Exploring Mustafar – Behind Episode II

Written by Kelly Knox


We’re giving a look at how Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series came to be in our written series titled “Exploring Mustafar.” From a digital artbook written by StarWars.com contributor Kelly Knox, we’ve shared the contents out across four online pages to provide insight into how Vader Immortal was brought to life when it was created in 2019, back when ILM Immersive was still ILMxLAB.

“Your training begins now.” —Darth Vader
Reach out your hand and prepare to grasp your destiny as an apprentice of Darth Vader! The Dark Lord of the Sith needs you to get what he wants. And if you want to survive, you’ll need the Force. Everything you learn will be tested as you descend into the depths of a castle once shining and prosperous, but now filled only with darkness and ruin. “Vader is one of the most powerful practitioners of the Force,” remarked Ben Snow. “In some ways, who better to teach us? He’s approaching it from the dark side—the training is a little different than we would have gotten with Master Yoda.” Darth Vader and his unlikely student enter the ancient castle of Lord and Lady Corvax in search of the mysterious Bright Star. “Mustafar has its own powerful crystals that powered their technology,” Snow says. “The Bright Star is one of those, but so exceptionally powerful that it was revered as a holy relic by the Mustafarian tribe we meet in Vader Immortal. Its power had attracted the attention of Lady Corvax, with disastrous results, and legend has it that she locked it away deep in the fortress.” There’s more than just a mysterious relic waiting in the gloom below. A terrifying roar echoes across the caverns, and the earth trembles in response. What is waiting for you in the shadows of Mustafar?


Message Room

Motes of dust float in the stale air inside the ancient Corvax castle. Darth Vader awaits the captain in an unsettling chamber, where a voice from the past travels through the centuries to speak to a future descendant. “This room is inspired by ancient India combined with Star Wars designs with basic shapes,” said Concept Artist Stephen Todd, “and trying to make it look as dark and foreboding as possible. We were going for something strange and it was fun playing with the lighting.”  

Lord Corvax’s tomb lies in a vast room at the end of a treacherous path through the castle. An unmoving army of Corvaxian droid sentinels stands at the entrance to his crypt. Inside, soft blue light illuminates the statuesque guards keeping watch over the fallen warrior. “What was great about this project as a whole is that they let us run with it, have fun with it, and use a lot of horror elements as an inspiration,” said Stephen Todd. “We wanted to go dark, darker than where most Star Wars projects had gone.”


Ancient History

Before Lord Corvax was trapped between life and death as the Black Bishop, he fought in a momentous battle on the grassy landscape of Mustafar.
“It was a technical challenge to get the look of the tapestry,” recalled Concept Artist Stephen Todd. “It tells the story of Corvax’s army fighting an invasion with Lady Corvax leading the way. We wanted her to have just as much significance, if not more. We tried to keep it a little ambiguous—are they the good guys?—and let the player fill in their own story.”


The spiral-shaped crystal glows with a powerful energy that Darth Vader intends to harness for his own selfish goals. Lady Corvax tried to wield the power herself and destroyed almost all life on Mustafar in the process. “We used a simple shape that’s also unique and implies a greater power,” Concept Artist Stephen Todd said of the Bright Star. “We wanted something that you didn’t know what it was for immediately, but you know it’s very useful.”


The captain and ZO-E3 find a few valuable items over the course of their adventure, including a hydrospanner the duo use in a prison break and a green-bladed lightsaber taken from an unknown Jedi Knight. The glowing Mustafarian totem Vylip gives to the captain and Zoe not only helps the pair in their search for the Priestess—it also makes a stylish accessory that Zoe wears proudly on her chest. Its final design is indicated by the letter B.


Lord Corvax’s light sword acts as both key and weapon in the hands of his descendant. Its unusual metal hilt and distinctive crackling give the Corvax sword an archaic feel. While early concept art depicted the weapon with a glowing yellow blade, the light sword emits an electric blue blade in its final version.
“Take my light sword from the statue. It will unlock the Bright Star. Return the Bright Star to the Mustafarians and I may be freed from this curse.” —Black Bishop



The darkghast looks similar to a classic creature first seen in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the rancor. This one prowls beneath the surface of Mustafar. “It’s been lurking in the ruins,” revealed Ben Snow, “crawling around the fortress and surviving on other creatures. But food is scarce, and it’s hungry.” Early concept art features menacing mandibles on both sides of the predator’s face. “I was playing with the idea of it being somewhere in between a spider monkey and a spider,” said Concept Artist Aaron McBride. “It had four arms and two legs so it could move vertically like a spider. It was almost like an arachnid rancor. It could go up and down narrow crevices.” The finalized darkghast closely resembles the rancor Star Wars fans are familiar with, but with a few differences as the creatures adapted to their volcanic home. “Because the intent was to make it an experience similar to confronting the rancor, the darkghast has a tough hide,” McBride said. “The idea was that the hide was more calcified because of the heat of the lava; it also protected it against that. The head is more bulbous, like a beluga, to take it away from the rancor a little bit.”

Other Wildlife

Mustafar is home to variations of wildlife found across the galaxy as well as some unique indigenous species. Lava spitters, one native species, were created specifically for Vader Immortal. “These lava spitters were designed and developed for the dojo,” said Mark S. Miller, “because we wanted to make something nice and ugly that wouldn’t make you feel bad about slicing them in half.” Mynocks made their unforgettable debut in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. The parasitic creatures are drawn to sources of energy, even in places as foreboding as Vader’s castle. “The mynocks tied us into the Star Wars universe,” Miller said. “When we started talking about flora and fauna we could have, they were one of the first things we thought of.” Monstrous lava fleas, a Mustafar native species first seen in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, crawl along the surface alongside stormtroopers in this early exploratory art. “At one point we were going to feature these lava fleas in the story, but they didn’t fit in the final structure,” Miller said. “We ended up using them extensively in our location-based VR experience Secrets of the Empire.” Mustafarian bats beat their leathery wings in a hazy chamber deep within the Corvax castle. Darth Vader is unfazed.

Read more of our Explore Mustafar series below

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