Sunday, 23 March 2014

Adventures in Kashyyyk (Knights of the Old Republic)

Zaalbar returns to Kashyyyk
Visiting Kashyyyk wasn't a happy time for Zaalbar.
Having gotten a lead on what Malak was up to, chasing information about an ancient device called a Star Forge, we had to follow his footsteps and learn what we could of the thing ourselves. There were a number of ruins throughout the galaxy which we believed held more clues as to what the Star Forge was, so we set off to visit them in hopes of stopping Malak from causing more trouble. The first planet that we decided to check out was Kashyyyk, home world of the Wookies.

When we landed our ship there we were immediately greeted by a representative of the Czerka Corporation. They're a large company with holdings on several worlds and they happened to run the space port here on Kashyyyk. This guy was part of the welcoming committee so to speak, which basically means he was there to collect the 100 credit docking charge.

We paid up quickly, and got a basic idea of the goings on of the planet. Already, the Czerka Corp was leaving a bad taste in my mouth. It was obvious that they were shady as hell. They were involved with the slave trade, capturing Wookies to sell off into hard labor. I was hoping we'd be able to do something about this at some point, because that just isn't cool.

There was also a merchant we met there that had a mechanic with him as an indentured servant. Apparently the rest of the mechanic's shipmates owed the guy money, but disappeared, so this poor fellow was stuck working for the sleazeball until the debt was repaid. Everything about the merchant reeked of him being a scammer and I had a feeling that this story about the shipmates running off wasn't completely true.

Fighting Kashyyyk wildlife
A lot of the wildlife is dangerous on
this planet.
Since we were on Kashyyyk, I thought it would be nice to bring Zaalbar and Mission along since this was Zaalbar's home. Unfortunately, Zaalbar wasn't exactly happy about being here, as he'd left the planet under rather complicated circumstances. Actually, he'd been exiled. Years earlier Zaalbar had discovered that his brother, Chuundar, was working with Czerka, helping them to acquire Wookies as slaves. Zaalbar completely lost his temper after learning this and attacked his brother. So deep was his rage that Zaalbar actually used his claws, a huge taboo among Wookies, as it was as if they'd become feral beasts. Once someone did this, there was very little chance of forgiveness. Making matters more difficult was that Zaalbar's father was their clan's chieftain, so he wound up coming down even harder on his son, choosing to believe Chuundar and not Zaalbar when told what had happened. As a result, Zaalbar was exiled and this was his first time to Kashyyyk since this incident. So, Zaalbar was understandably uneasy about being there.

Nonetheless, we had a job to do and so pressed on into the forest, beyond the relative safety of the Czerka outpost. As we walked down the various raised paths high in the trees, we came upon a number of creatures native to the area, mostly giant insects and flying creatures that looked vaguely like pterodactyls. We also came across a Czerka patrol hovering over a dead Wookie, looking rather concerned about what they should do. The Wookie had gotten mad at them and attacked, so they killed it. However, they were much more worried what their superiors would say and what kind of costs the death would incur than anything else. Remorse over killing the Wookie was the last thing on their minds.

As we made our way deeper into the forest, we started to come across more Wookies. Most were far from receptive to outsiders being in their lands, and even more angry to see the outcast Zaalbar with them. Eventually we came to a Wookie village, Zaalbar's home. Here, the Wookies demanded to see us, and took Zaalbar into custody. Chuundar was now the chieftain, and wanted to talk with his brother. When we met him, it was obvious that Chuundar was as chummy as ever with the folks at Czerka Corporation. Zaalbar was not at all pleased about this, as his brother was still selling out the Wookies to these guys. Even worse, their dad, Freyyr, had gone missing, presumably having become a slave, so there was no one left that could possibly stop Chuundar. Things were looking grim.

Meeting Chuundar
Meeting with Zaalbar's brother, Chuundar.
Chuundar wanted some time to talk to his brother, so sent Davik and his friends on an errand for him. It wasn't like they had much choice. He wanted us to descend to the forest floor, look for a renegade Wookie that was down there, and kill it. To a degree, this worked in our favor as we needed to go down there in search of more star maps and data to unlock the mysteries of the Star Forge. We'd tried heading down earlier, but were stopped by a Wookie guard who answered to Chuundar. Presumably now this guy would no longer be an obstacle in getting to the forest floor. When we did get down there, though, we could expect to encounter all sorts of extremely powerful creatures that called the area home. Some Wookies also recall seeing a slightly crazy human down there, an excellent warrior who'd earned their respect, but still off his rocker for wanting to live down there.

When we took the lift down to the lowest depths of the forest, things got off to an unexpected start as we encountered Calo Nord. He'd survived our fight on Taris and was rather keen for revenge now that he had managed to track us down.

The fight that followed was the most intense I'd experienced so far in the game. Calo was difficult enough on his own, but he had two strong Wookies helping him out. Everyone hit like a truck, were surprisingly resistant to Force stuns, and had a lot of hit points. We had to heal constantly, make good use of our personal force fields, and we used up just about all of our grenades during the battle. Finally, Calo was defeated, which was a huge relief, and we were able to continue afterward.

There were a number of creatures here that we had to fight, and they were reasonably challenging. Thankfully, they were easy to stun, so we did that and then took advantage of our sneak attack abilities to really pour on the damage. A number of corpses littered the forest floor as well, often with useful items and weapons on them to be plundered. Danik was actually able to significantly improve on the blasters he had, and we were able to at least somewhat replenish our supply of grenades and med pacs as we wandered about.

Final showdown with Calo Nord
We faced off with Calo Nord again.  This was not an easy
fight to win.
Eventually we came across a strange old man with a lightsaber while we were fighting some beasts. He helped us out, then invited us to his home where we could talk in safety. This was the crazy old guy that the Wookies were talking about, although he wasn't crazy, just a bit eccentric. He was also a Jedi, named Jolee. It was actually interesting talking to him as he carried himself a lot differently than other Jedi. He was a lot more laid back, and certainly not as serious as other members of the order. Jolee seemed almost neutral in his approach to things. He wasn't too keen on either the Sith or the Jedi's world views, feeling they were both a bit extreme. Chatting with him was actually quite refreshing.

As it turned out, he was quite knowledgeable in the area having lived there for so long, knowing both about the Wookie we were hunting, as well as having some ideas about where we might find the ancient star map that we were looking for. Jolee was willing to help with this, but first we'd need to do something for him.

A little ways further into the forest there was a Czerka camp where hunters were operating out of. These guys were going after a certain type of creature here to harvest their glands, which were used for some high priced products. Unfortunately the hunters were killing these animals to the point where they could well become extinct and Jolee didn't want that. Our task was to find a non-violent way of dealing with them. Jolee didn't want us to kill them. He could do that himself if he wanted, and taking such a course of action could result in them lashing out at the Wookies, which was also undesirable. He wanted us to find a peaceful solution.

Shooing us away to deal with the hunters, we wandered around a bit more. Some of the areas we came to were dead ends, though we did find some corpses and a damaged droid. The droid was actually kind of interesting, having some recorded data stuck in a loop. We played it back and it turned out this robot and the bodies here were the crew of that mechanic we'd met earlier, and they were actually murdered by the shady merchant that the mechanic was an indentured servant to. Intriguing. Hoping to be of help when we got back to the outpost, we removed the droid's head and packed it away to use as evidence later.

Returning to our search for the Czerka hunters, we finally came across their base camp. Talking with their commander, there was no way we were going to convince him to leave. The only option he was leaving open to us was to help them finish their hunt so they could get out of there. This didn't seem like a very good choice. We did learn that the camp was surrounded by devices that kept particularly dangerous predators away and if they broke down, everyone would have to leave.

Meeting Jolee
Jolee can suffer from Grumpy Old
Guy Syndrome, but he's an
interesting character.
This nugget of info suggested that it may be a good idea to talk to the guards standing in front of the devices. It was times like this that I was glad Danik had a lot of points in charisma and persuasion, as it didn't take much to get the guards to give us the codes to shut down the devices, after which a big, scary forest monster chased everyone away.

