After a lot of distractions, mishaps, and Gorgara’s multi-stage boss fight / chase scene / action sequence / second boss fight, Cal finally crawls back out of the hole and approaches the temple of Dathomir for the third time. Spoiler: He’s still not going to get in.
This time he reaches the front door and finds it can’t be opened.
As the player turns around, they see a meditation circle on the floor. Instead of simply saving the game, interacting with this particular circle will actually launch a flashback. Every single time I go through the game, I automatically click on the circle and get sucked into the next huge block of cutscenes. When it happens, I make a mental note to NOT use the circle in the next game, and instead see how the game responds if you try to leave the temple without meditating.
This was my third trip through the game, and I still forgot. My save reflex is too strong.
Anyway, before we join Cal in his flashback, we need to back up a bit and talk about Jaro Tapal.
Tapal was Cal’s instructor back when Cal was a padawanWell, technically he still is. His teachers were genocided and his school was blown up, which makes graduation difficult. I hope he never needs a transcript of his grades for a job interview.. Throughout the game, we’ve been having flashbacks to Cal’s training days. Whenever we come to some major obstacle – like Cal needs to be able to shove something with the Force to progress the plot – the story jumps back in time and we play through a bit of Cal’s childhood where he learned that particular trick.
Once the flashback is over, we jump back to the present and Cal has regained this power just in time to keep the plot rolling.
However, in all of these sequences the audience has the knowledge that we’re essentially waiting for the other shoe to drop. Anyone with a casual understanding of Star Wars lore knows that eventually Emperor Palpatine is going to issue Order 66, which will make the troopers turn on the Jedi. And even if you’re not familiar with Star Wars, the game has already made it clear that Tapal somehow died when the Jedi were wiped out a few years ago. So every time we revisit Cal’s childhood, we do so with the knowledge that eventually both Tapal and Cal’s Jedi training are going to come to a violent end.
Well, the time has come…
Cal meditates at the temple, and when that happens we get the flashback we’ve been dreading / waiting for. Today is the day of Order 66.
Cal looks to be about 10 years old in these scenes. We get to run around this Republic ship and greet the friendly Troopers. They all know Cal and give off a kind of “Cool Cop” vibe. Cal reaches Master Tapal, but Order 66 arrives before the day’s lesson can begin. Like many of the surviving Jedi, Tapal was helped by random luck. Some Jedi were in a room full of troopers when the order came in, while others were in more defensible positions. Tapal only has a lone trooper in the room with him, which gives the two Jedi a fighting chance.
While he doesn’t ever understand why, Tapal quickly figures out that the troopers are trying to kill them. There are a lot of troopers on this ship, so the Jedi can’t hope to stand their ground.
The next section is a very on-rails escape where you play as young Cal. They make it to the escape pods, but Tapal is cut down before they can launch. The RepublicNow suddenly Imperial, I suppose. ship explodes thanks to Tapal’s sabotage.
Cal finds himself alone in an escape pod, looking at the fireball of his former home. Nobody knows he survived, which presumably allows him to make it to Bracca and become a scrapper.
Previous conversations with Cere hinted at this, but now we see that Cal has a dire case of survivor’s guilt.
This is all great stuff. My only gripe is that it feels like it took way too long to get here. I spent the first 2/3 of the game being bored and uninterested in Cal. Given the magnitude of becoming an orphan and a fugitive at the same time, and of being betrayed at such a young age by those he trusted, I felt like Cal was too stable, too normal, and too lacking in visible conflict. It isn’t until now that his personal problems finally bubble to the surface and create some tension.
Still, credit where it’s due. This entire conflict serves the character, it makes emotional sense, it makes Cal more relatable, and it fits nicely with extant lore. The whole flashback was great drama, and the cutscenes worked well as action scenes. It’s not usually fun to watch NPCs do the fighting and not be allowed to join in, but in this scene I really enjoyed watching Jaro Tapal go to town on the troopers.
