Hoth: The Failure of Imperial Military Doctrine

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Hoth: The Failure of Imperial Military Doctrine

The Battle Of Hoth was just the tip of the iceberg on how the Imperial Army was failing in its mission.

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The Star Wars universe is full of logical fallacies. There is no base line foundation of logic to begin with. It is merely computer animated spectical. With that said, there is no point to analytize the "debacle on Hoth." It is clear George Lucas has no idea how real militaries work and it was never nessicary for his story. I am all for there needing to be some sort of internal logic in a fantasy setting, but it is clear Star Wars has none.

It's Star Wars.
You don't think too deep about it, because you inevitably end up at Phantom Menace and lose your sanity.

Or at Kotor II and lose all hope.

Edit: I should clarify, I really enjoyed this read. I just don't think it's all that wise to think about Star Wars in any practical terms whatsoever.

BurnedOutMyEyes:
It's Star Wars.
You don't think too deep about it, because you inevitably end up at Phantom Menace and lose your sanity.

Or at Kotor II and lose all hope.

Edit: I should clarify, I really enjoyed this read. I just don't think it's all that wise to think about Star Wars in any practical terms whatsoever.

I know right? Now if this was Star Trek, then by all means analyze the technical shit.

I seem to remember something about Admiral Ozzel's little blunder of "coming out of light speed too close to the planet". I got the impression that Vader hadn't wanted the rebels to be aware of their presence as soon as they arrived. Capturing Luke and infiltrating the base first might just have been his plan originally, but his hand was forced. The only thing we're sure the empire lacks at this point is an organisation for tracking and assassinations (see the Bounty Hunter recruiting scene). But then that could be the emperor just being practical: Why go to the trouble of keeping a potentially dangerous agency on the payroll and setting up a training program to make more when you have an entire galaxy's worth of freelance consultants. Seems to be the corporate model these days: keep as few fulltime employees as possible. Plus allowing for an independent bounty hunter economy reinforces the inherent instability of galactic politics. Giving the local governments a means to go at each other's throats ensures the Empire is the only constant authority. We know Hutt Space survived the birth of the empire after all. Divide and conquer.

PS: DO MORE STARWARS THINGS!

Issue was he wanted Luke alive, other wise he would have blown the shit out of the place. Also, now they made all the storm troopers clones, it makes that whole battle pointless when all the soldiers are replaceable nobodies. Preferred it when i was a kid and the storm troopers were guys that worked as storm troopers.

But still, cant place real world thoughts and military thinking on a sci fi movie. Its not a documentary, its pretend and there to look awesome. Now lets make a movie with the Nazis attacking the allies with AT-ATs.

Quite a good read.

I actually do find Star Wars discussions interesting, and this article does raise a lot of interesting points. The Imperial Command Structure was intentionally flawed because of Palpatine's plan to pit officers against each other. In essence, Sidious applied the Sith Rule of Two to the entire Imperial armed forces. Officers were encouraged to backstab and scheme their way to the top, and even relatively "good" Imperials like Piett or Veers were not without their flaws.

Piett blackmailed other officers to get to his position aboard the Executor, and was partially responsible for Ozzel's slip up at Hoth. He subtly encouraged Ozzel to make bad decisions by offering advice, knowing the pig headed admiral would ignore him. All to set up Ozzel for execution.

General Veers was a military genius responsible for reintegrating Walkers into the Imperial Army. He was an honorable man, and a smart tactician, managing to take a nearly stationary walker and still manage to gun down high speed Snowspeeders. However, he overlooked the flaw in the AT-AT's design, that it could be tripped with cables. The man responsible for pointing out this flaw, Veers had bumped down to Stormtrooper duty rather than officer material. He tried to cover up his failures rather than solve them. Ironically, this Stormtrooper defected and gave the secret away to the Rebellion, resulting in their disaster at Hoth.

Even among Veer's armored corps, there were missteps. One of his Lieutenants decided to march three of Blizzard Force's Walkers across an unstable Ice Shelf to outflank the Rebels, not taking into account ground clearance, and lost all three of the walkers in an avalanche.

As a fourth year military history major, I had the biggest smirk on my face the entire time that I read this. Brilliant.

