Continuing on from last week's post, it's time to round off the KotFE Retrospective series by looking over those Chapters which were my absolute favourite.
Honorary Mention: Chapter XI: Disavowed
Post-publishing additions to lists are always fun.
Chapter XI: Disavowed is one of three Chapters to have a distinct feel to it alongside the specific returning Companion. Chapter X had an Agent feel with Kaliyo returning, Chapter XIV had a Hunter feel with Torian returning, and Chapter XI has a Trooper feel with Jorgan returning. Chapter XIII has a distinct Smuggler feel, but subsequently loses points due to using two non-Smuggler Companions.
Indeed, this Chapter layers on the Republic Trooper references right from the get-go. Theron leaks information to an SIS Contact - revealed to the Trooper player to be Jonas Balkar - to attract the attention of Havoc Squad, who are severely disgruntled with the way the Republic is handling affairs since Zakuul took over.
Because it wouldn't be Havoc Squad unless somebody in the Republic government did something to tick them off and cause them to seriously consider defecting.
My biggest problems with this Chapter are that it is far too short and that we learn next-to nothing about Abbeth, Torg, Dengril, Kanner, and Xaban. Indeed, their roles in the squad can only be determined by reading their character tags in the small instances where you see them as actual NPCs.
As a further point of nitpicking, I found myself annoyed with the cutscene showcasing the Exiles' coming to our rescue. When it comes to games and information being relayed, I'm quite keen on discovering developments at the same time as our in-game character to keep the suspense consistent. Whilst our characters learn about the Exiles being the ones to come to the rescue pretty quickly, I for one would have quite liked to be surprised the first time.
Certainly Chapter VII pulls off an even worse reveal, since the GEMINI Droids wouldn't even appear in-game for another 7 Chapters and we'd known about their design for several months as a result of that surprise ending.
Compared to its immediate predecessor and even some of its successors, however, Chapter XI does hold up pretty well in terms of enemy diversity. Sure, there are the usual forces of Skytroopers and other Droids, but there are at least a few Knights kicking around the listening post. It's interesting to note that the final boss in this Chapter was the first and only boss since Chapter V where Zakuul Knights are summoned as Adds, with not a single Skytrooper to be seen.
Aric Jorgan certainly seems to be coping very well as the new Commander of Havoc Squad, and it's excellent to see him having rebuilt the squad with a very diverse range of members. Seriously, there are only two humans in the entire mix! Additionally, considering that some Trooper player-characters can be male, New-Havoc is potentially even more diverse than it seems with two female squad members.
Good on you, Jorgan. Good on you.
It's also excellent to be a part of a military planning team. This is something which really hasn't been seen since the class storylines (and would later crop up in Chapter XIV as well), and again it makes perfect sense given who we're dealing with. Granted, the goal isn't that grand, but it's still fun to see the forces of the Alliance out in full force against the forces of Zakuul.
#5: Chapter XIV: Mandalore’s Revenge
Mandalorians are an interesting bunch when it comes to the wider fanbase’s reaction to them. There are a lot of people out there who absolutely adore their culture, their language, their armour, and so on and so forth. Then there are people who believe that they’re over-rated and not worth such fuss.
I personally put myself into the latter category, as whilst it is interesting to interact with them – particularly given that their attitude results in several of them being smug gits which are always fun to dismantle – I don’t see there being anything that special about them to idolise.
Although some of their names are quite funny to try to pronounce. Dralne Be Te Oya'Karir in particular.
With this in mind, how does a Chapter dealing entirely with Mandalorians hold up?
The Chapter starts with us being sent to Darvannis to infiltrate a Skytrooper factory in order to retrieve the unit known as GEMINI Prime, and Theron has procured the help of the Mandalorians under Manda’lor the Avenger, previously known as Shae Vizla, to achieve this end.
