How this will work is I'll be covering each Chapter briefly in turn, then giving a final summary outlining my overall favourite and least favourite moments. The usual nonsense, y'know?
Without further ado, let's get started.
Chapter I: Wrath and Ruin
Wrath and Ruin kicks things off immediately with an awesome cutscene depicting Vaylin attacking Voss. There's no moment of deliberation, no slow moment of context, it's just *boom* the Eternal Fleet arrives as (implicitly) predicted by the Voss Mystics, and the Alliance Commander rides in to save the day.
As for why Voss wasn't reinforced by the Alliance Fleet earlier if the Fleet's attack had been predicted, eh, I'm chalking it down to Vaylin getting wind of the Alliance Fleet's movement and being far less brash about the whole proceedings. Her handling of the Zakuul forces tends to leave large gaps when she goes 'all in'...
Anyway. It's revealed that the entire reason why Vaylin attacks Voss is because this is where Senya has taken Arcann to help cure him. Vaylin clearly doesn't know Voss that well because her forces focus mainly on bombarding the Alien Enclave from orbit whilst leaving only ground forces to deal with the Shrine of Healing, because such a building can't possibly be where Senya has fled with Arcann, right?
I enjoy being a pedantic nitpicking bastard.
There are a couple of fun little moments if you've cleared the Tatooine and Voss Star Fortresses; if you've recruited "Deadeye" Leyta her sniper squad can help you with the first mini-boss, since you can instruct them to take out the surrounding mines, whilst Rokuss gains many volunteers, and they essentially complete a bonus mission for you. The only negative thing about this is that Rokuss himself doesn't actually appear.
This Chapter has several noteworthy moments. The first is a big mob brawl in the Tower of the Three (actually, what happens to the Three in all this?) which features a Checkpoint-system (which is very useful in Veteran Mode), and immediately afterwards there's the first Walker moment.
The Walker (and other such constructions) basically works exactly like HK-55 did in Shroud of Memory; the skin of the Walker is applied over your character whilst you get given a temporary ability bar with all the new unique abilities.
As the first of several moments in this expansion, this one is... fine. The shielded Skytroopers and the rocket Skytroopers are rather painful, but otherwise there's nothing really 'there' to note. It is rather fun to pilot a Walker at long last, but these moments tend to work best in short, sharp, bursts, and this may be too long for some people's liking. It's not the longest such moment, though.
Finally, in the Shrine of Healing itself, you are presented with the defining choice of this expansion early; allow Arcann to be healed, or turn on Senya and denounce her plan as lunacy? The former choice is a Light side choice, and a redeemed Arcann and Senya both survive to tell the tale, whilst the latter is a Dark side choice which results in the immediate death of Senya and the later fall and demise of Arcann.
Senya's death, if chosen, is done very well. Valkorion emerges from within you and together the former lovers share a tender moment, and even sing to one another. It's wonderfully touching even if an undeniably evil result.
Finally, the Sith Empire turn up and kick the Eternal Fleet away from Voss, leading directly into...
Chapter II: Run for the Shadows
So the Sith Empire has actually been running efficiently all this time, all the while waiting patiently until something or someone gained the power to challenge Zakuul, at which point it would rise up and declare that its time of submission has come to an end.
Compared to how the Sith Empire used to do things (patience is not a virtue oft worshipped by the Sith), things certainly do seem to be different. Of course, the leadership under Empress Acina, a sarcastic yet perfectly likeable Sith, helps this no end.
I do, however, have to question whether things are really so lax that the Empress can take the Alliance Commander (who may be a rogue power-crazy despot-in-waiting for all the Empire knows) aboard her private shuttle without so much as a token contingent of guards accompanying her. I mean, seriously, this is some really inefficient security.
Acina isn't the only 'long-time-no-see' character, or even organisation, in this Chapter, however. Moff (now "MINISTER!") Gelmid Lorman makes his first appearance since the novel Annihilation, and his history with Theron Shan is duly touched-upon. Furthermore, the GenoHaradan - the fabled organisation which monitors and dispatches threats to the Republic - are our main enemies in this Chapter, and I personally consider it a missed opportunity that there wasn't a single Rodian member of this particular group.