One nitpick would be the caricature of the Second World War-era Red Army. They actually developed an extremely advanced form of combined arms doctrine by the end of the war (Deep Operations). Something that they had been organizing their forces around years before Germany did. Then the great purges took place and with it was chaos that took until around mid-1943 (or early-1944 depending on who you ask) before the Red Army really recovered fully. Not to mention the full-scale reorganization after the Winter War with Finland that was still not complete when the Germans attacked on June 22, 1941.

I love reading stuff like this. Give a a nerd a universe, and they'll pull it apart, look at it from every angle, then produce a critique that convinces you they should be running every government.

I don't really buy the argument that the armour was better suited for fighting insurgents than open war, though. The stormtroopers seem to die when hit by one of just about anything, from blaster fire to rocks thrown by Ewoks.

And while the "Commandos solve everything" idea has some value, you forget the time limit. The Rebels already knew that the Imperials were coming (thanks to the probe droid), so Vader needed to stomp and crush them quickly, rather than trying to besiege the planet long enough to prepare, plan and launch special operations. He didn't have the time for a lengthy evaluation of the Rebels, because he didn't know how soon they were willing to risk running past the fleet and escaping (thus costing Vader the chance to get Skywalker).

So like: History Degree, with some officer training or...?

Interesting read, I actually like it when people go into really in depth analysis for fantasy stuff. I guess what you point out here is probably why the army doesn't use massive hundreds of thousands of men invasions anymore when small squads can accomplish the objective just as well.

Reading this just makes me wish for another Republic Commando and/or Battlefront game.

:(

That was really good, actually. Very clever and entertainingly written. Could we please have more articles that apply real-world political, economic, social and military thinking to fictional worlds? It would be cool.

The Empire wasn't that great at waging war? Next you'll be telling me that Anakin was a bit of a drama queen.

bdcjacko:

BurnedOutMyEyes:
It's Star Wars.
You don't think too deep about it, because you inevitably end up at Phantom Menace and lose your sanity.

Or at Kotor II and lose all hope.

Edit: I should clarify, I really enjoyed this read. I just don't think it's all that wise to think about Star Wars in any practical terms whatsoever.

I know right? Now if this was Star Trek, then by all means analyze the technical shit.

I'm sorry but you two need to read ALLOT more of the book's and associated media surrounding Star Wars whether you like the story's or not there are literally 1000's of books on ship specs, alien races, planets, weapons, history's, theology and military tactics of numerous races and forces.

Taking out whether you liked the film or not, please do tell what's wrong with the phantom menace's continuity? It may not have been done in the best way, but I at least hope it was obvious that the 3 main plots of it were the discovery of Anakin, the establishment of Anakin and Padme's relationship and shining the spotlight on palatine's political career and helping him elevate his status in the senate (borrowing aspects from key historical figures rise to power). Not really that complicated.

Robert Rath:
Hoth: The Failure of Imperial Military Doctrine

The Battle Of Hoth was just the tip of the iceberg on how the Imperial Army was failing in its mission.

Read Full Article

Have to say I'm always critical about any piece on a subject I really enjoy. But really enjoyed the insights. Although I would question that the whole of the Empire turned into station troops, it's hard to keep track of what is recognized cannon an not, but have defiantly read a few books that depict the empire as having at least some decent combat troops. But yer the glaring difference between just the weapons and the uniforms were really good insights as to why things were done in certain ways.

A_Parked_Car:
As a fourth year military history major, I had the biggest smirk on my face the entire time that I read this. Brilliant.

I've enjoyed reading the occasional military history book in my day, and I had the same reaction.

But really, when has an evil fantasy empire ever had a competent and professional army? Not often, I can tell you that.

Just another chime-in expressing how much I enjoy reading this column. The subject matter is well laid out and interesting. The depth and reasoning is refreshing. Keep up the awesome work.

DVS BSTrD:
I seem to remember something about Admiral Ozzel's little blunder of "coming out of light speed too close to the planet". I got the impression that Vader hadn't wanted the rebels to be aware of their presence as soon as they arrived. Capturing Luke and infiltrating the base first might just have been his plan originally, but his hand was forced. The only thing we're sure the empire lacks at this point is an organisation for tracking and assassinations (see the Bounty Hunter recruiting scene). But then that could be the emperor just being practical: Why go to the trouble of keeping a potentially dangerous agency on the payroll and setting up a training program to make more when you have an entire galaxy's worth of freelance consultants. Seems to be the corporate model these days: keep as few fulltime employees as possible. Plus allowing for an independent bounty hunter economy reinforces the inherent instability of galactic politics. Giving the local governments a means to go at each other's throats ensures the Empire is the only constant authority. We know Hutt Space survived the birth of the empire after all. Divide and conquer.

