Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first 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.
Okay, with matters settled on Coruscant and the senator saved/Wraith dealt with, it’s time to start hunting down those scum bags who called themselves our teammates for like a day. Yea. I’ve been thinking about that lately. You can actually play your trooper like these former Havoc members were the scum of the earth that personal broke your heart and betrayed your deepest trusts… but you didn’t exactly know them that long. The games makes it pretty clear that you are on your first mission with Havoc at the start of Ord Mantell, so some of these characters that “stab you in the back” have only said maybe two or three sentences to you ever? Don’t get me wrong, they betrayed the republic. They gotta pay. But there’s no reason to take it so personally, ya know?
Heck, your time with these people is barely enough to establish their personalities. Needles is Hannibal Lecter MD, Wraith never stops talking in monotone and is good at stealth, Gearbox is… nice? And Fuse… is um… Fuse is a Zabrak. About the only person you get a decent feel for is Tavus, which I s’pose is good because he is the primary antagonist for all this. Well, might as well begin the hunt for the traitors.
Our first target is Needles. We get to track this sick freak across all of Taris trying to find out where he’s hiding and more importantly what he’s up to. And it doesn’t turn out to be good at all. The sick little bugger is trying to weaponize the rakghoul virus to make sentient non-feral monsters out of other defected soldiers with a new fast acting formula. This marks the first of two attempts in the game to weaponize the rakghoul plague, and I have always wondering if Needles was familiar with the works of Doctor Lorrick. They seem like they’d get along.
Needles lives up to his monsterous nature without having second thoughts of using anyone as a test subject for his experiments. Luckily you eventually do track him down and end his life. Made no easier by the insanely stubborn lack of support from the military base on Taris. They spend the entire time giving you the run around, oh no we can’t help, we don’t the time or resources, etc etc etc. The only person to actually follow orders and assist you with the mission is Elara Dorne. Dorne is an ex-imperial that has carried over some of her strict upbringing with her to the Republic Military, with a strict adherance to orders, details, regulations and paperwork. She is also the next companion to join you on this journey and becomes a member of your new Havoc squad.
And to be honest, I don’t really care for Dorne. She’s one of those companions where you’re never quite sure what decision is gonna irk her. She seems to be a stickler for orders. But she also sometimes doesn’t like heroics? It’s not even that her personality rubs my trooper wrong. They actually get along pretty well with my ruthless willingness to follow orders no matter how murderous. But she’s hard to pin down. I actually will get the occasional -1 or even -20 or something and have NO clue why. Luckily I’m a commando and I don’t need her. She’ll get her lovin’ through gifts.
Next on the journey is an issue of a group of Tavus’ lackies running amok on the Hutt controlled word of Nar Shadaa with a top secret robot. The twist to this whole thing? The Republic’s Secret Intelligence Service is also on the trail of the renegade bot and you are needed to help them without letting on that a certain special forces team went completely rogue, defected to the Empire and is now using said automaton to do bad things. Bad things that never really get defined. Okay, I think what’s going on is that they’re stealing weapons and money for Tavus, but I’m not entirely clear on that. Not to mention it doesn’t fit with the whole ‘good soldier that was betrayed’ thing that Tavus has going for him. I mean, hard to hold the moral superiority when your tactics currently involve petty theft.
Really, the best parts of Nar Shadaa for the trooper comes from dealing with the SIS and their cloak and dagger style of getting things done and actually interacting with the rogue robot. The SIS parts can really be done in one of two ways: Lying or Honest. You can totally be up front of the whole Havoc defection thing against the wishes of your commanding officer and disobeying direct orders (that’s the *cough* LIGHT side choice), or you can deny everything to the SIS who really don’t have any business knowing about your top secret mission (The uh… Dark side choice?) Again, the trooper demonstrates how damn easy it is to be gray. I racked up a ton of light side points doing normal questing, helping people out, not taking dirty bribes from Hutts, but then all of that goes back to zero because I follow orders. I have no clue how this is going to end up in terms of morality, but I have a feeling it will be similar to my Imperial Agent: Gray leaning to the Dark Side (Dark II by the time she hit 50). Ultimately the SIS founds out what is really going on anyway, because they’re the freaking SIS and you get treated to General Garza arguing with the SIS at the end of the whole planet. As a female trooper you can actually flirt your way through the planet with the SIS agent, making the revelation at the end sting even more. Garza still gets the best burn in my opinion with the “I figured you would understand the need for to secrets in your line of work.” line. Go Garza!
