Plain and simple: The Force Unleashed can be viewed 1 of 2 ways. Neither of those ways concern the infinitely greater control scheme, or even the probably-not-as-good-as-the-first-one story. At its core it was a very personal story, as in the most about one person a story has been in a mass market Star Wars release, albeit with much much grander implications (natch).
The primary motivation of Starkiller in this go-round is to a) find out if he is a clone and b) find his lost love. What we come to find out eventually, is that A doesn’t matter, especially if he has B. The resolution to the “is he a clone?” plot, or should I say lack of resolution, didn’t bother me much. As I didn’t really feel that it mattered whether or not we were playing the clone Starkiller or the “real” Starkiller. Even though the game didn’t come right out and say “Yep, He’s a clone.” I think the epic fight in the clone factory, spent murdering a couple dozen different versions of you, sort of answered that question for us.
The clone plot carries us to the inevitable show down with Darth Vader that culminates in your final decision: will you let the hate flow and the dark side win by striking Vader down, or will you do the “right thing” and let the Rebels take Vader into custody.
The 2 ways in which this game could be viewed depend greatly on the which ending you choose. When you’ve chosen, it will either paint your entire play through as a classic triumph of good over evil, in which our hero achieves personal redemption (whether or not he’s actually our hero from the first game or not) or as one the most depressing and bleak events in Star Wars canon, which speaks not to the fancy go-get-em destiny of the first three Star Wars films, but of the dark inevitability of the prequel trilogy.
If you chose the Light Side ending and the rebels win, then Vader is taken into rebel custody and sent off to Alderaan to stand trial as a war criminal. The last shot showing Starkillers ship jumping into hyperspace, ominously trailed by Boba Fett. The End. Obviously this ending leaves plenty of dangling plot-threads are in desperate need of resolution, as the game is set mere months before the events of A New Hope.
This ending is alright. The good guys win, the hero gets the girl and you get the signature vague threat from Vader. When Starkiller informs Vader that he is no longer under Vaders control, Vader replies, “As long as she is alive. You’re mine” or something to that effect. Basically letting us know that the same thing that did Vader in, love, will eventually destroy Starkiller as well.
Isn’t that bleak? Isn’t that pretty depressing? Once you are tempted by the Dark Side, there is no turning back, not even for the ones you love. It reminded me of the end of Return of The Jedi, when Vader informed Luke that it was too late for him to be saved. Obviously Vader knew that and felt that years prior to his final showdown with his son.
As depressing as that was, it still wasn’t as depressing as the Dark Side ending. When you choose the Dark Side ending, Starkiller raises his saber to strike Vader down and is instead stuck like a pig by a lightsaber from the shadows. It is revealed that the Starkiller we’ve spent the last few hours with wasn’t the only successful clone, another darker clone exists and that clone just murdered our guy. Vader shares a prideful exchange with Dark Starkiller, and we’re only left to assume that both Kota and Juno Eclipse are dead.
As with the Light Side ending, the Dark Side ending wasn’t afraid to tell us that the love is a bad thing. Good Starkillers quest for Love, and his worry about his origins, lead his beloved to her death. The Dark Starkiller we learn, through unlockable cinematics, had the love trained right out of him.
The Dark Side ending also gives a bit of a Bioshock vibe (I know that that is the thing to say to prove how deep you and the game you played are.) With the Dark Side ending you get the sense that your actions throughout the game were meant to happen, that you had no control over them. It sure felt like you did at the time, but the ending revealed your true purpose: tying up Real Starkillers loose ends. Just as the protagonist in Bioshock speant the game searching for something that he was ultimately being programmed to do, so was Starkiller.
I’m not so secretly hoping that the Dark Side ending proves to be in canon. The ramifications of it are outstanding. With the loose ends tied up from the first game, Dark Starkiller is free to do his master bidding, perhaps it also revealed that the many of the events of the original trilogy were not only touched by Dark Starkiller, but perhaps by Vader’s guiding touch as well. Afterall, we all have a destiny, whether we choose to honor it or betray it is entirely up to us.