PS: DO MORE STARWARS THINGS!

But the Emperor DID have a special organization devoted to assassination and spy work - the Emperor's Hand. Supposedly Mara Jade was sent out to track Luke later but ended up locked out of Jabba's Palace during the events of Return of the Jedi. And that's just his personal special forces, I'm sure the Empire has a much more "normal" intelligence network of spies and what not as well.

It also needs to be addressed that the Tarkin doctrine was an unmitigated PR disaster for the (relatively) young Empire, running in direct contraposition to the 'Republic Era' persona cultivated by Emperor Palpatine as Supreme Chancellor. While the absence of a separatist threat disarmed Palpatines ability to use an armed bogeyman as scapegoat to justify his blatant abuses of power and the democratic process, the only reason there WAS a lack of a separatist threat was because he insisted on exterminating the remaining Separatist leadership and splintering of it's fleets - the deaths of Dooku and Greivous were engineered by Palpatine, and he directly ordered Vader to kill the remaining Sep leadership on Mustafaar. He had an obsession with absolute control and tying up all of his perceived loose ends, completely missing the possibility of using the Separatist's as a persistent bogeyman threat, an underground insurgency which he could have used to draw out his enemies and to promote public concern toward security, continuing his carte blanche to act as 'Supreme Chancellor'. His later attempts to pursue this course after he realized his mistake - and the fact his power as newly crowned Emperor was not as infallable as he thought - is what caused the rise of the Rebellion in the first place - not even going into how he poisoned his own relationship with Vader, which hitherfore had been like a Father to a Son and commanded absolute loyalty (due to his own shift from benevolent chancellor to malevolent mustache twirler and the death of Senator Amidala despite his promises that such could be averted).

As a result, the new Galactic Empire, which should have been heralded as a golden age of peace and security, was almost immediatly tainted with Tarkins terror tactics and the human-centrism that permeated most Imperial politics. Systems that offered thunderous applause to his rise to power would later quietly aide the rebellion, if not directly supporting them in the coming war.

Hearts and minds, folks.

SonOfVoorhees:
now they made all the storm troopers clones, it makes that whole battle pointless when all the soldiers are replaceable nobodies. Preferred it when i was a kid and the storm troopers were guys that worked as storm troopers.

100% agreed with you on this. It made the Empire seem more cold-hearted just sending thousands to dies in frontal assaults, but now that they're clones almost all that weight to them is lost since the audience realizes (even if only in the back of their minds) that the troops are just cannon fodder that can be replaced with an order form. It adds something to the story when the viewer has to think about the enemies family and friends (even if the viewer isn't 100% conscience of it).

OT: I have to agree that the Empire deteriorated in their military might since it's transformation from the Republic. The whole Battle of Hoth analysis was good and I hope to see more articles like this in the future.

Jedi-Hunter4:

bdcjacko:

BurnedOutMyEyes:
It's Star Wars.
You don't think too deep about it, because you inevitably end up at Phantom Menace and lose your sanity.

Or at Kotor II and lose all hope.

Edit: I should clarify, I really enjoyed this read. I just don't think it's all that wise to think about Star Wars in any practical terms whatsoever.

I know right? Now if this was Star Trek, then by all means analyze the technical shit.

I'm sorry but you two need to read ALLOT more of the book's and associated media surrounding Star Wars whether you like the story's or not there are literally 1000's of books on ship specs, alien races, planets, weapons, history's, theology and military tactics of numerous races and forces.

Taking out whether you liked the film or not, please do tell what's wrong with the phantom menace's continuity? It may not have been done in the best way, but I at least hope it was obvious that the 3 main plots of it were the discovery of Anakin, the establishment of Anakin and Padme's relationship and shining the spotlight on palatine's political career and helping him elevate his status in the senate (borrowing aspects from key historical figures rise to power). Not really that complicated.

