making inconsistent canon).
|This is what many Wookiepedia pages look like now!|
Anyway, back to this Sith Emperor. For the purposes of TOR, one survived, but frankly, no one should care. How many players have actually read Tales of the Jedi and know what the Great Hyperspace War even was? I’m not being condescending to the more average Star Wars fan, I just believe that, since they’ve created a character from virtually nothing anyways, why not use the opportunity to make something more rich? Revan and Malak were incredibly engaging characters that emerged from the Mandalorian Wars, which was completely created for KotOR. Players actually wondered what happened to Revan after he disappeared. This Emperor is actually absent from the game and replaced by a Dark Council, which begs the question: why does he even exist? Or maybe it’s a she, a little diversity might ease my troubles here a little, but I doubt that will happen. Possible future content is a convenient excuse, but it is also another tie in to the already popular movies.
Again, I’m not here to judge gameplay. Ultimately, what I gather from this game is: “We can use Star Wars brand recognition to reskin WoW and steal customers who find Warcraft material stale”. Clearly this is not the defining factor of this game and should not hugely affect how the game is rated, but it is a blatant marketing scheme at the expense of the Star Wars universe. If you want to play TOR only because you love Star Wars and hope that it will expand the universe, you may as well stick with WoW. Just wait for Mass Effect 3 if you want a good story and consequential player choice. I do have a lot of negative things to say, but I’d like to go out on something positive. This game is actually very fun to play and has great mechanics, which is exactly why it deserves good ratings. They did not need Star Wars for that.