Because the GenoHaradan deal with serious threats to the Republic, it is of course fitting that none other than now-former-Chancellor Leontyne Saresh is in charge of them. She's still a despot after more power than she deserves, and now is seeking to take control of the Alliance itself to defeat Vaylin (and of course deal the Empire a serious blow by killing Acina; seriously, why does she take us out with her without any security detail tagging along again???).
There's not much to this Chapter otherwise. Trawl through the Dromund Kaas jungle, pick up some Codex Entries you may never have had before (ironically this Chapter contains an easier-to-find source of the Yozusk Codex Entry than the actual source on Dromund Kaas itself, the Platesmasher Yozusk), climb through a derelict tomb, and you're done.
I will say, though, that I appreciate the little nod to one of the Dromund Kaas planet quests. To help divert the storm, a Bonus Mission involves reactivating some Lightning Spires, a type of which is the main focus of the planet quest "Lightning in a Bottle". I do love it when they use the game's previously-established lore to its advantage.
By far the most interesting thing one can learn from this Chapter is the origin of Valkorion. It is revealed that he was a champion of Ancient Zakuul, and that Vitiate felt it was "right" to hollow him out and take control of his body. Hmm. That sounds ominous, but I can't quite think why...
The final boss of this Chapter is, in my opinion, the most brutal fight the expansion offers when it comes to Veteran mode. There's more detail surrounding this later in the Post.
Additionally, this Chapter also features some of the least significant choices, at least for the moment. Your choices in this Chapter are to finalise or deny the potential allegiance with the Sith Empire, let off, enslave, or kill 'Minister!' Lorman, and imprison or shamefully execute Saresh. None of these have any real pay-offs in the actual expansion itself, but time shall tell exactly what pay-off they may have in future story expansions.
At the end of it all, though, some will be happy with how Saresh is treated in this Chapter, whilst others will see it as not enough.
Chapter III: Dark Reunions
Dark Reunions is the shortest Chapter of the new expansion, and it feels very refreshing because of it.
After boarding the now-captured Gravestone (basically: Koth was taken in because SCORPIO imitated a pilot-in-distress and allowed her and Vaylin to board the colossal ship), your goal is to free the ship from Vaylin's evil clutches.
Pretty much immediately after the Chapter begins you get the opportunity to take control of a Mouse Droid; this is rather infuriating since every time you successfully activate a console as said droid, it then defaults back to your character's point-of-view, forcing you to take the droid back through its slog no matter which point you got to previously).
Along the way you rendezvous with Koth. This meeting can either be cordial, stale, or outright hostile depending on whether or not you ticked Koth off, causing him to steal the Gravestone, and what your attitude towards him on this matter is. You have no choice but to partner up with him, but you do have the option to say that you'll "kill him later" without shaking his hand if he did steal the Gravestone in your Fallen Empire story.
Unsurprisingly, killing Koth in this Chapter is only possible if you had selected this particular conversation option. Otherwise, Koth will later say at the end of Chapter V that he has no place within the Alliance and take off.
This Chapter is noteworthy for having the first of three Vaylin fights, all of which use the same mechanic of standing within her circle at melee range, else all of your (and your Companion's) attacks are reflected. This is short but sweet, and a decent taster of the fights which are yet to come.
The Chapter ends relatively abruptly; Vaylin's conditioning code phrase "Kneel before the Dragon of Zakuul" is made known to us by Valkorion, we need to quickly defuse a quantum bomb planted by Koth, and SCORPIO hijacks the Gravestone, taking it elsewhere into deep space.
As I say, this Chapter is very short, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Chapter IV: Where Dreams Die
After briefly trying to prevent sabotage by Vaylin's forces aboard the Gravestone, we and our crew are teleported down onto the mysterious world known as Iokath and separated from one another.
Additionally, this world is surrounded by all of the Eternal Fleet ships. Rather than be a hostile invasion as before, this is simply the Fleet (and the Gravestone) returning 'home', since this is where SCORPIO and the GEMINI droids were first created. Yay for finally explaining some stuff!
Along the way to rejoin our crew, we come across the entity known as ARIES, who, it is later revealed, is examining each and every single person on Iokath, testing to see whom is a worthy successor to rule his beloved planet. To this end, he even impersonates Thexan whilst watching over Vaylin personally.
