Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series: Episode I
Today on Snark Wars, we’re going to explore Anakin Skywalker’s ongoing mental breakdown yet again, but this time in the form of Vader Immortal: Episode I. First, a little background on this series, for those who aren’t familiar with it and/or haven’t had the chance to experience it: it is fully immersive, virtual reality content (and requires an Oculus VR device), but it’s not really a game, per se. You do “play” as a character, and you have tasks you have to complete to get through it all, but you get everything basically spoon-fed to you, and it doesn’t require a great amount of skill/technique (you also don’t, say, collect points or have lives or whatever.) It’s effectively a Star Wars show, but you get to move around inside of it as a character, and really explore the environment. Which, in case it wasn’t already obvious, is both extremely cool and, particularly in the context of where we’re going in this adventure, highly comical.
I loved this thing, and I am so looking forward to the next two installments, for many reasons which will become clear as we go. Put on your headset and join me in the void, friends!
Recurring Theme: The Five or So Occupations of the Galaxy
Our story is set several years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, during which Anakin Skywalker has obviously experienced tremendous personal growth and maturity. Nah, I’m screwing with you: he has made no progress and is just as obsessed with the usual things as ever, and he has acquired zero additional social skills. And we’re gonna go visit his house and I CAN’T WAIT!
Your character is a smuggler, because the only choices for employment in the entire galaxy are smuggler, bounty hunter, Insane Force User, politician, superweapon engineer or farmer (and we all know how much disdain everyone in the universe feels towards that line of work.) You and your robot, a droid named ZOE3 (“Zoe”, voiced by Maya Rudolph) are on board your ship, the Windfall, just hanging out and minding your own damn business en route to spice trading or space mining or Hondo Ohnaka’s pirate castle or whatever:
You make the jump to hyperspace, and I have to tell you guys: between Star Tours, the new Millennium Falcon ride at Galaxy’s Edge, and this game, I have had the great fortune to have done the “jump to hyperspace” many times in my life, and IT NEVER GETS OLD. NEVER. I shriek like a little kid every time.
Recurring Theme: Dramatic Bullshit Manor
So we’re just hanging out and cruising around in hyperspace, and you get to mill around on your ship, checking stuff out, when your ship predictably takes damage:
You and Zoe try to make some repairs, but because this is Star Wars, a happy landing isn’t likely to be in the works. She rushes to the cockpit — something’s wrong! It’s getting kind of pink outside!
Why, we’re getting pulled right out of hyperspace! We’re arriving at a planet! It’s…it’s…
Truly, this series won me over long before I experienced it myself with the mere promise that I could virtually visit Mustafar (“Voted Galaxy’s Worst Honeymoon Destination”). Yes, it’s true: we are arriving on the site of Heartbreak Lava River, the very place where Anakin and Padme broke up, and then Anakin and Obi-Wan broke up 5 minutes later. Anakin’s got a lot of baggage here, and since he’s not super good at accepting things and moving on with his life and not stewing in his own juices (occasionally literally), naturally he has not only returned to Mustafar over the years, but he’s built himself an enormous — and GOD, we are really going to see just HOW big it is — horrible, wonderful, RIDICULOUS dark castle on it, and he lives there when he’s not stomping around various star destroyers and Death Stars.
Readers of comics that I haven’t recapped yet will also know that getting Dramatic Bullshit Manor completed was kind of an undertaking for Vader, in part because — spoiler alert! — this idiot is trying to use his home as part of his plan to raise the dead, as one does. It’s a long, convoluted story, which we will delve into more in a bit.
I’m getting ahead of myself: Zoe is like “hey why are we here, in the Outer Rim? Weird!” and that’s when you look up and notice a star destroyer right above you. Uh oh!
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Terrible Party Host
Some dude comes on your screen and identifies himself as Admiral Gabel Karius, voiced by Rebels‘ own Steve Blum (Zeb!). He demands that you hand over the ship! Gasp!
