Knights of the Old Republic EP33: Non-stop Action Gameplay

By Shamus Posted Friday Nov 20, 2015

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 121 comments

I know it was rough earlier this week when we sat through a 15 minute expositional dialog, but we’re finally past that stuff and back into the space-fights and lightsaber battles.

Link (YouTube)

Ha ha. I tricked you. It’s actually just more talking. You’re far too trusting.

In this episode I unfairly picked on the Extended Universe novels. This was based entirely on the things people have told be about them. (I think? Maybe I’ve read some? Back in the 90’s I read a bunch of Trek novels and I might have thrown some Star Wars in there. In any case, if I did read some, I don’t remember the details.)

Anyway. So now I’m curious: What’s good? I don’t mean “which books?” I mean: What new ideas did the books introduce that made for good stories and fit within the pre-existing framework? (EDIT: Any media or time period is good. I’m just curious what EU ideas have resonated with people.)


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121 thoughts on “Knights of the Old Republic EP33: Non-stop Action Gameplay

  1. Olly says:

    So it’s been ages since I read them but I have fond memories of an off shoot of the series about the rebellion void fighters… The main books were about fighter aces having space combat adventures which was all fine…

    However there were a few stories about an allied unit called Wraith Squadron…

    They were all supposed to be fighter pilots as well but with weird asymmetric warfare skill sets that would allow them to perform covert ops and insertions into hostile systems…

    They were good because the whole idea of a rebellion that can go toe to toe with the empire is a hard thing to take seriously unless they are winning an intelligence war and successfully sabotaging the empire.

    Just realised you might have only wanted old republic stuff here….
    Well posting away!

  2. Jeff says:

    Timothy Zahn’s series introduced a lot of great things. It was a good look at the aftermath of the Rebellion, and it had an exceptionally dangerous (intelligent) enemy in Grand Admiral Thrawn that I really couldn’t hate. He wasn’t malevolent, he was just… Imperial.

    It also introduced Mara Jade, Skywalker’s eventual love interest, and elaborated on the Clone Wars (prior to the prequel trilogy coming out, obviously).

    I think I really enjoyed the mystery solving aspect as the New Republic needed to deal with a very cunning and intelligent enemy that usually was a few steps ahead of them.

    1. Chauzuvoy says:

      It’s also noteworthy for changing the sith/empire dynamic. In basically everything else, the empire is ruled by the Sith and an instrument of their will. But in Zahn’s novels, Thrawn is running the show, and uses the requisite Force-user to advance his goals, rather than the other way around. It’s a far more interesting take on the factions, I think, and it routes around the problem that Star Wars so often has where anything that isn’t Jedi or Force related doesn’t matter. Which has very uncomfortable implications for the rest of the galaxy.

      It was also possibly the first reference of something like Battle Meditation. But instead of just being a cool force thing to do to help one side or the other like in KotOR, it also made your armies dependent on you. The imperial fleet collapsed with the death of the emperor in RotJ because of how thoroughly he was directing that battle through the force. I remember the EU in general often doing some interesting things with exploring what the Force would really mean for the setting, without having to explain it.

      1. Felblood says:

        The relationship between Thrawn and Jorus C’baoth was actually really brilliant.

        Telling a story about two bad guys working together, is a challenge with a big reward, and I’d say that Zahn was about 50% successful. The actual dialogue between the two was awful and over expository, but it served it’s purpose of making it clear what each player’s goals were, why they needed each other to advance those goals, and how those goals were likely to diverge as each got closer to his own objectives.

        I often find myself wishing that Jorus had been more fun to have around.

        He was kind of a buzz-kill, and a fan un-favorite, but he had actual life-goals, which he came up with himself, and pursued in an active fashion. That is, he wasn’t just a puppet to the Dark Side, but rather he had his own ideas about how to sate the twisted compulsions it gave him.

        It would have been nice if he had started a trend of dark Force-users with actual individual motivations. The EU is absolutely crawling with mustache twirling fascists like Darth Malak and Delores Umbridge, to the point that even Darth Treya feels like a breath of fresh air. What does a guy like Malak do when he isn’t searching for lost artifacts of power, murdering the families of those likely to seek vengeance against him, and standing around in his throne room waiting to be murdered?

        TL;DR: JJ, more liek this plz.

      2. MadTinkerer says:

        ” Which has very uncomfortable implications for the rest of the galaxy.”

        This is a deliberate subtext that George Lucas often doesn’t get enough credit for doing. Jedi/Sith are The Most Important, sometimes even more than local royalty. Droids are Completely Unimportant and aren’t even considered people.

        This is because of the influence of samurai movies on the setting. As 20th/21st Century Westerners, we don’t always even consider having fantasy settings that don’t have a relatively flat social hierarchy with maybe one Special Kind Of People (wizards or mutants or vampires or whatever) for allegorical commentary on what we see as archaic cultural attitudes. But if we consider the broader scope of history, most countries for most of history have much more specialized social classes and rules that very much enforce the idea that some people really are better than others.

        It’s not that we the audience are supposed to agree with this, it’s to make the Star Wars setting seem more exotic. The fact that Luke treats C3P0 as property isn’t because we’re supposed to see him as evil, it’s because we’re supposed to see him as a member of a completely alien culture even though he’s the same species as us.

    2. Dev Null says:

      I loved Thrawn as a character. In a world of magic space wizards who are awesomely powerful but can sometimes seem to be not very smart, watching them all get their butts handed to them by a smart muggle who just understands how people think was lots of fun.

  3. DTor says:

    I haven’t read the EU novels since, like, middle school, but I have some fond memories of them. Here’s an interesting idea, and one of the few specifics that I remember: since people and ships use “lasers” as weapons, you can use a much weaker light emitter that looks like a laser weapon to the naked eye and trick your enemies into dodging.

  4. Couscous says:

    The story of Star Wars Galaxy is depressing. The whole game was made between September of 2000 and June of 2003, which was an insanely abbreviated development time for an MMO. This pretty much explains everything about its release state.

    1. You’ll probably never see this, but thanks for linking that. That series is a sad and fascinating read and now I can’t stop trying to figure out if I could only be one toon in any MMO I’ve played, who would I be and that is a surprisingly complex topic for me (in D&D 3.5 it’s druid to something else that keeps the spell list because I don’t like wild shape, but that, like WoW, the great memories line up with the game play I prefer. What I do in lotro, where there’s all these first ever MMO moments on a toon that I stink at playing and don’t find fun but those memories? )
      I’ve spent the past hour thinking about that. Which is probably slightly more useful than trying to figure out how the Wizarding World would manage to deal with an outbreak of Hitchhiker’s Guide level ridiculous in Wiltshire because 2 hours sleep in 48 means Melfina goes weirder than usual. At least there aren’t lolcats or ticky boxes this time.

  5. Spammy says:

    If you’re asking which ideas resonated with the EU to try to find good material, I think that’s kind of dangerous because the things that probably became the most eye-rollingly EU (at least for me) were part of a sort of echo chamber. Like the Mandalorians turning into the ultimate space Mary Sue Klingon-without-the-bad-bits-even-Jedi-want-to-be-us group. Unless you are just trying to figure out where the EU went while it was going.

    1. SlothfulCobra says:

      The best EU thing about the Mandalorians was the Jango Fett videogame.

      1. Ringwraith says:

        That was so good.
        Actually had a nice setup.

    2. Felblood says:

      The best Mandalorians are like the best Jedi. They are Mandalorians, BUT– something else too.

      Anybody can write a vanilla Jedi, who sits around all day and does Jedi things, but a BUT gives a character a more personal dimension.

      Canderous Ordo is a Mandalorian, BUT he’s also a war veteran trying to find his place in a postwar galaxy. Joining up with the player in KOTOR is more about his mid-life crisis than anything to do with honor or idealism.

      Sabine Wren is a Mandolorian, BUT she has this artistic side that just craves attention and validation. She doesn’t just tag graffiti all over the inside of her ship because she’s practicing for spraying explosive gel on Imperial vehicles (she’s doing that too); rather she wants her crewmates to see her art and tell her that it’s good.

      A Mandalorian, Jedi, or Clone Trooper without that humanizing element is like an accountant who gets home from work and rechecks his checkbook register for fun. He’s neither believable nor interesting.

  6. Mormegil says:

    Favourite thing from the EU?

    Soontir Fel. The Imperial TIE fighter ace who understood that he would be asked to do morally questionable things in the service of the Empire but believed that it was necessary to bring about stability and usher in a golden age. Was pictured in the comics (both in appearance and character) as something like a Roman centurion – loyal to the ideals of the Empire.

    He finally turns his back on the Empire after Endor when in-fighting amongst the commanders trying to take charge of the Imperial Remnant convinces him there’s nothing left except corruption.

    I just liked the idea of a “bad guy” in Star Wars who wasn’t responding to some sort of corrupting magical influence, wasn’t motivated by revenge, he was just a military officer trying to do his part to bring about peace.

    Of course being the EU there’s a bunch of monumentally silly stuff as well like him marrying Wedge Antilles’ sister (which would be like General Petraeus marrying Scarlett Johansson except it turns out she’s Bin Laden’s sister).

