KotFE Retrospective: The HK Rewards Scheme

Hey, if BioWare consider this a "selling point" for subscribing to Knights of the Fallen Empire then I can technically include it in this series!

Unless you've been living under a rock the size of Lotek'k you've probably heard of the HK-themed Subscriber Rewards which have been plaguing gifted to Subscribers since February 2016 and culminating in the Bonus Chapter Shroud of Memory which was released on Wednesday.

Of course, I'll be looking at each month's Reward and offering my views on whether or not it was a 'worthy' gift. Back in December, when I wrote a post detailing my criticisms of the handling of certain aspects of the game at that point, I opined that there couldn't be that many gifts which they could realistically 'do' for a Droid. Nico has his coats and his blasters, and HK has his blunderbuss, I guess?

Anyway, on with the list!


Reward #1: HK-55 Companion
  • What: HK-55 brought back to life and made a permanent Companion
  • Subscription cut-off date: January 11th 2016
  • Reward date: February 9th 2016
The first HK reward was, sensibly, HK himself, and manifested itself in the form of an Alliance Alert where you reprogram an amnesiac HK-55 and either allow or forbid him to kill or destroy specific things when acting without your direct supervision.

This mission is interesting on the surface as we've never really been able to program any droid in this manner before, let alone an HK unit. The programming does, however, seem really too simple; are there really no situations whereby he'd be at odds with his programming even if programmed 'properly'?

More than this, though; HK-55 is a Bodyguard. This is alluded to at the end of the Alert when HK mentions that he's looking forward to protecting us... after we tell him what he can/can't kill like an Assassin Droid. Indeed, BioWare even referred to him as "the iconic Assassin Droid" since the rewards were first announced, which indicates that they were trying to make HK-55 seem more like the more popular HK-47 and HK-51 units rather than staying true to his actual purpose.

I'm not sure what else they could have done in a simple Alliance Alert, to be honest. It's not like we're being sent on a fully-immersive mission to go retrieve his broken chassis and dictate what purpose it would serve; that's already been done.

I still don't much like how they made his resurrection a Subscriber-only feature, though. As a Main Character, HK has a lot of precedent for showing up again for everybody. It would be like making Darth Marr's Force Ghost a Companion for Subscribers or ensuring it so that Lana could never leave or be killed if she's owned by a Subscriber; people left out by this would feel slighted. 

Is it a 'worthy' reward? In spite of my criticisms, yes... and no. The programming at the time had no overt 'purpose' other than completing the Alert and it is perhaps too simple to be believable, but having HK-55 return is a nice perk. I just wish that it wasn't handled in the way that it has been. 


Reward #2: HK-55-Inspired Jetpack
  • What: A Jetpack inspired by HK-55
  • Subscription cut-off date: February 1st 2016
  • Reward date: February 9th 2016
A Jetpack inspired by an HK unit has been done before: Star Wars Galaxies: Trial of Obi-Wan turned the chassis of the actual HK-47 into a jetpack (complete with the droid's consciousness), so this isn't anything particularly new.

The HK-55 jetpack seems to take inspiration from an HK droid's face; certainly you can make out roughly what looks like a modified version of the mouth grill. Otherwise, apart from the colour, it's fairly difficult to make out exactly how this Jetpack was 'inspired' by him. 

Functionally, the Jetpack is so far the only non-Cartel mount to possess a flourish; in this case, the two auxiliary engines activate and 'flip' down. There is no additional speed boost from having this third engine activated, but it certainly looks a lot nicer than it does with the engines in their standby positions.

There's not a lot else to this one.

Is it a 'worthy' reward? Yes, as an actual Jetpack mount was previously only accessible through either Nightmare Dread Fortress (Wings of the Architect) or the Cartel Market (the JT-2, J-37, and JT-9 Jetpacks), so to get a free one is very nice, particularly if you had been unable to acquire one of the previous ones. 


Reward #3: HK-55-Inspired Helmet
  • What: HK-55's decapitated head A Helmet inspired by HK-55's Head
  • Subscription cut-off date: March 1st 2016
  • Reward date: March 8th 2016
A helmet. In the style. Of an HK head. 

We've officially entered into the realms of crazy. Well, I've been there for a long time now, but even I see that this is a new low.

