Looking to the Future: The Role of the Alliance and the Stability of Leadership [Potential Spoilers]

The information given to us surrounding 5.10 provides a great amount of food for thought, even from what little we actually have. The basic summary of all we know for sure is that the player gets to travel to Ossus to help their original faction and that this is most likely the final instalment of story we'll be getting in 5.0.

From here there are two major questions which this brief summary raise:
  1. How exactly does the Alliance as a whole feature in all of this?
  2. Will this story update attempt to remedy the determinant leadership situation we've seen since 5.2?
Both of these are important not just for 5.10 but for any subsequent story as a whole. It is logical to assume that Ossus is essentially a 'teaser' for 6.0 in its entirety: the story should follow an identical structure to the form that the one on Ossus takes. As such, it ideally needs to establish the Alliance and both the Empire and Republic in a 'concrete' form to give as strong an impression about how 6.0 will start as possible.

While this is mostly conjecture, it is worth noting that this post will contain definite spoilers, particularly in the second section. If anyone reading this has yet to do the Iokath story or wants to avoid learning any names for 5.10 I would advise only reading the first section.


The Role of the Alliance

By the time 5.10 launches, the Alliance will have been in-situ for the past three-and-one-sixth years. Pretty much throughout this time, the player character has gotten used to being top-dog and leading a bunch of people in changing the course of the galaxy. 

With regards to introducing the Alliance to a faction-differentiating storyline there are two potential outcomes.

First, the Alliance and its Commander are absorbed into one of the factions. They get to do some things of note, but are otherwise nothing special. The Alliance ceases to exist, "Commander" just becomes a mocking title, and nothing remains of them save for scars and the rusting husk that used to be Odessen. Companions who originally came from the non-aligned faction would be encouraged to slip back to their original homes. 

Second, the Alliance becomes an ally of a specific faction. The Commander is treated as the equivalent of a ViP and gets involved in pretty much everything, including some impactful decisions. Odessen remains as their base-of-operations, the Alliance is still a more-or-less detached entity, and the position and title of Commander remain intact. This also allows for Companions from either faction to more-or-less happily exist within the Alliance as they do presently.

The first outcome is the easiest to align with how the game used to be. It didn't matter what Class you were outside of your own unique perspective, and the overall events of the galaxy didn't change as most of what you could change was limited to only one planet. 

The second outcome is similar to where we're at now. The Alliance maintains its presence and influence and has the potential to change several things about how the galaxy 'runs'. We've already seen just what the Alliance could have changed in the past, and I'll be touching on this a bit later on in the second section.

These two different outcomes are both at odds with each other. In one, the Alliance loses its specialness and the player just goes back to being a normal person. The other still keeps the player in a position of importance, or as much importance as the story can allow following on from recent events.

Something which added to the original base game's depth was that all Classes were known to be active. The storylines happened pretty much in-sync with each other and as all eight characters are special cases in their own right it's fairly easy to align how they co-operated at various instances. 4.0 wrote itself into a corner for all future storylines by writing all of the other Classes out. The only Class that remains knowingly active to this day is the one that becomes the Outlander.

This is problematic since, as we all know, all Classes see a storyline which sees them become the Outlander and eventually the Alliance Commander. This then creates an interesting scenario where certain Classes are seen to work 'better' in this role than others. BioWare have used the Knight as the Commander in all the trailers but I've seen people present very good cases for the Warrior, Consular, Agent, and Inquisitor being the Commander instead.

This story update will be the first update since 2013 to actually incorporate the non-choice 'fact' about our factions into a unique perspective which our characters see. For a game which had spent the past four - almost five - years giving everyone an identical perspective, and three of those years introducing a reliance on choices, this is a massive change. As such, we don't know exactly how BioWare will incorporate the factions into anything as from 2013 onwards the story has only ever treated faction as a by-the-by point.

The last time we really saw any story differences in the game was during Shadow of Revan, and even then this is extremely limited. Some scenes were animated and voiced slightly differently and one mission took place in one of two orders depending on which faction you were, but the events as a whole ended up being identical across the board. You went to the same locations, fought (mostly) the same bad guys, and nothing else beyond that really mattered.


Throughout the past year we've had quite a few Companions return who have made it abundantly clear that they never want to go back to their original faction. At first I justified this to myself because at the time only we as players knew that's where the story was in fact taking us, but none of our characters could possibly have done. So why did the writers make these characters express a firm disavowal of their home faction when they surely understood that we as players already knew what the future held?

