When initiating this series, I had a couple of set objectives in mind.
The first is that it should be over by the time BioWare were ready to officially announce Eternal Throne. Get the 'current' stuff out of the way before looking forward to the new stuff.
The second is that no matter how many posts the series had - I never could get around to doing things the story 'did right' as a companion post to Story Issues for some reason - the Chapters would round off the series.
So it is that the Chapters come under scrutiny. As per usual, this series will take the form of two lists; one for my 5 favourites, and one for the 5 which I found most tedious. Usually, I'd start with the most positive and end on the negative, but since this series is making way for my views on the new, I figured it would 'help' if I ended KotFE Retrospective on a high note as opposed to a low note.
Or something like that.
Shall we get started?
Honourable Mention: Chapter IX: The Alliance
As far as I’m concerned, this one is really quite forgettable. It can’t have as many points against it as some of its fellows, but equally there aren’t that many points for it either.
You walk, you talk, you flirt, you speak, you’re done. Chapter IX is by far the most passive of all the Chapters, as there is no fighting whatsoever. It’s purely just cutscene after cutscene after cutscene which also just so happens to provide a guided tour of the Odessen base and an introduction to the Alliance Alerts.
This is all that there is to it.
From a story perspective, this does make sense, as it is the rough midway point of the story and thus a ‘rest’ period is very welcome. It remains to this day the only Chapter which doesn’t automatically segue into its immediate successor, a fact which enables it to secure the most favourable position on this list as it gives players a noticeable break from the slog.
Since there is nothing to fight, there is no gameplay whatsoever outside of knowing which keys to press to move your character.
This Chapter is also notorious for being the only time in the entire game that the ‘Classic’ conversation style is married with the ‘Standard’ conversation style, since you will need to talk to all four Alliance Specialists in order to progress the Chapter.
I will, however, give this Chapter some credit for allowing people to lock-in their romances with Koth, Lana, or Theron.
#5: Chapter II: A Dream of Empire
This one earns itself quite a favourable position on this list because it actually is really quite interesting from a theoretical perspective. We’re receiving input from Valkorion himself on our Companions, our faction, and our chances of survival by ourselves, presented via a dream-of-sorts.
In practice, however, this Chapter doesn’t hold up too well.
The dream is purely influenced by Valkorion. Outside of the moments where we hear the Republic/Imperial soldiers and Jedi/Sith shout their scorned belief in our heroism and that we failed them, there is very little opportunity for us to look inwardly ourselves without prompting; virtually everything else is presented negatively by Valkorion in an attempt to force us to think thus, but it would undoubtedly be more effective if we discovered each scenario first and then only at the end would we learn that Valkorion had a hand in it.
The gameplay is also fairly tedious. Not only do we have this really obvious ‘aura’ around our screens, but our characters move slower and are occasionally stunned by the imperfect Carbon Freezing. Whilst the vast majority of fights are just the typical ‘easy’ mob fights – this is one of the only two Chapters where we’re by ourselves the entire time – I will give this Chapter credit for including a miniature version of the Colossal Monolith fight and introducing us to the ‘miniature Operation’ mechanic nature of several final bosses of the subsequent Chapters.
It also doesn’t help that, even though this is supposed to be our first ‘glimpse’ into Valkorion’s new true nature, we’re still left in the dark as he continually avoids answering any of our questions. I guess that he doesn’t like us probing too far, just in case his plans are unravelled too soon?
#4: Chapter XII: Visions in the Dark
Similar to Chapter II, this one is interesting in theory, but falters in-practice.
This Chapter starts with Kaliyo and Aric initiating a scheme on Zakuul to either destroy or take control of a frequency broadcaster for the GEMINI Code in the Spire. Lana tells you to ask Valkorion for infiltration advice, which leads to you being separated from your allies and encountering Satele Shan and the spirit of Darth Marr.
The really interesting thing here is listening to Marr and Satele discuss how their attitudes have changed. Marr now accepts the line in the Jedi Code, “There is no Death, there is only the Force”, whilst Satele’s attitude has changed such that you can compare her to Valkorion!
Similar to Chapter II, we’re by ourselves the entire time. However, the mob fights are decidedly more tedious; the Shade Stalkers are able to disappear immediately after you enter combat with them, and when they re-appear you often find yourself stunned when they leap upon you. Bonus points if there are multiples which do so one after another.
Aside from trying (and failing) to work out how to efficiently kill the blasted Shade Stalkers, your actions in this Chapter are lighting beacons and traversing the Odessen Wilds for parts for your new weapon. A world which is a nexus in the Force of course makes sense to have naturally-occurring components for a lightsaber (whilst Satele would probably know how to procure ‘spare’ components to hide), but ultimately this scavenger hunt makes no sense for a gun.
In spite of the fact that this Chapter used Valkorion as the key figure in the preliminary artwork, he features only very little, disappearing soon after the Chapter begins after what is actually a quite interesting fight. We also learn very little other than a confirmation that Valkorion really hates questions being asked of him without us being ‘proactive’.