The HK-55 helmet is all kinds of wrong. It's creepy to wear a helmet which is in the style and colour of a deceased former ally, the helmet is ugly as sin, the chin opening is goofy, and it just makes no goddamn sense in-universe. Seriously, which company would decide that it would be the perfect idea to create a piece of armour styled after the HK units?

BioWare would, apparently.

Is it a 'worthy' reward? No. Not only is it ugly - it's currently guild policy to shout down anyone who even so much as puts it on their companion - but it's not even Bind to Legacy. Outside of Outfit Designer, it's literally useless to anyone who uses Legacy gear to 'properly' maintain their alts. At least Nico's coat was a free Legacy chestpiece!


Reward #4: HK-55-Inspired Weapons Set
  • What: HK-55's Vibrosword, Pistol, and Sniper Rifle
  • Subscription cut-off date: April 1st 2016
  • Reward date: April 5th 2016
The sniper rifle and pistol are actually fairly simple models with only the colour scheme potentially being linked back to HK-55. The Vibrosword's fancy clunky metal patterning is more reminiscent of HK's mouth grill which the Jetpack also attempted to stylise. 

I personally have no significant qualms with the Sniper Rifle, as I think it actually does look pretty decent. My only problem with it is the lack of a scope. The Pistol follows a set trend and is slightly too big, whilst the Vibrosword has all sorts of problems; the handle is too long and the way in-game characters wields it leaves a sizable enough gap for an opponent's blade to sneak its way in and cut the blade in twain. Sigh.

Functionally, these weapons are all Bind on Pickup, which, similar to the HK Helmet, significantly limits their potential.

Is it a 'worthy' reward? Yes and no. I do like the Sniper Rifle and the Pistol, even if the latter is still too large, but the Vibrosword is just... off. Additionally, for people who maintain alts through Legacy gear the pistol and sword are absolutely useless for Jedi, Sith, Smugglers, and Hunters. 


Reward #5: HK-55-Inspired Ship Droid Customization
  • What: C2-N2 and 2V-R8 Customizations with black/gold paintjobs and red lighting.
  • Subscription cut-off date: May 1st 2016
  • Reward date: May 3rd 2016
Customizations for 2V-R8 and C2-N2 aren't exactly what people would call 'stimulating stuff'. They're rarely used as actual Companions and people tend to dislike them because of their constant boot-licking prior to Fallen Empire.

In spite of this, they made these two customizations, and to my surprise, they're actually pretty damn decent for what they are. Whilst I'm not too fond of the way 2V is painted, C2's paintjob is really nice and I'd say that this is probably my favourite customization for him.

Are they 'worthy' rewards? Of course not. 2V and C2 see such little usage compared to other Companions that giving them a special customization just feels wrong. At the same time, I do still quite like C2's. It's not perfect, but it does look nice.


Reward #6: HK-55 Victory Stronghold Decoration
  • What: HK-55 Poster Decoration
  • Subscription cut-off date: July 1st 2016
  • Reward date: July 26 2016
After a month where we actually skipped an HK Reward in favour of the Eternal Empire Patroller Mount, the last of the miniature Rewards stopped with a Decoration.

I must admit that if you'd have told me that a Decoration of HK-55 was on its way, I would have assumed this to be a statue, so a poster was an... interesting... reward to receive instead. 

As a poster, this one isn't too bad. It's got some nice statements in Aurebesh surrounding HK which translate as "This droid is your friend; he fights for meatbags". 

The really interesting thing is that the pictured reward on the SWtOR website actually depicts the artwork from a second HK poster; Victory Protocols Activated, which is apparently going to be a future Cantina reward. 

Is it a 'worthy' reward? It depends. A Decoration is a Decoration; if you wanted a fun little poster to put up somewhere then this is probably going to have fit quite nicely with your intentions, and of course it grants delicious Prestige regardless, but if you don't care for or own a Stronghold then this holds no value whatsoever. I would say that this is the most 'neutral' Reward.


