Category Archives: The Old Republic

A collection of posts about Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Review: Knights of the Eternal Throne

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So I finally got around to trying out the latest “expansion” from BioWare Austin’s Star Wars: The Old Republic.  And I’m sure you can tell from the use of those sarcastic quotation marks that I may have had some issues with the expansion and I will get to that.  First off, I just want to say that this is a review of strictly the “chapters” portion of the expansion.  I don’t do uprisings and I don’t do endgame. I have other MMOs for those.  So you won’t find an in-depth critique of the Eternal Command system or the new Uprisings content because quite frankly, I don’t bother with them.  All I will say about the Eternal Command system is that I’m not sure borrowing – of all things – Overwatch’s systems lock-stock-and-barrel is maybe a good solution for a MMORPG.  Just a thought. Heck if I know.

The Not Expansion

First of all, this isn’t an expansion.  Oh they’ll advertise it that way. And it ups the level cap.  But it’s not an expansion. Not in the traditional sense, and not in the way that SWTOR has offered expansions before.  Until KOTET, each expansion has been a self contained story.  Nothing in Shadows of Revan was connected to the events of Rise of the Hutt Cartel.  With KOTFE they actually sold you the ability to skip the prologue and first 5 chapters of any story and go straight to the new stuff it was so minimally related.  But KOTET isn’t like that.  This isn’t an expansion on SWTOR’s story.  This is the last half of KOTFE.  There is no reason this should have been even been marketed as a separate entity. From the moment it starts, to the moment it ends, it is unquestionable Chapters 17-25 of Knights of the Fallen Empire’s story.  Most of it only makes sense if you played through Knights of the Fallen Empire.  Because of that, I cannot recommend that you use your freshly rebranded “Outlander Token” to boost to 65.  It just doesn’t make sense to me that you would skip all the decisions and story of this first half.  Not worth it.

I guess I can’t complain too much.  It’s not like they charged you extra for KOTET. It just seems weird to me that this wasn’t just released as KotFE Chapters 17-25 instead of KOTET Chapters 1-9.

The Actual Story

BioWare Austin wasn’t pulling any punches after the barrage of complaints that followed the monthly chapters and most importantly the conclusion of Fallen Empire.  For the actual conclusion of the story they brought back Drew Karpyshyn, the writer that worked on Mass Effect 1 & 2 as well as the original SWTOR, from semi-retirement back in 2012 (he wrote novels). However because of this, more so than any expansion material before it, KOTET feels like an active part of the The Old Republic universe.

For instance, the opening chapter places you on Voss where you find Senya trying to heal Arcann while the newly… bathtowel turban-ed Vaylin is firebombing the planet to ash.  Right away your getting Valkorian making references to your class story, you get Senya utilizing Voss healing techniques including the life force draining one that appeared in the Sith Warrior Class Story.  Not to mention you actually get a slightly different series of quest objectives depending on your conversation choices and not just altered dialogue.  The first chapter is also the first time – but far from the last time – you can kill someone permanently this expansion.  In fact, you can kill at least five different characters.  One of which is unavoidable as Drew decided to draw on some of his Mass Effect background and presents you with the Virmire choice once again.  Choose who lives and choose who dies.  Even the most light sided person will have to face the Virmire choice.  Does this make sense?  Not really.  Since at the time and place in Mass Effect, you literally could only reach one or the other and here…  well, it happens on Odessan.  The Base of Operations for the Alliance.  That means you have theoretical access to your entire army right now.  But the choice is presented as NO ONE BUT YOU can fend off a half dozen Skytroopers to save one of them.  It stretches the believability when you can’t send troops to back up the other party. Or you know, send one of your 1-3 Jedi/Sith Alliance companions to go help them.  Thanks for the help Arcann & Senya, could ONE of you stop following me around to go help the other person?

Beyond that there’s some actual variety in the chapters.  For instance, one chapter features an elaborate puzzle as you Ocean’s Eleven your way into an extravagant Zakuul party.  You actually go back to Dromund Kaas to find out what has happened to the Sith Empire and get into a power struggle with a former chancellor of the Republic.  There’s also two new worlds but they are only featured for a single chapter each.  Ioketh is a machine planet where all super-technology comes from (The Eternal Fleet, The Gravestone, The Geminis, AND Scorpio) and the other is Nathema which is where Vaylin was imprisoned in a “sanitarium” and is also implied to be the original home world of Valkorian/Sith Emperor/Tenebrae that he apocalypsed to become immortal.  Nathema is pretty uninteresting visually. It’s a red/brown Ziost post-destruction. Ioketh is kinda cool looking and has a lot of potential for future expansion hopefully.

The whole thing ends with a fairly predictable twist.  I won’t reveal it for those who haven’t seen it yet, but it doesn’t exactly come as a shocker.  Though I will say that I think it’s impressive that in an MMO that the devs would let you – the player – do something so radical and situation changing as ‘Claim the Throne’.  Which you can.  You absolutely can.  It does deliver on that.

Choices That Matter

One of the repeated advertising phrases that Bioware Austin likes to use is that “This time your choices matter”.  Now how effective that has been has been up for debate since the games launch five years ago, but it was a major argument thrown back in the developers faces after the ending of Knights of the Fallen Empire when – despite having the ability to choose ‘Kill Arcann’ several times – Arcann always escaped.  I can happily say that the issue of people not dying when you choose to kill them has been rectified.  You can actually kill quite a few people: Senya, Arcann, Koth, and Scorpio.  Some characters will die no matter one, such as Vaylin and whoever you don’t choose in the aforementioned poorly handled ‘Virmire Choice’.

Sadly, while these choices do have consequences that play out to their fruition, all it usually results in is ‘less story’.  Cutscenes get skipped over, or another character fills the same role with nearly the same dialogue.  Heck, Scorpio’s death comes right at the point where she was about the leave the story permanently anyway so the result is the same except hey you killed her.  There is one however that gives you a different mission entirely if you choose it and that’s how you choose to deal with Senya when she reenters the story.  It not only affects how the next section of the chapter plays out game-wise but also affects things several chapters down the line when it comes time to deal with Arcann.  It actually changes the outcome depending on your choice, and not just swapping out actors for lines like stunt doubles.

Of course, how satisfied you’ll be depends entirely on what you expect from ‘choices that matter’.  If all you want is a level of recognition that a choice was made, this expansion has you covered in spades.  If you were hoping for something a bit more impactful, then you’ll find satisfying choices few and far between.

A Visual Experience

With the new expansion all comes with an assortment of visual upgrades to the game to make things all pretty.  I won’t lie, I was blown away just seeing my character on the selection screen when I first installed the expansion.  The way the game handles shadows and lights now adds a ton of more visceral detail to the game and especially to the cutscenes.  However, some of the updates to the character models seem kind of off too.  Like Senya and Lana especially.  Like their character model was upgraded, but the animations weren’t ever revisited for the new models, leading to weird issues with facial expressions that cause Lana’s eyelashes to clip through her head and Senya to look like a kabuki mask.  Overall though, the graphical improvements were very welcome.

Dramatis Personae

So, big new expansion. New story.  Bet there’s a bunch of new characters to enjoy, right?  Maybe like a snarky half-robot ewok or something?  Yeah, no.  As I said earlier, this is pretty much the last half of Knights of the Fallen Empire and it is pretty much determined to wrapping up all the storylines from that.  As such, your main cast of this expansion is as follows: You, Lana, Theron, Valkorian, Vette, Theron, Scorpio, and the Eternal Pain in the Rear Family (Senya, Vaylin, Arcann, Valkorian).  Heck, Gault, Aric and Kaliyo only get minor lines in a few spots and are otherwise reduced to screen filler.  So not even everyone from KotFE is involved in the plot.  The only new characters we get are one-chapter one-shot villains like Scorpio’s rival Aries and the Sanitarium’s lead…  well, I have a hard time calling him a Doctor given the things he does.  We also meet Lord Dathemar at one point.  He was Valkorian/Vitiate/Tenebrae’s father a long time ago and whose soul is now trapped in a box.

As for how the characters are portrayed?  Well, Vaylin is pretty much the stereotypical ‘mad person with unlimited power’ complete with classic catchphrases like “Burn the planet to ashes, then bring them to me. I want them for my garden.”  Just imagine Vaylin in the original KotFE but turned up to 11.  Arcann’s personality is really different depending on whether you try to heal him or not.  I’ll be the first to say that hearing THAT voice try to give this zen-like Jedi sentiments is wholly disturbing to me though.  If you don’t heal him, he’s pretty much the same as he was before.  Valkorian FINALLY gets his crap together and figures out what he’s been plotting.  I mean, it all fits. Sure.  In fact, a lot of people probably called it back at the start of KotFE. It’s not hard to guess.  He continues to play the shrewd manipulator, even when it flat out doesn’t work (Like trying to convince you that Lana and Theron will try to steal the Eternal Throne right before you get to the throne room).

Scorpio’s motivation on the other hand is all over the place and constantly changing it seems.  In KotFE she wanted to give the Gemini units freedom. So she did. They can do anything now.  That one chose the stars.  The rest it seemed were perfectly content to continue working for Vaylin.  Then she wants to help Vaylin rise above her station because she too has served ‘lesser creatures’. Okay.  Then they hijack the Gravestone for some reason and Scorpio learns about Iokath.  Her motivation is to now learn about where she came from and forces the Gravestone and all the Gemini units to come with (Freedom!) Then on Iokath she reveals that her motivation all along was to kill Aries and usurp his place as essentially the MCP from Tron of Iokath?  So, nothing to do with the Geminis or the Gravestone or Vaylin.  Right, whatever C-Scorp-30. Go live in your tin can.

Finally, the last noteworthy character to talk about (since the others don’t really change or develop much at all) is Koth.  I don’t think Bioware Austin wanted you to keep Koth.  I think if their writers had their way he would have jumped ship and stolen the Gravestone no matter what back in KotFE.  Why do I think that?  Well, because until your chance to re-recruit/kill him, his appearances only make sense when he’s not on your side.  “OMG! It’s Koth!” Lana says as the Gravestone appears over Voss.  Now does that reaction make more sense if A) Koth had taken the ship and ditched you OR B) He was still working with you and was just arriving as expected with your flagship.  When Arcann runs away, you ask Koth to stop him.  His reply when he’s not on your side is “I’m here to save people, not clean up your messes.” versus “Oh no! I can’t commander. I’ve taken some damage and must now leave unexpectedly!”  Heck, even Vaylin and Scorpio hijacking the Gravestone makes more sense since they do it when Koth is out cruising in the yoda damned Gravestone looking for people to help out which would make ZERO sense if he was still working with the Alliance.  Since I’m pretty sure no one would let Koth take the ONLY SHIP CAPABLE OF FIGHTING THE ETERNAL FLEET joyriding.

Mechanical Malfunction

I know I wasn’t going to talk about the Eternal Command, but I figure you should know if you were looking to see if the expansion was worth it for you.

This idea is dumb.  The Eternal Command is a brand new way to replay the exact same content over and over again.  Just like they tried to do with Heroic Missions in KotFE, and the Dark vs Light event.  This is them stretching out the existing content as long as possible.  In essence, once you hit Level 70, you start gaining CXP or Command Experience.  You get this from doing everything and anything: repeating chapters, heroic missions, flashpoints, operations, warzones, starfighter and the new Uprisings (Shorter, less story filled, action intense Flashpoints for 4 players of any specialization).  In other words, out of all the ways to earn CXP, the only one that isn’t repeating pre-existing content are the Uprisings.

When you gain a new ‘level’ of Command Experience, you get a loot box.  The loot box has three random items in it.  It can be gear (which can further be broken down into ‘Empty shells’, ‘Static Stats’, and ‘Fully Modded’ variations) or companion gifts.  There’s no way to know for certain what you’ll get which ensures a nice long grind.  From my own observations, purely anecdotal mind you, I averaged 1 empty shell gear piece, 1 static stats gear piece and 1 companion gift in the small offering of crates I earned from just leveling through the story.

I think you can see where I got the earlier Overwatch comparison.  Grind out a bar, get a box of random stuff, and then do it again and again and again.  Except this isn’t just skins or emotes.  This is THE method of endgame gearing in KotET. It’s a bit understandable why some people are a bit upset about this I think.

Final Judgement

So is it worth the one month sub to get access to all 9 chapters?  Sure.  I can think of worse things to do with $15 bucks.  It’s not perfect by any means, and I miss not getting old companions back – especially ones like Kira or Scourge who really should be there for the showdown with the Emperor – but it’s always a really satisfying conclusion to the story started in Knights of the Fallen Empire.  Just be aware that this isn’t a standalone expansion like I said.  Beyond that, a lot of the issues with the writing come down to probably the struggles of trying to tell a Bioware-style story in a MMO setting.  Heck, the ending of this expansion throws expectations out the window.  You can be the Emperor.  Of the galaxy.  Hot damn.  I wonder where they’ll go from there.  Because they do sequel-bait during the credits that both the Sith Empire and Republic and getting ready to start sith again and the Scions send you an ominous message about you fulfilling the prophecy but your darkest hour is yet to come (which makes me think… Unicron?)

If this were a full $40 expansion or something I would definitely say it’s only for those who really enjoyed the Fallen Empire story because it’s really more of the same but with the ability to actually kill people this time.  But for $15?  If you dig SWTOR and you don’t like mind how the stories are told in it? Go for it.  Flaws and all, it’s worth $15 bucks.

SWTOR Class Storyline Reviews Now Complete!

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And now, an Important Announcement from the Dark Lord Emperor Person of the Land of Odd:

Well, this is it. Four years and five months ago, I published my first Class Storyline review.  Now 112,500 words later, I can proudly announce that the Star Wars: The Old Republic Class Storyline Reviews are complete.  To put that in perspective, the average length of a published novel is around 80,000 words with the minimum number to qualify as a ‘novel’ is 40,000.  That’s how massive this project was. I clocked in at around 350 screenshots, totalling about 50MB to capture as much of the story as I could visually.  I’m not even sure I want to know what my /played time was for all of this.  The main Class Storyline Summary page that links to each of the reviews has been viewed to date over 66,000 times and I haven’t even tallied how many views each of the individual review posts.  For all this and so much more, I want to thank you all for reading.

This is by far the biggest project I’ve ever successfully completed and it was your views, your links, your kind words and discussions that kept me going through all of it.  I would like to do the unprecedented and tip The Hat to all of you.  You who turned this backwater little website of silly theories, rants and videos into a mecca that comes up as number two when you search ‘SWTOR Storylines’ on Google. NUMBER TWO! You all did that, not me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for all of the support.  So what’s next for the Land of Odd?  We’ve got more weird theories, more fun videos, more storyline reviews for both World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV in the works.  We’re not going anywhere folks, and I do hope you all stick around and see whats to come. I’m glad to have been a part of all of this with you.

Thank you all.

 

– Vrykerion & The Hat   

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Chapter Three

<– Chapter Two || IMPERIAL AGENT ||

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Imperial Agent storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

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Chapter Three starts right away after the events of Chapter Two with you returning to Imperial Intelligence to be debriefed from your deep cover mission in the SIS.  However, instead of being debriefed by Keeper, you meet with her predecessor the current Minister of Intelligence. He states that he is completely aware that you stole files from the archives and that you broke your mental programming.  He also assures you that no, he has no plans to tell anyone what you’ve done.  In fact he confesses that he only went through with using the Castellan Restraint because the only other option was killing you to insure you didn’t attack another member of the Dark Council.  However, if you serve as the Hand of Jadus this conversation is a bit different.  The Castellan Restraint was invoked by the Dark Council to have ‘insurance’ on the Jadus’ actions and you tell the Minister that what he has done is essentially treason and that his days are numbered.  The Minister is not phased by your threats.  He’s far more concerned with Hunter and whoever his true employers are.

It seems they found Ardun Kothe’s shuttle abandoned in deep space with all traces of the Shadow Arsenal erased and no record of a SIS agent code named ‘Hunter’ ever existing.  However, judging by the fact that Hunter was able to easily infiltrate the SIS as well as having access to your code phrase it is clear that his employer has access to both Imperial and Republic resources – a concern unto itself.  Working the Hunter lead, the Watchers were able to find someone matching Hunter’s description heading to the Isen IV Mining Colony.  This actually raised flags because the very next day, Isen IV contacted the Empire directly to discuss terms of surrender.  The Minister isn’t sure if the two are directly linked but it is worth investigating.

You arrive on Isen IV to find the place as a complete wreck. Reprogrammed droids have begun killing any and all citizens and everyone is under the assumption that the Empire did it. You trace the disruption back to a computer being remotely controlled by some strange unknown technological device and sure enough the person controlling it remotely and calling you right now is Hunter.  He warns that you need to stop interfering with him or he will make your whole operation VERY public.  He also drops hints that if you want to start a war, you need to grease the wheels which is why he arranged it to look like the Empire slaughtered an entire Republic colony of non-military civilians right after they surrendered.  Watcher Three agrees that if anyone finds out about this that it will cause a major incident and that the situation must be silenced.  You have the choice here to either refuse and save the people unconditionally or save them and use it as blackmail to keep them silent. You also have the option of just killing everyone outright or sabotaging the oxygen generators and leaving them all to die.

When you return to Dromund Kaas, the Republic announces that the Empire has broken the Treaty of Coruscant and the war has begun anew.  The Minister of Intelligence however is more concerned with the strange technology you found.  He notes that there have been ‘incidents’ in the past where something similar was found just before a pirate ship was miraculously destroyed right before it annihilated an Imperial outpost.  He dug deeper and found over sixty cases of similar ‘lucky’ incidents dating back centuries to a time before the Sith Empire revealed itself to the greater galaxy. They even found a recording from one such ‘lucky’ incident where Hunter is speaking to an unknown person.  While the former Keeper acknowledges that the start of a war is not time to chase conspiracies, it can’t be helped: Someone is manipulating this war and that someone may have been manipulating for a lot longer than just these few recent events. The Watchers have drawn up a list of targets to investigate, with Belsavis being your first stop.

That is unless you are the Hand of Jadus, in that case you have one additional stop – Darth Jadus. Your master was notably absent for most of Chapter Two and sadly won’t be around much here either. He’s leaving the field of battle to the other Sith Lords to prepare for the future – namely that he has discovered the Emperor’s true goals and as he puts it “either way will be victorious”. He instills you with all his authority. Anything you do, you do in his name and with his power. But he also cannot protect you while gone either.  He warns you not to make needless enemies with this newfound authority but if the conspiracy is worth your time, destroy it in Jadus’ name.

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Belsavis

Your goal on Belsavis is to find a structure that the Conspirators had built when they first helped finance the Republic’s conversion of the old Rakata facility into a Republic prison.  The structure, known only as “Megasecurity Ward 23” was sealed after its construction and has supposedly never been opened since.  You will need to break into it.  However, it will be impossible to do alone.  Your mission is to infiltrate the prison under the guise of being an inmate and create a gang with the express purpose of breaking into the Ward and finding what the conspirators hid in there.  You retrieve mission details, explosives, tools and prisoner dossiers from the Imperial base and then go around planting the explosives to blow the doors to the cells from a central location.  You make them a demand: You freed them and now they will help you.  You direct them to a safe house to meet in person.  Before you head off however you are greeted by a voice identifying itself as “The Scorpio Sanction” who notes that your choice in criminals is subpar and that your slicer is only the third best on Belsavis. The Sanction also notes that it killed the other two slicers which confuses me because that means my slicer WOULD be the best then, right? Maybe this Scorpio thing can’t count.

You meet at the safe house/cave to talk with your group of criminals: a space Texan whose brother tried to break into Ward 23 a few years back and died, the first/third best slicer on Belsavis, a bug man with a knack for technology and a big guy named Ohta.  If you want to exert your dominance over this pack you can just kill Ohta the first time he opens his mouth to complain.  Then you order them to make a list of what you need to break in.  The first goal is the medical facility to pick up what you need.  While in there The Scorpio Sanction activates again and decides to fill the room with gas that increases aggression and while you are immune to chemicals that alter the mind, your companion and newfound gang are not.  You have to break the vents and defeat your friends to snap them out of it and then they get to shopping.  They find almost everything but are missing a couple things. This includes stuff like a carbonite trap, a power battery and an anti-radiation serum.  You go grab all that while the rest of the team moves into the next zone of the prison where they find a guard to beat up on.

The next big task is dealing with the Scorpio Sanction.  Whatever it is it’s quickly proving to be a pain in the rear and that could prove deadly when you’re down in the ward.  The slicer on the team has deduced that the Sanction is based out of Megasecurity Ward 23 and has access to all of the prison’s security systems.  The gang’s suggestion is to take control of a bunch of warden droids so you can trigger alarms all over the prison to distract the program.  You upload the virus to the droids and then head into the maintenance plant to shut down the auto-repair functions that would remove your virus.  The Scorpio Sanction chimes in again and says it released nano-machines that will drill through your companions body and I will just tell you right now – This. Does. Not. Happen.  At all.  It’s a complete lie or it was something that BioWare changed after the dialogue was already scripting and in the game. Once that’s done you head back to the rendezvous to grab your gear only to have your team try and turn on you wanting some kind of assurance they’ll get rich from this. You can pay them some upfront cash, assure them with promising words or just threaten them into obedience.  I mean, these are criminals after all.

