If you’ve not watched the “Choose My Alignment” livestreams that MJ and I have been doing over the last couple of years, then you’ve missed out a fun time where the Twitch audience gets to choose which dialogue options we take and ultimately the alignment of the character in Star Wars: The Old Republic. You can catch up with the VODs or the YouTube playlist if you like.
Bnar’s story weaves throughout time and makes an appearance in many different eras with Star Wars: The Old Republic being the latest.
A Tale of a Jedi
Nomi Sunrider is one of my favorite Jedi. When I first started this column years ago, Nomi was the subject of two articles. Her story hits some of the major beats of character-driven stories that I really enjoy, and it was published in 1994. Tragically, this was published the same year as the infamous Green Lantern Vol 3 #54. Perhaps, I’ll save the comparison and contrast between Alex DeWitt (Green Lantern’s girlfriend) and Andur Sunrider (Nomi’s husband) for another day because I really want to talk about Ood Bnar.
Although Bnar wasn’t Nomi Sunrider’s master per se, he is a major part of her story. The first time we run into him is in one of Sunrider’s training holocrons. We find out that he, like Sunrider’s actual Master Thon, was very other-worldly. Bnar was a Neti. At the time that Bnar was created by writer Tom Veitch and artist David Roach, the closest equivalent we had to Bnar’s species was probably DC’s Swamp Thing, given that Groot was mostly a throw-away character from the ’60s. Although today, given all the abilities we’ve seen from Groot in the comics, and of course, in the movies, Groot is probably closer to what Bnar is. He is a sentient tree.
Star Wars Galaxies paid homage to Ood Bnar with the lightsaber crystal “B’nar’s [sic] sacrifice.” (I remember having the crystal, but I did have to do a bit of research to remember how I earned it. My Jedi in that game was a lightsaber master and defense stacker. So I earned it by unlocking either Force Defense or Lightsabers. Likely, it was the former. If I recall correctly, I stacked defense first before climbing the Lightsaber’s tree.)
SWG didn’t really touch on the legacy of Bnar, but it does mention his sacrifice in the description of the crystal: “This crystal is named after Ood B’nar [sic], an Old Republic Jedi, who sacrificed himself to save a cache of artifacts/lightsabers contained within the library at Ossus.” But what was his sacrifice?
During the Krath uprising, Jedi Knight Exar Kun turned against his former masters and quite literally tore through the galaxy in a rampage, killing multiple Jedi Masters and students alike. One of his final stops was Ossus, where he intended to steal or destroy many of the Jedi artifacts. However, Bnar would have none of that. As he was hiding some lightsabers and other artifacts, Kun found him. Kun was a better duelist and ultimately defeated Bnar. But like Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume One, Bnar had a trick up his sleeve (branch?): He planted himself on top of the artifacts that he had carried, then turned into an actual tree, barring Kun from his prize.
Bnar would later explain to his friend Master Thon that this was just a part of the natural cycle for his species. However, it also meant that Bnar would not be able to move during Ossus’ impending doom. A few systems over the Krath Aleema Keto had removed the core of a star using Sith magic, causing a supernova that would eventually overtake Ossus. Now that Bnar had rooted himself, he was no longer able to move. Some of his last words to Thon were, “Do not grieve for me, Thon. This is my metamorphosis, my life cycle. I have shielded my lightsaber treasures… I have defeated Exar Kun… I am satisfied. And perhaps, my friends, Ossus will protect me… enough.”
Returning to the Jedi roots
There is a lot of symbolism in the Jedi Under Siege update to SWTOR, some of it might even be on purpose. Although Tython was retconned as the original home of the Jedi, Ossus stands as one of the original homes of the Jedi created when the EU was new. From a story standpoint, Jedi Under Seige brings us back to the core storytelling in SWTOR, even bringing back the very popular Darth Malgus.
As I ran through the informal questline that ultimately earns me the Ood Bnar datacron, I thought about how even this bit of gameplay reintroduces a piece of gameplay that has been missing for a long time: jumping puzzles. I know that not everyone is a fan of jumping puzzles, but I like them, as frustrating as they can be. But more importantly, I was on a quest that didn’t have a quest log; I wasn’t being hand-held from point to point. In fact, I was being led around by the environment itself.
Bnar returned to his roots, planting himself firmly into the ground to protect what was good and meaningful to him. The team at BioWare has also returned to its roots in storytelling and even in gameplay. It’s holding onto the pieces of the game that made it great. But as with Bnar’s sacrifice, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t a last-ditch effort to hold onto what’s dear. And I also wonder if it’s not going to suffer the same fate: the destruction of everything around it.
I do have a glimmer of hope, like the singular tree on the dead surface of Ossus. But it may be too late to save the planet.