Zoe is like “um hey, uh, we don’t even go here? What do you want with our ship?” As expected, Karius is not moved by this and basically tells her to hand over the controls or become space dust, so she relents.
Some TIEs show up, and Zoe leans over near the window: say, that looks like Mustafar! Mustafar’s a mining planet! WHAT COULD THE IMPERIALS BE DOING HERE? (It is genuinely hysterical to me that a portion of the actual answer is “crying about Obi-Wan and Padme and possibly trying to create a zombie”).
Yes, as usual, Anakin is a terrible host, and without your consent your ship gets dragged down to the planet, and that’s when you see it — and, if you are me and therefore the biggest dork alive, you cackle and yell stuff out loud when you do:
…truly, that lava waterfall NEVER FAILS TO MAKE ME LAUGH. It is SO HUGE. I sincerely can’t believe this place is canon, and I am LIVING FOR IT. Zoe announces that she’s got a bad feeling about this, and I’m sorry Zoe, but I do NOT agree. I am quite confident this is going to be hilarious.
Recurring Theme: Unwelcoming Committee
You get pulled into a hangar that is crawling with Stormtroopers, and I have to say, it is crazy and funny to me that Vader’s castle is, like, HOPPING with activity. I’m actually kind of surprised, as I’d assumed that Anakin would just want to be left alone with his giant oil paintings of Padme and a heap of Obi-Wan’s robes that he probably swiped from the old Jedi Temple.
Karius is blathering on over the PA about surrendering or opening the ship or whatever, and Zoe presumes that the Empire is onto our smuggling, so she rushes to go hide some various evidence while you wipe the navigation log. He starts pounding on the door as Zoe makes excuses, and he decides to go with the galaxy’s preferred locksmith method:
Karius and some troopers come marching in, and really: people getting in your face or standing right next to you in this show is absolutely WILD in VR. Screengrabs do not in any way do it justice. It’s CRAZY and it was more than slightly embarrassing how often I reflexively stepped backwards.
Anyways, Karius is pissed at us for causing them “inconvenience”, and knocks both you and Zoe out after announcing that you’ll be taken to a holding cell.
Anakin Skywalker, Undoubtedly Some Architect’s Weirdest Client Ever
…you come to with one of these in your face:
I have to confess, this scene — while also funny — is CREEPY AS FUCK. I’m admittedly a huge wuss (like, do not make me watch horror movies I DON’T LIKE THEM I DON’T WANNA), but even so: regardless of how very much I love making fun of him, DARTH VADER AND HIS HOUSE ARE SCARY, OK. I was actually mildly annoyed that he is so intimidating in this part, because LOL IT’S ANAKIN AND HE’S SO DUMB.
Karius is there, and he’s all “oh good, you’re awake”, and this room has one of those torture…restraint thingers they have in Star Wars? That people get strapped down to? And I’m just quietly dying thinking about the person who had to review the blueprints for this place, because as a friend and I observed, there is basically no way they didn’t just assume Vader needed this room for weird sex stuff. Which is even funnier considering that I am 99% sure Vader would be utterly scandalized by this, because he has only ever MADE LOVE by candlelight VERY ROMANTICALLY with HIS ONE TRUE LOVE or whatever, so HOW DARE YOU.
Karius introduces himself for like the third damn time now, YES DUDE, I heard you, I know your name, and he informs me that in a moment, “Darth Vader, Lord of this Monolith” will be coming by. LOL. LORD OF THIS MONOLITH. For fuck’s sake, Anakin.
And what’s more, apparently Vader’s got a little puzzle for me to solve, which Karius is quite sure I’m going to fail at, because evidently Vader’s been kidnapping randoms for a long time now and they’ve all failed so far. I’m dying that Vader has this kind of time on his hands despite being like, Satan’s Vice President. Of course he does. Anakin was constantly fucking off mid-assignment during his Jedi years, I see no reason why he’d be a better Imperial employee.
