I briefly played the beta of Star Wars: Battlefront II. The combat was pretty good, the visuals were stunning, but since multiplayer campaigns really aren’t my thing, I quickly got bored of being repeatedly slaughtered by people with better characters (and skills) than me. Besides, I had only ever been interested in this game because of Iden Versio, the main character of the solo campaign. AAA games featuring female characters—POC characters, no less—are still a rare thing, so I will support the hell out of them, especially when the dudebros complain. Their lamentations are like the sweet song of the thala-siren and serve only to motivate me to play more games that they complain about.
The campaign is also part of the growing legacy of the new expanded universe that has allowed the Star Wars we grew up on to, well, grow up. While certain groups are whining about the new films ruining the happy endings of their childhood, the new stories focus on the fact that Star Wars movies are about—wait for it—war. Killing the emperor did not immediately result in peace, and while our heroes got to spend a little time dancing with ewoks, the destruction of the second Death Star did not erase their suffering.
These new stories also remind us that wars are fought by many people, and not all of them have fancy powers or political connections. Nor do all of them fight on what we believe to be the side of the good.
Iden Versio is a soldier. An elite soldier raised by the Empire to believe that the life the establishment offers is a good one. As far as she comprehends, that is the truth. And so, this is her story.
Versio begins the campaign as a prisoner on a rebel ship. She gives up no information, though the rebels already know her name and that she is part of the infamous Inferno Squad. Finally, the rebel leader departs, hoping to get information from her ID10 seeker droid, instead. Upon his departure, Versio voices a command that is picked up by her helmet and relayed to said ID10 droid, Dio, who is being unsuccessfully poked and prodded by a sullustan. A quick shock frees Dio from the harassment and it begins its journey to find its master by using the ductwork.
Once freed, Versio quickly dispatches anyone in her way. By quickly, I mean I stumbled through stealthy takedowns until I found a weapon, at which time, I stumbled through not-so-stealthy takedowns until I figured out the controls.
Being captured, as it turns out, is part of her mission. The rebels are on their way to Endor to destroy the Death Star. She is not there to stop them. Instead, she is there to intercept and erase information that would have warned them of the trap they were flying into. Had Versio not done this, the galaxy and fandom would have been robbed of Admiral Akbar’s priceless moment.
Mission complete, Versio dramatically jettisons herself and is picked up by her ship, the Corvus, where we meet the two other important members of her team: Del Meeko and Gideon Hask.
The Battle of Endor
Inferno Squad is on the ground dealing with the rebel scum trying to take down the Death Star’s shields. All is seemingly going well until an explosion in the sky changes everything. Versio removes her helmet, at first dismayed, but soon she pulls up her bootstraps. There are still rebels to destroy. The Empire is more than just one ridiculous superweapon. Now with a sniper rifle in hand, I happily headshot the good guys to my heart’s content, carving a path to a landing platform where Hask, Meeko, and Versio hop into TIE Fighters.
Now I have to learn the fine art of dogfighting while avoiding space debris. This is far more difficult than it may seem, to which my many defeats can attest. Those pesky rebels are like flies as they try to prevent Versio’s return to her ship, which they are busy attacking, along with the Star Destroyer, Eviscerator.
Still in TIE Fighters, Versio, Hask, and Meeko head off to aid the Dauntless, an incomplete star destroyer under attack at the Fondor shipyards. More pew pew and avoiding debris, then the team gets to invade the rebel ship. The goal: take out the ion canons, the rebels’ most powerful asset. Yet more pew pew, some explosions, back in the TIE Fighters, more pew pew, and we’re finally free of the attacking rebels. For now.
Admiral Versio: “We retaliate, Commander. The Empire will assault the very foundation of the Rebels’ pathetic belief in themselves. Tell me, Iden. What is the source of their belief?”
Commander Versio: “Hope.”
Here’s where the story starts to get interesting. On board the Eviscerator, Admiral Garrick Versio calls Inferno Squad for a highly classified mission, delivered by emissaries of the Emperor himself. Like I said, war doesn’t end just because the shadowy man behind the curtain gets tossed down a shaft. The Empire still has many powerful allies and lots of forces to take on the Rebel Alliance. And the Emperor had contingency plans in place, to be enacted immediately following his death. Although, it seems Operation: Cinder is rather self-serving.
