Thursday, November 24, 2011

Star Wars: Revan review

    I'm underwhelmed.

    I'm sorry, but I am.

    I like Drew Karpyshyn, I really do. I enjoyed the Darth Bane trilogy. They were a set of novels which managed to make a purely evil protagonist interesting to read about. I also enjoyed his Mass Effect novels (with the exception of Retribution). They were entertaining fluff that nicely expanded on several points of the ME universe. Plus, I absolutely love the story in every one of the video games he's worked on.

Star Wars: Revan
, however, doesn't do anything for me.

    For the uninitiated, the book is a quasi-sequel to the video game Knights of the Old Republic. I've mentioned before I think it's the greatest video game of all time and any sequel was probably destined to disappoint. I'm also one of the vocal minority that thinks Knights of the Old Republic 2 had its strong points (the Exile, the Sith Triumvarite, Handmaiden) but wasn't in the same league.

    The premise for the book is dealing with the biggest "left-hanging" element of KOTOR2. Revan and the Exile have gone into the Unknown Regions, seeking the Sith Empire. What sort of adventures did they have there? What sort of epic deeds did these two legendary heroes do? What was their ultimate fate, knowing the Sith Empire eventually invades the Galactic Republic?

    Yeah, we get the answer to that here and it's "nothing too impressive."

    I won't get into spoilers but the book pretty much defines Revan and the Exile's quest as a small-scale adventure that ends on a tragic note. Despite Revan and the Exile previously having been treated as epic champions of the Force, they are treated as fairly typical Jedi Masters. When compared with the Sith Emperor, both of them together are a fairly minor threat. Given the Exile defeated Darth Nihilus, a guy who could devour planets, this rings false.

    I'm not one of the guys who feels that Revan and the Exile have to be invincible Gary Stus. I think some of fans requests for Revan, like him being to be the one to defeat the Sith Emperor, are ridiculous. Still, Revan was one of the great Expanded Universe characters. The backstory given him was quite epic and a lot of fans had a vested interest in him. Would you have Luke Skywalker causally tossed around by a new villain so he could go train a new hero to defeat him?

    No, because that's disrespectful to the character. Plus, we already had that plot with Obi Wan Kenobi.

    It's a foregone conclusion the Sith Emperor will survive Revan and the Exile's plan and so will the Sith Empire. I don't mind this, personally, but I was hoping for something a bit better planned out than what we got in the book. It's hard to tell that Revan and the Exile were military geniuses, mostly because they act like typical PCs and their actions don't really require much thought.

    Speaking of the Sith Emperor, I was disappointed with him as well. We get the Sith Emperor's origins in this book and they pretty much amount to: "The Sith Emperor was the single baddest ************ ever born. He was an evil monster before he could crawl and he's the single nastiest guy you will ever face." Seriously, Damien Thorn has less of an apocalyptic origin. It's saved, somewhat, by the fact that it's told in the form of a legend and probably isn't completely true. Still, I was hoping for something slightly more original from Darth Bane's developer.

    The Sith, overall, are a big disappointment in these books. One of the things I liked about the Darth Bane trilogy is, while its protagonist was a sociopath, you could understand his reasoning. He'd been kicked around from the day he was born and, one day, he decided to kick back. Here, the Sith are far more one-dimensional with Darth Scourge being someone who reminds me a bit of Darth Sion. He doesn't really have any motivations but power and is about as one-note evil as possible.

    He was so bad, I actually didn't buy his supposed revulsion at one of the Sith Emperor's experiments. The guy portrayed in this book would have enjoyed the power which came from destroying a world and ignored the consequences. Given that the time when the Sith were a trifle more morally ambiguous, this annoyed me. I'm still hoping to see some of these morally ambiguous Sith since we've yet to see any of them in Star Wars. We've seen plenty of gray Jedi, why not a gray Sith?

    Really, the Sith's depiction is the biggest disappointment for me. The Sith Empire depicted in the book is about as one-dimensional as we've seen their race portrayed. I may think of the Lost Tribe of the Sith from the new Legacy of the Force series as "Sith-lite" but at least they have personality. One of the great accomplishments of Knights of the Old Republic was fleshing out the Sith philosophy. This book feels like a major step back in the humanization of the Dark Side's champions.

    I have a few other minor complaints, like the complete failure to mention Carth Onasi at all and the Exile's name, but the book isn't badly written. It's just not what I was hoping for and wasn't terribly impressive. Taken on its own merits, Revan is not a bad novel. Unfortunately, it's meant to be the epilogue to one of the greatest video games of all time and falls drastically short of being a satisfying conclusion. The only part I really enjoyed was the ending, which felt like the kind of book I wanted to read. It was interesting, touching, and a nice send off for Revan.


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