I don't have to read anything. I don't care about how the extended universe addresses technological and other such problems. The people in the Star Wars universe don't make any logical sense, don't act with any logical sense, so why bother discussing the logical ramifications of military doctrine, when the people in charge do not act like real people.

The EU is not and has never been considered canon, Lucas' scorn for it is legendary. Whether or not the House of Mouse takes a different stance remains to be seen.

bdcjacko:

I don't have to read anything. I don't care about how the extended universe addresses technological and other such problems. The people in the Star Wars universe don't make any logical sense, don't act with any logical sense, so why bother discussing the logical ramifications of military doctrine, when the people in charge do not act like real people.

Give me some kind of example or reasoning then? I can't really see any decisions that someone can question no one would ever make that decision.

I mean you said Star Trek was better to analyse, I like Star Trek as well but the amount of time's the plot "there is something unknown & dangerous on this planet, lets split up" come's up it's hard to tell if you were being serious.

Excellent article. I love this kind of in-depth fiction debate, even (or maybe especially) when evidence is so spotty and open to interpretation.

TsunamiWombat:
The EU is not and has never been considered canon, Lucas' scorn for it is legendary. Whether or not the House of Mouse takes a different stance remains to be seen.

As fas as I'm concerned, Lucas can stuff his scorn somewhere the sun doesn't shine. He may have been the birth of Star Wars (along with countless others, I might add), but who's to say he decides what is canon and what isn't? Lucas' treatment of even his own work isn't really undisputed, to put it mildly.

"...Vader was directly responsible for kickstarting the Rebel Alliance..."

There's a Kickstarter page joke in there somewhere, but I'm not funny enough to come up with it.

I've always found it odd that the fleet jumping out of light speed close to the planet was considered a bad decision. The probe droid had already given away that the Empire knew the Rebels were there, so it would be safe to assume that the Rebels would have set up some sort of LP/OPs around the planet, and arriving farther away from the planet would not only provide the Rebels with even more advance warning and time to evacuate, but would also significantly increase the total amount of space that would have to be blockaded in order to prevent escape. Perhaps this actually just reinforces the theory that Vader wasn't so much interested in crushing the rebels, as in capturing Luke.

I love how even though this is based on a movie spectacle, it makes sense. Perfect sense? no, but it is a convincing argument for what happened. This is also why I love the expanded universe, and that particular book series (curse you Lucas for stopping the series -_- )

Thunderous Cacophony:
I love reading stuff like this. Give a a nerd a universe, and they'll pull it apart, look at it from every angle, then produce a critique that convinces you they should be running every government.

I don't really buy the argument that the armour was better suited for fighting insurgents than open war, though. The stormtroopers seem to die when hit by one of just about anything, from blaster fire to rocks thrown by Ewoks.

And while the "Commandos solve everything" idea has some value, you forget the time limit. The Rebels already knew that the Imperials were coming (thanks to the probe droid), so Vader needed to stomp and crush them quickly, rather than trying to besiege the planet long enough to prepare, plan and launch special operations. He didn't have the time for a lengthy evaluation of the Rebels, because he didn't know how soon they were willing to risk running past the fleet and escaping (thus costing Vader the chance to get Skywalker).

Honestly the expanded universe takes things in so many different directions it's really hard to say what's what. Personally I read the two trilogies following the original, before the prequels came out, and have no real familiarity with what the 'expanded universe' has done since then (so storm troopers are apparently all lesser clones now?).

For example, in the original trilogy novel in regards to the battle of Endor, it is explained that Storm Trooper armour is light & flexible, meant to absorb blaster shots, but offered little protection against the Ewoks blunt melee attacks.

Or in the Grand Admiral Thrawn trilogy, it is clearly stated that the Clone Wars ended up as a bit of a nightmare because the process of cloning caused some sort of imbalance in the force in the clone that eventually lead them to go crazy. So it kind of went something like "hey look we can use this cloning technology to mass produce armies!" to "Oh God they've gone crazy and are killing EVERYTHING!!!", prompting a galaxy wide ban on cloning.

Where this comes in to play is Thrawn found the massive derelict clone fleet that was lost in space but didn't have the numbers to man it. However on a certain planet there are these little furry lizard creatures that have the ability to block the force, and Thrawn had the brilliant idea that if the force caused clones to go crazy, he'd keep these things around when making the clones to negate those nasty effect.