  7. Gruhunchously says:

    Mordin Solus and HK-47, the two characters in all of gaming that the Spoiler Warning crew go out of their way not to talk over.

  8. Benjamin Hilton says:

    As far as the EU goes, I actually liked a lot of the comics. The Kotor comics that take place during the Mandolorian wars are really good, as are the Republic series which takes place before The phantom menace and goes all the way through till after the Original trilogy.

    Novel wise the one I remember the most was Tales form the Mos Eisley Cantina. It tells the Story of every major alien or person you see in the original Cantina scene from A New Hope, all intersecting when at some point in the story they end up in that scene.

  9. Felblood says:

    It’s really impossible to talk about what’s good in the EU without also complaining about the bad.

    Writing around the problem of power levels in the Star Wars Universe is hard. Jedi are more powerful and more important than everyone else in this universe, and exactly how much more powerful is, quite necessarily, never outlined. You can either make up new rules to try to “balance” that, or you can work within the limitations of the setting. We had far too few of the latter and eventually the EU starts to crumble under the weight of all those shoddy balance patches. Kortosis, Ysimarii, Yuzan Vong, Dovan Basals, Toydarian Willpower, Force Ghosts aren’t immortal (–or not. There were some authorial edit wars over that one.), laser knives for non -Foce-users, Cyborgs with Jedi-level fencing skills, etc. You pile it on one little compromise at a time, and eventually it gets to be too much, and this world doesn’t really feel like Star Wars, anymore.

    So my positive observations tend to revolve around how various writers managed to solve (or sidestep) these problems.

    There isn’t really one critical point where the EU comes apart. It started from small cracks, which grew over time, until the whole thing started to separate and stopped being a cohesive whole. There are a lot of legitimately interesting stories written here, which I cannot easily enjoy, myself, because to exist they have to take liberties with the setting which will have hard consequences for the series, as a whole.

    To couch it in terms Shamus will grasp most readily. The good stuff in the EU is like the Loyalty Missions in Mass Effect 2. There are some great characters and character moments, but you can see the cracks and shoddy seams which foretell the inevitable fall from grace. You try to tell yourself it won’t be so bad, but eventually it just leads to Mass Effect 3 grade disappointment.

    The Tales of the Jedi comics did a great job of depicting a galaxy that changed over time and Jedi and Sith orders with philosophies they grew out of the challenges faced by each generation. (–before KOTOR 1 & 2 pissed all that away, and we went back to 4000 years of relative technological and cultural stasis. See what I mean?)

    The Clone Wars (both the drawn and CGI ones) are probably my model for how to tell a Star Wars story. They sidestep these problems by eschewing the hyper-compressed timescale of more ambitious tales, and letting smaller stories play out. The stakes aren’t usually the fate of the entire galaxy, but the writers manage to get us invested in the fates of the individual characters, so we don’t mind. Characters with fates defined in the movie cannon, can give a sense of place and history, or be foils to explore new characters and worlds, but the real dramatic tension is in the fates of the individual clone troopers we meet.

    The Thrawn Trilogy and Jedi Academy trilogies introduced scads of interesting new Jedi characters, who promptly did nothing terribly interesting unless their last names were Solo, Skywalker or Katarn. Even they spend most of their time fighting yet another random cult of Dark Jedi, or Sith Cultists, as if there were piles of these guys waiting to come out of the woodwork as soon as Palpatine left a power vacuum.

    I bag on Timothy Zahn a lot (–I mean A LOT–) for pulling powerful characters like Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade directly out of his ass, without adequately explaining why they never impacted the original movies. However he did do some things well, that we never saw much of after him. At least his villain managed to threaten the Jedi without being a force user. I could almost make my peace with that, and then I remember that he also invented the Ylsimarii (docile sloths that project an anti-magic bubble around them that blocks force powers and senses), and therefore he can go straight to Hell.

    If you can look past stuff like Glitterstim Spice giving people force powers and Han Solo using Earth swearwords, I can recommend the Thrawn Trilogy and the Jedi Academy Trilogy. They are particularly worth looking at once the JJ Abrams movies start to hit theaters, as the inevitable comparisons between them will make for a lot of interesting discussion (and tedious butthurt). Writing a story set after the Battle of Endor involves inventing answers to a lot of questions, and you can be sure that Disney won’t come at it exactly the way Bantam did, for good or ill (but definitely butthurt).

    1. JAB says:

      Zahn at least had explanations for why those characters weren’t in the movies- Thrawn was an alien, so in spite of being a strategic genius wasn’t politically powerful. And Mara Jade was more of a spy and assassin than anything else.

      1. Felblood says:

        Don’t get me wrong, the whole “secret apprentice” angle is probably the best thing that Zahn ever added to the EU, but when he first dropped this idea, it made a thud like a solid lead balloon.

        It’s so unbelievable that when Thrawn and Mara Jade meet, the only thing they talk about is how ridiculous and unbelievable their respective origin stories are. They literally spend an entire chapter convincing the other that their Mary Sue resumes aren’t falsified. If the omniscient narrator hadn’t assured us each was telling the truth, the ambiguity might have left some interesting tension in the proceedings.

        Even so, the proposition that effectively every Sith Master and apprentice has been cheating at the Rule of Two goes a long way to explaining how the Sith even manged to survive the past 1000 years.

        1. Majere says:

          I mean any assumption that relies on Sith following rules when it doesn’t serve their goals is a faulty one.

  10. James says:

    There was that time that Chubbacca was killed by a moon falling on his head, and the time Bobba Fett crawled out of the Sarlacc after being in its 1000 year long digestive tract.

    1. SlothfulCobra says:

      I don’t know, since the sarlacc explicitly wouldn’t kill him for a long while and he did have a jet pack, it seems reasonable.

      1. manofsteles says:

        As silly as the jetpack explosion seemed, I imagine many readers (including myself) were willing to forgive it since it served to paper over the silliness of his death in the movie. In addition, it gave the opportunity for other authors to continue to play around with his character; I’d be willing to read a half-dozen more crappy EU novels to get another Bounty Hunter Trilogy.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Anyone complaining about Boba Fett “unrealistically” living despite George Lucas apparently wanting to kill him, should shush and realize that Lucas directly oversaw the resurrection of Darth Maul. Yes, the guy who was CHOPPED IN HALF and then fell down a thousand yard air shaft lived through that. Including in the new Disney canon, that’s still true. So I don’t wanna HEAR IT about Boba Fett (who will probably escape the Sarlacc in Disney canon before too long.)

          What profit is there in an ongoing franchise to kill off a popular character when the escape hatch is oiled up and ready to go? Many fans likely assume he’s alive in the new version without them even saying it…

          1. ? says:

            Darth Vader, fresh faced dark side user with no Sith training, managed to use dark side of the force to survive being dismembered and set on fire on a slope of a volcano. Darth Maul was supposed to be fully trained Sith Lord. I know that most of EU treated Maul as barely force sensitive beast, more of a animal or organic weapon than a man (why would Palpatine of all people train such a person escapes me…), but cartoon gives different character interpretation, that of a cunning and charismatic mastermind, a worthy apprentice of Darth Sidious, perhaps more capable than any of his successors.

    2. And at some place it was found he was a woman or was that invented by whoever I read it from?

      1. marekstele says:

        I remember hearing about that when I was younger, but I think it was due to a Boba Fett comic that depicted him with thinly braided hair coming out from beneath his helmet.

        It also wouldn’t surprise me if that rumor turned out to be someone disguised in Mandalorian armor, as if that wasn’t already played out to death by Jodo Kast and Grand Admiral Thrawn.

        1. Mormegil says:

          I think the hair is actually supposed to be wookiee hair/scalps he’s claimed off targets.

  11. ehlijen says:

    There are many different, and at times incompatible things the EU did that were interesting.

    Zahn’s novels were great at building up the galaxy as a political landscape. The empire wasn’t just sneering bad men, they had a purpose and somewhat sympathetic views.
    At the same time, Zahn’s empire was not the same empire that seemed to be hijacked by sith lords and/or deploying new super weapons in every other novel. It was far more interesting as an antagonistic faction, but it became a lot less space fantasy sauron in the process.

    The TIE Fighter computer game built on that a lot in that the Empire was portrayed as a ruthless, but necessary regime in the face of civil war between aliens, pirates and corrupt imperials.

    The X-Wing novel series tried to bridge the gap between that and the movies by mostly pitting the heroes against insane imperial commanders, trying to make clear that the it was the leaders that were the problem, not the population.

    And then there are things like Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, epic space pulp of the highest, ridiculous quality.

    The Yuhzaan Vong stuff was…different. The EU needed a shake up badly at that time, but I’m not convinced this was the right move. Basically, 40k space marine-tyranid hybrids invade the galaxy from the outside. The Jedi need to decide their place in a war torn galaxy (ineffectual peacekeepers or dark side skirting warrior monks?), especially since the enemy is fiat immune to most of their stuff. If you buy into the force philosophy as presented it’s interesting, but mostly it was…average. Plus chewie was made the ultimate worf and had to die to show how SERIOUS THINGS ARE (note, no other movie character dies). :(

    And then it keeps going with Legacy of the Force. An interesting take on galactic politics in the aftermath of that war and then Solo junior’s rise to sithdom and that aftermath, but unfortunately the agenda and character favouritism of some of the authors was getting excessive. (Mandalorians rox, jedi sux! Daala for president, lack of competence or experience not withstanding!)
    The swing from novel to novel in the multiauthor series was nearly whiplash inducing.