Mission accomplished, we returned to Jolee who thanked us and agreed to help us now. In fact, he joined our crew. Now I had a party of Jedi as it was Danik, Jolee, and Juhani in our group. Delving further into the forest, I couldn't help but feel that this setup was a bit overpowered. Juhani has a very defensive build with resists, force shields, good conditioning, and the like, so I use her as a tank to dive right into the action and keep everyone busy. Meanwhile, I've set Jolee's default behavior to "Jedi / Support" whereby he does a lot of buffing of the party through Valor, several types of crowd control (stun, fear, etc.), and casts the occasional heal when necessary. This feeds well into Danik's sneak attack ability, as he has plenty of opportunities to make use of it while enemies are taken out of the fight due to stuns and whatnot. Since going with this party make up, we've been demolishing everything in our path with a level of ease that just wasn't possible were Danik to be joined by Zaalbar and Mission like I'd been doing previously.

As we marched through the forest, we needed to get past a force field blocking our way if we wanted to explore its darkest depths. Luckily, Jolee knew how to get past it, and we were able to get to the area of the forest where the star map was.

Walking through there, we came upon a Wookie being attacked by a group of Mandalorions. Springing into action, we quickly beat down the soldiers, and rescued the Wookie. He explained that these guys jumped him and his friends when they least expected it, and this was an ongoing occurrence in this part of the forest. The Wookie was too badly injured to do anything about it himself, but asked us to hunt these Mandalorians down and put a stop to their attacks. The key to drawing them out was that we'd need to be unarmed, as they waited until that moment to strike their prey.

It was pretty easy to do this, as we came across a few areas with dead Wookies, which meant that Mandalorians were near. Whenever we happened on these scenes, everyone just put away their weapons for a moment and all of a sudden, Mandalorians would sneak up on them. At this moment, everyone just re-equipped their gear and proceeded to beat the pulp out of the hunters. We repeated this several times, gathering items and datapads along the way until we came across some parked speeders. One of these was missing its pad, and attaching the one we found managed to attract the Mandalorian leader who was none too pleased with what we were doing. Of course, we had to kill him too.

Once him and his cronies were defeated, which was not easy as they were highly resistant to our use of the force, we returned to the injured Wookie and showed him the helmet of the Mandalorian leader as proof that we'd dealt with the threat. The Wookie was very happy about this, and thanked us, saying that it wasn't often that he was impressed by outsiders.

Rakatan computer on Kashyyyk
This hologram insisted on quizzing us before giving Danik the star maps.
Side quest completed, we explored the forest some more and came across an ancient computer with a hologram that talked to those who approached it. This was more technology of the builders of the Star Forge! Usually it wouldn't give people the time of day, but for some reason it was okay with talking to Danik. Jolee had tried to talk with it over 150 without any luck, but Danik managed on the first try. Weird.

We asked it about the Star Forge and whatnot, hoping to get the star maps that it stored. Before it would release the information, the hologram insisted on quizzing Danik to decide if he was worthy of the data. It wanted his genuine opinion on how to tackle certain problems, usually a mixture of tactics and ethics. The best course of action seemed to be just telling the hologram what it wanted to hear. It had some preconceived notions of how things should be, and being the nice guy may not have been the best answer. In fact, some of the answers we gave that it deemed correct were pretty cold hearted.

In the end, the hologram said that Danik had proven himself worthy of receiving the star maps, and released the information. However, it came at the cost of receiving some Dark Side points due to the answers he gave during the quiz.

So, the main reason we'd even come to Kashyyyk was taken care of. All that remained was to find this renegade Wookie that Chuundar had sent us to hunt. Eventually we did find him, and we wanted to talk to him first what with Danik being a Jedi Consular. Maybe there was a way to come to a peaceful solution? However, the Wookie wasn't much for chit chat and quickly attacked us. We smacked him around a bit and the battle ended. He demanded we finish him off, but Danik refused, instead trying to talk sense into the Wookie. Jolee piped in as well, having helped him in the past. Eventually the Wookie calmed down and we could have a proper conversation.

Freyyr confronts Chuundar
Freyyr rescued, it was time to confront Chuundar about
his involvement in the Czerka slave trade.
We quickly learned that this was no renegade Wookie. It was Freyyr, Zaalbar and Chuundar's father, and former chieftain of their clan. What had happened was that Freyyr finally learned of Chuundar's treachery and was about to do something about it but Chuundar had too many people on his side. This forced Freyyr out of the village, and he'd been hiding out at the forest floor ever since. We wondered if there was any way he could go back to the village and oust Chuundar, but Freyyr said that this would be difficult as his son had gained a lot of support among the Wookies. The only possible way he may be able to take back his leadership would be if he could produce the Blade of Bacca. This was a symbol of power among his people, and whoever wielded it had the right to rule their clan. Chuundar had the pommel in his possession, but the blade itself had disappeared a century earlier.

Freyyr believed that it was embedded in the hide of a great beast that some of the more powerful Wookies would occasionally try to fight as part of a ritual. It was a very strong creature, and not easy to beat. We'd need to lure it out with fresh meat, then fight it in a special section of the forest where the ritual was held. We already had the meat, having collected it off of some of the creatures we had fought, so all we had to do was begin the ritual, kill the beast, and gather the blade, which we did.

When we returned the blade to Freyyr, he set off for the Wookie village, talking to others along the way to gain their support. We agreed to meet him there and confront Chuundar.

The trip back was relatively uneventful. We had to fight one group of Wookies loyal to Chuundar, but they were pretty weak. After taking the lift back to the upper levels of the forest, we encountered another Wookie who'd talked with Freyyr and wanted to help us into the village. With that, we were back in the Wookie chieftain's hut and so were Zaalbar, Freyyr, and Chuundar along with Wookies and Czerka guards loyal to him.

For a time everyone was talking civilly, and it looked like we may have some hope of things not ending in bloodshed. However, in the end Chuundar didn't want to relinquish his power, and preferred to kill everyone to maintain the status quo. With that a huge battle broke out. Freyyr and Zaalbar quickly set themselves on Chuundar's guards while the Jedi focused on the chieftain, stunning him, then proceeding to beat him senseless.

The Wookie rebellion
As we returned to the Ebon Hawk, Wookies were
everywhere fighting Czerka forces.
When the battle was over, Freyyr once more became the Wookie chieftain and vowed to rally all of the Wookies on Kashyyyk to fight Czerka and get them off the planet. He thanked us for all of our help, and apologized to Zaalbar for being so wrong and exiling him. Zaalbar said it was okay and asked his father if we could borrow Bacca's Sword, to which his father agreed.

Now that Freyyr was back in charge and we had our star map, it was time to get back to the Ebon Hawk and head to our next destination.

The walk back was pretty quiet but we did cross paths with a mysterious Twi'lek who insisted on giving us a datapad. Reading its content it seemed to be some sort of shady job offer should we ever visit Manaan. The whole thing stinks, so I'm not exactly keen on exploring it further.

As we neared the Czerka outpost, we could see that it was under attack. The Wookie uprising had already begun, and very few Czerka remained outside of a rear guard trying to repel the rebels. I was kind of hoping that the mechanic and the merchant were still around so that we could free the mechanic, having discovered what happened to his friends and having evidence of the whole thing stored on the droid head we were carrying. Sadly, they were nowhere to be seen, presumably having fled once the Wookie attack began.

The Wookies knew who we were, and had no problem with us. They said that the Ebon Hawk would be the only ship welcome on Kashyyyk for a very long time, and all other vessels would be fired upon.

With that we hopped on board our ship, and set off. One more piece of the star map under our belt, it was time to decide where to go next. I've opted for Tatooine. Jawas, Sand People, the planet where Luke Skywalker first met Obi-wan Kenobi, this seemed like a fun choice of planets to go with. So, next we meet it'll be time for some fun in the sun on Tatooine. See you then! =)

Friday, 21 March 2014

Becoming a Jedi (Knights of the Old Republic)

Off to a meet and greet with the Jedi council of Dantooine.
Now that we're on Dantooine, everyone can take a bit of a break. Well, maybe not a break, but at least there's a small respite from the Sith. It's time to chat with the local Jedi council, give them an update on what's been going on, and figure out what to do next.

Since meeting Bastila, she has noticed that Danik appears to be strong in the Force. Also, they've had a shared vision. Both of these circumstances were things that she wanted to bring before the council when we got there. Bastila went ahead first to give them a debriefing, but when Danik finally got to the council chambers they had a surprise in store for him. The council wanted to train Danik as a Jedi.

It was extremely unusual for adults to begin training as a Jedi. Usually the order searched for people strong in the Force from when they were infants, recruiting them young, and getting the ball rolling as soon as possible. They found it much more difficult to instruct grown ups. Nonetheless, they felt that Danik was very strong and would be worth the effort to train.

