Continuing the series looking over Flashpoints, today it's the turn of the dual-Flashpoint arcs to receive the spotlight.
This will work a little differently to the previous one; whilst that was a more general overview including a brief summary of the bosses, this post will purely be looking at the story of the arcs. Because there are a few Flashpoints from the favourites list present in this one, I thought it would make sense to interpose it between the positive and negative summary lists.
As mentioned previously, this will not be looking at the four Flashpoints which form the structure of Forged Alliances. Because that has four Flashpoints and actually leads into an entire Expansion, it's very much a different beast and in a league of its own compared to these ones.
So, without further ado:
#5: Czerka Corporate Meltdown
The Czerka Flashpoints are the only Flashpoints of this style which feature only three bosses, a trait shared by the vast majority of solitary Flashpoints whose story was entirely self-contained (The Esseles, Black Talon, and Directive 7 are the only inverse exceptions to this). This means that together they are very short, but at the same time this doesn't leave a lot of room for immersing players in what story there is.
The story of these Flashpoint arcs is that, following Czerka's financial difficulties as imposed upon them in the Imperial Corellia storyline, an Executive by the name of Rasmus Blys has turned an old warehouse into a vast laboratory and testing facility complex. Czerka being Czerka, the Republic and Empire are keen to shut them down (again) and move on.
Blys' experiments are shown to be quite barbaric in Core Meltdown, as he has experimented on Duneclaws, Vrblthers, and Flesh Raiders, who also overrun the facility once their big friendly counterpart - the security measure known only as Vigilant - takes over after it is unleashed by Blys before his untimely demise.
That could almost pass for poetry.
The Czerka FP arc is one of two which also had a preceding story on the actual planet; unlike Battle for Ilum and The False Emperor and the planet Ilum, however, the 'story' on CZ-198 is purely limited to Dailies which add some minor context to Czerka's activities on the moon. This context is so minor that it adds virtually nothing to the experience of the Flashpoints.
Corporate Labs and Core Meltdown are probably the most forgettable of the Flashpoints on this list, but they technically still count as being a dual-Flashpoint arc.
#4: Taral Prison
Stop me if you've heard this basic premise before for Taral V.
A group of heroes use a captured shuttle to infiltrate a forest moon held by evil Imperials with the aim of stripping them of an asset which makes completing an overall objective possible.
Of course you've heard it before; it's the same basic strategy as used by the Rebel Alliance in Return of the Jedi on Endor.
This then sets up a noticeable 'disconnect' for Taral V. The situation on Endor was a trap set by our good friend Emperor Sheev - yes, that is his first name - Palpatine, lulling our heroes into a false sense of security by making their initial takeover of the Shield Generator far too easy, and they only get out of it with help from the Ewoks.
The situation facing the Republic infiltrators on Taral V, however, is very different: the infiltration takes place around a well-defended Imperial Stronghold which is important enough for Grand Moff Kilran to be in the vicinity. There is no attempt whatsoever to indicate that this is a trap; Kilran himself is actually surprised (but enthused) to discover your presence before he bombs your location in an attempt to kill you.
This is then made all the more bizarre by the same trick being repeated in a top-secret high security prison. At least in this case there is something to suggest that this may be easier than it should have been, but it's something that Republic players can't and won't experience. We'll get to that in a second.
I do like how we can send the person who recruited us for this mission to their death, though. Admittedly, it throws into sharp relief that the fleet battle was ultimately pointless since neither side apparently does all that much to send reinforcements to the Prison, as it doesn't get any more 'difficult' should you throw him under the bus, and the Republic Fleet withdraws with Kilran knowing that you're on board the station anyway.
Oh, and the Gree Computer used to uncover the Maelstrom Prison? Never features again. It would be nice if it was included in Revan's ultimate plans somehow, but nope, rare Gree Technology is just chucked to one side after the fact. There is disappointingly such little closure for Republic players.
Indeed, based purely on what the Flashpoints tell players without any external sources of context, this entire arc feels like our friendly neighbourhood Jedi-man is simply using Republic resources simply to appease the whims of his female ghostly friend. Some people will do anything for a woman, it seems.