    I haven’t read much of the pre original trilogy stuff. The Han Solo adventures were fun, mostly. The prequels pretty much overwrote them, though.

    The Clone wars TV show is a mixed bag. The good episodes are quite good, combining world building similar to Zahn with the over the top action from the movies. The bad ones…yuck. Also: NOT A KID’S SHOW! (Graphic deaths, casual murders and finance negotiations)

    1. Felblood says:

      “The Yuhzaan Vong stuff was…different. The EU needed a shake up badly at that time, but I'm not convinced this was the right move.”

      I can second this.

      We needed something besides yet another story about a fallen apprentice being seduced by a pop-up Sith Academy, run by snidely whiplash, but I’m not sure the rules of the setting needed to be completely re-written to make that possible.

      Military threats too large for the limited number of Jedi to deal with alone, or Sith Master’s with interesting motives or philosophies worked when we saw them, but we didn’t get very many, and it’s possible that we lowered our standards a lot for them.

      1. marekstele says:

        It really didn’t help that the New Jedi Order series went on for soooo long…and after starting out with something as earth-shattering as killing off Chewbacca, it seemed like that the different authors kept stumbling over themselves to top that; the destruction of practically all life Ithor, using Centerpoint Station to kill off most of the Hapan fleet, hell Borsky Fey’lya.

        The whole series ended up feeling like a chore to read, and I barely remember the ending. It made the bloated Marvel events feel like flash fiction; however, the scouring of the EU did make the new Star Wars comics feel really refreshing.

        1. Felblood says:

          I couldn’t get anywhere in the New Jedi Order.

          I tried reading it right after the Jedi Academy Series and it just felt way too much like being served a second helping of barely-good-enough, except slightly worse than the first course.

          New Jedi Order was my Mass Effect 3. I left the EU behind for a few years, until someone got me the DVD of the original animated Clone Wars shorts.

          –and suddenly Star Wars was fun again! It wasn’t as wacky and “random” as the new Lego Star Wars cartoons, but it also didn’t let itself get bogged down by the Baggage of Star Wars. It was nakedly and unashamedly Samurai Jack, but with Jedi. If there isn’t any room in your heart for that, I don’t know what I can do for you.

          That got me into the CGI Clone Wars stories, which naturally led me to the new Star Wars Rebels, series. (It is very much a spiritual successor, but re-branded because it is under new management, and set after the end of the Clone Wars.) They tend to be heavier and more character focused than the animated shorts, but I haven’t met any characters I outright disliked, and it often manages to carry the weight better than I’d expected.

  12. At about 22:01, I was listening to this episode while doing something else, and I had to rewind because it sounded like Mumbles said “I actually, like, purposefully spaced Canderous…” and I thought, “Whoa, what did he do to deserve that?”

    At no point did it not sound like something Mumbles might do for a laugh, but still…

  13. Jeff says:

    I’ll put in another voice for the Timothy Zahn Thrawn trilogy… Thrawn and Pellaeon were compelling adversaries to the movie cast and it really explored “tactical” possibilities in a way that Star Wars has never done much before or since. (Thrawn’s gambit to make it appear to the New Republic that he had a way to fire weapons straight through planetary shielding as if it weren’t there being a favorite.) As mentioned earlier, it was also nice to see a series where force powers were not totally driving the bus of the plot.

    I will also mention Truce at Bakura, which was among other things an interesting exploration of the consequences of the Empire being in disarray after Endor. It also presented the first real “alien threat from out there” enemy that I remember – in many ways foreshadowing the much less (to my eyes) successful Black Fleet and Yuuzhan Vong series.

    1. It had some interesting stuff and new ideas for characters to be sure. I wish there had been some more to the Clone Wars than a load of Stormtroopers, as cloned force-users was an interesting concept (especially since they came out a bit off-kilter in the brainmeats department).

      However, having a lost fleet called Katana opens up a whole can of worms similar to Morrowind’s use of the word (and the sword). Feudal Japan existed in the Star Wars universe? Are there sushi bars on Coruscant? Can a Jedi be a ninja as well? So many questions…

      1. Couscous says:

        That is pretty common to Star Wars. The Millenium Falcon. There is almost certainly some explanation that a Falcon refers to some weird alien creature and not any Earth species. Or repeated mentions of God instead of any random fantasy sounding deity. Is there any EU explanation for what religion Luke and Leia were referencing when they said “God?” There is an alien named Elan Sleazebaggano in Episode II.

        They have blue milk despite no mentions of regular milk. There are kath hounds but where are the regular hounds? Teehee the music is called jizz and the musicians that play that genre are called jizz-wailers.

        1. Fawkes says:

          Specifically, I must point out, that according to whatever EU or random lore that brought it up, the Millennium Falcon was named after the BAT-FALCON.

          That just brings up *further* questions.

          But this is the same thing as Anakin’s infamous ‘Are you an Angel’ line on Padme. Which Clone Wars later actually showed as being ethereal aliens. Star Wars is rife with it.

          1. Sagretti says:

            That reminds me of Avatar: The Last Airbender and its quirk where every animal is a hybrid of two real Earth animals. The show even comments on this by having the characters mystified when they encounter a bear that’s just a bear.

  14. James says:

    So Josh has two options, keep the frogs and do LS points, or disobey mumbles and get punched in the throat

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why would it be uncharted?Hm,lets see:Humans are completely terrestrial creatures that have inhabited and explored the whole terrestrial surface of the earth for few thousand years.Yet there are still plethora of uncharted places,hidden caves,unknown rivers,etc.And dry land is only about 30% of our planet.

    1. ehlijen says:

      We’ve only had effective cartography methods for about 500 of those years, however. Remember that in star wars everything is dialled up by a few thousand generations.

      I think the more likely explanation is that the selkath can only go so deep and simply don’t care enough to explore much beyond that.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus will love legacy of the void,where they cut each others (sort of)pony tails.

  17. Alex says:

    The Tales of the Bounty Hunters anthology had what might be the worst story of all the EU (by Kevin J. Anderson, because of course it was by Kevin J. Anderson), but I recall liking a story about two bounty hunters, one a force sensitive and the other a droid which thought to try to learn to be force sensitive by observing and emulating the first.

    Rebel Dream and Rebel Stand from the New Jedi Order series were good, awesome fun at the expense of the Yuuzhan Vong. Such as the part where the besieging Yuuzhan Vong fleet is accidentally decapitated when a Super Star Destroyer comes out of hyperspace in what could only be called a target rich environment.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Even better, all of that happened in a battle that the commander of the Republic forces — Wedge Antilles — was actually trying to LOSE/

      1. guy says:

        Ah, yeah, that one was hilarious. “They’re going to say you’re so awesome you can’t lose even on purpose”

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I forgot if it got mentioned during the game,but how much time has passed between malak betraying revan and now?And how old were the two when they fought the mandalorians?Does the force prolong ones life,because malak still looks like he is in 30s?Or have the two wars happened in a really short span of time?

    1. guy says:

      Revan betrayed the Republic pretty much immediately after defeating the Mandalorians. No more than a year at most.

      1. Thomas says:

        I love the mod for KOTOR1 that dives into some of Revan’s and Malaks time around their fall (Brotherhood of Shadows or Solomon or something?)

    2. Felblood says:

      Humans in the Star Wars galaxy age slower and more gracefully than Earth humans, but are not as long-lived as swamp elves.

      Exactly how much so is subject to a lot of handwavey bullshit. People age at the speed of plot, basically.

      There’s a concept that the EU has, to my knowledge, never done anything interesting with, and that makes me sad.

      1. Felblood says:

        It doesn’t even seem to have anything to do with access to Space Age healthcare, like in WH40K.

        In 40K, Juvant Treatments are used to underscore the extreme class inequality in the Imperium. A powerful noble, such as an Inquisitor or a Planetary Governor might live for hundreds of years, while the mining and farming serfs whose labor pays for his generous benefits package would be lucky to live until 40. –or unlucky, depending on how nasty their governor makes life on the planet in question.

        In Star Wars, even a struggling subsistence farmer, desert salavager or career criminal will generally have a movie star complexion.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Wait,back up.Theres mining and farming going on in the 40k universe?

          1. Felblood says:

            Where do you think ration bars and replacement tank tracks come from? Heretical sorcery?

            The Imperium collects raw materials form Agri-Worlds and Mining Colonies and ships it to the Forge Worlds to be made into arms, (–because of course it makes sense to specialize entire planets like that.) which it uses to defend said worlds from alien conquest (or Heretic Insurrection), and thus justify it’s continued existence and tax collection.

            An ambitious, but discreet, sector governor can skim enough off the top to live a life of wealth an luxury that would make Charlie Sheen look like a monk.