He throws in a few more threats about how I shouldn’t make Anakin angry, because then he’ll murder me in a more excessive fashion and Karius will get stuck on mop-up duty. If I’m good, then I’ll get a merciful death. Well then. Good to know this is how Anakin’s filling his days. His mom would be so proud.
Recurring Theme: Enter a Dumbass
OK. So, this is how he makes his entrance. That door? Dramatically slid open to reveal this. PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE IS A SMOKE CLOUD BEHIND HIM. AGAIN. AS ALWAYS. I was joking when I said I thought he brought a smoke machine everywhere. I am no longer joking. I now consider it canon. Also HOW is he ALWAYS BACKLIT like this? Does the man bring a full AV stage crew with him at all times? Jesus.
All right, so, I get that in screenshots this all looks very Star Wars Animated Series and all, but I need you to understand that it is LEGIT UNNERVING when he starts walking towards you. Like, the ILMxLAB people did a GREAT job here, because I am one of the people most inclined to laugh at Anakin Skywalker, and yet I was like “…oh shit.” He gets RIGHT UP IN YOUR FACE:
I’m about 5′ 4″, and I had to literally look up to him. On a second go-round, I was slightly less freaked out and therefore kept trying to press his chest buttons and hold his hand, but at first glimpse? CREEPY. FINE ANAKIN, YOU WIN, YOU ARE INDEED SCARY.
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Rude
So Vader’s like “you’re probably wondering why I kidnapped you out of the sky, and also why I look like this and why my house is like this and why there is a giant nude statue of Obi-Wan Kenobi in that one hallway you walked through, but I’ll cut to the chase: you need to perform one task for me” and at that, he grabs what appears to be a holocron thingy of sorts.
You pick it up, and press some buttons, and this happens:
Karius is floored: you did it! OMG! A few more steps and some crystal thing pops out, at which point Vader Force-rips this thing out of your hand. This is rude, yes, but I assure you it’s not even close to the brattiest, most ungrateful thing Anakin’s going to do to you in this episode.
Vader declares that I’m the one he’s been looking for (aww! I love you too, bud) and tells me that he’ll send for me again in a bit. He and Karius both leave, and now we’re in Vader’s Sex Dungeon alone.
Recurring Theme: The Break-Out
As soon as Vader’s gone, some dude in a cell starts beckoning you:
He’s frantic: you opened the artifact! No one’s been able to do that for “eons”, evidently! Vader’s been looking all over the place for “someone of [my] bloodline”! Ooooooh. Mystery! Intrigue! Probably something very silly and overly complicated!
Zoe’s all “???? The fuck is this guy?” and he introduces himself as Vylip Foma, a “loremaster” of his clan of Mustafarians. Sure.
He tells me that now that Vader’s found me, he’s “within reach of enormous power. He means to conquer death itself”, and for real, the first time I played this I said, out loud, “AGAIN?? STILL???” ANAKIN. GIVE IT UP ALREADY, BABY. IT’S OVER, SHE’S DEAD. He insists that you have to get the hell off of Mustafar.
So you follow some prompts from Vylip, and spring both him and Zoe out of their cells. Zoe is able to replicate Karius’ voice to break you out of the Sex Dungeon for good:
Recurring Theme: We’ve Got Company
The three of you make your way to an elevator, en route to the hangar where you and Zoe plan to flee in the Windfall. But alas! Getting over to the ship isn’t going to be that easy:
Vylip takes out this trooper, but this now means everyone knows we escaped. Karius makes an announcement over the PA, and all the exits get locked down. Well! That’s a problem.
Vylip’s been paying attention to Star Wars, so he knows that the obvious solution is to go seek out a ridiculous character in an even more ridiculous setting. It’s the Only Way! He instructs you to seek out the priestess of his clan — she’s hiding in Vader’s basement! Ha! Naturally. I assumed Darth Vader had a Mustafarian clan priestess living in his basement. OBVIOUSLY.
Vylip throws himself at the incoming troopers so that Zoe and I can make our escape, while dramatically yelling that the priestess is our only hope.
