Front Lines and Stabs in the Back

The story update coming with 5.2 will be bringing back two powerful NPCs as part of the story; Supreme Commander Jace Malcom and the Sith Empress Acina. Since the story involves us choosing our side, this will also dictate which of the two is antagonistic and getting in our way, and which is friendly and helping us out.

However, there may be an additional side-effect of this choice. In the comments section of this post by Shintar of Going Commando I raised a purely-hypothetical situation of the absolute extreme. Normally I'd just leave such a comment alone since its a point made in a very specific context, but this particular hypothetical has had me thinking quite a lot over the past two days, so I have something to get off my chest.


The "absolute extreme" in question is the situation of an Imperial-aligned Player convincing Theron Shan to kill his father, since the two are on very different sides and of course darling Theron would do anything for his new ideals, even if it means killing his own flesh-and-blood so that the Commander doesn't have to get their hands dirty.

It shouldn't really need stressing, but as already stated this is purely hypothetical and in general something which I entirely hope never occurs (not because Theron would have to squirm with an awkward order - I'd happily see him squirm at any and every opportunity - but simply because I like Jace, and the Republic needs more high-profile involvement in the story since it's seen virtually none), although it would doubtless be interesting to see how the Supreme Commander views his son's 'defection' to the Alliance regardless of which side the Player supports.

Bonus points if said Player is the Colonel of Havoc Squad, Jace's former Unit.

This in turn raises an interesting point; if Jace can be killed by Imperial-aligned Players (or their Therons), then it should also be logical that the same would apply to Acina for Republic-aligned Players. Although I'm not the biggest fan of Acina, I hope that this also isn't a possibility since we honestly do need as many high-profile characters on both sides as possible.

Acina's involvement in this update is particularly interesting since in Chapter II of Eternal Throne, she and the Commander discuss their ideals, among them including a comparison of how they "lead by example", with the Commander stating that they like to stay on the front lines. Acina's retort is exactly what you'd expect from someone well-versed in Sith dealings: that among the Sith, fighting on the front lines opens you up to be stabbed in the back.

Indeed, she's already proved her point without at this stage knowing it, since she's already been stabbed in the back by Lorman while being "on the front lines" of diplomacy by being the first (and to date only) high-profile character to extend an offer of support to the Alliance. It still makes no sense for the two leaders to be on one shuttle in the middle of nowhere without any form of bodyguard support, but that point can't be stressed anymore than it already has been.

So in War for Iokath we have Acina, having previously dismissed the Commander's words and been stabbed in the back whilst taking the initiative, fighting on the front lines. I sincerely doubt that the Commander has had a profound impact on the Empress, and her involvement is of course simply because there is no other confirmed high-profile Imperial NPC known to us from Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne who isn't a returning Companion. We were at least reintroduced to Satele in Fallen Empire while the final cutscene of Eternal Throne confirmed that Jace was still alive.

If Acina is ultimately destined to die at the hands of Republic-aligned Players in 5.2, this would constitute yet another stab in the back, since regardless of whether or not you took Acina up on her offer, she will always be the one to offer "the most support" compared to the Republic, whose only high-profile interaction with the Player at this stage has been to - of course - stab them in the back and try to wrest control of the Alliance away from them.

This "stab-in-the-back" philosophy will also apply to Jace for Imperial-aligned Republic Characters.


A very real question is this, though; whilst it makes sense for Supreme Commander Malcom to be on the field, does it ultimately make any sense for Acina to be doing the same? She is, after all, the Sith Empress; for the Republic, this is the equivalent of Supreme Chancellor Madon coming to the battlefield and trying to look all imperious whilst ignoring my our gushing at finally seeing what he looks like.

Would it have made more sense for this to be the reintroduction of another surviving former-Dark Council member like Ravage? For Imperials, who could potentially have interacted with or got to know other Dark Council members more than they did Acina, it could have potentially granted some closure; again using Ravage as an example, he is one of those who annoys both Warriors and Inquisitors by doubting their potential and their trustworthiness, and now the Council is effectively absolved, both characters will be free to do whatever they please to the worm in revenge.

Certainly this rivalry is more organic than anything the writers have tried to present for any Class other than the Trooper with Supreme Chancellor Saresh. I sincerely hope that this thread isn't just forgotten if Ravage ever returns.