The most boring thing about this Chapter is the fact that virtually every single enemy is a Droid, whether it be a probe, a Skytrooper, or a war-droid. The only variety comes in the form of Skytroopers mounted on turrets – why they don’t use automated turrets makes no sense – and giant walkers, although given that the turrets were manned by Skytroopers I wouldn’t put it past them to make these be manned by Skytroopers as well.
There’s also a fair bit of repetition. You go to three separate areas which all involve the same goal of reprogramming the perimeter guns while killing Skytroopers, return to the camp, then go to another building and deactivate the perimeter sensors while killing Skytroopers, return to the camp, then initiate the main assault on the factory and retrieve the GEMINI Prime while killing Skytroopers, and then return to the camp.
These next points are all nit-picking. These criticisms don’t detract from my own enjoyment of the Chapter, but are still holes which need poking at.
Whilst there are some familiar names, there are sadly very few familiar faces throughout this Chapter. Obviously, there’s Shae and Torian, and whilst we only ever hear Jos and Valk, these are the only returning characters. I used to believe that “staple smug git” Khomo Fett was the same Fett which the Hunter met on Taris, but this was actually Vorten Fett.
At the same time, there aren’t really that many named Mandalorians who are guaranteed to have survived our scripted encounters with them, so this couldn’t be all that different in consideration. The really interesting thing is that there is, in fact, another named Mandalorian you encounter in the camp; just before you enter the main area, there’s a named Mandalorian NPC called “Mynock” standing guard. He does absolutely nothing, but it’s interesting to note nonetheless, as apparently he's a reference to the armour-crafter Mynock's Den.
It’s also really disappointing that you can’t rail against Khomo. He’s an incredibly arrogant character, and yet you can’t embarrass him or make him realise that he misjudged you. Heck, nobody bothers to give you credit for the schematics outside of the moment, even though Khomo is incredibly happy about the benefits!
I was really disappointed to see that, whilst we get some background on SCORPIO via the GEMINI Prime, the Agent character has little-to-no personal reaction to this. SCORPIO has demonstrated a vast range of capabilities during her tenure with the Agent, and is technically still limited by their control codes. Yet there is no differing reaction by the Agent; nothing which makes them verbally describe their confusion regarding their own interpretation of SCORPIO’s construction, nothing which makes them question whether their control codes could be applied to the Prime. There’s just nothing different at all.
Onto the positives at long last!
Darvannis being an actual planet is absolutely glorious, particularly given that outside of the Eternal Swamp and the Old World of Zakuul, this is the only other zone you can revisit. The Gravestone, the Spire, Asylum, and Vandin are all phased instances, meaning that once you’re done there, you’re not going to return unless the story makes it so.
Woe betide anyone who missed out on Codex Entries or encountered a glitch whereby maps couldn't be fully-uncovered.
It is nice to reunite with Shae, and it is actually really nice to see Torian having gone up in the world and be a scout for the Manda’lor herself, although this has made several people question why Akaavi hasn’t flourished in a similar nature. I think it’s safe to assume that travelling with the last surviving member of the Blacklist and Manda’lor the Vindicated’s ‘replacement’ resulted in far better prestige than failing to avenge the massacre of Clan Spar and travelling with a mere smuggler.
As dire as the repetitive gameplay is, it has to be repeated that being so close to military-style planning is always really interesting in of itself, and especially so in this context given the scale of the operation.
Interestingly, the final boss in this Chapter is the only one which features skippable mechanics. If you destroy the production lines as he flies up to them, the adds are not summoned and he flies right back down to the floor. The fight isn’t tedious anyway, but it is nice to be able to kill it quicker if desired.
I will also give this Chapter a fair bit of credit for using the Mandalorian chant Vode An from the Republic Commando game as well as managing to secure voice actor Dee Bradley Baker, known for voicing the Fett clones from The Clone Wars TV series, as the voice of Khomo Fett. Vocal chords are apparently genetically-inherited in the Star Wars universe…
Although I do have a fair bit to nitpick with this Chapter, I do have to say that it is undoubtedly more solid than several of its fellows, even if it isn’t the most solid.
