Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter of the Smuggler storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic. To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.
So you’ve got the riches of Nok Drayan, you got a new partner who is the former crimelord’s daughter and the heir to the throne of an entire planet, you got nothing but wide open space ahead of you. What better time than to sell out? Yeah, well it seems like we had to put something in the story to justify why the heck the smuggler is a “Republic class” and not just some third neutral faction. The Bounty Hunters have that whole ‘The Mandalorians are on permanent contract with the Empire’ thing, so now Smugglers get this. What is this?
Well, after a quick holo call from Darmas Palloran (He’s that cheerful fellow from Coruscant that you beat handily at Sabacc and helped you find Skavak) telling you to come to Port Nowhere. Unfortunately, Port Nowhere is essentially a starship turned into a hangout for smugglers and pirates, which means it’s a rough crowd. Doubly so once they get wind about that bounty Rogun the Butcher put on your head. Rogun’s goons are even there waiting for you and they got Darmas! So now we have to save the gambler but for good reason. He’s got us a gig: Becoming a Republic Privateer under Senator Dodanna. Essentially becoming an officially government sanctioned smuggler. Doing the more nebulous jobs that can’t officially be on the Republic’s books and what not. All with a fat paycheck. Well, as they say: “A gig is a gig.”
However just as your leaving, Port Nowhere is attacked by the Voidwolf. Who is the Voidwolf? Well, he’s a big shot Imperial admiral who apparently has teamed up with Rogun the Butcher. And he’s got the place surrounded. Darmas sends Port Nowhere off into the hyperlanes to get away and you run off to your first official job as a privateer.
Our first job is the war torn world of Balmorra. Oh boy. Yay. Nothing like a stroll through the war ravaged hills of the factory and droid part ridden country side to get back to work and remind me that I’m not retired after scoring the treasure of a lifetime. Apparently, the job here is to work with the Resistance and smuggle some much needed provisions (You know, food, water, medical supplies, grenade launchers) from their double agent contact in the Empire codenamed ‘Golden’. All the while you keep bumping into a Mandalorian zabrak named Akaavi Spar who is looking to kill a man named Moff Tyrak to avenge her destroyed clan.
You eventually track down the shipment to an Imperial base warehouse, but low and behold it’s not actually there. However, ‘Golden’ is. And Golden is actually Moff Tyrak. And he wants out. In fact, there wasn’t any supplies. He just said that to the Republic so they’d send someone that could extract him because the Empire seems to be on to his whole double agent act. Something about not normally being able to afford multiple mansions and luxury speeders on a Moff’s salary. Shocking, I know. Moff Tyrak quickly proves to be an annoyance – but an entertaining annoyance. Kind of like that butt monkey that you like to see get kicked, and boy howdy do you get plenty of options to kick him. Since no one is willing to extract Tyrak just because he can’t manage his money without the actual shipment, Tyrak leads you to where you should be able to get what you need – the Balmorran Arms Factory. What a weird place to keep completely innocent humanitarian supplies. Huh.
You break into the factory with minimal assistance from the Moff, but as soon as you take your eyes off of him for like two minutes he ‘scouts the area for anyone coming’ and then somehow – I’m sure he has nooooo idea how – they all show up to stop you. With him in tow. Aaaand with him shouting crap like “That’s him! That’s the one!” Nerves on a Jedi on this guy I’ll tell you what. Luckily, Akaavi shows up again to help and to get her ultimate revenge on the weaselly Moff. She declares that she is here to avenge the deaths of Clan Spar. But the Moff doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She states that she knows that Moff Tyrak signed the order to kill her entire clan that had faithfully worked with the Empire until then. Tyrak then realizes what happened. See, he just signs any death order that comes across his desk. He doesn’t even read them. After all, their wouldn’t be a kill order if they didn’t deserve it. Akaavi is to say the least flabbergasted that her arch-nemesis is no mustache twirling super-villain but a moronic bureaucrat. You can encourage her to just let it go, or to take her revenge and be done with it before she decides on joining you on your ship because quite frankly she has nowhere else to go. You also get the choice of what to do with a fleet’s worth of high tech weaponry that you’ve just acquired. There’s a few options including give it to the Republic (you know, what the Republic sent you there for) or sending it to Port Nowhere to be sold off to the highest bidder (Because money). I took the Port Nowhere option myself. Being King of the Pirates isn’t cheap you know.