            Don’t take that line about there being “Only War” in the 41st Millennium, too literally. That is actually Imperial propaganda, to keep the serfs too afraid and dependent on their lords, to question why feudalism needed to make a comeback in the 40th Millennium.

            1. Chuck says:

              Well, it’s Only War in the sense that the Imperium is completely surrounded by Xenos and Heretical threats, so at any given time untold millions of worlds are battlefields with untold billions dying on a daily basis.

              This is a setting where entire planets have been lost to clerical error, after all. For centuries.

            2. guy says:

              The planets aren’t as specialized as the names make them sound. Mining Worlds and Agri Worlds can both have local production in addition to their exports of raw materials, and Forge Worlds have (or, as of the forty-first millennium had) extensive local mineral reserves.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “You dont know?Typical male?”

    The griff is strong in you young jedi.

  20. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I don’t mind the talking. Back then Bioware was pretty good at making these dialogs fun. Up through the end of the first Dragon Age.

    What changed? Partly the writers, partly the voiced protagonists. And now Fallout 4 has done the same.

    We’ve speculated about the drawbacks of voice acting. One is cost, another is inability to do rewrite. Yet another is being unable to do anything procedural with the dialog. But I think its easier for them to write the more out there stuff too without a voice actor. There’s no delivery to mangle and no voice actor to potentially make uncomfortable with the lines you want to write.

    Gonna be a little controversial here. I think Mass Effect would have been better with an unvoiced protagonist. And no I don’t just mean giving Meer the boot. I don’t think what a voice actor adds to the playable character is worth it versus what we lose.

    1. Thomas says:

      It’s true, with an unvoiced protagonist your mind can give the lines whatever inflection they need for you to believe them. With a voiced protagonist if they don’t sound right, that sound is going to be played to you.

      Even without the conversation wheel, I still don’t think you could roleplay in Mass Effect properly, because Meer and Hale give Shepard their own personality and it’s hard to fight that whilst playing. You have to watch the show a little outside of it.

      1. Wide and Nerdy says:

        To be clear, it’s not a slight to voice actors. It must be tough to voice the protagonist un a way that still let’s the player feel like they have control. Must be why so many of those performances are kind of dead when we know the actors can do better

    2. djw says:

      I like text driven stories very much. However, I found that in DA:O where everybody else was voice acted and my warden just nodded mutely with her arms crossed it just drove me nuts.

      Basically, there is a threshold for voice acting, and once you reach it you have to go all the way. DA:O really needed a voiced protagonist. Pillars of Eternity is just fine without a voiced protagonist, because most of the conversation is text and I don’t have to watch him/her stand there and nod at people like an idiot.

    3. Atarlost says:

      What we need is an actual mute protagonist. One who wears datagloves that hook to a computer that converts his sign language into speech.

      This would get you the best of both worlds. People can easily play the game on consoles because there’s a voice reading the lines, but the text can be generated procedurally because nothing can possibly sound more like a cheap text to speech app for handicap accessibility than actually using a text to speech library.

      You could also try to make as many of the important NPCs as possible either also deaf and or mute or artificial intelligences or aliens using translation software. With clever character design you might be able to get a “fully voiced” game with only a minority of lines actually performed by live voice actors.

      In a Farscape-like situation where the protagonist was the only human around you might even be able to get away with all of the dialog just being text to speech software.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        I wonder if you’ve played Transistor. It actually features a mute protagonist who expresses herself occasionally through music and text.

  21. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    The EU is all about the author. Good authors can do amazing things in the galaxy far, far away, medicore or terrible authors will produce dreck.

    Most widely cited case of the former: Timothy Zahn, and his Thrawn Trilogy/Outbound Flight/Hand of Thrawn series. Zahn’s been talked up all over the place already, but he does a good job of not having cartoonishly evil villains, an interesting Empire, and isn’t all-Jedi-all-the-time.

    Most obvious cases of the latter: Kevin J. Anderson and Karen Traviss (YMMV with these, obviously). Anderson is mostly responsible for the Jedi Academy trilogy, one that was so awful ANOTHER author had to come in and write a book to rescue it (and, in my opinion, wrote the best EU novel of all time but I’ll get to that). He introduced awful villains that basically did it for the evulz, was in love with his Mary Sues like Kyp Durron (the mass murderer who…got away with it because Anderson liked him) and Daala (the tactical genius who bungles every battle she fought with), and is notorious for introducing a new superweapon in basically every book he ever wrote (the Death Star prototype, the Sun Crusher, Darksaber…). Like, he represents everything that’s bad about the EU.

    Traviss turned me off because of her Mandalorian fetish, and that also took an entire new series to come in and re-establish “No, these guys really are scum.”

    The one brilliant series that’s only been mentioned in passing, I think, is the X-Wing series by Stackpole and Allston. Stackpole introduced the series with his comic books and some novels. They follow one squadron of pilots on the frontlines of the war with the Empire. Rather than super-powerful Jedi or Chiefs of State or anything, instead you get a grunt’s eye view of the Galactic Civil War. Stackpole does all right with his, though his novels tend to focus on his Sue-ish character Corran Horn, but Allston takes over and makes the series absolutely brilliant.

    He stops focusing on any one main character and instead uses the fact that it’s a series about an entire squadron to make a stellar ensemble cast. Each one of his pilots is screwed up in some way, some grow and mature over the course of the war, some stay basically the same, and others never get the chance because they die horribly in a pointless goddamn skirmish on some moon no one’s ever heard of. You actually cared about hte little people in the galaxy during his series, and the best part was that the Jedi and the Sith and all the mystic Force nonsense was basically entirely off-screen (except for one minor character). Just regular folks doing their best to stop the Empire. Perfection.

    One last note before I part, Stackpole wrote what I consider to be the best novel of the EU: I, Jedi. Starring Corran Horn, who he created in the X-Wing series, it follows Horn’s personal investigation into the disappearance of his wife. It’s the only Star Wars novel written in the first person, and it works very well, as a large part of the novel is Horn coming to terms with his family’s history, and reconciling his own identity as an ace pilot/former cop with his newfound role in Skywalker’s budding Jedi Order. The first half retells the Jedi Academy series from Horn’s perspective, and actually manages to sort of fix it (and Stackpole gets to let his characters call out some of Anderson’s bullshit), and the second is where it truly takes off, as Horn puts everything he has to the test as he tracks down the pirates who kidnapped his wife. In the end it’s the most thrilling tale of the difference one Jedi could make, and it’s nothing at all to do with the fate of the galaxy or even of any particularly important planet – it’s mostly just one man’s personal quest for righteousness. I love it.

    -ahem- I’ll, ah, tuck my geekiness away now.

    1. Spammy says:

      Since you mentioned her, did EU authors latch on to Daala? And if so… why? She was an enormous failure. I read those books. She lost the facility she was supposed to be guarding, she lost the prototype Death Star (in hindsight… why was there a prototype Death Star in a place they couldn’t remove it), and she lost like all but one of her Star Destroyers I think. The only battle she did win was Godzilla vs. Bambi stomping a newly formed colony.

      1. Christopher says:

        Daala is probably the most warlordish of the Imperial Warlords after the fall of the empire. She’s the Star Wars equivalent to a fallout raider warlord kind of. She’s not stupid, she’s just egotistical. She’s not super-smart either, like Isaard or Thrawn, but she’s educated.

        She makes a nice foil to Isaard in my opinion.

      2. guy says:

        Uh, Karen Traviss apparently liked Daala, and she became Chief Of State.

        1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Karen Traviss smelled the seeds of a Strong Female Character (which is fine, but she should have just invented one out of whole cloth) and just overused her.

    2. Hermocrates says:

      Man, I loved the X-Wing series! Probably even more than the Thrawn Trilogy, even if the latter was a more gripping drama on a scale equaling the original Star Wars trilogy.

      I’m convinced at least part of it, which I only realized in retrospect 15 years later, was that Wedge Antilles was probably my first boy-crush, so having him feature in the novels was pretty sweet. He’s such a cutie!

    3. SlothfulCobra says:

      I really wish I had thought of keeping track of authors when I was reading these books, it would’ve helped me a lot in rationalizing the various tones and styles of the books.

      I’m not sure that I ever really liked most of the postwar Jedi stuff. After a while, Luke started basically becoming the Jedi Messiah. It was never on the level of the Force Unleashed, but it certainly started paving the way for it. I remember reading the new Jedi Order books, but it never made much of an impression on me. I remember Jason, Jaina, Anakin, Tenel Ka, Lowbacca, Kyp, and their thousand-year-old Jedi rodent pal who survived the Jedi purge by being asleep in a wall, but none of it really made any impression on me, it was just standard young adult fiction stuff.

    4. Epopisces says:

      Seconding I, Jedi as the best of the EU books. You said it better than I could, so I won’t add anything other than it is the most relatable of the Star Wars books–without ever losing sight of the universe it is set in.

    5. Sartharina says:

      So… Anderson is like George Lucas? Can’t fault him for being true to the tone of the movies!