The team splits up and I’m suddenly playing as Jedi hero Luke Skywalker, who has been inexplicably drawn to the planet Pillio. Clearly, the solo campaign is geared towards encouraging players to try out the multiplayer where characters like Skywalker are available, along with battlefields like this and the dogfighting maps.
Skywalker ruthlessly cuts down the stormtroopers standing in his way as he heads towards a cave. There, he finds a strange rock-like resin, which he’s able to dispatch with his force abilities. Farther into the cave, there are more stormtroopers, but they are busy dealing with the deadly bugs that seem to be the ones producing this resin. Getting rid of the bugs, Luke finds Del Meeko trapped in the resin. He frees him, but Meeko is still skeptical about why Skywalker is helping him, pointing out that the Jedi has just cut down all of his men to get here. Skywalker’s defense that he was only defending himself is typical lame Jedi rationale, but Meeko doesn’t have much choice but to work with the rebel to get his job done.
Skywalker doesn’t know what his purpose is, but Meeko knows that he must destroy the Emperor’s observatory. With Skywalker defending him from the bugs, Meeko gains access to the facility doors. But when the pair reach the door, they can find no apparent control panel to open it. Skywalker uses the force, which confuses Meeko. Why would the Emperor maintain a building that can only be opened by a force user?
Inside is filled with unusual, but seemingly worthless artifacts. Skywalker politely asks Meeko if he can keep a compass. At first, Meeko balks, but Skywalker reasons that he was going to destroy everything anyway, so what does one souvenir matter? Later, I fell down the Wookiepeedia hole and my research revealed that this compass is part of Luke’s belongings in The Last Jedi and is likely what led him to the first Jedi temple on Ahch To.
Meeko detonates the charges he’s planted and as the two unlikely allies depart, the Inferno Squad agent is left seriously questioning his loyalties.
Meeko: “You’re telling me the man who destroyed the Jedi Order is secretly one of them?”
Skywalker: “No. I’m telling you that as a boy on Coruscant, you were afraid of the wrong thing.”
Operation: Cinder is in full effect and, Commander Versio learns, it involves far more than just blowing up the Emperor’s collection of antiques. Inferno Squad is ordered by her father the admiral to go to Vardos to recover the system’s governor, Protectorate Gleb, before Operation: Cinder’s satellite storm kills the planet. These are the satellites that were on the Dauntless. Vardos is the place of Versio’s birth. There is even a statue honouring Garrick Versio that Commander Versio finds surrounded by a sight that wakes her up to the reality of what the Empire truly is. Though Vardos’ inhabitants, human and alien alike, are loyal to the Empire, the evacuation protocol is focused only on the Empire’s elite and those of value to its survival.
Inferno Squad’s mission is to save only Gleb, but Versio won’t have it. In defiance of her father’s orders, Versio ushers the other survivors to safety. The admiral had seen his daughter’s doubt when he had given her this order and had called on Hask to keep an eye on her. Meeko stands by his Commander, but Hask remains loyal to the cause, resulting in a face off. Versio is forced to disable Hask. She and Meeko escape Vardos as enemies of the Empire.
They make their way to the Corvus where they find crew members who have remained loyal to Versio. In getting here, I attempt stealth with my sniper rifle, but me and stealth really don’t get along so I eventually make it through with brute force and impatience. In orbit, as they watch the satellites continue their decimation of the planet, Versio and Meeko have only one choice: run away or turn themselves in to the Rebel Alliance.
Versio is once again a rebel prisoner, but when General Lando Calrissian walks in, they are basically treated to a tour of the rebel ship, much to Shriv Suurghav’s chagrin. The duros is none too pleased with Calrissian’s decision. Following Calrissian leads them to X-wing fighters, which the general invites them to fly in order to help the rebels deal with a satellite attack on Naboo.
