Tales of the Jedi – Review

This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 6th February 2016.

Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi is a comic series that was published by Dark Horse from 1993 to 1998 with a total of 35 issues. This was only two years after the Thrawn Series by Timothy Zahn had kickstarted the Expanded Universe as we know it now, placing it pretty early in the history of Star Wars tales. The series was created by Tom Veitch, who had written the Dark Empire comic series a year earlier (which I consider the greatest travisty of the Star Wars universe after the Holiday Special), but he was joined by Kevin Anderson in 1994, who had just released his Jedi Academy novel series (which also has a pretty poor reputation among fans) and became the sole writer for the series a year later.

The Tales of the Jedi are set 4,000 years before the movies, in a time when the Republic was still smaller, the galaxy less explored, and the Jedi much more numerous. The first three story arcs, written by Veitch, (and giving us the now popular title “Knights of the Old Republic”) follow the adventures of the young Jedi Ulic Qel-Droma and his brother Cay and their fellow knight Tott Doneeta, who are send to the planet Onderon to help the government of the capital city end a war with the tribes living in the surounding jungles. They discover the spirit of the Dark Jedi Freedon Nadd manipulating the events on the planet, facing the three Jedi with a much bigger threat than they anticipated. As the crisis escalates, Ulic’s path crosses with the newly trained Jedi Nomi Sunrider, who has an exceptional talent for the Battle Meditation technique, which allows a single Jedi to coordinate the efforts of an entire army and making her extremely valuable.

Once Kevin Anderson joined as second writer, he introduces Exar Kun, a character from his Jedi Academy novels, whose spirit is trying to turn Luke’s Jedi students on Yavin 4 to the Dark Side. Exar Kun is unhappy with his master not trusting him to learn about the dangerous powers of the Dark Side and so sets out to learn more about them on his own. A path that very much mirrors that of Anakin Skywalker in the movies that were made a few years later. Exar Kun gets corrupted by the still not fully destroyed spirit of Freedon Nadd who leads him to the ancient Sith tombs of Korriban, where he once more unearthes the ancient secrets of the Sith. At the same time Ulic Qel-Droma is trying to infiltrate the leadership of a new Sith cult called the Krath who also have been guided by Freedon Nadd and establishing their own galactic power by allying with the Mandalorians and become a major threat to the Republic. Halfway through the arc, after the Dark Lords of the Sith series, Veitch left as a writer, leaving the field entirely to Anderson with the Sith War series.

A third main arc is set a thousand years earlier and centers on the first clash between the Republic and the Sith Empire under the leadership of Naga Sadow, who uses trickery and conspiracy to first destroy his rivals for control over the empire in The Golden Age of the Sith and then sets his eyes on the Republic in The Fall of the Sith Empire. A final, much shoter arc called Redeption, is set some years after The Sith War, but is mostly a personal story of Nomi Sunrider’s daughter Vima and doesn’t really add much to the historic lore of the Old Republic.

The setting of these comics would later return on the Knights of the Old Republic videogames, which right after the release of the second game got another comic series also, and confusingly, called Knights of the Old Republic. I was interested in those comics and had read the Jedi Academy novels at some point in the late 90s, so I decided to start at the very begining with the Tales of the Jedi series to know more about those references to Exar Kun, Ulic Qel-Droma, and Naga Sadow. When I first read them some three or four years ago, I quite enjoyed them. But having read them again over the last two weeks, my opinion of the series is now very different.

The first arc, written by Veitch, is really pretty bad. The art is very sloppy and ugly, characters are as flat as it can get, and what little traces of a plot there are are almost entirely told by exposition in boxes with the characters not really contributing anything with their own words. The second arc, begun by Veitch and Anderson, is a noticable improvement in that the art now looks only bad and that the plot consists of exposition in speech bubbles instead of boxes. It’s still a bad comic, though. The third arc, now done completely by Anderson alone, first starts surprisingly well with Golden Age of the Sith. The art has now been upgraded to simply ugly, though servicable, and there’s actual plot and Naga Sadow has some real personality as we follow him taking out his rivals and becoming new Dark Lord of the Sith. Sadly that didn’t last and The Fall of the Sith Empire is right back to being a jumbled mess of exposition. The short Redemption at the very end is okay, I guess. I still don’t think it’s any good or very interesting.

