Because I seem to have locked myself into a rut with this system when it comes to analysis - there's yet another pair of these posts coming up when it's time to look at the Chapters - I'll be dedicating two posts to these Alerts; the first will look at my personal favourites, and the second of course will look at my least favourites.
So, on with the list!
Honourable Mention: Mixological Profiling
As much as I do love this mission, I can't really include it in the official "top 5" list because not everybody had access to it.
This was the mission which was associated with recruiting legendary Gunslinger and daring-do pilot Nico Okarr into our Alliance. As part of this, rather than testing our mettle with a race or a quickdraw shootout, the slightly intoxicated Okarr challenges us to brew a tipple of our choosing, using a series of ingredients which are strewn all over the bar. Rather sloppy management, there...
It seems strange to say that this is how Nico tested our worth, given that his love of alcohol is something which never came across visually until this moment. Indeed, his original appearance in the Return trailer only focuses on how he's a bit of a reckless pilot yet someone who always delivers the goods in his rather fast ship. It was only in the online blog story Vacation that Nico's doing on alcohol became a 'thing', as he is described as smelling stronger than the contents of a bottle from which he is drinking.
Regardless of how developments have taken a strange turn - not that this hasn't happened before for certain characters from the CG trailers - chatting with Nico is rather interesting, and his somehow looking fresh-faced and youthful despite being chronologically in his 70s is laughed away as being insignificant to the here-and-now. Which it is; Nico is still obviously revered as a legend as even Hylo Visz remarks on his skills.
Plus, having a Companion voiced by John DiMaggio is never a bad thing in my books. I just wish that we could have ambient conversations with him as with any other Companion. Sigh.
# 5: Bonds of Duty
The most recent (and for the foreseeable future, last) Alliance Alert had us joining up with Provost Marshal Fideltin Rusk and helping him to track down and eliminate members of the Black Sun on Nar Shaddaa. They've made the move from Coruscant to appease the Empire.
This was the third mission after Qyzen and Blizz where we had to scavenge around a set area to find mission items to get the respective Companion to Influence 10. Unlike Qyzen and Blizz, however, you can use Influence with an Alliance Specialist - in this case, Hylo Visz - to help count towards Rusk's own Influence. It can only be done once, but it makes farming the rest of the materials much quicker.
Heck, even the farming of these materials is quicker! The problem is that a very strong case of "if you can" applies - or used to apply - to this aspect, since if you can find a crate which nobody is standing by you can farm this as they do refill relatively quickly, and if you can find a group of mobs which nobody else is by, then you can kill them and hope to get some of the required drops. Since the mission came out and people have done it once for a certain result, the competition has since dropped so it should be very quick nowadays.
Long story short: if there are very few people in the vicinity, this is undoubtedly the quickest of the three farming Alerts.
This Alert is also unique, in that it is currently the only mission to feature not one but two returning Companions. The leader of the Black Sun Gang is none other than the universally-despised walking tumour who not even Neil Kaplan can make endearing; Skadge! Whilst I believe there is the opportunity to get both Rusk and Skadge, I think it's fairly safe to assume that most people who are well-versed with the wider game chose the Dark Side option of killing Skadge without a second thought.
This also does mean that there is the opportunity to betray and kill Rusk instead, thus only acquiring Skadge. This is just crazy talk, and something which only Achievement hunters would be willing to do.
I'll go make my Sage hang her head in shame now.
I'm including this one in the list because of its unique value of potentially having to choose between two actual Companions; something similar was done with Broonmark, whereby you could choose between him - in a move ill-advised by everybody - or a Wookiee senator who could open trade routes and bring other such benefits to the Alliance, but of course the senator is not an actual Companion.
Bowdaar would get jealous.
# 4: Shining in the Darkness
What do you do with a Jedi who can't even use the Force? Recruit him and use his unique perspective to your advantage, of course!
Smugglers will of course have come across the failed Jedi Guss Tuno in their travels; a hapless Mon Calamari who would far rather cheat his way to victory than do things the hard way. Yet here he is, actually giving this "Jedi lark" a proper serious go. Good on him!
The problem with this is that Guss, not actually being able to harness the Force, isn't making any progress whatsoever with whatever trials his devious 'master' sets him. It is our goal, therefore, to help him succeed in passing the trial of acquiring a free bottle of Tarisian Ale.