On a surprisingly related note, a couple of months ago PvP turned from being faction-exclusive to being entirely cross-faction. Again, I was rather miffed with this because we were by this time confirmed to be heading back to the faction vs. faction conflict and it would be very odd to just be fighting alongside our bitter enemies. How could one explain it in-universe? Out-of-universe it can at least be justified as being a way of improving the speed of queue-pops, but you can't exactly use that excuse in-character!
"Why are you here, Republic scum?"
"Because the Republic wanted this battle to begin quicker, so they thought it would be best to post me to fight alongside you guys!"
"... They've signed your death warrant, kid."
The most likely reason why they wrote those Companions as wanting to be done with their original faction and why PvP can be in-universe justified as being cross-faction is because we're not going back. At the end of the day, the Alliance will be as separate as it ever was. Companions abandoning their factions won't feel betrayed by the Commander's decisions and Warzones can continue being Alliance war-games. It fits in more ways than I want to admit.

Even if characters could actually join the opposite faction, this creates even more lore issues with cross-faction PvP as you could support the opposite faction and be teamed with players who now support your original faction despite originally coming from the other. Cross-faction within cross-faction.

An additional factor into all of this is Paxton Rall, the to-be-officially-announced promotional Companion. He had an Achievement for speaking to him in various Cantinas across the galaxy, but there is one place he can be found which isn't included in that Achievement. Odessen. It is logical to assume that he will be picked up there, and if Odessen still functions as the neutral base-of-operations in 6.0 then that, to me, shows that the Alliance will not be as dead-and-buried as a lot of people - including myself - want it to be. 

Bringing this back to the main-point, if these points truly are pointing to the fact that the Alliance is maintaining its individuality there is no way the stories can align completely. The Alliance is too powerful to suddenly justify how both opposite factions mysteriously acquire a powerful enough ally to undo all of the Commander's hard work for their faction.

I say that knowing full well that's a point I'll be undermining in some way in the subsequent section. I'll remedy this discrepancy for now by saying that I can possibly justify this outcome for one faction, but not for the other.

Going forward, this likely means that the player will be able to craft an entirely different galaxy according to one of the factions compared to the other. Hopefully this will be a very limited affair mainly relating to specific characters and not events as a whole. I would quite like a galaxy where I can justify all of my characters existing in the chain of events without having to explain how x part of the galaxy is like this for my Sniper but not for my Guardian. 

Hopefully I'm over-playing this. I just don't see how they can completely justify how both factions can co-exist should the Alliance remain the most individualistic faction in the entire game. It might be nowhere near as bad as I fear, and I sincerely hope that's the case.

Just as a reminder, if you haven't done beyond Iokath or want to go into 5.10 completely blind I would advise you stop reading now so as to avoid some definite as well as possible spoilers.


The Stability of Leadership

So, remember when I said that we'd already seen how the Alliance impacted the galaxy? This is how!

In 5.2 and the Iokath story, the Alliance changes the galaxy through a simple choice; the choice to aid the Empire or to aid the Republic. Aiding one faction kills the leader of the opposite faction which then has knock-on effects for the wider galaxy.

If she dies, Acina is replaced by the infinitely more-likeable Darth Vowrawn (not that Acina herself isn't likeable; nobody can beat Vowrawn in my eyes). We don't know what position he holds otherwise, but considering that we're getting some information about a new Dark Council it is likely that he isn't a part of this if Acina survives. This would mainly allow BioWare to create a Council entirely made up of twelve new and/or obscure characters that would be fully-compatible with either character. Indeed, we're meeting one such character in 5.10.

Jace Malcom isn't replaced, at least not knowingly, should he die on Iokath. Instead, his death leads to persistently-unseen Chancellor Jebevel Madon being forced to stand down; equally-unseen Galena Rans steps into the subsequent breach. Malcom's fate doesn't seem to be that important going forward, however, as 5.10 is introducing all Republic players to a new military leader regardless.

So the leadership of the galaxy is in disarray. Acina might be alive or dead, and Madon might no longer be Chancellor, but this is yet another thing where we just cannot align how our characters perceive the galaxy.

As much as this is aggravating, I feel the only reason that this is so annoying is because we're too used to our factions' leaders taking an active interest in what we do. Supreme Chancellor Saresh and Darth Marr suddenly took on a very active role throughout 2.0 and 3.0, leading us to Makeb and Oricon and making their presence known in some form on Ziost. 

How many of their associated frontline individuals are there who feel like they actually matter in comparison?