Finally with the plan all set in place, it’s time for the big heist. I mean mission. I mean heist.  You find the entrance to Megasecurity Ward 23 way back in the deep prison in the center of a volcano lava lake.  Makes you wonder if our secret conspirators were Sith cause they sure took a page from ‘Evil Lairs Quarterly’ on this one.  If you think I’m joking, the elevator down is a death trap that will shut down and leave you locked inside if it detects any life signs.  So pretty much just droids and corpses can go down into the Ward.  Luckily, you grabbed a carbonite trap earlier that your ‘friends’ in the loosest sense have rigged up to automatically unfreeze you on a timer so you can get past the check.  Beyond that is a bunch of killer droids guarding a massive door of completely unknown metallic composition (My guess is week old Olive Garden breadsticks) that requires you to erode to metal using that radioactive battery and then blowing up said battery after the radiation turns the wall into hours old Olive Garden breadsticks.  Oh, and take that anti-radiation scrubber serum before you die.  That’d be a good idea too.

The final security lock (Yea, apparently there’s only three if you don’t count the easy to kill droids) is a series of force fields operated by the Scorpio Sanction.  The slicer is ready to trigger every alarm on the planet, but the other prisoners – namely the Space Texan – wants to use this opportunity to “re-negotiate” the deal.  Yea, of course. The guy who wanted money upfront is now trying to screw me for more money. Not shocked. Essentially he (and Ohta if you didn’t kill him before) want to be paid out NOW and enough to make sure they can leave Belsavis.  You have two choices here: You can pay them out yourself and they take their leave, or say you won’t bow to blackmail which coincidentally the bug man who has done nothing much in the plot so far decides he agrees that blackmail is wrong and kills the troublemakers for you, and the slicer will then chew you out for risking her life with a gun against the temple.  Meh.  So long as the security goes down.  Which it does when the slicer throws the switch and the Scorpio Sanction screams in pain causing the force fields to momentarily glitch out.

Now you can finally see what the big secret kept in the depths of Belsavis is – people in jars!  Actually they’re in kolto tanks but able to communicate through holocall terminals on each tube.  They speak to you and reveal that they are former members of a galaxy wide conspiracy dating back over 800 years to the end of the Great Hyperspace War.  In the wake of the Jedi and Sith nearly destroying everything in their conflict, some of the most influential members of technology industries, commerce, politics and even spies and criminals got together and asked how the hell they – the most powerful people in the galaxy – could have let this happen?  Their resolve was to begin gently manipulating the Galaxy through their influence to ensure that nothing like the Great Hyperspace War happens again. From then on forth, for generations, this group of the Galaxy’s elite has been its secret masters: THE ILLUMINA-  I mean, Star Cabal. They maintain secrecy by letting the Jedi and Sith believe that their orders wield the supreme power locked in with force power and hereditary might instead of technology, money and information. But unfortunately, over the generations the Cabal has become corrupt and greedy with their power.  So in the spirit of stopping the malformed descendant of a noble organization, these tubed ‘trophies’ of former members decide to help you by showing you how to reprogram and add restrictions to the heart of the Scorpio Sanctions – a hyper-intelligent self-improving AI droid – that holds the key to the Cabal’s database.  That is how you recruit your last companion: Scorpio.

With Scorpio in tow, you head back to the rendezvous to find the Slicer and Bug Man where you can either keep your bargain and pay them out for their loyal services and get them off world, tell them that their freedom IS their payment or keep the whole thing under wraps by just killing them right there.  You would think that’d be it, right? Just head back to the ship and see what this database that Scorpio has contains?  Oh no.  We have one more visitor: Pashon Cortess, heir of House Cortess!  I know what you’re thinking: Who?  Well, House Cortess and its leader Baron Peyar Cortess helped/hindered things for you back on Alderaan.  This is the Baron’s kid apparently.  He wants revenge for his house’s fall from glory (Ha!) and a unknown “friend” of his told him that you were to blame and where you were going to be.  Oh really? Was this friend maybe named Rogue? Or Mage? Or perhaps…   HUNTER? Well you give the spoiled brat a worthy spanking and can choose to deal with him by having him imprisoned for assaulting you, send him back to House Thul to have them deal with the wayward vassal house, or just outright kill him.  There. Now we can leave.

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Interlude

The Watchers have been working their own angle on this whole thing with Keeper.  They apparently dug up a more recent holocall between Hunter and an unknown party but all they can find is the record that the call happened but not what it was about.  Keeper wants you to find an actual recording of said holocall by infiltrating the Rings of Tytun – a cyberized planet-size data nexus with rings of scrapped ships that serve as extra storage that archives every single bit and byte of HoloNet data that has ever been transmitted since the nexus went online.  Holy. Flipping. Yoda.  Are you serious? That thing EXISTS? And we are just now learning about it?  Screw the Cabal-inati, THIS is the real interesting thing that shows up in this chapter. I have SO many questions.  Who controls it? Who maintains it? Can anyone access it? Can ANYBODY access it normally?  Why won’t the game give me any more answers?!

Sigh, so we go there and piece together the conversation using a bunch of terminals and fighting droids.  The conversation is actually a bit interesting because it drops some revelations like Nok Drayan being part of the Star Cabal and calling in for what would be his ‘last meeting’ thus indicating the call had to happen right at the end of the Smuggler’s Chapter One story, and another part of the call mentions The Old Man from the Tatooine terrorist cell who apparently had some Star Cabal links before we dealt with him.  You take the rest of the pieces back to Dromund Kaas where the Watchers assemble the whole thing to watch.  Apparently it’s a conference call featuring Hunter, an unknown person simply called The Prince, Yem Leksende the CEO of the Czerka Corporation, another strange figure just called The Creeper, and Kolovish the Twilek matriarch from Tython that was part of the Jedi Knight story.  The call references a lot of other events that occur in the other storylines such as the power plays of Darth Baras (Sith Warrior) or Darth Angral (Jedi Knight) and the awakening of the Children of the Emperor (Jedi Consular) but they also note that for each problem that arises on the Imperial Side, a Republic countermeasure has been prepared (the Jedi Knight and Consular respectively.)

However, while watching the Holocall there are frequent glitches of what appears to be a bald man that kind of reminds me of Watcher X but without the cybernetic implants or the filth.  One by one everyone else in the call blinks out, then the actual people in the room blink out, until in the end its just the bald man and Keeper.  The Bald Man then tries to choke Keeper. Snap back to reality where everyone is just watching the holocall and Keeper suddenly screams followed by her and every one of the Watchers collapsing.  Well… that sucks.  Seems that the recording was laced with an overlay to fry the minds of anyone with an augmented brain like the Watcher, coincidentally the only people who code decode the damn thing. So now Imperial Intelligence is without their Keeper or their Watchers.  It’s going to be a rough go.  Not to mention Hunter calls in as soon as you get back to the ship to rub it all in your face and flirt a bit.  You can actually respond that he obviously honestly cares about you to which he admits that he enjoys saying sweet nothings to you and promises that once the Empire is destroyed, Intelligence broken and if you are still alive – your freedom shall be his gift to you.  Yeah.  He says that.  I’ll be right back. I need a hot shower and some steel wool to feel clean again.

ia_chap03_04

Voss

With the intelligence part of Imperial Intelligence pretty much rendered comatose for the foreseeable future, the only remaining Watcher that wasn’t present at the ‘brain hacking’ – Watcher Three – passes along Keeper’s files on your next lead.  She apparently arranged a meeting for you on the planet Voss with a tea shop owner named Bas-Ton.  When pressed as to why, Watcher Three has no idea and mentions clearly Keeper saw something in this data that eludes him but Keeper never operated on a hunch.  Okay, Call me curious.  You arrive on Voss to find that Bas-Ton is actually an Imperial in deep cover who underwent intensive cosmetic surgery to appear as a Voss.  He replaced the real Bas-Ton and has been living out his days with Bas-Ton’s wife and children while extracting information on the Voss for the Empire.  Keeper had him dig up some intel on a human who showed up five years ago and went from completely untrusted outsider to lavishly honored voss-friend in mere weeks.  Something that the Empire and Republic have found impossible to even inch towards.  This man, named Albathius to the rest of the Galaxy and “The Shining Man” to the Voss, knew everything about Voss society and culture, not just what to do but also how to do it and how to use it all to move up the ranks.  He died and was buried with honors not long after unfortunately. Bas-Ton recommends starting with the tomb and that he’ll arrange a dead drop with a disguise for you.

You investigate the tomb of the “shining man” only to find that the sarcophagus is empty other than some dust and a scroll.  There’s no real way for a body to decay into dust in such a short of time, so you grab the scroll and take some sample and hoof it back to Bas-Ton.  Bas-Ton invites you to sit down for dinner with his “family” and you get to know some of them, namely the son and daughter who have taken an interest in an outsider like yourself.  After dinner, Bas-Ton says he sent the samples of the dust to be analyzed but he can translate the scroll which talks about The Shining Man as “A Man of Prophecy who was made whole in the Wellspring of Healer”.  The Wellspring is located in the Shrine of Healing where mystics heal the spiritually wounded but Bas-Ton warns you to heed the mystics’ instructions.  Once you arrive the mystics offer you a chance to go through a ritual to revisit your past to help cleanse yourself.  You can skip the whole thing with a dark side choice to just knock out or kill the mystic and move on.  Either way you’ll end up in the ‘Vitalicron’ (No, I have no idea what it is or what it does. I just assume its like a Force Fitness App) chamber where you can snatch The Shining Man’s vitalicron and using the genetic code from the ashes (which according to the lab analysis I guess actually was The Shining Man) you unlock the glowing box and see a scene that talks about The Shining Man emerging from the forbidden Nightmare Lands with a scroll of prophecy from the “Chamber of Ash” that was one thought lost.  By a complete coincidence, if one were to say forge a scroll of prophecy you would need materials from said Nightmare Lands. Hmm. Food for thought.

When you get back to the Tea House – and yes, in case you haven’t noticed EVERY portion of this mission ends with you going back to the Tea House in Voss-Ka, and YES. IT IS ANNOYING. – There you find that Bas-Ton has been taken hostage by a bounty hunter who is waiting for you in the Gormak’s territory.  You do some more hoop jumping with finding corpse that have more messages and shorting out security stations, but ultimately you get to meet this bounty hunter and something is up.  First of all, the cave you’re meeting in isn’t stocked with Mandolorians like you’d expect, but Hutt Cartel Security. Oh. That’s not good.  That’s not good at-  Oh Hi Faathra.  Yup. Another face from the past, or technically face of someone associated with something you did in the past as you never met the young Cortess heir nor Faathra in person. But someone is sure making sure that these people know what you did to them.  You take on Faathra and his goons but Bas-Ton is fatally wounded in the process. You can spare or kill the Hutt, but Bas-Ton is pretty much done for and has to be left to die in a cave because while he looks Voss, he sure as heck don’t bleed like one. He tells you to ask his Voss family to help you get into the capital and find a map to the Chamber of Ashes in the sacred carvings stored there before he passes.

ia_chap03_05

So believe or not this is where it gets tricky.  See, only a Voss may view the sacred carvings.  The only way to get you in would be for Bas-Ton’s family to make you a Voss and the only way to do THAT is to marry one of Bas-Ton’s kids.  So yea.  You get hitched right there and then.  Congratulations?  Okay, you don’t HAVE to marry one of the kids.  You can always threaten, injure and force them to fetch the carving for you.  I mean, torture is momentary but marriage is forever right? So which is REALLY the Dark Side choice?  Okay, yea. It’s the torture.  Anyway, the carving will detail how to reach the Chamber of Ashes and when you find it, you’ll find something you probably weren’t expecting – a starship.  Uh huh.  Around the ship you find a gormak named Xanar who is waiting for the Shining Man to return because he watched the Shining Man and he too wants to “shed his skin and become Voss”.  Well, that’s wonderful.  And impossible. But mostly wonderful. But bad news, Xanar. Shining Man is dead.  Oh, and Xanar doesn’t like that one bit. He attacks you and then activates the ship’s self destruct when he loses. The only positive things out of this is ripping a copy of the Shining Man’s data archive out of Xanar’s hands and  a recording of The Shining Man begins to play that reveals exactly what the deal was with coming to Voss anyway.  Apparently, The Shining Man was an agent of the Star Cabal who was scouting a location for the Cabal to send initiates to learn how to resist the Force.  The Nightmare Lands was apparently one such possibility but it proved to be too much.  The Shining Man also asks to “Send Hunter his love” once again hinting that same sex couples were in the game before the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion.

Pretty much as soon as you leave the exploding Chamber of Ashes, you get a call.  The Three – the leaders of all of Voss – would like to speak to you.  So first thing is first – I prepare my defense: “Hey, I never even MET these %*&holes before, okay?”  Excellent. Now let’s go politics.  Inside the grand ol’ chamber of the Three, you are told that you have been brought here to meet just as the Shining Man was because the prophecy that applied to Shining Man also applies to you.  They explain that when the Shining Man came, he offered a deal to the Voss: Remain neutral from both the Empire and the Republic for 3,000 days and in exchange the Gormak will be defeated, no outsiders will ever step foot on Voss again, and the Empire and Republic will cease to be.  Since the Three viewed it as a very small risk for a potentially great reward they agreed to the Shining Man’s and thus the Star Cabal’s terms.  They then dismiss you and you can go on your merry way.  Of course you can also turn it back around and say that since the prophecy said they would help the Shining Man, that you should be able to ask something of them as well.  This gives you the choice of either asking them to aid Bas-Ton’s family (obvious light side), for the Voss to join the Empire or just to give you guns, lots of guns (That’s the dark side in case you’re curious).

When you get back to your ship, there’s a call from Watcher Three informing you to return to Dromund Kaas and head back to headquarters.  These orders come from the only higher source than the Minister of Intelligence – The Sith themselves.

Interlude II

This is a fairly short interlude that mostly sets up the last world’s storyline.  A Sith Lord named Lord Razer (giggle) has come to announce that Intelligence has failed to pull its weight in this war and thus will be dissolved.  The Operations Division (The Ciphers) will be distributed to more “deserving” Sith Lords who can better utilize their talents.  If that heartbreak wasn’t enough, Razer has Kaliyo arrested for being an anarchist and she’s dragged away screaming about how she’ll kill you and everyone else.  Finally, Lord Razer personally delivers your reassignment.  You will serve under Razer directly on his conquest of the frontlines of Corellia.  Interestingly, he mentions that you were given this post at the request of the Minister of Intelligence.  He then sends you back to your ship until you meet again on the battlefield.  To kick you while your down, there’s a message waiting when you get back on the ship.  Hunter has called to let you know that the dissolution of Intelligence was the Star Cabal’s way of getting back at you for poking around on Voss.  Okay, this is starting to get ridiculously personal.  Even with all that, your remaining crew asserts that they’re with you till the end of all of this, so it’s off to Corellia.

ia_chap03_06

Corellia

Ah Corellia. The last world on our little circuit where the Empire is making their big push into the Core Worlds.  Lord Razer directs to meet with his top brass in the war room, where if you aren’t playing a human be prepared to have some racist… species-ist… hate speech uttered in hushed tones as you walk in.  You’ll be assigned for the rank of Lieutenant for being ex-intelligence or Major if you are the Hand of Jadus.  Razer calls the meeting where he declares his first mission for you is to pinpoint precision targets for his bombers on the ground so that they can lay siege to the outer defenses of the Republic’s precious and highly fortified Aegis Base.  Once the defense have been destroyed, you are to take a portable warhead and detonate it inside the base.  You SHOULD have enough time to get out.  As you leave, you are contacted by an unknown female voice who refers to you by your old intelligence codename – Cipher Nine – who wants you to transfer troop data from the Republic computers to her to help identify patterns of the ‘Invisible Enemy’.  The data is a bit of a shocker: Massive reinforcements coming from General Garza’s special forces (That’s the Havoc Squad assault on the Stronghold from the Trooper storyline) and a contingent of alien races bringing a myriad of troops (I can only assume that’s the Jedi Consular’s army) but the Empire is completely in the dark about all of this. The female voice tells you that you are free to warn Razer about this, and that you should finish up dropping off that warhead.

After blowing up the Aegis Base, you report back where you can warn Lord Razer about the reinforcements where the news is met with general uninterest.  After all, who can stand against a Sith? Right?  Anyone?  Oh bother.  Everyone begins to back up and leave the war room to move to another forward location and you get a chance to contact that female voice.  Turns out it’s Keeper. She’s used the reports of her being ‘brain dead’ as a cover to work on setting up a final strike at the Star Cabal.  We know that the Cabal has been manipulating military intel, but to know how much the numbers are being changed Keeper will need the raw data of the current standing forces and units lost on Corellia from Moff Zamar who is just finishing his report. If that report is entered into the system, the Cabal will change everything and we will never know how much they are altering.  So you need to get his skyhopper to land prematurely by setting up false signals of attacks around Labor Valley so they think they have no choice but to land. Keeper gives you a code phrase to give Zamar if you want but warns that it will either make him comply completely or make him incredibly suspicious of you.  When you reach the landed ship at the top of a building, you can skip the code phrase entirely and just shoot your way into the ship or actually use the handy code phrase which will cause the guards to escort you in where Zamar states that he “owes him this much.”  They never actually say who ‘he’ is but considering all the possibilities of people who can’t be dead at this juncture in the story, I’m gonna go with the Minister of Intelligence.  He gives you the report and then you get another choice to either ditch him there as the Republic closes in on his position for some Dark Side points, just flat out kill him for even more Dark Side points, or score a couple of Light Side points by escorting him out of the building and past the Republic assault team.  Once you are done with however you choose to handle things, you send the intel back to Keeper who tells you that every advantage that the Empire thinks they have is an outright lie. Between Darth Baras, Darth Vowrown and Darth Thanaton all blowing troops on personal power plays (That would be the events of the Sith Warrior and the Sith Inquisitor storylines on Corellia) combine with the Republic’s reinforcements, the Republic and Empire are poised to completely wipe each other out.  Unfortunately, in the wake of such a huge reveal, Lord Razer calls all his troops to the new forward base to push back against the Jedi.  Argh! Stupid Razer and his stupid war.  I hope someone just kills him.

So you arrive at the forward base to see a Jedi just kill Lord Razer.  Huh.  However that leaves all his subordinates now officially without a boss and they’ll just wander back to be assigned to a different Sith.  You can always make a Light Side choice to tell them to go AWOL and form a guerrilla fighting force instead. Probably a good idea considering the completely boned odds we have just learned about, but how the heck is THAT a Light Side choice? “Yea, disobey your orders, go completely AWOL, kill people with no oversight! +10 Good!”  Keeper has a better plan for you than either a guerrilla group or reporting back however.  There’s apparently a deluxe airship floating around Corellia decked out with a massive party while observing the war.  You get docking codes from some mercs, use them to sneak aboard when they are refueling their snacks (Pizza rolls don’t refill themselves!) and then once on board your goal is to get captured and leak fake intel about Imperial reinforcements coming to cause the Cabal to scramble to change things and giving you a window.  There’s just one snag with all of that.  Hunter is here.  Well, okay he’s on holo.  Apparently, this whole shindig is his ‘Apocalypse Party’ to occupy Corellia’s movers and shakers to keep them distracted with their own decadence so they won’t try and “do something” about their world burning down.

He finally lays out the Star Cabal’s big scheme (because it’s that point in the Bond films, kiddies.) Get the Republic and Empire, the Jedi and the Sith to wipe each other out completely, so for the first time in 1,400 years the ‘normal people’ can rule the galaxy for themselves.  Naturally, the ‘normal people’ will be ruling from under the guiding hand of the Star Cabal, but is that really that much of a change?  And right on queue from your Bond Movie Script for Dummies, the droids gas you with sleeping gas (or activate a neutralizer field if you had the forethought to bring Scorpio along for this) and take you downstairs to torture you for information.  Why do they want information if they rule the roost already?  Well, I can only assume it’s because there had to be some dumb reason to convince you to just stroll on up to the party like a boss so they better find out what.  That’s when you get the chance to drop that fake intel that Keeper gave you which you can immediately follow with a quick break out by beating them up and running or just wait till they’re tired of hurting you and they’ll just drop you in a bush saying something about not being able to kill an Imperial officer without arousing suspicion.  “No, I’m just going to leave them there to die, go someplace else, and just assume my evil plan went as planned.”  /sigh.  Whenever you escape or wake up I guess, you call into Keeper to get updates.