So yeah. My final impression of the Tales of the Jedi series is that it’s bad! There are noticable improvements over time, but those are simply from “godawful” to “only bad”. The only reason why I would recommend to anyone to read any of these comics, would be a great interest in the lore of the early days of the Star Wars universe. But even then I would say that only The Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire are worth it. If you really want to know about Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun, then you’re much better of at just reading the page on Wookiepedia. There is so little plot and characterization in Veitch’s comics that you really are not missing out anything. It probably is much more exciting to read a detailed summary than to shovel your way through that pile of dung yourself.

Battlefront 4 Campaign Trailer

When Battlefront 3 had been announced I was quite interested in it. I am not much of an online shoter player, only having played Counter Strike, Jedi Outcast, Quake 3 to any real extend and a bit of Battlefield 1942, and those were all obviously a long time ago. Battlefront 3 seemed like a good opportunity to give it another try, but reviews and popular opinion of that game were just so poor that I skipped it. Though it’s certainly a very pretty looking game. The best looking one I’ve ever seen.

So I am quite looking forwards to Battlefront 4. If they manage to fix their mistakes from the last game, it looks like something I’d want to play.

I just found out that this game will also have a campaign. I’m not expecting much of it (though I do really like the campaign in Bad Company) but it certainly looks like an interesting idea for a story.

The hero is a female imperial special forces commander who is send to Endor to put an end to that ridiculous Ewok problem at the shield generator when suddenly everything goes to hell. The Emperor dead, the Death Star destroyed, Vader dead, Piett dead, and the Executor gone. That’s the moment when things start not looking good anymore for the Empire. This could be an interesting setup for a story.

I wouldn’t expect too much from it, though. It might very well be only four hours long and most likely she’s going to join the Rebels halfway through. Which is in fact the main topic everyone is complaining about in the comments. When was the last time that you actually played a genuine Imperial character in a game? As far as I know that was Tie Fighter in 1994, which I believe was also the only time. If they can manage to make a halfway decent Bad Guy campaign it would certainly be welcome.

Another thing to point out is that the protagonist is a mid-30s brown woman. When did you ever see that in a mainstream action game before? But at the same time, this is 2017! Why is this still something worth mentioning? That you can praise a company for doing this is really an embarrasment for everyone else. When was the last time we got a non-fantasy action game with a female hero? The only ones I can think of are Metroid and Tomb Raider. Which started over 20 years ago! Seriously? The early 90s were less conservative than we are now? What a shame. I hope we’ll be seing some more of this before the end of the decade

Moderately hyped

This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 28th May 2017.

I’m not really keeping up with video game news these days and the last time I heard about Star Wars games was when LucasArts became defunct and Battlefront 3 ended up being a gorgeously looking disappointment.

But this week I became aware that there appear to be new Star Wars games in development, which to the rest of the world has already been known for a year. After having sat throught the last two movies besides my better judgement I made the descision to banish pretty much everything post 1999 from my headcanon (except for Jedi Knight games and KotOR) and didn’t really have any hopes of anything new coming out that I would care for. But the details about one particular game in production did get a curious raise of an eyebrow.

The game is being made by Visceral Games, who made Dead Space (“interesting”), with the team being led by Amy Henning who was also in charge of Legacy of Kain and Uncharted (“nice”). And it’s being set some time before the first movie, putting it straight into the Classic Star Wars period (“oh, sweet!”).

This could end up being not terrible and worth playing.