For Makeb, the Imperial Strike Team mostly all perished and, while they certainly seemed prominent at the time, the Avestas vanished into thin air. While Lord Hargrev, Maiya Vix, Sergeant Trila, and Master Ogan-Dei were all fun to interact with they all disappeared once Oricon was dealt with. The only times both Marr and Saresh felt upstaged in proceedings was when Theron and Lana took over, a move which felt like a breath of fresh air.

Now we're going into a time when the overall leader is just filling a role and it honestly feels very, very empty due to how many times in the past we had direct dealings with our faction's overall leaders. A better way of looking at it is that we're no longer working with or fighting against a person, but an ideal. 

However, in the absence of a leader who truly matters on the battlefields, one must rise to fill the gap.

Republic players will be meeting their presumed 6.0-frontline-leader in 5.10 in the form of General Daeruun. We don't know how prominent he is within the Republic presently - although I'd bet anything that he becomes Supreme Commander in 6.0 - but he's still filling a hole and providing a name that both factions will be aware of in this and any future storylines. 

The Republic is getting a new general, so the same must surely be true of the Empire. As mentioned, 5.10 will be introducing us to a new Dark Councillor, Darth Malora. She seems like an ideal candidate for a frontline-leader in 6.0 as she's most likely the one leading the Ossus invasion, which will test her worth, and she's somebody who many players would have had a history with. However, there's one additional factor which applies to Malora that I feel safe in assuming won't apply to Daeruun.

As the only identified Sith presently known to be in 5.10, and being a very prominent member of the Empire, it is likely that Malora will end up being the final boss for a Republic Commander. This will likely result in her possible death, so what does this mean for the Imperial Commander?

If this was back how the game used to be I would be confident in saying that Malora is dead no matter what. She gets taken out by a Republic strike team and is left to rot. However, with the all-but definite absence of a Republic Commander in the Imperial perspective, there is a chance that she could survive for Imperials; she will never meet her match, so can therefore never be killed. 

What this would mean is that Malora would need to become a 'nothing' character no matter your own perspective. In other words she would then be somebody who BioWare could bring back as an Imperial Companion if she proves popular enough without making it a concern for the Republic that she's still alive and kicking.

This could also explain why they skipped out on giving her a truly unique look. Compare to Tau, Anri, and even Daeruun, who gain either a unique armour set or weapon (or aspects of both), and Malora really does look like a very minor character due to the fact that these other characters have had more work put into their design. Neither her weapon nor her armour are initially unique to her and, to me, that is an immediate giveaway that she is nothing but a minor NPC in the long run.

Gnost-Dural, who appears to be wearing a retextured version of this armour set, is thus likely to be in an identical situation for Republic players. He might start this update as a fairly major Jedi yet if he can die at the hands of the Imperial Commander this means that he'll become the 'nothing' character in the Republic version of the storyline. If that is the only way he can feasibly be implemented as a Companion for Republic Commanders, I'm all for that.

Basically, it appears that both Malora and Gnost-Dural have been given the '5.0 returning Companion' treatment as characters. Since neither has an item which has been specially crafted just for them, but instead are given reused assets, BioWare can't use them to promote any brand new items on the Cartel Market that are bound to be coming out with this update. I can almost guarantee that we'll be seeing both Tau's armour and Anri's rifle be put up for sale within the first week. Bonus points if Tau also has a unique Lightsaber hilt.

It's a sad sign of the times when microtransactions can be used as some form of evidence to demonstrate how minor a character is in comparison to others.

Prominent characters becoming Companions has been flaunted in the past, of course, and even though there is only one instance where this has occurred on a permanent basis it still severely bothers me to this day. My biggest hope is that from now on Companions just fill a hole and otherwise aren't significant characters to anyone but themselves and their close allies.

If BioWare want to introduce or reuse a character as a Companion, fine, but this should only be restricted to people who don't matter or else any importance about them should be revoked before they join our rosters. Shae Vizla being on our side as a Companion as Mandalore means that the Mandalorians are almost certainly never going to be featured again in any meaningful way; if they are, then BioWare would have to write around the fact that Shae Vizla is with some players but not all of them. I have no problem with Shae Vizla being a Companion; I have every problem with Mandalore the Avenger being a Companion. 

The easiest way to reduce Malora to a 'nothing' character is for her to lose her position on the Dark Council no matter what. Since I feel this update needs to end with an Empire victory to truly establish them up as the aggressors, I'm not expecting for her to get fired for wasting her army on a pointless excursion. She's a powerful Sith bruising up some meagre and weak Jedi colony, what's not to like about that?

