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The town: A blighted, planetwide mega-city conveniently segregated by economic class.
Exploded by: The Sith armada, led by jawless ghoul Darth Malak.
After a brief introduction on a besieged spaceship, your amnesiac character and friends spend the first several hours of Knights of the Old Republic exploring Taris, getting to know its diverse citizens and solving their problems (or making them worse, if you’re going down the Dark Side path). That's right: hours. Solving problems. That will soon be rendered completely irrelevant.
Above: Hey lady, guess what’s about to NEVER MATTER AGAIN FOREVER!?
Like a lot of other RPG cities, Taris is heavily stratified, with rich citizens living in the gleaming upper city…
... most other people living in the slum-like, gang-ruled lower city…
… and the lowest dregs of society living in the cavernous Undercity, which might be kind of nice if it weren’t for the monster infestation.
Not pictured: Monster infestation
You’ll spend a lot of time in each, chatting up locals and taking on dozens of side quests as you learn your way around. Just don’t get too attached, because Darth Malak is on the way, and he’s the kind of guy who’d set a house on fire just to deal with a termite problem. In this case, the “termite” is your high-ranking Jedi friend Bastila (and you, although you don’t know it yet), the “house” is Taris and “fire” is a globocidal orbital bombardment that kills billions.
What this means to you as a player is that – Dark and Light Side points aside – everything you’ve done on Taris is about to become meaningless, especially if it helped someone who wasn't you. That guy you freed from a crime lord’s secret prison? He’s about to be vaporized by space-lasers. So is that gang of swoop bike racers you helped out. And the guy who was marked for death by the loan shark. And the loan shark who marked him for death. And the doctor who discovered a serum to cure people in the Undercity who were turning into monsters.
Above: Yeah, you might want to just throw all those away, for all the good they’ll do
Basically, everyone on the planet is doomed – except for you, of course. Along with your buddies, you steal a ship called the Ebon Hawk, ignore the screams of a dying planet and tear ass into space.
Sadly for Taris, your absence does nothing to make Darth Malak relent, and he happily continues turning the planet’s surface to glass.
So, thanks, Taris; we always sort of realized, deep down, that the things we do in videogames are basically pointless. But this was the first time that those long hours we spent actually felt wasted within the context of the game. Unless we spent them playing Dark Side, of course, in which case the destruction just felt like a fitting coda on all the havoc we’d wreaked. Good or evil, you can see the end result below:
The town: A settlement built on a gigantic tree surrounded by a protective sandstorm in the middle of a desert.
Exploded by: Queen Brahne, using the Odin eidolon (read: summoned monster).
Cleyra is far from the only city destroyed during Final Fantasy IX, but it’s easily the most meaningful. After the fall of Burmecia – a city populated by friendly rat-people – Cleyra is the remote desert outpost where the survivors and refugees gather to hide from the Alexandrian Army, led by a morbidly obese blue hag named Queen Brahne.
Above: Brahne shows off one of her two expressions
At first, Cleyra seems like a relatively safe, idyllic place. Sure, it’s home to a few monsters that need killing, but the eternal sandstorm that surrounds the place ensures that it stays hidden – or at least shielded – from Brahne’s forces and their plans for conquest.
Above: Cleyra, while the sandstorm stays intact
That changes when one of your party members, a Burmecian dragoon named Freya, joins in a faintly absurd Irish-style clog-dance meant to strengthen the sandstorm. Ironically – but unsurprisingly – the dance has the opposite effect. The ritual harp that accompanies it shatters, bringing down the sandstorm and exposing the town to attack for the first time in centuries.
Above: Oh, nice one, Freya
What follows is a grueling siege, as you tangle with Brahne’s ground forces in a pitched effort to get the refugees to safety. In spite of your efforts, the bad guys get hold of Cleyra’s most precious relic and escape. And right after you follow them, Brahne whistles up Odin, who rides out of the clouds and reduces Cleyra to a cinder in one massive, searing blast.
Once again, none of your efforts ended up making the slightest bit of difference. But hey, at least the explosive slaughter of hundreds of innocents makes for some pretty video footage: