The moment that many of us have been waiting for since 4.0 has finally arrived: We get to find out what's going on in the Sith Empire and the Republic. Well, one of them anyway, as the Outlander visits Empress Acina on Dromund Kaas to discuss the possibility of an alliance. With the Alliance. This is going to be a bit of a pain to talk about, isn't it?
You, Theron and Lana are welcomed by a certain
While Acina tries to convince you that allying with her is a good idea, the shuttle suddenly gets shot down. You manage to jump out before it crashes but find that communications aren't working as they should, so you can't call for help. Meanwhile, you (the player) see an incredibly chipper Minister Lorman tell Theron and Lana that you and the Empress have died in a tragic accident.
When you and Acina reach the shuttle crash site, you find that the emergency beacon is destroyed and a party of GenoHaradan scouts is looking for you... to make sure that you're dead. At the same time, Theron receives a call from former Republic Chancellor Leontyne Saresh, also offering her condolences about the Outlander's "death" and suggesting that her leadership skills would be a big boon to the Alliance. Theron and Lana say eff to that and decide that they really need to find you (alive, preferably) as soon as possible, even if the bad storms will make it difficult.
Meanwhile you traipse through the rainy jungles of Dromund Kaas with Acina to find the GenoHaradan's camp. When you do, you also find a datapad which reveals their employer: none other than Saresh herself. (Republic players who did the story mission for the Scum and Villainy operation probably already suspected this, as Saresh was shown to be their last known employer back then.) Immediately after this discovery a shuttle with more GenoHaradan shows up and they try to blast you straight from the sky, but you manage to scurry away into a nearby ancient Sith tomb before its entrance collapses behind you.
On the Eternal Throne, we see Scorpio informing Vaylin that rumour has it that you're dead. Vaylin shrugs this off as obviously false, but Scorpio informs her that the upheaval caused by the Outlander's disappearance is the perfect opportunity to strike a blow against the Alliance. Back in Kaas City, Lana and Theron's attempt to sneak off to search for you is thwarted by some guards that Minister Lorman posted in anticipation of this move.
You and Acina make it through the ancient Sith tomb, avoiding a bunch of traps and vicious critters along the way, just to run into the leader of the GenoHaradan accompanied by "Minister" Lorman at the end. As soon as you defeat the GenoHaradan, Lorman tells you to stay back as he claims to have your friends as hostages, but when he tries to prove this via holocall, it turns out that Lana and Theron have easily overwhelmed their captors. They tell you that Saresh is already on her way to Odessen to instate herself as the Alliance's new leader, leaving you to only deal with Lorman before hurrying back yourself: You can let him go, encourage Acina to make him her slave, or team up with her to execute him.
On Odessen, you bust in on Saresh, just as she announces to your Alliance that you're dead. She panics and tries to run, but of course you stop her with ease. She expresses no regrets about her actions, and you get to punch or even kill her, though you can also simply take her prisoner. Theron will love you for it either way!
Acina calls in one more time to apologise for everything that happened on Dromund Kaas and asks whether you'll still agree to an alliance with the Sith Empire, which you can either agree to or refuse.
The chapter ends with a view of a small freighter being chased by Eternal Fleet ships and a female voice calling for help. The Gravestone appears and Koth comes to its rescue, but as he takes the damaged freighter in for repairs, we see that its crew consists of none other than Scorpio, who was merely impersonating the ship's former captain, Vaylin and some of her troops.
I was one of those people who has been waiting to get back to the story of our original factions, so I was initially delighted by this chapter, but I finished it with a sense of bitter-sweetness.
While it's great to return to an iconic starter planet like Dromund Kaas and see for yourself how the Sith Empire is holding up under its new Empress' reign, the chapter only goes on to cement your position as an outsider in this brave new post-KotFE world. Acina lectures you about how the Sith used to do things vs. how they do them now, which leaves Imperial characters wanting to scream: "I know all of this! I'm one of you, remember?" There is no way of seeking true reconciliation if you still consider yourself loyal to the Sith Empire.
While the chapter focuses on the Sith, Republic characters aren't really much better off in terms of connecting to their old home. As a trooper in particular I found it absurd that Saresh would seek to assassinate me after I had defeated one of the Empire's greatest generals in service to her, but I don't imagine it feels much better if you're a different flavour of hero of the Republic. Didn't she give the consular a medal at the end of the original class story?
The ending on Odessen feels like an attempt at fan service targeted at those who've expressed a strong dislike for Saresh for ages, but to me her blatant attempt at taking over just rang hollow. Yes, she was set up to be a dislikeable character, but her background has always been that she suffered a lot at the hands of the Sith Empire and is therefore willing to go to extreme measures to defeat them. I didn't feel that simply trying to take over the Alliance in what's portrayed as a mere grab for power fit her previous portrayal at all, and shunting her off the stage by either imprisoning or executing her struck me as a waste of a great character. Either way, the new Supreme Chancellor sends you a letter afterwards, in which he takes a similarly distant approach as Acina, talking about respecting your sovereignty and stuff. Why won't you let me be friends with you again? /cry
Those bigger issues aside, "Run for the Shadows" is another chapter that finds a good balance between story and gameplay. The character of Lorman is pretty funny and his over-the-top outrage at not being addressed by the correct title was a genuine laugh out loud moment to me. The Sith tomb also contains a bonus mission that requires the use of binoculars, which can additionally be used to spot and avoid traps. I completely missed that second use the first time around and just stepped into every flame and onto every spike like a noob, but it's nice to have another optional bit of puzzling thrown into the mix.
Speaking of traps though, what's that about Koth running straight into a trap...?