There’s some more Hijinks that largely serve as a way for you to interact (your elevator gets stuck, you have to climb out via a ladder, etc), and eventually the two of you are making your way around Chez Vader:
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Keeping It Understated
At the end of this hallway? OH BOY. So, apparently Vader has a training dojo in his house. It’s super simple and bare-bones OH WAIT:
…oh, I’m sorry, I meant that it’s a moody, ostentatious, WAY OVER THE TOP space that the Jedi Order would have been proud of, with a huge vaulted ceiling:
And yes, that is a lightsaber sitting on a pedestal in that first picture. And you go right over there and pick it up!
I don’t have a good picture of it, but the walls in this place have these GIGANTIC tapestries that are of, like…Jedi? I am very confused by this. I assume they are not literally Jedi, but they also don’t look particularly Darksider either. Don’t worry Anakin, I won’t tell anyone that you went with a Jedi theme for your lightsaber room.
Zoe has to help bust open a panel for you guys to get out of this room, so in the meantime this serves as an excuse for you to play with the lightsaber, while a training droid instructs you! And it’s SO FUN. I won’t like, fully recap it as there isn’t much to say, but you get to go swoosh-swoosh-WHOOSH just like you know you all want to and it is a blast.
When you’re done, Zoe’s like “hey wow, you’re pretty damn good!” And she’s found a way to get the panel open!
THIS PART IS SO COOL, OK. You get to step out there and really take in the view of the planet. THE VERY SAD PLANET ABOUT WHICH I HAVE SEVERAL THOUSAND FEELINGS.
The second time I played this I just stood there and looked around for a long time, 1000% definitely not thinking about Anakin and Obi-Wan at all, as usual.
Recurring Theme: They’ve Gone Up the Ventilation Shaft
I cackled aloud when I realized that the next step here was going to involve me crawling around in the vents, BECAUSE OF COURSE IT WAS.
So you and Zoe climb up along the side of the building, and use your lightsaber to bust your way into Vader’s HVAC system. You’re prowling around, when things get a wee bit darker and then the music pipes up and you hear some familiar breathing sounds. Uh oh!
Yes, because Star Wars loves me and is apparently committed to giving me everything my nerdgirl heart desires these days (ahem, HELLO THERE, and NO I am still not over that and I probably never will be and YES I PROMISE I WILL RECAP EVERY SECOND FOR YOU ALL), this series gives me the chance to SPY ON ANAKIN WHILE HE’S HAVING A TANTRUM. What else can I even ask for at this point? Honestly.
You peer through the vent grates and see Vader in a room with another black-cloaked figure, and some kind of Space Magic Bullshit Easter Egg:
This other dude is all “you really think you’ve got all the components now? You found a descendant of Lady Corvax?” Hey, they’re talking about me!
Vader affirms that he’s got everything he needs now (sure), and we climb down for a closer look.
They’re now standing in front of some other Glowing Thing, and the guy tells Vader that soon Vader will have power over death itself. I am dying, because this is at least the second or third time some dude dressed in black has said this to Vader, and it has NEVER PANNED OUT.
Because he is an extremely awkward weirdo, Anakin doesn’t say, like, “good”, or “I’m pleased about this” or “gee I sure hope it actually works this time because I sure do look like an idiot right now”, he just stares and then tells the guy to leave him alone. Why does Ani need a little alone time, you ask? Why, it’s Cry O’Clock, of course!
Recurring Theme: Anakin Skywalker, Hopeless Drama Queen
The Mystery Dude like, teleports out of there? I guess? and Vader’s alone with the Glowing Brick of Sadness. He waves a hand over it, and we hear Padme’s voice telling Anakin that she’s pregnant. I CANNOT GET OVER THE FACT THAT I AM STANDING RIGHT THERE while all of this goes down, and Anakin Skywalker, The Chosen One, DOES NOT NOTICE THAT I AM THERE. Anakin my guy, I love you but you are the MOST oblivious person EVER sometimes. Oh my God.
