Chapter 13 of Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire is now out, it is called “Profit and Plunder”. I had a difficult time with the previous chapter, “Visions in the Darkness”, I tried four or five times to write the review, in the end I said fuck it. Now, though, I’m going to have to talk about it some, if for no other reason than to give the background of the current chapter. So, let’s get on with it.
The previous chapter starts much the same way they all have, with a conversation between your character and Theron Shan. He tells you that the information gained from the early adventures with Aric Jorgan and Kaliyo Djannis have produced an interesting find… the single transmitter that allows Arcaan to control the Eternal Fleet. A little more quick background here: the Eternal Fleet is Zakuul’s large and powerful armata, it is largely automated and controlled from the Eternal Throne on Zakuul.
At this point you are presented with a choice, send Kaliyo to bug or hack or whatever the transmitter so that our little Alliance has access to it, or send Jorgan to blow it up. It doesn’t matter what call you make, someone gets pissy about it and both end a a similar cluster fuck (more on that later).
After this, Lana suggests that we have a conversation with Valkorian’s dispossessed spirit. This is where this chapter falls completely apart. See prior to this, it had felt that the player and Valkorian had an uneasy, “you need me as much as I need you”, frenemy type relationship. But, no, that’s not how BioWare rolls. They needed to continue on with Valkorian (or Vitiate or whatever) being the most awesome being the known, or even, unknown galaxy. So, we are treated to Valkorian being emmo that our characters have “accepted his power… and now come for his secrets”, but we “have not earned them”. Valkorian further tells us that he is “tired of waiting for us to meet our potential”, and to ask “why he thought we could ever change”. He also states that he brought us out to the wilderness of Odessen so that we could “face death alone”, something he says he have forgotten what feels like. We then have a duel with him that goes the same way the fights with Arcaan… as in, it’s an easy fight in which we beat him around, then loose in the cut-scene.
I’ve mentioned this before, but this expansion has a real problem with what is called ludonarrative dissonance, that is fancy way to say that the gameplay and story of a video are disconnected in such a way that they may in fact work against each other. Mechanically, the duel with Valkorian is rather easy… even with the fact in lieu of a companion we have a “survival pack” with healy type abilities. He is easily defeated, but the cut-scene shows him blast the player character into a cliff face and once again lecture them. This time saying that “this was only a portion of the pain his children will bring” and after “gifting” us a portion of his power, he tells us that if we progress far enough, he’ll return.
After this, we encounter former Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan and the force ghost of Darth Marr. They tells about their failings and how we need to transcend our previous training and become more than what we were in order to defeat Arcann. This, and several other statements, sound a lot like Valkorian, so much so that you have a dialogue option to make that point. Marr responds by saying that “we are nothing like that man”, which is more a diversion from our statement rather than an actual denial.
The two then bid the player to construct a new weapon, in my case a lightsaber, but in other cases it will be appropriate to their advanced class. In the creation of this weapon you can choose to draw from the power of Shan, Marr or both and by stating a preference between the concepts of resilience, transcendence or sacrifice we’ll gain buffs that will affect you when facing off with Arcann (see the guide at Dulfy.net for specifics.) Marr then tells you that this new weapon is imbued with your own essence and part of you and that Arcann wouldn’t be ready for you with this new weapon. Satele and Marr soon take their leave and we head back to the Alliance’s War Room.
When our characters return, we find the mission in progress and going seriously sidewise. Contact is soon lost with whichever party was sent, and if attempts to tell the other to withdraw are met with defiance. This leads to loss of communication with both Kaliyo and Jorgan and the end of the chapter.
Oh, there is a new companion to recruit as well. On Yavin there is a Khem Val clone called Ak’ghul Usar that we can find, free and convince to join the Alliance.
The next chapter, Profit and Plunder, begins in the War Room our characters seeking an update to the situation and being told that no further contact has come from either Kaliyo or Jorgan. It doesn’t appear that much time past since the last chapter, only enough for people to become very tired and a little pissy. The scene ends with Lana saying that we all need rest and Theron saying that Hylo Visz wants to talk. Hylo Visz is our Alliance’s logistics and “procurement” specialist and his a fairly important figure in the lore of The Old Republic. The fast version is that during the war, the Mandalorians blockaded the major space routes between the Core Worlds and those a deeper in space. Hylo Visz lead a successful attempt to break the blockade, but disappeared afterwards. The Alliance makes her first appearance in the game.
As I said, Hylo handles the logistics for the Alliance and because we are all basically outlaws, she has to go through less than legitimate sources to get the goods that the Alliance needs. At this point she says that the Alliance needs a more steady line of funding and that she knows someone that can help. That someone turns out to be Gault Rennow (a former companion of the bounty hunter) and he has a plan. Gault tells us that the Zakuul has plundered a lot of the wealth of the Republic and Empire (something Lana had also told us) and that much of it is stored aboard a stealth transport called the Gilded Star. What’s more, he has a plan to steal it. So, off you go to a gas giant called Vandin.
On Vandin, you pick up some more members of Gault’s crew, first is an Anomid forger named Dretcher. He’s not so happy with Gault, mostly because Gault had both screwed him over in the past and pretty much press ganged him into this plot. So, after some “convincing”… breaking his combat droids, Dretcher reluctantly joins you. With Dretcher’s help secured, you and Gault head off to get one more thing… the warhead to a large missile and collect Gault’s final accomplice… Vette, the Twi’lek thief that had been a companion to the Sith Warrior.
