One of the things that I loved most about the original Knights of the Old Republic game was the deep, rich story it weaved. It took a virtually untouched area of the Star Wars timeline and created a setting just as touching and moving as the original movies themselves. One of the things that made this story so great was the introduction of a species that traveled the stars and ruled the galaxy long before the creation of the Republic. I speak of the Rakata and their Infinite Empire, a species that had a drastic impact on the galaxy and whose history is the subject of this week’s TOR Lore.
The Rakata, also known to some as The Builders, originated on the planet Lehon. Lehon is located in the Unknown Regions, which helps explain why the planet was undiscovered by the Republic until the time of the Jedi Civil War. Details on how they built their empire are sketchy, but they reached the height of their power around 5,000 years before the founding of The Republic. Their species were strong in The Force, and they incorporated it into all aspects of their life. This lead to what some may argue as the most impressive accomplishment of their species, the ability to combine and fuel their technology through The Force. This led them to develop an early form of hyperdrive that allowed them to travel the galaxy in search of new planets and species. However, they were not a benevolent race. Whenever they came across a new species, the Rakata did not seek to share their knowledge. They simply used it to conquer and enslave all those that were unfortunate enough to attract their attention.
The Rakata placed Star Maps on worlds they had conquered as a lasting monument to the power and scope of their Empire. These maps showed the entirety of the Infinite Empire with Lehon at the very center. Like many other Rakatan technologies, the Star Maps were self-sustaining and capable of repairing themselves over time if they received any damage. Terraforming machines were also frequently used to modify the different conquered world’s climate, geology, flora, and fauna to meet the Rakata’s needs. In this way the Rakata transformed entire worlds and greatly influenced the development of native species. One world that showed extreme examples of this process was Kashyyyk, home planet of the Wookiees. The extreme growth of the trees, plants, and various creatures of the planet was a direct result of the Rakatan terraforming technology. In fact Jolee Bindo, who spent many years on the planet’s floor, believed that the Wookiees’ evolution was influenced in such a way that they were created to be gardeners and caretakers of the plant life on Kashyyyk.
The Rakata built what they came to call an Infinite Empire. At its peak it spread across 500 different planets all over the galaxy and was made up of 10 billion Rakata and over a trillion slaves. It is theorized that their empire could have been much larger if it had not been for the limitations of their hyperdrive. While it was impressive for its time, their hyperdrive only allowed their ships to reach planets with a significant Force signature, due to the fact that their technology was powered by their Force abilities. Despite these limitations it can be said that the Infinite Empire helped to spread species across the galaxy, though they remain largely unknown to the greater galaxy due to the events that led to the downfall of their empire.
The crowning achievement of the Rakata was their creation of the Star Forge, a massive space station that drew energy and matter from the nearby star in the Rakata’s home system. It combined this energy with The Force and was capable of creating endless supplies of droids, ships and other war materials while using minimal resources. This fueled the Rakata’s war efforts and helped them to forge their Infinite Empire, but this device played a key part in their downfall as well. It fed on The Force it took on the negative emotions displayed by the Rakata and became an instrument of the Dark Side. The Rakata believed they could control the Star Forge despite this, but they were wrong. The Star Forge fueled their aggressive tendencies in order to draw even more power from the Dark Side and lead the Rakata to wage a bloody and devastating civil war among themselves. Around the same time, a plague swept through the Infinite Empire that only affected Rakata, causing their numbers to drop even further. It has been theorized that this plague was the creation of one of the species that found themselves enslaved by the Rakata, but no hard, solid proof has surfaced to prove this theory. No matter the source, the plague, combined with the civil war, caused the Rakata’s population to plummet. At the same time, their species started becoming unable to use The Force, the result of a genetic mutation cause by the plague. This was devastating to the Infinite Empire as The Force itself fueled the very technology they built their empire on. The Rakata were forced to rely on inferior technology to travel the stars, and the slave species, sensing the weakness in the empire, began to revolt.
All these factors spelled the end for the Rakata and their Infinite Empire. They destroyed all records of their home system to prevent the slave species from finding it and fled back to Lehon. But the Rakata were a war like species and the collapse of their empire did not change that. They continued to fight amongst themselves for resources, devastating their homeworld until it became little more than a series of islands. Eventually, most of the Rakata fled underground, and over time they forgot the history of their species. Only the priest caste remained on the surface of their world, guarding the secrets of their past so they would not make the same mistakes twice. Over time, they sought a way to destroy the Star forge and rid the galaxy of its evil presence, yet they were unable to do so. In order to gain access to the temple that controlled the disruptor field surrounding their planet, they had to be force sensitive, and that sensitivity was lost to their race. To make matters worse, the Rakata who lived underground had returned, barbaric as ever. They had found their way to the island of the Elders, which the priest caste had come to call themselves, and forced them to remain in their compound. All hope seemed lost until the arrival of Revan and Malak.
Revan, who was under the influence of the Dark Side at the time, tricked the Elders into allowing him access to the temple. Upon entering, he disabled the disruptor field surrounding the planet and gained access to the Star Forge. However, he had no intention of destroying it, and he used its powers to create an armada that he then released upon the galaxy. The Elders felt lost. Not only had the Star Forge been unleashed upon the galaxy once more, but they had absolutely no way of stopping it, that is until Revan appeared before them once again. Having been injured during the Jedi Civil war and implanted with a new personality, Revan stood before them as a true servant of the Light Side this time. Proving that he had changed, the Elders allowed Revan access to the temple once more, allowing him to find a way to destroy the space station. In a massive space battle the Elders watched as Republic forces finally brought an end to the Star Forge and its evil presence.
Despite their barbaric history and relative seclusion during the time of the Republic, the Rakata played an integral role in the history of the galaxy. From what we have seen, we know that their legacy will be explored even further during the events of The Old Republic. With the massive story BioWare is weaving for us, I expect we will be given even further insight into this elusive and enigmatic race.
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