Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Rant: Light Sith Warrior

BakaMatt made a comment on a previous blog entry asking me to explain a bit further what I would want to see for the Sith Warrior class. I know that I’ve been fairly negative with the way the class has been described. This stems from me originally most looking forward to playing that class, but now it looks like the kind of character, the kind of story, I would want from it won’t be possible.

So what is it then that I am looking for?

Put shortly what I want to play is basically “a Jedi on the Empire side”. A Force user who uses the Light Side of the Force, likely follows as close to the Jedi teachings as one might without the centuries of Jedi indoctrination, but who still fights for the Empire.

This, I feel, is what BioWare has been promising when they said that you will be able to play a Sith (Force user) and that you will be able to be Light Side. But with them now describing the class as learning to use the Dark Side, with the class using hate and anger to fuel their powers, and with even their ‘good’ choices seeming no more than “the lesser evil” (saving the captain not because saving a life is good, but because it’s tactically advantageous) it doesn’t sound like that will be possible anymore.

Some confusion comes, perhaps, from the question of what is a “Sith” and what is a “Jedi”. A lot of people seem to hold the view that “a Jedi is a Light Side Force user and a Sith is a Dark Side Force user”. But that, to me, seems to be ignoring the question of faction.

In Star Wars: The Old Republic one plays either on the Republic side or on the Empire side. Which side you play on restricts your choice of class (Republic only has Jedi and Empire only has Sith). So what, then, do you call a Dark Side Force user on the Republic side? It seems to me that in the past these have always been called “Sith” (hence the confusion), but only because there was no Sith Empire, just the Republic. And these Dark Side Force users were just calling themselves “Sith” in an attempt to seem more like the Dark Side Force users from the Sith Empire (and to set themselves apart from the Jedi). I think Kreia actually makes a remark along those lines in KotOR 2.

But technically I think a Dark Side Force user on the Republic side should be called a “Dark Jedi” and, similarly, a Light Side Force user on the Empire side should be called a “Light Sith”. The latter is what I was looking forward to playing; one who might perhaps be called a “Jedi” by all those on the Empire side, but who would still have the Sith class and still fight for the Empire.

So why not just play a Jedi then? Well, and let me be clear, I’m not looking for a defector. I’m not interested in a character that leaves the Empire and starts fighting for the Republic suddenly. After all, such a character would likely have a lot of friends and family and such in the Empire that they wouldn’t want to abandon. Instead such a character would try and work from within, do good things, keep a good philosophy, etc. Perhaps even try to defeat the Emperor to get rid of what’s hurting the Empire the most. And statements from BioWare that you can play just that now seem to sound more like it being for selfish reasons instead.

The appeal of such a “Light Sith” character lies in the fact that you’re playing a good character in a difficult situation where everyone expects you to be evil. Playing a Jedi is less interesting to me because Jedi are expected to be good. I don’t like playing that which everyone expects me to be. I like the added depth and complexities that come with the struggle to be good in a situation where evil is all around you, trying to lure you down. The Sith Academy in KotOR was for me the most enjoyable part as there I was good, trying to survive (and remain good) in an evil environment. But it seems that BioWare is going with a very dull “Republic good, Empire bad” and alignment choices being nothing more than being a little more or less so.

Perhaps BioWare will offer that yet; the Sith Warrior class actually looks like a lot of fun to play (such melee classes are right up my alley). But if so, how hard is it for them to state that they’re only thus if they choose to be (they sure added it for the Bounty Hunters that they could be more independent)? With the descriptions they’ve given I fully expect the Sith Warriors point building to be called a “rage bar” (and Light Side users wouldn’t use “rage” at all) and not given a choice in whether to take Dark Side abilities (sure, there might be a few abilities if you make a lot of “good” choices, but does everyone get Force Choke or only those of evil alignment?).

We will see, but so far I’m very disappointed in how one-dimensional they’ve painted the Sith Warrior; as nothing but evil. Boring. And every time that they describe the class as evil without also adding that you have the choice to be truly good my heart sinks a little further.

I hope that makes sense and is understandable.


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BakaMatt said...

Thanks for the run-down, Ayane.

It gave a clearer understanding for exactly what you're interested in and I can now see where your previous "rant" comments are grounded.

ibmiller said...