#4: Chapter VIII: Taking Flight
This was the last ‘full’ Chapter of the original nine.
The Chapter starts with the recently-returned Outlander encountering Arcann on Asylum, having been summoned there by Scion Heskal. The Eternal Fleet promptly begins laying waste to Asylum, and our job is to free the Gravestone.
There isn’t a great number of negatives with this Chapter, to be honest. At the same time, however, there also aren’t a great deal of positives, either!
The biggest area of contention for me is the moment immediately following the choice of whether or not to use Valkorion’s power, based solely on which Companion shows up. For people who romance neither Companion or romance Koth, Koth shows up, but if you romance Lana, she shows up instead. This makes sense from a romance perspective, but Lana stayed behind to head any foes off at the pass whilst it is Koth who flies us to HK’s rendezvous point in the only present shuttle.
Both Lana and Koth are people who would only leave their post when the all-clear is sounded, so to say that either shows up at the correct moment is very strange. However, it’s easier to see Koth racing to check on the Outlander than it is he and Lana trading places. With Koth taking the only shuttle, the only way that Lana could reach us is if Koth had brought his one back, and this doesn’t seem likely.
Then again, HK somehow managed to get to the rendezvous point without a shuttle and we suddenly gain a spotless Zakuul shuttle in between Chapters V and VII, so shuttles just seem to appear at a whim.
Regardless of which choice you make at the end, you’ll be left winded. This means that, of course, you move slower and will occasionally be stunned by the debuff. Thankfully, this is the last appearance of this nuisance mechanic for the time being.
Onto the positives.
Whilst there are a lot of mobs throughout, they do at least have some variety. As this is the full strength of the Eternal Fleet, it feels very right that many Zakuul Knights are bolstering the ranks of Skytroopers. It may not be much, but compared to what some of the later Chapters do, this is a breath of relatively fresh air.
This Chapter features not one but two fights with Arcann. The first one features the “two-hits and you’re stunned” mechanic, which hasn’t been seen a great deal since, as its primary mechanic, whilst the second fight introduces more stuns, an overcharged saber, and other area-of-effect attacks; this last category also technically includes generators which you yourself can blow up for more damage to Arcann. Since the first fight only allows you to take his health down to 50% whilst the second allows you to take it down to 25%, there is obviously far less opportunity for mechanics to be demonstrated in the first fight compared to the second.
Regardless, these fights are interesting, especially as it is just you (and your Companion) against Arcann with no optional input from Valkorion. The only input from Valkorion is if you choose to use his power. If you had used his power too much previously, he’ll take control of your body anyway, which some people won’t be too fond of.
As I say, there aren’t a lot of either positive points or negative points; the negative points aren’t enough to drag it down, but neither are the positive points enough to secure it a higher place. It also has to be said that the remaining three Chapters undoubtedly have more positive aspects.
#3: Chapter XVI: The Battle of Odessen
This was meant to be “the big epic conclusion” to the first season, and it’s no secret that in spite of the build-up this Chapter couldn’t live up to the hype.
Following SCORPIO’s betrayal, she decides to send Arcann to Odessen to allow you to deal with him. You take the Gravestone to meet his fleet, and the battle is on! Eventually, you come across Arcann on the bridge and give him a sound thrashing, although he of course survives to live another day.
Getting the negatives out of the way, there’s not all that much which is new; having multiple Companions trail you around had been seen previously in both Chapters XIII and XV, so this doesn’t feel as ‘epic’ the third time around. The shields and grenades you can pick up throughout your travels aren’t worth using against the various mobs, although that rocket launcher is useful against the Skytrooper in particular. However, the shield does need to be used in the final fight, so it is nice to get a previous opportunity to use it in the long build-up.