Speaking of female Jedi, Meetra Surik's ghost is clearly quite choosy when it comes to which Jedi she wants to appear to. I mean, Oteg's a good choice, but it's not as if we have a prominent Jedi Master who just so happens to be a descendant of Revan anywhere...
Is it, Satele Shan?
#3: Boarding Foundry
Compared to its Republic counterpart, this Flashpoint arc makes more sense in some areas whilst also failing in one of the same areas.
For example, compared to Taral V, Boarding Party has a much more convincing premise and execution; you board a Republic cruiser and take it over with the aim of using it to bluff your way past Republic security and gain access to the space station known as The Foundry. As part of this boarding action, you can also call Imperial reinforcements at six points. They die fairly quickly and add nothing concrete to your actions, but hey, it's something!
Another example of what it does better is it attempts to explain why the Republic had an easier time in Maelstrom than they should have had; the Empire just "let Revan go" so that they could follow him and finally eliminate him. In this light, Grand Moff Kilran's death can also be seen as an indirect execution for his failure and a final mockery of his loss of honour. It doesn't do that much to excuse Taral V, especially as Kilran attempts to destroy the means of finding and freeing Revan in the first place, but it's still something to go off on.
Of course, this could also have been damage control by the Imperial powers-that-be to hide the fact that the Republic actually did do all this without any help...
Even the lack of reinforcements at various points has some attempts at explanation. In Boarding Party, the Dorin's Sky is utterly isolated from any other Republic vessel, so there can't be any Republic reinforcements. Sadly, this explanation isn't as concrete for The Foundry, which only explains directly why the Empire can't send reinforcements; the Republic technically should have the advantage in this regard! Of course, players are still cutting through swathes of Republic enemies who are even supported by the Foundry Droids, and yet they still succeed against impossible odds.
Epic-story-nature is very impractical when you really think about it.
By itself, this arc provides a lot of insight into Imperial military procedure, something which is rarely seen anywhere else. Indeed, only the Corellia arc (and a part of Chapter 3 and Pierce's story for Warriors) do anything of a similar style, and it's very nice to be a part of the planning, particularly as the team is overseen by Darth Malgus himself, which makes you feel more than a bit important. This also has the side-effect of throwing Satele's absence from the Republic storyline into even greater relief.
The Shans have always had weird priorities.
#2: Battle of Emperor
This arc is, as mentioned above, preceded by a brief story on the planet of Ilum, and the events of this story for both factions play a noticeable part in Malgus's takeover. Republic players eliminate Darth Arho, ridding the Dark Council of a powerful and brash asset and allowing Malgus to appropriate his resources, whilst Imperial players take control of a facility in which Adegan Crystals are housed, allowing Malgus to create his Stealth Armada.
However, there are also two other planets which ties into this Flashpoint arc: Voss and Corellia.
Darth Serevin, the Imperial ambassador to Voss, is Malgus's second-in-command. Whilst Imperial players who have done the Voss arc should recognise him, Republic players do not really have that luxury, as Serevin makes no memorable appearance - by name or in-person - in their Voss storyline, and yet they can still acknowledge that they know who he is. Maybe his scenes were cut, I don't know. As not every Imperial has done the Voss arc, even back during 1.x due to how late it is in the game, his significance is often lost on players of both factions, which is a real shame.
The same can also be said of his Voss allies, who join your respective faction if you spare them. This contrasts the staunch Voss neutrality and, of course, nothing comes from it.
Players are also reunited with Cole Cantarus and General Hesker from their respective faction's Corellia arcs, who carry the teams into battle. Whilst Cole is relatively out-of-place, Hesker feels very welcome as he is an Imperial Guard; having him cart us into battle against Malgus is incredibly fitting. Also unlike Cole, players who missed the Corellia storyline should come to realise Hesker's role from the armour he wears, especially as New Imperial Guards appear throughout The False Emperor wearing the exact same gear.
Malgus and Serevin being who they are, they've recruited other aliens to their cause besides the Voss; this includes Anomid, Gamorrean, Kaleesh, Ongree (including the only named in-game Ongree force-wielder), Trandoshan, Ugnaught, and Weequay. On top of this, they've also managed to persuade the Mandalorians to join their side as well. The exact reason for this is not given, but it could have been an attempt to spurn Mandalore the Vindicated for siding with the "weaker" Sith Empire. Or maybe it's actually a reference to Shae Vizla from the Deceived trailer; she certainly shares the same helmet markings as Jindo Krey.