Keeper has one final move to make on the chessboard now that the Star Cabal is distracting with altering their master plan: eliminate the Star Cabal.  But first, she needs you off the radar.  You get some explosives and rig them around a building that has an escape tunnel hidden beneath it so you can fake your death.  Right when you finish, an SIS operative who was a former member of one of the Eagle’s terrorist cells (apparently after the Eagle’s demise, the SIS went on a recruiting spree for former terrorists. Not shocking how you managed to get in during Chapter Two.)  This operative is named Nyella Hawkins and if that scratches a memory or two it’s probably because she is the sister of Mia Hawkins, the terrorist cell member who helped you on Tatooine back in Chapter One. You fight her off and the SIS demands your surrender via holocall where you just taunt them, blow the building, and escape in the tunnels below.  However, there is an alternate version of the events here that only take place if you spared Ardun Kothe and his team in Chapter Two.  Ardun shows up and you can convince him of what Hunter is doing.  Ardun will offer to help you take down the Star Cabal.  So yea, there’s an option if you really liked those SIS guys who used your brain against you earlier.  Once you leave the tunnels, Keeper contacts you with coordinates to the Starship Tenebrous to meet.

ia_chap03_07

Grand Finale

You arrive on the Tenebrous to find both Keeper and Kaliyo who was extracted en route to prison and has been doing jobs and getting payback from behind the scenes for the remnants of Intelligence.  Keeper is less than well herself, trying to recover from the damage done to her mind by the Star Cabal.  However, reunions are cut short by the Minister of Intelligence who needs to speak to you in private.  He tells you that they have pinpointed a small space station in the Null Zone (which is apparently a thing that exists because I had to look it up on Wookiepedia but I’m not going to explain it here because it REALLY isn’t important to anything. Simply put it’s just a big area of empty space.)  The Minister wants you to get on board, eliminate everyone, and retrieve any records they have that deal with their members, projects or dealings.  This way the Empire can hunt down every last one of them.  Then of course the Sith will want to keep that knowledge in ‘good hands’.  That thought apparently takes the former Keeper down memory lane about how we started off in Intelligence thinking it was a distraction, then a means to enact change as he rose in the ranks, but slowly all of his ideals and dreams where replaced with goals and objectives.  He states that for those in your line of work, you can only change so much. He then dismisses you and says that you have a ship waiting and a timetable before the Cabal escapes.

You arrive at the Star Chamber, the home base of the Star Cabal.  The entrance is decorated with flags of every society, planet and great house you can encounter in the game.  You sneak in and infiltrate through the air vents to reach the inner sanctum.  There you can spy on the Cabal proper and identify the members.  While they’re talking you can pick up on the mention of the death of Tol Braga from the end of the Jedi Knight Chapter Three story. You can wait and try to identify them all but Hunter will catch you and bring you down to fight, you can also choose to interrupt as a Light Side and talk to them but this pretty much has the same effect of a few fighting you and the rest running away, or you can shoot at them as a Dark Side choice which instantly kills one of the people you normally would fight which makes the combat a bit easier.  If you’ve been Light Side and walk in announcing yourself, Hunter will sound overjoyed that you are alive before he makes a break for it, otherwise he’ll just express annoyance at your intervention.  Once you deal with the members of the Star Cabal that didn’t run away (which is two provided you didn’t shoot one in the cutscene which in that case it would be… one) Hunter shouts out that you don’t just ‘get’ all the secrets of the galaxy.  You then have to chase him through a series of insane puzzles that makes me wonder if The Shroud designed them.  Finally, you reach Hunter in the chamber of the Black Codex, a datacron holding the collected knowledge of over a millennia of secrets that the Star Cabal hoarded and within it the power to reshape information and knowledge at will.  But to get the Black Codex you must defeat its guardian – Hunter – who is willing to die to protect the Star Cabal and its mission.  You have a fierce battle until Hunter collapses, on his death bed he reveals his final secret:  He is a she.  Trained by the best spies and assassins, including the Old Man on Tatooine, “Hunter” used the hard light holographic disguise technology that the Old Man offered The Eagle to pose as another person.  It was easier she says than trying to remember her real name and homeworld that were “erased” by the Cabal when she was just a child.  That’s why she liked you so much.  You of all people could understand her plight.  To have no real name, no true self, and forced to wear mask after mask until there’s was nothing left of you inside at all – just the job.  If you played a male agent, she’ll admit that she’s even fallen in love for you.  So I guess just take back all that stuff I said earlier about Hunter and same sex romance options.  Boo on you Bioware.  But hey that was actually great foreshadowing for this reveal, so kudos Bioware.  Male agents can also kiss her just before she kills herself having failed her goal.  Of course, if you chose the Dark Side option earlier in the conversation you just blew her brains out before she reveals ANY OF THIS, YOU MONSTER.

At this point is where the endgame for the storyline begins and it’s a doozy.  A total of five different endings are open to you and while some of those are just variations on each other, they are different.  So let me boil down what happens bit by bit.  After Hunter’s death, either a pair of Sith will arrive and ask you to turn over the Codex to them.  There are two different versions of this depending on whether Jadus is alive or not.  However, if you didn’t kill Ardun Kothe and his team in Chapter Two and DID choose to ally with them on Corellia, Ardun will show up instead and ask for the Codex so it can be kept safe from those who would abuse it.  At this point you have three choices: Take the Codex, Give the party that shows up the Codex, or Destroy the Codex.

Let’s start with that last one since it’s the easiest.  You tell Kothe or the Sith that NO ONE should have the power of the Black Codex and destroy it, you go back to the Tenebrous and get yelled at by Keeper for letting a prime opportunity slip through your fingers.  That’s endings #1 and #2 (Sith or SIS).

The middle option is to give the party that shows up the Codex.  For the Sith this will either mean it gets turned over to Jadus or to some unknown party, a promise from the Sith that the traitorous Minister of Intelligence will be punished, and you are given a promotion in the new Sith Intelligence founded by Darth Zhorrid (or Darth Jadus if he’s alive).  You get a chance to go back and give the Minister a piece of your mind and chew him out by either telling him that you were just looking out for number one and Sith have all the power, or that you want to help create an Intelligence where such blatant racism against Aliens isn’t so damn prevalent, or I think there’s a few other options.   Or if you give the Codex to Ardun Kothe, you are invited to help make the Galaxy a better place by becoming a double agent for the SIS inside the Empire. All of your own free will this time – no mind control. Choosing to become a double agent is especially notable because it triggers an extra scene at the end of the Shadow of Revan expansion where you report in the Ardun Kothe after dealing with Revan.  So that’s endings #3 and #4.

The final ending is taking the Codex for yourself. You give the Sith or Ardun a fake and take the real one back to the Minister of Intelligence.  He tells you that he’s proud of you and that now you have the power to become a true force of power in the Galaxy.  From the shadows, you will right wrongs for the Empire with no oversight from the Military or the Sith. True freedom to act by your own discretion or with your own conscious.  Your first step is firing up the Black Codex and erasing all trace of yourself from existing.  You are now a ghost and it’s time to get to work.  That’s ending #5.

Some people say there’s a sixth ending as well, but try as I like I can’t really find one.  I think they probably count the Jadus is alive/Jadus is dead versions of the ‘Give the Sith the Codex’ ending as seperate because there is some different dialogue between the two and I think a few different choices for your dialogue.  Like being able to cite the ‘equality of fear’ doctrine that Jadus put forth as part of your reasoning for supporting Jadus.

All the endings end the same though. Sending out the intercom call on your ship and calling the entire crew to meet. One by one, they break from their usual tasks on the ship to join you.  It’s a messy galaxy out there, people.  Time to call in the cleaning crew.

ia_chap03_08

Looking Back

A lot of people say that the Imperial Agent is the best story the game has to offer, and it is not hard to see why they think even if you don’t agree.  It’s bold, it’s daring, and it does things that none of the other storylines dare to do.  From the sheer mind#%@$ery of the second chapter, to the ruthless moral choices of who lives and who dies where there isn’t a clear cut line.  It’s the ultimate gray morality play where there are no right or wrong answers.  If you like playing a character more than a role, you’ll have a fun stress-inducing time here.  I spend a lot of time on my first playthough standing up and walking around the room before deciding which button to push.  I’ve played it three times and I would be happy to play more.  But let’s talk about it in a more individualized aspect.

The first chapter was all about realizing exactly what Intelligence’s role in things are.  You make deals with enemies, you let thousands die to save millions, and you pick up the messes of the Sith.  There’s a real exploration of the fact that you are both the most terrifying thing in the Empire with the ability to silence and make vanish at will but in actuality are forced to cow tow to the Sith in almost every way imaginable as shown by the tiring ordeals imposed by the not entirely stable Darth Zhorrid who comes across more Queen of Hearts than Emperor Palpatine. The twist of Darth Jadus being the mastermind behind his own assassination really did a good job of setting the tone of ‘don’t trust anyone’.  A theme that gets firmly cemented the further the story goes on.  You get backstabbed by Imperial Intelligence, you learn that everyone and everything is having its strings pulled by the Space Illuminati, and the Sith are only interested in their own petty agendas.  In the end, your crew is about the only people who don’t betray you at any point and even that seems to be on borrowed time with the likes of Kaliyo and Scorpio.

Speaking of the Space Illuminati, oh boy was that a base breaker in this chapter.  Apparently people either love the Star Cabal being behind everything or they hate it.  But honestly, I didn’t get that they WERE behind everything.  They just nudged things.  They didn’t create the Jedi Knight, but just set things up that they would be a counter to and be on a collision course with the Sith Emperor.  The idea was to keep both size at dead even without letting them know that, so when the time came they would blow each other up with none left standing.  The big threats seem to be countered through the individual storylines but how much of that was the Star Cabal ‘playing the player’ and how much of that was laying breadcrumbs and letting the natural hatred of the Jedi and Sith or the Republic and Empire opposing each other do the rest.  That’s the way it felt to me at least.  I did like how much of the other stories got tied in here though.  It made the Imperial Agent feel like the center story that all the other stories overlapped just a little bit with.  It’s not new.  I mean, Risha from the Smuggler story was childhood friends with Vette from the Sith Warrior story, and Doc from the Jedi Knight seems to know Kaliyo somehow. But the Imperial Agent overlaps with most of the storylines instead of one or two.

Not only does it crossover with those storylines but explains some of the mysterious background details of the setting as well.  Why are the Voss neutral? The Cabal arranged a deal. How did the Empire end up losing Corellia? In fighting between Sith and faulty numbers about how many loses there actually were.  What the heck is ‘Sith Intelligence’ that comes out of nowhere at the end of Shadow of Revan? It was founded by Darth Zhorrid or Darth Jadus in the wake of the Star Cabal dissolving Imperial Intelligence.  There’s just a lot to be gained by playing through the Imperial Agent if you enjoy the story of SWTOR.  Even more so it contains a very possible hint of whats to come: Darth Jadus is still out there.  While he can be stopped, he is never killed only imprisoned.  He knows what the Emperor’s true plans and whether you join him or not, we know he flees the known galaxy to amass power and return to enact his plans to take over.

…Are we sure that Valkorian was Vitiate? Hmm.  But hey, that just a theory – a SWTOR Theory. Thanks for reading!

<– Chapter Two || IMPERIAL AGENT ||

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Chapter Two

<– Chapter One || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Three –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter of the Imperial Agent storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

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Welcome Back, Agent.

Aaah, what better way to relax after Annihilation Day than a nice vacation?  Yea! No.  Your back on the clock, Agent.  Chapter Two kicks off with a call with a call to report back to Intelligence ASAP for a meeting with Keeper.  However, when you arrive at Keeper’s office you only find Watcher Two there.  Like in Keeper’s chair.  All by herself.  Oh no.  No no no no no.  Sigh.  Yes.  It seems that there’s been some promotions handed out while you were out.  Watcher Two has been promoted to Keeper, and the former Keeper is now the Minister of Intelligence.  You still don’t learn their names. They just get referred to as Keeper and Minister.  Anyway, we have a job yes?  Well it seems that the new Keeper wants you to take on a job of going under deep cover to track down Ardun Kothe – the Republic’s best spymaster that has been turned loose from SIS and now is operating with unlimited budget and no oversight in pursuit of crushing the Empire.  You need to infiltrate Kothe’s team as a defector from Imperial Intelligence.  Keeper and the Watchers have been dropping leaks and hints of a top Cipher wanting to defect for some time now, and it’s time to cash in.

You head off the Nar Shadaa where you meet your contact with Kothe’s band of spies: Hunter.  Hunter has been assigned to test you to make sure that your capable and willing to do what’s needed for the mission. Not long ago the Empire arranged a partnership with a notorious Hutt crime lord called Nem’ro.  That partnership built a massive new droid factory and Hunter wants you to blow the place up.  While on the mission, you are introduced via radio to two more of Kothe’s band of miscreants – Chance the Slicer and Wheels the tech expert droid.  Once you’ve stolen the droid blue prints and blown up the factory, you meet up at the team’s hide out.  That’s where you meet the last member of the team – Saber the weapons expert and sniper.  There at last you get to have your meeting with Ardun Kothe.  The mastermind himself.  He invites you into his office where he assigns you your codename: “Legate” which is either pronounced Leg-Ette or Ley-Gah-Tay or a few other ways over the course of the next three worlds, once again confirming that there was very little communication with the voice directors on this game.  However, the whole things goes topsy turvy on you in a second as Kothe utters a single phrase: “Keyword: Onomatophobia.”  You black out and hear the familiar voice of Watcher X run through your mind.  When you come back to, you find yourself obeying Ardun Kothe’s every command.  He explains he just activated your mental programming and that you cannot tell anyone that it has been activated or that it exists and you cannot enact any harm on Ardun or his team.  You can try to express rage, or question the situation but no matter what conversation option you choose on that dialogue wheel that shows up – you simply acknowledge Ardun’s orders.  Kothe orders you to go to Taris as his double agent inside the Empire.  When you get back to your ship, Keeper will contact you to see if you met up with Kothe and ask if you’re alright. Again, you can’t mention the programming so any option you choose will result in a monotone “everything is fine”.  Before you head off, you hear Watcher X’s voice once again telling you to wait and watch for your chance.

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Taris

Your mission on Taris is to use your Imperial strings to track down a rogue Jedi named Ki Sazen who has reportedly been building up a power base on the planet. Chance, the geeky little slicer, will be your mission contact and watchdog for your time here.  Your first objective is an old laboratory that Sazen was snooping around in and try to find what she was after.  There you find another member of Imperial Intelligence – Doctor Lokin or ‘Fixer Fifteen’ as he is called in Intelligence – who says he was sent by Watcher Four to scavenge anything he could from the lab of Doctor Godera – a name Jedi Knight player’s will recognize – but it appears that Ki Sazen got there first and stole one ‘Ultrawave Emitter’.  Lokin says he has no idea what it is capable of and thus probably shouldn’t be in the hands of a crazy power hungry Jedi (Best keep it for a mad power hungry Sith, right?)  Lokin offers to join forces so he can triangulate the next lab that Sazen will strike that was lost somewhere in the swamps.

As your scouring the forsaken swampland of Taris, Chance gets in touch to tell you that he checked out what he could on Doctor Lokin and confirms that while there wasn’t a ton of information available, he is confirmed to be Imperial Intelligence. So he wasn’t lying. Chance also mentions that he doesn’t ethically agree with the mental programming and won’t use the code phrase on you unless he absolutely has to.  You finally dig out the lab in an old transport station. No, I don’t know why a Bio-research Lab was sitting in a subway station.  Maybe there was a reason these people were all dumb enough to get bombed 300 years ago. (You don’t need to correct me on that in the comments, I’ve played KotOR1 and yes, I know how Taris got this way.)  Here you find a cult of Nikto who worship Ki Sazen.  The three nikto leaders are each finding some item for Ki so that she can use the Ultrawave Emitter and create a Rakghoul army to take over all of Taris.  The Nikto here are getting Rakghoul biological data, and the others are looking for info on colony movements and the last is looking for a Republic doctor to help finish the device.  Chance says that the best well… chance you have is to split up.   You take the colony movement investigation and he’ll go save the scientist.

Your task is pretty much just running around to various spots and fighting a few waves of enemies before taking out the Nikto leader.  To do this you get a tip from Lokin on where he would look and he gives you a stim that will help your combat proficiency that I don’t think actually does anything beyond reinforce the plot point that Lokin is a biologist.  You think the elimination of two-thirds of the necessary components would be enough to halt Sazen’s plan but oh well.  After you take out the second Nikto commander, you get a call from Chance who unsurprisingly has failed his mission.  He’s been badly hurt and uses the code phrase – the prick – to force you to come to him.  He does this regardless of your intent – even if you wanted to come help him (Chance is the nicest of the Republic scum after all.)

Chance says that you should split up, he’ll find the scientist if you find the colony movement investigation nikto. You’ll need Lokin for this, so it’s back to the old lab.  Lokin gives you a tonic to help boost your combat proficiency and tells you that if he were to try something like this, he would use the colonist’s sensors to set up a sweep.  So you travel around the swamps, shutting down sensor towers until you fight and kill the Nikto leader.  Then Chance contacts you, he failed his head and took some bad hits.  Fearing death, he uses the code phrase and commands you to come to him.  Even if you already say you were going to do that. Like before, any response you make is replaced by the monotone acceptance of the command but the Watcher X voice reminds you that they can force you to take action, hell they can’t resist doing it, but you can still think and that is your escape.  You go track down your handler – feels like that should be the other way around but the SIS are incompetent little lemmings – and find him bleeding out on the ramp leading into the Hospital where he tells you that Doctor Ianna Cel is waiting to meet with an SIS agent who will use the code phrase ‘Gemstone’.  He needs you to make the meet since he can’t.  He apparently had trouble with the four packs of not-even-gold mobs leading to the doctor.  Friggin’ lemmings.  Before Chance passes out however, he tries to order you with the mind control phrase but can’t get the words out.  Well, well, well, looks like we have an opportunity.  Of course you get some light side options. Namely ‘save him’ or ‘save him begrudgingly’ but the one I have no doubt everyone is eyeing is the dark side option.  See, you can’t HURT Chance.  Your programming won’t allow it.  But you don’t have to fetch any help either.  The Dark Side choice is just to simply let Chance die and go on your merry way.  I like that option.

You go down the ramp and kill the all too easy mobs that slaughtered poor Chance (May we never forget his… snrk… ‘heroism’… lol…) and meet with Doctor Cel who has been hiding in the hospital after getting repeated threatening holocalls from Ki Sazen.  While talking to Doctor Cel, you’ll get a call from Lokin who has an idea. You can hear him out or just hang up on him.  If you hang up, he’ll appear RIGHT NEXT TO YOU from some sort of cloaking tech.  Apparently he’s been following you around. Either way he’ll suggest the same plan: Let Lokin pose as Doc Cel’s assistant and then let Sazen capture him.  From there, you can trace Lokin right to both Ki and the Ultrawave Emitter. But to ensure that you can receive the signal, Lokin has you disable some Republic Jammers in the area.  Once you do, the call comes in that tells you where Sazen is holed up with her Nikto cult.  Time to deal with a Jedi.

Or not? As you approach the base, you get another call from Ardun Kothe.  He tells you that Chance is either injured (Probs.) or missing (Oh no. Say it isn’t so.) and that you are the new ‘primary agent’ on this mission.  He also uses that damn mind control phrase to tell you that retrieving the Ultrawave Emitter is now the primary goal and dealing with the Jedi is an optional secondary thing.  No, he won’t tell you why. Did you really expect him to? Once inside you get to meet Ki and boy is she the textbook definition of the fallen Jedi.  Okay, so she wants to use the rakghoul and the nikto to conquer all of Taris and turn it into a savage utopia but only for those who swear undying loyalty to her.  Wow.  Just… wow.  So I kicked her butt with the quickness and then you get several choices of what to do with her.  You can kill her (naturally), send her back to the Jedi to be redeemed, put her skills to use elsewhere by hiring her into the SIS, or you can fan the fires and send her to be trained at the Sith Academy (In the name of Darth Jadus no less if he’s still around).  The choice is entirely yours as beyond a letter following up your decision, I don’t believe Ki ever comes back to the plot in any way.  Though apparently if you send her to the Sith, she catches the eye of Darth Serevin.  So she’s probs dead by the time Makeb rolls around anyway.

You go to the lab to get the Emitter and to find Lokin, but instead you find a big ol’ rakghoul that turns into Lokin.  Huh.  Apparently he’s been working on a ‘perfected strain’ that allows him to turn back and forth but currently it only works with his DNA.  I’m sorry if it seems like I’m treating that as an afterthought, but the game seemed to think it was one too with how it’s just kinda tagged on the end of the quest chain like a sticky note.  “Oh btws, I can totes become a rakghoul whenever I want and maintain my human mind. Shall we go back to the ship?”  Doctor Lokin, man.  His entire story does that.  Even back on the ship.   Never really liked the guy, but apparently he gets along with the Bugboy from the diplomatic service. They discuss opera.  That is given more screen time in this story than the rakghoul transforming thing.  Seriously.

Once you are back on the ship, you contact Ardun Kothe who asks you to connect the Ultrawave Transmitter to transfer over… something.  Again, he doesn’t specify.  After the call, you start to break down however. Hallucinations of people you know, tiny versions of your crew flying out of the giant mouth of Ardun Kothe, a flaming Darth Jadus, those jerks from Alderaan lounging and drinking with a giant monster…  freaky stuff. It all ends with you passing out with a vision of Keeper (the old one… the Minister of Intelligence one) shooting you in the back.  You then see a vision of Watcher X who can’t confirm if you’re seeing him because of the stress of being a double/triple agent, the breaking down of the mind control, or the chip he shoved into your spinal cord back on Nar Shadaa. However, he does know that it wasn’t the SIS that brainwashed you – The Empire did.  He recommends you scoot back to Dromund Kaas to have a look at your personnel file and to try and be careful. You don’t have friends anymore.

