“Welcome, little one. This is your first day. Your designation will be RS-138. We expect great things from you. You have been born into dangerous times. A sharp mind will be the key to survival. But as often as not, it will be your inherent physical traits that win the day. And in this regard, you will be superior to your more common brethren. For you are a commando, something truly special. Your weapons, your armor, and most importantly, your brothers. The aipha of our world hunt in pods to bring down much larger prey. So too, will you join your brothers and become fierce hunters for the Republic. Now, join your pod, and embrace your destiny as their leader. Join Delta Squad: Delta 40, your foundation, a pure and uncomplicated soldier; 62, the heart and soul of your team; and 07, the fiercest hunter of all your brethren. You are each a piece of a whole person, and the Republic will call on you to defend, and give your lives if need be.”
In my last article, I said I was going to be doing a piece on clone troopers for my friend and Patreon supporter Ardent Prayer.
Well, I still am, but it’s not quite the same topic. I was planning on writing about Rex, Wolfe, and Gregor’s appearance in Star Wars Rebels, but I ultimately ended up choosing to write an article on Republic Commando after being inspired during a conversation with my friends.
This is a game that I played significantly during my childhood. It’s genuinely a blast to experience, and to this day I think it’s one of the best squad shooters available on the market. It pains me that a sequel hasn’t been made. However, it wasn’t until I grew older and matured that I realized how great this game is from a storytelling perspective. And one of my favorite parts of the game’s narrative is the ending sequence.
It’s an ending that has received lots of mixed reception across the cult following of Republic Commando. Lots of people dislike it, and an equal amount love it. Personally, I am one of the latter, and in this article I hope to explain why.
So strap on your Katarn armor, take your DC-17s off stun, and get ready to hot drop from a LAAT/i into a controversial opinion!
Band of Brothers
Before looking specifically at the ending of Republic Commando, it’s important to first and foremost establish what the main theme of this game is: brotherhood.
This is something that has always been present in the stories surrounding the boys in white, but it’s never been more emphasized than with Commando. From the opening moments of the game all the way to the moments before the credits roll, the tightly knit bond between the four soldiers of Delta Squad is arguably the primary drive of this narrative.
Sure, the plot stakes are certainly high — grounding a Separatist core ship, reclaiming the Prosecutor and destroying a droid control ship, and softening up Kashyyyk’s Separatist presence for a full scale Republic invasion are important tasks — but for me, the factor that kept me so captivated with this story was the way that Commando perfectly displayed the genuine care that these four had for each other.
It’s admittedly subtle, but when you consider that these are rock-solid special forces troops, I think that’s for the best. Whether it’s through the icy calm tones of Boss, the stern, by-the-book attitude of Fixer, the unparalleled ruthlessness of Sev, or the lighthearted quips from Scorch, the dialogue, behavior, and actions of Delta Squad convey this. When Sev gets incapacitated and left to die by Trandoshan warriors, Boss saves him because he’s his brother. When Scorch is captured and held in a cell on the enemy-controlled Prosecutor, the rest of Delta saves him because he’s their brother. Obviously restoring the squad to full strength is a strategic benefit, too, but what drives the squad in these situations throughout the game is the family bond Delta shares.
Leaving a Man Behind
With the squad so committed to keeping itself together, it naturally is quite jarring for Republic Commando to end with a piece of it being torn away.
The inability to go back and try to find Sev as the Republic invasion begins is as gut-wrenching to Delta Squad as it is to us. We have the instinctual drive to go back and find our squadmate, our family member.
But the thing is, we can’t.
Assuming that Sev wasn’t killed outright, he’s now a prisoner of war with the Separatists. And with the Grand Army bringing down thousands of troops, it’s critical that Delta fulfills their role in the invasion. They need to be available for whatever the Republic needs. If they aren’t, then their absence could very well complicate plans and risk the lives of other clones.
When you’re a soldier, the mission always comes first. In previous instances in the game where squad members are lost, retrieving them is vital to the mission objective. But here, finding Sev is not. And therein lies what makes the loss of Sev truly jarring. This is a haunting situation that every soldier dreads facing, but knows could come at any time. After being able to retrieve our comrades before, we were led to believe that Delta was invincible, that nothing could separate them. And then Republic Commando slaps us square in the face and reminds us of the grim reality of war.
