Digital Tabletop: The Old Republic and Rebuilding Taris

Fans of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic have a love and hate relationship with the starting planet. On the one hand, it gives you that criminal underworld taste from the original trilogy, and the other it’s a big block of time running around before you can get to your next world and become a Jedi, where you’re wasting levels if you don’t know to save them. Really though, Taris helps you define who your character is in KOTOR, giving you plenty of opportunity to do good or evil, and refine your stats a bit before acquiring your Jedi abilities. So when it came time to leave Corsucant in Star Wars The Old Republic and set out to my next world to level, I cringed a little inside, remembering doing Taris over and over again on my many play-throughs on KOTOR, and hoped for the best as I laid in a course for my Smuggler to land on the decimated city planet on the outskirts of civilized space.

When you first step off onto Taris, you’re in a prim and proper spaceport, so the gravity of being on a world that was decimated by orbital bombardment by the Sith hundreds of years before doesn’t set in until you turn that one corner and pass the main spaceport entrance and the sun hits your face and you realize you’re on what used to be ground level of Taris, where the sun never used to hit because of the levels of city above you, a city in ruins, the main plates holding it together shattered, ancient debris from the once great planet on the rim littering the Republic’s efforts to rebuild the planet.

Taris is a big change from Coruscant. You can explore and run pretty much where you want here, not having to rely on the taxi service to get you where you want to go. Granted you’re going to be fighting through pirates, scavengers, wild animals, and the scourge of Taris past and present, the Rakghoul. The quests flow to you fairly organically, taking you from one area to the next, but you can jump ahead in the chains, getting to all of the areas and unlocking the speeder bikes to make things go that much faster. Even being decimated, there are very different areas to Taris, places that have been rebuilt, or where the orbital strikes left deeper craters than others, making it easier to tell where you are by the landmarks.

Looking at it from a fan who loved KOTOR, Taris is a graveyard and a monument all in one planet. It’s where most of us started this journey into Star Wars past, and there are some answers here for those willing to dig to find them. I’m going to get a little into spoilers here, so if you don’t want to be spoiled by what’s on Taris, I’d kind of skip the rest of this, but here goes.

It’ll be no surprise that one of the biggest problems Taris faced, the Rakghoul, would survive in even the roughest conditions. The survivors would have no doubt been food for them and turned into them as well, but they also bred, and are everywhere. Not only that, but the cure you found was lost due to the bombardment, but also because the disease that turns someone into a Rakghoul mutated, making the cure next to useless. There’s a number of quests dealing with the cure, survivors caught in wreckage from Rakghoul attacks, and even finding the chemical compound responsible for creating the Rakghoul plague in the first place.

Depending on how you played things in KOTOR, there was a group of refugees in Taris undercity that had been fighting for their lives against the Rakghoul plague, and The Old Republic goes with what Lucas considers canon, which is Revan being light side, and having saved those refugees and got them out of that area. They ended up living on, you find out through scattered holos around, very sad though that the Rakghouls continued to hunt them and even sadder that the area that was to be their Promised Land and had survived the orbital bombardment, was infested with a different menace, radiation poisoning which slowly made the survivors population dwindle until it couldn’t be sustained at all anymore. When you leave Taris in the first game, you kind of have a suspicion that those people wouldn’t have survived, but to know that it was drug out for them for several generations makes it even more heart-wrenching. Thanks for twisting that knife, Bioware. I really did love finding out what happened, but helping them in the future becomes even more bittersweet.

The one that struck me as a bit inconsistent, was the wreckage of the ship that you started KOTOR off in, the Endar Spire. The ship had fallen under Sith attack and was crashing. Revan, Bastila, and Carth were the last few off the ship and their escape pods touched down on varying levels of Taris, the Spire making planetfall in the hours before Taris was destroyed by the Sith. We never saw the wreckage of the ship in KOTOR, but players can find what’s left of the ship that started it all, and in remarkably good shape considering its fate and how long it’s been on Taris exposed to the elements. It’s paint is still there, and while it’s broken apart in various sections, from the exterior at least, it’s still very recognizable as the Republic ship it once was.

Now while it has a lot of damage, and it doesn’t have very much inside that you can explore due to the extent of the damage, I do think more of the ship should be missing. Let’s go back to the films for reference. In Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, Anakin pilots a Separatist ship from orbit in basically what amounts to freefall and in the same kind of state you’d expect the Endar Spire to be in as they were both disabled craft due to combat damage. Anakin had the benefit of righting his ship and basically keeping it level so that it could more or less land intact at a spaceport even missing a third of the ship. When we left the Endar Spire in KOTOR, it was in a dead spin and free fall with no one at the controls as everyone had abandoned ship. So it made it to ground, more intact than Anakin’s ship in Revenge of the Sith, and upright as well as having crashed through a planetary city plate and digging itself into the actual ground of the planet? There’s my problem with it.

While it was fun exploring it, and I did love that we found the wreckage of the ship that brought player’s to the planet in the first game, I think finding so much of it intact was not only surprising, but almost something that took me out of my immersion and made me do a double-take. I know they built them to last as the Republic used this very same design for almost a thousand years, but even my brain was having trouble following that bit of logic.

Taris in The Old Republic also becomes the planet you never seem to be able to escape. Every time you turn a corner there are more quests to do there. I had finished what I thought was my last quests there, having completed my character’s main plot line, was heading out of the space port when I saw another quest marker from the two gentlemen that had greeted my character when I’d first arrived. There was a bonus series to do, and I’m glad I didn’t ignore it as I ended up finding another 20 quests or so in an area I’d missed entirely on my run through. And getting to level 24 before I even set foot on Nar Shadda is not something I’m going to take for granted.

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