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Interlude

Back on the homeworld, you infiltrate Imperial Intelligence and descend into the archives below the main room.  Yea, that elevator on the south side? That’s where this goes. The mission has you cutting the security systems so no one knows what you are up to down there and then slicing into computers to piece together the data on what they did to you.  What was that?  Well, in the wake of the end of the last chapter, the rest of the Dark Council expressed concern over either you attacking Jadus or being given such a distinguished position of power by Jadus.  Either way, they feel threatened by you.  However, instead of killing you outright they agree with the newly appointed Minister of Intelligence that you should be fitted with something called The Castellan Restraint.  A form of mental programming performed by injected a serum dubbed  IX (that’s ‘Eye-Ex’ not ‘Nine’) into the brain which will rewrite neural pathways over the next three to thirty days depending on the person.  Once it has finished, the individual can be programmed a key phrase and any commands.

Sadly, the Restraint doesn’t have a way to reverse it.  You find out that the only way to do anything with it is to ‘reset’ the whole process and assign a new phrase.  However, doing this can apparently be ‘inhibiting’ to the subject.  Not that they go into detail in the recordings about what that means. In the end that seems like your best bet so you gather up a list of supplies of what you need to mix up a new batch of the IX serum but sadly the Empire is fresh out of Dimalium-6.  The only known source is a backwater planet called Quesh.  So we have to go to Quesh.  Yay.

Quesh

Your first stop on the poisonous swamp of a planet is the chemical warehouse where you meet with Administrator Kroius about the chemicals needed to make the IX Serum.  He has everything on the your list except the Dimalium-6.  Which would line up with the whole ‘out of stock’ scenario.  Luckily, there’s a mine where the Dimalium is harvested just north of here. Bad news is that the Republic has taken over the operation and you’ll have to er… “liberate it” from them.  The spectral voice of Watcher X can’t help but chime in as well to inform you that Kroius is the one who has been providing Imperial Intelligence with the chemicals needed to mind control you and anyone else in the Empire.  This leads you to the choice of either ordering Kroius to stop distributing Dimalium all together, killing Kroius by igniting the flammable and explosive chemicals in the warehouse but then having the deal with the security droids, or just leaving.  After you decide what to do with the good Administrator, you are off to the mine which is actually little more than a hole in the side of a mountain.  I’ve seen Wampa caves bigger than this.  You snag the Dimalium-6 from the Pubs and then use the chemical mixer in the cave to whip a fresh batch of Serum IX and then shooting it right into your veins.  Seems… hasty?  Then again, what do you really have to lose here?  It might kill ya but the alternative would be being a mind controlled puppet of both the Empire and the Republic. Naturally, it’ll take some time before the Serum does its job and rewrites your brain again, in the mean time Watcher X says you should go back to working with the SIS until the time is right.

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Hoth

Looks like Kothe has another job for you.  He wants you to go to the planet Hoth and find a lost spaceship called the Starbreeze from the infamous Starship Graveyard.  Well, that should be easy.  It’s like finding a random person in a graveyard of unmarked graves.  How long could that take?  Luckily, an Imperial admiral named Davos is assembling a mission to the graveyard to find scrap to use – supposedly including the Starbreeze.  Oh, and apparently your liaison for this mission will be Hunter.  Joy.

Unfortunately, your first encounter with Davos is not a positive one.  He greets you, asks what you need, then informs his men to torture you until they find out everything you know and then kill you.  Oh because no one ever just wants to chat.  Still, having your goons try to kill an Imperial Cipher?  That takes guts. Not to mention it immediately shifts you from the asset column straight into the super suspicious bucket.  When you finish with Davos’ men – because let’s be honest, did they really stand a chance? – you are contacted by a Chiss named Thrent who you bumped into when you first arrived and asks you to come to a frozen lake nearby for answers about Davos.  The lake is actually a cover for a large underground Chiss Ascendancy base operated in secret from even the Empire. This is where you encounter Ensign Raina Temple, an Imperial who requested to work with the Chiss that has been monitoring the Davos situation.  Apparently the Chiss have been watching Davos ever since he started building up what seemed to be a private army of men, weapons and machines to head into the Starship Graveyard and then bribing people to look the other way.  The Chiss formally ask for Imperial Sanction to act from you so they can help deal with Davos, which you naturally grant. It’s good to have friends.

Your first task is to investigate supply drops that Davos had been leaving across the icy plains as he headed out to the Graveyard. You run around and find several drops to find that they are stolen Imperial tech and weaponry that was left as tribute to a group of pirates that control the region known as the Marauders to gain safe passage.  Of course, you always have the option to steal the tech and guns for yourself to the delight of Kaliyo if she’s with you.  Also while you are out hunting down boxes, you get a call from Hunter who has finally arrived on Hoth.  He asks for a status update, but none of the answers you can give are a direct answer or at least not a satisfying one to Hunter, so he uses the code phrase to demand an update.  This causes him to laugh and say that loyalty is so much easier when you don’t have a choice before hanging up on you.  I really, REALLY don’t like Hunter. He seems like the kind of jerk that kicks puppies or watches MTV.  Anyway, after your investigation Temple wants to meet up to take on a lightly enforced Marauder camp to try and get some answers.  When you arrive, the Chiss are severely pinned down until Raina uses a force trick to confuse all the pirates so you can attack and turn the tide.  Here you finally get the details on why an Imperial like Raina has been serving with the Chiss:  She’s force sensitive but not strong enough to survive the Sith Academy.  Thus if the Empire discovered her abilities, it would pretty much be a death sentence. She knows as the ‘secret police’ of the Empire, you’ll want to pursue this information but she asks that you please hold  off on that until you’ve dealt with Davos.  Meanwhile, the rest of the Chiss have got the intel you came for. Davos was bribing his way through the pirates territory and is currently meeting with the pirates in their base.  Attacking head on would be suicide, so they recommend going through the Bone Pit – a slightly less suicidal approach… slightly – and tapping the walls to get into the security system to spy on the meeting.

Turns out that the ‘Bone Pit’ is a stinking wampa cave…  and yes it IS bigger than the “mine” on Quesh.  You get to the back and tap into the security system to learn some of the details behind Davos’ scheme.  Apparently, he fought in the Battle of Hoth.  The one that resulted in most of the Starship Graveyard being there.  However he was shot down and crashed on the surface.  There he began to collect treasues, technology and Republic secrets then hid them all away so that someday he would be able to retrieve them and become insanely rich.  Wow.  That’s it?  I mean, that makes sense and all but I was hoping for something more grand than a get rich quick scheme with buried treasure.  Well, we can’t all be Darth Jadus. Your spying is interrupted by a pack of wampa that attack you but luckily Temple was listening in remotely and got all the details you missed while almost getting your head ripped off. Davos apparently struck a deal successfully and the Marauders will act as protection and escort for Davos’ team to the Graveyard.

In the Starship Graveyard you meet up with Aristocra Saganu, the leader of the Chiss on Hoth.  He explains where Davos’ treasure hoard is and proposes a plan on how to stop him.  Namely, you take the risks and the Defense Force will back you up.  Not a shocker, but I think its funny that a squad of trained Chiss commandos are worth less in an infiltration assault than a single Cipher agent.  Really puts the whole Agent position in perspective doesn’t it?  Anyway, once you infiltrate the super dreadnought ship that Davos is in and meet up with Temple, you go ahead to deal with Davos and the Marauders and Temple with the Chiss will deal with keeping the White Maw pirates who live in the dreadnought at bay.  Davos is actually quite reasonable when you find him.  He wants to make a deal and essentially pay you off to let him leave with the treasure.  You can choose to either demand his surrender or just try and kill him – both of which lead to a big fight with the Marauders and Davos – or you can take him up on his offer and ask about the Starbreeze.  He doesn’t really want to part with it but if you are willing to keep quiet and say… give him the location of the secret Chiss base under the frozen lake he’d be willing to part with it.  I really don’t know WHY he wants the location of the Chiss base.  I mean, yea, in general the Imperials and the Chiss don’t see eye to eye out of just generic xenophobia and racism, but Davos himself has never expressed a burning hatred for the Chiss.  But if you don’t mind selling out your new pals secrets you can walk away with the Starbreeze with no mess.  Well, almost.  As you finish up, Temple will show up and regardless of what you chose to do pretty much all the Chiss are dead and Temple is injured.  You bring her along with you on the Starbreeze to the meet up with Hunter who poses as Minder-Seventeen.  The “Minder” suggests that Raina should be promoted for her actions and then asks to speak to you in private.

Hunter tells you that Raina needs to die.

You can try to defend her and Hunter will sympathize or you can agree and Hunter will just mock you saying that you don’t really want to and that you want to keep her like a lost puppy.  Honestly, it seems like this was another moment where they originally planned on letting you kill her off permanently early in the game’s design but changed it later because the ‘I agree, let’s kill her. Oh no, you don’t want to do that.’ thing comes off terribly forced and completely out of left field. In the end, you get a new companion in the form of Ensign Raina Temple who is nice and serves as something of a protege to you, learning the ways of the Agent to be more like her father who was a Cipher as well.  However, Hunter does use that damn code phrase again and puts a command in your head that if Raina becomes a problem or learns of the SIS’s involvement at all that she is immediately terminated.

As you get back on the ship, you receive a call from Ardun Kothe.  He is happy with you.  Which is… yay?  He says that Hunter gives you high praise which is a feat in itself.  Not really considering he just mind controlled me into doing what he wanted.  Kothe says it is time for the final phase.  He wants you to meet him on a death trap of a planet called Quesh.  I er… uh…  never heard of it?  I certainly have no connection to a group of dead Republic miners or anything.  Oh! Also, if you happen to be a Chiss Imperial Agent, Aristocra Saganu will contact you and make you an honorary member of his house in the Ascendancy. That’s nice of him.

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Finale

When you reach Quesh, Ardun has you meet up at a facility called ‘The Shadow Arsenal’.  There in a group holocall wit Hunter, Wheel, Saber and Ardun, it’s explained that the Shadow Arsenal houses 200 stealth rockets with built-in hyperdrives to allow them to jump right to their destination and explode, and one single rocket carries a payload big enough to level Kaas City. The Arsenal was developed by Doctor Godera and a team of other scientists during the last war, but the cowards grew a conscious about their actions and sealed the whole project away on Quesh.  Kothe has been seeking out a way to find the Shadow Arsenal and wants to use it to win the war.  The Ultrawave Transmitter on Taris had Godera’s signature activation codes built into it and then the Starbreeze had the coordinates of where the Arsenal got stashed.  With both in hand, Ardun Kothe has the keys to the cookie jar.

Hunter starts assigning tasks to the team.  Your job is just to deactivate the shields around the place so they can land and load up the missiles.  Oh and to make sure of it, after everyone else disconnects from the call, Hunter uses the code phrase again to implant the order to open the shields and do everything you can to ensure the SIS claims the Shadow Arsenal.  That prick.  You infiltrate the facility and find a security station to deactivate the shields.  Easy.  Now you just go and… wait.  Oh.  Kothe calls you before you can do anything and while they are loading up the weapons.  He uses the code phrase to force you to stay behind while they leave with everything.  Kothe wants you back in Intelligence for a few months laying low until they call upon you again.  The voice of Watcher X chimes in once more to tell you that they are abandoning you and that the time has come to break the programming.  Oh sure, there’s a risk it could put you in a vegetative state, but there’s not exactly a lot of time here. Watcher X asks if you want anything else to be done with your programming which gives you the choice of ‘having payback’, ‘being free’ or ‘break the limits of your body’.  Beyond a line of dialogue, I don’t think this actually does anything.  I do wonder what your companion thinks of their boss talking to no one in particular about all of this.  They just kind of stand there.  Ultimately, the programming is changed and you will no longer accept any outside commands from anyone.  Now the real mission begins.

You head into the Arsenal proper and find Wheel and Saber handling the automated droid security inside to cover Kothe.  They’re shocked to find you there since you were just ordered to stay put.  You can bluff them into appealing to let you help Kothe and letting the pair live – Wheel will even give you some extra supplies for it – or you can just kill them.  After dealing with them, it’s time for the primary objective: Deal with Kothe.  You find him opening the vaults of the Shadow Arsenal and deactivating the security turrets.  A massive room full of some of the deadliest weapons that were ever created.  You confront Kothe, who reveals that the SIS tactician was once a Jedi who couldn’t bring himself to live up to the Code.  He pulls out his lightsaber and attacks you. You fight until you either kill him or seal him inside the vault and let the turrets blow him to pieces.  There’s also apparently a ‘good ending’ to this section where you let Kothe live.  I was never able to find the dialogue option to get that but I will say that it does open another ending at the end of Chapter 3 if you do. So be on the look out if you want the ‘True Light Side’ ending?

The story isn’t over yet though.  As you are leaving you get a holocall from Hunter.  He laments that you managed to break out your programming and that while he was done with Kothe, he still had big plans for you.  He notes that in the end, history will forget about ‘Imperial Intelligence’ and ‘Republic Strategic Information Service’ and now history will also forget you since he called in some bombers to blow the entire Shadow Arsenal sky high.  Before you flee, you ask Hunter who he REALLY works for and he just smiles and notes, “The Winning Side.”

Final Thoughts

Chapter Two is a complete mind #%$& of a story.  It’s more than just ‘you are brainwashed and must do as your told’ but also shows the effects of your mental state deteriorating as you start seeing hallucinations and hearing voices,  and then to actually take the whole thing further and use the fourth wall breaking technique of using the games own dialogue system and choices to emphasize the mind control aspect.  Giving you three choices of different things you can say and then disregarding your choice to reply in the same stock monotone phrase when prompted is just chilling to me every time it happens.  That kind of stuff doesn’t happen anywhere else in the game.  It makes the lack of free will personal to you the player as much as it does to the character, because you actual FEEL the frustration of being aware of making a choice and having your choice disregarded because of an outside force controlling you.  As Watcher X mentions, the programming affects your actions and responses, but not your mind. When you choose a dialogue option, your character is thinking that and trying to say that but the Castellan Restraint is overriding it.

Speaking of Watcher X, his role was primarily the biggest let down of the whole chapter (which is saying a lot because it’s not even BAD as much as confusing).  Not so much what he does but what he doesn’t do – that being explaining what the hell he is doing there.  It’s left frustratingly vague why Watcher X of all people becomes your mental guide through breaking your chains.  Is he just a fragment of your mind trying to help you piece yourself together?  Is it actually something to do with Watcher X’s implant as a back up plan from Nar Shadaa?  I’m more inclined to say the former than the latter because after this he never shows up again.  Oh no, instead we get to deal with Hunter and his true employer from here on out and THAT will be fun indeed.

We also meet two more companions over the course of the chapter and while I jest about them quite a bit, they at least have interesting personalities.  Lokin is a seasoned veteran of Imperial Intelligence, he almost comes across as a Watcher X type but with an actual personality.  He is actually a great adviser on matters of espionage and counter-espionage which makes him a good teammate with Vector who knows people and how to be diplomatic through tricky situations.  It’s easy to see why the two are often found chatting away. Raina Temple on the other hand is the fresh faced new recruit despite not being either.  She is part Elara Dorne (Trooper), part Nadia Grell (Consular).  A firm believer in the Empire but eager about becoming an Imperial Agent to serve it better.  Her own storyline gets more into what that means as her own secrets force her hand and seem to maybe jade her a bit to the idea.  The romance gets somewhat into the creepy teacher-student thing but is less squicky than the Jedi romances.  I’d say it’s more of a tutor/student situation.  Which I guess is better?  Eh, at least Kaliyo is still an option if that’s not your cup of tea.

Unlike a lot of Chapter Two’s in these class stories where the entire point is to set up the third chapter the same way that the prologue sets up Chapter One, the Imperial Agent’s second chapter acts as a bridge that connect the first and third chapters.  It’s made very clear that the situation you are in is the result of your actions in the first chapter, and will adapt itself properly depending on how that chapter ended (either by stopping or joining Jadus) but then also introduces you to the primary villain of the third chapter and starts the bigger mystery of the storyline.  On top of that, it actually begins to tie in other things from some of the other storylines – namely the Jedi Knight’s visit to Taris.  That’s where you first meet Doctor Godera who has gone into exile out of guilt for his creations made for the Republic during the war.  These creations were various doomsday weapons that the Knight must stop or retrieve.  It’s safe to say that the Shadow Arsenal were among these weapons that were clearly better hidden.  However, this also may explain some of Watcher One’s interests in finding Doctor Godera during that story as well.  The Shadow Arsenal may also have been what The General was referring to with ‘Missiles that could blacken out a sun’ during the Black Talon flashpoint.

Overall, I’d say that despite a couple of hiccups, this is probably the BEST chapter two experience in the game in terms of both story and a willingness to shake things up and offer a mind blowingly unique experience.

<– Chapter One || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Three –>

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Chapter One

<– Prologue || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Two –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first chapter of the Imperial Agent storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

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The hunt is on the find ‘The Eagle’ and all his little terrorist buddies across the Galaxy.  But before that can start, you’ve been called to a special meeting, with a special little insane someone.  That someone would be Darth Jadus’ daughter – Darth Zhorrid.  She has taken her late father’s seat on the Dark Council and she’s not about to give it up to anyone.  Of course, she also delights in being an utter disappointment to her daddy.  Where Jadus was cool, calculated, and seethed with a undercurrent of hate, Zhorrid is just plain batty.  She sics her guards on you as soon as you walk in the door, then giggles when you kill them for instance.  She comes off as completely insane right at the go and worse yet, you HAVE to work for her.  She demands it.  Of course, even that isn’t simple because while she is fine with you running around and going pew pew with terrorists, she wants you to also find the REAL killers of her father.  Which in her head are decidedly not the terrorist but some vast conspiracy within the Dark Council.  She wants that dealt with.  Not for revenge on her father though. Oh no.  But because she REAAALLY likes having his seat on the Dark Council and doesn’t want anyone to try and oust her.  With that demand given, she shoos you on your way where Watcher Two drops your next assignment – destroy the terrorist cells on Balmorra and Nar Shadaa.

And since this is the last time I will be talking about a ‘Chapter One’ story…  what the heck is the point of giving you both of these at the same time?  They do the same thing with Alderaan and Tatooine.  Watcher Two even mentions to handle the order you do them in “your discretion” BUT there’s a clear leveling curve to the game.  The enemies on Nar Shadaa are several levels higher than Balmorra.  You are meant to do them in order, but then they hand you both quests and say “Do them in any order” but you CAN’T.  I dunno. That irritated me all the way back in Beta and I just wanted that off my chest.

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Balmorra

The war torn planet of Balmorra is just ripe for trouble.  It’s not exactly a shock that the first terrorist cell would turn up here.  Actually what’s more surprising is that it’s just a singular terrorist cell.  The Eagle could probably have the entire resistance and the Republic “defectors” in his back pocket. Instead, it’s just one dude named Gray Star and his team.  Aside from the fact that Gray Star sounds like a character on some weird SatAM space western cartoon, this should be cake, right?

Well your first job is to get in touch with your local contact in Imperial Intelligence who hangs out in the office of a warehouse.  He points you to HIS inside man who has already infiltrated the Resistance – one Sanju Pyne.  You go and get the official introduction with the Resistance’s number two: Chemish Or (Her last name drove me nuts, because the quest instructions always say ‘Return to Chemish Or’ and EVERY SINGLE TIME I immediately asked in my head ‘Or what?’ before it finally dawned on me at the end of my third playthrough that it was her name).  She wants you to do a quick job to run over to the Droid Factory and snag a crate of power cores.  Depending on your conversation options, Chemish can be quite upfront with you about what they’re for – turning them into explosives to blow up Sobrik, the Imperial town on Balmorra.

Honestly, this is probably one of the more annoying missions here simply because it uses one of those big square rooms with a pit that you have to fight around clockwise to reach the destination (it pops up a few places in the game, and I always hate it) but you eventually find the power cores and get contacted by Sanju.  Sanju warns you that a lot of innocent imperials will die if you hand back those power cores but he suggests a way that there is no possible means to detect foul play but render them harmless.  Stick them in a giant magnet.  Okay, not really but that is pretty much the idea. You run the crate through the machine and it fries all the cores.  This is your Light Side option and the results work out in your favor.  Kind of?  Sure, Chemish is still super suspicious but there’s nothing she can pin directly on you. Even her own people attest that the cores are old and could have failed at any time.  The dark side option of course is just bringing Chemish the cores.  She pretty much trusts you that point.

How you chose to resolve the last mission determines how the next one begins.  Either you are in the doghouse with Chemish and get one last chance to prove yourself, or she has a vital mission for her new cohort.  The job is pretty much just ‘Go into a cave and download some data before wiping it’ but the complication comes in the form of the entire place being gassed with toxins that either drove the terrorists insane or just killed them.  So you get to fight your way through to get the data.  Again though, Sanju calls in with some brilliant advice.  You should send him a copy of all the data so he can make sure that the Imperial spies on the list can all get extra protection or removed from the planet.  Which you know, won’t be suspicious at all.  I’m starting to think that Sanju is trying to get me killed.  But it turns out I’m wrong.  See, if you give them the data you are immediately make Chemish’s ‘suspect list’ but you are given a dark side option to instead throw Sanju under the bus and blame him for it all to keep your cover.  Which may seem cruel, but if you don’t give Sanju the data, he’ll try and duplicate the list on his own and start sending off protection anyway and he will be killed by the Terrorist Cell (or you) when you return to their secret base.