The robot, or M1-4X or Forex for short, is hilarious. One part indestructible tank and one part propaganda machine for the Republic. His dialogue is mostly spent talking about the glorious Republic full of freedom and democracy, or how Havoc Squad is one of the finest units that the Republic Military has ever trained. As soon as he figures out that he’s working for traitors, he’s all ready to join you to take them down but an override code keeps him obeying the traitors until the bitter end. All though he happily tells you everything he can within the confine of his orders, including how to destroy him after he’s been ordered to kill you. Eventually you are forced to blow him up, but the SIS rebuilds him and he is transferred to your command where he happily congratulates you on a job well done on destroying him and that it’s good to be serving the forces of freedom and justice again. I love Forex. There is never a moment where his overly cheesy GI JOE reminiscent dialogue doesn’t bring a grin to my face. Which is good, because I was getting tired of Dorne quoting regulatons and Sgt Meowmers’ belly aching.
After Nar Shadaa wraps up you’re sent on a little side mission to go to Tavus’ ship located in the Outer Rim and try to capture him. Other than an annoying heat beam puzzle, this doesn’t actually contribute to the story much. Tavus isn’t there, he holos in, you call him a traitor, he calls you a traitor and then he sicks a bunch of imperial goons on you. The end. Nothing is really learned and it’s just a short red herring quest that you might actually face off against Tavus earlier than you would expect, and all it does is confirm any suspicion you have that Tavus is going to be the big bad of chapter one.
Well since Nar Shadaa didn’t do much for bringing us any closer to Tavus and his band of traitors, it’s time to get back on the hunt as we head to Tatooine to find that bomb wielding maniac killer Fuse. Only not so much. Actually when you arrive to speak to the mayor, Fuse is actually contacting you via holo and wants to help stop the Imperials from blowing up civilians for their “tests”. Bombs that Fuse designed naturally but he didn’t apparently think that they’d use them to blow up PEOPLE! Okay okay, civilians I suppose but he was honestly shocked by this? Who knows but it was a fun “Pokemon shouldn’t fight. Not like this.” moment for me. Bombs shouldn’t kill people. NOT LIKE THIS! Bombs should frolic in meadows and be free for all to see!
Fuse’s remorse is pretty much the center piece of the entire Tatooine leg of the story. You have little to no reason to trust him, since ‘fighting against the Empire’ was pretty much the ruse that started this whole mess. The mayor of Anchorhead however trusts him implicitly since he tipped you off to the next bomb attack. So you have a mayor who trusts him, you who has no reason to trust him, and are under orders not to tell anyone why you wouldn’t be trusting Fuse. It sounds interesting but honestly it boils down to: “Don’t trust him. He’s lying.” “Why do you think that?” “That’s classified. Just don’t.” “But he helped us.” “CLASSIFIED. DO NOT TRUST.” “But…” Followed by perpetual Trooper frownie face.
I wish I could say that Tatooine picks up after that but it’s pretty much just like the planet, a big stretch of nothing much. You stop the bombing, then proceed to chase down the bomb plans through the various outposts in an attempt to catch the Imperials before they hoof it off world. The only real interesting choice comes at the very end when you find Fuse locked in a cell as the self destruct countdown begins. You have time to either shut off the self destruct, or stop the Imperial with the bomb plans. The latter essentially leaves the repentant Fuse to die, the former lets the Imperials with the Bomb plans go free. So naturally, stopping the Imperials and securing the bomb plans that could kill hundreds if not thousands more is the DARK SIDE option. Yea, because screw innocent lives, saving the life of someone who committed TREASON but then said he was sorry was clearly the moral and just thing to do.
This continues to astound me how stopping the Imperials and saving potentially hundreds of people’s lives is somehow the bad thing. Who figured out this weird system of morality the troopers work under? WHO!? I freaking killed Fuse. Yes. And even Fuse agreed with my decision. I will admit though that rubbing it in his face and saying this was the execution he deserved was possibly uncalled for. But I’m sorry, you don’t get to commit an act of treason and then get to walk away because you’re sorry AFTER the damage is done. Gah this planet ticked me off. Let’s make a Skywalker and get the heck off this sand ball.
So with Fuse dealt with and the dirt ball way behind us, all we have left is Gearbox and Tavus (and maybe Wraith depending on what you did at the end of the Prologue.) Well, everything is pointing that Tavus is our big bad, so this must be… Ding ding! Gearbox! Only you don’t spend much time interacting with Gearbox. Actually the majority of Alderaan is spent trying to appease a noble from House Thul, the rival house of Organa and the allies of the Empire. His demands are pretty much just help his family escape and he’ll happily tell you where Gearbox is hiding out. Of course, you can’t just trust the enemy – unless it’s Fuse I guess. You WERE supposed to blindly trust him. – so your first mission is to verify his claims and check out a bunch of weapons that the Empire/House Thul have been stockpiling in a third party house that has no real relevance to anything and thus I can’t be arsed to remember their name.