Meeko and Versio are shocked. “We don’t even know how to fly X-wings,” Versio says, but Calrissian’s casual disregard of this concern and their apparent lack of options prompts Inferno Squad to join the fray. Shriv sarcastically reminds them that they are shooting TIE Fighters now, not the X-wings, some of which are piloted by Shara Bay, mother of Poe Dameron, Queen Soruna of Naboo, and Princess Leia Organa.
And finally, Operation: Cinder clicks for me. This is the aftermath of the Emperor’s death that I read about in Star Wars: Shattered Empire, where Palpatine’s final order serves to erase his past and any connections he might have to the force. Not only is this particular mission a reminder of Organa’s multitude of talents, it’s also further evidence of the new expanded universe’s commitment to fully weaving this material into the movie lore. The old expanded universe was built around the original films and went beyond them. This universe is being shaped alongside the films, creating a more rounded and rewarding experience. Movie lovers don’t have to read or play the extraneous material to enjoy the movies, but these juicy, connected moments fill me with delight, even as I repeatedly fly my X-wing into the satellite’s laser beams.
Once the fighter team succeeds in taking out most of the satellites above, Inferno Squad follows Organa to Theed, the capital of Naboo, which is under attack by troops on the ground who are after the palace. I played this map in the multiplayer, so I was already familiar with the beautiful, now ruined city, allowing me to focus on the mission where I got to play as Organa. She is joined by Meeko while Versio and Shriv head off to the other side of the map. Both groups must return power to the city by reconnecting relays. Organa uses her shields and blaster to protect Meeko as he does this. They push towards the palace, but the Empire force is strong. Organa’s defenders repeatedly fall back until they are finally safely inside the palace and are able to set off an ion pulse to turn the tide.
Reunited with the Meeko and Organa, Versio is once again shocked to find out that Organa knows exactly who they are and, despite the heavy losses Inferno Squad has inflicted upon the Rebel Alliance, Organa does not hesitate to extend her hand to them.
Leia: “People like you are the reason hope can prevail. Hope is the reason we’re going to win.”
Back on board the Corvus, Organa has a new mission for Inferno Squad: retrieve a missing general. Namely, Han Solo. This is the least interesting mission, notable only for the fact that you get to play as the now bearded former smuggler. He is on Takodana looking for an Imperial turncoat. I had heard that this mission would give more insight into Solo’s relationship with Maz, but there’s not much to it. Solo’s got a running tab and frequently pays her back by bringing trouble to her doorstep.
She doesn’t have much help to offer regarding Paldora, the turncoat, and suggests he speak with bar patrons to find the man. Talking to three patrons in an annoying little jaunt leads to Paldora, who has stashed the information that will help free wookiee slaves in the forest. Off we go to find it, but of course, there are enemies at each location. Finally, they make it to the Millenium Falcon, but there are enemies there too. Sigh. I’ve never been so disinterested in Han Solo since learning he was getting his own movie. I don’t even get to see Chewie, who growls at us from the Falcon, but does not make an appearance.
Maz is none too happy with Solo because he has once again brought trouble. With the help of Inferno Squad, the Falcon manages to destroy the TIE Fighters and the Imperial cruiser hanging around. Hopefully, Maz will forgive Solo for this one…
Under Covered Skies
The Imperials are still up to their tricks. Hask is commanding forces at Bespin and Versio goes after him in hopes of having him lead her to Admiral Versio. Inferno Squad infiltrates the base, but Hask gets away. Another mission involving running around shooting things, much like a multiplayer game, with the one major highlight being the amusement of escaping in a cloud car, which Versio then uses to destroy fueling stations and subsequently, the star destroyers attached to them.
The Empire just does not give up! They are back on Sullust manufacturing AT-ATs and AT-STs so Calrissian and Inferno Squad’s newest member, Shriv, must stop them. While Solo’s mission was supposed to be fun and funny, Calrissian’s actually is. Shriv and Calrissian’s snarky banter is snicker-worthy, and the ever-changing mission objective titles, like “Push Some Buttons?” as Calrissian makes shit up as he goes along are great. It ends with the pair giddily hopping into an AT-ST and Versio arriving just in time to pick them up.