So at this point, you are either on the Cell’s bad side or their star quarterback (or um… a midfielder I guess for anyone outside of the states?) regardless there will be one final super-special-awesome mission that only you have the skills to complete.  So of course the game disregards your choices, right? Well, not exactly but we’ll get to that in a moment.  The mission is to break out an unknown terrorist cell member from the Republic base holed up in the Balmorran Arms Factory.  To do this you need to find said agent, deliver a package as well as coordinates to a safe house.  Now when you arrive, provided he is still alive Sanju will contact you to reveal that this ‘agent’ is actually Gray Star himself, and Sanju has a plan to divert Gray Star to a different safe house where he can be apprehended by the Empire with Sanju replacing him and sending out dummy orders that essentially turn the cell into an unwilling arm of the Empire.  This is probably Sanju’s best plan yet, but it can only come about if you make all the right choices leading up to this point (Light Side at the ‘Get the List’ mission, don’t take the dark side to sacrifice Sanju) otherwise you’re only real option is to just kill Gray Star and make a split back to Sobrik for debriefing.  When you get back to the ship, Watcher Two contacts you to update you that they have intercepted terrorist information that refer to a mysterious new weapon called “Eradicators”.

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Nar Shadaa

Our next stop is Shadowtown in Nar Shadaa, an Imperial prison for dissidents that need to just be tossed someplace to rot away the years.  Our contact here is in the high security cells and goes by the name ‘Watcher X’.  X was imprisoned when he went mad and starting becoming more and more paranoid and making strange connections claiming conspiracies everywhere.  But  he’s still trustworthy as a former Watcher he has the sensation of physical pain when he disobeys are an order from a superior (part of the Watcher genetic programming and training) and if that doesn’t do it, he also has a bomb lodged in his head.  So you know, incentive to not mess around.  That doesn’t mean it’s not risky because Watcher X is a genius and been playing the game a lot longer than you have, as demonstrated by his ability to walk you through the steps of sizing him, the room, and the situation up when you first meet.  Watcher X gives you the run down of the situation: the terrorists are manufacturing and testing a new genetic modification called ‘Cyclone’ that enhances the users speed and agility allowing anyone off the street to become a natural assassin.  Downside is that the stuff is lethal, it will burn you up from the inside not long after injecting it.  You need to shut down the manufacture and distribution of this stuff to cripple a potent tool of the terrorists.

Watcher X however will need a sample of the drug in order to track down its maker.  This can be done by getting a sample of the stuff or having it in the bloodstream by getting it injected.  He points you to a genetic modification black market dealer that would probably have connections and then offers to make it more convincing as a buyer by injecting you with a toxin that will temporarily mimic genetic damage (No, I don’t know how that’s possible. It’s science. I don’t have to explain it.)  You can take the shot and it will give you a better ‘in’ with the buyer if you plan to go the peaceful route, yet sadly the dealers (a brother and sister pair) tell you that they just sold their last vial of cyclone to some evocii (The natives from Hutta).  If really play up the fake the weak and broken act though, you’ll get some extra dialogue from Kaliyo.  You then can track down the evocii dead in an alleyway and extract a blood sample.  Of course, if you want to go the dark side route with this you’ll quickly find out that those sibling dealers were lying as after you blast their kneecaps and say some nice threatening words, they’ll take you for a slaver and hand over anything you want to leave them alone – including a vial of cyclone.

The next bit of the mission has Watcher X sending you to Duros to find a Bio-scanner in an old lab.  This will lead you to discover the…  /sigh ‘genetic markings’ identify that the company who produced it is called Synchet.  Synchet however went out of business five years ago. Luckily there’s a former Synchet executive holed up still here on Nar Shadaa in a palatial casino suite that no one but his droids (and his one non-droid assistant) can gain access to.  What you need again is an ‘in’, something to make this guy – Jordel Tlan – NEED you.  Watcher X’s suggestion?  Poison him.  Use the chemicals in the lab with the bio-scanner and whip something up, then give it to a drink delivery droid and enjoy.  Or I suppose if you didn’t want to be needlessly cruel (although not earning Dark Side points), you could just convince Netula, the assistant, to let you speak to Tlan by telling her to tell him it’s about Cyclone.  There’s that I suppose.  But really it’s much more fun to watch the fat jerk squirm a bit while you interrogate him and dangle the antidote like a juicy bait.  Either way will net you the intel you want:  VerveGen, the subsidiary of Synchet that dealt with genetic mods, was sold off in the liquidation years ago to an anonymous buyer who paid in cash.  Well if that ain’t a big yellow “TERRISTS IZ HUR” sign, I dunno what is.  Tlan points you to the VerveGen offices in upper Nar Shadaa where Watcher X has you hack into the HoloNet around the area because he’s blockaded from doing so.

You head back to Shadowtown to meet with X who has discovered a rather large deal is about to go down for a batch of Cyclone.  Undoubtedly, the terrorist cell leaders will be in attendance and thus security will be higher than ever and all employees dismissed early for the day.  The only ones permitted to enter or exit will be the mindless droids.  Which thankfully Watcher X wants to turn you into.  Okay not really, but he does want to stick implants into that will fool any sensors as well as project a hard light holoprojection giving you the appearance of a droid.  He offers to give you anesthesia to knock you out for the surgery but you can refuse to let yourself be unconscious around Watcher X and get the implants put it while fully awake and not numbed up at all.   You make it into the VerveGen offices no problem and can sit in on the meeting with the local terror cell leaders on HoloCall with The Eagle, and you are given ample chances to ‘spring the trap’ and announce your presence or just keep waiting until they all start wondering why the heck there’s a droid standing behind them.  If you wait, you’ll get the option of letting the non-terrorists corporate flunkies go for some Light Side points.  Then you fight!  Afterwards, you find the sole survivor – a cyborg – shivering on the ground and you get the moral choice of either letting Watcher X hack his brain or convincing him to confess in exchange for his safety.  Either way, you get your final target now that the leaders are dead: a massive communications hub used to schedule meets and drop offs with other terrorist cell members.

The adventure on Nar Shadaa ends with you destroying the massive array which sends a ripple effect across the HoloNet and glitches out systems planet-wide… including the Shadowtown prison complex.  Yeah, you get a call from Watcher X right after who explains that yes, he has escaped.  Yes, this was his plan since the moment you stepped into his cell.  But the whole thing was mutually beneficially.  He asks you to lie to Intelligence about his escape and in exchange will give you a ton of intel on everything from Watcher Two and her mental conditioning to Kaliyo’s full background and all known aliases.  A tempting offer really without much time to decide since his call is nearly interrupted by Watcher Two’s.  If you choose to confess that Watcher X escaped, you are tasked with hunting him down at the spaceport and eliminating him.  Otherwise, well, good job agent. Head back to your ship. Job is done.  Oh and Kaliyo thinks you’re a coward.

Interlude

Did I say we were done with Nar Shadaa? I’m sorry. I meant Darth Zhorrid is here to be a pain in the patoot and send us right back there.  Oh yes, how could we have forgotten our new dark lord Darth Zhorrid?  She is most cross with us for failing to find Jadus’ REAL assassins.  Not those silly terrorists, but the Dark Council members who are planning to usurp Zhorrid as well! Of course!  But the Darth has a job for you to redeem yourself with.  Go back to Nar Shadaa, find this guy named Vyord Yanol who used to be an advisor of Darth Jadus, and drag him back to Zhorrid so she can extract all of her daddy’s secrets from the “force-blind” (which I can’t help but feel is some manner of slur in this context, like mudblood or muggle) in exchange for a pat on the head.  Or you can kill him and get slapped in the face.  Also, fun fact about this interlude:  If you do the mission normally, you find that Zhorrid’s office is covered in corpses from people she’s been torturing to make ‘music’ (Why do the good Darth’s all die and we get stuck with fruitcakes?) but if you make mention of blaming Keeper in the dialogue with Zhorrid at the start of the mission, you’ll arrive at the end to Keeper being tortured by Zhorrid instead.  After that, Watcher Two contacts you with another clue about the Eradicator weapons:  the terrorists want to “burn the galaxy” with them and they require targeting codes.  My guess is either a satellite or an internet mob.

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Tatooine

Tatooine is home to a terrorist cell called the ‘Ghost Cell’ due to their expertise in stealth and infiltration.  Watcher Two directs you to a recent defector from the cell who left as a ‘matter of conscience’ who will only meet you in person.  You then get in touch with them from holocall terminal.  Not entirely sure that this person knows what “in person” means.  She asks you to destroy the Imperial but easily hackable holocam droids all over the city and then trade them to a junk dealer who will give you a mouse droid for them.  In your confusion about the trade, the mouse droid rushes off and you chase it to your meet location.  Where the defector gasses the room and then points a gun at your head.  Ah, isn’t a government job grand? Once its clear who you are and that neither party was followed, she apologizes and introduces herself as Mia Hawkins.  Mia is a former resistance fighter against the Empire turned member of the Ghost Cell who left the cell when they started kidnapping civilians to use as ‘target practice’.  She explains that the cell is insanely difficult to track because not only are they stealthy masters-of-disguise, they have hard-light holoprojectors that allow them to look like anyone.  Crazy? Not really when you pulled the exact same stunt to pass off as a droid not one planet ago.  The Cell is instructed by an individual simply called ‘The Old Man’ who carries out his teaching in ‘The Village’ (Not associated with M. Knight Shammylammy). Unfortunately, despite fleeing from there, Mia has no idea how to reach the Village.  But she does know that there is a supplier that hangs out in the local cantina called ‘Dragon Eyes’.  She suggests tagging suspicious people with trackers and then follow anyone that heads off when you announce you are looking for Dragon Eyes.  Sure enough, Mia lets you know that she’s got the beat on a rodian who rushed off right after, but also that you have Ghost Cell assassins tailing you.  Mia says she’ll go after the rodian, and directs you to a windfarm to deal with the assassins and… uh… hide the bodies afterward.  Well, at least there’s an honest understanding between the two of you.

When you reach the wind farm and clear out the former inhabitants (Tusken Raiders, nothing lost) and set up some traps to blow up the assassins.  After which, Mia shows up!  She even starts to flirt with you some.  How nice of her.  And not suspicious at all that you said you were going to tail a rodian but are instead here and suddenly have become very attracted to me and oh gee is that your knife impaling my gut?  Yea, if you don’t call her out on being a fake she stabs and poisons you.  It’s actually one last assassin using that holographic disguise mentioned earlier.  So you really don’t have an excuse to fall for this one.  I mean, your not the Sith Inquisitor. HA.  Meanwhile, the REAL Mia has tracked down Dragon Eyes who turns out is actually a goon for the Exchange named Milosh Varta.  You head up to his home to find he’s not there, just his wife is home.  And some of you right now are realizing the dire consequences that sentence poses especially in the wake of the ‘hiding the bodies’ comment and you would not be wrong.  Indeed there are a variety of ways you can deal with Varta’s wife: you can force her to leave, you can force her to stay and then threaten and/or harm her to gain leverage or you can just kill her as a message to Milosh that you are not messing around.   When Milosh finally comes home, the pay out of your previous action comes full circle with the addition of a few more things like blackmail or bribing Milosh into helping. In the end the result is pretty much always being that Milosh tells you that he has no idea where The Village is and that he leaves the supplies in crates in the desert to be picked up.  When you return to Mia, you find that she has fled offworld knowing that no matter how things went down, you’d be forced to eliminate her as well.  Aww.  And we were having a nice/vaguely threatening relationship depending on which characters I was playing.  She sent all her intel files to Keeper though.  That’s nice.

So you hide in a box in the middle of the desert only to be whisked away to the far corner of the map. You fight through the Village to finally find the Old Man… and Mia.  Apparently they used the holographic disguise to pose as some Imperials and arrested her.  Apparently, Mia was part of the Old Man’s Big Plan (which would be a good name for this episode) in which he singled out Mia as the most likely to defect and ultimately lure an Imperial Agent out to the middle of nowhere to get killed and replaced by a Ghost Cell holo-disguised doppelganger.  Which I would criticize as a plan where a lot of things could go wrong, but at the same time it actually worked out for him and I came. So uh… who’s the real fool?  Anyway, you fight the Old Man and his team and then get a light/dark choice that ultimately doesn’t matter because if you don’t kill him, he’ll just kill himself.  Then you can deal with Mia by either: letting her go, asking her to surrender, or just kill her.  And that’s another cell wrapped up.  Back on the ship, Watcher Two has another update.  Intelligence had a failed raid on the Eagle’s base of operations.  They found the place trashed and the Eagle already gone.  However they have gained new intelligence on the ‘Eradicators’.  They are techno-organic weapons with organic batteries fitted inside a weaponized technological shell and that means the terrorists can grow more wherever they have land to grow crops.  That’s bad.  Yea, we’ll go with ‘bad’ for that news.

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Alderaan

Last we have Alderaan, home of the never ending dumb politics.  Here we are supposed to make contact with a man named Vector Hyllus who has been absorbed into the hive mind of the local insectoids, the Killiks.  He will hopefully provide direction to a financier of the noble houses that has been funneling money to the Eagle’s terrorist network.  Vector is our first new companion since we met Kaliyo way back on Hutta, and he’s also the female agent love interest.  He’s apparently also quite popular with the ladies?  I know of several people I’ve met online over the years that profess to adore the bugboy but honestly I always found him a bit off putting.  He’s kind and curteous as would be expected of a diplomat but everything is coated in this veneer of ‘not right’ that comes from his Killik joining.  Be it the black eyes, the tendency to refer to the first person as ‘We’ instead of ‘I’, or just the weird offhand comments about the songs and colors of the universe…  Vector always strikes me as a guy who is one secret away from being a stereotypical serial killer. As opposed to Kaliyo who is possibly an actual serial killer.  Anyway, Vector informs you that based on the documents he was given, the financier deals with a large number of Alderaan’s noble houses including House Cortess who is a vassal of the Imperial aligned House Thul.  He mentions that would be a good place to start your trail and then gives some tips on how to approach them (like show strength, be courteous, and DO NOT MENTION YOU ARE FROM IMPERIAL INTELLIGENCE.)

House Cortess follows in the same vein as pretty much every other house on Alderaan: They like to make you work for it.  Favors, go here, go there.  For instance, before Cortess even lets you in the door, you have to go and find their droids that disappeared.  Not even their men.  DROIDS.  Then you get to meet the Baron and Baroness who have nothing more than a name to give you: Denri Ayl. The one person that seems to fit the profile given to you by Vector.  But Denri has been missing for months, and no one knows where he went.  The Baron assures you he will do his best to find it, but it’s probably not best to rely on the guy who lost droids five minutes from his front door, so we should probably check in with Vector again.  Luckily, the Killiks come through using their weird hive mind thing.  They ‘remember’ a member of House Alde who had dealing with Denri Ayl and that the House had extensive records kept their.  This leads you to break into the massive estate of House Alde and find Ayl’s journal in their databanks.  There you have some insight into what Ayl has been doing:  he brokered a deal with the Mindak family on Dromund Kaas (See: The Prologue),  helped set up a construction effort in the Broken Valley on Balmorra, and also meetings with individuals only referred to as “C” and “EE” that warn him away from dealing with House Thul (who has Imperial ties) just before the Jadus assassination.  Hmm.  Presenting these and more to Vector allows you to confirm that yes, it appears Denri Ayl bankrolled the terrorist attack on the Eradicator.

Taking the info you’ve gathered to the Baron will also net you an additional clue as he assembles your intel with his vaguely never defined gathered intel (my guess is that it’s actually nothing and he’s just reading the documents you have with local knowledge in mind), and he tells you that it appears that Denri’s last dealings were sending him to House Rist – likely for protection – and that since they are a house of assassins and thugs that you should avoid them and just wait for Denri to finish his dealings there. Should only be a month or two.  Which is kind of a no go.  Then the Baron’s wife – Chay – chats with you after her husband leaves.  She confides inn you that she believes you can turn the tide and show the other noble houses not to fear Rist.  Also she tries to seduce you.  For some reason.  I mean you can take her up on it.  It doesn’t really change anything from I can tell.  Just happens.

The trip to Rist is a pain in the rear – dealing with Rist always is in these missions.  Who the heck builds their home in a single long winding corridor? I get the whole Rist = Hiss sound alike and poison assassins thing but you don’t have to make your home into a giant snake too.  Anyway, you finally find Denri Ayl there and he taunts you saying that he knew you were coming and that you have his files before sending Rist goons at you while he runs away.  You kill a bunch of faceless mooks and then fight Denri proper to be given the choice to: Dark Side – Kill him OR Light Side – Offer to help and then have him die anyway.  These Light Side options don’t ever seem to work out in this storyline, do they? Well maybe his computer will have some info.  Oh lookie he had a phone call just before we got there. With Baroness Chay Cortess.  She cheated on my cheating with her! Or something.  Well perhaps we should just have a chat about that in person and see what she has to say about- oh.  We’re not allowed in anymore?  Siccing the attack droids on us?  Do they shoot bees?  Or is that Vector? Speaking of Bugboy, he’s got a plan to get us into House Cortess – break the generators using “fingerlings” (small killiks who nest on the fingers of big killiks. Which is disgusting. And creepy.)

Once the generators are blown, it’s back one last time to House Cortess to “visit” that is to say team up with the Killiks to completely rip apart their defenses until you get inside.  There you find the Baron and his wife arguing about what she has done.  The Baroness defends her actions as doing what was necessary to protect House Cortess’ interests which confuses me a bit.  Which part was protecting their interests? Joining forces with a faction of Anti-Imperial Terrorists? Sending a representative of the Empire to their deaths and then threatening them directly when they returned alive? Seducing you?  What part of any of this actually would have helped House Cortess in the long run?  You are a vassal of House Thul who is aligned with the Empire.  Your estate is literally adjacent to Thul’s territory.  There is no way this ends well for you.  The Baron seems very much aware of the utter stupidity his wife has committed and has her killed right in front of you to prove his loyalty.  However regardless of if view this as unnecessary, sufficient, or not enough it doesn’t matter. The Killiks want their share for helping out in this plot too and they’ve decided that they want House Cortess’ lands and estate for the expansion of their nest.  That means the er… ‘removal’ of the former residents by some means.  This is where it falls down to you to make the choice.  You can choose to defend House Cortess right after they put you through hell and tried to have you killed, thus having to fight several waves of Killiks and making Vector betray the nest out of loyalty to the Empire or you can give the killiks what they want and kill the remaining members of House Cortess who would rather die than have ‘bugs’ live on their land (It was established on the annoying droid mission way way waay at the start that Cortess dislikes the Killiks to the point of being borderline racist about it.)  Once the decision is made and the battle won, it’s time to send off the Baroness’ files back to the Watchers to comb over and to get off this planet.  Keeper contacts you to let you and Vector know that he has contacted the Diplomatic Service to have Vector permenantly reassigned to your command.

OH! And fun side note, after the Vector recruitment cutscene you can run back inside House Cortess.  If you gave the place to the Killik’s they’ve already begun converting the place into a hive.  Just a little easter egg that I missed the first few times.

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Finale

Back on your ship, there’s an emergency call from Watcher Two: They’ve tracked down The Eagle to a swamp on Hutta.  You take off and head into the base, fighting your way to the rear where you find The Eagle letting his people know that they need to scour the swamps for something.  As soon as they leave, he reveals that he knows you are there and the mission was a pointless errand to spare them from you.  The Eagle then waxes on and on about the growing revolution and how the rebellion won’t stop regardless of what ever you do to him. Typically freedom fighter rhetoric.  However there are a few bits of info that he will drop that is useful to know.  Namely that the Eradicators that have already been launched will not be stopped by killing him.  They are designed to just start randomly blasting things if they don’t get orders after so long.  Also that The Eagle has an accomplice, a mysterious partner that has aided him from within the Empire and provided him with the technology for the Eradicators.  The Eagle only holds half the codes for the Eradicators, and the unknown partner holds the other half. The battle with The Eagle is short and ends explosively as the terrorists seems to prefer taking himself out with a thermal detonator than be taken captive.  In the wake of the explosion, Watcher Three arrives with a team of soldiers to confirm the Eagle’s claims. The Eradicators will begun randomly blowing stuff up unless you find the mysterious partner and their half of the code.

Back on Dromund Kaas, Keeper has called a meeting with you and Watcher Two.  An operation to start dismantling Eradicators is underway based on the unlaunched one you found on Hutta, but the projections aren’t looking good.  It would take up to weeks to find and dismantle them, and there is no way of knowing how long it will be before they activate.  The only sure way to deal with this threat is to find the codes.  Luckily, Watcher Two has been analyzing the transmissions from The Eagle’s base and found a number being sent to the uninhabited Artus System, so that’s where your search will begin.  Before you leave however, Darth Zhorrid would like a word.  You can also have a brief aside and romantic entanglement with Watcher Two before you leave.  You find Zhorrid battered and bruised from going to make a scene at the Dark Council demanding respect and power and the Council in turn decided to kick her Sith butt.  She demands her revenge on the terrorists since they are the ones who put her in this un-respected position before her tutelage under her father & master was complete.  Naturally, you will be the one to do this for her because you are her most trusted agent or the agent who owes her for failing so many times.