Of course, we don't learn this until near the end of the Chapter, so the waves of droids attacking us and the Knights of Zakuul are at first interpreted as just stray rogue droids, although the moment we do learn about ARIES he sends a huge mob of droids to take care of us. Of course this fails, but is yet another painful Veteran moment.
It's a shame in some ways that Chapter IV is just so very short; there's a lot of background information needed to understand exactly what the significance of Iokath is, but we don't begin to appreciate it until the start of Chapter V, at which point this plot point is left largely abandoned.
This Chapter is also the only Chapter not to feature any choices whatsoever, which does make sense in-context given that there is very little room for any significant choices.
Chapter V: Ascension
The context which SCORPIO is able to provide about Iokath is very short; she simply confirms that this is where she was created and that her creators are all deceased. Enjoy learning about Iokath? Good, because now it's time to escape it!
After downing more droids, you come across a big Colossus Droid. This fight isn't much, since you spend most of the fight damaging the Power Conduits, and so when the time comes to actually kill the Colossus, it can't fight back. At all.
However, it is a very good thing that we couldn't damage it that much, since our next job is to climb into its spacious cranium and operate it from the inside to buy Theron time to summon his shuttle remotely.
Operating the Colossus is a more fun affair than piloting the Walker in Chapter I, since you don't have a long trek, nearly everything you're fighting can be killed in a matter of seconds with one or two abilities, and you can repair the Colossus whenever you want.
So, this done, you and Vette are then deposited into ARIES's base, finally bringing the fight to him since otherwise he'd use the weapon which he had used to render the gang comatose again, this time to ensure that nobody would ever wake up from it. The ARIES fight is rather hectic; it involves whittling away his power armour, avoiding circles, and killing Power Conduits over and over again until the blighter finally drops dead.
It's still an okay fight, but it does take a very long time.
This is also the moment when SCORPIO's character story takes its final bow. Her ultimate goal is to meld with Iokath itself, thus attaining freedom from her chassis and essentially becoming a being of pure consciousness alone. However, you can choose to kill her there and then instead of granting her her final wish. Rather disappointingly, there are no unique moments of dialogue from an Agent who chooses to kill her.
One does have to wonder how much of SCORPIO's story they had planned out before any of this other stuff happened, since it is integrated fairly well into the overall main story. Hmm...
Chapter VI: The Dragon's Maw
So, the entire premise of this Chapter is purely to infiltrate Vaylin's party, which celebrates her survival and shames the Alliance for their failure to defeat her once again. We are aided by the Zakuulan Indo Zal, who actually has a fairly deep backstory outlined in his Codex entry (although it is a shame that we see little of it realised in his in-game depiction).
Our preliminary goal is to place Ion Charges on various power structures, so that destroying all of them will cause a power blackout which will free Zakuulan rebels and allow them to join the Alliance. To achieve this, you and Theron must disguise yourselves in Zakuul Knight armour and try to access these structural points stealthily.
It's fairly complicated to work out what to do at first, even with the hints option, but this first half is purely just walking around and doing not a whole lot else.
Sure, there are various things to do along the way. I've already talked about curing Bergola, but there's that Bonus Mission for accessing the server room as well. You receive no hints about solving either of these puzzles in the moment, but since you have far more precedent for searching for the Bonus Mission's solution I won't talk about this here.
The end result is that you finally unearth yourself, stun Vaylin with her code phrase, and rescue the Zakuulan rebels in the beast pit from the Exoboars (if you hadn't cured Bergola) and the Rancor Junior. You can then either order them to be fodder for you or get them to safety.
While all this is going on, Arcann has resurfaced and is attacking Vaylin's party as well! If you had redeemed him, he approaches Vaylin, imploring her to stop, whilst a hostile Arcann appeals to her sadistic nature with the aim of destroying the Outlander together. She refuses either which way, and you encounter her fleeing away from the scene.
What happens next depends on how you treated Arcann. If he is redeemed, you and he are set upon by a vicious Horizon Guard, whilst if he is hostile you then end up fighting him instead. At the end of this fight, you execute him (either shamefully or by stating you are protecting Zakuul by ending his reign of terror) to the glorious Clash of Destiny music, which hasn't been heard in the game's story for... actually, I can't remember the last time this was actually used in the main story.