On your way off planet, you get word that your success in pillaging the Empire’s weapons has caused The Voidwolf to execute several captains under his command for the failures to stop you.
As you head off world and deal with the consequences of maaaaybe the Republic not receiving those high tech goodies like they were expecting, you also get a message of a bunch of other Republic privateers pinned down by the Voidwolf’s fleet on the Planet Quesh. They claim that if you help them, they’ll help you and I like people owing me things, so it’s off to the poison planet!
You make it to the hidden landing area and wipe the Voidwolf’s forces there, but the other captains explain that unless you take out the targetting computers in a nearby Imperial base, that the Voidwolf will just lock on and blast them as they try to leave. Also, as an added kick you find out that Beryl Thorne is there with the other Privateers. Beryl was the nice smuggler lady you met way back on Taris that A) Didn’t like Risha and B) You had a chance to sleep with. This naturally will make things awkward if you A) have romanced someone, B) Brought that person along and C) Triply so if that person IS Risha.
So once you blast your way into the base, you finally get to meet the Voidwolf. Sort of. It’s a hologram. He’s still on his ship. But you get to see him finally, and talk to him in person. He explains that you are no threat to his plans, that he is completely ready for anything you can throw at him, and he will see you dead. You can naturally point out that he’s going to a lot of trouble to be ready for you and wanting you dead for someone who is no threat to him. In fact, for being such a non-existent threat, he’s really gone out of his way to study up every detail of your personal adventures and life. His response is naturally to send more goons after you. You kill them and blow up the computers. You go back to the privateers and can tell them that in exchange for saving their worthless lives, they can either go back and do their duty for the Republic (Light Side) or that they now work for you instead and should report to Port Nowhere for further orders (Dark Side).
No, I wasn’t kidding about being the King of the Pirates.
For once, I actually enjoyed Hoth. No seriously, most times in these class stories Hoth feels like a complete drag. It’s a huge planet with only a couple of actually story missions that really just ends up with you running around on a speeder for 5-15 minutes at a time trying to get between point A and B, staring at the bleak endless white. But the smuggler story here? There’s actually crap going on. It’s not just a macguffin hunt. I mean technically if you distill it down to its raw parts it kind of is – but not how you might think at the beginning. Rather for the Smuggler, you end up trying to navigate and slip through the political power struggle of the major faction on the planet – The White Maw pirates.
The actual reason you’re on Hoth is actually that the Republic wants its hands on the White Maw’s top secret cloaking technology. Something so powerful it can hide an entire fleet. They send you there with nothing but the name of a Jedi master to get in touch with only to find that he’s not there – he’s dead. However, Jedi Master Guss Tuno is there to help you. He’s the assistant/replacement for the missing Jedi Master. His idea to get you in with the White Maw so you can swipe the tech is to make it look like your stealing some good stuff from the Republic’s storage depot/ice cave (Let’s be honest, they are all ice caves.) Only the higher ups will know, but the rank-and-file won’t to help keep it looking legit so you’ll have to fight your way in. However, once you do you find out that: No the higher ups don’t know, No there was no replacement for the missing Jedi, and yes you are very definitely really stealing this crap. Guss comes clean and explains that he works for the White Maw, enslaved by their boss – Shie Tenna – who he offers to introduce you to in exchange for his dirty lies.
Shie Tenna is a hulking brute that seems to be quite fond of keeping his men in line with fear and displays of power. You are introduced to him and his lover Alinna who vapidly hangs on his every word in his secret cantina base (read: ice cave) arranged by – but strangely not present – Guss Tuno. Shie wants you to help him take over the White Maw by removing the other bosses’ from the equation. By which he means killing the rival. However, once Shie Tenna is out of ear shot, Alinna speaks to you and reveals that not only is she not as vapidly moronic as she lets on to Shie, she’s pretty much the brains behind the White Maw. She manages the operations, handles finances, sets up plans – meanwhile Shie Tenna blows stuff up and postures. Her suggestion is to expose Shie’s rival as being an Imperial sympathizer who plans to sell out the Maw to the Imps. The White Maw may be a pack of psychotic pirates, but they all have a fierce passion for being free to do things their way. The Imps would not work out well in that equation. So the choice is yours whether the wipe out the rival base or to turn them against their leader. When you return, Shie Tenna declares you be brothers-in-arms! Only to reveal that he also apparently killed his brother and throws you into a wampa holding pen (Ice cave.) Luckily, good ol’ Guss is there to bust you out with another lead on getting in good with the White Maw.