Satele and Marr have no real ‘purpose’ being there other than allowing us to create our new weapon. This weapon is also ultimately really quite pointless, as it is not a necessary weapon in the final fight with Arcann.
Depending on how you play your character, you may or may not have a final fight at the end of this Chapter; the Cave Jurgoran at the end can be persuaded to stand down through the Light and Neutral conversation options, whilst Dark Side of course encourages her to fight. Rather amusingly, fighting her with a Ranged Character might encourage the Jurgoran to reset the fight, as if you go back to the mouth of the cave the fight resets and she just so happens to throw a spear which knocks your character backwards!
This Chapter should have been really interesting. This is a primarily-Force based Chapter, and yet our characters’ knowledge of the Force is ultimately left without augmentation; Tech characters who gain a ‘glimpse’ of the Force receive no proper training on how to cope with it, whilst those who are already Force users are left without knowing just how Valkorion has ‘strengthened’ their connection to the Force. Bonus points for the Consular in this regard, a character who was already stronger in the Force at the age of four than their first master was at fifteen!
Ultimately, there is very little closure in this Chapter in general. Valkorion takes off without us knowing his destination (or even how he can take off!), Satele and Marr disappear without any of our serious questions being answered, and Aric and Kaliyo don’t appear again, along with the outcome of your specific choice, until the end of the next Chapter.
#3: Chapter VII: The Lady of Sorrows
It’s hard to know which of the two ‘endurance’ Chapters is longer; this one or The Gravestone. One thing which is for certain, though, is that this is the first Chapter to elaborate on the culture of the cityfolk of Zakuul.
Chapter VII starts by sending you and recently-exposed Senya Tirall being dropped off in The Old World looking for a way to find the Lady of Sorrows, who had just recently attempted to contact the Gravestone. Along the way, you encounter T7-01 (again) and citizens of a dishevelled area of Zakuul known as Breaktown, including the infamous cult the Heralds of Zildrog.
Prior to this point, the only areas we had seen of Zakuul were the Carbonite facility, some offices, the Sun Generators, and the Eternal Swamp. This was the first time that the areas where the ordinary people of Zakuul lived was given some attention, and we receive a first-hand perspective of the nature of some of the citizens throughout this Chapter, such as the people cheering the fight between Senya and Reg as well as the betting on the Arena Fights.
This is also the first and to date only appearance of the Heralds in the story. Whilst the presence of the Heralds is seen in the Eternal Championship we don’t yet know what importance they’re going to have in the future. Given that the new Exalted is now in-leagues with SCORPIO, their prominence is going to be an interesting development.
This will count for double if their beloved serpent Zildrog is actually a real being.
Furthermore, this was sadly the only Chapter to feature a surprise returning ‘proper’ Companion. Whilst Tanno Vik’s presence in Chapter VI: The Asylum was a more pleasant surprise, he can’t join anyone and thus does not count as a ‘proper’ Companion. In this case, this was SCORPIO, but this surprise is actually given away early if you happened to explore a bit further in the Razor and come across her holographic form conversing with an Imperial Astromech Droid.
The endurance nature of the Chapter is by far its most annoying feature, particularly given that Breaktown and the Razor have several mobs scattered throughout who are prone to using Force Choke which doesn’t make either area particularly endearing.
It also doesn’t help that we see a maximum of four Companion switches during this Chapter; we start off with Senya, then she disappears leaving us with T7, who then disappears before we reunite with Senya, and then Koth joins the mess as an alternative option to Senya when dealing with the Heralds. Consistency be damned!
This was also the first instance that the “Choices Matter” mantra was seen to have proper gaps; during the initial streams of Chapter III: The Outlander, it was heavily implied that letting Tanek live would not cause Novo to have a future vendetta against us, but as Tanek was of course killed by Vaylin in the same Chapter if you let him survive Novo comes after us in this Chapter anyway.
Novo apparently doesn’t believe that “it’s the thought that counts”.
I will also say that it is a shame that we can’t play an active part in the death of the Exalted. He’s a really dislikeable character and yet the satisfaction of the kill goes solely to SCORPIO without any opportunity for us to interfere.
#2: Chapter X: Anarchy in Paradise
Anarchy in Paradise was the first Chapter which ended the four-month-long drought of any significant updates since 4.0 itself came out in October. There was quite a bit riding on this, as it would form the basis for many of how each of the subsequent months’ story updates would be.
It’s a shame, then, that it would transpire to be one of the most tedious Chapters of them all.