Regardless, it's wonderful to hear this music in the story again, even if it is only for executing Arcann which can only happen if he isn't redeemed.
So the Chapter ends either with Arcann accompanying you to Odessen or being left as a nameless corpse to be disintegrated by Vaylin's nearby Eternal Fleet ship. Pretty diverse stuff.
Chapter VII: Into the Void
We finally get to see Nathema, and get some back-story on it to boot!
So yeah. Ever since the armour set worn by the Zealots in the Betrayed trailer was identified as the 'Nathema Zealot's Armour Set' it was pretty clear that Nathema was going to feature somewhere along the line.
Feature it does, since Vaylin retreats to the Sanatorium to break her conditioning.
We also get to see a flashback to the days prior to the invasion of the Core Worlds, where Vaylin first confronts Valkorion after being freed from Nathema. Personally, I'd have made it so that Thexan wasn't present and that Arcann had only brought her back after his incident on Korriban and Thexan's murder. It would at least explain why Vaylin wasn't present at all in the Sacrifice trailer, where her absence is now very much noticeable...
Using this flashback, we decipher Vaylin's location and off we go! Into the void! We don't have a void ship or anything, but what's sci-fi barriers between genres?
Our presence in this Chapter is, in retrospect, almost unnecessary since we can't prevent the ritual, nor do we actually ever see Vaylin, and our continued presence on Odessen might have made things somewhat easier for the next Chapter.
That said, there are some good moments. Jarak is an interesting character, as is the spirit of Lord Dramath, who is better known as the father of Valkorion (A.K.A Vitiate (A.K.A. Tenebrae)), from whom we learn more about Nathema, or, as it used to be called, Medriaas.
You have the choice of either letting him escape into oblivion or keeping him around for any information he may have on Valkorion. Literally, this is the only thing of worth which happens in this Chapter for our personal character.
As mentioned before, Vaylin ends up breaking free of her conditioning, meaning that we have no more defenses against her. She then disappears during our own escape, her location being none other than Odessen...
Chapter VIII: End Times
In many ways, End Times is exactly what I wanted to see from Fallen Empire's sixteenth Chapter. Full-on invasion, involving people of all kinds from the Alliance, and our wresting control of proceedings from Zakuulan forces.
That said, I'm pleased in hindsight that it took them this long to integrate this particular moment, since it is undeniably more epic to see it at the end of Zakuul's galactic threat than halfway through, and of course if they had pulled the full invasion card in Fallen Empire this would have felt more of the same.
At least we're not onboard another bloody ship this time!
However, the first three-quarters of the Chapter are incredibly tedious. Basically, you steal a Walker, and have to slog your way through Knights, Skytroopers, and even multiple Walkers, in a trek which can take upwards of half an hour before you're finally allowed back onto your own two feet.
Ugh. At least this Walker does have some useful utilities which don't deplete, including very nice homing missiles which take out many many enemies.
There is an interesting moment of divergence depending on your choices. If you had spared Senya and redeemed Arcann, they join you at the Gravestone and become your Companions to the final fight. If both are dead, Theron attempts to rescue the Gravestone by himself, but of course needs help, at which point he joins both you and Lana for the final slog and fight.
Of course there's another bloody Walker trek after this. This one is much quicker than the previous one, but it's still not that fun.
However, this Chapter features perhaps the most involving choice of any Chapter thus far.
In many ways, Torian and Vette were fated for this choice the moment Aric and Kaliyo were selected for a far more forgiving choice in Fallen Empire; neither could be a part of this moment since either could be banished or deceased, so they had to focus on the other two returning Romance Companions.
What a choice it is, though. You have to choose between saving either one or the other, which then results in the unpreventable demise of the second at the hands of Vaylin. Additionally, the story all but punishes you for choosing to abandon Vette, since whilst Torian holds up rather stoically, Vette all but falls to pieces at the prospect of being abandoned. Bonus points if you do this on a Warrior who married the poor girl.
You heartless bastard.
Still, this is a moment which in many ways I was hoping to see happen, since it does undeniably add a lot of weight to the moment (unless you view all Companions as cookie-cutter clones so you can afford to lose one, of course).
