Part 29: Onderon: Department of Homeland Security
Last update, we finished gaining the trust of Mandalore and we're getting ready to jet off to Onderon.
Looks like the Sith have finally tracked us down to Dxun.
For a game called "The Sith Lords", the Sith are strangely underdeveloped. I suspect the subtitle was tacked on by the marketing people, kinda like how marketing people decided that "X2: X-Men United" would be a great movie title. If I'm being harsh, it's probably because I work in marketing and the subtitle smells like the typical stupidity.
Part of the reason for the lack of Sith in the game is that the game is an inward journey: the Exile's enemy is himself. It's not the Sith, it's not the Exchange or the Mandalorians. The conflict is between the Exile and himself. As Kreia and others explained, the Sith are just there as obstacles for the Exile to test himself on. The game was never about "The Sith Lords".
If you think about it, we haven't really physically seen the Sith since Peragus; that's really the last time they showed up to actively fight. Darth Sion has fallen off the map, and Nihilus... well he's been in one cutscene so far, way back on Telos. Visas Marr is suppose to be our in-party reminder of the Sith, but she turned coat so easily it's hard to think of her as evil.
So instead of their physical presence, we get thrown the philosophical side of the Sith everywhere we turn. It's much more of a battle of ideas than a galactic war.
"None of them can escape; our whereabouts must remain a secret. Let us join the battle. Our "allies" will need our help."
Fortunately, Mandalorians can hold their own.
That's Kelborn. He's is a total champ.
The relationship between the Mandalorians and the Sith was never really explored; their wars against the Republic were sequential, so they never had much interaction with each other.
In this game though, the Mandalorians are basically good guys. With the Republic on the verge of collapse, the Mandalorians filled the same role as the Republic from the first game, giving the Jedi here some valuable backup. There's an good explanation why everything ended up in this weird situation, with the Jedi and Mandalorians being friends, but we'll have to figure that out later in the game.
Before we leave, let's take a look at the Mandalorians' selection of weapons.
These Rippers have fairly low damage, but they have a huge critical range (15%).
We can abuse this to no end.
You hear the term d20 mentioned with these games and it just means the combat system is based roughly on rolling a random number between 1 and 20. If you roll a 1, it's an automatic miss, a 20 is a critical hit for double damage. Some weapons like this have a higher threat range, so if you land an 18, 19, or 20, it's a critical hit.
This is where it starts getting stupid.
We plunk in a 'Keen' modifier in the weapon, which doubles the threat range. Now it's 15-20, which means 30% of our hits will be crits.
And then we can use Master Sniper Shot, which takes the crit range and quadruples it.
30% x 4 = ... 120% crit rate.
Congratulations, we just broke the game.
Actually, it's not quite that bad; the game caps it out at 6-20. But still, that's a 75% chance of landing a crit on every shot.
The combat system on the whole is pretty seamless; all you have to do is point and click and you can beat the game easily that way. If you wanted to the see all the nitty gritty 0's and 1's ala the Infinity Engine however, there's a whole combat log for that.
Dxun is just a skip and a hop away from its mother planet, Onderon.
The only city on Onderon is Iziz. We've gone from Nar Shaddaa, where the entire surface is covered by a city, to Onderon, where the entire planet only has one little city.
Some concept art for comparison. I think the arch is suppose to be the one in the screenshot above.
This is Queen Talia, the local monarch here.
For some inexplicably reason they decided to get her a VA with a South Asian accent. It might have been less jarring if everyone around Onderon had an Indian accent or something, but nope, it's just her.
And this is Master Hasselh... er, Master Kavar, the 3rd Jedi Council member we've been looking for. The cutscene clues us into where he is; the hard part will be reaching him.
"The timing of this is atrocious. A space battle above our skies, so many of our fighters lost..."
"Curiously, only Tobin's men were involved in that battle."