And I’m not even going to string this one along – yea, that lead is also a trap. A bunch of Gand bounty hunters waiting to take you out. Guss confesses when you save him from the bounty hunters as well. He isn’t a Jedi Master (though he is force sensitive. He dropped out of Jedi school), he’s not some White Maw slave – he works for Rogun the Butcher. Rogun sent Guss to arrange for you to be taken out. Guss sees that you’re a good guy and just can’t bring himself to go through with it. With that out of the way, he’s willing to help you break into the White Maw fortress (Not actually an ice cave for once) and to get the cloaking tech… which turns out to be a bit more complicated than you might have first thought.
So it turns out that once you breach the White Maw’s fortress and defeat Shie Tenna, you find their “Cloaking Tech” and it’s actually just an alien kid with severe brain damage. Turns out the species the kid belongs to has a defensive mechanism that renders them and everything around them invisible to the eye, scans, radar… everything (which is an impressive evolutionary feat I must say) but they can only do this when they are scared of something. So the White Maw beat him whenever they want the fleet cloaked. Alinna, Shie Tenna’s girl from earlier wants to actually save the alien kid and get him offworld somewhere safe. At this point there’s a bunch of different choices you can make to decide what happens next. You can smuggle them offworld, you can convince Alinna to take over the White Maw, YOU can try and take over the White Maw, you can force them to give the Alien Kid to the Republic, or you could give the Alien Kid to the Republic but also send Alinna with it to make sure it gets treated right and Alinna gets off of Hoth and being stuck with the White Maw… So yea, a lot more options than your typical “This is the Light Side” and “This is the Dark Side.” Which I really do enjoy. Not all these choices can be broken down into simple binary solutions and I get a kick out of the fact that the game will let you explore multiple solutions to a single problem. I personally sent the kid and Alinna to the Republic to ensure fair treatment (Cause it’s the job, but I don’t trust the Republic one bit in terms of treating the downtrodden fairly) and I personally took control of the White Maw faction.
So we’ve helped the Republic, we’ve lined our pockets, and we’ve got a good start on building our criminal empire. What’s left for this space jockey to do? Well, how about a sick burn on the Empire and snubbing both the Voidwolf and Rogun the Butcher while you’re at it? The job is the King’s Ransom – as in that’s the name of the ship. An Imperial treasury ship that transports all the wealth and trade between Nar Shadaa and Dromund Kaas. That’s right. It’s essentially a Star Wars train job. To help out there’s another chap who has been on the wrong side of Rogun’s ire and is looking to make a score. But before you can take off, you have to help save a safe cracker from the Hutts who plan to sell him off to Rogun’s goons to be… well… butchered. You get the choice of either simply killing the Hutts or bargaining with them and stealing their business right out from under Rogun. Either way you’ll have to deal with Rogun’s goons but at least you might get out of having to fight the Cartel thugs while you’re at it.
Once the team is all together (the safe cracker, the muscle, and you – the looks and/or brains) you hop on a private shuttle provided by Senator Dodonna herself to infiltrate the King’s Ransom. You fight through the ship until you reach the vaults and break into them, where you find a random assortment of awesome old antiques – several of which are actually references to the original Knights of the Old Republic games. In the final vault however, you find three Moffs hanging out and talking trash about the Voidwolf. They mention how he’s not Imperial born and yet rose through the ranks with unprecedented speed. Seems like a lot of the other Imps don’t much care for the Voidwolf, and yet as soon as they see you they don’t spare a moment calling him to get him to come and help.
The Voidwolf’s help however is not exactly what the Moff’s expect however. The nefarious admiral announces that since the war has just started up again, the Imperial military code dictates that if a ship is at risk of falling to the enemy (That’s you), then he is well within his rights to destroy said ship to prevent it from being taken. So he does. That would be the cue to GTFO. Grab whatever loot you can and make break for it.
Back on Nar Shadaa, you divvy up the loot (you can take your share, let the other two keep it all, or kill them and keep it all for yourself) and go your separate ways ala the end of any Ocean’s Eleven movie. But just as you round the corner, Senator Dodonna is there and being threatened by Rogun’s goons and a pack of strange beasts that are all wired up with some weird cyborg stuff. You dispatch the beasts and Dodonna thanks the stars you showed up when you did. She wants to know exactly what these are, where they came from and how the heck Rogun the Butcher got a hold of them and could transport them as weapons.