In the days and weeks to follow, Danik was pushed hard, learning to become a better fighter (though all that light saber training will be for naught since I'm having him stick with his blasters), as well as improving his mental acuity through meditation and the like. As his training was drawing to a close, one of the Jedi masters had a few tests for Danik before he could become a Padawan.

The first two were pretty easy. One just tested his knowledge of the Jedi creed, while the other was to help him decide what type of Jedi he wanted to be and pick his lightsaber color. I opted for him to become a Consular as they seemed the negotiator type, which sounded like fun, and a bit more in sync with a lot of what the Jedi were trying to do, entering situations with a leveled head, looking at all sides of a situation.

Meeting all of the Jedi Masters and figuring out what to do next.
Once these two tests were out of the way, Danik had one more to do. There was some sort of corruption on the outskirts of the enclave that was causing the wildlife to become aggressive and attack local settlers. It was Danik's job to get out there, figure out what the problem was, and decide on his own how to deal with it.

As we wandered Dantooine, it was quite different from what we saw on Taris. Here there were grasslands as far as the eye could see, flocks of birds in the sky, trees, shrubbery, and animals prancing about. It was quite the contrast to Taris' metallic glean, technologically advanced, cosmopolitan vibe. There were a number of Kath Hounds around, which were the beasts attacking people in the area. Of course, the moment they saw Zaalbar, Danik, and Mission approach, they attacked. Most of them weren't very strong so didn't pose much threat, but even the bigger ones were easy to beat now that Danik was a Jedi. He just had to stun them, then unload with his blasters alongside Mission. Since they're both scoundrels, they have sneak attack, which works great on a stunned opponent. So yeah, things die fast.

The grasslands of Dantooine are
beautiful. Makes me want to eat Cheerios.
Much of the surrounding areas to the Jedi enclave were open plains, and you could practically feel the wind blowing through your hair while exploring them. We came across the house of one of the more prominent settlers in the area, but his droid asked us to leave since we weren't invited. Not wanting to cause a scene, we moved on. There were also a few Mandalorian raiding parties that we came across. They were in the habit of shaking down the locals for anything of value, so we took it upon ourselves to deal with this problem.

For all of the talk about how amazing Mandalorians are in battle, these guys were pushovers. We would quickly take care of the weaker cronies they had with them, then once again go with the stun then sneak attack approach we'd been using on the Kath Hounds. This made short work of the supposedly mighty warriors.

While crossing one bridge on the plains, we came across a Jedi who was dispatched to the area to solve a murder. There was a body laying face down in the dirt, and two settlers standing nearby. He asked Danik to help in the investigation, talking with both suspects and the records droid that was helping with the case. It took a fair bit of talking and cross examining, but slowly we came to the truth as to who murdered the guy. The Jedi thanked us for our help and took both men into custody, while Danik and company got a boat load of XP.

Exploring a bit more, we finally found what was causing the corruption in the area. There was a Dark Jedi here. However, she wasn't pure evil, and had only recently turned to the Dark Side. Her name was Juhani, and she was training in the enclave, but hubris got the better of her and during a training session with her master, Juhani lashed out and struck her down. Since then, she'd run away and was brooding in some old ruins.

Juhani did some bad things, but can
she be redeemed?
It was obvious from talking to her that she felt bad about what she had done, and wanted to go back to the Jedi if she could. However, she felt that her behavior was beyond forgiveness. Given that Danik was now a Jedi Consular, it seemed the perfect opportunity to try and reach out to Juhani and bring her back into the fold. It took a little bit of talking, but finally we convinced her to return to the enclave and talk to the council. We couldn't be sure that they would accept her back, but it was worth a shot.

After this, we too returned to the enclave. Having dealt with Juhani, the test was complete, and Danik became a full-fledged Padawan. The council congratulated him on a job well done, and thanked Danik for turning Juhani back toward the Light Side of the Force.

With the tests out of the way, they had a new task for Danik. They had sent someone to some ruins in the hills, as they heard that a while back Malak , along with his former partner, Revan, had been exploring the place. Obviously, there was something important here. The Jedi that they had sent never returned, so the council wanted Bastila and Danik to check it out.

I was pretty much forced to have Bastila in my party for this part, much to my chagrin. To her credit, she's eased up with the attitude of late, but I'm still rather fond of the Zaalbar / Mission combo, so I'll stick with that whenever possible. For this mission, though, we went with Bastila and Zaalbar to accompany Danik.

After walking for a while, we came to the ruins in question, an ominous, gray dome with a large door covered in odd markings. Inside, the place was equally nondescript. It was dark, lots of gray and black. There were old, long unused computers everywhere, some of the ceiling had caved in. The place had seen better days.

Danik is now a Padawan.  Hurray!
Eventually we came upon a robot there. At first we couldn't understand the languages that it spoke, but eventually we came on one that was understandable. This droid was absolutely ancient, but was fine with speaking to our group, sharing information. It was built over 20,000 years ago by an ancient race of builders that have long since vanished from the galaxy. The facility housed slaves that helped to build something called a Star Forge, and after their usefulness was at an end it was this robot's job to kill them all. Since then it has waited in case the builders returned. Since everyone here were neither slave nor builder, the robot thought it was fine to share what information it could when asked.

We couldn't get much information on these builders or their Star Forge, but we were able to confirm that Malak and Revan had visited the place. There was also a room deeper into the complex that might shed more information on this ancient race but we'd need to pass some tests in a couple of the antechambers first. Both were guarded by droids that were easy enough to defeat, though could take quite a beating before collapsing in a heap. Beyond them were computers that asked some simple quests where we had to divide planet types into those that encouraged life and those that encouraged death. Having successfully completed this, we were able to unlock the final chamber.

We've gotta figure out what this Star Forge thingie is.
Inside was a giant map showing the galaxy several thousand years earlier. From what we could glean it helped to find more information about the Star Forge. However, the data was incomplete and we'd need more if we wanted to solve this mystery. So, we decided to pack it in at this point and let the Jedi council know what we found.

After some deliberation the council decided that we should search other such ruins peppered throughout the galaxy in hopes that we would slowly be able to piece together the secrets of the Star Forge. As best we can tell so far, it's either a weapon or a factory, but that's just speculation. In any case, if Malak is so keen to be using the thing, it certainly means trouble.

There are a few different planets that we need to check out in order to make any progress, so we've decided to start with Kashyyyk, the Wookie homeworld. We'll need to descend to the dangerous forest floor to find the ruins there. Even the mighty Wookies aren't keen to go down to that place, so you just know the area is dangerous, but with Zaalbar and Mission by Danik's side, I'm sure we'll make good progress.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Goodbye Taris, Hello Dantooine! (Knights of the Old Republic)

Meeting with Canderous Ordo

With Bastila rescued, the only thing left for us to do now would be finding a way off of Taris. The place was teaming with Sith Troopers, and they were all looking for the Jedi, so the sooner we could got out of there the better. As luck would have it, we'd barely left our hideout when a Twi'lek came running up to us. He worked for Canderous Ordo, and the Mandalorian wanted to talk to us as he had a plan that may get us out of our predicament.

We were told to meet at the Upper City cantina if we were interested, which we were. When we got there, Canderous cut right to the chase. He was also looking to get off Taris, as he didn't like being penned in by the Sith and he knew we were also looking to leave the planet. The biggest problem keeping anyone from escaping Taris was that the Sith had planted an automated gun battery around the planet, and any unauthorized ship seen to be trying to make a break for it would be blown to smithereens. In order to deal with this, one would need the codes to order the battery to stand down.

Canderous saw Danik compete in the swoop race earlier, and it got him thinking this guy may be crazy enough to do what was necessary to get the codes. And crazy may well be what was in order here because to get the codes, we'd need to raid the Sith military base on Taris. No mean feat. We agreed to go along with the plan because it seemed straightforward enough, and any opportunity to blast Sith in the face was always welcome.

Buying a droid from Janice
Buying T3-M3 wasn't cheap.
First things first, we'd need a droid to help us breech some of the security systems at the base, and Canderous had one in mind already. His boss, Davik Kang, had one on order from one of the local shops, so he told us to just go there and ask for it, and they'd hook us up no questions asked once we said it was Canderous who sent us.