I normally disapprove of cutting away from player action so the game designer can amuse themselves, but I like this scene where we see Master Tapal fight. It’s just a few seconds long, so we’re not sitting passively for extended periods of time. Even better, there aren’t any stupid quicktime events to clutter up the scene with placebo input. In fact, I’m not even sure this part is mandatory. Maybe you can jog away from this window without watching the show. I never triedI just looked up a speedrun to see if you can walk away from the window, but it turns out you can clip out of the level and skip this entire sequence. So I dunno..
We return to the present and Cal has to confront his inner demons in the form of a very angry and accusational apparition of Jaro Tapal. It’s very reminiscent of the scene where Luke confronts a vision of Vader in Empire Strikes Back. Like Luke, Cal doesn’t handle it well. He tries to duel his dead master, freaks out, and ends up breaking his lightsaber.
Defenseless, Cal decides to return to the ship and regain his composure.
Heart of Dark Side
Outside the temple, Cal finds the mystery Sith Hobo from earlier. He reveals himself to be former Jedi Master Taron Malicos. He was evidently a big deal during the clone wars, but once the Republic fell he turned to the Dark Side. He took over this village / culture, pulling a Kurtz from Heart of Darkness kinda deal. He’s such an obvious bad guy that Google Docs relentlessly auto-corrected his name to “Malicious” the entire time I worked on this series.
Dude! If a spell checker can tell you’re a bad guy, then you’re being too obvious about it.
Anyway, I really love this character concept. It’s a cool story for a fallen Jedi, and it makes a lot of sense that this sort of thing would happen with the collapse of the Jedi order. The Jedi are ridiculously powerful in Nu Star Wars, and there are all kinds of stories you could tell about how surviving Jedi behaved after their entire government, culture, family, and religion was wiped out in a single day.
Malicos also has a pretty good plan. He’s not just being evil for laughs. He’s found this remote world of powerful Force users who have a strong warrior culture. He’s deceived and bullied his way into power. These people can support him, defend him, teach him their Force secrets, and mask his presence from the Empire. Honestly, his only mistake is that he reveals himself to Cal. I’m not sure why. Maybe he wanted a little help in controlling the locals? If he had just remained hidden, then Cal might have come and gone without there being a confrontation.
But no. Malicos tries to tempt Cal into joining, and that’s where things start to unravel. To control Cal, Malicos needs to lie about what he’s been doing here. To control Merrin, he needs to lie about what’s been going on in the rest of the galaxy and with the Jedi in particular. These lies are incompatible.
Merrin overhears the Jedi talking, which exposes Malicos’s lies to her. She appearsShe can use the Force to teleport apparently? I feel like the Jedi ought to be trying to figure out how THAT trick works. That would be super effective! and confronts Malicos, which exposes his lies to Cal. The dude is now thoroughly screwed.
Or he would be, if the Night Brothers were still around. I don’t know. Maybe Cal killed them all? All three of these people are at odds and if Cal had a functioning lightsaber this could easily become a three-way battle. However, Merrin makes the first move and summons a sithload of zombies. Cal makes a run for it.
Like I said, I love this setup. Personality-wise, Malicos is just another evil nutter. But in terms of having a coherent plan and long-term goals, he’s vastly more interesting than any of our main villains. He’s also here of his own volition and not a slave brainwashed through torture, so he feels more like an active character and less like a plot device. Like, the fact that he’s here, doing this, tells us a lot about who he is.
This story arc is actually very brief, but you could have expanded this idea into an entire game.
Cal makes it back to the others and they escape before the ship is covered in zombies. He and Cere do some mutual confessions regarding their Order 66 emotional baggage, and then Cal turns to the difficult task of fixing his lightsaber.
Damn it. It looks like the game is going to pull a lightsaber tease on us after all.
 Well, technically he still is. His teachers were genocided and his school was blown up, which makes graduation difficult. I hope he never needs a transcript of his grades for a job interview.
 Now suddenly Imperial, I suppose.
 I just looked up a speedrun to see if you can walk away from the window, but it turns out you can clip out of the level and skip this entire sequence. So I dunno.
 She can use the Force to teleport apparently? I feel like the Jedi ought to be trying to figure out how THAT trick works. That would be super effective!
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