While we’re in the tomb on Zeffo, we get access to another TikTok from Master Cordova. He rambles about the amazing Zeffo civilization and then mentions that he’s going to speak to some Wookiee leader named Tarfful.
That’s it. That’s our lead.
I thought we were following him on a pilgrimage to tombs? Keep in mind, Cordova is (presumably) dead and this is a recording he made for an unknown person (us) in the future. And he gives us a lead to talk to somebody? It didn’t occur to Cordova that maybe some people might die in the coming conflict? He didn’t think it might be hard for a random stranger to talk to a Wookiee head of state? He didn’t think to give us more concrete goals? Like, planets are big and we don’t even know what we’re supposed to ask Tarfful if we find him.
Damn it, Cordova. You are terrible at this.
Cordova’s logic makes no sense. “The Zeffo drew a picture of Wookiee trees on their temple, therefore a Wookiee chieftain must know all about Zeffo treasure that was hidden thousands of years ago!” That’s a complete non-sequitur. I once drew a picture of the Arc de Triomphe, but that doesn’t mean French president Emmanuel Macron knows where I keep my prized comic book collection.
Also, I’m confused on the timeline here. As far as I can tell, he had a premonition of some vague coming doom. So he took this holocron of all known Jedi prospects. Then he decided to spend years(?) studying the Zeffo, while recording little travel vlogs for some unknown person in the future, addressing them as “My friend.” Then he hid the holocron and encrypted the memory of his droid so the droid could accompany this unknown person on this pilgrimage and play his vlogs back to them. And then if the pilgrim views enough of the vlogs, they’ll learn the location of the Astrum you need to access the Holocron?
It’s clear from the recordings that Cordova didn’t know if he’d find an Astrum on his journey. He recorded all of these vlogs, expecting us to follow in his footsteps. But he doesn’t know where he’s going to end up. He didn’t have an Astrum yet. Did he know ahead of time he’d be able to use it to hide the holocron?
I don’t know. I feel like this plot has more moving parts than is needed to justify the “Go to tomb, solve puzzle, get plot coupon” story we’re doing here.
Whatever. We don’t have enough information to properly diagnose Cordova’s obvious drug problem, so all we can do is move on and hope for the best. We can go to the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk, or we can go to DathomirOnce again, this is a false choice. Dathomir is still a dead end.. I’m going to head to Kashyyyk next.
We’re headed for Kashyyyk, the Wookiee homeworld, which is lead by Tarfful and is famously the homeworld of Chewbacca. Did George Lucas spill Fanta in his keyboard just before he wrote this stuffOf course not. He hand-wrote it and someone else typed it on a typewriter. It was the mid 70s, and word processing on personal computers was still a ways off.? I mean, was it really necessary to have three consecutive Y’s in Kashyyyk?
As we arrive, we discover that (surprise!) the Empire is attacking the planet. We get a little set-piece where we climb all over an AT-AT, get inside, take control, and then have an on-rails vehicle section where we blow stuff up.
It’s… fine. I’m not super-happy when a game takes away the strong, polished, interesting central mechanics the game is built on and replaces it with some shallow disposable vehicle crap, but this AT-AT sequence is actually fairly short. The whole thing feels like a corporate mandated vehicle section, but at least it doesn’t overstay its welcome. And climbing around on the AT-AT was pretty cool.
We meet up with Saw Gerrera, who you might remember as Forest Whitaker’s character from Rogue One. In the Star Wars timeline, Rogue One ends just a few hours before the opening scene of A New Hope. This game takes place in the years between the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy, so we’re meeting a slightly younger, less unhinged version of the character.
Gerrera explains that the Empire is here to “steal the planet’s resources”. If that’s not dumb enough, they’re also capturing Wookiees for some reason???
This actually got a laugh out of me. Kashyyyk is one huge forest. What is the Empire here to steal? The TREES? Are they planning on building the Death Star out of wood? And who in their right mind would endure the expense, hassle, and extreme danger of enslaving a Wookiee in a universe where droids exist?
Of course, none of this is new. This Wookiee-enslaving and planet-plundering business goes way back in Star Wars lore. It’s never made any sense to me. Maybe one of the Extended Universe books lays the groundwork for this, but in every story I’ve seen it’s always just this nonsensical battle by cartoon villains who don’t seem to be getting anything out of subjugating the Wookiees.
But then Gerrera explains that the Empire is here extracting sap from the trees, which has some useful properties that he doesn’t elaborate on.
Hey… you know, I like that idea.
Free the Trees!
The sap gives the Empire a reason to want this place, which is more than Lucas could be bothered to do in Revenge of the SithKOTOR suffered from the same problem.. Back in RotS, the only reason Kashyyyk was seen as a critical strategic location was because that’s where Chewbacca is from and the audience likes Chewbacca. But now we have a reason for people to fight over this huge untamed forest. Of course the Wookiees would take exception to this sap-harvesting, which creates the cool guerrilla warfare situation we see now.
