Easily one of the most interesting parts of the first game for me is always the Undercity. Even though I’ve played through that part of the game a bunch of times I always like exploring and thinking about the way that the way the mini-civilization of the outcast village is structured. You’re initially met with a couple of thugs trying to get money out of you, and then greeted by a naive girl who dreams about seeing the sun someday. Then you meet the sensible village leader, the mystical almost-crazy elder, the sketchy goods-dealer, and the healer who’s trying her best in the face of a zombie-like disease.
The generations of outcasts who have inherited isolation, living whole lives underground, being denied access to the sky, always surrounded by gates that cage the people in as much as they keep the rakghouls out is incredibly depressing, but so exciting to explore. Their unique wilderness consisting of sewer-pipes, crash-sites, and corpses provides an even bleaker backdrop for the legacy of the Promised Land. While the Upper City on the surface of the planet is also riddled with problems – primarily the rampant xenophobia that drives the ghettoization of alien species into the Lower City, the Sith occupation trapping unwanted foreigners in with a quarantine, and an active Hutt cartel harassing everything – it is much closer to the high-tech fantasy world of Star Wars that we’re used to. In the Undercity, there are no helpful droids roaming around, shelter exists in the form of make-shift tents and lean-tos, and the people are mostly isolated from the political unrest throughout the rest of the galaxy. In a classic “crazy, old man spouting stories” way, Rukil holds onto the idea of the Promised Land despite (or because of?) the hard, desperate reality in front of him.
Piecing together that too-good-to-be-true legend in the disease-ridden sewer-pipe wilderness and standing in the middle of the empty camp after Rukil and the outcasts begin their long-awaited journey to this legendary hidden place was always something of an unsatisfying ending to the Undercity’s narrative. Of course you get a strong sense of hope for the future, but Gendar lets you know what a long and difficult journey the somewhat underprepared people have ahead of them. And later, as you leave Taris behind, you have no way of knowing whether the outcasts will survive the Sith bombardment of the city-planet. And if they do survive, you have no way of knowing if your efforts in the sewers and the death of Rukil’s apprentice have been for naught.
So imagine my excitement when I found out you could visit Taris again in The Old Republic Online! Returning centuries years later to what was once a blue metropolis and exploring it instead as a green collapsed rakghoul infested government project was one of my favorite parts of the online game. I spent a good five minutes at least just focusing the camera on the crashed section of the Endar Spire, with grass and moss creeping up over it as they reclaimed the planet and the ruins of the old game.
And you could actually visit the Promised Land! The conclusion I’d wished for was here, in the planet’s ruins! But as I collected holojournals and pieced together how the outcasts had fared over the past 300 years (much as I collected journals and pieced together the Promised Land’s location in the first place), I discovered more of the same suffering. Disappointment, disease, death, and eventually the loss of knowledge and history. It was sad to see the story end this way, but even stranger to hear the decedents of what I had expected to be a long and interesting legacy not only die out, but die out without even remembering Revan or Rukil, and in fact calling his endlessly hopeful dream of a world away from the destitute poverty of the Undercity and the social and political chaos of the Lower and Upper Cities, a death-sentence.
“We once called this the Promised Land. It is a lie. It is our grave.” – Promised One Lurr, from the holojournal in the final cairn
So, that’s it? Taris, the planet on which you probably spend the most time, where you’ve spent so much time exploring and meeting new characters, is bombed to hell and back, and that village full of people you put the effort into freeing into a newer, better world, only finds a new kind of awful awaiting them, and identifies the one hope of the Undercity as a lie? I thought the corpses strewn left and right in the sewers was bleak, but this green, empty aftermath is worse.
This was a rant post, but I don’t want to necessarily end it on that kind of a note. What’s the bright side here? Not everyone died? The nobles holed themselves up in carbonite chambers as the Sith unleashed their fury and they’ve survived all these centuries? You know, because they weren’t living in literal shacks deep beneath the surface of the shimmering city and could afford ridiculous things like emergency carbonite chambers. Yeah, screw this. I’m somehow more unsatisfied than before.
If you haven’t played through the Chasing History quest on Taris in TOR yet but you want to hear more of the post-KOTOR history of the outcasts, you can watch this.