While we wait for the Obi-Wan series, let’s take a look back at Lucasfilm’s first big swing into VR chronicling a period in Vader’s life after Episode III.
Please Note: This will contain spoilers for the VR series, Vader Immortal as enough time has passed. This will also be my thoughts only on the story of Vader Immortal and NOT the gameplay.
Set sometime right before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, a smuggling ship called the Windfall piloted by a man (we’ll call him Captain) and his droid, Z0-E3 (Zoe) is pulled out of hyperspace by Admiral Gable Karius under the command of Darth Vader and taken to Mustafar in the Atravis System. Admiral Karius is part cybernetic and it would make sense that the Imperial Admiral protecting Vader’s home would be part cybernetic like him. Turns out Vader has been searching for Captain as he is the only person who can open a Holocron-type artifact. Captain is a descendant of an ancient force user Lady Corvax, who stole a crystal from the Mustafarians called The Bright Star in an attempt to save her mortally wounded husband and ended up making everything worse, including cursing the once lush Mustafar and turning it into a vast wasteland. Vader wants the Bright Star to bring Padme back (which Captain learns when he spies on Vader in his chamber in conversation with a mysterious Black Bishop). The Bright Star is hidden in a sanctum below Vader’s castle which can only be opened by the artifact and a descendant of Corvax. During their navigation of the castle and the sanctum, Captain and Zoe also meet a Mustafar prisoner, a priestess (who leans into the Hollywood Voodoo trope), and a Mustafar guard who provides more exposition on the history of the planet. It all comes to head when Captain must face down Vader and save the planet (and possibly the galaxy) from Vader’s determination to get what he wants despite the devastating costs. We also learn that Lady Corvax’s husband, Dorwin Corvax is Black Bishop (revealed in a cutscene but still canon). Thanks to the Bright Star, Corvax is stuck in limbo but able to teleport and suspend time which comes in handy for our hero.
The story of Vader Immortal outside gameplay is pretty forgettable and probably inconsequential to canon (the main character/player was not even worthy enough to get a name) and I would place a bet that we won’t see most of the character’s introduced here again. It reminds me of that horrible Jar Jar-focused arc in The Clone Wars where the former leader of the Nightsisters, Mother Talzin, tries to drain the life force of force-sensitives and place it in a containment sphere. Star Wars has delegated the ability to drain the life force from beings to the dark side, while the light side gets force healing. In the end, it’s all a little too much for a story that is a little over an hour and a half; however, there are some thoughts, themes, and insights worth discussing:
Not All Force Abilities Are Created Equally
You have to suspend disbelieve that this main character could achieve the things he did in a short period. Unless there is a background of the character using the force prior, he seems to be a quick learner. From learning how to use a lightsaber quickly to being able to battle super droids, and even holding his own against Darth Vader, you would think he would have been on the Emperors radar. Of course, all of that is tied to the confines of gameplay and the character is a fast learner because they have to be for time’s sake (this is one of the problems with these VR experiences as they currently stand) but, since it is considered canon, it is not immune to criticism.
One thing Star Wars/Lucasfilm has failed at is explaining the power sets of force users and why some seem to be able to do impressive things vs. fully trained Jedi Knights. How was Captain able to fight off Darth Vader while Cal Kestis years earlier had to run for his life and get saved by a Jedi Master? I think The High Republic novels and comics are attempting to explain how the force works (and doesn’t work) for different Jedi which is a welcome context because it was jarring in this story.
Younger Generations Righting the Wrongs of Past Generations
In addition to getting a beautiful in-game illustration of the history of Mustafar, we also get a very real-world theme. Two non-Mustafarians came to a world and one, Lady Corvax, in a moment of greed to get her husband back stole a powerful crystal and ended up cursing a whole world, turning it from a lush green paradise to a barren wasteland with no resources. While plundering a resource-rich world is not new to Star Wars, the importance of descendants righting the wrong of their ancestors has never been emphasized until now in Star Wars canon content. It is made crystal (wink) clear that it is Captain’s responsibility to help Mustafar because he simply is the only one who can help. In our world, it is sometimes hard for one generation to feel any responsibility for the sins of our ancestors but Star Wars makes it easier by making Captain a chosen one type hero. Darth Vader wants to use that power to bring one person back to life at the expense of the indigenous population of Mustafar and is willing to take it to other planets if that doesn’t work. And so, the hero must fight him to save Mustafar and protect the galaxy.
Anakin/Darth Vader Could Never Let Go Of His Attachments
This is the tragic story of Anakin’s life: from his attachment to his mother (though this is understandable considering he had to leave her in servitude after he was freed from slavery) to his possessive attachment to Padme Amidala, Anakin Skywalker never had a chance to learn how to have a healthy relationship. When Ashoka decides to leave the Jedi Order, he implies that he knows how she feels, indicating a similar disillusion with the institution. The Jedi Order never fully trusted Anakin Skywalker, and Palpatine nurtured that distrust into resentment and anger, adding the promise of protecting Padme from Anakin’s vision of her death. In the end, Padme still died and Anakin had no more connections to his old self (Ahsoka was still out there and, unbeknown to him for a while, his two children). Vader Immortal takes place closer to A New Hope and when Vader soon finds out about his son but, in the meantime, he is so desperate to bring his wife back to life that he gets tricked by Black Bishop into finding Captain to lift his curse and heal Mustafar. The upcoming Obi-Wan series will be taking place years before and we know that Hayden Christensen will be returning. Will we get similar insight into his psyche and his thoughts on the events of Episode III during the time of the Obi-Wan series? The plot for Obi-Wan Kenobi is elusive and will likely remain until the marketing campaign kicks off so we don’t know in what capacity Christensen will appear. The last time Anakin saw Padme, he force choked her, blaming Kenobi for turning her against him. Despite the force choke and her dying of a broken heart, Vader may blame her death solely on Kenobi (and he never takes responsibility for his own actions until his death). But, if the series does go between Kenobi and Vader’s mindset, I do hope we get hints of Vader trying to find ways to bring Padme back.
Overall, Star Wars storylines that lean on the fantastical side are more challenging for me to get into and anything to do with the Sith or ancient force users tends to live in that space; however, I do enjoy anything dealing with artifact hunting ala Indiana Jones and enjoy when the two franchises collide as they do in Vader Immortal.