I’ve touched on the lack of closure before, so I won’t harp on about it all over again. It does need to be stressed, however, that this does make Chapter XVI feel far too open-ended to be a proper ‘conclusion’.
On the positives, though, the numerous fights spread throughout with the named Champions are quite interesting, with each one having its own series of mechanics with one being a miniature version of the Exarch fight from the Star Fortresses. Granted, all of them have floor markings so even this isn’t as decent as it could have been.
Even the mobs are slightly more varied; rather than just Skytroopers and big Droids which the previous two Chapters had seen, there are multiple Knights dotted throughout, with some even managing to ambush you at one point. Basically, with the sheer number of Knights and Skytroopers, coupled with the fact that you fight Arcann, this Chapter feels like it’s Chapter VIII: Taking Flight transposed from Asylum to Arcann’s flagship, which does make logical sense.
The final fight with Arcann is a point of contention. Some people say that it’s really interesting whilst others say that it’s catastrophically boring. I personally like what they tried to do with it, with the various mixture of mechanics coupled with the necessity to reflect Arcann’s attacks with the shield. Granted, it does seem silly that this shield should be able to absorb and reflect so much Force Power when we haven’t seen them do this before in the hands of the Knights…
Because the new weapon is not a necessity I haven’t actually seen what benefits it brings to the fight yet myself. Apparently it grants a couple of temporary abilities based on what ‘aspects’ you focused on in Chapter XII, but in-practice I doubt I’d even use them even if I had the opportunity. It’s like the fight with Nocturno; Drake Raven’s belt adds variety and can make the fight easier for some, but I personally prefer to do things the traditional way without worrying about such nonsense.
It doesn’t quite live up to the hype that BioWare were selling, but ultimately this Chapter does provide a fair bit of gameplay variety. If it had brought more new things to the table than it did, not to mention bringing far more closure, perhaps it would be higher on the list.
Personally, if I were to pitch my ideal version of this Chapter, I would have made use of Aygo's fleet (mentioned in the Odessen Planetary Shield codex entry) as part of the initial defense perimeter, supported by Tora/Koth and the Gravestone. Skytroopers and Knights would also have actually breached the shield in a flanking maneuver, necessitating our presence on the planet to get rid of them, making use of the disappointingly-unused Companions and even bringing the other Alliance Specialists into proceedings. Only when the defense of Odessen itself is sorted out would we take to the stars and board Arcann's flagship.
The Chapter as it was sadly felt a bit too flat and uninvolving for my liking.
#2: Chapter XIII: Profit and Plunder
This Chapter remains the most fun Chapter, even if it is purely a distraction.
Gault Rennow approaches the Alliance and proposes a get-rich-quick scheme by robbing the Gilded Star, which is the Eternal Empire’s mobile treasury filled with wealth plundered from conquered worlds.
The most negative thing about this Chapter is its final boss. Similar to the final boss of Chapter X: Anarchy in Paradise, the Skytrooper boss utilises the “Tactical Positioning” mechanic introduced by Commander Rand, but there isn’t much time to damage him before he launches into the air for the first time. The slow spawn-in for the adds also doesn’t help in this regard, but at least they can be funnelled into the narrow corridor for easy AoE control.
Rather amusingly, once the big Skytrooper's Rocket Storm cast finishes he just hangs in the air until the adds are dead rather than re-cast it.
The only other negative thing about this Chapter is that it is ultimately a distraction from the main events. Outside of pilfering the wealth of Zakuul nothing of-note happens until Kaliyo and Aric return with the GEMINI Code. Compared to the final boss, this is more nitpicking than a genuine criticism, though.
As for the positives, well…
Gault and Vette are perfectly in-character; from Gault managing to swindle Lana at cards – it comes to something when use of the Force can’t outmatch pure wit – to Vette’s bomb prank, this Chapter is just made for them and they shine at every possible opportunity.