Reward #7: Shroud of Memory
  • What: Bonus Chapter for Knights of the Fallen Empire
  • Subscription cut-off date: January 11th through August 1st 
  • Reward date: September 7th
"Interjection: Silence, Meatbags!"
"Wrong HK Unit, Kris..."
Besides HK-55 and the Jetpack, this is one of the rewards which we knew about right at the start of the rewards program. This would be the first time that we'd be able to play as a different character than our own, something which has been seen in other RPGs including those from BioWare in the past.

This drew criticisms immediately, as up until this point, the entire story of Knights of the Fallen Empire has been about the Outlander, and suddenly the opportunity to play as an entirely separate character would come about. Conflict of purpose is rarely a good thing.

I must admit that throughout these last few months, I've been maintaining my optimism. I was curious to see how they handled playing as a different character in this game, and if it worked out, maybe it could be done again in the future. As much as I despise these two characters, it would be interesting to see things from either Lana or Theron's perspectives in the years prior to our release, for example, but I sincerely doubt this will ever happen.

So, the big day came and immediately there was confusion about how to access it. The mail stated that the mission was automatically added to our mission logs, which lead several to believe that either BioWare broke something yet again or they had missed out without realising it. However, a post on the forums quickly cleared things up and the fault in the mail was acknowledged; to start it, you actually had to go via your ship's Mission Console.

To get the most negative thing out of the way first, the combat was seriously buggy in this Chapter at the start. There was significant lag on the spawned enemies, and they'd often rubber-band back into their spawning positions even if they came to stand several metres away from that original position. HK's abilities were also annoyingly slow to activate, to the extent that you'd get nice and set up, ready to kill one particular enemy, before you got yanked away by another who you hadn't even noticed.

Thankfully, they managed to fix this within a couple of hours and without needing a patch. Unrestricted, HK-55 is really fun to play as, and I for one wouldn't mind putting in some good time 'optimising' a rotation based on these skills.

Everything else, however, is fascinating.

I absolutely adored how HK-55 received predecessor HK-51's combat abilities, and some received an added twist. The Assassinate ability instantly reset if it killed an enemy (it isn't a one-shot like before), his leap-away leaves a stunning mine in its wake, and his Rail Blast now propels an enemy backwards, roots it, and sets fire to it.
I simultaneously sympathise with and despise this character. Another cyborg (and sorta purple) Twi'lek? Damn you, BioWare!
The NPCs you directly interact with in the Chapter are also fairly memorable. There's Jollo, a delightful blind Twi'lek (with a truly adorable seeing-eye Mouse Droid) who's far too happy to have been blinded in service to the Shroud; there's Malforia, an Exarch who is actually somewhat reasonable; and finally, there's Z0-0M, or "Zeeyo". Initially a childlike droid which suffers from annoying reboots and memory refreshes, it's eventually revealed that this droid is more sinister than she appears to be...

There are other 'minor' NPCs to encounter as well. The Shroud is revealed to keep duplicates of various droids' datacores to access crucial information, with such droids ranging from nameless protocol and Astromech droids to individuals such as 2V-R8 and HK-47. This does make a lot of sense (well, perhaps not 2V), since The Shroud must get his vast stores of information from somewhere, and it's often far simpler to extract information from a programmable droid core than it is an organic being.
"Gee, HK, I guess that you could say that you got ahead of yourself!"
"Disownment: I don't know her."
Interestingly, the HK-47 duplicate you encounter makes the first in-game reference to how much time has passed between the Foundry and the start of Knights of the Fallen Empire. Since he was captured en route to the Foundry "six years ago", everything from this point forwards including the creation of the New Empire, rise of the Hutt Cartel, Dread War, assault on Kuat, revenge of the Revanites, and the invasion of the Zakuul Twins takes place all within one in-game year.

Driving all of this, as mentioned above, is the intergalactic villain known as The Shroud. He's been around before, of course, and it's excellent to see him again. He's not actually present in his own base - a station embedded on the sea bed beneath a volcano - as he's on Odessen; he's walking past people like Lana, Theron (who apparently had previously encountered the Shroud; how blind is he?) and Hylo to plant bombs on computers, structural supports, and even the player's ship.

How dare he!