The Chapter starts with Theron, of course, telling you that he believes that he has found somebody who can help; the terrorist Firebrand. Koth makes his objections known, a deal is set up, and Firebrand recruits the Outlander to help with her scheme to blow up power junctions, although she actually has a more explosive outcome in mind…
From the perspective of an Agent character, this Chapter is actually really quite interesting, and not only because Firebrand is Kaliyo. The first Chapter of the Agent storyline of course deals with the terrorist network under the Eagle, with their first noteworthy scheme involving planting explosives at power-junctions in the Dark Temple. Justifying having to help a terrorist repeat a similar scheme to what they had to try to stop for the sake of their glorious Empire is a very interesting reversal, and something which actually isn’t called attention to in the moment!
Moving past this, this Chapter is pretty much repetition after repetition after repetition. You go to a power junction, plant explosives, deactivate security stations, fight Skytroopers, kill a Knight of Zakuul, and rinse, lather, repeat. Then rinse, lather repeat again.
The most aggravating part about this, though, is that the majority of the time you think you’re safe and out-of-combat, an infernal Skytrooper or two spawn in, automatically placing you in-combat. It’s actually really interesting to say that this is tedious, as this is by far the most realistic combat we’ve yet seen come from this game, as in a real-life situation there would be constantly-aware enemies rounding on our position rather than just walking away and ignoring us even if we were a couple of feet away.
Whilst the repetitive nature of power-junctions and security stations dissipates when you arrive at the Overwatch – although this may be the only time The Old Republic succeeds in destroying something with this name – this constant combat persists throughout the entire Chapter, with Overwatch also adding multiple Knights into the mix.
The final boss is clearly an attempt at more involving combat, with a Zakuul shuttle sitting outside the window blasting at us whilst more and more Skytroopers fly in, yet this very repetitive fight when the boss also becomes immune at these exact moments is yet another aspect which adds to the tedium. Whilst the most tedious boss-fight currently belongs to Chapter XIII, this is probably the second-most tedious fight from all of the Chapters.
In spite of its tedious nature, there are quite a lot of people who would feature one specific moment in their highlights of the first season: if you had blown up the Sun Generator, left the Exiles behind, and blown up the Spire, Koth says that enough is enough and outright quits. This is so far the only instance where we can make a Companion leave of their own accord, something which I personally am quite a fan of, as it makes you realise that your actions have consequences, but I do wish that it could have happened for more popular Companions as well since Koth isn’t exactly the most well-liked Companion in the general consensus.
#1: Chapter IV: The Gravestone
The first ‘endurance’ Chapter, Chapter IV is often touted as being one of the most boring Chapters, at least for the most part.
It starts in the Eternal Swamp, segues into our discovery of the Gravestone, necessitating our searching for supplies, leading to our moral choice, and then it just ends.
As usual, I’ll start with the positives. The Eternal Swamp is nice and vast, but there are sadly so very few ‘new’ creatures outside of the Iknayid, which itself was based on one of Ralph McQuarrie’s famous concept arts for a spider on Dagobah. The other creatures are Mawvorr, Lurkers, Wingmaw, and Rancor, just with a new skin colour. The Swamp Rancor is fairly Surinam Toad-like in that it has no eyes, although it does also have a fairly sizable pair of horns jutting from its brow.
Whilst we learn nothing new about Zakuul as a whole, this is our first opportunity to learn about what has happened with the Empire and the Republic across the last five years, in conversations interposed over Lana and our character’s securing clean water from pre-built water purifying stations.
This is also our first opportunity to get to know both HK-55 and Koth Vortena, although regardless of any developments which emerge regarding their characters, everybody seemingly remembers only two things: Koth is very critical of the drastic actions which Lana would be more willing to indulge in – which, actually, is interesting to note since he never attributes Lana’s advice to leave the generator to explode to her… – and that HK really hates Iknayid.
Several aspects of this Chapter make very little sense. The Eternal Swamp is acknowledged by Arcann, which implies that it has been mapped by Zakuul cartographers; as shown when we come across it, the Gravestone is not exactly hidden! How it has managed to continuously elude the Zakuulans across the centuries is never stipulated; even if its history is not known – Koth and Vaylin are able to identify it very quickly, so the chances of a professional historian not identifying it are very slim – surely an old warship would still be stripped for possible armaments and information from the databanks?
From a gameplay perspective, the enemies you face throughout this chapter are, for the most part, the aforementioned creatures. There are a few Skytroopers which you can find in the Swamp which makes their inability to discover the Gravestone in their seemingly random exploration all the more hilarious. There are no interesting mechanics in the fights, a fact often obscured by the fact that the subsequent Chapter, Chapter V, actually starts with a mechanic-laden fight.
As for memorable moments, it is telling that by far the most memorable aspect of this Chapter is the montage of HK, Koth, and Lana aboard the Gravestone which of course culminates in that cutscene.
It comes as something when the majority of these Chapters are in the original set of nine. I’d hazard a guess that this is due to the fact that these first nine are designed more to segue into an immediate follow-up than the last seven which are more-or-less all self-contained. This is most noticeable when Chapter IV lacks an actual final boss due to Chapter V having an intensive fight near to its own beginning.