Battle Analysis: Sacking of Coruscant, Attack on the Temple (SW:TOR)
Of all the trailers for The Old Republic MMO, by far my personal favorite is the Deceived trailer. Now, I am no fan of the Sith but from a tactical and strategic perspective, I personally find the battle fascinating. So here I’m going to look at the battle as depicted in both the Deceived trailer and related novel to give a more complete picture of why the battle turned the way it did.
So first let’s look at each side and what they brought to the table. Now what is important to note is that I am only looking at the attack on the temple and am only counting combatants that took part in that battle. Also to my knowledge a lot of the exact numbers are not stated in any source so for those that don’t have an exact number I will include (est) after the number to indicate that I am estimating the number from what is shown in the trailer and the novel. The Sith brought a force which numbered 50 Sith Warriors (2 of which -- Malgus and Adraas -- being Sith Lords), at least 1 Mandalorian, 1 miscellaneous combatant, and between 3 to 5 squads of Sith Troopers (est. based on the size of the shuttle that carried them to the fight)
The Jedi on the other hand really don’t have much for hard numbers so these are pretty much all estimates. The Numbers that we do know are that before order 66 the Jedi had around 10,000 members which was after a millennium of peace followed by 4 years of a war. The Jedi of that era had endured a purge that killed all but around 100 members just 300 years prior to the start of the Great Galactic War which lasted 28 years. As such with around a third of the time to build up and a war that was 7 times longer in comparison to pre order 66 Jedi at the time of the Sacking of Coruscant they most likely numbered in the low thousands (2000-3000) and as they were fighting a long and bloody war a fraction of which would have actually been at the temple at the time of the attack so I am going to say around 300-400 Jedi were at the temple at the time it was attacked. We do know that half the Council was at the Temple as well but more on that later. In addition the Temple almost always has a full division of security forces and there was a garrison of republic troopers close to the temple as well which took part in the battle. So an estimated 300-400 Jedi, 1 battalion of temple security forces and 1-2 battalions of republic troops (though they wouldn’t get to the battle right away and very few were actually able to contribute) were what the Sith was up against.
So even excluding the Republic Troops the Jedi had a clear numerical advantage in this battle. And should have had the advantage in the battle. Now yes not all of the Jedi’s forces were in the main chamber taking part in the battle and there were some stragglers in various places in the temple after the battle concluded. But due to the fact that they sensed Malgus coming well before he walked into the temple they did have time to position the bulk of their forces to intercept him when he got to the Temple. I would assume between 70-90% of the Jedi’s forces (Jedi and Temple Security) were in the main chamber when the battle began because of this. So a clear numerical advantage and an easy win for the Jedi right? Well not exactly as numbers don’t mean everything.
While combat is a staple of Jedi training, and all Jedi are expected to take up and master a lightsaber form and pass a combat skill based test to achieve the rank of Knight, combat is not the only thing that Jedi do. In fact most Jedi specializations have nothing to do with combat. This isn’t to say that no Jedi is good in a fight as there are plenty of examples of high skilled duelists and battlefield Jedi, what this is saying is that during a full scale war that has lasted nearly 3 decades, those Jedi who are good at combat, or even just decent aren’t going to be at the temple, but fighting on the front lines. The Jedi who aren’t good or even passable combatants, or are too young or not yet ready for the front lines are going to be the ones at the temple during a war. This makes the temple an extremely vulnerable target as anyone who has read the New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force series knows.
The Sith on the other hand live for combat as that is their main purpose. They specifically sent Sith Warriors to the fight, who were battle hardened and trained for just such an engagement. Now the Jedi weren’t completely out matched in skill. As in both the novel and the trailer Ven Zallow and 6 Knights went out to confront Malgus, with the remaining Jedi and Temple guards standing back to watch the engagement. Because of this and Malgus’ reaction to their presence these were probably the Jedi that had been left behind with the specific job of protecting the temple, and likely the only ones who had actual combat experience. But again this only refers to those 7 Jedi who could be considered the equal of any individual Sith warrior in the attack. The rest would have been significantly outclassed by the warriors that the Sith brought.
The dynamic between the Sith Troopers and Temple Security Forces with the Sith Troopers being less numerous but more experienced than the Temple Security as the latter were mainly former Police with little to no combat experience, or former Republic Military that had aged out of service meaning they had experience but not as fit for combat as the younger Sith Troopers.
So now for the Battle
The plan for the Sith was simple, disable the defense net around Coruscant. Have Malgus and Alema walk into the Temple and draw out the bulk of the Jedi while Shae Vizla disables the temple security measures. Then have a shuttle crash into the temple and deploy the bulk of the Sith force into the battle. All of that pretty much happened without a hitch and there really isn’t anything to say about that. Where the battle gets interesting is what happens after the Sith leave the shuttle.
On second thought lets rewind to the shuttle crash as it is important for what happens after they leave the shuttle. When the shuttle came it crashed into many of the supporting pillars which held up the upper balconies. As a result, these balconies collapsed down killing any Jedi underneath them that were watching as well as any Jedi on the balconies as they fall. Any that weren’t killed were forced to retreat to balconies that weren’t collapsing. Before the shuttle collapsed the Jedi had people all over the balconies both in front and behind where Malgus was standing at the time. Had there been no shuttle crash these Jedi would have been able to jump down an encircle the Sith and even with their lack of experience by sheer numbers won the day. But with these balconies collapsed all Jedi who were in a flanking position to where the Sith troops emerged and where Malgus stood were either moved out of that flanking position or killed. Now the Jedi with the force and acrobatics still could have attempted to jump into a flanking position but it would have been too risky to do so as it is unlikely that enough would have had the forethought to do so to actually pose a threat to the Sith flank during the battle. Meaning the Jedi had to fight the Sith head on.