Because of the nature of this Chapter and how it doesn't tie in to anything else at all in the long run, I have few qualms about entering spoiler territory and I really want to analyse this here and now without needing to return to it, so from this point forth, spoilers inbound.
"Cliched Intimidation: This space station ain't big enough for the two of us."
"Ooh, ooh! I can make it three of you, then it will be even smaller!"
"Dismissal: I'd rather you didn't."
The final boss of this Chapter is... HK-55! Or rather, a pristine duplicate. He shares some of HK's abilities (which is appropriate) and is a fairly interesting fight with stuns and armour-damage that can only be negated through calling on your friendly neighbourhood Zeeyo. However, he reveals that prior to Zeeyo's memory issues, she was in-leagues with the Shroud to capture HK and copy his memory core.

This isn't the only twist in the tale; when you get back to the Odessen base, The Shroud suddenly pales when he sees that Zeeyo has left the base. It is revealed that he is actually the fifty-first person 'playing' the role of The Shroud, whose true identity is then revealed as none other than Z0-0M before she had the incident. Since the memories from her time as The Shroud have been completely obliterated, Z0-0M is free to live a free life whilst the galaxy's greatest spy disappears forever into obscurity. 

Yes, The Shroud - the galaxy's greatest criminal mastermind - has been a feminine-programmed replicator droid this entire time with proxies acting as "his" true personage. I do have to say, I think that this is a fitting revelation, since not even The Shroud's best lieutenants would have been aware of who was really pulling their strings, and it even explains how "he" has been able to constantly outlive "his" enemies.

She's also rather sadistic, since she willingly gives her 'duplicates' other replicator droids based on her image which are used as expendable bodyguards. I mean, that's an entirely new low right here. Also, what is it with droids in SWtOR and their desires to take over the galaxy? First Mentor, then SCORPIO, now it's The Shroud as well!

I'll certainly be keeping a closer eye on T7-O1 from now on...

At the same time, though, this revelation is handled in a very ill-fitting manner. The once entirely serious portrayal by the Shroud's 'duplicate' (a certain holo-log notwithstanding) suddenly turns into one of a pathetic and whimpering shell of itself when he is confronted on Odessen. Then of course there's the notion that the real Shroud fell victim to an accidental energy surge which purges all of her memories and reduces her basically to an overenthusiastic child.

Although this fate is in some ways fitting in its own right as well, given that The Shroud has codewords implanted in his lieutenants which completely erase their memories, which is of course seen used by Imperials on Evie Bo. The Shroud seems to have suffered even worse than Bo in this regard, though, since at least she kept her maturity...!

Furthermore, I don't think this reveal should have been included in a Bonus Chapter, particularly as The Shroud is someone who everyone can get involved with through the Macrobinocular questline. It's a rather wasteful reveal when all is said and done. This is, after all, The Shroud's definitive final farewell and it's something which not everyone who did the original questline can ever experience. This seems so very wrong.

That said, I'm a bit of a sucker for the whole role-reversal and mind/memory-manipulation type scenarios so maybe I have some sort of favourable bias towards this outcome. It's also why the second Chapter of the Agent story is one of my favourites.

Anyway, that's the story done. What else was interesting?
"Wow! So eerie!"
The settings were absolutely fantastic. Because, of course, both HK and Zeeyo are droids there's a lot more which can be done. Right at the start, Zeeyo comments on how the temperature is 300 degrees - presumably in Fahrenheit - and how Organics would be unable to cope. Then, there's a section where you actually go underwater (more of this, please!), which is immediately followed by your traversing the surface of an asteroid in a thin atmosphere.

Whilst it is unlikely that it will ever have a meaningful impact elsewhere, your programming of HK-55 in Arma Rasa actually does have some impact here. Jollo, Malforia, and "The Shroud" all fulfil certain criteria which you and HK analysed previously, with Jollo and Malforia counting as unarmed enemies and "The Shroud" a surrendered enemy, respectively. Depending on whether or not you told HK that he could kill the above enemies, he may or may not be able to actually take the decision to kill the three specific individuals.
"Indignation: I thought we agreed; no more sound effects?"
Whilst I don't know exactly what causes a loophole whereby Malforia can die even if Jollo is spared for the same reason, there is one notable loophole which HK can always find regarding "The Shroud". Whilst he is unable to kill a surrendered enemy, he still executes him because he considers his outfit "highly offensive". Poor guy!