Meeting up with the crew at Gault’s safe house, he goes through the plan. Senya is going to make believe as her daughter, Vaylin and take SCORPIO to control the bridge. Meanwhile, Gault, Vette and we happy players will infiltrate the Gilded Star place the explosive in its vault, detonate said explosive thereby turned into atoms or vapor or something so that it can “sucked” out the remainder of the crew.
The plan goes well, up until the real Vaylin shows up and forces the crew to make a hasty “plan C” exit, and jump off the Gilded Star. We are then picked up by Hylo Visz and head back to Odessen.
Back home, we are treated to a bit of a celebration and a choice of what to do with the excess funds from this misadventure. The party is cut short by the return of Kaliyo and Aric Jorgan. And this is where the otherwise funny chapter gets really unfunny. You find the two in the main hanger arguing about who screwed up more against a background of four coffins draped in Republic Flags… these are presumably members of Havoc Squad. Here we are presented with a number of dialogue options and choices, depended on our previous choices. My Jedi Sentinel tried to destroy the transmitter, but ordered Jorgan and Kaliyo to work together. So, the options I had involved punishing them both, but not anything permanent. My Sith Sorcerer also choose to destroy the transmitter, but ordered Kaliyo not to go after Jorgan, she disobeyed. As such the options I had included forgiving her, exiling her or executing her.
I have not yet sent Kaliyo to hack the transmitter yet, as such, I’ve only seen the interactions that come from the decision in YouTube videos. It will go much the same, if try to keep them working together you’ll end up with choices like my Sentinel had, if not, the choices are similar to my Sorcerer’s, just with Aric Jorgan in place of Kaliyo.
Personally, I heavily dislike both of these companions, however dealing harshly with Kaliyo is much easier for me than doing the same with Jorgan. Partially because Jorgan so willing submits himself to your punishment. He’s written to be a professional soldier who knows he fucked up and he expects to be punished. I rather wish I could punish him, but not so permanently. As for Kaliyo, I think she should face consequences either way. In the version where she saves Jorgan, he states that the squad was fine until she started throwing around thermal detonators in such way that I wondered if some the squads deaths weren’t from “friendly” fire. The other way around, she blows a hole through a wall and with it a large chunk of a hospital. Now, I don’t know that many Sith would care… after all, they seem pretty cool with war crimes, but a Jedi might be horrified.
This might be cruel, but I found the expression on Kaliyo’s face when the player kills her to be hilarious.
Between the two chapters, Profit and Plunders is much better. On the good side, it was fast paced, exciting, and funny with a great dialogue, especially for Gault and Vette, but also for Hylo. Conversely, it was short, it maybe takes 30 minutes. Now, if you’re just reaching the Knights of the Fallen Empire content and going through the original nine chapters and these new ones, this isn’t likely to bother you. But, for those of us that completed the previous content and have been playing these new chapters as they were released, it’s kind of a let down. That said, BioWare did release new PVP content and something called the Eternal Championship… I haven’t checked these out yet, but I will at some point.
As for the last chapter, I can’t say that was an enjoyable experience. In addition to the disconnect between the story and the game play, it marked the very heavy handed return of deus ex machina version of Vitiate/ Valkorian that plagued original game and all but destroyed the Shadow of Revan expansion. Hell, I should start calling this deus ex Valkorian instead, or should it be Vitiate? Ok, maybe deus ex imperator… yea, that will work.
I get that BioWare is trying to present him a detached or aloof, enigmatic quasi deity with Lucifer-like tempter qualities. And maybe… that’s the point. He’s playing the devil, alternately flattering our characters with praise and power or threaten to take it back all to position us in ultimate scheme. Our characters end up as a potential less than willing Dr. Faust. Whatever the case maybe, at this point, I’m rather over it. BioWare needs get past this bland, shallow and poorly written bad guy.
Two pieces of station keeping
I’m trying to stay with Knights of the Fallen Empire through the end of “season one”, which is chapter 16, but I don’t know if I’ll continue it much after. Chapter 16 brings us to August and Legion will launch in September. I did recently subscribe to World of Warcraft and bought Overwatch (which is ridiculously fun), so I suspect that my summer gaming will be dominated by Blizzard products.
On the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare disaster. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a video game trailer that was as poorly received. As of writing this it has 12.6 million views, around 244,000 likes and about 977,000 dislikes. Holy shit! Not even the Mists of Pandaria trailer came close to a million dislikes, and it was shit on pretty hard.
It’s an epic understatement to say that Activision misjudged what their audience wanted. They saw that Advanced Warfare did well, but failed to understand that many Call of Duty players wanted a game the returned COD to its roots… including a basis in real world conflicts, with weapons and technology appropriate to those settings. From that, one could be very cynical about the choice to remaster Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and bundle it with this now hated Infinite Warfare… all for $79.99 US.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure plenty of people will by the game in the end… if for no other reason than to get that Modern Warfare remaster (hence the cynicism). Personally, I just more interested in Battlefield 1 and its setting in the Great War.