When we got there, we did that and the shopkeeper, Janice, rolled out the droid, called T3-M3, but we still paid through the nose for the thing. Janice wanted 2000 credits for it, which was a steep price, and all of the windfall we'd reaped from our earlier raid on the Vulkars' base in the Lower City. Danik used his skills of persuasion to talk her down, but she wasn't keen on going below 1500 lest we started threatening to bust some skulls, which I wasn't about to do since we're supposed to be the good guys here.

Mildly put off about getting hosed on the droid, it was time to set off for the military base. T3 did a decent job of hacking into all of the systems, opening the door to get in, then using the main terminal in the lobby so we could take a look around the place via security cameras. There were guards everywhere, but thankfully there were some opportunities to blow up conduits and reprogram security droids in order to thin their ranks a fair bit. There was also a very large droid guarding one door that needed its shields taken down if we wanted to deal with it relatively hassle free. All in all, there was a lot to do, and even with T3's advance computer skills, we burned through computer spikes like they were going out of style.

Once we'd done all we could to bork the base's security, we walked T3 to the entrance, and brought back Mission and Zaalbar. Sweeping the place went pretty smoothly since we'd already cleared out some of the soldiers here. It was just a matter of picking off the few remaining ones, who seemed strangely unconcerned about the sounds of weapons fire and explosions that were echoing through the base moments before. Finally we came to the room with the big, bad droid guarding an elevator. Mission and Danik swapped to Ion-based weapons, since the things are so great for dealing with robots, and proceeded to open fire on the thing. With its shields down, it didn't take long to destroy the droid and make our way to the lower level of the base.

T3-M3 on the move
About to break into the Sith
military base.
When we got there, we didn't encounter too much resistance. There were a few guards here and there, but nothing major. In one room, we encountered the alien we'd met when first arriving on Taris, the one being accosted by a Sith patrol, and who hid the bodies after we dealt with the jerks. He eventually wound up being arrested for all of this, and was now being held before execution. If we wanted to save him, we'd need to carefully flip the switches on an adjacent wall to deactivate the force field holding him in place. One wrong move, though, and we'd start the execution program and kill him. Thankfully that didn't happen, and we were able to set him free.

Good deed of the day done, we headed further into the base, and finally came to the main control room of the base. Unfortunately, the Sith governor for Taris was also there, and he was a Dark Jedi with no plans of just letting us have the codes for the planetary gun battery. So, the fight was on, and it was pretty exciting. Our first fight with a Jedi! ^_^ He didn't pack too much of a wallop, but I was making sure everyone was using force field generators to mitigate some of the damage he was putting out. The biggest thing we had to deal with was that the Dark Jedi liked to cast stuns, especially on Zaalbar, which took people out of the fight temporarily and left them vulnerable. Unlike some of our previous fights, we didn't go too crazy with grenades here since the room was fairly small, and we ran the risk of getting hit by friendly fire. It was more of a tank and spank while being mindful of ways to keep damage minimal. The strategy worked pretty well, and before long the Dark Jedi was defeated.

Rummaging through his remains, we found a number of useful goodies, not the least of which being the codes that we needed to bring to Canderous, so with that we packed our things and left the base.

Dead Sith Governor
One dead Dark Jedi. Huzzah!
We made our way to the Lower City cantina this time, as that was the rendezvous point we'd agreed upon. Canderous was there waiting, and we gave him the codes. The next step of the plan would get us off Taris. To do so, the Mandalorian suggested we screw over his employer, Davik Kang, by stealing his ship, the Ebon Hawk. It was a really fast vessel used for smuggling, so would be able to outrun the Sith fleet in orbit, and now that we had the codes to shutdown the guns around the planet, leaving wouldn't be a problem once we had the ship.

Of course, getting our mitts on the Ebon Hawk would be no small task. Canderous had a plan, though. He would take us to meet Davik, saying that we'd be good additions to his organization. It would give us a way of getting into the base without having to fight, and once there we could figure out a way to steal the ship.

When we arrived, Davik seemed fairly personable. He'd heard about Danik winning the swoop bike race and thought maybe he'd be a worthwhile recruit for the Exchange. Calo Nord was there as well, and it seemed him and Canderous were not very fond of one another. After a brief tour of his home, Davik left us in one of the guest quarters to relax and enjoy his hospitality while he did a background check. He just asked us not to go wandering around or disturb the other guests lest there be consequences. With that he and Calo left.

The Ebon Hawk
We'd need the Ebon Hawk to get off of Taris.
As soon as they were gone, we proceeded to completely ignore Davik and began exploring the place. It was quite big. Several rooms were locked, so we assumed these were guest quarters and ignored them. However, as we wandered deeper into the facility, we started to encounter guards who were of the shoot first, ask questions later variety. Luckily, we came upon a room with a security terminal fairly early and were able to take a look around to see what kind of resistance we might encounter.

There were quite a lot of guards around, and while we could gas the rooms to deal with them in many instances, we were seriously low on computer spikes after our assault on the Sith base, so we needed to conserve these whenever possible. While we were looking around, we also found the Ebon Hawk on one of the security cameras. Unfortunately, the door to get there was locked, and we'd need nine spikes in order to open it. We didn't have anywhere near that, so we'd need to try exploring Davik's place further, and hope we got lucky.

Most of the guards and sentry droids were very easy to deal with. They died fast and had some useful items that we could loot off of them. There was a bounty hunter roaming one of the halls that took a little while to kill because he was equipped with a force field generator. Once we did get him down, though, he dropped a computer card that would at least allow us to access the terminal we found earlier without having to use a computer spike. It didn't give us free use of gas or open the door to the Ebon Hawk, though. Boooooo.

As we mercilessly gunned down one henchman after the next, it was obvious that Davik had a pretty darn big operation going on here. There were several rooms dedicated to spice, so I have to assume his big moneymaker was the drug trade. Eventually we came to one room with a pair of rather scary looking droids of the pokey, shooty, zappy variety. The interior was dark, clinically sterile, and there was someone being held in some sort of torture chamber. Obviously we had to do something to help the poor sod.

Fighting Calo and Davik
If we wanted the Ebon Hawk, we'd
need to get through Calo and Davik
first.
It was time to run in, and save the day. These droids were tricky, as one shot an ice beam that would freeze its target temporarily, while the other had a flamethrower that hit for lots of damage. Because Canderous is required for this part of the game, Danik was joined by Mission, while Zaalbar sat out. The nice thing about this was that we could lob grenades without worrying about hitting our own people due to having no melee fighters in our group, which was very important here in order to bring down the flame-spewing droid as quickly as possible via a barrage of grenades. It's damage was too great to ignore. After it was destroyed, we quickly mopped up the remaining droid and freed the guy in the torture thingie.

Luck was smiling on us, as this person was the pilot of the Ebon Hawk. He was grateful for the help, and gave us the code to unlock the door to the hanger so that we could steal the ship. Shazzam!

With that, we ran back to the computer terminal, unlocked the door, and made our way to the hangar. When we got there, Calo and Davik were also running for the ship, trying to escape Taris. The problem was that Malak, the Sith Lord who started the whole war with the Jedi and the Republic, had ordered the orbital bombardment of Taris. His people were unable to find Bastila, so he gave up and just decided to wipe out everyone on the planet so to get rid of the Jedi who was an expert at Battle Meditation. As such, there were laser blasts everywhere and the city began to crumble, so Davik was rather keen to get out of there.

When they came across us, they weren't about to let Canderous have the ship, so they started shooting. Ultimately, we only really needed to focus on Calo and get his health to 50%. At that point, he said he'd take everyone down with him rather than be defeated, and tried to detonate a grenade. Thankfully, just then the hangar was rocked by the laser fire from the Sith bombardment, taking both Calo and Davik out. Calo was buried in rubble, but we were able to loot some really nice gear from Davik before running to the Ebon Hawk. The ship was ours!

Without a moment to lose, we grabbed everyone from the hideout and made a break for it. As we left Taris, Carth needed time to plot a course into the ship's computer so to fly us to safety. In the meantime, Sith fighers were baring down on us. Bastila told Danik to man the guns and shoot them down until Carth could get us out of there. There were about a half does of these ships on our tale, and their aim wasn't all that great, so it didn't take long to get rid of them. By then, Carth had finished up and we were on our way to safer lands.

