Archive for TOR

Review: Deceived

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , on 28 July 2017 by Megan

by Paul S. Kemp

I could title this review “how to slash a rating in half in the last 20 pages and make a reader go from ‘I see why people like Kemp’ to profanity-laced ‘Kemp is garbage and I will never read this again or anything else he ever wrote.'” Because up until page 239, this was solidly at 4 stars, better than Revan, and certainly delivering on everything anyone could want from a TOR novel.

I remember in Jude Watson’s Defenders of the Dead how I threw the book across the room when a main character did something totally out of character in the last ten pages. I wasn’t angry when I read this one, though. Just deflated.

Let’s start with the plot description and the other decent stuff first, though.

Deceived is based on a video game, even more directly on a trailer for the videogame, so it was really exciting to get some depth behind the trailer, to put names with the faces and know who those characters were, what was going on, how it relates to the game I play.

It was also amusing to pick out the obvious archetypes from the game imported into the book: Malgus the Warrior with his Vette-companion Eleena, the Knight Aryn with companion T7, the Smuggler Zeeveld — even more fun to have the book identify Aryn and Z as former troopers, as my knight Vish’wecor’annik is a former trooper herself and it confirms my lore. The Agent (Sniper) Vrath was easily my favorite character, but I’ll return to that.

The book has some standard flaws. I found the character development limited, though nowhere near as shallow as in Revan; psychology and memory were provided for the characters, but everything in the book was shown and not told, making for a rather flat experience. There were too many paragraph breaks to ever really settle into a single string of action. It’s interesting, I notice people complaining all the time about how many cuts are made in action movies, and how praiseworthy single-shot scenes are, but nobody ever takes me seriously when I observe that paragraph breaks in novels shatter the flow of action. But it’s a great way to pad pages when you have no idea what to do.

Still, as I said, up until page 239, I was willing to round up my 3.5 rating to 4 stars for Goodreads. I wished there was more depth of character and less telling me how characters feel rather than showing me — but that tell-don’t-show goes back to Lucas himself and therefore is a core thing in Star Wars. The action centers on Malgus, betrayed in his attempt to flatten the Republic, and TOR players will see the seeds of his rebellion and New Empire planted here. Aryn is a Jedi Knight who breaks through the Imperial blockade on Coruscant to hunt Malgus and avenge her master’s death. She uses her old comrade-in-arms Z-man to do so, as he’s been hired by the Exchange to get a load of spice through that blockade.

Star Wars’ classic philosophical themes try to grow here as the marine-turned-smuggler wrestles with his conscience and the Jedi Knight comes to terms with her passion and anger. For whatever reason, though, Kemp can’t follow through with them and the book feels like a cup of tea that smells amazing but wasn’t allowed to steep and therefore tastes like nothing more than hot water. As always, books that disappoint me earn my sharpest criticism, because I was expecting something more and the end left me deflated and angry that I’d been drawn in.

The following paragraph contains explicit spoilers, as I intend to outburst fully on what infuriated me about this book, which requires a pretty detailed summary of those last 20 pages. If you don’t want to know, then consider this the end of the review: a decent book that started well-told but fizzled out like a wet sparkler.

It’s one of my beliefs that death in a book has to be meaningful. Unfortunately, I never wrote the post I meant to about “beautiful book-death,” what it takes for death in a novel to be acceptable, even praiseworthy, cathartic, reassuring even in pain. I can tell you, though, that this book failed, and that the alternative to “beautiful book-death” is “obscene, offensive book-killing,” and that in under 20 pages, Kemp went from 4-stars to “I wish you hadn’t done that” to “massive overkill and eff you too, author guy who apparently hates readers.”

First, as I said earlier, the sniper Vrath was easily my favorite character. I like snipers. I play snipers. I’m sure that has more than a little to do with how relatable I found him. I was also amused that his surname was Xizor, an obvious nod. I understood he was Z’s foil as Malgus was Aryn’s, and admired the clever way he went about doing his job to keep the Exchange’s spice from getting to Coruscant. Two former soldiers from opposite sides, working toward opposite goals, with more than they suspect in common — Vrath was demonstrably honorable, probably wrestling with the same things Z was. I was excited and curious when Vrath ended up Z’s prisoner — but with all the buildup, Z just throws him out an airlock. This was followed two pages later by Malgus stabbing his lover Eleena through the heart because his love for her is a liability.

One blindside could have been acceptable, but two deaths with no buildup, no potential for catharsis, and no emotional payoff was too much. I find it disgusting when death is used for a cheap thrill, so my final word on this book is disgust.

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Game Time Started

Posted in Fun, Reviews, Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on 25 May 2016 by Megan

4A review of Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively-multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) which I have officially been playing for exactly one year today.

This is how Star Wars has gone for me: 1997-2005, Oh my gosh Star Wars is the most awesome thing ever and I swear I will know everything about it that was ever created or published because knowledge is power and I will be the most powerful Star Wars fan ever. 2005-2011, Education is distracting and anyway all that new Star Wars stuff is crap written by people who don’t know jack diddly about Star Wars. I know better than all of them so I can’t be bothered to read their stupid ignorance anymore. 2011-2012, New renaissance! Life is good and wow I missed a bunch of Star Wars stuff and need to catch up. 2012, My life is in the dumpster and to top it off, Star Wars has been destroyed. I give up and quit. 2013- New new renaissance! I will NOT be told by a mouse to get out of my fandom! Star Wars is MINE.