After finally making it to the Odessen Command Center, you confront Vaylin. This plays out largely very similar to how it did in Chapter III, only this time you can kill her properly instead of being cut off at 50%. Oh, having two Companions helps a lot as well, although Theron may accidentally kill himself if you aren't careful since he is of course Ranged whilst literally everyone else you can have with you is Melee.
I applaud you if this did happen for you, but next time could you also somehow manage to make it happen to Lana? Cheers!
Anyway, you end up killing Vaylin, honouring the memory of the deceased, and the story ends.
Or does it? You receive a distress holocall from Empress Acina, announcing that the Eternal Fleet is attacking the Empire, whilst the faceless Republic (who are you, Madon?!?) also decries the same. Apparently, without anyone in the Throne, the Fleet has gone absolutely haywire.
Thus, you need to take the Throne and end the chaos. It's time to suit up, and go to Zakuul.
Chapter IX: The Eternal Throne
This Chapter starts in quite a harrowing manner. Your character approaches the Throne, surrounded by corpses of friends and foes alike. Theron and Lana lie there peacefully, having fought to the end... alongside Koth and Vaylin, whose corpses (if Koth is killed beforehand) logically shouldn't be there...
Of course this is all a dream at the hands of Valkorion, which I personally feel is a wasted opportunity. Having us literally start the Chapter by walking up to the Throne with its accompanied pile of corpses felt very much like a monument to everything which the Alliance has suffered through in its task, but no, it's just a dream. Har-de-har.
So rather than starting things off at the Throne, we need to fight our way through a blockade, either with Lana and Theron or Senya and Arcann beside us as we do so. Taking the spire with Senya and Arcann feels much more epic than it does with Lana and Theron, especially since Arcann has a nice moment of reflection upon reuniting with the Throne.
Of course, there are more Skytroopers than anyone knows what to do with in the first half of the Chapter (seriously, where do they come from?!?), which makes the slog to the Throne itself relatively tedious.
At the end, we reach the Throne, and rather than finally get the chance to walk down the Throne chamber in the actual game, we only get to see it in cutscenes. Oh. Good. Lord. This gets to me more than it should. We're finally taking the Throne for ourselves, and we just can't do anything with it. No funny screenies, no taking the time to explore...
It's just nothing. Damn you, BioWare!
So we take our seat, and Valkorion's long game is revealed. All this time he has been waiting for the opportune moment to hollow us out and take control of our body (I really want the 'canon' Outlander to be female, just because this would be very awkward for the always outwardly-male Vitiate) and rule as the Eternal Emperor once again.
However, for some reason we're able to assume his form in our mindscape and survive, even going so far as to interact with a mental version of Dramath's holocron to get our true form back and battle with Valkorion...
You know what, this entire concept just appeals to me so goddamn much that I won't question it any further. It's a cool scene for the final battle, and I love having to repair our own memories in order to advance (plus the moments where our character is confused as Valkorion are hilarious).
So, having resumed our normal form, Valkorion sics the spirit of Vaylin onto us for a final duel. If Arcann was also slain, his spirit is also sent into battle.
However, if you had kept Dramath within his holocron, your mental self is somehow able to summon him from the mental form of his holocron to do battle with the spirits of Vaylin, Arcann, and Valkorion...
Okay, even my own dismissal of the previous problems can't cover this. What?!?
Anyway. If he is kept around, Dramath sacrifices what remains of his existence to harm Valkorion, Vaylin and Arcann (his redeemed self uses the Holocron to enter your mind; again, what?!?) join you in battle against their father, and from this point on everything plays out exactly the same across both endings.
He conjures one big show to kill you, only to be stunned by your use of the phrase "Kneel before the Dragon of Zakuul"; it's your mind, so it's also your rules. Valkorion is then cornered by his two children before Senya's spirit joins the party. Similar to a redeemed Arcann, she uses the holocron (which by this point is destroyed within your mind) to access your psyche, whilst it is unspecified how a deceased Senya appears at this point.
Anyway. Valkorion, surrounded by his family, insults the Outlander based on their class history, tries and fails to kill you one last time, and is struck down in the process.
Valkorion, Vitiate, Tenebrae. The great villain of the entirety of The Old Republic, the reason why Revan and Malak turned evil (ahem), and one of the most powerful Force users in the galaxy, dies. Nevermore will he be called upon as the ultimate threat, and the game is finally free of his deus ex habits.