They try and defy their orders initially, of course, with Boss even quipping that he doesn’t care if the orders came from Master Yoda himself. Advisor is quick to point out that the orders are from him, though, and the three of them come to terms with something they hoped they would never have to. The dialogue that I find the most notable here is Scorch’s and Fixer’s.
Specifically, this is what gets said…
“Blast our orders…40?”
“He’s right, sir. We have to evac…”
“Sir…we have to go back…”
— Scorch and Fixer
It’s so important that the commando other than Boss that questions Yoda’s orders is Scorch, because Scorch has been portrayed as the squad’s joker up until this point. You could count the number of serious voice lines on one hand. And yet, here, he is verbally protesting his superior’s commands to the point where he’s on the verge of tears. In a heartbreaking moment, he turns to Fixer, arguably the most rational and level-headed member of Delta, hoping that he can tell him they could get Sev. But Fixer just confirms what Scorch already knew.
Despite how short this interaction is, I find it to be one of the most impactful in the game precisely because by showing Scorch in this state, the game perfectly conveys the brotherhood the commandos share. When Scorch, the lighthearted comedian, ends up being the most noticeably upset of them all, you know the pain runs deep.
Why I Support This Ending
Now that I’ve analyzed Republic Commando’s writing and come up with (what I think) is a solid case for what the game is about and why the loss of Sev is impactful, I want to convey why I support the decision to end the game this way.
I like the fact that Sev’s fate is left up in the air because I think it suits Republic Commando’s objective: to show us the Clone Wars through the eyes of one of the soldiers fighting in it, as opposed to from the perspective of a lightsaber-wielding Jedi. When you can’t just deflect enemy blasters or cut them in half in a swipe, the image of what this war was like for the majority of the Republic becomes quite clear. And while things like the TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars give us this view for the rank-and-file troops, Republic Commando does it for the unsung special forces heroes that barely ever get any spotlight in the fiction. It shows us firsthand what it’s like to lose a brother that you grew up with from birth, in an existence where these brothers are the only other people you know. In a lot of ways, it’s even worse for commandos, because unlike the standard infantry who are social with entire companies or battalions, the commandos have their squadmates and…that’s it.
This excerpt from Star Wars Republic Commando: Hard Contact by Karen Traviss does this as well:
It was a waste, a rotten waste.
RC-1309 busied himself maintaining his boots. He cleaned out the clamps, blowing the red dust clear with a squirt of air from the pressure gun. He rinsed the liners and shook them dry. There was no point being idle while he was waiting to be chilled down.
He looked up. The commando who had walked in placed his survival pack, armor, and black bodysuit on the bunk opposite and stared back. His readout panel identified him as RC-8015.
“I’m Fi,” he said, and held out his hand for shaking. “So you lost your squad, too.”
“Niner,” RC-1309 said without taking the proffered hand. “So, ner vod— my brother—you’re the sole survivor?”
“Did you hold back while your brothers pressed on? Or were you just lucky?”
Fi stood there with his hands on his hips, identical to Niner in every way except that he was… different. He spoke a little differently. He smelled subtly different. He moved his hands … not like Niner’s squad did, not at all.
“I did my job,” Fi said carefully. “And I’d rather be with them than here… ner vod.”
Niner considered him for a while, and went back to cleaning his boots. Fi put his kit in the locker beside the bunks, then swung himself up into the top rack in one smooth motion. He folded his arms under his head very precisely and lay staring up at the bulkhead as if he were meditating.
If he had been Sev, Niner would have known exactly what he was doing, even without looking. But Sev was gone.
Clone troopers lost brothers in training. So did commandos. But troopers were socialized with whole sections, platoons, companies, even regiments, and that meant that even after the inevitable deaths and removals during live exercises, there were still plenty of people around you whom you knew well. Commandos worked solely with each other.
Niner had lost everyone he had grown up with, and so had Fi.
He’d lost a brother before—Two-Eight—on exercise. The three survivors had welcomed the replacement, although they had always felt he was slightly different–a little distant—as if he had never quite believed he’d been accepted.