When arriving in the Artus System, you find and land on an Imperial Dreadnaught drifting in the depths of space.  You rendexvous with Watcher Two who gives you an ear piece so she can talk to you through the ship.  Then you begin exploring the place.  There’s a bunch of crazed people who will wildly attack you if you get close all over the ship and some brief journal entries that just go to explain exactly how this all ended up being like this: The ships residents began as 100 or so survivors of a year long trip that became a disaster before they were saved and subsequently abducted by one they only refer to as The Master.  The Master subjects the survivors to psychological torture – depriving them of resources, randomly trapping them in darkness for unknown periods of time, and various other stress inducing acts – driving some to insanity, some into gibbering messes of fear, and others into a pure rage.  You eventually find the helm of the ship and find out who the Eagle’s ally, the Imperial Traitor and The Master is:

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That’s right. Darth Jadus.  The Sith whose assassination launched the entire drive to find The Eagle. He apparently faked his death to fall outside of the eyes of both the Empire and the Dark Council, he manipulated and supported the terrorist cells into uniting under the Eagle to manufacture the Eradicators and disperse them across the Empire, and then he drop all his responsibilities onto his inept daughter to ensure that the Dark Council had their hands full dealing with her spoiled tantrums and whiny demands.  Why did he do all this?  To use the Eradicators to annihilate the rest of the Dark Council’s power bases and strongholds, to spread fear of an unknown threat in the sky, and then to return from his self-exile to claim the Empire as his own and begin his ‘Epoch of Fear’.  All he needs now to complete his master plan is you and your half of the codes.

Watcher Two begins crunching the numbers in your ear and laying out the odds of survival in the various possibilities to counter Jadus’ plan.  Watcher Two recommends that you activate the Eradicators just long enough to gain Jadus’ trust and allow you to sabotage the ship so it can’t escape, then trap Jadus in a ray prison until the military arrives.  Of course if you don’t want to risk the few tens or hundreds of thousands of lives that might get wiped out while you handle things in Watcher Two’s plan, there’s the much riskier plan of shutting down the Eradicators completely which will leave you to directly deal with Jadus’ wrath and even if you manage to get away from him, it’s a suicide run to go set the ship to explode and then get off before it does – worse yet, if gives Jadus a chance to escape.  Of course, there’s the third option.  One that I don’t think you can actually do in any of the other storylines: You can join Jadus.  Yea.  Sign on with the villain.  We are talking about a man who wants to disable the Imperial’s obsession with a hierarchy of lineage and power and establish equality for all under a regime of eternal fear and terror.  Especially if you’re an alien in Imperial Intelligence I can’t say that would sound horrible.  I mean, your treated like scum despite being the secret police.  Watcher Two will protest, but if you agree with the “bad guy” you can by all means join him.  If you do, you won’t have to scramble across the ship, you can rat out Watcher Two in the hanger, and Darth Jadus names you his “Hand” (Formally, The Hand of Jadus) and sends you to Dromund Kaas while his Eradicators rain down destruction to clear up his chair – in other words he wants you to kill Darth Zhorrid.

The first chapter pretty much ends right after the mission.  Either Jadus is arrested, Jadus escapes or you serve Jadus.  The eradicators either did no destruction, minimally acceptable destruction, or ALL the destruction.  Now, of course, what becomes of you from some of these choices…  well, well see when we get our next big mission in Chapter Two.

Thoughts

The Imperial Agent story has been compared to James Bond in a favorable sense, and this is the chapter where quite honestly it probably shows that the best.  You are traveling around the galaxy in pursuit of an evil organization bent on destroying your government, and you have to infiltrate, sneak, lie and kill your way to success.  Each planet brings a little bit of something different to the formula, from working under cover to infiltrate the cell on Balmorra to dealing with a dangerous rogue agent on Nar Shadaa to having to work with the enemy on Tatooine.  Honestly, of any of the worlds it’s Alderaan that is probably the weakest.  I mean no one’s motivation is explored or even makes a lot of sense.  The secret intel you get from the financier does very little to give insight to the plans even once you know the truth of the ending.

Speaking of the ending, I will say that I am NEVER going to get tired of that twist.  Even more so than the first time I saw it, which had my jaw on the floor, the second and third times I had the fun of actually getting to see exactly how much of that twist is set up in advance.  Oh and it is.  The first time I saw it did seem to come out of left field, but damn there is PLENTY of hinting in the Prologue about what Jadus is planning to do. All his talk of the democratization of fear and showing people his new vision of the galaxy.  Yeah, that’s this.  That is exactly what the Terrorists are doing.  They are democratizing fear.  How did Jadus survive? Well, he knew the attack was coming.  He was the one commanding the terrorists.  That’s also why he would do seemingly stupid things like demand that one lone agent be sent to stop them in the Dark Temple instead of squad.  He wanted you specifically – his chosen – to see his machinations.  Jadus was evil, but a genius as well.  Heck, I was honestly expecting that The Eagle didn’t even really exist outside of holo-broadcasts.  Then the fact that you can actually join him?!  Oh man, how different would that be if the Jedi Knight could chose to join Darth Angral at the end of Chapter One?  Or have the Trooper realize that Tavus was right and go rogue?  That’s pretty much what this story is offering you.

Now is the first chapter flawless? Naw. There’s little bumps and problems here or there. The interlude mission here is pretty pointless, then again it’s a job for Zhorrid so isn’t that just par for the course.  The characterization can seem weird on some of the NPCs, especially the one-world-only characters.  Darth Zhorrid pretty much only exists to be annoying and make you hate working with the Sith that rule over you, and then she just vanishes from the story completely without closure unless you chose the join Jadus and kill her.  Supposedly she comes back to play in one of the six endings of Chapter Three as the founder of Sith Intelligence, but she has no affect on the rest of the story.  The Intelligence team however is given a lot of time to shine and get to know them, I had no issue recalling Watcher Three when he came back at the end of the Eagle’s base, Watcher Two is a great character as well as Keeper.  The only new companion you get here is Vector, and as I said before I have never been a fan of the bug man.  Though to be fair, I think that was part of his design.  He seems to be very ‘alien’ in a Lovecraftian sense in terms of what he says, how he speaks and of course those pure black eyes.  More power to you if you like the guy, but honestly I think he fits in more with the ‘In the Mouth of Madness’ crew than on my ship.

I will say that just like the prologue before it, this chapter does a wonderful job of setting up things of whats to come.  From plot elements that will become more relevant further down the line, to just setting the tone of mistrust and deception that oozes from every chapter of this story.  This isn’t the Jedi where good and evil are oh so easy to differentiate and this isn’t the Sith where power plays are these massive spectacles on par with the Red Wedding. This is the world of espionage – and you have no allies here.  Till next time.

<– Prologue || IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter Two –>

Update on Imperial Agent Storyline Review: Part Deux

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Hey all, just a quick little up date to let everyone know who has been waiting for the last of the SWTOR Class Storyline Reviews that I was able to push my way through to the end of the Imperial Agent twice over the last Double XP weekend and have all my notes from those playthroughs written up.  I believe I last clocked the total at somewhere around 11,000 words for JUST the notes.  Now I have take all those notes and turn them into (semi) coherent blog posts which is another long task but I’m working on it bit by bit when I have the time (Hey, I have a full time job too ya know.)  But I figure I’d let you all know that we’ve stepped into the next phase on this one and hopefully Chapter One will be on the site soon-ish.  Thank you all for your patience.

Status Update on the Imperial Agent Storyline

As I’m sure regular readers of this site will know, the conclusion of the Smuggler reviews means that there is only one class storyline I have no yet done any reviews on.  This is quite intentional as unlike most of my reviews which were done in either binge sessions with skipping everything outside of the Class Stories or in long drawn out bits and pieces of the course of years, I wanted the Imperial Agent – the storyline I consider to be the best of all eight – to be something different and to really focus on exploring the choices presented to you and to see exactly how much changes.

My original Agent was a strictly gray aligned, straight down the middle, do-the-mission until *coughcoughcoughhack* happened and then things changed for her.  But what about the other paths?  The ending of Chapter One establishes three distinct scenarios that can emerge from the situation, and I’ve always wanted to see them all.  So with that in mind, I have rolled two characters: Cipher Agent Zero-Sum and Cipher Agent Crim’son, my Light Side operative and Dark Side sniper.

I’ll be playing through the Imperial Agent storyline twice.  Each Agent will only progress to the end of each planet until both are ready for the next.  Each will make their morality choices based on their predetermined alignment.  And then I will write about not only what happens but what some of the key differences in the playthroughs will be.

I wanted to explain this because as of late I’ve received many eager messages from a great number of people across a variety of platforms asking me when the rest of the reviews were coming out.  While I have always said that these are something I do for fun and in my spare time, and that regardless of how long it takes me I have no intention of abandoning the project, I want to ensure I give my readers ample status updates to the progress of my work.  The Imperial Agent reviews will likely take longer than any of the others.  Between playing through it twice, the fact that SWTOR is only one of three MMOs I play on top of my single player games I play and write about (Such as my Final Fantasy retrospectives, enjoying Fallout 4, and my video series of Lets Plays), and I also started a full time job last year that has decreased my gaming time significantly (but increased my gaming budget immensely) – I am here to say I cannot make any firm promises about the timing of these last four class storyline reviews other than yes, they will be completed eventually.

Thank you all for your patience and your readership.  You’ve all turned this little backwater blog into a hub of SWTOR info and brought my views up from the dozens a day to a whopping 400-1000 views a day.  And while I don’t advertise or anything, it still warms my heart to see so many people coming to a remote corner of the web to read something I wrote.  You all are awesome, and I hope not to let you down.  In the mean time, I will continue to write.  Be it TOR stuff, or Final Fantasy, or some WoW observations, or even post more funny videos for people to enjoy.  Keep it tuned to the Land of Odd.

Thank you all so much.

\\Vrykerion

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Imperial Agent – Prologue

|| IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter One –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the prologue of the Imperial Agent storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

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Welcome to the cleaning crew, Agent.  From this day forth you will have no identity, no friends, and no allegiances to anyone but us.  You are a ghost, a shadow, a passerby that is forgotten as quick as you are seen. Your mission will be to protect the Empire’s interest across the galaxy, to serve the orders of the Sith and to tidy up their messes.  This is your life now, Agent.  Welcome to Imperial Intelligence.

The Imperial Agent is exactly all that and more.  While the bounty hunter claims a paycheck, and the Sith war for power with each other, it’s you that will be behind the scenes of everything, picking up the pieces and ensuring that no matter what happens – the Empire wins.  Imagine James Bond, meets Ghost in the Shell, meets Mission Impossible, meets the Bourne Identity, all tossed in a blender of intrigue and action with a finger fully pressed on frappe. That’s what you are in for.  You’ve probably heard murmurs across the internet about how the Agent story is probably one of the best stories in the game, and this is not blind hyperbole.  But that’s for later, and now you are a fresh faced agent, just created, completely green and arriving on Hutta.  Let me give you the sit rep on the Prologue for the Imperial Agent.

Hutta

Oh of all the places to get stuck on your first mission.  This has got to be some kind of form of Imperial Intelligence hazing.  Hutta, the stinkball, is home to a powerful hutt named Nem’ro.  Nem’ro controls a ton of the resources here, and it’s up to you to secure a partnership with the hutt and the Empire by any means necessary.  Your handler, named “Keeper”, which I guess is supposed to be cute because of the ragged mangy akk dogs we are that we need a keeper not a coordinator or a commander, wants you to secure a new identity from an alien in town and make a good impression with the Hutt-in-charge and get to working on setting up an alliance.  The alien – Jeeg – has the identity of ‘The Red Blade’ set up for you.  It’s the name of a criminal of some renown, no one knows what they look like and the Real Blade is supposed to be on the other side of the galaxy by now.  The only real hiccup with this plan is that a couple of low life parasites made off with the crate of goods you were supposed to present to Nem’ro, so it’s up to you to get them back and get to Nem’ro for a meeting.   The meeting can go well or decent based on your choices really.  Either way you get introduced to several members of Nem’ro’s crew: Karrells the old timer, Kaliyo the muscle, and Tothrezen the…  uh…  dumb one that Nem’ro likes?  Really Toth doesn’t do much other than he’s the current favorite, a complete jerk, and dumber than bricks so Karrells always has to pick up his messes.  Keeper identifies as Karrells as the best target to get buddy buddy with and you go off using a bit of overhead info to help put Karrells back in Nem’ro’s limelight.

How you do that is pretty much taking care of problems for Nem’ro around the planet. Doing things like reclaiming ore from the renegade evocii (the locals that sold their planet to the hutts) that was stolen from Nem’ro’s mines, and breaking into the the rival hutt Fathra’s factory and blowing up a drilling shaft that’s being used to pillage Nem’ro’s gas deposits.  You’ve pretty much ensured yourself a man on the inside with Karrells until a slight problem arises.  Karrells’ kids?  His sons that he won’t shut up about?  Turns out they were just killed.  By a Sith.  So the chances of Karrells being sympathetic to joining the Empire pretty much will be blasted into space as soon as he gets the news.  Thus Karrells turns from your best asset into your biggest liability and we all know what to do with liabilities. Actually, beyond the straight order to just kill Karrells, you can technically just tell him to lay low, get the heck out of town, and not to contact anyone in order to spare his life.  Which seems counter to doing your job, but hey, he was a nice guy for a gang leader murderer thug.

The plan at this point radically shifts as you actually pin the murder of Karrells (or the attack if Karrells hid) on the rival hutt Fathra and using a Republic computer spike so it looks like the Republic and Fathra joined forces to take out Nem’ro.  But Nem’ro needs proof before he goes to war.  You volunteer to find said evidence for justice for poor Karrells (he was your buddy after all. Mwahaha.) and Tothrezen accepts your help.  However, Kaliyo is more suspicious.  She follows you to your room and confronts you about killing Karrells.  Your only choice really is to let her in on the loop because as it turns out – She’s not mad!  She actually wants in on the heist.  So you introduce her to Keeper and he offers her a job working for Imperial Intelligence under your command.  She takes the job under the condition that if Keeper ever refers to her as a loyal servant of the Empire again she’ll break his jaw.  With that settled it’s off to Fathra’s!

The ultimate goal inside the palace is pretty easy.  You kill lieutenants to get their security badges and then download the altered files that show that Fathra has been dealing with the Republic.  Of course, a bunch of Fathra’s goons try to stop you but that really doesn’t slow you down.  The actual choice to the whole thing comes in the form of whether you scorch part of the files or not.  Why?  Well these are all of Fathra’s records.  This shows that Fathra has had dealings with the Republic now, but also that he’s been in cahoots with half of the businesses that work for Nem’ro.  If Nem’ro finds out, Hutta’s gonna run red with blood which will make Nem’ro happy but destroy a lot of his merchant empire on the planet.  So it’s actually a nice real difficult choice.  You risk exposing this whole thing as a scheme if you damage the files, but you protect Nem’ro’s assets or you can just focus on keeping Nem’ro happy and if he slaughters his own city it’s his own dumb fault.  Either way, the records are proof enough that Nem’ro’s hated rival is working with the Republic and that he needs just as much help, so he gets on the holo contacting the Empire for assistance.  Mission complete.  Almost.

It would seem that on your way off world that the actual, real Red Blade is here and he’s not pleased that you’ve been using his identity.  How did he find out?  How did he get here so quick?  I dunno, but I blame Jeeg.  To me though he’s just another loose end to wrap up.  And by that I mean bury in the ground completely.  Or I suppose technically just leaving him dead on the hangar floor.  That works too.

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Dromund Kaas

Welcome to the home world, Agent.  Here you are the secret police and the clean up crew.  Which is a weird position to be in when people are terrified of you and at the same time you have to clean up their messes.  Speaking of messes, no sooner than you arrive at Imperial Intelligence HQ and you bump into Keeper and Darth Jadus himself.  Jadus is a creepy ol’ big sith dude who always wears a mask.  Honestly, he’s probably one of the cooler Sith NPCs in the game.  He’s very philosophical, not afraid to exert his power, has a unique agenda (more on that in a moment), and looks bad ass.  He’s not interested in the power plays like Baras or untold hidden power like Zash.  Best of all (or worst of all depending on your outlook) he seems to have taken a liking to you in particular, and tells Keeper he wants you to be the agent for the job he was apparently describing before you arrived.  That job?  Eliminating a terrorist cell on Dromund Kaas.  A uniquely boring terrorist cell at that, as they have no formal name, no motive or connections, and their only reason for resorting to terrorism is literally “we are not satisfied with Imperial policy.”  I’ve seen tweens on Tumblr with better reasons to get upset, let alone resort to terrorism.

Keeper sends you out to go find an alien slave that was once used to transport messages between political dissidents and supposedly kept copies of said messages “encoded” in his native language.  It’s encoded in the sense that Imperial nobility are too fricking racist to bother to learn any language other than Basic, I guess. Oh yea. And if you play an agent that’s not a cyborg, human or pureblood? Get used to putting up with the incredible racism from your team mates and other Imperials. They love bringing it up. Like calling you a ‘creature’ or ‘alien’.  Lots of “you people” crap.  You can also get to know the rest of the Imperial Intelligence team before you head out.  They are:

  • Watcher Two: Genetically engineered to be a ‘Watcher’.  But she has a quick tongue and can even keep up with Kaliyo in the insults department.
  • Lodenth: The token alien. He’s here to help understand Alien stuff. Like psychology. Or reading something other than Aurebesh.
  • Fixer Twelve: A former agent turned mechanic. He claims to be the guy who keeps the whole place running, which makes me wonder what the hell the other eleven fixers do.
  • Watcher Three: The new guy. I will not be shocked if he dies.  He is after all, the new guy.

If you are wondering where Watcher One is at the moment, he’s gone supposedly AWOL working with Darth Angral in the Jedi Knight storyline.  Anyway, you head off to find the slave in question – one Jurithus by name – who got caught up in the slave rebellions surrounding the giant statue in the jungle.  You hunt down and question a rebellion leader named Rebellion Leader and inject him with a serum you picked up before you left HQ.  This pretty much turns his mind into Jello so you can extract info from him.  Unfortunately the info you get is that Jurithus died in the jungle (or on the opposite platform from the one you’re on it turns out. Again, Jello.) You can then put rebellion leader Rebellion Leader out of his misery and shoot him (Dark Side) or command him to turn himself in (Light Side).  You go grab the datapad and since it’s “encoded” it’s off to Lodenth to translate.  Keeper checks in with you and tells you to head back right away – Darth Jadus wants a word with you.

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Darth Jadus finally lays out his grand design to you personally, since you are his ‘personal agent’ now it seems.  He no longer wants Dromund Kaas and the Sith to be central repository for hate and fear in the Empire.  He wants to ‘democratize fear’ so that every citizen of the Empire on every world – be they human, Sith or alien – can experience true fear and absolute hatred.  This is something he clearly cares deeply about and it’s weird.  On one hand, that’s messed up.  On the other hand, he wants everyone – not just the Elite – to experience the same thing.  Which is a unique perspective in the Empire where society is firmly divided between Sith and pretty much everyone else.  Jadus is planning on taking a starship with a few thousand dignitaries, sith and even slaves around the Galaxy to show them his ‘vision’ for the Empire and he wants to ensure that these dissidents don’t do anything to stop this.  He asks you to trust absolutely no one, since he knows that the terrorists to have contacts in the highest levels of power throughout the Empire.  He finishes the meeting by asking you to kneel before him.  Which you can. Or not.  If you choose not to – he kills you.  Not just in a cut scene. You die.  You have to rez.  He seems to expect you to be able to come back from being killed also.  Which officially makes Jadus the first character that I know that is aware that death is temporary and may in fact be leaning on the fourth wall a bit.

After the meeting and possibly coming back from the grave, Watcher Two sends you to the cantina for your next lead. Apparently, a weapons designer by the name of Theovor Mindak has contacts with the terrorists. But Mindak works for the rogue sith lord Grathan.  You need a better in.  Luckily, Mindak has a spoiled party girl daughter who is upstairs at the moment.  You can try to use diplomacy to cut a deal where she inherits all her daddy’s wealth and power (Light Side), flirt with her (She’ll see through it), or just beat her (or a combination!) to get the info out of her and get her access codes.  You can also kill her when its over if you want to tie up loose ends (Dark Side).  Using the access codes, you can find Mindak in his lab and you find out why he helps the terrorist – because he is dissatisfied with Imperial policy.  Okay, actually he’s a bit more specific.  It seems that Imperial Intelligence grabbed his wife one night and hauled her off to who knows where and she was never seen again.  No word on WHY she was hauled off, but I can see how this would sour his outlook.  It doesn’t matter if you go light or dark, sincere or snark with Mindak, you’ll have to fight him and his robots either way.  Once he’s dead, you grab his files and head back to base while Watcher Two deciphers them.

Once you get back, it’s time for a meeting.  Darth Jadus phones in as he’s readying his ship – The Dominator – for launch. We know the terrorist’s target: The power conduits to Kaas City.  By blowing just one it would set off a chain reaction that destroy every power source across the capital.  All the conduits are under strict military guard save one – the one that lies under the Dark Temple.  At this point we finally get some explanation as to what the deal with the temple is.  Like that apparently the temple was only opened up just under a month ago and after workers started vanishing to an ‘unknown phenomena’ (ghosts) they blocked access to it.  No I don’t know how they built a conduit under it without ever being able to go inside until just recently.  Especially since the access tunnel is IN the Temple. Though I suppose the terrorists could have just used that tunnel to blow a hole into accessing the conduit.  Still, this is the first but far from the last time we’ll receive information about the game’s setting that is exclusive to the Agent’s storyline.  Keeper wants to send in a squad of agents to suppress the terrorists, but Jadus says that the Temple is sacred and he will not allow non-Sith to just run about willy nilly in there.  Jadus decides it will be you and you alone that goes into the temple.  Keeper is not pleased, doubly so if you thank Jadus for the job.