Upon returning to reality, you then are presented with the final choice; to rule Zakuul with an iron fist and force them to pay reparations or to be a peacemaker, using the Eternal Fleet to deliver supplies and help rebuild the galaxy. Rather interestingly, choosing the different options also results in a different Eternal Alliance Command Center; light side has a nice blue-lit room whilst dark side gets a fairly ominous red-lit room which also has a replica of the Eternal Throne in the centre.
So ends the Eternal Throne, and so begins the age of the Eternal Alliance.
This was the Eternal Throne story. I personally believe that it was far and away the superior story compared to Fallen Empire, but then it helps that it was delivered all in one chunk rather than dragging the story out over several months with nothing much to show for it.
Plus, choices throughout this story did have some more emotional impact. Sure, only one long-term choice mattered from the previous story, which was whether or not you drove Koth to self-exile and thus the Gravestone was stolen, but only Chapters II and IV lack any real choices which have proper significance in their outcomes; that said, Chapter II may have some impact on future stories...
Anyway, as I said, I'll now delve into the list of favourite moments, least favourite moments, anything which was tedious, yadda yadda yadda.
You know the drill by now.
- Favourite Chapter: Chapter IX: The Eternal Throne.
- Least Favourite Chapter: Chapter IV: Where Dreams Die.
- Favourite Moment: Curing Bergola in Chapter VI: The Dragon's Maw/The Mindscape in Chapter IX: The Eternal Throne.
Argh, what to choose, what to choose? These are my two standout moments from the entire story; one of which is a fun little side-activity whilst the other is the setting for the final Chapter. Both add a fair amount of character to their respective Chapters; Bergola and her pack are absolutely adorable, while I particularly love seeing characters such as Satele, Marr, and even HK-55 in the damaged memories.
In all seriousness, though, I honestly can't choose between either of these moments. Somebody pick for me! :P
- Least Favourite Moment: That long trek in Chapter VIII: End Times.
This should speak for itself. Seriously, this is far too long a trek, which just results in a very tedious first half. It's a shame, really, because the latter parts of the Chapter are really rather good, but it's just let down seriously by the Walker section.
- Favourite Boss Fight: Valkorion in Chapter IX: The Eternal Throne.
This fight is so much more involving than our previous tussle with him in Fallen Empire's Chapter XII: Visions in the Dark, as not only are we joined by his very own (spiritual) flesh-and-blood, but we can use various tools to help end his life quicker.
Firstly, we can use the Holocron to steal away 255,000 HP from him, which undoubtedly makes the fight quicker since he 'dies' at 50%. If anything, this fight is thus too short!
Secondly, when he enters into his 'Dark' and 'Light' phases, you can enter into an appropriate phase to combat it. For Light, you essentially turn into a Telekinetics Sage wielding Satele Shan's dual-bladed lightsaber, whilst for Dark you essentially become Revan from Temple of Sacrifice. You not only wield both of his 'proper' Lightsabers, but you borrow his Dual-Saber Throw and Heave abilities as well.
It's relatively epic for the final fight of Vitiate's life, but as already stated I'm now thinking that it's far too short.
- Least Favourite Boss Fight: The GenoHaradan Leaders in Chapter II: Run for the Shadows.
Three Elites, two of which constantly leap around whilst the third has annoying positional abilities and mechanics, not to mention a tendency to hover in the air whilst immune, putting down fire mines. Uggggggh.
Okay, sure, fine, there are Classes which can negate certain aspects of this. You can CC one of the two adds with 60-second stuns if you're on one of the correct classes, but the others need to work out how to brute their way through it with strategy alone. Not that this is a problem in of itself, since you can move yourself out of the way without a problem...
The problem comes with Acina. If she's in a bad place compared to you, you won't know it until the three bosses have engaged you, and because she's Melee, she may find herself being subject to AoE attacks if she's chasing one of the adds after it hops around. Basically, if you know how to babysit a Companion you're going to do fine, but if she's let loose it could end up meaning the difference between life and death.
This, then, marks the end of my take on the Eternal Throne story.
How about you guys? What's your take on all that occurred? Did you enjoy the story, hate it, or just not care all that much?