However, rumor has it that it’s going to be an open-world game and I absolutely hate those. Though that’s not actually true. What I hate are sandbox games where you do nothing but lame fetch quests and collecting crafting materials with some lame story tacked on that gets swamped by the busywork. It seriously harmed The Witcher 3 and was the main reason I never even bothered with Dragon Age 3 and Mass Effect Andromeda. However, even with an open-world, The Witcher 3 has a great story with actual nice characters very much unlike a Bethesda snorefest and Baldur’s Gate, Gothic, and Stalker are actually all open-world games as well. They just aren’t shitty sandboxes in which “you can do everything you want”, except for playing a good story. So I am not writing this one off as pointless junk yet. The ability to roam in two dimension instead of just one is not at all an inherently bad game element in itself. The Witcher 3 actually used it really well, except that the world was way too big and the density of meaningful content much too low. When this game is out, I’m probably going to at least read some reviews to see what people think about it.

Two decades ago, on a tiny TV in a city not far away

This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 4th May 2017.

It’s May the Fourth, and not just any 4. May. 40 years ago, in May 1977, Star Wars was first released in theatres. The public had not seen it yet, but it already existed and the hype was already on.

For me, it’s also my 22nd May the Fourth. As far as I am able to piece it together, it was some time in spring 1995, around my 11th birthday, when I had just moved to a new city and went to Hamburg to visit a friend from my old class for a weekend. I remember quite well how my dad dropped my off at the train station where I got picked up by my friend and his mother. But before we drove to his home, we still had to go to the department store across the street because my friend wanted to buy a toy. It was a pretty weird looking toy and in the car I asked my friend what it was. His reaction was pretty much “Dude, you’ve never heard about Star Wars?!”

From what he told me it sounded quite interesting and once we got home he went to show me his collection of Star Wars toys. All the times I had been to his place before after school we mostly played Super Nintendo. And all those little weird figures looked really cool and we ended up playing with them the whole afternoon. And eventually he asked his mom if we could watch Star Wars on video in the evening. Which we did!

I can still quite well remember the room with the small TV that probably wasn’t bigger than 15″. I think I was quite excited by that point and from the moment that Star Destroyer thundered on the screen nothing would ever be the same. I was hooked. Instantly. I’ve known fairy tales and The Hobbit all my life and I can’t even remember a time when we didn’t watch Star Trek practically every day. But this was something completely different. It was simply awesome. In every sense of the word. When it was over I was thrilled and so we just went on watching The Empire Strikes Back right after it. I don’t think we asked if we were allowed to watch videos that late. The next morning we watched The Return of the Jedi and the rest of saturday and sunday morning was all Star Wars.

That same year I finished elementary school and in my next new class I made a new friend who also loved Star Wars. And his dad had a computer but was at work during the day. And on that computer we played X-Wing. A lot! I think for months we spend at least one afternoon after school per week at his place and a lot of that was playing X-Wing. When we got out own first computer, X-Wing was the first game I had to get. And then Tie Fighter.

And then came 1997. Star Wars was rereleased in cinemas. Of course we had to go. My dad thought it was okay. My mother quite liked it. And my brother was just as blown away by it as I was. Then we got it on video as well. And here I am, still gushing about it 20 years later. I can safely say that Star Wars changed my life. I liked Star Trek before and fantastical childrens books, but seeing Star Wars on that little crappy TV on the floor opened up a whole new world for me and came to define my imagination and passions. I am as much a fan of Star wars as one can possibly get before it becomes embarassing. To this day The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie ever and all creative work I do is filtered through that movie. This website exist because of it. All because of that little blue and white plastic trash can.

Noooooooooo!

My Xbox 360 died, that old fosil. Just when I was fighting through the two droids that guard the first star map on Dantooine while playing Knights of the Old Republic.

It took me 15 hours to get to this point, right when the not so great prolog ends and the fun main part of the game begins.

I got a replacement very cheaply on ebay, which arrived after just two days, but recovering any data from that hard drive would require buying new cables (which I had but threw away a few months back because I never used them in the decade I had them) and that’s just not worth the trouble. So back from the beginning. Again.