To tie this point back to leadership issue; if Malora can't be the Empire's frontline leader due to becoming a 'nothing' character then that means this update also needs to introduce her replacement who can upstage her entirely. Somebody who could then become the frontline face of the Empire for Imperial players to rally behind and Republic players to rail against. In order for a character to be introduced in a sudden manner such as this, they ideally need to be somebody who people in both factions can quickly familiarise themselves with, who can prove themselves quickly to be a capable leader, and - most importantly - somebody who would get people hyped for 6.0.

I can't see Major Anri filling this position at all, no matter how decent a tactician she ends up being. I doubt Malora or either of the Sith player-characters would accept this in the slightest, given how many Sith there are who have historically viewed those within the Imperial military as merely being their playthings. Also because of this, I think having a very prominent leader within the Empire being a military character as opposed to a Sith would be too at-odds with how the Empire has always run.

Additionally, Anri becoming the leader of the Empire's forces would automatically kill any chance of her coming back as a Companion in 6.0. 

The easiest thing to do is to utilise a character who already exists. The issue with this is that there aren't many prominent characters who are either confirmed to be alive or popular enough to inexplicably resurrect. Even the most effective Sith Commander we know to have survived the base-game storyline, Darth Gravus, died in Annihilation prior to 2.0's release. Several other prominent Sith, including all Dark Councillors besides Acina, Vowrawn, and now Malora, had already been written out of the story earlier this year.

This only really leaves two very prominent Sith characters they can bring back, and since I refuse to accept the prospect that Vitiate can return yet again I can only see there being one remaining option. For better or for ill I believe there is a very strong chance that Darth Malgus may be returning in this update. This idea has been bounced around ever since his death by countless numbers of people; "Malgus isn't dead; bring back Malgus; he appeared in Carbonite in that extra 4.0 trailer footage, that proves he's alive!". 

Just to set the record straight, I have never liked the idea of them bringing him back as I feel the impact he left on the Empire and how it changed work much better with him staying dead. The only reason I jump straight to Malgus immediately is just because if they want to bring back a 'dead' character for shock value he's by far the least problematic. If indeed that's what they're planning on doing. I just can't see them introducing multiple completely new characters in the same update and expecting people to accept them as some of the most influential and/or powerful people in the galaxy. We need some aspect of familiarity in the midst of all this.

In spite of my extreme aversion to seeing this happen, I can't deny that as a narrative move it would tick a lot of boxes. Imperials would get a battle-hardened figurehead who the Republic would have good reason to fear, and he's somebody who can move the story on regardless of whichever faction the Commander is 'truly' a part of. With 5.0 having started with the death of a prominent Sith ending it with the return of a prominent Sith would be an event that BioWare would surely love to pull off. 

The biggest issue with this is that, for Imperial Commanders, somebody as prominent as Malgus suddenly just turning up would essentially make them superfluous. The Republic will also see his handiwork, so the amount of things an Imperial player can do to 'make a difference' will likely be extremely limited. In other words, a Republic Commander is the more likely to have a significant impact on the story as they'll essentially need to work against the story itself rather than go with the flow as Imperials might be able to.

Although this fits far more in-line with how I would like the story to be, I can see many people finding this superfluousness hard to align with the mostly-unimpeded interpretation of the Alliance as this big dominating force. 

If Malgus has the potential to return, could this mean that there's the potential of seeing fellow base-game ambassador Satele Shan make her first 'actual' (i.e. speaking role) 5.0 appearance? I'd very much hope so, as it would be nice to know how she 'fits in' to the grand scheme of things before 6.0 launches. I can't guess how actively involved she's likely to be, however. While we have interacted with her in 4.0, we don't even know if she's kept her old lightsaber. 

This Malgus theory is purely conjecture, of course, but it is worth highlighting that there is a mysterious hooded figure placed directly in the centre of the new Loading Screen. No matter who this is, new character or veteran, their prominence and their being cast in ominous shadow makes it fairly evident that they will be involved in a significant manner for both factions. Juxtaposition of a character is crucial in all types of artwork.

Until 5.10 launches and hopefully demolishes this theory, I'm happy to view it for now as a result of my seeming ability to twist a lot of totally innocuous and unconnected things into being 'evidence' when in reality they aren't likely to be in the slightest. After all, I've been able to demonstrate this tendency numerous times in the past.

Clearly the only real outcome is that Darth Charnus will be making his grand return to steal the spotlight.