However, due to the nature of this Chapter, there isn’t much else which can be said which doesn’t in some way refer back to Gault and Vette. They make it very enjoyable, but there isn’t much else by way of variety; there are no truly dramatic moments, and even moments of tension have Gault or Vette wise-cracking or ad-libbing.
The only other thing which comes to mind is how the return of Aric and Kaliyo is handled. People who have known Aric for a long time, never mind their possible connection to Havoc Squad itself, will feel his pain during the scene where he mourns his four fallen comrades. Granted, there is some artificial tension when Aric just shouts at Kaliyo; they must have been sharing the same shuttle on the way back, so why is he only just beginning to show his anger?
This is also currently the only opportunity for a romance Companion to be killed by their partner, as both Kaliyo and Jorgan can be executed, depending on which one ‘messed up’; this is particularly heartless if you play a Trooper who decides to execute not only the last remaining long-standing ‘true’ Havoc Squad member but also her husband…!
Chapter XIII is distracting, but it’s still very fun due to its key personalities. If either Gault or Vette were absent, it probably wouldn’t feel the same.
One question remains, though: who is the only other surviving member of new-Havoc?
#1: Chapter XV: The GEMINI Deception
This Chapter was the first to continue on from its predecessor in its entirety since Chapter IX: The Alliance. Whilst Chapter XIII: Profit and Plunder did continue on from Chapter XII: Visions in the Dark to begin with, it segued into its own thing pretty quickly.
Following from the securing of the GEMINI Prime, the Alliance locates a lone Eternal Fleet ship with the aim of plugging the Prime into the Captain’s ‘chair’ and taking control of the Fleet. Things quickly go awry, however, as the GEMINI Captain proves to be more intelligent than anyone was expecting…
The only really negative from this entire Chapter is that there is no enemy variety. Every single enemy is a Droid. This is a ship from the Eternal Fleet, which is pretty damn important, so if there’s a full-blown interior (which doesn’t make all that much sense to me anyway), why aren’t there also a few token Knights?
Because I nitpick, I do find it a bit too convenient that this lone Eternal Fleet ship just happened to be the one which houses three influential prisoners in its brig. This actually could have been spun into a trap; Arcann might have realised that rumours of such prestigious prisoners would draw the Outlander out, hence why this ship is by itself, but as it is this is just all one big coincidence and the opportunity is wasted.
I also can’t avoid talking about the moments where footwork is key. Firstly, there’s the Sun Generator room with vents which knock you backwards if you step in at the wrong time, and secondly there’s the bridge boss on the final stretch. These are both a nuisance because it’s very easy to be caught out by the vents even if you think you’re safe, and you won’t be thinking to watch your feet when you come across the bridge boss!
Everything else is positive.
You start out with all of your Chapter III – Chapter IX crew (except Koth, who stays behind to align with his potential eviction in Chapter X: Anarchy in Paradise, and T7, because T7 apparently doesn’t matter anymore) following you aboard the ship, although you are separated before any combat takes place. Thankfully, there is a moment halfway through where nearly-everyone is present and in-combat, so this isn’t a lost effect!
It’s absolutely wonderful to encounter Tai Cordan and Zasha Ranken again. Whilst Cordan isn’t exactly memorable from the Consular storyline, I’d far rather see his face than that of any other Rift Alliance representative – if Alauni had been in his place, she would be dead every time without question – Ranken’s appearance is fantastic. It’s only a shame that, compared to her Republic counterpart Bey’wan Aygo, she has such a small appearance as she’s going to be one hell of a tactical brain to bring to help the Alliance.
The third prisoner, Malita Tal, is… interesting. Whilst I like the idea of a singer being rescued based on her popularity bringing with it her ‘normal’ supporters on Zakuul, saving her is ultimately the least sensible option in my view.
Cordan and Ranken are both prestigious members from the Empire and Republic. Saving either one of these would earn points of favour from the respective faction, and winning their support has been our secondary ultimate goal all this while. The support of ordinary Zakuulans is nice, but we already have that in a sense with the Exiles becoming a rallying-point of sorts.
