It’s often been commented that The Mandalorian is designed a lot like a video game. The Mandalorian himself feels like a player character, running around a galaxy full of people who are always in need of something, doing different side-quests for NPCs in exchange for help or a new piece of gear. (That’s part of what makes him such a great fit in Fortnite.)
But in season 2, episode 6, “The Tragedy,” those comparisons are even more pronounced with the reintroduction of Star Wars characters that first appeared as high-level video game enemies.
Spoilers for The Mandalorian, season 2 and the 1995 PC game Star War: Dark Forces below.
Dark Troopers are back.
Originally introduced in Star Wars: Dark Forces, the Dark Troopers were meant to be a possible successor to Stormtroopers, with nearly indestructible armor that was proof to lightsabers. (Interestingly, the armor is not made of Beskar, but rather “Phrik.” There is a surprisingly large number of nearly indestructible rare metals in Star Wars.) And instead of fallible human warriors, the Dark Troopers were battle droids that (at least in theory) would be more reliable.
The genesis of the Dark Troopers, though, is a more practical one. Dark Forces was the first attempt from LucasArts to make a Star Wars first-person shooter, one that drew heavily on the popularity of Doom but added more exploration and objective-based gameplay than the classic shooter.
And while the “canon” explanation for the Dark Troopers was as a bigger, badder Stormtrooper replacement, the real-world explanation is even simpler. As a video game — one specifically built to emulate the original Doom — Dark Forces wouldn’t have been very fun to play if the entire game was simply mowing down wave after wave of the run-of-the-mill Stormtroopers.
More powerful, challenging enemies were needed: hence, the various models of Dark Troopers, who were harder to fight and wielded far more powerful weapons.
Dark Forces was excised from the “official” Star Wars canon when Disney bought the franchise and reset the universe; their inclusion in The Mandalorian marks their first on-screen reintroduction in the new Disney timeline.
And while the return of old Legends elements into the current continuity isn’t a new thing, what’s particularly notable is that the Dark Troopers are once again taking the similar role for our live-action video game analogue. After spending multiple episodes (think of them as individual levels) watching Mando power right through legions of bog-standard Stormtroopers, it’s no wonder that a more powerful foe would be needed to stop him.
“The Tragedy” makes that clear: between Mando, the returning sharpshooter Fennec Shand, and the re-armored Boba Fett, there’s virtually nothing that two whole platoons of Stormtroopers could do to stop him. Because for all the hype over the might of the Empire’s legions, in practice, Stormtroopers are really bad at their jobs.
The Dark Troopers are the logical solution — of course the Empire would have been exploring new options to replace the objectively not very useful Stormtroopers. And if they’re anything like their original video game counterparts, it’s likely that Mando (and his friends) will have a pretty tough fight ahead of them to save Grogu (née Baby Yoda) in the coming weeks.
After all: what’s a video game without a boss battle?