The only thing Acina has going for her in this regard is that Republic Players have actually interacted with her and thus are familiar with her; they have no investment in a returning character such as Ravage or Mortis or whomever because they just have no reason to care. In fact, investment "issues" will plague War for Iokath's big decision no matter what.
  • Acina is still a relative unknown compared to Jace Malcom; whilst newer Players who have only played Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne will know who Acina is and not Malcom, veterans will be very familiar with Malcom since he was the first high-profile Republic character to appear in one of the three pre-launch CGI Trailers and be known to survive and has been present in the Republic versions of the Alderaan Bonus Series and the Makeb Storyline. Acina has only been present in the Seeker Droid questline before Eternal Throne. Whilst the two are now on an even-footing in the number of their significant appearances (thus not counting Malcom's mute appearance at the end of Eternal Throne), Malcom undoubtedly has the more secure footing.
  • Elara and Malavai are, of course, significant draws for Troopers and Warriors, whilst nobody else really knows who they are or what their significance is. I don't know if it will be possible to bring Jorgan and Vette along (though I sincerely doubt it since they may be deceased and Lana and Theron are the Commander's "most important aides", so I sadly don't think we'll get any choice of whom to bring) to explain who they are in-universe to characters and Players who don't know them, but it could be very easy for either character to rub such unfamiliar Players the wrong way. Additionally, certain Warriors (not to mention others who are unaware that this coveted decision only lies with the Warriors) will only be invested in allying with the Empire just so they can finally get the chance to kill Quinn.
  • This choice is - theoretically - the only one in the game so far to have a meta component to it. Choosing your side means that you become a "temporary" member of that faction whilst on Iokath; whilst you can't group with Players of the opposite faction, you can still do their missions and view their enemies as your enemies. This especially applies to PvP; since the current PvP meta is that Imperials are better at PvP than the Republic, there will be shedtons of Republic Players allying themselves with the Empire just to avoid being stomped in the "Open-World PvP Slideshow". It is worth noting that there will be the option to switch sides independent of the main story, but it is currently unknown whether you need to make the choice to be able to switch factions in this way or not. I'd imagine most people who want to switch factions will still make the switch in the story just to be on the safe side. If Players are making story choices based on their knowledge of what it'll do for them in the game, they're honestly making the choice for the wrong reasons in a story update.
I've gotten sidetracked again. Still interesting points to think about, though.


I've said it numerous times throughout this post and I'll say it again; this is purely hypothetical, with the situation being taken to its most extreme, and I sincerely hope that it is not possible to kill either Acina or Malcom in this update and that both go on to have a role in future story updates. Thanks to the recent Cantina in Orlando, we know that the story will be updated soon with a new Flashpoint on the Planet Umbara, so it remains to be seen exactly what aspects of War for Iokath have an impact on what happens here and in future updates. 

I apologise for indulging my concerns in this post; this was just something which had been bothering me somewhat and I figured that getting my thoughts down "on-paper" as it were would help, especially since it has also raised some interesting discussion points along the way.

Having written about it, I'm now finding myself relatively confident that there won't be such a significant decision as either of them dying in this update; it's a vastly insignificant update compared to the main stories BioWare deliver to us in main updates these days and as expressed above both Malcom and Acina should have defined roles here. Unless in choosing our faction we're locking ourselves in for our definitive allies in future updates, in which case either character could take a backseat and anything can go.

In fact, my confidence is such that I vow to do something embarrassing to Calph for a month if I'm wrong, whether this be a stupid outfit, dyed hair colour, or turning into a Togruta. I won't discover the outcomes until Wednesday, so please, no spoilers in the Comments (this does include semi-cryptic ones such as "get your Montrals on!"). 

That said, this update will allow Warriors to kill Quinn, so there is some aspect of significance to the potential choices. However, killing a Captain in the Imperial Army is nothing compared to the Supreme Commander of the Republic and the Empress of the goddamned Sith, so this will probably be as far as the killings go.

Regardless of everything that is due to happen, I'm really looking forward to 5.2. Decent returning Companions and Characters, a new Daily Zone and Reputation Faction, and of course the first of the new Operation bosses. It's going to be a really interesting ride no matter what, so here's hoping it's as enjoyable as it seems on the outset!


Again, an indulgent post which will probably end up being a laughing matter within a week. It's not as if I've never made similarly-wild attempts at "guesswork"with little-to-no evidence to go on in the past which have completely failed, after all. :P

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