The mission is actually really simple.  You bust in, take down three whole bombs, and then find an injured terrorist to interrogate.  You can talk or hit him all you want but what you get out of him is this:  There are multiple cells across multiple worlds.  Their reasons for doing this are vague but seem to center around the idea of standing up against Imperial Intelligence in particular.  And if you let him talk long enough instead of straight killing him when given the opportunity, he’ll reveal he’s terrified of the ghosts taking his mind more than he is afraid of you.  You can help him out by getting him out of there (Light Side) and he’ll be more ‘cooperative’ in looking for the Cells, or just ditch him in the Temple to let the ghosts have him (Dark Side).

When you get back to headquarters, the entire place is in chaos.  It would appear that while you were out stopping the terrorists, they had a secondary target in mind – The Dominator.  That’s right.  They blew up Darth Jadus’ flagship just as it was leaving Dromund Kaas, killing all three thousand-ish people on board including Darth Jadus himself.  This is followed by a proclamation by the terrorist leader – The Eagle – to the entire Empire.  He explains that they have proven that the Sith are not all powerful by killing Jadus.  That they will continue to strike.  That the Empire is bad and needs fixed.  That Imperial Intelligence can just grab you if you even think anything bad about the Empire and make you vanish.  Really, it’s mostly generic freedom fighter rabble rousing but we know who was behind it.  Time to go ge-  wha?  Oh there’s one more mission?  Ah yes.  The exciting conclusion of chasing down a starship before it leaves and planting a mouse droid on it before the military blows things up.  You run in and click a crate, then watch a cutscene before leaving.  That’s it.  Whoo hoo.  Despite the ‘we must beat the military there’, they never do show up.  Kind of a let down after the awesome reveal of the Eagle and the destruction of the Dominator.  I guess they had a quest quota to fill for the XPs?  Meh, we get the new title of “Cipher Nine” out of it, and our own ship.  Also, don’t be a goof like me.  Just because Keeper says that they’re trying to leave the starport.  THEY ARE NOT AT THE STARPORT.  They are at a docking area just across from the Cantina in Kaas City.  I quick traveled all the way to the actual starport only to be left very confused.

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Final Thoughts

The start of the Imperial Agent is a full blown taste of what you’ll be getting in Chapter One.  There’s intrigue, deception, manipulation and eliminating lots of enemies of the Empire.  In a lot of ways it feels very straight and by the book, but on the other hand it offers you a real chance to get into the headspace of the secret police of the Empire.  They aren’t exaggerating when they say that Imperial Intelligence can show up out of nowhere and make you vanish.  You are fully authorized to kill whoever you want and rest assured that the Watchers will make sure that no one else finds out if need be.  The only place you have to be cautious is outside of Imperial jurisdiction as shown on Hutta with Karrels.  It’s kind of scary to think about what you can do as an Agent if you look at it from the outside.

It’s also quite interesting coming back and playing this story a second (and third I’m sure you noticed with the screenshots) time.  While everything seems straight laced and by the books missions, there’s actually a metric ton of foreshadowing given in the prologue about the events that will transpire in the next chapter.  Not to get too spoilery, but the Prologue gives you all the clues you need to piece together the mystery in Chapter One.  But it also sets up red herrings, misdirection, and a sense of you don’t know who is on the level.  Simply put, there’s a lot more going on in this chapter than you will realize on your first play through it.  Which is awesome.  You can come back later on a new character after you finished an agent and go, “Oh. OOOOOOH. I GET IT!”

We also get our first companion, Kaliyo. Who coincidentally at the time of this writing has just been re-introduced in the Knights of the Fallen Empire storyline.  Kaliyo is anti-authority to the point of being an “anarchist”.  Anarchist like punk bands in the 80’s and high school kids who draw that ‘A’ symbol on their folders use the word, not like the actual political manifesto way.  She’s also a love interest of the male Agent.  I have only had a few chances to flirt with her, but honestly Kaliyo comes off a LOT like Jack from Mass Effect 2 without all the emotional baggage and breakthrough that can come from that romance.  So I’m not sure I can say I personally am the biggest fan.

Overall, I think the Agent has a good start.  I can see how it can be deceptively simple and straightforward to a first time player. I remember thinking it didn’t get good until the end of Chapter One.  But now re-playing it, I can see all the awesome connections and set ups that were actually going completely under the radar on this one.

|| IMPERIAL AGENT || Chapter One –>

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Smuggler – Chapter Three

<– Chapter Two || SMUGGLER ||

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the third chapter of the Smuggler storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

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When last we left our intrepid smuggler, they had just foiled a scandalous attempt on the life of Senator Dodonna using cybernetically enhanced beasts of unknown origin.  The Senator tasked us with the job of hunting down where these beasts came from and how Rogun the Butcher got them.  To find this out, there’s only one place to go and one person to talk to: The man with his hands in every plan – Darmas Palloran who sits chilling at Port Nowhere.  Turns out that Darmas is completely on the ball on this one and has already got your answer by the time you arrive.  The animals come from the planet Voss, a newly discovered world with insanely strict laws governing the coming to’s and going from’s the planet.  Somehow Rogun managed to get these beasts off world, and that means going to Voss for answers.  Sadly that will take some time.  See, you’re not a fancy Jedi and you ain’t Republic special forces, so you’ll have to get to Voss the good old fashioned bureaucratic way – by getting a permit.  That means it will take time.  Luckily, Darmas has another lead you can pursue in the mean time.

Belsavis

It seems that our good friend/headache Rogun the Butcher has a bit of business on the secret prison planet of Belsavis.  He’s apparently aiming to break out his old mentor who goes by the name ‘Ivory’.  Ivory taught Rogun everything he knew, so he’s a powerful asset to Rogun AND to you against Rogun.  Also I feel its worth mentioning that somehow it is actually easier for me to get access to super secret prison planet than it is to get a parking pass on the diplomatically neutral world of Voss.  Keep that in mind the next time you go through there.  That every other class is pretty much in the express lane to getting to go to Voss compared to the Smuggler and the rest of the galaxy.

So your first task to go get Ivory from his cell.  Bit of a problem there though. Belsavis is in the middle of the biggest prison riot in the planet’s history thanks to the Imperials. So the guards aren’t exactly sure if Ivory is where he should be nor can they guarantee safe arrival to the cell. Could be worse though. They could be out of Space Coffee and Donuts, which they clearly aren’t given the ABUNDANCE of guards and prison personnel just standing around at the main compound. Get to work, you lazy pieces of trash.

It turns out that the cell is not empty at all. It’s full of explosives!  Seems like when Ivory flew the coop he wanted to leave a goodbye present.  You find a tunnel after taking cover that was dug into the stone that clearly indicates good ol’ Ivory has been contemplating getting out of here for a while.  I mean that’s not poured cement we’re talking about. It’s solid rock.  That’s determination!  So you know that Ivory is out, and it seems from reports that a lot of Ivory’s crew is being busted out as well.  Except for one.  You race to a guard station where they have the last member of Ivory’s team in holding to see if she has any ideas on where Ivory has gone.  But sadly, the girl is insanely fanatical and just spouts gibberish.  The bad news rolls in as it becomes very clear that the guard holding her their was holding her not for you – but for Ivory.  Ah, corrupt prison guards.  Nice to see that even in the level 40’s that we’re still slumming it as a smuggler. One of Rogun the Butcher’s personal assassins joins you from the rafters and kills the girl, so you quickly have to take out both the assassin and the corrupt guard.  And we’re back to square one with the whole ‘no clues’ thing.  But wait!  The guard has a list of names.  Names to set free!  Potentially for Ivory!  Another lead! HUZZAH!

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This lead sends you down to the prisons to meet up with two more members of Ivory’s crew whose names I never bothered to learn because I immediately just started calling them Bebop and Rocksteady.  Their comedy relief henchmen essentially who you can – through no great effort – convince to fight each other instead of you.  With them out of the way, it’s time to deal with the big ol’ gendai they let out and try to get some answers.  Honestly, I don’t know how we really plan to defeat a friggin gendai since they establish on Imperial Nar Shadaa that they essentially can regenerate from almost nothing to the point that they had to run the corpses through meat grinders to stop them from coming back.  Here you just blast him and walk off.  Maybe he does regenerate.  Not much reason to worry about him staying down so long as you can get out the door.  Anyway, you get your next clue about Ivory’s location – the Deep Vaults.

Now where in the Deep Vaults?  Never really pinpointed but the mission marker tells me where to go and I follow.  Apparently, Ivory headed to what at least appears to be an ancient Rakata starship hanger complete with repaired starship.  I’m suddenly having flashbacks to the end of John Carpenter’s The Thing.  Ivory says he’s going to use this ancient starship (Up next on The History Channel) to blast off and leave Belsavis.  This is actual fairly funny considering that a few scenes back with Ivory he was ranting about he was mastering the ancient Rakata technology and no longer needed to escape.  Meaning that he was going to use the Rakata technology to escape?  I’m not sure.  But sinister plotting is a foot as that assassin you killed earlier isn’t dead!  But he is!  He’s actually just got like a dozen identical twins!  What the fu-?!

Cornered by the baker’s dozen, you quickly learn that they’re not just there for you.  It seems Rogun considered Ivory too risky to have alive in or out of prison.  This opens up the brilliant opportunity to negotiate.  You and Ivory team up to wipe out the goons and then you can press your leverage on him to either get intel on Rogun from him and send him back to the prisons, just flat out kill the guy or – my personal favorite – bring him with you and smuggle him out of the prison to work under you and teach you the ways of being an underworld boss.  Heck. Yes.

Interlude

This first interlude is just a really weird brief break.  A Jedi Master, Sumalee, who is apparently yet another old friend of Risha’s gets a hold of you and asks you to retrieve another old friend of Risha’s who is an SIS team member from Hoth.  She’s pinned down and on a mission investigating something that isn’t really important to the plot at all but because of this she can’t trust anyone in the Republic base.  In other words, she needs to be smuggled off world.

I honestly don’t know what the point of this was beyond reminding you that you are a smuggler and to introduce Sumalee who has a minor presence in the story ahead on Corellia.  Beyond that it’s just an experience buffer.  You could have easily stuck this in the Interlude-less Act 2 (unless you count Quesh as an interlude. Might as well given how short those class story missions are.) Sumalee isn’t so vital that she needs introducing, and we already know that Risha is friends with everyone in the galaxy (Heck, she’s friends with Vette from the Sith Warrior storyline! That’s cross storyline friendship!)

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Voss

Well, looks like those permits have finally come through and we can land on Voss.  Or more accurately the space station orbiting Voss and then take a shuttle down.  But we’re totally allowed to be there now. Unlike all those riff raffs and undesirables.  Like the Exchange.  Who run a massive criminal base just outside of Voss-Ka…   Why did I have to wait for the paperwork again?  I thought I was a smuggler.  Like just in the last mission I smuggled friggin PEOPLE. Can I just smuggle things off of planets?  Can I not smuggle myself?  To make things worse is that the Voss assign you a chaperon to keep an eye on things. That won’t put a kink in these plans at all.  Seriously, Dodonna has to be the worst negotiator ever to get me here on just these terms.  Luckily, our nanny isn’t completely useless.  He actually leads us to the aforementioned Exchange base.  Seems our babysitter has a eclectic taste for offworlder music that the Exchange can get him.  He introduces you to a fixer who is willing to put you in contact with Rogun’s smuggling ring for a meet if you help him gather up some Voss artifacts to sell.

So once you get him set up, he sends you off to this meeting with Rogun’s team and this may come as a shock to you but Rogun’s lackeys recognize Rogun’s number one kill on sight most wanted.  I know. I didn’t see it coming either.  Shock.  They’re not dumb either. These guys not only have found a way to work with the Voss’ hated enemies – The Gormak – but found a way to smuggle Gormak modified cybernetic animals off world.  Better yet, they actually got a plan together as soon as the fixer arranged the meeting.  They’re going to pin the whole thing on you.  They knock you out and take off just in time for the Voss Commandos to show up and see only you and an entire smuggling operation.  Wow.  This sucks.  Luckily, my chaperon is willing to do the talking while I sneak off.  He apparently trusts me implicitly as long as I tell him that I’m not lying. How the heck have the Voss survived contact with the outside galaxy?

You rush back to the Exchange Fixer (Honestly, more than anything else I am utterly shocked how somehow the Exchange ends up being the good guys here) and explain what happened.  He feels terrible about how sour the deal went since after all he’s a business man and has a rep to think about.  But if the Gormak are involved, he does have a shipment going to the Gormak later and he can freeze you in carbonite (you know, it’s easy. Like going to pick up some milk from the store. Just a quick carbon freezing and then back to work on Monday. Takes years off your face, dahling.) so you can sneak past their lifesign scanners and get into Gormak territory.

When you arrive, you come face to face with “Gormak Zac” the ‘Human Gormak’.  Essentially, a human who went native.  He was momentarily in the earlier scene with the smuggling meet but we didn’t really get that much about him other than he was the contact between Rogun’s goons and the Gormak.  However, he’s not loyal to Rogun and defnitely not on his payroll.  Once you explain the situation and what Rogun’s been doing, Zac will happily help you since its against even Gormak law to sell abominations from the Nightmare Lands – a market Rogun’s female lackey is hoping to bust in on.  He helps you escape if you promise to help stop her.  Turns out that it’s two birds with one stone since while going after her in the Nightmare Lands, you get a chance to record a meeting between her and a Sith Lord that proves that you weren’t the smuggler to the Voss.  Well, not THAT smuggler at least.  You fight the abominations, the Sith and Rogun’s henchwoman and head back to Voss-Ka for your big fat… criminal… trial.  Damn.

The trial isn’t even remotely fair either.  You prove your innocence handily with the recording but then they change the rules after the fact and charge you with all this other crap you did while on the planet that you weren’t on trial for.  So, in Voss law, it doesn’t matter if you can prove you didn’t murder a guy if you even DARED to jaywalk while proving your innocence. Forgive me, honeycomb eyes.  You can choose to take your licks will gives you an entirely optional and don’t-need-it-to-progress side mission of delivering packages to various planets, OR you can throw your babysitter under the bus when he volunteers to shoulder the blame for the whole incident.  Don’t be a dummy, kids! If you do the crime, let your buddies do the time.

Interlude #2

So the words gone out.  Between the hit on the Voss operation and the royal mess up with trying to eliminate Ivory, Rogun is calling in all his remaining lieutenants to a secret meet on Tatooine that you just happen to have got the deets on.  Time to put an end to this pain in the rear once and for all.  However, as you confront Rogun and square off with his goons, a pair of strange Sith appear.  They delight in revealing the twist:  The Voidwolf is the real bad guy! Okay that’s not the actual twist.  It turns out that Darmas Palloran and Senator Dodanna are in league with the Voidwolf.  They’ve been pitting you and Rogun against each other so the two of you wipe each other out, leaving Darmas to control the criminal underworld.  Senator Dodanna’s privateer “project” was actually just a front for you to acquire things FOR the Voidwolf so she can earn ruling over an entire planet once the Imperials conquer the Republic.  They both have been playing you for a sap!

Next comes the big choice.  Rogun’s been hounding you since level 1.  He’s come after you time and again.  This is your chance to kill him.  But that’s not the only option.  You can also force him to work for you and for him to give you his share of the criminal underworld.  Revenge or profit.  It’s a race between my two favorite vices.  Take your pick!

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Corellia

With Rogun dealt with in one way or another, it’s time to go for the Voidwolf and his partners in crime – Darmas and Dodanna.  You reunite with Master Sumalee (Yup. Super vital to establish earlier for this express purpose) and try and convince her of the Senator’s guilt but without proof there’s not much hope.  After all, Dodonna’s a well respected senator of Coruscant, not scum like Darmas.  Speaking of which, you do scope out Dodanna’s partner – Darmas’s – safehouse and find he’s working with the Corellian rebels to blow open Supply tunnel 26, which happens to be the ‘artery’ of the underground tunnel network that many soldiers died to seal up so the Imps couldn’t use the tunnels to invade all of Corellia.  You find Darmas preaching to a bunch of Corellian revolutionaries who have all been told that you were a traitor who stole White Maw cloaking tech and Balmorran weapons for the Voidwolf (Technically accurate, but not knowingly).  You can respond by either opening fire, try to convince the angry mob that Darmas is an Imperial, or you can be like me and convince them that Darmas is trying to steal the women of Corellia – which apparently turns out to be somewhat true as he’s been flirting and asking girls back to his ship since he got there. (Who knew?)  He flees back to the Imperial’s base when cornered by siccing droids on you.

To get to Darmas, you need to get inside the Imperial base that is in a commandeered hospital.  Only way to get through that many guards is to attack various targets to lure them out and then sneak in using the revolutionaries’ doctor contact. Once you make contact with the doctor, he mentions he was expecting a captain with an injured leg and notes that the only way in is on a stretcher – so he shoots you. Once inside you find Darmas talking to a weasely Corellian politician that helped sell out the planet to the Imps, and here you can either kill him, turn him into the Republic to testify against Dodonna, or let him escape in exchange for all the info he has on Dodonna.

Next is to get to Dodonna, who fled to the Voidwolf’s men as soon as she caught wind that this was going down.  They’re holed up in the Museum of Alien History, but the only ‘safe’ way in is through an old abandoned selonian tunnel that was caved in.  After blowing through some walls, and fighting escaped zoo animals that decided to live there (Raising the question of how long they’ve been down here. Did they escape the zoo during the invasion and get stuck? Or did the zoo just really suck at its job?), you find Dodonna affixed with a slave collar and cleaning the floor for an Imperial Lieutenant.  She’s willing to tell you about the Voidwolf’s plans – that he’s building a pirate fleet to attack the Republic ship yards – but will mock your attempts to arrest her since she knows she’ll just walk free in exchange for all she knows about the Voidwolf.  Instead she wants ‘free free’ – to just be turned loose and let vanish into the greater galaxy.  You can let her do that if you want, or you can lie to her and then kill her once she’s turned over the evidence.  After all, it’s just a lie for a lie. However as a nice touch, if you do take the lie and kill route, your smuggler will look away as they pull the trigger.  Just one of those ‘not completely heartless’ moments that I really enjoyed.

Finally it’s time to go for the Voidwolf. To get to him, you’ll need to break into the weasely senator from earlier’s home and stow away or catch a ride with him to the Voidwolf’s flagship.  After the Jedi Master Sumalee gives some not-so-Jedi advice on breaking-and-entering (She was Risha’s friend, remember?), you go and deactivate all the cameras and sensors from around the house.  Then you defeat the guard captain and force him to walk you through the security system that will fry anyone who isn’t authorized or not with someone who is.  You then meet the senator who offers you a deal to work with the Voidwolf.  In the moment you might sped thinking that offer over, he calls the guards on you.  What a toad. Then you have to chase him down to get the codes to take off in his shuttle by either just killing him or forcing him to give you the codes before letting him go.  Either way you take his ship and we’re off to see the Voidwolf.

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Grand Finale

The finale starts IMMEDIATELY as you board the Senator’s ship, so be ready. From there it’s your standard ‘fight through the ship’ mission that if you’re like me and are playing every class mission – you’re quite used to.  There’s a mini boss in the form of the Voidwolf’s Underboss at the end of the first area which is actually a refreshing change of pace.  There’s also a small easter egg I found of a female officer kicking back with her feet on the table watching a double than life size holo of a female twilek pole dancing.  So there’s a fun bit of same sex…  uh…  interest?  When you finally reach the end of the ship, the Voidwolf is ordering his new pirate fleet around when you interrupt, and the various captains decide that they will serve whoever wins.  Because as pirates they all work on some weird Mad Max style set of rules where only the strongest is worthy of loyalty or some such.  You fight and defeat the Voidwolf, who tries to trick you with activating a thermal detonator when you kick over his assumed dead body, but you throw it back at him blowing him up.

With the Voidwolf dealt with, your new pirate fleet wants to know orders.  You can tell them to pay a tribute to you and then disperse, to attack the Imperials, or to serve you as pirates and to plunder from the Imps AND Pubs while they fight each other.  Then, because the Voidwolf is an ass and has to pull ever villain card from the deck, your crew informs you that a self destruct is imminent so you have to go find an escape pod. AND THE IMPS ARE STILL FIGHTING YOU ALL ALONG THE WAY.  WHY?  DO YOU WISH FOR DEATH THAT MUCH?! And in case you didn’t finish up any business planet side – good news! You crash back down on Corellia after escaping.

The ending of the story depends entirely on what you chose on the Voidwolf’s ship. I’ve done this storyline twice and have got two completely different endings to this story: When you chose to have the fleet attack the Imperials or take the money & have them disperse, you get a medal ceremony with Supreme Chancellor Saresh and Master Sumalee where I was proclaimed a Republic hero.  If you choose the pirate option?  Well the three captains show up to give you a share of the haul, Ivory and Rogun show up too if you had them join your team.  They announce that galaxy wide you are being called ‘The Bandit King’ and you can reopen Port Nowhere as your personal pirate fortress.  So Galaxy’s greatest hero or greatest crime lord. Not bad for a two bit smuggler who just wanted to run some guns to a bunch of freedom fighters on Ord Mantell.