Heading to Dantooine
We're safely away from Taris now, and we're off to Dantooine.
Bastila suggested we head to Dantooine next. There was a Jedi enclave there where we could rest, and remain relatively safe from Malik and his Sith forces. We could also consult with the Jedi council there, seeking their wisdom in devising our next course of action. So that's where we'll be going next. Malak is a force to be reckoned with and it'll take some serious doing to bring him down.  It's time to regroup and figure out what to do next.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Racists, Rakghouls, and Rancors (Knights of the Old Republic)

When we aren't blasting stuff,
we're dancing.
Having escaped the Sith attack on the Endar Spire, Danik and Carth were now stuck on Taris, a planet that was under Sith occupation. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, etc! Their top priority would be to find a Republic officer named Bastila who also escaped the attack. She's a powerful Jedi that the Sith were very much eager to capture, which would be bad.

Before we can do that we need to get a lay of the land, find out what's going on around the planet, and listen for any rumors that can give us a lead on where to find the woman. Taris is a big place, so we'll need to do a fair bit of gumshoeing in order to learn where Bastila is, and we may need to help out some of the locals in order to loosen tongues. This is an RPG after all. That's just how these things work!

Taris' society is heavily stratified. There is a nobility at the top, wealthy and full of themselves. Anyone of the lower orders are common prattle, hardly worth wasting any time on. As a result, each social class lives separately from one another. The nobles are at the top both figuratively and literally. Their homes are on the highest floors of the cities, enjoying the sun and fresh air. The Lower City is where the poor and working class live, often in fairly squalid conditions, while also having to deal with quite a bit of crime. Finally, there are the lowest of the low. Utterly destitute people who live under the cities in huts made of refuse tossed to the bottom of Taris' towering cities.

On top of this, racism is a big problem. Or is it alienism? I'm not sure what the appropriate word would be, but the fact of the matter is that the humans of Taris discriminate against aliens, forcing them to live in segregated areas, away from everyone else. There was one area of the city with some crazy preacher man going so far as to shout hate speech in front of everyone, and people didn't give it a second thought. This seems to be something that is particularly dominant in the Upper City of Taris. When I visited the lower areas, humans and aliens seemed to get along just fine.

Meeting with Gadon, leader of the Beks.
In any case, things were not exactly smiles and sunshine on this planet. The moment Danik and Carth stepped out of the abandoned apartment that they were hiding in, they saw a group of aliens being accosted by a Sith patrol, and it seemed like they were being given a hard time only because they were different.

We weren't going to stand for this, so Carth and Danik interrupted the conversation to see what was going on, but the Sith weren't exactly keen on this and proceeded to attack. Thankfully they weren't very strong, and we were able to make short work of them. When the dust settled , the aliens thanked us for the help and said that they would take care of hiding the bodies.

Stepping out of the apartment block, we could see that Taris had a a booming metropolis. It wasn't Coruscant big or anything, but definitely a bustling place to be. People were milling about, droids were doing their thing, Sith were patrolling the area. *Don't make eye contact!*

Talking with the locals, we met a few of the more unpleasant types. Stuffy nobles who wanted nothing to do with us.  But these people were the exception, not the rule. Most folks were pretty okay with giving us information. They just figured we were off-worlders who were stuck on Taris because of the Sith blockade. & The locals were none too pleased about the blockade since it meant no one was allowed on or off the planet until the Sith found something or someone hidden on Taris.  Presumably Bastila.

Mowing down Gammoreans in the sewers.
We also learned that there were a fair number of crime problems in the Lower City. Two rival gangs were in the midst of a bloody turf war: the Hidden Beks and the Vulkars. It was causing all sorts of problems down there, especially because the Vulkars were a bunch of violent upstarts who were keen on making themselves a force to be reckoned with. They were actually dumb enough to try and attack Sith patrols and pick fights with the local crime lord, Davik Kang. If we were going to head to the lower levels of Taris, we'd need to watch out for those guys.

And head to the lower levels we would, as it turned out that some of the other escape pods from the Endar Spire crashed there. The Sith and pretty much every crime group on the planet were making haste for these to either salvage anything of value or grab Republic prisoners. This certainly complicated rescuing Bastila, but we'd just have to deal with it.

Getting to the Lower City and beyond took some doing as there was a Sith guard watching the elevator, and he wouldn't let unauthorized people pass. Luckily, Danik met an off duty Sith at the nearby cantina and chatted her up a bit. They hit it off, and she told us about a party that her and some of the other Sith troops were going to, and invited us to join them. When we got there, everyone was having a great time, but they wound up drinking too much and passing out. As luck would have it, one of the Sith had their uniform in their bag there. So while everyone was unconscious, we helped ourselves to it, and put the thing on. Thanks to this handy disguise, we were able to gain access to the Lower City.

We'd barely taken two steps into the city and already we could see just how out of hand the gang war down here was. Danik and Carth walked right into the middle of a big fight between the Beks and Vulkars. The Beks got thumped hard, and the victorious Vulkars decided to pick a fight with us next. Thankfully they weren't very strong, and we were able to deal with them quickly.

Zalbaar's saved!
Walking a little further we came upon another cantina. It was a lot seedier than the one in the Upper City with gang members here, an area to pick up bounties, and what not. There was a showdown between some Vulkars here and a total badass of a hired gun named Nord Calo. The thugs were biting off way more than they could chew, and were promptly disposed of.

After this grizzly duel, we met a much more friendly pair: Mission, a Twi'lek girl and her Wookie friend, Zalbaar. They knew quite a bit about the Lower City since Mission grew up there. She was able to fill in a lot of the blanks, explaining why the gang war was happening and whatnot. By the sounds of things, the Lower City used to be a lot better, or at least not complete chaos. There was more of a balance between the gangs, but someone named Brejik left the Hidden Beks for the Vulkars, and started the gang war, as he was put off for not getting promoted to leader of the Beks. While the Vulkars were extremely violent, it sounds like the Beks were pretty okay on the whole. Mission and Zalbaar seemed not to mind them, and even hung out at their base from time to time. Zalbaar wasn't terribly talkative during all of this. He was mostly just hungry. After our chat, the two headed off.

Before leaving ourselves, Danik talked to a few more people, meeting a pair of Twi'leks along the way, a male and female. The man headed a dance troop and had come to audition the woman with him, but her partner unexpectedly split up with her. It was looking like she'd miss her chance at stardom if she didn't find a new dance partner soon, so Danik offered to fill in. He wasn't exactly a good dancer, but hopefully it would be enough to help with the audition. What followed was an awkward display of moves both because Danik wasn't a very good dancer, and we were dealing with game animations circa 2003, so we couldn't expect very much. Thankfully it was enough to satisfy the recruiter. So hurray for that! (And hurray for easy XP!)

At that point, we had a quick visit with Zak to see what kind of bounties were on offer. Some were shady looking, others not so much. I made a note of them, but am not sure whether we'll bother with them since some don't feel like they're totally on the up and up.

Zalbaar's a little sensitive about his appearance.
With that, it was time to press on and see what else we could learn in the Lower City. A short trip beyond the Cantina brought us to the entrance to the Beks base. The guard outside was a little standoff-ish at first, but eventually let us in. Here we met the group's leader, a man named Godan Thek. Seeing how rough a lot of the other Lower City gang members were, it was refreshing to see such a levelheaded, kind fellow down here. He was actually quite helpful in giving us information about the Republic escape pods, and had a good lead on what happened to Bastila.

She had been captured by the Vulkars and was being put up as the big prize for the upcoming swoop bike race in the Lower City. If we wanted to save her, the best way to do this would be by winning the race. At this point, it seemed like a good idea to work together with Godan. He wanted his team to win the race as it would help swing the balance of power back toward the Beks, however the Vulkars had stolen some important prototype engine parts from the Beks, which would make this impossible. Godan asked us to help him get these parts back, and in exchange his team would win the race and get back Bastila. It seemed like a good deal to us, so we accepted.

In order to sneak into the Vulkar base, though, we'd need some help, and the best people to give us a hand, according to Godan, were Mission and Zalbaar, since they loved exploring the Under City, and knew of a secret entrance into the base. They were already down in the Under City, so we'd just need to go down there and meet them. If we wanted to go there, though, we'd need the proper security papers to get past the Sith guard watching the elevator leading to it. Our disguise wouldn't work on him, but luckily Godan had the papers we needed and was willing to trade them to us for our Sith uniform. We agreed and it worked out pretty well since the papers were valid at other security checkpoints around Taris as well.

Sneakily planting a bomb to kill a rancor.
Heading to the elevator, we came across a particularly intimidating fellow named Canderous Ordo, a Mandalorian enforcer working for Davik Kang. We didn't talk long, but he exuded combat prowess and seemed like the sort one would be wise to give a wide berth.