Kavar is a Jedi Guardian, and they're usually suppose to be more about taking action and bashing heads. Here he's taking more of an advisor role that's generally more reserved for Sentinels and Consulars.
The real story is, Bioware (and later Obsidian) needed Jedi 'classes' to fit Star Wars into the D&D-esque conceptualization of the KotOR games, so they more or less created the distinction of Jedi Consulars, Guardians, and Sentinels for these games. While the philosophical differences between them are explained in the first game, there's a certain sense of 'make-shit-up-as-we-go-along' whenever the different classes are brought up. Of all the Jedi Council members, I believe only Kavar is explicitly identified as a Guardian, and Vrook is no doubt a Consular, so I guess Zez-Kai Ell is the token Sentinel. As for Atris - who knows?
"But won't that bring even more followers to Vaklu's side, increasing his power?"
"For a time, perhaps, but we both know he's not the true threat. It's his unseen support from the shadows that we must drag out into the light."
Kavar is hiding, like Zez-Kai Ell; unlike Zez however, he's still fulfilling his original mission of trying to draw the Sith out into the open.
Mandalore is now officially in our party. Through most of Onderon we'll be forced to take him in our party, but that's okay, he's pretty useful in a fight.
"It must be hard to shuttle people when nobody is allowed to leave. The blockade has been bad for everyone."
"Nothing new. Our space forces have been in full readiness ever since the space battle in orbit. Tensions are running high."
"There's a lockdown?"
"Your manifest says it's been two months since you last came here. It's become much worse since your last trip. Military checkpoints are everywhere."
"Military checkpoints? Are they looking for something?"
"Could be. Our space forces have been in full readiness ever since the space battle in orbit. Tensions are running high. All Republic vessels must be searched, and the delays are turning pilots gray before their time. And ever since the Republic fired on our space forces things have been even slower. Bad days, bad days... and things are getting worse. I'd get out of the system quickly if I were you, friend."
There's 3 major threads running on Onderon; the first is obviously to look for Master Kavar; the second is resolving the political situation between Talia and Vaklu.
The third one is the starport visas; we're going to bump into a lot of people trying to get off the planet and lacking visas, and we won't have enough for all of them, which leads to some hard choices.
There's a boma miller here we can talk to.
"I am no merchant."
"The winds still taste of misfortune, then. Our beasts will continue to wait in their cages. I am a beast-rider. I have flown great distances gathering the animals you see here. We keep hoping that Ithorians or Telosians get through the space forces' searches so that we can sell them."
"Tell me about the beast-riders."
"Our people have been here for centuries, though we were not always one with the wilds of Onderon. In ancient times our people were criminals, prisoners who were cast out of Iziz and sentenced to die by the beasts in the wilds. But our ancestors learned how to survive and even tame the mighty beasts. They became our strength and companions. We fought endlessly with Iziz for resources and survival. But two generations ago an Iziz princess named Galia and a great beast-rider hero, Oron Kira, married. They united our peoples. But now things are unraveling. Even the beasts can smell it in the air."
"Why does Telos want your beasts?"
I was going to discuss the biological impossibility of seeding an ecosystem with just predator fauna, as they state in the game, but I couldn't think of a way of saying it without sounding completely retarded. There is such a thing as analyzing a game way too much.
"Although some of your terms are unknown to me, what you say is true. Telos was attacked by Darth Malak in the Jedi Civil War. The surface was completely destroyed. The Ithorians have been searching for appropriate wildlife to create a new Telos. But their merchants are stalled by the blockade."
The boma breaks loose. Well, we knew this was coming.
It's coming right for us!
As this guy already talked about briefly, the history of Onderon is a rather boring one based on the fauna and politics. An eclectic mix. Basically, a group of revolutionaries were exiled from the city to die in the wilderness; instead, they managed to tame some of the wild animals and build a society for themselves. Generations later, the Beast Riders returned to Iziz, they fought a big war, blah blah blah, the Beast Rider boy and the girl from Iziz met and fell in love, and war was averted! Everyone was saved! And there was much rejoicing. Till the Mandalorians came and fucked them all up.