This includes games. I never really played Star Wars games, either because I never had computers that could handle the graphics, or Sims took up all of my non-school hours. Dark Forces II was a perennial favorite, but frankly the way everybody went on about Knights of the Old Republic had me pretty confident I was going to ignore it forever. (I don’t like things people go on about.) I didn’t know The Old Republic was separate. I got sick of hearing KOTOR this that and the other and determined never to play.

And then Disney took everything away. Disney made me reevaluate Star Wars. Also, GOG sold games I could install on Windows 7. So I bought KOTOR and decided to give it a try. And then I found out that The Old Republic was something different.

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Somebody from the Star Wars group encouraged me to get an account, so I chipped into the game with extreme caution. I logged in, did the first scene, walked out into the cantina, and immediately had a panic attack.

It was huge. It was mind-bogglingly, indescribably huge. And every person I saw was a real person who could see me, too. And they were all judging me. I hadn’t even wanted to ask the NPC in KOTOR for the tutorial because I thought he’d think I was an idiot; how could I handle an entire game full of a hundred real life people actively actually judging me walking into walls, getting killed, and behaving with general incompetence?

Sweet relief, the phone rang and I logged out. I genuinely thought at the time that I probably would never log back in again. So my one-year-ago-to-the-day experience was quite truncated.

Funny thing was, I couldn’t stop thinking about that initial cutscene. As much as everything else made me panic, the fact that I could click on buttons and my character actually said real words filled me with awe. Every other game was stuff like “ask about X” and the person replied; there was no first-person dialogue from me. I was suddenly overwhelmed with interest to know what my character would say. So I tiptoed back in.

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She’s a Zabrak because as f2p, I didn’t have any other nonhuman options. I’ve always come up with insane backstory for every character I’ve ever played — seriously, the hours I used to spend as a kid playing Alley Cat, I spent the whole time coming up with complex histories for the cats. So by the time I’d finished creating Anmaradi, she had a rich history — and I truly intended for her to be me if I existed in the era of TOR.

She made me feel like a badass. It wasn’t easy to learn, especially in pre-KOTFE days, especially for someone who had barely even heard the term “MMORPG” before. But the cutscenes kept me coming back and for awhile, I played just cutscene to cutscene.

And then we decided to form a guild. The group expressed interest mainly in a Republic side guild, so I had to make a pub side character. Anmaradi acquired a brother — a Zabrak smuggler with a grudge against the Empire.

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By then, I realized that I was enjoying the game and that I didn’t like KOTOR. I broke my neck to get internet connection in my new apartment because all I wanted to do was play TOR. And with my first long weekend, I bought a hardcopy of the game from Amazon for $9 and finally got to play as a subscriber.

Which made me really want to make a Twi’lek.

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And then we were collaborating with another guild so I decided making an ambassador alt would be a good idea. And because I had cartel coins — and didn’t imagine I’d ever have another use for them — and I like Sith and didn’t really want to play a Jedi anyway, I decided for the ultimate joke, I’d make a Sith Jedi.

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Safe to say by the time Vulkeen rolled onto the scene, I was addicted. The music was incredible. The graphics were incredible. I was still addicted to cutscenes. There was so much to do, so much to explore.

When I found out that there were Chiss specific interactions, at least for bounty hunters and agents, I embarked on a new quest — to play every class as a Chiss. And just like that, I’d gone from “not logging back in again” to “gonna play the agent and that’s it” to “four characters is plenty” — to “I’m going to play all 8 classes twice.”

It’s addictive. It’s stunning. I’ve never encountered anything like this game before, but I don’t think that’s why it’s so breathtaking. The story, graphics, characters, companions, gear, everything is made with such attention to detail, such attention to Star Wars — real Star Wars, the way George Lucas originally envisioned it — even though it’s 3,000 years before the Battle of Yavin IV, it feels like Star Wars.

I laugh. I cry. I ride tauntauns and fight with lightsabers. The books seem more vivid when I read them, because I know how it feels to fight my way down a corridor of shock troops. I’ve looked up at a Hutt from his beast pit; I’ve told an emperor his overconfidence will be his undoing. I’ve walked a path of pure light and of pure dark and discovered how each can be painful and difficult. I’ve made friends, lost them, avenged them, married them.

And I’m not even halfway through.

TOR is a great gift. Thanks to the Star Wars group person who got me into the game. Thanks to the people who made the game. Thanks to swtorfamily on Twitter.

And thanks a bit to Peter Cushing’s Ghost who caused me to discover another 40% of the game I’d utterly been missing, because she got an account in January and I discovered just how awesome the social aspect of the game can really be.

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Love.

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Get social.

I now have 13 total “toons” with at least three more in planning. My first has 6 days, 3 hours, 8 minutes of play time, while my second has 5 days, 14 hours, 58 minutes on the second. After racking up 48 days, 17 hours, 56 minutes of total play time in one year (that’s roughly 40% of all non-working, non-sleeping hours!), I couldn’t ask for more from a game 💝