When we arrived in the Under City, it was easy to see that this was truly a terrible place. People here lived in abject poverty, wearing rags, living in huts, and scavenging for scraps among the garbage that Taris threw down here. They also had to deal with creatures called rakghouls, carnivorous beasts that preyed on humans. Even worse, getting bit by one of these creatures would infect the person, causing them to eventually become a rakghoul his or herself. The people here didn't know too much about the escape pods but did give us a heads up that Mission and Zalbaar had been by recently.

We also met an old man who was like the village elder here, named Rulik. People wrote him off as a bit of an eccentric, but he thought Danik might be helpful in helping the people of the Under City find the Promised Land. He wasn't keen on sharing too much information, and asked us to find his apprentice outside of their settlement before he would share anymore information, which we did, as well as some other members of the shanty town when we entered the sewers. They were all dead, but they had useful information on them. Maps, documents, and so forth. These could be used to find the Promised Land, which was a self-sufficient sanctuary somewhere on the planet that could offer these people a better life. The whole village eventually sets off to find the place, but that's getting ahead of ourselves here.

After chatting with the people in the village, we stepped out, making our way for the sewers. That's where we'd need to go if we wanted to find Mission and Zalbaar. A short time after setting out, Mission came running up to us and she seemed to be in a bit of a pickle. While her and Zalbaar were exploring, they got jumped by a bunch of Gamorrean slavers. Mission managed to escape only because her wookie friend was able to hold the slavers off, but she wasn't about to abandon him, so asked Danik and Carth to help her save Zalbaar and in exchange she'd show them how to break into the Valkur base.

Raiding the Vulkar base.
Continuing toward the sewers, we came across both a Sith patrol and Canderous Ordo, both scouring the Under City in search of escape pods. Both encounters went quite smoothly. The Sith didn't make a fuss once we should them our security papers and Canderous was fine having a quick chat after we helped his team fend off some attacking rakghouls. A little further on we found another Sith patrol, but they were all dead. Looting their bodies, we found some useful items, not the least of which being a serum that could counteract the rakghoul disease that turned humans into those terrible beasts. We wound up giving it to a doctor in the Upper City who wanted to mass produce a vaccine for everyone so he could help. It seemed like the right thing to do, especially since we're trying to play the game on the light side.

Now it was time to enter the sewers. The place was teeming with Gamorrean slavers and rakghouls. Most of them were pretty easy to defeat, so it made for a good opportunity to get some XP and loot. Eventually we came to where Zalbaar was being held and freed him. The wookie was so happy that he swore a life debt to Danik to express his gratitude. So, basically, Zalbaar and Danik are BFFs now.

Since we held up our end of the bargain, Mission now agreed to show us how to get into the Valkur base. There was an entrance in the sewers. The only thing that may make getting in a little tricky was the fact that there was a rancor near the door. Just before we reached the rancor room, we found a severed arm laying rather ominously before the door. In it we found three devices used for giving off a strong scent, and then inside the actual room there was a big pile of bones, presumably the remains of people that the rancor had previously been snacking on.

This got me thinking. Maybe those doo-hickies that give off the smell could be used to attract the rancor. Perhaps toss them in the pile of bones or something. It would probably be best to put a mine or grenade in there as well. If we could trick the beast into eating the thing, it would probably be killed by the explosion, making for a far better way of dealing with it than going for a head-on attack. So, I had Danik go into stealth mode and plant the goodies, and the rancor went for it.

The Vulkar swoop bike hangar.
Big, scary monster out of the way, we were able to enter the Valkur base, and it was big. There were quite a few sentry droids roaming about, and entering the place's various rooms, we came across the occasional gang member. Generally, these guys weren't much trouble for our group of three. There were a few who were equipped with energy force fields, so they tended to take a little bit longer to kill, although we did eventually find a disruptor rifle for Mission that largely renders the technology useless.

We needed to hack into a few computers to make our trip through the base a bit easier, using it to blow up a terminal in the barracks, killing a bunch of Valkurs, as well as to disable the automated turrets guarding the elevator to the garage. The latter probably wasn't necessary, as we found a security pass while exploring some of the rooms, but live and learn I suppose.

When we reached the lower level of the base, there were quite a few more guards there, but they were no match for a wookie and a pair of scoundrels. Most of them were mowed down pretty quickly. One thing that surprised me was that I tried having Mission lay a couple of mines in the path of one of the patrols in the garage, and while they took damage, they didn't really change their behavior despite having just stepped on a mine. Weird. There was also one very tough sentry droid we had to deal with. It was guarding an area of the garage with some footlockers filled with valuables. Just to get into this room we needed to reprogram a different robot so that it would run into the door kamikaze style. The droid guarding the room had very strong defense and a blaster that could freeze people, which was a big pain in the butt. We pretty much had to toss several grenades at the thing in order to beat it.

Finally we came to the room with the swoop bike part we needed to get for Gadon. Some Valkur higher ups were there, and for a moment they tried to make Danik change sides, and betray the Beks, but we weren't having that, so a fight broke out. Thanks once again to some liberal use of grenades we were able to pull off a quick win. With the base having been turned into more of a tomb since our coming, we grabbed the bike part, and headed back to the Beks base, through the front door, like bosses.

Brejik is a sore loser.
Gadon was happy to see us back, and got his mechanic to install the part right away. It was only a day until the swoop race, so there wasn't a moment to lose. Oddly, Gadon wanted Danik to pilot the bike. At first it seemed an strange request given that Danik had no experience using such a machine. Why not get an experienced pilot? Well, because the engine on the bike was unstable and there was the risk of it exploding. Yikes! The way Gadon looked at it, the bike was still a beast, and had a good chance of winning the competition, but if it did go boom he had other Beks in the race with a decent chance of winning so this approach would increase the chances of a Beks win, improving his gang's reputation, and freeing Bastila.

With that, all there was to do was to get some shut eye and head to the race in the morning. Arriving at the track, we met the Beks' mechanic who gave us the low down on the bike and a bit of a pep talk. After that, we talked with the guy overseeing the race and started to do our heats. The winner of the competition would be the person who posted the fasted time, with each person racing individually. We could see Bastila in a cage over to the side, seemingly unconscious, which was all the incentive we needed to get a move on and win.

It only took a couple of tries to nail a really good time, and guarantee victory for the Beks. However, when it came time to collect our prize Brejik turned up and threw a fit saying he wasn't going to free Bastila anymore, and he planned to beat Danik into a pulp. At that moment, Bastila came to. She was just pretending to be unconscious, biding her time. Her and Danik then proceeded to mop the floor with the Vulkars, Basilla taking care of the henchmen while Danik blasted up Brejik.

I don't like Bastila. She can stay in the hideout and play commander
while the rest of us actually get stuff done.
When the dust settled, I had Danik talk with Bastila and I almost regret bothering to save her in the first place. Her attitude was terrible. She thinks she's the only one whose right, gives everyone crap, and just comes off as arrogant. Jedi or no, I'd just assume leave her to the slavers. Things didn't get any better when we returned to the hideout either, as her and Carth started arguing. She's trying to call the shots, but I'll just do as I please anyway while giving her lip service.

Bastila can stay in the base, too. I'm perfectly happy to continue on with Zalbaar and Mission. They're both doing a very good job, and their banter when we stop for a chat is great. It's easy to see that the two have been friends for years. I'll take them any day over this annoying Jedi.

And that's where things stand now. Bastila has been saved, so the only thing left to do is figure out a way off Taris. With the Sith blockade, that won't be easy. & We'll need to find a fast ship to punch through and get away before their own fleet can catch up. Hopefully, by the next time we meet, I'll have that sorted out.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Now Playing: Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic (PC)

KOTOR Box Art
I've never gotten around to finishing this
game.  Time to fix that.
For the next RPG to do a playthrough of, I wanted to shift to the West. So far, I've done both The Last Remnant and Shin Megami Tensei IV, which are JRPGs. Now, I felt it was time to move to the other end of the spectrum with a WRPG. Browsing through my collection, it was a difficult choice, as there are just so many great games to pick from. Ultimately, I decided on one that many consider to be the best of the bunch: Bioware's Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic.

