Are you confused by the black armored stormtroopers in The Mandalorian Season Two? They actually are not stormtroopers at all, but Imperial combat droids called the Dark Troopers.
An experimental type of battle droid that first appeared in the now-Legends game Star Wars: Dark Forces. Known for their distinctive black armor and advanced combat skills, they were intended as a replacement for the aging clone army.
Within the new Star Wars canon, the Dark Troopers are both battle droids and exoskeletons worn by human soldiers. The mobile game Star Wars: Commander reintroduced them in 2014. Their appearance in The Mandalorian is the first time they have been on-screen in Star Wars.
While this season has had quite a few surprise appearances, the Dark Troopers are definitely an Easter egg for fans of the early LucasArts video games.
From their origins in Star Wars Legends to what they mean about Moff Gideon, we answer who are the Dark Troopers in The Mandalorian.
Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Mandalorian Season Two.
Who Are the Dark Troopers in Star Wars?
The Dark Troopers are an experimental type of battle droid created by the Galactic Empire. They were intended to supplement, or possibly even replace, stormtroopers for elite combat missions.
While they appeared in the Legends universe, their first canon appearance is in the mobile strategy game Star Wars: Commander. Set during the Original Trilogy, the game debuted in 2014 and was permanently shut down in 2020.
The first on-screen appearance is in The Mandalorian Season Two episode “Chapter 12: The Siege.” They are also in “Chapter 14: The Tragedy” and “Chapter 16: The Rescue” but have yet to appear in any other Star Wars films or shows at this time.
What Are the Dark Troopers in The Mandalorian?
The Dark Troopers in The Mandalorian are advanced combat droids. While little is known about the Dark Trooper program in the canon timeline, there are at least three distinct models.
We do not know much about the Phase I Troopers other than they were droids used by the Empire sometime during Galactic Civil War. It is unknown if they saw actual combat or were only used in training exercises.
The Phase I droids failed to perform effectively, and the program was shut down. Later, the Empire reactive the Dark Trooper program to create the Phase II models. These were exoskeletons worn by human pilots.
These troopers were evaluated by the Imperial military during the Battle for Tatooine in the mobile game Star Wars: Commander. However, the Empire determined that human pilots were an unnecessary weakness, and they returned to developing them as battle droids.
Although it is unknown when or how the Empire created the Third-Generation Dark Troopers, Moff Gideon had at least one platoon of units aboard his light cruiser. Seen during The Mandalorian Season Two, they were teased at the end of “Chapter 12: The Siege.”
Several Third-Generation Troopers kidnapped Grogu in “Chapter 14: The Tragedy.” Then an entire platoon of Deark Troopers attacks Din Djarin, Bo-Katan, Fennec Shand, and Cara Dune in “Chapter 16: The Rescue.”
What Are the Dark Troopers In Star Wars Legends?
Within the Legends timeline, the Dark Trooper program was introduced in the then-canon video game Star Wars: Dark Forces. Released in 1995 for personal computers and PlayStation, Dark Forces is a first-person shooter that takes place just before and most after A New Hope.
As the Empire’s reliance on clone troops faded, they green-lit the program to develop the next generations of stormtroopers. The game included three phases of troopers.
The Phase I troopers were advanced Imperial battle droids with a lightsaber-resistant phrik skeletal frame. Phase II troopers were more advanced and carried ARC Casters that could destroy electronics and boil organic matter alive.
Phase III Dark Troopers were heavily armored and came with extensive armament and equipment. Both the Phase II and III models could function as battle droids or be worn as an exoskeleton.
The 2004 game Star Wars: Battlefront introduced cyborg clone troopers that were cybernetically augmented using the same technology used to save Anakin Skywalker.
The Force Unleashed Campaign Guide, a supplement of the Saga Edition of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, later reconned these cyborg clones as Phase Zero of the Dark Trooper project.
What Are the Differences Between the Dark Troopers in Star Wars Canon and Legends?
While the Dark Troopers in Star Wars canon are largely based on their original appearances in Legends, there are several notable differences.
One of the biggest differences is how they react to lightsabers. The trooper armor seen in Legends resisted lightsaber attacks. This is obviously not true of the canon Third-Generation models since Luke Skywalker quickly destroyed Moff Gideon’s platoon of troopers.
The Phase II Legends Dark Troopers required a troop transport, although they also used hyperspace capsules. Whereas the canon troopers have powerful jet boots that allow atmospheric flight. They were also capable of being deployed directly from a starship.
While the canon troopers are extremely strong, the only apparent armament is a blaster rifle. However, the Legends versions had a number of weapons. In Legends, the Phase I troopers had a vibro blade and shield mounted to their frame.
Phase II troopers carried assault cannons and ARC casters. The Phase III troopers had concealed shoulder-mount rocket launchers and concealed wrist-mounted blasters. They also carried an assault cannon.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dark Troopers
Are Dark Troopers Battle Droids?
Yes and no. The Third-Generation Dark Troopers seen in The Mandalorian are advanced battle droids. However, the Phase II Dark Troopers from the mobile game Star Wars: Commander are not battle droids. Instead, they were robotic exoskeletons worn by human pilots.
Within the Star Wars Legends timeline, the Dark Troopers were battle droids. However, at least the Phase II and III models could also serve as exoskeletons.
Are the Dark Troopers the Same As the Purge Troopers in Jedi Fallen Order?
No, the Dark Troopers are different from the Purge Troopers in Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. Purge Troopers are a specialized stormtrooper variant used by the Inquisitorius to hunt down Jedi that survived Order 66.
Although best known for appearing in Jedi Fallen Order, they were introduced in the 2017 Darth Vader comic. Purge Troopers also appeared in Obi-Wan Kenobi “Part IV” and “Part V.”
Within the Legends timeline, the Purge Troopers were actually related to the Dark Troopers. As seen in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, they used an energy blade to fight Jedi. Some of the technology used for the Purge Troopers was later adopted into the Phase III troopers.
Are the Dark Troopers the Same As the Death Troopers in Rogue One?
No, the Dark Troopers are not the same as Death Troopers from Rogue One. The black stormtroopers in Rogue One are an elite stormtrooper variant that specializes in espionage. Often assigned to strategically important Imperial personnel, they are extremely lethal.
Also unrelated, there is a Star Wars Legends novel titled Death Troopers that involves zombie stormtroopers. These troopers are completely unrelated to other Dark or Death Troopers.
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