My Reactions & Looking Back

Chapter Three is a really solid cap on an overall solid storyline.  Again, I think the thing that seems to really encapsulates the smuggler story is momentum.  The stakes keeping getting raised, the dangers escalate, the threats get more menacing – that kind of thing and Chapter Three carries on that whole process really well.  I was initially very worried when Skavak was defeated at the end of Chapter One that we would have a repeat of the situation in the Bounty Hunter or Trooper storyline but no, because the story had the foresight to neither string us along with the annoyance of Skavak for three chapters but to also include a secondary villain to wait in the wings and occassionally send goons after you to remind you of his presence with Rogun the Butcher.  Rogun is first mentioned right there on Ord Mantell and you don’t actually ever come face to face with the guy until right before Corellia. All the while he exists as a threat to you.  The Voidwolf may write you off as insignificant but Rogun wants your head on a plate and he keeps gunning for you the entire storyline.

That’s the kind of momentum this story has.  No matter whats going on, there isn’t a lull in the danger.  It never diminishes or even stays constant. It’s always growing.  From Skavak to Rogun & the Voidwolf to the surprise betrayal of Dodonna and Darmas, you find yourself constant fighting an uphill battle – which is what good drama should do.  In the Trooper storyline, there is no major threat to fill the gap of losing the first chapter’s villains.  The Bounty Hunter kind of meanders around in Chapter Three without a clear cut idea of what you’re doing beyond ‘earning favors’ to cash in for the ‘where to fight the bad guy’ coupon.  Here though? Everything ties together.  Everything plays a part in the overall story.  That junk robot Skavak wanted from the Seperatists? The ‘freaky trophy’ from the Imps? All used as items for trading to get what you need for the treasure.  Your seemingly unrelated privateer missions? That’s how Dodonna and Darmas buy their way into the Voidwolf’s inner circle.  The only point where the connections are stretched at best is a few of the interludes and even they aren’t pointless – just not necessary.  The smuggler story just builds until you – a lone plucky starship captain with no backing from any major organization – either takes down an Imperial admiral and his pirate fleet to save the day or rises up to become the most notorious pirate king since the days of Nok Drayan.

The one other perk to the story is that it’s funny.  Like honest to goodness funny.  I found myself constantly laughing while playing through this.  Especially if you play it with kind of a gray morality.  The light side stuff falls on the side of ‘help the innocent, save the day’ and the dark side stuff is mostly ‘get paid and kill anyone in your way’ but the gray choices usually fall firmly in the snarky category, and it is SO worth it to pursue that route.

There’s a reason I listed this storyline so high on my list of Worst to Best storylines.  It really is a well constructed and fun storyline.  It has two distinct endings that change based on your choices instead of just some basic fluff of a changed line in a default ending like the Jedi get.  It never feels like it slows down or stalls, and it always has some new wacky card to pull out to put a smile on your face.  It also exposes you to a side of the Star Wars universe you don’t get to see much of in the other storylines – the seedy underbelly.  Oh sure the bounty hunter starts on Hutta and there’s scum everyone on a Hutt controlled planet but beyond that your clientele seems to be those who can afford your fees.  Here?  Your a smuggler.  By definition you are working below the legal line.  Which leads you to meeting the more colorful characters in Star Wars.

Seriously, I don’t think anyone will be disappointed playing through this storyline. Do yourself a favor and give it a try.  I never thought it felt like a slog and I’ve played through it twice already.

<– Chapter Two || SMUGGLER ||

 

SWTOR Class Storyline Review: Smuggler – Chapter Two

<– Chapter One || SMUGGLER || Chapter Three –>

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the second chapter of the Smuggler storyline in Star Wars: The Old Republic.  To see a spoiler-free summary of the storyline please check this page instead.

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So you’ve got the riches of Nok Drayan, you got a new partner who is the former crimelord’s daughter and the heir to the throne of an entire planet, you got nothing but wide open space ahead of you.  What better time than to sell out?  Yeah, well it seems like we had to put something in the story to justify why the heck the smuggler is a “Republic class” and not just some third neutral faction.  The Bounty Hunters have that whole ‘The Mandalorians are on permanent contract with the Empire’ thing, so now Smugglers get this.  What is this?

Well, after a quick holo call from Darmas Palloran (He’s that cheerful fellow from Coruscant that you beat handily at Sabacc and helped you find Skavak) telling you to come to Port Nowhere.  Unfortunately, Port Nowhere is essentially a starship turned into a hangout for smugglers and pirates, which means it’s a rough crowd.  Doubly so once they get wind about that bounty Rogun the Butcher put on your head.  Rogun’s goons are even there waiting for you and they got Darmas!  So now we have to save the gambler but for good reason. He’s got us a gig: Becoming a Republic Privateer under Senator Dodanna.  Essentially becoming an officially government sanctioned smuggler.  Doing the more nebulous jobs that can’t officially be on the Republic’s books and what not.  All with a fat paycheck.  Well, as they say: “A gig is a gig.”

However just as your leaving, Port Nowhere is attacked by the Voidwolf.  Who is the Voidwolf?   Well, he’s a big shot Imperial admiral who apparently has teamed up with Rogun the Butcher.  And he’s got the place surrounded.  Darmas sends Port Nowhere off into the hyperlanes to get away and you run off to your first official job as a privateer.

Balmorra

Our first job is the war torn world of Balmorra.  Oh boy. Yay.  Nothing like a stroll through the war ravaged hills of the factory and droid part ridden country side to get back to work and remind me that I’m not retired after scoring the treasure of a lifetime.  Apparently, the job here is to work with the Resistance and smuggle some much needed provisions (You know, food, water, medical supplies, grenade launchers) from their double agent contact in the Empire codenamed ‘Golden’. All the while you keep bumping into a Mandalorian zabrak named Akaavi Spar who is looking to kill a man named Moff Tyrak to avenge her destroyed clan.

You eventually track down the shipment to an Imperial base warehouse, but low and behold it’s not actually there.  However, ‘Golden’ is.  And Golden is actually Moff Tyrak.  And he wants out.  In fact, there wasn’t any supplies.  He just said that to the Republic so they’d send someone that could extract him because the Empire seems to be on to his whole double agent act.  Something about not normally being able to afford multiple mansions and luxury speeders on a Moff’s salary.  Shocking, I know.  Moff Tyrak quickly proves to be an annoyance – but an entertaining annoyance.  Kind of like that butt monkey that you like to see get kicked, and boy howdy do you get plenty of options to kick him.  Since no one is willing to extract Tyrak just because he can’t manage his money without the actual shipment, Tyrak leads you to where you should be able to get what you need – the Balmorran Arms Factory.  What a weird place to keep completely innocent humanitarian supplies.  Huh.

You break into the factory with minimal assistance from the Moff, but as soon as you take your eyes off of him for like two minutes he ‘scouts the area for anyone coming’ and then somehow – I’m sure he has nooooo idea how – they all show up to stop you.  With him in tow.  Aaaand with him shouting crap like “That’s him! That’s the one!”  Nerves on a Jedi on this guy I’ll tell you what.  Luckily, Akaavi shows up again to help and to get her ultimate revenge on the weaselly Moff.  She declares that she is here to avenge the deaths of Clan Spar.  But the Moff doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  She states that she knows that Moff Tyrak signed the order to kill her entire clan that had faithfully worked with the Empire until then.  Tyrak then realizes what happened.  See, he just signs any death order that comes across his desk.  He doesn’t even read them.  After all, their wouldn’t be a kill order if they didn’t deserve it.  Akaavi is to say the least flabbergasted that her arch-nemesis is no mustache twirling super-villain but a moronic bureaucrat. You can encourage her to just let it go, or to take her revenge and be done with it before she decides on joining you on your ship because quite frankly she has nowhere else to go.  You also get the choice of what to do with a fleet’s worth of high tech weaponry that you’ve just acquired.  There’s a few options including give it to the Republic (you know, what the Republic sent you there for) or sending it to Port Nowhere to be sold off to the highest bidder (Because money).  I took the Port Nowhere option myself.  Being King of the Pirates isn’t cheap you know.

On your way off planet, you get word that your success in pillaging the Empire’s weapons has caused The Voidwolf to execute several captains under his command for the failures to stop you.

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Quesh

As you head off world and deal with the consequences of maaaaybe the Republic not receiving those high tech goodies like they were expecting, you also get a message of a bunch of other Republic privateers pinned down by the Voidwolf’s fleet on the Planet Quesh.  They claim that if you help them, they’ll help you and I like people owing me things, so it’s off to the poison planet!

You make it to the hidden landing area and wipe the Voidwolf’s forces there, but the other captains explain that unless you take out the targetting computers in a nearby Imperial base, that the Voidwolf will just lock on and blast them as they try to leave.  Also, as an added kick you find out that Beryl Thorne is there with the other Privateers. Beryl was the nice smuggler lady you met way back on Taris that A) Didn’t like Risha and B) You had a chance to sleep with.  This naturally will make things awkward if you A) have romanced someone, B) Brought that person along and C) Triply so if that person IS Risha.

So once you blast your way into the base, you finally get to meet the Voidwolf.  Sort of.  It’s a hologram. He’s still on his ship.  But you get to see him finally, and talk to him in person.  He explains that you are no threat to his plans, that he is completely ready for anything you can throw at him, and he will see you dead.  You can naturally point out that he’s going to a lot of trouble to be ready for you and wanting you dead for someone who is no threat to him.  In fact, for being such a non-existent threat, he’s really gone out of his way to study up every detail of your personal adventures and life.  His response is naturally to send more goons after you.  You kill them and blow up the computers.  You go back to the privateers and can tell them that in exchange for saving their worthless lives, they can either go back and do their duty for the Republic (Light Side) or that they now work for you instead and should report to Port Nowhere for further orders (Dark Side).

No, I wasn’t kidding about being the King of the Pirates.

Hoth

For once, I actually enjoyed Hoth.  No seriously, most times in these class stories Hoth feels like a complete drag.  It’s a huge planet with only a couple of actually story missions that really just ends up with you running around on a speeder for 5-15 minutes at a time trying to get between point A and B, staring at the bleak endless white.  But the smuggler story here?  There’s actually crap going on.  It’s not just a macguffin hunt.  I mean technically if you distill it down to its raw parts it kind of is – but not how you might think at the beginning.  Rather for the Smuggler, you end up trying to navigate and slip through the political power struggle of the major faction on the planet – The White Maw pirates.

The actual reason you’re on Hoth is actually that the Republic wants its hands on the White Maw’s top secret cloaking technology.  Something so powerful it can hide an entire fleet.  They send you there with nothing but the name of a Jedi master to get in touch with only to find that he’s not there – he’s dead.  However, Jedi Master Guss Tuno is there to help you.  He’s the assistant/replacement for the missing Jedi Master.  His idea to get you in with the White Maw so you can swipe the tech is to make it look like your stealing some good stuff from the Republic’s storage depot/ice cave (Let’s be honest, they are all ice caves.)  Only the higher ups will know, but the rank-and-file won’t to help keep it looking legit so you’ll have to fight your way in.  However, once you do you find out that: No the higher ups don’t know, No there was no replacement for the missing Jedi, and yes you are very definitely really stealing this crap.  Guss comes clean and explains that he works for the White Maw, enslaved by their boss – Shie Tenna – who he offers to introduce you to in exchange for his dirty lies.

Shie Tenna is a hulking brute that seems to be quite fond of keeping his men in line with fear and displays of power.  You are introduced to him and his lover Alinna who vapidly hangs on his every word in his secret cantina base (read: ice cave) arranged by – but strangely not present – Guss Tuno.  Shie wants you to help him take over the White Maw by removing the other bosses’ from the equation.  By which he means killing the rival.  However, once Shie Tenna is out of ear shot, Alinna speaks to you and reveals that not only is she not as vapidly moronic as she lets on to Shie, she’s pretty much the brains behind the White Maw.  She manages the operations, handles finances, sets up plans – meanwhile Shie Tenna blows stuff up and postures.  Her suggestion is to expose Shie’s rival as being an Imperial sympathizer who plans to sell out the Maw to the Imps.  The White Maw may be a pack of psychotic pirates, but they all have a fierce passion for being free to do things their way.  The Imps would not work out well in that equation.  So the choice is yours whether the wipe out the rival base or to turn them against their leader. When you return, Shie Tenna declares you be brothers-in-arms!  Only to reveal that he also apparently killed his brother and throws you into a wampa holding pen (Ice cave.)  Luckily, good ol’ Guss is there to bust you out with another lead on getting in good with the White Maw.

And I’m not even going to string this one along – yea, that lead is also a trap.  A bunch of Gand bounty hunters waiting to take you out.  Guss confesses when you save him from the bounty hunters as well.  He isn’t a Jedi Master (though he is force sensitive. He dropped out of Jedi school), he’s not some White Maw slave – he works for Rogun the Butcher.  Rogun sent Guss to arrange for you to be taken out.  Guss sees that you’re a good guy and just can’t bring himself to go through with it.  With that out of the way, he’s willing to help you break into the White Maw fortress (Not actually an ice cave for once) and to get the cloaking tech…  which turns out to be a bit more complicated than you might have first thought.

So it turns out that once you breach the White Maw’s fortress and defeat Shie Tenna, you find their “Cloaking Tech” and it’s actually just an alien kid with severe brain damage.  Turns out the species the kid belongs to has a defensive mechanism that renders them and everything around them invisible to the eye, scans, radar… everything (which is an impressive evolutionary feat I must say) but they can only do this when they are scared of something.  So the White Maw beat him whenever they want the fleet cloaked. Alinna, Shie Tenna’s girl from earlier wants to actually save the alien kid and get him offworld somewhere safe.  At this point there’s a bunch of different choices you can make to decide what happens next.  You can smuggle them offworld, you can convince Alinna to take over the White Maw, YOU can try and take over the White Maw, you can force them to give the Alien Kid to the Republic, or you could give the Alien Kid to the Republic but also send Alinna with it to make sure it gets treated right and Alinna gets off of Hoth and being stuck with the White Maw…   So yea, a lot more options than your typical “This is the Light Side” and “This is the Dark Side.”  Which I really do enjoy.  Not all these choices can be broken down into simple binary solutions and I get a kick out of the fact that the game will let you explore multiple solutions to a single problem.  I personally sent the kid and Alinna to the Republic to ensure fair treatment (Cause it’s the job, but I don’t trust the Republic one bit in terms of treating the downtrodden fairly) and I personally took control of the White Maw faction.

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Finale

So we’ve helped the Republic, we’ve lined our pockets, and we’ve got a good start on building our criminal empire.  What’s left for this space jockey to do?  Well, how about a sick burn on the Empire and snubbing both the Voidwolf and Rogun the Butcher while you’re at it?  The job is the King’s Ransom – as in that’s the name of the ship.  An Imperial treasury ship that transports all the wealth and trade between Nar Shadaa and Dromund Kaas.  That’s right.  It’s essentially a Star Wars train job.  To help out there’s another chap who has been on the wrong side of Rogun’s ire and is looking to make a score.  But before you can take off, you have to help save a safe cracker from the Hutts who plan to sell him off to Rogun’s goons to be… well… butchered.  You get the choice of either simply killing the Hutts or bargaining with them and stealing their business right out from under Rogun.  Either way you’ll have to deal with Rogun’s goons but at least you might get out of having to fight the Cartel thugs while you’re at it.

Once the team is all together (the safe cracker, the muscle, and you – the looks and/or brains) you hop on a private shuttle provided by Senator Dodonna herself to infiltrate the King’s Ransom. You fight through the ship until you reach the vaults and break into them, where you find a random assortment of awesome old antiques – several of which are actually references to the original Knights of the Old Republic games.  In the final vault however, you find three Moffs hanging out and talking trash about the Voidwolf.  They mention how he’s not Imperial born  and yet rose through the ranks with unprecedented speed.  Seems like a lot of the other Imps don’t much care for the Voidwolf, and yet as soon as they see you they don’t spare a moment calling him to get him to come and help.

The Voidwolf’s help however is not exactly what the Moff’s expect however.  The nefarious admiral announces that since the war has just started up again, the Imperial military code dictates that if a ship is at risk of falling to the enemy (That’s you), then he is well within his rights to destroy said ship to prevent it from being taken.  So he does.  That would be the cue to GTFO.  Grab whatever loot you can and make break for it.

Back on Nar Shadaa, you divvy up the loot (you can take your share, let the other two keep it all, or kill them and keep it all for yourself) and go your separate ways ala the end of any Ocean’s Eleven movie.  But just as you round the corner, Senator Dodonna is there and being threatened by Rogun’s goons and a pack of strange beasts that are all wired up with some weird cyborg stuff.  You dispatch the beasts and Dodonna thanks the stars you showed up when you did.  She wants to know exactly what these are, where they came from and how the heck Rogun the Butcher got a hold of them and could transport them as weapons.

That little plot point ends up immediately kicking off chapter 3, so I’ll see you on the other side to find out what happens next.

My Thoughts

I’ll admit, I was extremely skeptical of the whole ‘Republic Privateer’ plot point.  It just seemed like a flimsy way to tie this into the whole two faction system.  However, what it also ended up doing was opening up a wider array of moral choices.  You weren’t just locked into ‘Selfless’ or ‘Greedy’ or ‘Live’ or ‘Kill’.   There was also the matter of the job you were hired to do.  So now things start to divide into three ways: Greedy, Selfless, or loyal.  You can help the locals at the cost of the job and yourself, you can be greedy at the cost of the locals and the job, or you can do the job at the cost of the locals and yourself.  This diversifies things a bit and starts to spread out the choices and implications of them.  Do you become the loyal hand of the Republic?  Do you play the dashing rogue hero?  Or do you go full greed and become the new pirate king?  All are viable directions you could take.

This really shines through in the Hoth mission.  While there isn’t a ton of long lasting effects to these choices, it still feels like you are really given a solid choice.  It’s not a simple binary choice either as I said.  You get multiple different ways that story can end and you can even combo some of them up.  If Alinna doesn’t choose to lead the White Maw, it opens up new options for what happens to the pirate gang that are independent of how you choose to deal with the Cloaking Alien.  It really feels like you can actually role play in this chapter and feel like you are your playing YOUR smuggler and not just a light/dark smuggler.  A feeling that does have the tendency to permeate a lot of the other stories.  It’s not speaking less of the other class stories as much as it speaks much higher of the smuggler.

In terms of the chapter structure, Chapter Two felt mostly like a bridge between the end of Chapter One and the setting up the starting of Chapter Three.  It does deal with the consequences of becoming the notorious finder of Nok Drayan’s loot and does a fair job showing how that kind of exposure ups the stakes for you.  It also thrusts you into the realm of being not only the target of Rogun the Butcher – still on your tail since the prologue might I mention and one of the only main villains that spans all four parts of a Class Story – and starting to reveal the Voidwolf as a serious threat.  The Voidwolf is ruthless, cut throat and efficient.  Imagine Grand Moff Kilran if he was raised in the mob instead of an Imperial Academy.  That’s the Wolf.

Chapter Two also starts to lay the groundwork for the more or less three major archetypes your smuggler can follow: The Republic Hero, the Contractor, and the Pirate King.  To elaborate, you can tow the government line and support the Republic and try to do the right thing and end up being this mythic folk hero of the Republic.  Not bound by rules, but still looking out for the little guy.  The Contractor is more of a ‘in it for myself’ kind of vibe.  You do the job, you get paid.  No loyalties beyond yourself and MAYBE your crew.  Finally, you can actively try to use the Republic’s work to your advantage, build alliances, and gain subordinates while putting together your own little criminal empire based out of Port Nowhere.  Honestly, I found that route to be very fun.  These three trends will continue to play out through Chapter Three culminating in the grand finale.

We also gained the remaining members of our crew in this Chapter.  There’s Akaavi Spar who is a mandalorian.  Her personality is that she is a mandalorian.  It’s like honor this, and clan that.  She doesn’t even like you very much when she first joins the crew, viewing you as some sort of cut throat merc without dignity or honor (to be fair, she can be entirely right.)  If you prove her wrong, it can open up a romance option with her.  Honestly, I didn’t find her to be anywhere near as intriguing as Risha in terms of the romance department.  She spends most her conversations talking about revenge and how you surprise her.  It doesn’t help it that her voice seems almost constantly monotone about everything unless she’s angry.  So happy and sad Akaavi are creepily similar voice inflections.

The last member of the crew is Guss.  Guss is a drop out Jedi who is force sensitive…  kind of.  He can do a couple of things with the Force – but nowhere near enough to do anything like the most basic padawan can achieve at the start of Tython.  He left the Academy and fell in with Rogun and his goons.  Guss can be viewed as annoying lost puppy that won’t start barking.  He’s got a serious hero worship thing going and I can see how it would be annoying to some people.  Honestly, beyond trying to teach good ol’ Guss to be a proper criminal and to come to grips with what he wants to do with his life, there’s not much to say about him.  Oh, he’s a Mon Calamari.  There’s that too I suppose.

<– Chapter One || SMUGGLER || Chapter Three –>

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