But they performed to expected levels of excellence together—and as long as they did, their Kaminoan technicians and motley band of alien instructors didn’t seem to care how they felt about it.
But the commandos cared. They just kept it to themselves.
“It was a waste,” Niner said.
“What was?” Fi said.
“Deploying us in an operation like Geonosis. It was an infantry job. Not special ops.”
“That sounds like criticism of—”
“I’m just making the point that we couldn’t perform to maximum effectiveness.”
“Understood. Maybe when we’re revived we’ll be able to do what we’re really trained for.”
Niner wanted to say that he missed his squad, but that wasn’t something to confide in a stranger. He inspected his boots and was satisfied. Then he stood up and spread his bodysuit flat on the mattress and checked it for vacuum integrity with the sweep-sensor in his glove. It was a ritual so ingrained in him that he hardly thought about it: maintain boots, suit, and armor plates, recalibrate helmet systems, check heads-up display, strip down and reassemble DC-17, empty and repack survival pack. Done. It took him twenty-six minutes and twenty seconds, give or take two seconds. Well-maintained gear was often the difference between life and death. So was two seconds.
He closed the top of his pack with a clack and secured the seal. Then he checked the catches that held the separate ordnance pack to see that they were moving freely. That mattered when he needed to jettison explosive materials fast. When he glanced up, Fi was propped on one elbow, looking down at him from the bunk.
“Dry rations go on the fifth layer,” he said.
Niner always packed them farther down, between his spare rappelling line and his hygiene kit. “In your squad, maybe,” he said, and carried on.
Fi took the hint and rolled over on his back again, no doubt to meditate on how differently things might be done in the future.
After a while he started singing very quietly, almost under his breath: Kom’rk tsad droten troch nyn ures adenn, Dha Werda Verda a’den tratu. They were the wrath of the warrior’s shadow and the gauntlet of the Republic; Niner knew the song. It was a traditional Mandalorian war chant, designed to boost the morale of normal men who needed a bit of psyching up before a fight. The words had been altered a little to have meaning for the armies of clone warriors.
We don’t need all that, Niner thought. We were born to fight, nothing else.
But he found himself joining in anyway. It was a comfort. He placed his gear in the locker, rolled onto his bunk, and matched note and beat perfectly with Fi, two identical voices in the deserted barrack room.
Niner would have traded every remaining moment of his life for a chance to rerun the previous day’s engagement. He would have held Sev and DD back; he would have sent O-Four west with the E-Web cannon.
But he hadn’t.
Gra’tua cuun hett su dralshy’a. Our vengeance burns brighter still.
Fi’s voice trailed off into silence the merest fraction of a section before Niner’s. He heard him swallow hard.
“I was up there with them, Sarge,” he said quietly. “I didn’t hang back. Not at all.”
Niner closed his eyes. He regretted hinting that Fi might have done anything less.
“I know, brother,” he said. “I know.”
— Niner and Fi, from the newly formed Omega Squad
(It’s worth noting the Sev mentioned in this excerpt is a different commando entirely.)
I don’t really think there’s anything I can say that highlights the value of humanizing the clone troopers and reminding us of what happens in war that does it better then the work by Traviss here.
One last reason I love it, though: it leaves the door open for an interesting story in a potential sequel. As the Republic becomes the Empire and Delta become Imperial commandos, I would really like to see a story that focuses on the squad’s interaction when a new trooper is assigned to them. There’s a ton of potential there; perhaps some of the squad would feel sorry for the newcomer and would try to help him fit in, while the final member of the original unit would feel angry and hurt, as if Sev was being replaced and forgotten about. I could go on and on about the opportunities.
I FINALLY managed to finish Ardent Prayer’s article! It took forever, especially thanks to a brief loss of writing passion and two weeks dealing with family injuries, but I’m happy to say that I’m back on track with writing posts.
Thanks again of course to Ardent Prayer for contributing to my Patreon. If you enjoy my content and want to pledge, you can do so here!
Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now, but keep an eye out on the blog this month as I’m planning on writing at least three more pieces for February.
Thanks so much for reading!