In other words a more or less official expanded universe that was completely contradicted when Lucas decided to make more movies. So when it comes to Star Wars cannon you can basically make it out however you want it. If you want storm troopers to be faster produced clones as set by the EU after the prequel trilogy then go ahead. If you want them to be a bunch of poor saps that were forcibly conscripted and have to go through severe brainwashing, as outlined in the Jedi Academy trilogy which followed the Thrawn trilogy, then you can go that way to.

BurnedOutMyEyes:

Or at Kotor II and lose all hope.

Thats cute.

Kotor II garners a lot of dislike, but it ain't nearly as bad as clone wars animated or the prequels.

KOTOR I and II were the best thing to happen to Star Wars especially coming out around the time the prequels were alienating everybody.

Rule #1 of tactics: You must always consider the quantity, quality, and abilities of your troops. Shockingly, I learn this from video games(Total War series, of course). Never send a bunch of militia to take a well defended wall, unless you have overwhelming numbers. Even then, don't expect them to do it quickly. Never charge your cavalry into the front of spears. Finally, never surround your enemy. Give them an avenue of escape and they will take it. Once they lose cohesion, run them down.

So yeah, Hoth definitely didn't have the best outcome it could have had for the Empire, but it was still a major defeat for the rebellion, kind of the flavor of Dunkirk for the Allies in WWII. Yeah, it was a defeat, but you managed to salvage a lot of men and materials out of it.

Jedi-Hunter4:

bdcjacko:

I don't have to read anything. I don't care about how the extended universe addresses technological and other such problems. The people in the Star Wars universe don't make any logical sense, don't act with any logical sense, so why bother discussing the logical ramifications of military doctrine, when the people in charge do not act like real people.

Give me some kind of example or reasoning then? I can't really see any decisions that someone can question no one would ever make that decision.

I mean you said Star Trek was better to analyse, I like Star Trek as well but the amount of time's the plot "there is something unknown & dangerous on this planet, lets split up" come's up it's hard to tell if you were being serious.

Well what it basically comes down to is Gene Roddenberry infused his show with good science fiction concepts that have some root in reality. Basically he did his research, and it's not perfect but the sci-fi stuff that appears in Star Trek for the most part could actually become reality one day.

Star Wars on the other hand George Lucas was inspired by the campy action sci-fi from those older shows like Buck Rogers. First and foremost it was meant to be fun, with little thought to any practical realism. Sure you can have a variety of writers and creative people try to breath some realism into it after the fact with the expanded universe stuff, but none of this came from the actual creator George Lucas and there was never any thought put towards it in the ultimate source materials, the actual movies themselves.

Gatx:

DVS BSTrD:
I seem to remember something about Admiral Ozzel's little blunder of "coming out of light speed too close to the planet". I got the impression that Vader hadn't wanted the rebels to be aware of their presence as soon as they arrived. Capturing Luke and infiltrating the base first might just have been his plan originally, but his hand was forced. The only thing we're sure the empire lacks at this point is an organisation for tracking and assassinations (see the Bounty Hunter recruiting scene). But then that could be the emperor just being practical: Why go to the trouble of keeping a potentially dangerous agency on the payroll and setting up a training program to make more when you have an entire galaxy's worth of freelance consultants. Seems to be the corporate model these days: keep as few fulltime employees as possible. Plus allowing for an independent bounty hunter economy reinforces the inherent instability of galactic politics. Giving the local governments a means to go at each other's throats ensures the Empire is the only constant authority. We know Hutt Space survived the birth of the empire after all. Divide and conquer.

PS: DO MORE STARWARS THINGS!

But the Emperor DID have a special organization devoted to assassination and spy work - the Emperor's Hand. Supposedly Mara Jade was sent out to track Luke later but ended up locked out of Jabba's Palace during the events of Return of the Jedi. And that's just his personal special forces, I'm sure the Empire has a much more "normal" intelligence network of spies and what not as well.

I need to refamiliarize myself with the extended universe sometime.

Irridium:
Reading this just makes me wish for another Republic Commando and/or Battlefront game.

:(

Me to :(

Nghtgnt:
"...Vader was directly responsible for kickstarting the Rebel Alliance..."

There's a Kickstarter page joke in there somewhere, but I'm not funny enough to come up with it.