That little plot point ends up immediately kicking off chapter 3, so I’ll see you on the other side to find out what happens next.
I’ll admit, I was extremely skeptical of the whole ‘Republic Privateer’ plot point. It just seemed like a flimsy way to tie this into the whole two faction system. However, what it also ended up doing was opening up a wider array of moral choices. You weren’t just locked into ‘Selfless’ or ‘Greedy’ or ‘Live’ or ‘Kill’. There was also the matter of the job you were hired to do. So now things start to divide into three ways: Greedy, Selfless, or loyal. You can help the locals at the cost of the job and yourself, you can be greedy at the cost of the locals and the job, or you can do the job at the cost of the locals and yourself. This diversifies things a bit and starts to spread out the choices and implications of them. Do you become the loyal hand of the Republic? Do you play the dashing rogue hero? Or do you go full greed and become the new pirate king? All are viable directions you could take.
This really shines through in the Hoth mission. While there isn’t a ton of long lasting effects to these choices, it still feels like you are really given a solid choice. It’s not a simple binary choice either as I said. You get multiple different ways that story can end and you can even combo some of them up. If Alinna doesn’t choose to lead the White Maw, it opens up new options for what happens to the pirate gang that are independent of how you choose to deal with the Cloaking Alien. It really feels like you can actually role play in this chapter and feel like you are your playing YOUR smuggler and not just a light/dark smuggler. A feeling that does have the tendency to permeate a lot of the other stories. It’s not speaking less of the other class stories as much as it speaks much higher of the smuggler.
In terms of the chapter structure, Chapter Two felt mostly like a bridge between the end of Chapter One and the setting up the starting of Chapter Three. It does deal with the consequences of becoming the notorious finder of Nok Drayan’s loot and does a fair job showing how that kind of exposure ups the stakes for you. It also thrusts you into the realm of being not only the target of Rogun the Butcher – still on your tail since the prologue might I mention and one of the only main villains that spans all four parts of a Class Story – and starting to reveal the Voidwolf as a serious threat. The Voidwolf is ruthless, cut throat and efficient. Imagine Grand Moff Kilran if he was raised in the mob instead of an Imperial Academy. That’s the Wolf.
Chapter Two also starts to lay the groundwork for the more or less three major archetypes your smuggler can follow: The Republic Hero, the Contractor, and the Pirate King. To elaborate, you can tow the government line and support the Republic and try to do the right thing and end up being this mythic folk hero of the Republic. Not bound by rules, but still looking out for the little guy. The Contractor is more of a ‘in it for myself’ kind of vibe. You do the job, you get paid. No loyalties beyond yourself and MAYBE your crew. Finally, you can actively try to use the Republic’s work to your advantage, build alliances, and gain subordinates while putting together your own little criminal empire based out of Port Nowhere. Honestly, I found that route to be very fun. These three trends will continue to play out through Chapter Three culminating in the grand finale.
We also gained the remaining members of our crew in this Chapter. There’s Akaavi Spar who is a mandalorian. Her personality is that she is a mandalorian. It’s like honor this, and clan that. She doesn’t even like you very much when she first joins the crew, viewing you as some sort of cut throat merc without dignity or honor (to be fair, she can be entirely right.) If you prove her wrong, it can open up a romance option with her. Honestly, I didn’t find her to be anywhere near as intriguing as Risha in terms of the romance department. She spends most her conversations talking about revenge and how you surprise her. It doesn’t help it that her voice seems almost constantly monotone about everything unless she’s angry. So happy and sad Akaavi are creepily similar voice inflections.
The last member of the crew is Guss. Guss is a drop out Jedi who is force sensitive… kind of. He can do a couple of things with the Force – but nowhere near enough to do anything like the most basic padawan can achieve at the start of Tython. He left the Academy and fell in with Rogun and his goons. Guss can be viewed as annoying lost puppy that won’t start barking. He’s got a serious hero worship thing going and I can see how it would be annoying to some people. Honestly, beyond trying to teach good ol’ Guss to be a proper criminal and to come to grips with what he wants to do with his life, there’s not much to say about him. Oh, he’s a Mon Calamari. There’s that too I suppose.