Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Star Wars: Republic Commando - 14/20 hours

I just finished Republic Commando's campaign mode. Like everything else about this game, it is comfortably competent, without quite rising to the level of the memorably excellent. The game successfully communicates that you and your team are an elite group of commandos, fighting a grim and endless war to preserve the Republic, even if it never quite does anything unexpected or challenging with the concept.

I think the most curious part of the plot is the fact that the main enemies for the whole middle section of the game are Trandoshan slavers. Slavers generally make for good video game villains because the very concept of slavery is thoroughly vilified in our culture, and thus killing them doesn't quite seem so wrong . . . except in this case the main characters of the story are themselves slaves. It's oddly dissonant to hear them badmouthing the Trandoshans for being the scum of the galaxy while not at all connecting those anti-slavery opinions to their own situation of being bred as soldiers and brainwashed since birth into serving their creators with unquestioned loyalty.

If Republic Commando were a cleverer game, I'd say that this irony was purposeful, and the way in which Delta squad is relentlessly pushed into one battle after another, even over the wishes of its constituent members is meant to highlight the brutality and senselessness of war, and the hypocrisy of an ostensibly enlightened and democratic government that nonetheless embraces it as a pragmatic political tool. However, I think it's much more likely that we're simply not supposed to think about it.

It actually makes me a little uncomfortable, now that I have some time to think about it. By making the "slavers" into these ugly, primitive lizard-men, while completely overlooking the protagonist faction's own use of forced labor, it's like they're externalizing the slave-owning impulse by putting it onto characters we aren't meant to empathize with, and thus whitewashing the real history of the practice. If we're being brutally honest, slavers should be charismatic white people who can easily charm you with their genteel aristocratic manners and who, as long as you are the right color, can afford to be effortlessly generous and hospitable, thanks to the wealth amassed by the violent extraction of value from the blood of the innocent.

Of course, bringing this back to Republic Commando, it's actually the Republic, rather than the Trandoshan mercenaries, who more accurately reflect slavery as it was actually practiced. The slavers are, in fact, ordinary folks. You may like them, and even consider them admirably heroic, because they have so internalized the economic and social realities of their particular hierarchy that it never occurs to them to show shame (or even a moment's diffidence, for that matter). I think it's actually Yoda who gets the most quintessentially American line I've ever seen in a work of fiction - "The freedom of the Wookies must not be sacrificed," he said to the clones of Delta squad. He's a regular Thomas Jefferson, that one.


  1. Shouldn't that be, "Sacrifice the wookies' freedom we must not?"


  2. You are, of course, absolutely correct. I must have unconsciously translated it while writing my post. I have to wonder where Yoda learned English, and why, after 900 years, he never quite got the hand of it.