Using this information, we can extrapolate even further and come up with some reasons for taking Wookiee prisoners rather than just mowing them down. In this game, the Wookiee prisoners aren’t here to serve as a dangerously disloyal slave workforce. They’re just in cages. Those cages are positioned within the Empire’s various extraction facilities. The game doesn’t go out of its way to point this out, but it’s clear that the Wookiee prisoners function as hostages. The guerrillas can’t just blow up these facilities unless they’re willing to murder hundreds of their friends. This obliges them to come out of the jungle and assault the facilities directly, which is a much more comfortable fight for the entrenched and fortified Imperial Troops.
I’ve said before that Star Wars is drama first, not details first, but this one little detail justifies this entire conflict and even retroactively makes earlier depictions of Kashyyyk less dumb. Even in a drama-first universe, it really is worth the time to fill in little details like this.
The Traveling Jedi Problem
Cal joins the resistance, kills the requisite number of busloads of stormtroopers, and frees the Wookies. In return, the now-free Wookiees promise to track down Tarfful, the Wookiee leader we need to talk to. However, it will take them some time. They’ll get back to you.
So here we run into another odd design decision with the game. Like Mass Effect, we’ve got the intro areas, then three main worlds that can (seemingly) be taken in whatever order, then the endgame worlds. Unlike Mass Effect, these planets aren’t designed to be singular self-contained stories.
We’ve got three main worlds, and we need to visit all of them twice. You need to complete the first half of Zeffo to get the lead to go to Kashyyyk. Once you complete the first half of Kashyyyk, the second half of Zeffo opens up. Once you’re done with that, it will be time to come back to Kashyyyk, which will grant us a new power that will enable us to tackle the first half of Dathomir. And so on.
I’m not sure why this was done. The second half of Zeffo doesn’t need to be on Zeffo. The first area and the second area are barely connected, and could easily have been presented as two different locations. Like, they could have taken the back 9 of Zeffo and stuck it on a different planet. Given the overbearing size of these places, it would actually be really nice to cut them in half.
On the other hand, creating a whole new planet doesn’t just mean taking the second half of Zeffo and putting it into an empty map. If you’re going to have another planet that matches the others in terms of quality, then that planet needs unique wildlife, unique lighting, and unique dialog to put it into context and explain why the Empire is hereAlternatively: Design model, animate, voice, and explain a whole new class of mooks for us to swordfight.. On the other, other hand, the second half of Zeffo looks very distinct from the first. The first part of Zeffo has a blue ice motif going on, while the second half is warmer and leans more towards a dirty industrial style.
This game is already really extravagant in terms of production values, so I’m probably being unreasonable by wishing for more planets. Still, I was a little put off by the need to switch planets rather than binging all the way through the one I was on.
The other oddity is how uneven the story beats are. Zeffo is probably the largest planet of the bunch, and yet it has almost nothing in the way of story. There aren’t any locals to meet. The Empire is supposedly digging for treasure in the background, but that doesn’t add up to a “story”. The whole place is one big rat maze filled with stormtroopers and a puzzle tomb. Each half of Kashyyyk is a different (albeit small and simple) story. And finally Dathomir has a full overarching story and even multiple characters with their own arcs.
So Zeffo is nearly all gameplay and no story, Dathomir is really story heavy, and Kashyyyk falls somewhere in between.
Did the designer want to make all of the planets as story-rich as Dathomir, but they ran out of time / budget? Did they have a story planned for Zeffo that got cut for time? Was the second half of Zeffo originally planned as another world that got merged for whatever reason?
I want to stress that this isn’t criticism, it’s just curiosity. The overall construction of the game is fine, I’m just curious why the story and gamespace aren’t more evenly distributed.
Anyway, it’s time to move on from Kashyyyk. We can go back to Zeffo, or we can head to Dathomir. The only planet we can’t work on is the one we’re on now.
(Actually, if you’re playing through the game yourself, then now is a good time to head back to the little tutorial planet of Bogano and pick up a bunch of collectibles that were unobtainable during your initial visit. Specifically, two additional healing charges should now be reachable. By this point in the journey you’ll have acquired Force push and you’ll probably have unlocked the ability to have BD-1 sliceSlicing is just Star Wars for “hacking”. computer terminals. Those are your two main door-opening powers.)
Let’s head to Dathomir and see what makes this place so spooky.
 Once again, this is a false choice. Dathomir is still a dead end.
 Of course not. He hand-wrote it and someone else typed it on a typewriter. It was the mid 70s, and word processing on personal computers was still a ways off.
 KOTOR suffered from the same problem.
 Alternatively: Design model, animate, voice, and explain a whole new class of mooks for us to swordfight.
 Slicing is just Star Wars for “hacking”.
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