After you’ve verified the Thul noble’s claims, he demands freedom for his wife and daughter. Of course if you’d like this is a place to rack up ample amounts of Dark Side points by just beating the crap out of the guy for information – which he won’t give – but its still a good way to build up those points for all you dark side troopers out there, besides he’s not only an enemy, but an enemy traitor as he’s willing to sell out his own house to get his cranky wife and entirely too bored daughter out of danger. So work out all that Tatooine frustration with some well earned dark side points.
His wife and daughter are for some reason chilling out at House Rist, a group of assassins allied with the current King of Alderaan. I have no idea why they are there except that the general Republic quests send you up there a lot so it was convenient. The wife can’t be pleased no matter what you do, she’s just a mean lady through and through. The daughter on the other hand makes me nervous. She gets WAY too excited to see a Republic Soldier with a gun show up. She is apparently so bored that the very idea of being kidnapped and used as a hostage is apparently enough to have her practically bouncing with joy. Nobles, man. Nobles.
Ultimately, you get them out of there and escort them to an extraction point. They tell you where Gearbox is. You show up at his secret underground bunker and blow up his giant walking mech and him. The end. There isn’t even a cutscene for when you kill him. You blow him up in battle. That’s it. There is some decent back and forth before he unveils his doom walker mech o’ doom that is really just a gold star elite and goes down pretty easy if you just keep interrupting its missiles. But yea, that was Gearbox. Just an un-exciting as he was when you met for 5 minutes on Ord Mantell and barely noticed him again.
The actual moral crisis for the planet – because as we are learning the trooper has pretty much exactly one per planet – is do you uphold your bargain with the Thul nobles or do you just let them rot in jail now that you have all three? And yet again, letting the enemy walk away free is your light side choice and imprisoning them is the dark side choice. This doesn’t bug me as much as the Tatooine choice here because you are breaking your word. Albeit your word isn’t exactly a choice to give as the game railroads you into making the promise just for the sake of this little do you/don’t you at the end, but at least you are breaking a promise to get the dark side points here. That’s a bit of a step up.
The Grand Finale
Of course if you’ve been keeping track, none of these planets end up dealing with Tavus. Well, that’s because in grand storytelling fashion that’s reserved for the finale. One last mission at the end of each chapter that brings it to a close. And this one has you on orders to find the Imperial starship “Justice” and wipe out the last of Tavus’ followers and the man himself. This is actually really fun because you do pretty much take over an entire ship with just you and your companion. You fight through tons of enemies, various lower ranked mini bosses which includes Wraith if you didn’t kill her way back at the end of the prologue. You shut down the hyper drive so it can’t escape, and then cut your way to the bridge to face off with Tavus. Tavus spouts his usual “You’re not Havoc! I’m Havoc!” crap that everyone else has said and then the battle begins proper. And as you stand victorious over the beaten former CO you are given a legitimate light/dark choice at last. Tavus offers to give you information and help get back at the Empire if you let him live. This gives you the choice of letting him live and work with you to redeem himself (light side), make him stand trial for his crimes (neutral/no points) or kill the bastard because traitors get no mercy (dark side). Honestly, I went dark side which is a SHOCKER if you’ve been reading these posts. I mean, you’ve gone this long to cover up the whole defection because it would hurt morale and injure the image of the military. So NOW you’re going to let him come back or stand trial? No. Uh uh. I’m X-Files-ing this thing and making sure no one knows what these punks tried to do. NO MERCY FOR TRAITORS!
There is a lot of fun to be had with the Trooper Chapter One storyline, I won’t lie. The constant question of do you let anyone know that the former Havoc Squad defected to the Empire weighs heavily over every planet you visit. And it changes up the conditions constantly. Do you let the Secret Intelligence Service know? Shouldn’t they? What about a lowly governor of an Outer Rim world that has no official ties to the Republic that will allow you to stress why a traitor should not be trusted? What about the Republic allies whose alliance you are using and possibly even abusing to accomplish your mission? Do they have a right to know why you are turning their heavily protected castle into a hotel for the enemy? The constant question of where your loyalty should lie as a soldier is brought up through these questions. Are you a dog of the military, or a soldier of the people?
Probably the worst examples of that question is the dark side/light side moral dilemmas you end up facing. The light side choices which are supposedly being the “Soldier of the People” choices are often reckless and pose a greater risk to the people than the dark side “Dog of the Military” choices. I understand the idea of the eternal optimist believing that everyone has good in them is great for the Jedi, but when the choice comes down to believing that they’ve changed now and surely won’t BLOW UP CORUSCANT AGAIN. The risk way outweighs the possibly benefit of “Hey I can change!” And these highly potential risks don’t seem to come with any consequence other than listening to General Garza chew you out for a few minutes.
So overall Trooper Chapter One has been a definite mixed bag. I wouldn’t disregard completely but geeze it takes a lot of faith to go the light side route here. Faith or stupidity. It’s hardly a shock that I pretty much went dark side for each and every trooper choice. It just made sense. I can’t wait to see what awaits us in Chapter Two.