Hyperspace Beacon: Going to war with SWTOR’s new Mandalore

Do I have to turn in my Star Wars fanboy card if I admit that I don’t like Mandalorians? It’s not that I think that they are poorly written. Karen Travis’ book sales should be an indication that she did something right. I guess I find the honor and the whole warrior culture trope tired. Battle for the sake of battle doesn’t really interest me.

Knowing how I feel about Mandalorians and that whole culture does that mean that if I found the 14th Knights of the Fallen Empire chapter just OK, then for the Mandalorian fan, it will be amazing? That’s probably a big issue that these episodic updates to Star Wars: The Old Republic have run into. They might include some great chapters that people who are not fans of the base source material will find just average or horrible.

Having just finished playing through the content of this latest SWTOR update, I’d say the material is still fresh on my mind. So let me tell you what I liked and didn’t like, then you can tell me in the comments whether you thought it was any good — or not.

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Straightforward storytelling

In my analysis of the 13th chapter, I mentioned that there seemed to be an odd break in the story, and though I thought that Profit and Plunder was a great chapter, it felt like an interruption in the story over all. However, Mandalore’s Revenge actually merged seamlessly with the primary plot of the expansion. This might be due to Charles Boyd’s love of the Mandalorians (more on that in a bit). He crafted the introduction of the characters and former Bounty Hunter companion Torian to blend logically with the primary arc of accessing the GEMINI frequency.

The GEMINI prime droid just so happened to be on Darvannis, one of the first worlds to be conquered by the Eternal Empire. This also happens to be the planet where the Mandalorians were staging an offensive and had been for the last five years. It’s a convenient plot point, but it allowed Shae Vizla and Torian to join the Outlander’s alliance without much shoehorning.

On top of that, the story was also very easy to follow: take down the defenses, celebrate victory, infiltrate the base, then bring back the droid. Much like Mandalorian battle tactics, it was cut-and-dried, showing no mercy. However, I like my stories to have a bit more personality. Where was the twist? Where was the character growth? Where was the tough decision?

On top of that, the characters themselves were just different levels of badass. I am not impressed with blasters or fists. The character were different. Shae was commander badass, Torian was loyal badass, and Fett was contrary badass. But at the end of the story, we saw no growth in those characters at all. There were interesting moments, like when Shae opened up a bit about her struggles as a leader, but they came up short when compared to the struggles of the Outlander. In the end, nothing changed.

Perhaps those embedded in Mandalorian culture saw some great nuance, but for me, it was just a transition chapter, setting us up for something greater.

The music

Anyone who has played the Republic Commando game will recognize the music SWTOR used to introduce the Mandalorian commandos when you first land on Darvannis. It’s Jesse Harlin’s Vode An, which has become the quintessential Mandalorian theme song. As I mentioned, I’m not even a Mandalorian fan, but there is a familiarity and passion in that music that stirs something even in me.

From the sound of it, at least three Republic Commando songs were used as the background track for Chapter 14: Vode An, Ka’rta Tor, and Dha Werda Verda. There might have been others, but I missed them.

It’s possible that people could be upset that BioWare didn’t use brand-new music for this segment of the game. And when compared to the rest of the expansion, this music was jarring. However, I believe that just taking the time to get permission to use theses songs was good enough for me.


Care for the culture

I mentioned that Charles Boyd likes the Mandalorians. He said as much in the last producer livestream. And it’s clear that he does care because there was a lot of injections of Mandalorian culture in every scene of this latest chapter.

The big ones revolve around some choices that you have to make. For instance, Mandalorians don’t look at death the same way that most western cultures look at death. Many Mandalorians believe that going out in a blaze of glory against a massive foe is better than dying quietly in bed. And it shouldn’t be a shock to say that the hunt is a huge motivation for Mandalorians. These sweeping cultural references obviously permeate this piece.

Boyd also included more subtle aspects of the Mandalorian culture, in particular the Resol’nare. For those not familiar, the Resol’nare were the six tenets of Mandalorian culture: wear armor, speak the language, defend oneself and family, raise your children as Mandalorians, contribute to the clan’s welfare, and when called upon by the Mandalore, rally to the cause. Every Mandalorian wears armor. The characters mix Basic (English) and Mando’a constantly. All members of a clan had a single job, defending each other and working for one purpose. And Mandalore called them to Darvannis and all the clans worked together under her leadership.

I would have liked to know a bit more about what happened to the Mandalorians during the time that my character was frozen for five years, but I’m happy that there was an answer rather than just a blank that left me hanging. And the battles themselves would have felt bigger if instead of handling the other teams’ battles via comlink banter, the developers had actually cut to those scenes as they played out.

Overall, it’s an OK chapter, and if you’re a fan of Mandos then you definitely need to sub for this one. If you’re not a Mando fan or are indifferent, you might be better off waiting a month before signing back up — unless you have other reasons to come back, like friends or PvP.

You do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Every other week, Larry Everett jumps into his T-16 back home, rides through the hypergates of BioWare‘s Star Wars: The Old Republic, and posts his adventures in the Hyperspace Beacon. Drop him a holocom on Twitter @Shaddoe or send him a transmission at larry@massivelyop.com. Now strap yourself in, kid — we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

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