Vader then kneels down and takes off his mask:
He can breathe room air? Really? I thought he could only do that in his Vader pod, or like, at the end of Return of the Jedi when he already knew he was dying anyways. Hmm. Learn some new useless bullshit every day, I guess.
He then says Padme’s name out loud (in his non-Vader, Hayden voice), and then, because he is super even keel and has his shit together, he lets out a rage scream and starts breaking shit in the room.
The vent grate slams shut, and after a beat, Zoe just looks at you and is like “all right, so. Was not expecting to be dealing with all this.” YOU SAID IT.
Tales From Vader’s Basement
You and Zoe go through a whole bunch more hallway and climb a bunch of ladders, and eventually end up in Vader’s Basement. And let me confirm: this place is ENORMOUS. I love that he’s got a ton of Imperial packing crates down here, like he still hasn’t finished moving in:
You get on a skiff thing, en route to the priestess you’re looking for. Some troopers show up and shoot at you, giving you a chance to use your new saber skillz, and they are just as terrible at hitting their mark as they are in the movies.
You fend them off, and that’s when you see: Vader? HAS AN ENTIRE ADDITIONAL CASTLE INSIDE THE BASEMENT OF HIS CASTLE:
Zoe is as floored about this as I am, and observes that the building must be pre-Republic, at least several thousands of years old. You fly over, land your skiff, and disembark.
Recurring Theme: Mood Lighting
You approach the entrance to this place, and I’m very amused that there’s like, a doorman? Vader just has these people straight-up living in his basement. I love it.
Inside, you make your way down some dark, creepy hallways that have some ancient artwork:
I need to point out that THERE IS ELECTRICITY RUNNING THROUGH THESE HALLS:
The cord running from the lamp is killing me. I love that an ancient castle inside a basement on Mustafar officially has more functioning lightbulbs than the Jedi Temple.
You head further down the halls, until you reach a giant open room, with a mysterious figure standing in it:
The priestess! Hey, we found her! And boy does she have a story for us.
Recurring Theme: Tragic Backstory
She’s like “Oh hey! Looks like Vader finally found who he needs!” Zoe starts babbling about how we were supposed to find her, and the priestess has no time for chit-chat: she raises a hand and zaps us into an animated backstory!
This part is really, really cool in VR, because the animation sort of paints itself all around you and above you as she talks and it’s awesome.
The story is this: once upon a time, Lady Corvax and her husband moved to Mustafar, which at the time was Green and Lush and Pretty. They lived in harmony with the people who already lived there.
The Mustafarians had something called the Bright Star, their most sacred object, which nourished all the life there.
One day, some jerks attacked Mustafar, and Lady Corvax’s husband was killed:
Lady Corvax flipped the fuck out and stole the Bright Star, presuming that it would be able to bring him back to life. She hid the Bright Star away in her inner sanctum, and as a result Mustafar turned into the desolate hellscape we all know and love today. In order to get to this sanctum and retrieve the Bright Star, Vader needs an heir — me! — to help him get in. Just so we’re clear, it doesn’t appear that this woman was ever able to successfully raise the dead with this thing, so, once again Anakin’s betting it all on a TOTAL long shot.
Also? Allow me to digress for a moment, because what, exactly, does Anakin think is going to happen here? He’s going to raise Padme from the grave, and then what? She’s just going to be A-OK with everything that’s happening here? She’s going to want to be an immortal zombie living in this terrifying castle with Anakin, who now looks like that? And Anakin is basing these assumptions on what, exactly? Padme’s long track record of accepting Anakin’s gigantic problems notwithstanding, I feel like this is a bridge too far even for her. Or would raising her from the dead with Sith Magic Bullshit mean he’d be creating an Evil Zombie Padme who would be happy about this arrangement? Vader’s not supposed to know his kid(s) survived yet, so as far as he knows she died pregnant. Does he think he’s going to create a pregnant Zombie Padme? Would she give birth to zombie babies? Would she stay pregnant forever? (That is CRUEL to inflict on your wife, Anakin.) I HAVE A LOT OF QUESTIONS, and I feel like Anakin never stopped to ask even one of them. He just heard “raise the dead” and was like I’M IN WHERE DO I SIGN. Honestly, Skywalker. You are KILLING ME here.