    6. Will says:

      Darksaber was absolutely hilarious. In short (spoilers upcoming, but you shouldn’t care because it’s not actually worth reading, just laughing at), some Hutt gets his slimy hands on the Death Star plans and chief engineer; designs a cut-down version with mostly just the superlaser (which to be honest makes infinitely more sense than the Empire’s ridiculous moon-sized sphere); cuts too many corners and turns out to be less effective at management-by-intimidation thatn Palpatine was (there’s a shocker); and in its first test-firing, it doesn’t work and promptly gets destroyed.

      I think there was some b-plot, too, that was treated a little more seriously, but who cares. As far as probably-unintentional Star Wars humor goes, that book is way up there.

  22. Hermocrates says:

    Choking Mission is one thing, but cutting off the ponytail is just reprehensible!

    Shamus, for shame!

  23. Twisted_Ellipses says:

    It sounds like other people are going to cover the more popular parts of the EU novels, so I’ll focus on something small but entertaining. I love the many crazy business ventures and various hijinks of Lando. He’s fairly minor in the films – you learn he’s a womaniser, he’s a visionary entrepreneur, he regrets selling Han out, that he lost the Falcon in a Sabacc game and not a lot else. The EU does a nice job of taking those small snippets of information and running with them…

  24. After some play throughs without touching HK-47, in my current I’ve gone back to use him and repair him and I’ve refound my initial love for him. Jolee Bindo still wins by far, but I again find HK47 a good and fun character to have around.

    1. Metal C0Mmander says:

      So after hearing HK's story about how he killed his master I started having suspicion that he voluntarily killed him and was waiting for a opportunity to do so with you. I mean four masters in a row it's a pretty big coincidence and it happened in a very short time frame once you know his origin. Ultimately it seems I was wrong about that but I kept going around with because he was such a good character and I am such an idiot.

  25. Christopher says:

    I think the main idea/theme that I enjoyed out of the books was that maybe the whole thing was a little less black and white then had been portrayed.

    I mean, it’s still Empire Evil, Rebellion Good.

    But depending on the author, you also go themes of the political craziness that occurred under the Old Republic coming back and screwing people over. Species have tensions with each other.

    On a character level, Wedge Antilles, Wes Janson, and Derek “Hobbie” Klivian are some of my favorites, especially when any two of them are interacting with each other. The Wraith and Rogue squadron books tend to have a lot of them, including the standalone “end” to the rogue squadron series, which is just them.

    And special mention to Ton Phanon, in Wraith Squadron, an doctor turned rebel who, due to a poisoned bacta batch, is totally allergic to the substance, meaning any injuries normally treatable by bacta have to be done using old fashioned surgery and cybernetics. His whole character arc is definitely something that stayed with me from the books.

  26. SlothfulCobra says:

    I read the jedi apprentice books as a kid, and they expanded upon Qui-gon (basically he was kind of a jerk and a rogue jedi, which may have led Obi-Wan to maybe not be the best teacher for Anakin), when I got older I read a bunch of the Rogue Squadron books, which were fun to read on the bus, and they had a bunch of neat stuff about fighters and dogfighting. The Zahn books were neat, but I’m not sure if I really fully understood them when I read them. There were also a couple books that were designed around taking all the extras in a particular scene, like the book about all the denizens of Jabba’s palace. Those were neat. I’ve forgotten a lot of the particulars of the novels and their quality.

    The parts of the EU that rally made an impression on me were the essential guides. They were basically big ol’ compendiums of all the various elements that had been established in the Star Wars universe over time. Basically what Wookieepedia tries to do, but consistently written, unable to be edited to deal with retcons, and in the late 90s. I used to read them all the time as a kid, they were good to have before bed right before you went to sleep. If only I had gotten as into some books about academic subjects, I might’ve had some ambitions towards academic success. The best one was the Essential Guide to Alien Species, which had vignettes for every entry, about half of which were from the perspective of a shapeshifter anthropologist.

    It was great to go through all of these goofy different sci-fi ideas. Here’s some of them:
    -the Correlian system had an ancient hyperspace drive that once moved it into place (which somehow also could be used as some kind of giant space laser)
    -the Ssi-Ruu, who build soul-powered droids
    -the energy spiders who produce kessel’s spice (the top drug of the Star Wars universe
    -the spacefaring stingrays, the Oswaft
    -the automated Sabacc dealer who is designed to cheat customers
    -the C2-R4, who is some kind of horrible R2-D2-like trash compactor that can produce food
    -the E-Wing, a starfighter that was too complex and proprietary for an R2 unit, and needed a fancier R7
    -the goofy lil’ sun crusher, a fighter-sized ship that can trigger supernovas
    -the world devastators, massive factories designed to devastate planets while producing armies (somehow both them, the sun crusher, and the death star laser, were designed by a scientist who thought they were supposed to be peaceful, go figure)
    -and the weird B’omarr monks, who extract their brains to stick in spider droids (allegedly they show up in Jabba’s palace in the movie, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever seen them).

    Of course, now all these things have been wiped away by Disney. They could’ve just done the wink wink nudge nudge thing that Lucas did before, and let everything that hadn’t been directly contradicted by the movies be assumed as canon.

    1. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      At the start of Jedi, when Threepio first enters Jabba’s Palace, you can see one walking in the background as the big door starts to close.

  27. That One Guy says:

    Here’s the thing about the whole “Jedi can’t love” rule, to me even if they did do what the SC crew suggested it still wouldn’t work because of what the jedi fundamentally are.

    I can see this rule working just by going off the original trilogy alone, because going those movies the jedi come off as more of a secret monk-like order that occasionally interfered in events in the galaxy at large if need be, as SC has discussed before I think.

    But according to the prequel trilogy and other material, including this game, the jedi are actually a peace keeping force that regularly do tasks like diplomacy, enforcement, and maybe even espionage or subterfuge if need be. When you have an actually big order that’s dedicated to those tasks, which often include making many human connections, that rule is practically is practically non-conducive. Asking people who constantly perform those types of roles is basically just asking for someone to go dark side eventually.

    And there’s also that the order allows some kind of attachment to an extent with friendship and camaradie between jedi. If your going by the logic of that rule, than even that will cause problems eventually. Or does the order actually realize they can’t operate like robots and let them interact normally, but love is a no-no because that type of bond is much more intimate and leads to that much more fallout?

    1. The best explanation I’ve found for the problems with the Jedi code is here.

      My summary of the linked article: The philosophy of the Force is made from a collection of real-world religions and philosophies, which give it a nice feel for a pulpy sci-fi adventure, but flies apart as soon as you give it any serious thought.

      1. krellen says:

        For self-interested reasons, I wonder how you ran across that linked post, because it was written by a guy on a forum I used to frequent.

        (And by used-to-frequent, I mean it was my internet home.)

        1. I think I originally found it by searching for discussions of what religious/philosophical traditions the Force is based on. I wouldn’t know what forum you’re referring to, but…small world!

      2. Felblood says:

        The thing about the Jedi philosophy that gets ignored too often, both by the fandom in general and by EU writers in particular, is that the Jedi Code is supposed to be deficient.

        The Jedi Code is just as self-destructive and extremist as the Sith way. Only by rejecting the lies that Obi-Wan has fed him, can Luke hope to save his father’s soul.

        Obi-Wan and Yoda are wrong about a lot of things in the movies, because they’ve built their lives around a system of dogmas that is deeply broken. It’s like the D.A.R.E. program that America ran in the 90s to scare kids away from drugs. The intentions were good, but the message was simplistic, and kids absorbed some very harmful ideas, which that generation is passing along as if they carried the weight of religious dogma. If you ever try the Dark Side you’re going to get addicted. People who are into the Dark Side are worthless and they’ll never amount to anything. Dark Side users are scary monsters, and you should see them only as enemies.

        The Jedi philosophy preaches peace and detachment as a way to overcome fear and hatred, but that’s actually quite hypocritical, because these ideals are merely tools to protect them from their fear and hatred, of fear and hatred itself. It’s a recursively self-defeating loop, and they only keep it around because they don’t know a better way to not get hooked on addictive sorcery. –right up until they started keeping it around because this is the way that they had always done it, and doubting the will of The Council is a sign of the Dark Side.

        The only way the Jedi could possibly get away with that is if they took in new members only at a very young age, and then closed them off from family or any other close relationships, so they could never learn to question these teachings. Note that both times they take on an older apprentice with close ties outside the order, the kid ends up developing his own interpretation of the Jedi way and defying their commands.

        Every time I get to ranting about this it just makes me so sad and angry that the prequel trilogy does such an awful job of explaining this, because it is the actual plot of Star Wars. All that crap with Death Stars and Laser Swords is just window dressing, and the fact that so few people, even dedicated fans, don’t grasp this means that Star Wars itself is failing at storytelling on some fundamental level.

        Again, I have to point to Tales of the Jedi and Star Wars Tales comic series, as an example of how to not make the same mistakes, as the rest of the SW franchise. Here we see a thriving Jedi culture, before, during and after the change, and we can see how these mistakes are going to inevitably lead to a major implosion of the Order.

        All Darth Sidious really needed to do was wait for the Jedi to crack, and then mop them up before they could recover. Any writer (Lucas included) who has contributed to the inane tradition of weaving him into the background of every setback the Jedi or the Republic face is missing the point, and undermining his portrayal as a man who see a bigger picture than the Jedi.