I'm curious - do you actually think that the Jedi's abhorance of emotion is good? That the Sith's use of anger and passion are bad? I personally find problems with both philosophies, and ways to be ethical within both philosophies. So yes, I think it might be harder to be good as a Sith in TOR, but I don't think it limits your choice to make ethical decisions as you imply.

Ayane said...

I'm curious - do you actually think that the Jedi's abhorance of emotion is good? That the Sith's use of anger and passion are bad?

Complex question.

Let me first state that I don’t actually think that Jedi abhor emotion, that they just take effort to not let it control them. Their mastery of the Force comes from calm and meditation and a state of diminished emotion, but that doesn’t mean that they find emotion itself a bad thing. Compassion is something that’s ‘encouraged’.

For the rest it is just the way the Star Wars universe, the Force in particular, is defined. To use the light side of the Force you need to be in a state of tranquillity and to use the dark side you need to be in an emotional state. Then the universe defines the light side of the Force as ‘good’ and the dark side as ‘evil’, thus stating that tranquillity pulls you towards good and surrendering to emotions towards evil.

That’s not to say that using emotions to fuel your action is evil as such, just that in Star Wars it is defined that doing so means you use the dark side of the Force and the dark side of the Force pulls you towards evil. If the Force wasn’t involved then things would be different. As I understand it it’s not that evil people choose to use the dark side of the Force, but that using the dark side of the Force makes people evil.

That means that the only way to be a good Sith would be to use the light side of the Force (predominantly) and to do that one needs to be tranquil (instead of fuelled by emotion). But it looks as if BioWare is going the path of “you use the dark side (or at least are fuelled by emotion) either way, but you can still be good”.

Of course my understanding of how things are supposed to work in Star Wars could be wrong, but that’s the only explanation that really makes sense to me (as being passionate doesn’t mean that you’re evil, but a passionate Force user in Star Wars is).

ibmiller said...

Hmmm, perhaps I should have said "attachment." Because that's the thing about the Jedi that really bothers me morally. You're completely right that emotions as a class of responses aren’t forbidden to the Jedi – but for me, the ones that are linked to our deepest moral foundations are – especially the big two, love and hatred. But I think the Jedi are sentient (I don’t want to say human, at least not if I’m thinking in-universe, but that’s what I mean when I say that) beings, and thus cannot rid themselves completely of these attachments – I’d note that Mace Windu, though he’s one of the more philosophical Jedi and is big on the no-attachments and the whys and wherefores of this policy, has at least two major attachments – Deepa Bilaba (in Shatterpoint) and the Republic (in the RotS novelization – both by Matthew Stover). I think that’s evidence that if the Jedi explicitly avoid attachment, it usually pops up in other places. While I don’t necessarily agree entirely with Karen Traviss’s anti-Jedi stances and behaviors evidenced in her books, I do find it fascinating that both fans of clone-centric things such as her Republic Commando series AND fans of the Knights of the Old Republic series tend to be less enamored of the Jedi than the SW fandom as a whole.

I think I share your disinclination to believe that “dark” and “light” automatically correspond to “evil” and “good” or even “wrong” and “right.” However, I think that the idea that power brings out corruptions and weaknesses inherent in the makeup of sentient beings (er, that’s a silly way of rephrasing “power corrupts,” I suppose) does tend to explain why most dark Jedi/Sith tend to be “evil.” As for your point about the Dark Side leading people to evil – I would say that’s a very good way to putting what I just said neatly – and hold up things like Jacen Solo or Anakin Skywalker as an example. Even if I think their storylines totally sucked. Perhaps Darth Revan would be a better example.

As for playing a “good Sith,” since I’m not convinced that the “dark side” is inherently evil, nor that the “light side” is inherently good, I think that it comes down to why and what you do as either side. The kinds of powers are rather irrelevant, I think – I mean, you can be fully light-side in KotOR I and II and still use some of the nastier dark side powers, so I would assume that you’d be able to do the same without significant effect on your alignment in TOR.

Plus, the whole classification of powers has always seemed a bit arbitrary to me – and I’ve been encouraged as signs in the literature that things like force lightning is moving away from a dark power only (NJO, Plo Koon’s “electric judgment”).

Hope that makes sense.