The overall story, regardless of faction, makes players feel important; Republic players convene with Supreme Commander Rans, General Elin Garza, and Grand Master Satele Shan, among others including - oh no... - Alauni from the Rift Alliance, whilst Imperials convene with Darths Ravage and Marr (although Marr is silent and out-of-the-way), Grand Moff Regus, and Mandalore the Vindicated, among others including Khomo Fett from Taris. There are some quite big names here!
Regardless of whichever faction you see as being the one who 'owns' this Flashpoint, it succeeds in changing how the Sith Empire is run. Not only is their fractured nature thrown into sharp relief, but a sympathy towards aliens is bred, and they're now allowed to join the Imperial military, intelligence, and government as a result. Considering that Malgus goes down in history as "Malgus the Betrayer", his actions have had a lot of repercussions which allowed the Empire to land back on its feet.
Oh, and it's of course mildly annoying that a small strike team is able to invade the Emperor's Space Station of all places; you'd think that after the last two times this has happened (once by players, once by Malgus), there would be much tighter security!
#1: Kaon Island
This is perhaps the only Flashpoint arc in the game to truly be self-contained. The others all have elements before (bankruptcy on Corellia, events on Ilum, and history, betrayal, capture, and freeing of Revan) or after (defeat of Revan) which add various levels of context, but this one not only has no prior context, it also provides context in of itself for a concurrent event. This being the Rakghoul plague which infested Tatooine due to a crashed shuttle. I sadly missed out on that event, but hey, it's not like the character I could have done it on would be around today anyway...
The story of this arc is that Sannus Lorrick, formerly Royal Science Advisor before being exiled from the Tion Hegemony due to his various illegal experiments, has created a strain of the Rakghoul Virus - under the pretence that he's actually working on a cure - so that it could cross the species barrier, with the aim of getting revenge before then conquering the galaxy. To this end, he distributes the plague across the worlds of the Tion Hegemony, as well as other worlds including Tatooine, causing worldwide chaos and panic as friends, relatives, and neighbours all fall foul of the virus and turn from snobby aristocrats into mindless rampaging beasts.
That's an improvement, surely!
Sannus Lorrick is completely insane, and the events of Lost Island are a perfect demonstration of his insanity. Not only does he turn numerous mercenaries and innumerable innocent creatures - including Cthon, Narvaxx, Reek, Savrip, Shaclaw, and even a Vorantikus - into Rakghouls, he also subjects his poor selfless colleagues to the virus when they heroically delete his vile research, before turning himself into a Rakghoul as a last-ditch attempt to kill you. More precisely, he actually believes that the Rakghoul virus is "evolution perfected", and he's doing the galaxy a favour by turning its denizens into Rakghouls. There is just no reasoning with this man!
The reason why neither of these Flashpoints entered into my individual favourites list is because the fights in both of these can still be slightly tedious in Hard Mode, particularly the KR-82 Expulser and Lorrick himself. In spite of this, it's worth mentioning that Lost Island is still a pinnacle of Flashpoint style in many people's eyes, including my own, as it initially had its own tier of Hard Mode difficulty before being significantly toned down; something many people still want to see done again. The overall story, however, is definitely the strongest, purely because it relies on no prior events to base its story off of; everything you need to know is outlined there and then.
Barring Czerka's position in last place, I find it amusing to consider that my order-of-preference for the story-arcs also adheres to the overall chronological order.
On a more general note, I think it's a shame that after the Rakghoul arc, Flashpoints regressed to only having three bosses, not including a potential Bonus Boss - neither of the Czerka ones even have a Bonus Boss! - and nowadays there seems to be far more story outside of the Flashpoint than there is inside of it.
Maybe this is just favouritism speaking.
In each of the top four arcs' cases, the preceding events only added context and the Flashpoints are able to carry themselves and provide the majority of the necessary story in of themselves. The Czerka Flashpoints have no real story besides Blys's attempts to halt our advance and our rushing to shut down the Vigilant. It's a really empty arc compared to the ones that came before it.
There's just one more post to do in this series, and that's focusing on my least favourite Flashpoints. I hope you guys are enjoying this series so far!