I'd picked this up at a Steam sale years ago, played a good seven hours into the game, only to abandon it after. I'm not even sure why I did that. I suspect something shiny distracted me. So, now that I'm making a concerted effort to put a dent in my backlog, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to revisit KotOR and actually try to finish it.

Firing up the game, the first thing I had to do was make a character. I opted for a dual pistol wielding scoundrel who will be leaning hard toward the light side of the Force. Han Solo is one of my favorite characters from the movie, so I wanted to make someone vaguely cut from the same cloth, though my guy, who I've named Danik Kaar by the way (Go, go name randomizer!), will be a bit more of a goody two shoes.

It took a little while to sort out how I wanted to distribute my stats, which I enjoyed seeing as we live in an age where such things seem to be increasingly rare in RPGs. The nice thing is that it's pretty straightforward what stats are relevant to which abilities, so I didn't find myself getting confused on the character creation screen. Mostly, I dumped a good number of points into dexterity, since that's a must for going hog wild with blasters. I did the same on wisdom since it's important for using the Force, which I plan to do quite a bit later in the game. A good number of points also went into charisma because I wanted to be able to have a decent chance of persuasion during conversations. After that, it was largely a matter of bumping the remaining stats to 10 so that my character wouldn't incur penalties in those areas. The only stat I complete ignored was strength, as it didn't strike me as being useful enough to spend points on given the sort of character that I was gunning for.

Sorting out what skills to go with took a little bit more hemming and hawing on my part. I definitely wanted Persuade here to further improve this during conversations, so I maxed that out. Then, I also topped up Treat Injury because maximizing the effectiveness of medpacs seemed like a good idea. After that, I put a few points into Awareness and Repairs.

Waking on board the Endar Spire
Nothing wakes ya up in the morning
like a battle raging outside.
Finally, there was the matter of selecting feats. There were a few that Danik was given automatically, but I still had enough points to unlock one more, so I went with Two Weapon Fighting in order to cancel out some of the penalty that you get from dual wielding. Down the line I'll probably also go for Implants and Rapid Shot as well, since they seem like they could be useful. After choosing my feat, it was time to start the game.

KotOR starts by dumping the player right into the action. They wake up on their ship, the Endar Spire, a Republic vessel that has come under attack by the Sith. Players are just a low ranking member of the crew. Danik was awoken in his quarters by all of the commotion where he met Trask, another member of the crew. The ship was being overwhelmed by the Sith and the two of them would need to team up and take a look around, hopefully finding away to repel the enemy force.

This whole section of the game is basically a tutorial, more so explaining the battles, inventory systems, all of the menus, and what not. As we made our way through the ship, things weren't looking good. The Republic soldiers were slowly being driven back, Sith troops were everywhere, there were explosions as the sound of fighting and blaster fire could be heard all around. All the while, repair droids scrambled here and there, trying their best to contain the damage, though it was obvious that they wouldn't be able to keep up.

There must have been something or someone very important on the Endar Spire given the sheer number of Sith troopers that had boarded the ship. There were even Dark Jedi roaming the corridors, so no expense was being spared in searching their quarry. Eventually, Danik and Trask made their way to the bridge, but all they found there were a few Sith. The Republic had already evacuated the area, making their way to the escape pods.

Trask and Danik continued to the next room where they found another Dark Jedi. For some reason, Trask decided to take the guy on in order to buy Danik some time. It seemed a silly idea, as a regular Republic soldier like Trask obviously had no chance here, but fight the Jedi he did, and with that I took Danik down one of the other passages.

Jedi Fight
If Jedi duels don't get you psyched
for a Star Wars game, I don't know
what will.
There were a number of Sith troops that had to be dealt with along the way, and it was fun fighting them. Like many of Bioware's RPGs, KotOR has a pauseable real time battle system where players can freeze the action, select their characters, and tell them what to do, then unpause and let things happen. Mostly, I just had Danik blast away with his guns, and it was nice to see that he didn't miss too terribly often, killing the Sith in reasonably short order. There was one instance where it made more sense to just lob a grenade at a large group of these guys, taking them all out at once, which was quite satisfying.

Eventually I came to one room that, before proceeding, Danik was contacted by Carth Onasi, another Republic soldier elsewhere on the ship who initially ordered Danik and Trask to the bridge. He was now by the escape pods, helping with the evacuation of the ship since it was obvious that the Sith were going to win this battle. He was monitoring the situation on the vessel, and could see that there were a number of troops in the room adjacent to Danik. Charging in there would be disastrous. Carth recommended either hacking into the computers, and causing the systems in the occupied room to overload, creating an explosion that would take out the Sith, or repairing a nearby battle droid who could enter the room and deal with them. I opted for overloading the computers, consequently blowing up five Sith in one shot. Good times.

Continuing on, Danik finally made his way to the escape pods where he met Carth. They were the only Republic members still on the Endar Spire and it was time to high tail it out of there, so they both hopped in the last pod and left. Somewhere along the way, Danik must have passed out because suddenly he was having a vision of a couple of Jedi fighting one another.

He didn't have much time to dwell on that, though, since Carth was busy trying to wake him up. The two of them were in a rundown, old apartment, or at least old and rundown by the standards of a highly advanced, star faring civilization. Their escape pod had landed on a nearby planet, Taris. Danik had lost consciousness on impact, so Carth had to drag him out of the thing and find a place where they could lay low for a while. So here they were in this apartment, which would serve as their hideout as they gathered intel and figured out their next step.

Blasting Sith Troopers
The whole escape from the Endar Spire was constant, blast everyone
to bits fun. =)
According to Carth, the most important order of business would be finding someone named Bastilla. She was a powerful Jedi on board the Endar Spire, and the person that the Sith were after. Apparently she has the ability to manipulate the Force such that it inspires soldiers fighting for her while burying her enemies in doubt, causing them to give up in battle. It was very useful, and causing a lot of problems for the Sith, so they wanted to hunt her down. She too had escaped to Taris, and was somewhere on the planet. Carth had no idea where she might be, but given her importance, finding the Jedi was number one on the to-do list for the pair.

I also thought it wise to get a general idea for the goings on in the area so that we could get a better idea of the mood on Taris. So, while finding Bastilla is our top priority, I think it makes a lot of sense to broaden our detective work. It's probably not going to be all that easy to find a fugitive Jedi on this big 'ol planet, and we may need to get on the locals' good side if we want their aid. Finding out if they may need some help solving problems in the area seems like a good way of leveraging their assistance should the need arise, and that's what I plan to do next.  Until then! ^_^

Good News! Tokyo is Saved! Shin Megami Tensei IV Finished!

Hunter Nozomi
One of the few side quests I needed to complete involved
helping Nozomi once more.
Well, that didn't take very long. Here I was wondering how much longer I'd be plugging away on side quests in order to fill the Chalice of Hope for Masakado, and not only did I get all of that sorted out, but I also steam rolled through the rest of the game. I think that when the finish line started to come into sight I just broke into a sprint and decided to finish the game.

There actually weren't very many quests left that I had to do. The only one from the Hunter's Association that I needed to get sorted out was one where we had to help Nozomi protect some fairies. They were trying to bring their queen back into the world, and Nozomi had the ability to do it via her demon summoning program, but we needed to protect her while she went about that. It was an easy fight and after it was over, Nozomi was able to summon the demon in question. However, the creature had new responsibilities that she could not abandon, so asked Nozomi to become the fairies' new queen. It was an important task, and I had Flynn encourage her to give it a shot, after which Nozomi accepted the job.

That out of the way, there wasn't any other quests coming up at the bar, and Flynn was still number two in the rankings, so I got to wandering around, checking if I missed any one-off quests somewhere along the line. I'd met a hunter once outside Shinjuku who asked Flynn to take some pictures in Ikebukuro as a quest, so I wondered if there might be any more like that I had missed.

Sure enough, there was. After checking around all of the major inhabited areas of Tokyo, I came across one girl in the Shinjuku train station that asked Flynn to take a couple of pictures of the Counter Demon Force base in Kasumigaseki. There was also a women in the area just prior to the main city part of Ginza who wanted a picture of a specific store in the area of Ginza that requires a platinum card for access. These were very easy to do, so I got them out of the way real quick and decided to check the leader board at the bar in Shinjuku once more. Finally, Flynn had achieved first place. Everyone there congratulated him on a job well done.