The Battle of Jakku
Though I’m not a huge fan of author Chuck Wendig, it appears that I need to check out his Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy to better understand the Empire’s interest in Jakku and why this is where they had their last stand. Gameplay here alternates between X-wing dogfighting and ground assault with Shriv at Versio’s side. Versio has an aerial showdown with Hask that took me a ridiculous amount of time to finish simply because his TIE Fighter was so much faster than Versio’s X-wing. Approaching a fallen Star Destroyer, I had my next squee moment as comm activity reported that Captain Wedge Antilles and Commander Thane Kyrell were somewhere on board. I had high hopes of meeting the latter, who is one of the main protagonists in Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars and seeing his showdown with his beloved Cienna Ree, but alas, they were only a passing mention.
Meeko is in trouble on the Corvus, which has been found by the Eviscerator. Refusing to give up on her last chance to capture her father, Versio lands her X-wing on the hull. I won’t bother to question why so many Stormtroopers felt the need to come outside on a flying ship to stop one assailant, but I guess we wouldn’t have much of a mission if it weren’t so. Once inside, there are no more battles and there is no epic showdown with dad. Instead Versio finds him watching the Empire fall. She tries to get him to leave with her, but like a good captain and a poor human being, he is going down with this ship.
Admiral Version: “You saw the Empire’s weakness and refused to let it consume you. It made you stronger. That is why you’re leaving here without me.”
Versio painfully leaves him behind and makes her way to an escape pod. When it lands on the planet, it is opened by Meeko and they share a long kiss before being joined by Shriv to look over the dawn of a new day for the Rebel Alliance.
But, while peace treaties are signed and the Empire dissolved, those that still believe in the cause have already been making new plans…
Decades pass and Meeko has returned to Pillio only to find himself captured by Kylo Ren. Meeko tries to fight off the Sith’s mind control, escaping into his memories in hopes of keeping Kylo Ren from finding the location of Lor San Tekka. Playing as Kylo Ren, I get to get my impotent manboy rage on as Ren obnoxiously threatens Meeko.
Meeko manages to deceive him, but he knows his life is forfeit, especially when he sees Commander Gideon Hask walk through the door. After overzealously murdering his former teammate, Hask heads outside to reprimand Gleb for her failure in keeping Project Ressurection a secret.
The DLC for the solo campaign takes place shortly after this. Iden Versio has aged with dignity. She and her daughter, Zay, are out flying X-wings through asteroid fields when they are summoned by Shriv. He has found the Corvus on Pillio, but no Meeko. Tracking Meeko leads them back to Vardos, which is now covered in snowy ash. As they approach the central building to once again find Gleb, Versio again sees a light in the sky that marks a turning point in her life and the galaxy around her. Inside the building, they find Gleb dead at Hask’s hands. He tells them that what they saw was the death of the senate—Starkiller Base’s destruction of the Hosnian System.
Hask has already taken her husband from her and now he tries to take her daughter as well, shooting down the Corvus. But Zay is a wily kid, determined like her mother. She gets out in an escape pod. Shriv and Versio find her, and then the three board TIE Fighters and infiltrate Hask’s star destroyer. On board, they make some important discoveries, including the schematics of First Order dreadnaughts (read: why the hell are we still running with this Finn is a janitor business and is the only one who knows where everything is on every damn ship?). Zay and Versio take sabotage Hask’s ship while Shriv searches for an escape vehicle for them. Hask confronts the mother and daughter. The pair succeeds in killing him once and for all, but Versio is mortally wounded. Versio had chosen not to join General Organa’s Resistance, but serves the cause in the end, passing on her legacy to Zay.
“We fight so others can live. And if we die, it better for the same reason.”
Like her mother, Zay accepts that this is not the time to mourn, though she has lost both parents in a matter of days. She and Shriv escape in a TIE Fighter to find the Resistance leaders and give them the information about the dreadnaughts. They come upon them just as they are making their escape, but General Organa has a mission for Zay, should she choose to join the Resistance. Zay agrees, and Inferno Squad flies off to the far reaches of the galaxy to call upon the allies of the Resistance…
Mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.