The Sith and Jedi then charged at each other. It is important to note the location of this clash as they are fighting on a somewhat narrow walkway. Looking at the image above from the battle I see that the Sith are arrayed with a line about 7 people across at the time of the shot with the shuttle taking up half the walkway. The Jedi have the entire walkway and have a line of about 13 wide. This is important as in melee fighting it is only the first few rows that are generally actually able to fight while the rear rows wait for an opening to join the fray but are otherwise not doing much. With the standard size of a lightsaber only the first row is able to engage in combat. Sure force users can flip or run past the front ranks to get to the rear ranks but to do so is risky as when fighting in ranks you know your flank is protected as you have nothing but friendly troops there. When you break ranks and dive 2 or 3 rows deep in the enemy ranks you are completely surrounded by enemies and can be overwhelmed quite easily. The Sith being more experienced are more likely to know this than the Jedi and in the battle did a much better job of staying within rank while more than 1 Jedi tried to bypass the ranks only to be cut down by a swarm of Sith.
This is not saying some Sith didn’t try this as there is a few examples of both sides doing this but the Sith were less inclined to do so as their combat experience would tell them that a tactic like that was a bad idea. I am also not saying that each Jedi and Sith on the whole fought with their back facing their own line. Lightsaber duels take place in a 3 dimensional plane and many of them would get turned around. But this chaotic fighting would likely have not taken place more than a few lines deep for either the Sith or Jedi. The battle from top down once it commenced would look like an all-out brawl in the center but with mostly Sith on the side closer to the shuttle and mostly Jedi on the side farther from the shuttle. Outside that brawl would be large group of Jedi waiting for an opportunity to enter the brawl on one side with a small collection of Sith doing the same on the other.
So with the battle taking place on a narrow walkway, and with the Sith effectively eliminating any chance the Judi had of flanking them, they had successfully negated the numbers advantage that the Jedi had. Most of the Sith would be engaged in duels while the Jedi would be bottlenecked unable to bring their full fighting force to where the battle was happening. Now one would think that the Jedi would have been able to wear the Sith force down, which would be true if the two sides had combatants with equal combat skill, however since the Jedi on average could not match the Sith they were easy prey in the main brawl and were in general dispatched easy enough that the Sith could weather the storm of Jedi.
Force wielders were not the only combatants however as each side had a number of non-force using combatants armed with blasters and other ranged weapons. Though in pretty much any battle these soldiers will not have as much of an effect on the battle as their force wielding counterparts. However they did play a small role other than being cannon fodder. Mainly their job was to cover the advance of their force users, taking out enemy shooters, and firing into the duels to distract the enemy force users engaged in duals. Again not a lot of Jedi or Sith were actually killed by their blaster fire but they did their job. Now the Imperials were much more effective at this. As a majority of the Sith were engaged in the brawl there weren’t a lot of Sith acting as a rear guard and waiting to jump in. This meant that they had a clear and unobstructed view and firing angle on the main brawl. This advantage however was also a detriment as when a Sith fell and opened a hole in the lines there weren’t many Sith to protect them from a Jedi coming in and attacking them directly, as Ven Zallow did early in the fight. But the Temple Security were worse off as the mass congestion of Jedi on the walkway blacked their firing lanes. Additionally, the scattering that happened as the pillars collapsed meant that that many that had taken up positions up high were either killed or had to relocate and ran head on into the wall of Jedi trying to get to the fight. Some were in position by chance to provide fire on the brawl but there were more Sith Troopers in that position than Temple Security so again the numerical advantage was negated.
While all that I have laid out so far attributes to how the Sith were able to gain the advantage in the battle It was the actions of the Mandalorian that won the day. As mentioned at the beginning there was a garrison of Republic Troopers near the temple, and as the battle begun they made their move. They regrouped with a large contingent of the Temple Security. When they entered the Temple they saw the exposed flank of the Sith and what was left of the Jedi force in front of them (at this point in the battle the Jedi still possessed the numerical advantage). The Troopers and Temple Security charged into the Sith formation. Their intent to flank and along with the Jedi form a 2 front attack on the Sith line. In theory this would have forced the Sith to engage each faction separately and bring enough Sith out of the brawl that the Jedi could swarm in and utilize their superior numbers. The Sith attacking the Troopers would inflict heavy casualties on the Troopers but as the troopers can fire multiple ranks deep while the Sith can only fight 1 row deep their superior numbers would overwhelm whatever Sith came at them. However thanks to the efforts of Shae Vizla none of that happened as she fired 2 rockets at the approaching troopers, both killing the front ranks and blocking their path to the Sith. This would delay them long enough for the Jedi to be routed and allow the Sith to focus their full might on those that remained (as many of the troopers when the path was blocked went off to fight the Sith forces elsewhere).
With all of their flanks now blacked, a significant skill and experience advantage on their adversary, and their adversaries bottlenecked, the Sith had everything they needed to ensure that their smaller force routed the Jedi. With the bulk of the Jedi defeated near the entrance the remaining Jedi could not amass themselves in a great enough number to take on what Sith remained. While over half the Sith force was lost the battle was a resounding success. Though you probably already knew the outcome coming into this article I hoped I at least showed you a bit of why the battle happened the way it did.
Thanks for reading and until next time...