On the surface, this one isn't much; you take Guss to a series of shops and advise him on what he must do to succeed. This is in itself, however, really interesting, since Jedi characters can tell him what they would do in that situation - focus and be calm, for example - whilst more sceptical characters can simply advise him to be himself, to resort to violence, or even to buy the Ale and pretend to have passed.
I find it really amusing to consider a Jedi character being really out-of-their-depths when everything which they've been taught as being "the Jedi way" just fails for Guss; indeed, he's only able to succeed when told to be himself and not worry about any of the Force nonsense. This entire Alert feels very much like a criticism of the strict path of the Jedi and presents a view that this isn't what always results in success.
Guss's "Force Master" Isaac embodies this perfectly. He is currently the only prominent example of a Jedi who encourages Force-Sensitives to follow their own path rather than indulge in tradition, and this is something which I hope crops up again in the future. Certainly, it would be interesting to see the more "traditional" Force Companions react to this character.
It may not be the most exciting mission, but it provides a unique insight into the 'underbelly' of the Jedi world, as well as being a semi-decent expansion upon Guss's Companion storyline. I still find it strange that, despite not being able to demonstrate full use of the Force, he can still heal with Force Powers. It would have been more interesting, perhaps, if he'd have still kept his lightsaber but only had Tech abilities.
# 3: Death Before Dishonour
This one starts out fairly ambiguously.
Sana-Rae has sensed a disturbance in her visions, and sends you to Ilum to aid a mining colony whose members are slowly but surely disappearing without due reason. After trying - and failing - to help "Lana Beniko #37", Anna, escape from a nearby pursuant who is attacking her mining-shaft, you come face-to-face with the Kaleesh Sith Lord, Xalek.
Xalek's reason for hunting these miners down is very simple; his father's shrine has been disturbed by their drilling, and in a righteous fury he perceives their deaths as being the only thing that will restore his father to godhood. This is a nice bonus for Inquisitors, who may remember that they actually allowed Xalek to bury his father on the planet, and it's excellent to see this paid homage to here.
Due to his sense of honour, Xalek can be placated simply by requesting that the miners build Xalek Sr. (his real name is unknown but you can guarantee that it will be as unpronounceable as his son's full name of Xivhkalrainik) a new shrine, although this decision can still result in Xalek being arrested or allowed to leave unharmed instead of being recruited.
Or there's the option to just outright kill him. Inquisitors get another nice bonus of their kill dialogue being to the effect of "You have failed me for the last time, Apprentice".
Perhaps the most interesting thing here is Sana's reaction if you return without Xalek. She immediately notes that we have returned without him; this indicates that she does not care for the end result excepting that Xalek ends up joining the enclave. Say what you will about Sana-Rae, but she can be quite sadistic given the chance!
Another case of trawling across the world, but it's still got quite an interesting result either way, as well as being excellent closure to Xalek's Companion Storyline.
# 2: Fighting Power with Knowledge
I might have a slight bias toward this one...
This mission requires us to meet up with Talos Drellik and his excavation team as they continue their attempt to unearth more of Yavin IV's dark secrets. Indeed, for some time until quite recently, it seems their efforts proved too successful as the gigantic purple swirling vortex of doom which is the Ancient Threat decided that it didn't take kindly to people poking around near its hidey-hole and emerged to make its feelings known.
It has since been taken to counselling by the small golden tranquil vortex of understanding.
All Talos asks us to do is have us escort him around the various relic sites and analyse the findings; he finds several items which are out of place and even out of time, since several artefacts aren't even contemporary with current understanding of Massassi culture. One of the pieces which needs to be checked is a far-flung remnant from the Tower of Sacrifice's Machine Core. Seriously, we can't even see the actual Tower from the main area of Yavin (something which I'm really disappointed by), so it was clearly a very powerful explosion.
Which apparently an eight-man group can take at point-blank-range and still survive...
Perplexities aside, this Alert is nice and simple, gigantic purple swirling vertices of doom notwithstanding. You run around, click on a few things, and you're done. You don't even need to turn in any Archaeology materials into him for Influence, which actually seems really strange, considering...
The only really negative thing that I have to say about this mission is that maybe Talos doesn't really suit Doctor Oggurobb's needs. The good Doctor is more of an inventor, somebody who creates art through technological innovations alone. Talos is an Archaeologist, and more of a thinker than an actual creator, and although he appreciates what the good Doctor can do, he's not as well-suited to being in his laboratory as, say, Yuun and eventually Tharan are. Literally the only thing Talos is directly useful to Oggurobb for is providing a thesis on Dashades which then later leads to the discovery of an actual Dashade.