Regardless, as much as I would like 6.0 to have a unified leader of both factions I think it's quite likely the position of overall leader will remain in-flux. Acina, Vowrawn, Madon, Rans, it likely won't matter as the opposite faction shouldn't get much interaction with them anyway. It's more important to establish battlefield leaders for the upcoming conflict, and I'm very much looking forward to meeting Daeruun and Malora in this update. 


No matter how the story is delivered, I am still very interested in seeing how the two factions fight it out in 6.0. While I hope to be mistaken I think I'll just have to get used to the fact that the Alliance is never going to be truly gone, and that we're not likely to get true faction compatibility in the immediate future. 

I don't mind variance in small ways. If all it means is that Republic players can still chat to whomever the final boss is for Imperials, and vice versa, that's the sort of stuff I'm okay with. Not big-scale events which completely change how the galaxy functions. 

I know BioWare will be aware of all the corners they need to write themselves out of, and I'm curious to see how they manage it. We're moving away from a unified story, so hopefully we'll be seeing greater attention paid to faction-specific entities again. That, I feel, is what has hurt 4.0 more than anything; the world-building was not concise enough for my liking. It left too many questions, and it looks like we're starting to get some major answers at last.

I have no shame in admitting the main reason why I started thinking so seriously about how the factions' stories could differentiate is solely because of one character; Gnost-Dural. While I don't want this to be the case, I'm beginning to convince myself that he will be the final boss for an Imperial Commander. As such, he shares a similar pedestal with Malora in that his death might be guaranteed or it might only be determinant. Being so close to getting a Kel Dor Companion at last, I am particularly loathed to consider the possibility that he'll disappear forever in the same update as his first actual appearance. As such I'll happily create as many alternate paths as possible in my head to persuade myself that he'll end up being alright. 

Especially after one certain character got dealt a very dismissive hand in The Nathema Conspiracy...

No matter who the final boss is their potential survival for Republic players means that, unless anything drastic happens that impacts the Empire no matter what, the Republic is the bigger victor overall. They get to escape the Empire with a prominent character still living while having the opportunity to kill a prominent villain. While I feel that both factions 'need' some feeling of pride and accomplishment from completing this storyline to set 6.0 up in good stead, ultimately I feel the Empire still needs to feel like the bigger victor in both potential outcomes.

There are only so many ways that this can be pulled off effectively. No matter what they do, I'm sure it will be an interesting ride.


This also needs to be said. I don't know if data-mining for 5.10 is happening yet, but if it is I implore anyone who knows any potential answers to please keep the truth to themselves. Let this remain wildly-incorrect speculation if that’s what it is. The last thing I want is for anyone reading my blog to actually be spoiled about upcoming events.


  1. Thanks for the entertaining and in depth piece! Let me say that I am also avoiding PTS and datamining spoilers as well and all I have to contribute is pure speculation.

    Like you, I've very curious to see how thing play out in the next updates. I had figured that the Alliance would be absorbed into whatever faction the players eventually select, but your idea of keeping the Alliance as a separate entity and ally makes sense as a way to justify cross faction companions. It would also help play into the "saboteur" role they're mentioned during the livestream for players seeking to cross their original faction. Going forward, I really hope they see how far they can take the faction choice. To me, it's the most interesting part of recent story.
    As for the cloaked figure. I think it's probably Malgus. He's on the first box, he's in all the original cinematics, he's someone even non-players might recognize. But I need some convincing that he's the best choice. We've already had one expansion based around the return of a classic character in Revan, and I think the notion that Malgus changed the Empire more in death than in life an interesting one. Personally I'd bring back Darth Jadus from the Agent story. His fate is the biggest loose thread from the original stories, and I feel like he's the kind of character Sith players could get behind and Republic players could love to hate. That said, he just doesn't have the name recognition of Malgus and a dramatic reveal of Jadus might generate more confusion than hype. So that brings me back to Malgus.

    There are so many balls for Bioware to juggle and I'm curious to see how they fall. Even at the end of the original class stories, our characters were some of the most prominent players on the galactic stage and events have only magnified their status since. How do characters like that go back to basic questing and leveling? We shall see I guess.

    1. I must admit that I completely forgot about Darth Jadus! I'd very much like to learn what became of him in BW's eyes, but apart from that I don't know what role he can possibly play. He's certainly one of the more mysterious entities in the SWtOR Universe, although that doesn't help in the slightest when trying to figure out how he fits into anything.

  2. I'll just tack on that this Jedi colony canonically does fail. Ossus isn't terraformed until after the Vong Wars and the sabotage of its terraforming is the entire setup for the second Galactic civil war.

    1. Good to know, thanks very much for this information! ^^