I guess credits [i]did[/b] do fine. Meeting stretch goals allowed them to put in the new A-wing and Y-wing mounts as well a new skin for the protagonist :P

TsunamiWombat:
The EU is not and has never been considered canon, Lucas' scorn for it is legendary. Whether or not the House of Mouse takes a different stance remains to be seen.

Which is why he loved Dark Empire so much that he personally gave copies of it out to his senior staff members for Christmas one year. Or how he suggested killing off Chewbacca rather than Luke Skywalker at the start of the New Jedi Order.

Or how he used EU elements such as Coruscant, Aayla Secura, Deathwatch and Quinlan Vos and integrated them into the films and television series.

Yeah, he really despises the EU. Oh wait, no he doesn't. He doesn't always feel the need to adhere to a story that the EU has told for the sake of continuity, but he does enjoy some things about it and if he likes it enough, tries to integrate it into the films.

Jedi-Hunter4:

bdcjacko:

I don't have to read anything. I don't care about how the extended universe addresses technological and other such problems. The people in the Star Wars universe don't make any logical sense, don't act with any logical sense, so why bother discussing the logical ramifications of military doctrine, when the people in charge do not act like real people.

Give me some kind of example or reasoning then? I can't really see any decisions that someone can question no one would ever make that decision.

I mean you said Star Trek was better to analyse, I like Star Trek as well but the amount of time's the plot "there is something unknown & dangerous on this planet, lets split up" come's up it's hard to tell if you were being serious.

Yes, I agree with Star Trek being silly. But at least the brought on technical advisers, then choose to ignore them.

But lets just look at the beginning of Star Wars (some times referred to as a New Hope). The Empire is hunting a "princess" who is also a spy and military leader and very important to this rebel cause. She just stole some sort of "plans" that are very important to them. At any point they could have killed her or blown up her ship so these plans would not have leaked. But for some reason they want her alive which gives her enough time to download the plans into some sort of robot and put it in an escape pod.

The Empire forces then watch the escape pod shoot off into space without destroying it. Now they don't blow it up because there are no life forms on it. Now we are in a universe where there are all sorts of robots. It doesn't occur to the gunner and commander that a robot could be on there with the plans. Even if there weren't robots on the pod, the plans could have been on the pod any number of other ways, on a disk, on a print out, encoded into the computer of the escape pod itself. The fact that there are no life forms on the pod shouldn't matter. Now maybe they were under orders to keep everything intact so they weren't suppose to destroy the pod, they could have at least shot at its thrusters and disabled the escape pod and then used a tractor beam to pull it in and search it. But no, they just let it and how many other drift off.

So twice they had clear opportunities to stop the plans from leaking, both of which they failed. The introduction to this universe shows the Empire is not being ran by logical people, so why bother looking further at how the military doctrine of the Empire is a failure as of the Hoth debacle. It is a failure as of the capturing Princess Leia debacle.

I can go into how they over react by blowing up a planet, and they still fails to bring the rebels to their knees. How they can't effectively leverage holding an enemy royal hostage into a victory. Also, they were willing to blow up the planet the princess was on, but they didn't blow up the planet they knew the plans crash landed on. Now they may have had logistical problems with that one considering the distance between the planets...but that never stopped anything in Star Wars before.

PS

You know it is even unfair to look at Star Wars logically. It isn't meant to be anything but a mythic fantasy morality tale that is set in space. By those standards, it doesn't matter if it makes sense every step of the way.

Ishal:

BurnedOutMyEyes:

Or at Kotor II and lose all hope.

Thats cute.

Kotor II garners a lot of dislike, but it ain't nearly as bad as clone wars animated or the prequels.

KOTOR I and II were the best thing to happen to Star Wars especially coming out around the time the prequels were alienating everybody.

Never said a bad thing about it.
It's probably the best Star Wars game I played, definitely my favourite, and if it weren't for the fact that the ending was basically a shitty placeholder (kind of acceptable, considering they had about a year and had to dash it for a stupid christmas release because LucasArts grrr) and the miles upon miles of cut content, I'd wholeheartedly say it's a masterpiece.
Certainly the best story to come out of Star Wars, far as I'm concerned, and its deliberately un Star Wars-like approach to questions of belief, morality, affection and war were just brilliantly insightful in my opinion.

It was a really fucking depressing game though.

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