      3. Daimbert says:

        The book “Star Wars and Philosophy” covers that a bit, as well as some other topics, if people are interested in the philosophical side of Star Wars.

    2. SlothfulCobra says:

      The Jedi are more than just pushing things around with the force and lightsabers. They also have a lot of zen and intuition that can help them get all these complex things done. But of course, they need to have their mind at peace to do that, and cutting romance out of their lives dramatically reduces the amount of stress and personal drama. It’s waaaaay easier to find a zen state of mind without that to deal with. I think that’s part of why buddhist monks do it.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Unless you’ve say… fallen in love with a teammate who you’re now FOREVER FORBIDDEN TO LOVE. That shit’s enough to drive you into the waiting arms of the Sith.

  28. Greg says:

    For new, interesting ideas?

    Traitor, by Matt Stover, was for me the saving grace of the NJO, and was all about the Force as philosophy. It took a more realistic look at the assumptions underlying a lot of Jedi and Sith dogma, and presents a closer look at the Yuuzhan Vong’s religion of pain and how it might affect said Force-users. It also featured probably the best example in the EU of a “Gray” Jedi that isn’t simply a Jedi or Sith who don’t obey their respective dogmas (cough cough Jolee and Kreia cough), but someone whose views are actually morally gray. (I know she was later “revealed” to have been a Sith — that idea retroactively ruined much of Traitor and thus I ignored it.)

    Another vote in for Zahn’s stuff, I can’t say much more than people have already said.

    The Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy gave us an actual reason for Boba Fett to be cool, as opposed to him simply looking cool. He’s basically Space Batman who shoots people (so Deathstroke? Not up on my comics). It also gave us a look at the bounty hunter profession and how it mostly works in Star Wars.

    The Revenge of the Sith novelization, also by Matthew Stover, introduced the idea that the story of Episode III could actually be any good.

  29. RubberBandMan says:

    Was going to see if someone would mention Shatterpoint (Also by Matthew Stover) Which is set clone-wars era and follows Mace Windu as he hears reports of one of the jedi he taught performing brutalaties on an empire occupied world. Leading him of course to say “WTF” and go and fix it.

    Like a lot of Stovers work, there is a lot of meditation on what your choices mean, and how different views react. It ends with Mace coming to an conclusion about what jedi fight for that goes against what most people think, but does seem more correct then the ‘peace and love and dismemberment’ that most ‘good’ jedi follow.

    Also it points out why the Jedi were so easy to kill in order 66. Fits in well with a lot of KOTOR2 ideas as well without the ‘force is evilll’

    The revenge of the sith book is pretty good too, but you can tell he’s skillfully writing around stupidity instead of just trying to make his own story like with Shatterpoint.

    1. Thomas says:

      I’m pretty sure Shatterpoint is the only Star Wars book I’ve read but I liked it. I liked the tactics with the drone fighters, I liked Vaapad and seeing Jedi more personally struggle with the darkside and the meditations on the films.

      I tried to read the first Thrawn book, but I didn’t get beyond the first few pages. The thing is, even in those first few pages it contained some really good ideas. The idea that the Empire survived and focusing on it more than the darkside, and telling a story through a non force-user Admiral in the Empire – those are all really cool ideas and I can see why people love them.

      On the other hand, Thrawn is an arche-typal villain-Sue and it was clear even from the first 18 pages that the books weren’t extensions of the Star Wars story. It was a non-Star Wars story that was jammed into the Star Wars universe in an incredibly hamfisted way. My guess is that the writer is an awful wordsmith, but with a fantastic Shamus-esque detail focus and attention to logical plotting and the author had a great idea for a story in him, but also really loved Star Wars. He didn’t quite have the skill to turn his idea into an independent story, or the skill to understand why he loved Star Wars and how his story could mesh with it – but he did have a really exciting story to tell. It’s fan fiction both in the derogative sense and in the sense that some fanfiction writers have a ton of talent and write great stories.

      Also I can’t care about Luke Skywalker. Luke is the wallpaper of the Star Wars trilogy. It’s the background world behind him that’s front and centre to Star Wars for me.

      1. Daimbert says:

        You’d probably like the X-wing series, then, as Luke plays a minor role in it, and it focuses on the X-wing pilots, who are definitely that background.

      2. guy says:

        Timothy Zahn has multiple independent series as well. Blackcollar, which is set in an interstellar human empire that got conquered by aliens who have installed a government of mind-controlled puppets and follows some supersoldiers who survived the war and are running an independence movement who get their hands on a drug developed during the closing days of the war to reverse the mind-control process and Quadrail, where interstellar travel is done by trains run by pacifists, who have recruited humans to secretly fight an infectious hive-mind of alien coral that has extensively infiltrated most of the galaxy, though it mostly hasn’t hit humans because they’re new to the scene. Turns out the train guys and the coral are both genetically-engineered servants of an ancient empire, and actually FTL travel does not require the trains; the train guys have stolen all the FTL juice and built it into trains so they can make interstellar invasions cost more money than people actually have

        Personally, I really like the Thrawn books; I have a fondness for characters who are smart in either villain or hero roles. Admittedly the art analysis thing is questionable*, but he pretty much collects useful assets and makes intelligent use of them. He’s also not infallible, and makes some mistakes which come back to haunt him.

        It also had some fun spins on the Vader “you have failed me” thing with tractor beam operators. One tractor beam operator has locked onto an X-wing, which does some trickery to momentarily break the lock and launch a torpedo, and the operator locks onto the torpedo. Thrawn goes down, asks him what that was about, and decides he’s a waste of space and shoots him. Later, a ship is hiding in an external hull, and when tractored blows the hull into dust to keep the tractor beam from locking on while the actual ship escapes. Thrawn goes down and asks the operator what happened, the operator explains and says he attempted to counter it by quickly switching into repulsor mode to clear the dust but the system locked up. Thrawn nods, explains that it’s a known tactic with no existing countermeasure, but the operator’s idea was a very good one and promotes him and assigns him to work on countering the tactic. Apparently, in a later book someone tries the same tactic… and it fails.

        *Fan theory I love: Thrawn just has an art collection because he likes art and pretends it’s where he gets his ideas.

  30. Trickquestion says:

    I’m curious as to what Mumbles thinks of the direction the Mandalorians went in under the CGI cartoon and eventual canon reset, which is where the Mandalorian art that was linked to a few weeks back came from, since you could kind of interpret it as a response to Travis turning them into a bunch of mary sues. That’s not official, of course, but she allegedly got really upset over it.

    The short of it is that after constantly getting defeated in their galaxy wide crusades the civilian population got sick of their planet being glassed and kicked out the warriors, before building a pacifist society. Traditionalists are the antagonists for a number of episodes and are pretty unambiguously murderous scum. They do eventually succeeded in gaining control of the planet after teaming up with Darth Maul, only for the whole thing to fall apart when Palpatine shows up in person to put his returned apprentice in his place.

    All in all, it was an arc I really enjoyed and did a lot to return Mandalorians to their rightful place as dangerous, ruthless villains.

    1. Daniel says:

      Not just supposedly- Travis apparently cancelled some Star Wars projects she had (At the very least Imperial Commando) out of disgust.

      1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

        Which was probably for the best. Her last published prequel era novel had the heroes gunning down runaway Jedi who deserved it because all Jedi are scum. Not like the heroic Clones who willingly sign up to work with Darth Vader, those guys are great.

  31. Gravebound says:

    I think I like the New Jedi Order more than most, it seems. Some of it is more ‘Star Wars’-y than other parts, but I thought it was entertaining enough. The standouts, to me, were Edge of Victory I & II by Gregory Keyes – I like “enemy-of-my-enemy…” type stories and this one followed my favorite two characters (Anakin and Tahiri…I liked them, so guess how that worked out for me); and Traitor by Matthew Stover.

    As mentioned in previous comment, Zahn and Stackpole’s books are good.

    But, whatever you do, avoid Troy Denning’s utter schlock. I think he has an insect fetish with how often he brings back his Mary Sue bug race. (What’s an insect version of furries? Chitiny?) And even though Lucas ruined Anakin Solo by forcing him to be killed off instead of Jacen, Denning completely tossed out all previous characterization of Tahiri to suit his awful (awful!) stories…:(

    I actually read through the Denning-run series following NJO and it was mostly terrible. The series after that I just stopped reading 3/4 of the way through. It was written in a very videogamey way: Luke has to go around collecting new force powers and fight the Big Bad, oh it got away, fight them again, etc… really the only thing that kept me going that far after the last series was inertia.

    1. Daimbert says:

      The Denning series I think you’re referring to is “Dark Nest”, and yes, it sucks. I think the later series you’re talking about, though, is “Fate of the Jedi”, which means you’re leaving out “Legacy of the Force”, which is better than “Fate of the Jedi”, although it still has problems.

      Of the three “Mega Series”, NJO is my favourite, followed by LotF, with FotJ being easily in last place. (The details of why are covered in a series on my own blog.)

