The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Civil society of the Old Republic

If I haven't been blogging much of late, that's partly because I've had little to say. But equally it's because my time has been taken up playing Knights of the Old Republic on this PC.

I'd been meaning to post on one theme running through the game, though; its social analogies, and its means of interpreting same. In this post I'll handle the former.

In the game you start off high up on the urbanised planet Taris. As far as I know, Taris doesn't exist in any other LucasArts product up to now.

Those parts of Taris which you visit are overbuilt; the rich live in the towers, mutants and exiles live on the surface, and the lower classes live between them. In this respect it is exactly like Coruscant, except Coruscant is built over completely, and on Taris one hears of open land elsewhere that just happens to be too polluted to inhabit.

But Taris is otherwise unlike Coruscant. Taris is economically depressed, for a start. The "rich" here have reacted by banding together into an oligarchy. They're also all human, as are the exiles on the surface beneath them. Non-humans are forced to live in the middle layers with low-caste-but-unexiled humans as resident aliens; presumably they get exiled offworld rather than to the surface when they commit visible crimes.

Taris has the atmosphere of sullen stagnation which holds in Europe, particularly France and Germany. This part of the game plays as a critique to these nations and as a warning to capitalist multiethnic republics such as the US.

Anyway, the game sticks around Taris just slightly longer than it needs to, and then it gets off in time to go visit various worlds in the Star Wars canon. The rest of this overview contains spoilers.


Prospective or beginning players of this game are gone, yes?


Okay, the other places start with Dantooine; which by Star Wars canon is a base of the Rebellion between Episodes III and IV before the Rebels move to that Hidden Fortress [tm] on Yavin IV. This means that the game's set in the Outer Rim; that part of the galaxy which hosts the bulk of Episodes I, II, and IV. These planets include the usual suspects - Yavin (sort of), Tatooine, Alderaan (which gets only a mention here), Kashyyyk (Wookiee-world), Manaan (a new water world), and apparently Korriban (the Sith homeworld of the comic series, which I'd thought was even further out). Naboo which we know is near Tatooine goes unmentioned; and I suppose other canonical sites exist elsewhere.

Dantooine at this time is a Jedi Council forward base. There's some kind of Romeo and Juliet drama between two feuding landowners. There's also a woman who likes her droid a bit too much. If this is social satire then it is much less in-your-face than Taris.

The game's backdrop is a war between the Republic and Darth Malak's "Sith" armada. Think of it as a death-match between Episode I's Republic and Episode IV's Empire.

The Republic has little impact out on the Outer Rim. It seems to have no ideals of its own, and acts here as a "United Nations" with a peacekeeping force in retreat. It gets its support from a number of factions, some assumed to be pure of heart and some less so. Given that this game has "Knights" in the title, the ally most important to the player is the Jedi Council, whose motives are pure, or at least align with the beliefs of the game designer. There's also a shadowy vigilante outfit called the Genoharadan. The latter lead you to an imprisoned terrorist who boasts of returning to Coruscant to spread propaganda at his own public trial.

The Republic is elsewhere involved more directly in shady deals, such as on Manaan. Their actions there have disturbed the seafloor environment, causing the locals to rise up in unreasoning fanaticism - although said locals don't understand why. Here we have a Near East analogy with a touch of radical environmentalism.

As for the Sith, they actually do believe in something: Social Darwinism. They are monolithic in tactics and strategy, although there is infighting over who exactly gets to be in charge.

There's also a multinational corporation called "Czerka" doing business with both sides. The Czerka run extraction operations on Kashyyyk where they enslave Wookiees, in an amalgam of United Fruit and King Leopold's Congo.

Multinationals and the Near East collide on Tatooine. Czerka runs a mining outfit on that desert world, I guess so as to make that analogy even more obvious. At any rate the Sand People claim, despite that the place is already a fried wasteland, that the mining is hurting their planet; and so they have raised up "Holy Warriors" (and yes, that's actually what the game calls them).

The social commentary in this game is not subtle, and far more insidious than that of the Star Wars series. I'll get into why that is so, soon -

posted by Zimri on 16:15 | link | 0 comments

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