Recurring Theme: This Asshole
We now come to the home stretch of this episode, and IT IS AMAZING AND HILARIOUS.
OK. So the priestess finishes her story, and exhorts me to help Vader find the Bright Star, with the intent of having the Mustafarians nab it from him once I do. It’s their best chance to get it back. She is led away by a guard — Vader’s on his way — and she tells me that their fate is in my hands! Fate has chosen me! Destiny! Etc!
Zoe is MOST displeased with all of this — we were here for our ship? Not saving the planet? But it’s no use — the priestess is gone, and now Vader’s here. Swell.
Vader stomps over, Force-chokes and throws Zoe out of the way, and is like YOU. ARTIFACT. OPEN SANCTUM NOW. So, what’s a girl to do? I’ve gotta help Anakin do something stupid, right? Now I know how Obi-Wan felt.
So I open the stupid sanctum, and the floor starts moving, and a handful of droids start attacking us. Now, friends: this blog has spent a lot of time discussing the many things Anakin is bad at, like sleeping and choice-making and keeping a low profile. But what, if anything, would you say Anakin Skywalker IS good at? Hmm? Would you agree that one thing might be, say, oh, FIGHTING BATTLE DROIDS? He’s done that effectively a few thousand times, right? So this should be no big deal, right?
Oh no: Vader? Is actually going to make ME, someone who literally got a lightsaber 10 minutes ago, fight these things off with him, while he TAKES HIS SWEET FUCKING TIME killing a few of them. THIS IS ONE OF THE ONLY THINGS YOU ARE GOOD AT, JACKASS. Sure, Anakin: you were “testing” me or whatever. Get out of here. We all know you were just being lazy and rude.
So after I have killed SEVERAL WAVES OF THESE THINGS, ALONE, then — AND ONLY THEN — does Vader Force-grab and finish off a few more of them, before STEALING MY WEAPON FROM ME, ENTIRELY SO THAT HE CAN DO A SHOWOFF DUAL-WIELD FINISH:
…then this jerk has the nerve to saunter over to me, dramatically light his face with his saber, and be like “you did not terrible, cool”:
He informs me that I am going to help him get what he wants, and also that he senses that I can use the Force, so he’ll teach me how to use it. Oh, good. I definitely feel like Vader is going to be a patient, gentle instructor. Ten bucks says he lobs a chunk of the wall at me within the first 5 minutes.
Having ordered me, a TOTAL STRANGER WHO WAS JUST MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS OUT IN SPACE 40 MINUTES AGO, to do his bidding, he starts walking away, leaving me in the dark. BECAUSE — lest we forget — HE STILL HAS MY LIGHTSABER.
Anakin Skywalker, you absolute asshole.
Can you even imagine what this poor smuggler is going through right now? I JUST WANTED TO SMUGGLE SOME STOLEN GOODS AND THEN HIT THE CANTINA OR WHATEVER, and now instead I’ve been dropped right smack dab into all of Anakin Skywalker’s bullshit, with NONE OF THE BACKSTORY. So, here I am, marching through a dark ancient hallway behind DARTH GODDAMN VADER, who is apparently trying to perform some kind of a magic trick to raise the dead, and only I can help him. Also an entire society of native Mustafarians is counting on me to help them save their planet.
That’s the end of the first chapter of Vader Immortal! The second installment is forthcoming, but hasn’t been released yet. I do know it will involve Vader and I fighting a giant monster, which is yet another thing that apparently lives in Anakin’s basement. What a life he’s had, really. Also there is basically no chance my character is going to come out of this episode series alive, so, that’s fun. I hope you’ll join me again for all the good times that await us!