      1. Gravebound says:

        I actually was talking about Legacy of the Force; I misremembered the author order (thought Denning had first/middle/last, so was story runner) but it seems Allston, Traviss and Denning all share the blame. :P

        It wasn’t ALL bad (I actually bought the series and kept a couple of the books, unlike Fate… where I just checked them out from the library), but it was pretty bad.

        That Dark Nest, though…..blech! Jedi/Bug orgy scene; really, Denning?

        1. Daimbert says:

          Um, in Legacy of the Force the Big Bad is Jacen, and Jaina trains with Boba Fett to take him down.

          Fate of the Jedi has Abeloth, where Luke goes out to follow Jacen’s path to learn the powers he learned in order to see if he can explain why Jacen went dark, and fights Abeloth over and over again.

          So your description seems to me to match FotJ, but LotF was the second Mega Series … and wasn’t that bad, really. But Traviss wrote some of LotF, and Christie Golden wrote for FotJ.

  32. Wonderduck says:

    The Good: the Thrawn Trilogy, the first X-Wing Squadron series of books.

    The Bad: pretty much everything else.

    The Ugly: dropping a moon on Chewbacca.

    It may be telling that the very best of the Expanded Universe books were also the very first of the Expanded Universe books. It’s all downhill after them.

  33. Mondroid says:

    Ooooooh, Star Wars EU question! Let me just consult my bookcase dedicated to that matter.
    Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy; he writes something clever and fun and should be appreciated for such an idea.
    The Waith Squadron and to a lesser extent Rogue of the X-Wing Saga; It’s the story of skilled soldiers trying to fight when we are so used to force wielding bad asses.
    That’s it, the rest are just meh if you are ok with reading slock and pulp and inevitable disappointment.

  34. djw says:

    I read Splinter in the Minds Eye in 1979 because I was a Star Wars obsessed nerd and Empire hadn’t come out yet. At the time I thought it was great, but I was only 9, so what did I know. I thought canon was something you shot cannon balls out of back then.

    1. The Rocketeer says:

      As opposed to today, when canon is something you shoot cannonballs at.

  35. Tvtim says:

    During the conversation with the mandalorian on the ship (nope, I really don’t know his name), I was paying more attention to HK ‘ticking’ in the background. I don’t know why, but his head movement was more attention grabbing than the war stories; the whole time I was wondering if he’s ticking to seconds, or to a certain measure of time.

  36. Supahewok says:

    I’m a little surprised to see the love for the X-Wing books, but not disappointed. They’re some of my favorites, too. The Stackpole ones are pretty good at a first reading, but don’t really hold up once your out of high school. I don’t agree with a commenter up above somewhere that Corran Horn is a “Mary Sue”, he’s simply a fairly straight-faced protagonist in a fairly straight-laced series. It’s not quite young adult, but it’s still fairly shallow, good fun.

    The Wraith Squadron books by Allston, however, are fantastic. They’re simply funny, with a broad range of characters and issues. They also have more varied military operations than the Stackpole books, mainly because Wraith Squadron is a more irregular, commando style group. It’s real good stuff.

    Zahn, as mentioned over and over, is generally worth reading.

    To add something that I haven’t seen mentioned here yet, I’ve heard good things about the Republic Commando series. It’s set in the Clone Wars, and follows a squad or two of commandos around on high risk missions. I read the first one years ago, and I thought it was alright. I have a friend who loves the series as a whole to bits. The kind of cult hit video game Republic Commandos is based on the series. Or maybe its the other way around.

  37. Joe Informatico says:

    My favourite part of the EU?

    When Disney declared it non-canonical.

    I liked the Thrawn trilogy, but the best part about it were the characters who didn’t come from the films, but they also felt like they were starring in a different kind of space opera. They didn’t really feel like Star Wars. Too much detail and examination of how politics and the criminal underworld and other institutions work in Star Wars undermines its pulp roots: it was never meant to stand up to that level of scrutiny. I never really read any other EU novels, but most of them didn’t sound very good at all.

    There were some interesting ideas in the EU, otherwise. I was partial to the Star Wars: Infinities comic books, which were “What If?” stories investigating how the plots of the original trilogy would have played out if a significant event turned out differently (e.g., in their version of Empire Strikes Back, Luke dies on Hoth and the story plays out from there).

  38. Nalyd says:

    I haven’t read many EU novels, but I did read one that was really good. Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. It takes place during the Clone Wars, and much of it deals with Yoda trying to get Count Dooku, his former apprentice, to return to the Jedi and to the light side. One of the funnier parts about it is how it portrays Anakin and Obi-Wan as easily-manipulated idiot jocks just smashing everything while Yoda tries desperately to make emotional and logical appeals to Dooku. It was a pretty neat look into the backstory of Dooku and his relationship with Yoda, and the dialogue between the two was genuinely well-done.

    1. Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The thing about that book is it solidified my view of Prequel Yoda as a well meaning, but truly terrible person. Yoda is the sensei who is always like “wait and see” and then you’re supposed to understand some amazing truth. But while he’s doing his little routine, people are getting murdered who he could have helped. There’s a part in the novel where Yoda is not using his lightsaber to prove a point, and another Jedi in the same engagement is overwhelmed and killed because of Yoda’s little exercise.

  39. Daemian Lucifer says:

    If we dont think about light side and dark side as “good vs evil” but rather as “carefully examining and thinking things through vs acting impulsively” then it makes sense that jedi forbid love,as well as all the emotion.

  40. Daimbert says:

    To answer this in the general terms you were looking for, the Expanded Universe … er, expanded the universe [grin]. This is why it’s hit and miss, because it explored a number of things that the movies didn’t have the time to explore, and so if you always wanted to know how some things worked, or a deeper exploration of them, you’ll love those treatments of them, and if you didn’t care about them you’ll feel that those works aren’t really capturing what Star Wars was.

    What they explored:

    – Politics, especially the post-Endor politics of setting up a new government.
    – The nature of the Force.
    – The Jedi purge
    – What it’s like to be an X-wing pilot not named “Luke Skywalker”.
    – Wedge Antilles as a person and a character.
    – The Unknown Regions (Chiss and Hapans)
    – The criminal underworld (bounty hunters and crime lords)
    – The backstory of Han Solo
    – The backstory of Boba Fett.
    – The Mandalorians

    … and a number of other issues. While some of the books are in fact really bad — I will likely never read the “Dark Nest” trilogy again, and while I’m actually thinking about giving “Fate of the Jedi” another try over Christmas my first reading impression is that it’s just a complete mess — for most of them you’ll like them if you like what they’re talking about and dislike them if you don’t. So the best way to approach the EU — or, rather, Legends — is to find out what aspects of the universe you most wanted to learn more about, and ask which books talk about that the best.

    (I regularly — as in at least once but usually more than once a year — re-read the X-wing series, I, Jedi, The Bounty Hunter Wars, The New Jedi Order, and Legacy of the Force, but there are others that are about as good.)

  41. John says:

    I read the Thrawn trilogy when I was in high school and thought it was basically okay, but I’ve never been able to work up much enthusiasm for the Star Wars EU.

    I mean, Return of the Jedi ends on a happy note. The Emperor’s dead. Yay! Sure, there’s still work to do and there are bound to be problems from time to time, but the really hard part is over, right? Wrong. Not in the EU. Superweapons galore. Extra-galactic invaders. Personal tragedy and heartbreak right and left. It makes me feel bad for Luke, Leia, and Han. Can’t they catch a break?

    In short, the EU harshed my post-RotJ mellow and I’ve never forgiven it.

  42. Galad says:

    I haven’t watched the last few episodes, but does the L in this one’s title stand for last? :O

  43. Spammy says:

    Man, Canderous’ voice actor is really good at telling stories. Imagine a game where they just had that guy telling stories all the time.

    Oh wait they did it’s Call of Juarez: Gunslinger. It’s not even subtle any more in this episode. He just has like 5% more old guy sound in Gunslinger.

  44. Graham Mitchell says:

    Yeah, XWING series for me. Some stand out story arcs, but the best is the fall of Coruscant.

    You have this city planet with unimaginable defences and utmost importance but if the Galactic War plot is to progress is has to be at least attacked, if not fall, else the Rebel’s can’t call themselves a legitimate political force and establish the New Republic.
    But even with the fall of the Emperor et al, the force required to take it is logically beyond the Rebels even in the medium term after Yavin.

    So what happens?

    The imperial leader concocts a plague that is deadly to many non human races on the planet and releases it before ‘allowing’ the planet to fall to the rebels. The ensuing pandemic turns the non humans against their liberators, whereas once they had been the champions of hope and equality, since they are immune to this horrific (and it is horrific) plague they become vilified.

  45. wheals says:

    As people have already mentioned, Zahn in the Thrawn trilogy, and even moreso in the two Hand of Thrawn books (IIRC), tried to make the Empire something that any reasonable person would support. The basic theory was that the galaxy was essentially lawless, and the imposition of a strict order would make it someplace safe and livable. Given that the Old Republic fell apart for basically that reason (and in the EU, if I understand correctly, the New Republic did too), there’s certainly a strong empirical case to be made. In the latter books the Empire isn’t even trying to expand; it just wants to live in peace, with the people who live in it essentially supportive of the regime. Remember, even in the Roman Empire (along with Nazi Germany the main inspiration for the Empire), there was a good deal of self-government, even if there was also a lot of oligarchy. He almost casts it as a Hobbes-versus-Rousseau question of how restrictive the state should be.

