Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sofa Story: The battle of Lando and the Stormtrooper

One of the best parts of gaming is being able to control the main character in your own personal narrative. Whether it is a multi-player battle or a quirky and imaginative way to tackle a single-player challenge, every gamer has a story or few about an epic moment. Today, in my first ever 'Sofa Story', I relate a vivid memory from an intense multi-player session of Jedi Knight.

Multiplayer matches on Bespin are always a blast. The map merges a wide open space on one side with tight corridors on the other. Further, the corridor section is flanked by a bottomless pit and a landing platform that houses a prized rocket launcher. The setup ensures a solid mix of styles with saber play dominating in the tight spots, ranged explosives ruling in the open areas, and a constant skirmish for dominance of the landing platform. This match began innocently enough with my pink saber wielding Lando taking up residence on the landing platform and using a combination of force push and the spawning rocket launcher to force players off the precipice into oblivion. I knew this strategy could only last so long until I was overwhelmed by the opposition, but the opportunity to seize the early kill lead was too enticing.

While making my initial stand, one pattern became clear. This one red hued Stormtrooper was hellbent on taking the platform for himself. Unfortunately for him, I had the upper hand in terms of position and weaponry. After a few tries, the Stormtrooper finally managed to break through. Seizing the moment while I was distracted with another player, he activated force speed, grabbed the rocket launcher for himself and unloaded a full volley at me. My poor Lando was dead before he hit the ground. The battle was on and I vowed to reclaim my rightful throne on the landing pad.

My first attempt was a complete disaster. My goal was to force jump high and far landing on the edge of the platform and, hopefully, catch the Stormtrooper from behind. Unfortunately, I mistimed the jump and, instead of landing on the edge of the platform, completely cleared it. Lando got a beautiful look at the horizon as he plummeted to his shameful death. My second attempt was a bit more elegant. Carefully maneuvering into position, I made a leaping lunge with my lightsaber. While I succeeded in catching my opponent unaware, I also missed the slash. The carnage of reflected and re-reflected rocketfire that ensued was poetry in motion but the closing stanza waxed lyrical of Lando's demise. Exhilarated from the last fight, I opted to grab the seldom used E-11 rapid firing (but horribly inaccurate) blaster and proceeded with a spray and pray charging assault. The tactic wasn't completely devoid of strategy as I hoped to use the light show of blaster fire to distract my enemy while closing the distance and forcing them to put away the rocket launcher (thus balancing the playfield). Running at top speed with the my finger unrelentingly crushing the trigger, I successfully reached the Stormtrooper; the plan was working! Then, in a moment that I can only surmise was the result of sheer panic of seeing Lando abandoning any sense of self-preservation, the Stormtrooper aimed his rocket launcher and fired from a brutally unsafe distance. Combined with a few successful pings from my blaster, the Stormtrooper had effectively committed hari kari. I was the king of the platform again.

My reign was short lived as I had also taken significant damage from the rocket blast and made the decision to abdicate while I searched for a health pack. Retreating to the open area, I found a boost and, after patching myself up, was almost immediately greeted by my nemesis. The score was even and we each had each other's blood on our hands. Upon seeing one another, away from the familiar battle ground of the landing pad, the moment stretched as the fresh memories of our conflicts, which planted the seeds of our hatred, finally germinated. But amid the hatred was also a sense of mutual respect; we were rivals for the same map position and united in our choice of strategy. Sensing this respect within each other, the unspoken inevitable happened; we lowered our blasters and drew our swords. This conflict could only be concluded through honorable lightsaber combat.

Circling each other slowly, both of us were reticent to make the first move and resorted to slashing at air in an effort to bait each other. The tension mounted and it became clear that an explosive duel was going to be ignited through simultaneous aggression. Then, as if on queue, we both charged forward with massive overhead swings dialed in. The Stormtrooper collapsed but my expression was not one of a satisfying victory but, rather, confusion. My rival's corpse lay at my feat but I had not landed a blow. Then, I heard the familiar sound of a bryar pistol charging. I spotted the culprit in the rafters too late to defend myself and Lando's lifeless body took up residence next to the Stormtrooper. A crafty third party and been watching the action from afar and had pounced on his unsuspecting prey. I spawned to see the Stormtrooper run right past me, our differences were to be set aside... at least for the moment.

I don't remember how the conflict ultimately played out but the memory of the bryar pistol interrupting the showdown is burned in. Both myself and the Stormtrooper had become so obsessed with eliminating each other that we were oblivious to the other action on the battlefield. I can only imagine that my opponent was just as surprised as I was by his unimpressive death worthy of a background character; indeed, we were the faceless minions to the third parties glorious tale of opportunity knocking. For all of its foibles, Jedi Knight had a genuinely entertaining multi-player mode that, no doubt, is the source for many fond gamer stories.