Weekly Update: Hitler’s Holy Relics, Jedi: Fallen Order

What I’m Reading: Hitler’s Holy Relics

For reasons that would take too long to get into, I’m currently riding the bus a lot more, which leaves me with a lot more time just sitting around. This means that I’ve made a LOT more progress on a book I’ve been ostensibly reading for most of the year: Hitler’s Holy Relics, which my dad recommended to me after seeing the stuff about the Skofnung Sword and the Ahnerbe, Himmler’s faux-historian society, from my Hospitaller Oath book.

Hitler’s Holy Relics is creative non-fiction. Everything it describes is real, but it describes it in a very story-like fashion, as a Allied historian frantically searches for the missing crown jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, squirrelled away by Heinrich Himmler early in the Nazi occupation and recently vanished from the heavily secure bunker where they were being stored alongside many other artistic and historical treasures. It’s an excellent narrative, bringing together ancient history and Nazi superstition alongside political machinations of postwar Europe.

As I said, the book is very dramatic, often going down long rabbit-trails about the fanaticism and bizarre antics of the pseudo-religion of Hitler’s Third Reich. It describes in great detail the mythology behind the Lance of Longinus, the famous “Spear of Destiny,” constantly referencing how Hitler has rebuilt castles and cities in the shape of the spear (it seems at times remarkably like FullMetal Alchemist)–yet the Lance of Longinus is largely irrelevant to the narrative. It is indeed part of the Holy Roman Empire’s crown jewels, but it is among the ones recovered, and therefore not the actual goal–or even a clue to the goal–of the Allied historian searching after the missing coronation robes.

Probably because the Lance of Longinus is so well known that it pops up in even the strangest things.

Regardless, the sheer depth of Hitler’s mania, as well as those of his inner circle, is darkly fascinating. There is a danger, I think, in studying too deeply or becoming too fascinated by the Third Reich, which when you get down to it was faintly ridiculous in its wholesale invented mythology and intricate ceremonies. But it does go a ways toward explaining the fanatical devotion that many Nazis felt to the movement.

It was also personally helpful, as my next book, The Teutonic Doctrine, is meant to get into the legacy of Nazism in Europe and the delusions many even today told. The Teutonic Knights are even mentioned in Hitler’s Holy Relics, though they’re little more than an outlandish rumor being bandied about.

What I’m Playing: Jedi: Fallen Order

What does the Empire have against floors, I’d like to know? Why this obsession with bottomless pits? For that matter, what does the Star Wars UNIVERSE have against good, solid ground?

Every single one of the planets in Jedi: Fallen Order has sheer cliffs and cavernous pits everywhere, lined with strictly scripted vines/ladders/color-coded girders for your Jedi-hero to climb and leap off of, parkour-style. I’m not entirely certain how the stormtroopers you kept running into got around, unless they also were ninja-commandos capable of running on walls. There certainly didn’t seem to be many other routes to the destinations. I’m not inherently opposed to linear level design, but it sort of ruins the immersion when it’s clear the ladder you’re climbing has nothing to do with the building’s functionality, just with limiting you to a single route.

I noted, interestingly, that in some ways the game felt less immersive than earlier games in the Star Wars universe that I’ve played. I mean, obviously few games are going to match the immersion of Knights of the Old Republic, but when the game feels more obviously a game than Dark Forces or Republic Commando, despite better graphics, more mechanics, more characters, and more interconnected lore, well, that’s weird. I’m not sure it’s a problem with the game–it might just be a matter of my imagination filling in the gaps in lower-res games, or expecting less of games with worse graphics.

It’s so real!

Despite me ribbing on the game, it is genuinely enjoyable. Cal Kestis makes for a charismatic protaganist, his robot companion is endearing, and the worlds are expansive and varied. The combat is… a little rough in points, mostly due to a tricky targeting mechanic. At times I wished the gameplay was more similar to Shadow of Mordor, both in level design and combat, but the “press-button-to-be-badass” gimmick is admittedly overplayed.

I get why they do it, but with every “Jedi in the Empire Period” game, it becomes harder and harder to understand why Grand Moff Tarkin thought the Jedi were gone. Between this game and the Rebels television series, there were clearly all sorts of Jedi running around prior to Luke showing up. Which makes sense–it’d be hard to entirely obliterate a diffuse and powerful group of psychic commandos–but also cuts into the New Hope narrative of Luke being the only Jedi left in the galaxy.

One other thing–the game did an excellent job of humanizing the stormtroopers. I really felt bad cutting down so many of them, especially given how they would panic when confronted with a Jedi, yet rush to attack nonetheless. We need more “stormtrooper who left the Empire” characters–I was really hoping at some point I’d run into a Finn-like character who’d realized he was being used as cannon fodder.

(Honestly I’d just like the Finn character from the series to be an actual badass.)

Rey’s great and all, but this was such a beautifully cool moment, and it’s a shame they’ve never let Finn be this level of heroic again.

Maybe that can be another video game.

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