On the other hand, Talos is still as enthusiastic and passionate about archaeology as ever, which is, as always, fantastic to see. Did I mention that I had a bias towards him yet?
# 1: A Kindly Old Monster
An old Imperial spymaster who's living in retirement with rakghouls crawling all over his lawn? This can't go wrong at all!
This is of course the mission to recruit former Fixer Fifteen, Eckard Lokin, who decided that Cipher Nine's disappearance was the last straw which drives him away from the dangerous world of Imperial/Sith Intelligence and into a peaceful retirement on Alderaan. As a nice little tidbit for Agents, he reveals that he has started drinking a toast to Cipher Nine as he had already been doing for Cipher Twelve.
This peaceful retirement is interrupted, however, when his work on the Rakghoul virus starts turning against him; without the proper materials needed to synthesise a cure, he will shortly die.
It is this state in which we find him, and regardless of how well the introduction goes he sends us off to acquire materials. These range from Grade 8 Biochem and Diplomacy materials to Rakghoul Event currencies to the special drop from The Eyeless, the Barnacle of The Eyeless. This last one does have an Achievement tied to it.
Outside of the Continuing Comfort mission for C2-N2, this Alert is the only time where you are required to turn in actual crafting materials to the respective Companion. This makes it undoubtedly the easiest 'farming' in the game for prolific Bioanalysts and wealthy players, but just as tedious as Qyzen on Hoth alone - if not more - for those who don't have the time nor money to procure these mats at a whim.
Once this is done, we then need to go into the actual Rakghoul Tunnels and acquire some genetic specimens. Since this can only be done when T.H.O.R.N's spike is in-situ, this of course means that this Companion can only be acquired during a certain period in any one month. We will have none of those jokes here, thank you.
Finally, in a move which confuses many a new player, we need to retrieve a sample of the Rakghoul virus from one of Lorrick's specialised specimens from the Sarlacc pit on Tatooine.
For those uninitiated with the original Rakghoul Event, it featured three Rakghoul World Bosses; the Wraid Trapjaw became infected with the Rakghoul Plague, there was an infected Bantha named Urtagh in Outlaw's Den, and finally there was the unwitting instigator of the outbreak, Zama Brak, who made his entrance by leaping dramatically from the Sarlacc pit when a nearby escape pod was interacted with.
It's a shame that there wasn't anything extra to collect from the Stardream alongside this, really.
Returning to Lokin yields one of two potential outcomes; if you'd have been jovial and kind to him, he happily goes to Odessen, bringing one of his Raklings with him (that doesn't sound bad!), whereas if you had drawn your weapon on him and incurred the wrath of his "harmless" Rakghouls, he is more inclined to disappear completely.
If he does go to Odessen, you'll find Aygo and Oggurobb 'passively' arguing about who gets him. By this, I mean that of course neither of them move from their positions and send you to talk things over instead. I haven't yet checked to see whether Lokin moves to Oggurobb's lab if you do hand him over to the good Doctor...
I'm fond of this Alert because, when all is said and done, Lokin is probably one of my favourite Companions in the entire game. He's charming and polite on the surface, but deep down is potentially one of the most dangerous and subversive characters you're likely to find. Letting this chap loose without any tabs on him is seriously unwise. From a mechanics point-of-view, it's nice to see that he actually transforms into a Rakghoul in his DPS and Tank stances.
Additionally, tying a separate mission into an associated in-game Event is an absolutely fantastic idea, and it was wonderful to see a little callback to Sannus Lorrick and the original Rakghoul Event on Tatooine as well.
Yes, gathering all the mats can be expensive, but Lokin is definitely worth it in my view. He's also the only Alliance Recruit so far to receive a nod in an actual Chapter, as Agents can mention him to Kaliyo if he has been recruited before Chapter X: Anarchy in Paradise is started.
There is an interesting conundrum with several of these Alliance Alerts; very few of them are actually worth doing for the play value. The most intensive thing you need to do for most of these is just simply travel and let the story tell you what else is needed. Indeed, these are perhaps some of the most story-driven Alerts you can find with nothing to really 'spice it up'.
Perhaps this is a good thing, as some of these more 'intensive' Alerts sadly have ended up being more tedious than intended. That's for another post, though!