The really nice thing about sparing Jollo is that you actually receive him as a Decoration when Aygo sweeps out The Shroud's hideout and finds him locked up in a cupboard, putting his services towards the Alliance. My one criticism with this is that he isn't using the (in)famous vibro-mop, but a simple 'standard' mop instead.

Maybe the vibro-mop is too dangerous to give to such an obviously devious fellow.

There is a fair bit of humour present throughout, which is nice to see, and it mainly all revolves around Z0-0M.

Zeeyo makes a lot of assumptions about the situation or her suggested role, even going so far as to growl menacingly when prompted. She is sadly very naive, but given that she keeps on rebooting and forgetting that she was ever activated this is perhaps understandable to a certain extent. Perhaps the 'worst' extension of this occurs when HK slaps her and this causes a hard-reboot. Because physical abuse resulting in memory loss is funny!


It would have been nice if it was revealed that this was all a ploy or if she had fixed herself by the end so that she wouldn't lose any more memories, but a running joke such as this just has to be pushed to its limits, doesn't it...?

"Exasperation: It's just one of those days..."
That said, once she realises that she's a replicator droid, there is an amusing scene where she imitates both HK-55 and Exarch Malforia. Malforia's voice actress must have had a fair bit of fun mocking her own character as Zeeyo!

Throughout the Chapter as a whole, her character traits can earn a lot of remarks - including encouraging, sarcastic, derogatory, or just plain patronising - from the player as HK, which is of course excellent. His cynical view of the galaxy is an excellent contrast to the happy-go-lucky Zeeyo, which is very reminiscent of Marlin and Dory from Finding Nemo. Fun fact: this film was actually one of the inspirations for this Chapter.

One of the more amusing parts is in the skyhook to the asteroid base if you've brought Malforia with you. She begins talking about her destiny, riding a space ladder with a metal assassin which brings her to her "greatest test". After an interesting bit of chatter where HK can debate how destiny contrasts with the "freedom" for Meatbags to do as they please, she prepares to face her test...
... Only to be immediately pulled out of the lift to her death when the doors open (complete with a *ding* sound effect) as the atmosphere is just that thin.
The main character of KotFE returns! The Outlander is here, too.
At the end of it all, and after the Shroud is either knocked out or killed, HK is confronted by Lana, Theron, and your character. Sadly, you never get the chance to directly interact with your own character as HK, which would have been a very nice touch, but I'll take what we got.

In conclusion, then, the Chapter definitely shines. It's interesting and entertaining, and there are various things which I'd love to see repeated. I don't care if we need to use a diving suit (actually, I would if it was as slow as the one in KotOR), but I absolutely insist that we need to go back underwater!

Plus, brand-new territory also brings with it brand-new creatures! I may have spent twenty minutes running around the sea floor trying to document all of these...
"Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!"
"Resignation: I don't even wish to comment anymore."
Three of the unidentified fish models you can find swimming around the underwater biome are brand-new (and incredibly derpy), whilst the biggest fish of the lot, the Ray Shark, uses the model of the Baspoor Glider from Belsavis. It's also notoriously difficult to get a good screenshot of. I'm quite disappointed that there wasn't an updated model for the Firaxa, as I'd love to fight one properly without a cumbersome diving suit at some point...

And, yes, that one fish does have nostrils.

Is Shroud of Memory a 'worthy' reward? Too much so. This is some pretty serious stuff to make only available for subscribers, particularly given the history of its main antagonist (or supporting protagonist...?). Additionally, this means that people who got every reward also got two Companions out of the entire ordeal, which is nice but again perhaps too much to keep it from being given to the general public. All the same, this Chapter is definitely worthwhile and very nearly makes up for all the rubbish rewards!

I'm also looking forward to the next opportunity to play as another character. If this was an 'experiment' then it could feasibly occur a couple of times in the main story of Eternal Throne, let alone any other potential bonus Chapters. Certainly, playing as another character than our own actually added to the investment in this Chapter, which is excellent.

As a further point of note, Z0-0M actually works a little bit differently to other Companions; whilst the standard periodic Sunder ability works its magic in the background and allows them to do other things, the equivalent for Zeeyo is actually a casted and very hard-hitting ability (33,228 at Influence Rank 50) over 4 seconds.