When Flynn headed out, he was quickly mobbed by adoring fans. The stories of his exploits were getting around and people felt that they had a hero they could believe in. It was at that moment that the Chalice of Hope filled up a bit. This got me thinking that I should take Flynn to all of the cities to see if we could get the thing totally full. It was a good assumption to make, as the same scene repeated itself several times. At Ueno, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro, Flynn and Isabeau were greeted by the locals, all excited to see the hero, and cheer him on, thanking him for all of the help he'd given so far. The two places where no one showed up were Ginza and Tennozu, which was understandable given one was the former stronghold of the Ring of Gaea, now rudderless after the death of Lilith, and the other an isolated city with no knowledge of the Hunter's Association.

Archangel Seraph
Seraph had an interesting, color-coded
fight mechanic.
So, filled chalice in hand, it was time to go see Masakado again. When we met him, the deity happily took the contents of the cup and consumed it, partially restoring his strength. Unfortunately, it still wasn't enough to remove the dome over Tokyo. He would still need to become stronger and the only way to do this would be to first march on Mikado. There we would have to destroy God's Chariot, which stored the Spirit of Goodwill. Next we'd have to head to the demon stronghold in Tokyo and kill Lucifer in order to get the Spirit of Spite. Masakado would need to eat these as well in order to return fully to his former self and remove the dome. However, he was now strong enough to join Flynn's party and help fight.

Masakado made a decent addition and I tended to keep him in the front as he's not weak against any sorts of attacks and has some decent almighty and gun abilities. He's also necessary to bring down the barrier in Naraku blocking the way to Mikado, as well as the barrier that keeps anyone from getting into Camp Ichigaya.

Partially restored guardian deity in tow, the first place we headed to was Mikado so we could claim the Spirit of Goodwill. However, when we brought down the barrier in Naraku what we found was not the network of caves that we were expecting. Instead we were transported to a place called Purgatorium, which was like being sent to a different, very surreal dimension.

The place was divided into several floors, each with paths that only formed in front of Flynn as he moved. There were several areas with multiple warp zones that took a little while to figure out. All the while we fought through legions of angels, all quite intent on keeping the filthy humans away from their chariot. It was actually tough to see them sometimes because they're almost the same color as the environment, so on several occasions I found myself getting ambushed. There were also mini boss fights along the way, fighting particularly strong angels and archangels, but this was just a matter of figuring out their weaknesses and exploiting them, as per usual in the game (though Seraph had a neat fight with a color coded barrier).

When we finally got to the end of the dungeon, we found the Chariot, though it was more like a very powerful archangel. It was called Merkabah, and, as it turned out, Jonathan had fused with it so that it could come into existence in this world. He had made a choice too when encountering the White, opting to align with the forces of order, and this was the result of that decision. His body was now a vessel for Merkabah.

Merkabah, God's Chariot
Merkabah is pretty tough. Get ready to
cast Debilitate a lot.
After a brief chat, the fight was on, and this was a tough battle. In terms of strategy, I found it was kind of similar to how I dealt with Beelzebub. Merkabah had no weaknesses, so we weren't going to be getting many extra turns outside of from landing critical blows. So the offensive side of things would be a bit of a slog as my team wore him down. That was simple enough, as the real challenge came from mounting a defense. The angel hits quite hard and likes to use almighty attacks, so in order to mitigate this we needed to bring down his stats as much as possible with Debilitate. This helped a lot in containing his offensive output. On top of this, I made a point of using Makarakarn to reflect the occasional lightning spell he would cast since my Rangda was weak against it. This wound up adding to the damage we were dumping on Merkabah, which was nice. Of course, there were also pauses for chit chat, and depending on the answers one chose Flynn would either get a boost or a penalty.

In the end, it was a long, hard fought battle, but we finally beat Merkabah. Before disappearing, he acknowledged that Flynn had won the day but said that one day the angels would be back, as there would eventually be humans who could not live without the beings and would begin praying to them.

Chariot defeated, we entered Mikado and were able to claim the Spirit of Goodwill. At this point, Isabeau left the party as she wanted to warn everyone that soon Masakado would be removing the dome from Tokyo, and Mikado would be destroyed in the process, so she headed off to arrange the evacuation of the kingdom to Tokyo with the help of Hope and Hugo.

Now all that was left was to defeat Lucifer and get the Spirit of Spite. This required us to return once more to Camp Ichigaya, where the Yamato Reactor had opened a rift to the Expanse, allowing the demon armies to pour into Tokyo. Just like in Naraku, there was a barrier here, and again Masakado brought it down.

General Lucifuge
Lucifuge, one of Lucifer's generals.
Confusing name choices, ahoy!
Going through this portal brought us to another unusual realm. This time it was an opulent palace with marble, pillars, chandeliers, and the like. There wasn't a winding maze before us this time. Instead there were just doors situated in certain areas of the room that would take Flynn to other rooms that looked almost identical save for a different layout of treasure chests in them. It was actually a very confusing place to get around and took a good deal of trial and error, as well as luck, to navigate.

In time, we came across Lucifer's generals that were defending the place and defeated them, which caused a pillar of light to appear in the main hall. Walking into it transported Flynn to another area of the palace that was far easier to get around. Along the way we also found the last of the teleporation terminals in Tokyo and were able to complete the quest to find and activate all ten of them, which was nice.

After exploring the palace a bit more, we finally came upon the room where Lucifer was waiting for Flynn. Just as Jonathan had thrown his lot in with the angels, we found Walter here, who was supporting the demons, and like Jonathan, Walter was willing to give up his body to help his side. In this case, Walter gave his body to Lucifer. So, sad chat out of the way it was time for another epic showdown.

Just like our fight with Merkabah, Debilitate played a heavy role here. We also needed to use quite a bit of Makarakarn to reflect some of Lucifer's spells back at him. This fight we were able to do in one go, but it did take a while since we needed to burn through so many hit points, but in the end we emerged victorious and helped ourselves to the Spirit of Spite. Also, just like when Merkabah was defeated, Lucifer warned that one day the demons would be back. Gotta keep the door open for those sequels after all!

Anyway, final big boss out of the way, it was time to head to the cafe in Shinjuku, and meet up with Isabeau as we'd agreed before parting ways in Mikado.  When Flynn arrived, everyone was there.  Hope was waiting outside, and greeted Flynn.  Inside, Fujiwara, Skins, Huge, K, and Isabeau were all there chatting.

Hugo seemed pretty excited to be in Tokyo since there were so many relics for him to learn about. He was particularly eager to learn all about wine, and Fujiwara offered to share a bottle with him sometime. Everyone was in a festive mood, with both the angels and demons defeated. K was getting food ready, and was happy to be in Tokyo despite Mikado's legends of it being a terrible place. He mentioned that it almost felt like he'd been to the city before. This got me thinking that maybe 25 years ago when angels took some humans from Tokyo to what would become Mikado, the adults had their memories altered so that they thought their kingdom was ancient when it actually wasn't. It would help explain the timeline issues I was having with the game.

Lucifer the demon lord
I found Lucifer's
design to be kind of
creepy.
With that, Isabeau joined up with Flynn once more and the two went to meet up with Masakado to give him the Spirits of Goodwill and Spite. When the deity appeared he congratulated them on a job well done and ate the spirits. Finally, he was restored to his former self, transforming into an absolutely massive figure. He was now big enough to remove the bedrock dome over Tokyo. At first it crumbled slowly, large pieces of stone falling from the sky. Finally, the dome was gone, and for the first time in a quarter of a century the sun shone on Tokyo again.

At that moment, Flynn was teleported to a beach with a table and chairs there. In front of him was a small girl who transformed into a woman. It was the Goddess of Tokyo. She too was now restored, and very grateful to Flynn for all he had done. And with that, the game was finished.

On the whole, I very much enjoyed this game. It's the first Shin Megami Tensei game that I've managed to finish. Usually I'm not into monster breeding games, never having gotten into stuff like Pokemon, but this one was fun. Maybe it was the art direction? Battles were fun, with a nice bit of learning, trying to figure out what worked, especially on bosses like Beelzebub, Lucifer, and Merkabah. Several of the dungeons were nicely designed and felt like proper buildings to be explored, not just a random network of winding paths. About the only thing I didn't enjoy about SMT IV was when I was doing low level side quests to complete the neutral path. Those were a bit of a drag because of the lack of challenge, being so much stronger than the demons we encountered then. On the whole, though, I had a lot of fun. Shin Megami Tensei IV is certainly one of the better RPGs to come out in recent years that I've played, and I'd highly recommend it to any fan of the genre that has a 3DS.