Posted in Star Wars: The Old Republic

SWTOR: Free will and computer predestination

It’s been a long — a very long — time since I first went through the Imperial Agent’s story in SWTOR, and while I haven’t forgotten everything, enough has faded from memory that a lot of these beats are new to me. But if there is something I vividly remember from that first trip was how deeply upset the game got me when it brainwashed my character and took some of the control away from me.

I’m going through again right now in Chapter 2 of the story, and I have to say, the frustration and fury is no less real this time around. It’s a masterstroke of both writing and the video game format to make this happen, to cross the barrier between game and real life to make the player *feel* something.

Other than feeling constantly irked at Kaylio. Hey girl, you forgot to hold a gun there.

The Agent’s story works so well because no matter what angle you approach it from, sooner or later you really start to question your loyalties and those you can trust. Your team is fraught with characters with shifting or hidden motivations, such as Victor (is he more loyal to the nest than you?) or Doctor Loken (who has an Incredible Hulk complex). You can’t really trust anyone in the Sith echelon, because they’re all trying to use you as a pawn.

You can’t even trust Imperial Intelligence, as we discover, because they put brainwashing drugs in you to have a way to bring you under control if you go rogue. This all goes very badly when you’re sent in to be a double-agent with the Republic spies, only to have them use your conditioning against you. Who gave it to them? Who do you trust now? And what are you going to do if you manage to escape the conditioning?

As an aside, Taris is such a beautiful planet of destruction… and so incredibly annoying to navigate.

It’s just such a trippy chapter of the story, and I know that the first time I played it, my light side tendencies were sorely tested by all of this personal betrayal. When the game itself takes away your dialogue options or forces you to go on missions, you want to push back and rebel.

This time around? I’m all in on the dark side, so it’s going to be Revenge City on everyone. Little Chance was left to die bleeding out and trying to say the activation phrase. He seemed nice, but he was willing to use me like everyone else.

Oh, they all will burn. My sniper rifle’s fully loaded and it’s judgment day on the Republic and Empire alike.

Oh, and don’t try any of your sexist stuff on me, because I’ve got an armored fist and the will to use it. But I’m a really nice person if you try to get to know me — and don’t fiddle with my brain.

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