    Pellaeon is also a great character, since he’s not a moustache-twirling villain but he’s not willing to just bring the democratic way of life to the Empire. He’s the top military commander, but he’s really just a tired old soldier who wants peace. He represents the best the Empire has to bring, with a respect for tradition and the old order but a willingness to adapt to new times.

    Of course, Zahn doesn’t really address the space racism aspects of the Empire because there’s not much you can do besides saying that the sympathetic characters of course don’t believe in it. And it’s not like the Empire really does bring order to the Galaxy in the movies, instead cutting deals with corrupt local businessmen like Lando, and you have cantinas on Tattooine where someone’s arm can get cut off and nobody bats an eye. This is because the goal of making the Empire sympathetic is ultimately incompatible with its purpose in the movies, which is just to be Evil with a capital E. It’s still interesting that Zahn tried.

    In fact, I’d say he accomplished having interesting, Star Wars-y political intrigue. It’s unfortunate Lucas instead gave us boring, unthematic stuff in the prequels. I admit that it’s not as easy to make it interesting on the screen as it is in a novel.

    I’d also like to call out The Crystal Star, which was basically Star Wars on LSD. It features some kind of… blob alien faith healer that comes from an alternate reality. It wasn’t very good but I certainly haven’t forgotten it!

    1. Kathryn says:

      If you read Outbound Flight, there is also a very strong hint that the Chiss know about the Yuuzhan Vong. So it’s possible Thrawn sided with the Empire because he felt that a strong, centralized government had a better chance against them than the barely controlled chaos of the Old and New republics.

  46. Viktor says:

    The thing to keep in mind about the EU is that it’s mostly written by fans of Star Wars. So all the discussions on here about the nature of the Force? There’s novels that focus on that. The Light Side/Grey Side/West Side debates? There’s books for every perspective. That really interesting discussion you had with a friend one time about what a Force-Sensitive could do with not much training, little power, and by being really clever? Yeah, his name is Corran Horn and he has his own series. There’s also a bunch of stuff about Kevin J. Anderson’s Mary Sue OCs, a bunch of love letters to Boba Fett and his whole planet, and a whole ton of cocky fighter pilots named Not Solo.

    Basically, figure out what you like best about Star Wars, find a serious fan, and ask that person which books(and cartoons and comics) focus on those aspects of it.

    (Though the first Clone Wars cartoon series was damn good for anybody. You’re looking for the one that’s traditional animation, not CGI. Also Shamus, you will love Shatterpoint.)

  47. phlebas says:

    Matthew Stover novels (Shatterpoint, the episode 3 novel that basically does the kind of explaining you want from games but don’t get), and I, Jedi. Basically they tackle the ideas of “hey wait, how can free agents with magic swords that cut through anything, who are free to do whatever they want, possibly be a good idea?”

  48. guy says:

    I have mixed but positive feelings about the New Jedi Order series. I really like all the interesting weapons and tactics and such, but it kind of feels like the Yuuzhan Vong’s greatest weapon is inducing stupidity. Three main axis:

    1. The Yuuzhan Vong aren’t detectable in the force, and this results in the Jedi Order spending half the series sitting around in philosophical confusion, rather than Luke telling everyone that this raises some interesting questions but they can talk about that after they stop the galactic invasion. Meanwhile the Yuuzhan Vong have decided that they’re a super-powered ruling caste and prioritizes their capture or extermination.

    2. The Yuuzhan Vong acquire a bizarrely extensive network of collaborators, given that they’re a mysterious alien race with a religion centered around pain and self-mutilation as acts of worship, in imitation of their chief god, who carved himself apart to create the universe. Additionally, it becomes abundantly clear to everyone that they cannot be trusted to keep their promises.

    3. The New Republic leadership just kind of screws up. They determine that the Yuuzhan Vong have a temporary military advantage, but the production capacity of the major shipyard worlds will turn that around so long as the Republic can hold them, but extensively fortifying them would mean leaving the population of other worlds at the mercy of invaders who are conspicuously lacking on that score. Faced with the choice between protecting their infrastructure and protecting their citizens, they attempt to pick both and succeed at neither, wasting ships by sending inadequate forces on futile missions to protect planets against superior forces.

    But when people are actually fighting instead of sitting around wondering if they should, everything is interesting. The Vong have all kinds of weird biotech, and the Republic takes that as a cue to start pulling out cool ideas of their own. The characters are fun, the Vong are more nuanced than you’d expect, with interesting cultural things like assuming that Luke intentionally chopped off his arm and got a mechanical replacement as a sign of his elevation, because Yuuzhann Vong leaders do that with biotech; prior to a major offensive their Warmaster has an implant installed that will eat its way up his arm to the elbow and replace it with one patterned off a major predator, and when it starts to eat past the elbow he takes it as a sign that the gods are giving him a shot at glory or ruin; if he pleases them it will end at the shoulder and if he fails them it will consume his entire body. There’s also a lengthy sequence of events where Jaina uses holograms and gravity generators (the Yuuzhan Vong use gravity manipulating creatures for IFF) to persuade them she’s the incarnation of their goddess of deception.

  49. Felblood says:

    I doubt many people will see this down here, but this really doesn’t attach well to anything above.

    There are a lot of interesting, abandoned idea in the old “Adventures of the Starkiller” screenplay draft, you’ll find floating about the internet, and it warms my black heart whenever an EU writer references them, or finds a way to incorporate them into the timeline.

    In Starkiller, the Jedi are a cross between morally-abiguous, laser-sword ninjas, and James Bond. Padawan Anakin Starkiller can talk his way into any woman’s pants in five minutes, and the Jedi code doesn’t seem to have a problem with this. His master, General Luke Skywalker, blows up a friendly base, because he thinks there *might* be a mole in the operation. The Jedi are clannish warrior-nomads who form close, nuclear families and view outsiders as expendable allies at best, not abstinent, altruistic monks with no personal ties.

    The overarching conflict seems to be less about good-versus-evil as Tradition-Versus-New-Order. A Sith Knight pulls a Heel-Face-Turn when he realizes that using the Death Star against civilians violates his honorable warrior ethos as a Sith Knight.

    The Jedi have basically lost the Jedi-Sith war, and are struggling to survive, but there are literal thousands of Sith Knights.

    There is an aesthetic there that is clearly Star Wars, but the details of who is what, and what their roles are is much more open to exploration. That’s what I want from new Star Wars.

  50. Daniel says:

    Good EU books? Let’s see…

    For more stuff set before the Prequels you have the Darth Bane novels by Drew Karpyshyn (Set 1000 years before Phantom Menace), which fill out a lot of background on the Sith. Drew wrote a tie in to SWTOR called Revan, which… well, suffice to say, Badass Decay doesn’t even begin to cover the flaws of that book.

    Darth Plagueis, by James Luceno, is a fascinating character examination of Palpatine and his Master, cover the events from Palpatine joining the Sith up to and including Phantom Menace.

    Luceno also wrote a story called Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, which takes a lot from the below mentioned ROTS novelization and focuses on Vader in the immediate aftermath of ROTS and Order 66..

    Shatterpoint by Matt Stover is another good character examination of Mace Windu, which can basically be summed up as “Mace Windu kicks your ass: the novel.” Stover went on to write the Revenge of the Sith novelization (Which is vastly superior to the movie and cannot recommend enough) and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindoir (A post Return of the Jedi story that incorporates a lot of elements from the ROTS novel, including a narrative tool where Stover shows what a character is thinking by opening with “This is how it feels to be X, right now.”)

    Alongside the often recommended Thrawn Trilogy, Zhan also released Allegiance, which deals with a Stormtrooper team that goes rogue and becomes vigilantes of sorts six months after A New Hope. It got a sequel called Choices of One.

    And finally, there’s Corruscant Nights, which is set between ROTS and a New Hope, and mixes the usual Rebel plots with criminal investigations on Corruscant.

    And that’s just the good books I can remember from 20 minutes on TVTropes.

  51. Felblood says:

    So, this is super late, and nobody will ever read this, but…

    This thread got me to thinking, and I have something to add, that I just have to get out.

    If you want some books that take the basic power paradigm of Star Wars, but constantly find new ways to turn it on it’s head and make it a source of interesting stories, I strongly recommend looking into the Death Gate Cycle.

    It’s not Star Wars, but it does have two nearly extinct races of superhumanly powerful space wizards, whose competing visions for the future shape of the universe lead them to meddle in mortal wars and politics. The protagonists of most of the stories are lone agents of each of those two races, working alone to manipulate the various mortal factions, and having duels with their opposite number.

    The primary change that allows the whole thing to work is that there is never any attempt to “turn” a member of the rival faction. The Patryn and the Sartan will play mind games with each other, and try to push their opponents into a crisis of faith, but no matter who vouchers for him, no Sartan is ever going to be allowed to put on a Patryn uniform and move into their fortress as one of them, and vice versa.

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