Granted, it would be far easier for the Zakuul government to crack down on Exiles in the swamp who don’t matter and are out-of-the-way than it would be to crack down on civilians in public spaces; this in itself would make more and more people aware of the brutal nature of Arcann and Vaylin.
There are grounds for saving all three people, which is nice, but again I can easily see one being far easier to sacrifice than the other two when all is said and done. If it had been a choice between Cordan and an Imperial senator rather than a senator with diplomatic pull and an admiral with tactical initiative, then maybe the choice would have been harder.
There are some decent little moments in this Chapter. Firstly, SCORPIO’s slicing into the Captain’s systems makes you think that the scheme is working and you egg her on; the lockdown is cancelled, Skytroopers shut down, and the Captain seems powerless…
… Until she causes a power-surge which causes SCORPIO’s systems to frazzle and she collapses and dies. After all; in the end, she was only a Droid.
This undeniably raises the stakes. The Captain has alerted Arcann to your presence and now you need to negotiate the ship and remove her without the valuable aid of SCORPIO. Mounting pressure is a good way to keep people invested in the moment, and this certainly can be seen to have happened here.
As much as the mobs are boringly repetitive, the big fights in this Chapter are really nice. There’s a giant Skytrooper which wields a Zakuul Knight shield and a sword which is a melding of the Terenthium and Classic Vibroswords, who acts similar to the boss from Chapter XIV: Mandalore’s Revenge in that he occasionally activates a production line which can be destroyed to cancel spawning adds.
The GEMINI Prime is one of the only few bosses which doesn’t call in adds or use Tactical Positioning; instead, she prefers to use poison effects and utilises a mechanic from the Shroud and Nar Shaddaa Kingpin fights, whereby multiple copies of herself appear and hitting the correct one causes the others to disappear and the fight to resume.
I don’t know whether or not this is actually a thing which happens, but every time I’ve done this fight, Senya and my reprogrammed Skytrooper (if it’s survived) have both immediately managed to locate the correct one immediately. It could be a coincidence, as I’m not keen of the moments when a Companion negates a logic puzzle.
The final twist in the tale is that SCORPIO is able to use the Eternal Throne to somehow reconstruct her chassis, now being in seemingly near-total control of the Eternal Fleet. As Chapter XVI would go on to show, this isn’t seemingly the catastrophic event that it could have been, as the Fleet is of course now beginning to dissipate with the Captains now having free will. The cutscene showing her taking control of the Throne is absolutely glorious, though.
Chapter XV is rather fascinating. Whilst there isn’t much variety in the enemies, the two big fights are both excellent, and the story-developments are excellent. There are very few negative things which can be said about it, which ultimately means that it is by far the most solid Chapter of the lot.
Considering that the previous post was mostly made up of Chapters from the original nine, it's fitting to see that the follow-up features more from the subsequent seven.
Since this will be the last foreseeable time that I shall be touching on the story of Fallen Empire, I think now's also a good time to touch on my overall views of it.
It was... good. Not perfect, but good. It of course had several highs and lows throughout the months, but the high points certainly made a notable mark as well. The thing that I liked most was the humour which made itself apparent in some of the original Chapters, and it's a shame that it largely disappeared beyond this point outside of Chapter XIII and the HK Bonus Chapter.
Maybe we'll see more moments of levity throughout Eternal Throne. Given that we've got wise-cracker Vette from the get-go I have high hopes that we'll see some good moments.
We'll have to wait and see. I'm curious to see what 'lessons' they learned from Fallen Empire, whether this means that future story chunks will be a series of Chapters in one go rather than monthly chapters, whether choices really will matter, or whether Lana actually isn't supposed to be the main character after all.
Regardless, here's to the future and to the upcoming release of more details for Eternal Throne later today!
Regardless, here's to the future and to the upcoming release of more details for Eternal Throne later today!