She also has a second Cleanse Healing ability alongside Kolto Drip. Alleviating Augments heals for an incredibly high amount (42,187 at Influence Rank 50) over 4 seconds whilst also cleansing the target. This is in place of the instant "burst" Heal, Kolto Quick Scan, which the tooltip says heals for 8,211 - 8,942 on a Companion of the same Influence Rank.

Oh, and she also has an AoE Heal.

I'm going to experiment and see how this compares to other Companions, because this is a lot of burst potential right here. Indeed, she could now be the outright best Companion in the game because of this, which isn't particularly... fair...


Cancelled Rewards

According to BioWare, they had planned for further rewards but negative feedback to the HK Reward Scheme led to their being scrapped. The only officially revealed one was a follow-up to the weapons set bringing with it an Assault Cannon, Blaster Rifle, and Electrostaff, but there is a further one which has only been revealed by Data-Mining.

Kolto Ambush was going to be a regeneration item, and it entailed HK-55 lining you up in his sights whilst you regained Health. As ridiculous as this sounds, I'm curious to know exactly what the animation entailed. The name "Kolto Ambush" implies that he would have shot you with Kolto (Mercenaries hate him) but it doesn't explicitly say this in the tooltip...



  • Good rewards: HK-55 Companion, HK-55-Inspired Jetpack Shroud of Memory
  • "Neutral" rewards: HK-55 Victory Stronghold Decoration
  • "Meh" rewards: HK-55-Inspired Weapons Set, HK-55-Inspired Ship Droid Customization
  • Bad rewards: HK-55-Inspired Helmet
I definitely think that the best rewards were the bookends of the entire scheme. HK-55 being resurrected is an absolute joy and the HK Chapter is actually one of the most involving from the entirety of the last year. This isn't exactly a good thing to be saying, though, as one would hope that a simple Interlude couldn't even begin to compare to the main events. The Jetpack was also a very nice reward to receive for merely the second one along.

As mentioned, the Decoration can neither be classed as either good nor bad since if you have a Stronghold it can be used for Prestige even without placing it, whilst it's only pointless if you don't even own a Stronghold to begin with.

Whilst I don't particularly like the Weapons or the Ship Droid Customizations as a whole, I can't deny that there are people out there who would actually use these "unironically". Heck, even I appreciate the C2 Customization and Sniper Rifle. 

The Helmet is undoubtedly the worst reward here. I don't think anyone should even attempt to use this as a serious piece of armour, as it looks creepy, it's tacky, and it doesn't look like the most secure helmet available...

If they do do future Subscriber Rewards (and I hope they do, if more things like Shroud of Memory are the result) I only hope that it's far better handled. Resurrecting a main character and then dedicating an hours' worth of content to them and only for Subscribers feels like such a waste of potential, and this isn't even considering the filler fluff.

At the end, though, the HK rewards are definitely memorable, even if mainly for the wrong reasons!


  1. Love the fish pictures! :D

    The weapon set actually really annoyed me because for the vast majority of my characters it's just a bunch of junk since they can't use them. I've warmed up to it a bit since giving the sniper rifle to my DvL sniper, the blasters to my DvL merc and the blade (temporarily) to my DvL guardian.

    After that I was actually really pleased with the ship droid customisations - at least they are something every character can use.

    1. Yeah, those fish are rather fascinating, are they not? :D
      I'm really fond of the Angel Fish-type, although Derp of the Deep and Scaly Nostrils leave a lot to be desired...

      True; I didn't think to approach the weapons from the perspective of a Class that couldn't really use them. I focus more on the long-term gain on the immediate and short-term. :P

  2. The hopeful cynic in me notes that "The Shroud" might not have an objection to backing up their memory core and keeping spare replicator droids squirreled away someplace in case of emergency.... (First law of resurrections meets actually a doombot - see TVTropes for definitions and prepare to lose All The Time You Have). Even if the Shroud was not willing to scatter them across the galaxy, keeping a backup to release upon the base self-destruct being activated would fit what we know about the Shroud. (Crazy-prepared, megalomaniac, etc).

    I've already mentioned that I thought the bonus chapter was too big/too important to be kept locked away; it's the one "bonus" that I would accept them making available later. Of course, you'd have to make Arma Rasa available as well, and I'm OK with that.