18/11/2020

Ashara vs. Ahsoka

I'm continuing my marathon of The Clone Wars and finished season five recently. Instead of talking about the season in general, I wanted to talk a bit about Ashoka this time, the show's poster child - she features pretty prominently throughout season five, and the last arc of the season is all about her. Without spoiling anything, I can say that it hits pretty hard on an emotional level and makes it more relatable to me why so many people love the character.

I don't just want to talk about Ashoka though - rather I'd like to contrast her with Ashara, the SWTOR companion that was clearly modelled in her image. SWTOR and the Star Wars expanded universe in general have this obsession with relentlessly rehashing concepts and copying whole characters from previous material and the fans just love it. That's why (class story spoilers incoming I guess) Jedi knights get a visit from their dead master's Force ghost at a crucial moment, and why smugglers are best buds with a Wookiee and get a chance to hook up with a princess. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise then that the character of Ashoka received a homage in the form of a young and headstrong, orange-and-blue Togruta companion with a name that also starts and ends with A.

As someone who had never seen the Clone Wars, this was something that largely went over my head at launch except on the most superficial level... but let's just say that at this point I can see what Bioware was trying to achieve with the character of Ashara - I'm just still not sure they actually succeeded.

Asohka in the Clone Wars starts out as a fairly generic young padawan. A bit snippy perhaps, but still inexperienced and keen to learn. After a brief struggle to get her and Anakin on the same page, they become a pretty good team, and in a slow and subtle way you can see her learning from him as the episodes go by, as she becomes more confident and beings to trust in her intuition, while also developing a slightly independent streak.

She seems to believe in the Jedi order as a Force of good, but just like for her master, some of the Council's decisions don't feel quite right to her. This comes to a head at the end of season five (spoilers for real now), when she's framed for a crime and expelled from the Jedi order as a result. While her name is cleared at the very end and she's asked to rejoin, she's too hurt by the betrayal she's experienced and leaves, in order to digest the events she just experienced on her own terms.

A lot of this clearly served as inspiration for the character of Ashara, though now that I'm checking the dates, Clone Wars was only on its fourth season when SWTOR came out (gosh, how time flies), so the events of season five couldn't have influenced Ashara's story. Nonetheless, she too is a headstrong young Jedi padawan who - aside from the obvious superficial similarities - isn't quite convinced that her masters always got it right and ends up turning her back on the Jedi order.

The problem with Ashara is that she doesn't have the chance to get several seasons of character development, so her turning doesn't really feel earned. I can't help but wonder whether she wouldn't have worked better as a companion for a class other than the Sith inquisitor. (I remember reading somewhere that for the original companions, Bioware came up with all the character concepts before actually assigning them to different classes and their stories, so it wasn't set in stone who would join up with whom initially.)

The game tries to make you interested in Ashara on Taris by having the Sith inquisitor review a number of holo recordings of her interacting with her fellow Jedi, but they only really provide a very basic characterisation, and nothing ever gives her any obvious motivation for deciding to follow a Sith. I've long complained that her "acquisition story" is one of the worst and that it would have been more logical for the inquisitor to simply kill her. This has always greatly overshadowed any enjoyment I might have gotten out of having her around.

Now if I imagine her as having been meant to be more of an Ahsoka-like character, somewhat dissatisfied with the way the Jedi do things and wanting to find her own way in the Force, I could see that being an interesting angle and making her subsequent actions, such as deciding to work with a Sith, more understandable. If you don't already go in expecting her story to go that way though (because "look, it's Ahsoka!"), I maintain that it's just not given a very convincing foundation in-game.

7 comments :

  1. I think you're reading too much into the fact that they're both Twileks. As you mention, the timelines don't match for Ahsoka to inspire Ashara.

    In my view, Ashara was Bioware's attempt to do Palpatine tempting Anakin to the Dark Side. To persuade/convert Anakin while having him believe that he is doing the right thing. That's why, unlike Jaesa, Ashara never thinks of herself as Dark Side or a Sith.

    The attempt was not entirely successful, and perhaps too subtle to come across in a videogame.

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  2. I knew a little about Ahsoka when I first started playing the game and couldn't help noticing the similarities between Ashara and Ahsoka. I've never been satisfied with her story either, especially the interactions between the Inquisitor and Ashara.

    It was a bit of a let down after playing the Sith Warrior and discovering I could shape Jaesa depending on how the warrior interacts with her. No matter what the Inquisitor says to Ashara, she never changes. If there had been more character development for her like there was for Ahsoka, I would probably like her more. Ashara's story has always felt rushed to me.

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    1. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Bioware had a plan to make Ashara "corruptible" like Jaesa at some point. If there was, it was probably dropped for the effort involved though. (I think warrior was the first class story they ever worked on and as a result benefitted from having a bit more work put into it than later ones.)

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  3. I've always found Ashara to be a frustrating character. And when asked, I usually cite her as my least favorite companion. My first and, for the longest time, only Inquisitor was full dark side and Ashara’s willingness to follow them made Ashara seem like the dimmest bulb in the galaxy.

    A friend who also leveled a dark side Inquisitor was more forgiving than me, saying that while playing the story he did all the crazy evil Inquisitor stuff he wanted, but in conversations with Ashara, he chose the "nice" options, basically lying outright to her and telling her what she wanted to hear.

    However, we had somewhat different reactions to the end of her story. He was disappointed that Ashara did not make a full turn to the dark side, but my reaction was that Ashara had all but done so in everything but name, justifying every evil deed with self-righteousness but still calling herself Jedi in an act of extreme denial.

    Nevertheless, it still didn’t endear me to the character.

    Ahsoka, on the other hand, is one of my favorite Star Wars characters and the point-of-view character the prequel era desperately needed. I think maybe that Ashara isn’t so much an homage to Ahsoka, but a parody. Two dumb padawans who can’t see that their masters are clearly monsters. How silly!

    But Ashara suffers for lacking Ahsoka’s development and turn to independence (which makes sense: Ahsoka is a main charater and Ashara a supporting one), but its worth remembering that it took Ahsoka took a while to grow on fans, and I think it’s the version of Ahsoka from the early seasons to which Ashara was created in response.

    I don’t have it in me to run Fallen Empire on a dark side character so I still haven’t seen Ashara’s return for myself, but I do like that she has gained enough self-awareness to refuse, at last, to rejoin the dark side Inquisitor.

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    1. the dimmest bulb in the galaxy
      Two dumb padawans who can’t see that their masters are clearly monsters. How silly!

      You just have such a way with words, Intisar! XD

      And ooh, I didn't know that Ashara refuses to rejoin the dark side inquisitor, as the one that I took through KotET was light side. I still liked her character development either way, but that makes it even better.

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