There's a happy ending for you.
One of the few spots we can gain influence with HK without killing anyone. We're slowly working our way to unlocking his influence, and he's got some... interesting things to say.
"Statement: I understand your reasoning, but I think you should be less subtle in your dealing with your inferiors."
Mandalore, of course, doesn't bat an eye at the whole mind trick thing. He's seen it plenty of times before.
We don't know a lot about our last party member yet, so let's talk to him a little. There's gotta be a reason the leader of the Mandalorians deigns it fit to tag along with us.
"What's your take on the Republic?"
"The Republic is a stagnant beast, that had been killing its people for years before the wars began."
"Only Revan was worthy of our respect. We swept through the Outer Rim without any opposition - until Revan assumed command of the Republic forces."
Jesus finds himself in the situation of having to defend the Jedi who exiled him.
"It wasn't fear that kept the Jedi from fighting."
The Exile was there at Malachor V, as was Mandalore. We still haven't totally found out what was so terrible about the battle there that everyone skirts around talking about it.
"Can you tell me about the Mandalorians?"
"The Republic thinks my people are dead, scattered. They are wrong."
"Our honor, fortunes, and lives revolve around battle. From our earliest history, this has been our way, as it will be, always."
"My life has revolved around the same things."
"Which is one of the reasons I travel with you. It pleases me that you recognize the truth. The Mandalorian clans will be united. Then we will take back our place in the galaxy. But we live in times of action, and I've said enough for now. We can speak of this again later."
"Hnh. We'd never faced Jedi before - and didn't know the threat they represented. You've always been in the Jedi Order. Things that are common knowledge to you are rumors and stories to the rest of the galaxy. We only knew what we had seen in holovids and from our experience with Exar Kun, and by that time he was completely a Sith. We thought we would triumph easily over such 'noble' and 'compassionate' leaders. Those are weaknesses we easily exploited in the past."
During the time of Exar Kun, the Mandalorians joined up with the Sith. It was maybe 40 years prior to this game, so Mandalore is old enough to remember it.
Not particularly sucking up; it's true after all.
"And that is how we thought of you. Not of the Jedi in particular, but the men and women who joined Revan and Malak to fight against us."
"Ever consider what would have happened if we'd won?"
The 'Sith' that arose were pretty much the same bunch of guy that defeated the Mandalorians, like Revan and Malak, so he's a little off base.
"Look around you. Look at what your precious victory has brought you."
This however is a good point. The Republic defeated the Mandalorians, and then the Sith after that. And yet it's still on the verge of collapse, and all the planets we've visited so far are pretty much giant messes brought about because the Republic is weak.
"Just think about it."
"If you're leader of the Mandalorians, I would have thought you'd be tougher than you are."
According to Chris Avellone, Mandalore is around 63 years old, so yeah, he's getting on in years. He's more or less completely dependent on his suit of armour at this point.
You can't even remove the armour, though it's upgradeable. According to the description, he even sleeps in it. You know when you open your gym bag and that puff of incredibly rancid sweat-smelling air comes out? That's gotta be what being around Mandalore smells like all the time; it's probably what his breathing tubes are for.
He also never takes his helmet off, so we never see his face. In fact, it's never said who he really is; yet another mysterious character with no name. However, if you've played KOTOR 1, then his identity should have been clear by the end of his first conversation.
He comes with a big gun, but his stats make it far easier to set him up as a melee user. In fact it's pretty trivial to bump his strength and constitution to ridiculous proportions.
And just for comedy I'll let him use some axes for now. I mentioned how stupid I found the sword versus lightsaber dynamic last time, but using berserker battle axes in a Star Wars game of all places crosses the line from stupid to stupidly awesome.
Next update, we'll jump into the Onderon political fray, sip on coffee, and wear a beret. Viva la revolution!