02/12/2017

A Traitor Among the Chiss - The Story

Just like with Crisis on Umbara, I'd like to make two separate posts to talk about the new flashpoint Traitor Among the Chiss: one about the mechanical side of it and one about the story. Unlike with Umbara, I'd like to start with the story his time around and talk about the mechanics later.

As usual, this means: spoiler warning! Though I was shocked by how little Bioware themselves seemed to care about that this time, considering that they spoiled Umbara's big twist in the very patch notes for 5.6...

Either way, let me start by saying that I enjoyed the story of this one a lot more than that of Crisis on Umbara. Admittedly my first thought on initial completion was that not very much happened in this flashpoint, but on replaying it I realised that there was actually more going on than I initially thought; it's just more subtle. After some of the clunkers delivered in Crisis on Umbara, that felt like a welcome change.

I liked the intro with Raina Temple and Aristocra Saganu - not just because we're getting another one of the original companions back as part of the main storyline, but also because I like Bioware bringing back minor characters for another run. I also feel like I really, really need to bring my main agent up to speed now so she can see what class-specific dialogue there is in this bit of the story. Worse, I kind of feel like I should level my Chiss sniper who romanced Saganu too, just to see what that changes. Damn you, Bioware...


Anyway, then we're off to chase Theron. In my Umbara story post, I said: Hopefully we won't be chasing Theron for the next couple of patches. Yet here we are of course. Surprisingly, I didn't mind that much.

Actually, let me go off on a tangent here. I realised the other day that the ending of the main Eternal Throne story has put Bioware into a tricky situation in more than one way. Not only is the Eternal Alliance way too powerful to be challenged by much of anything, but there is no clear direction for the story to continue, and that is a problem.

When a player chooses a class at level one, they sign up for a particular kind of plot, and Bioware knows how to appeal to them. If you roll a trooper, you expect a story about fighting for the Republic. The choices you get to make throughout the process allow you to fine-tune the experience, turning into a benevolent hero of the people or a bit of an opportunistic asshole who just likes to shoot things, but the overall direction remains the same. Nobody would create a trooper and then be disappointed that they can't run off to join the Empire.

The story of the Outlander - even if we disregard all the issues with whether it's appropriate for your class to become the Outlander to begin with - was all about fighting the Eternal Empire, an opponent that is now gone. As a result you're left with a bunch of players who may all want completely different things from the story going forward. Some may want to go out and conquer the galaxy. Some may want to trash the Eternal Fleet and step off the galactic stage to focus on smaller issues again. Some way want to side with the Empire. Some may want to help the Republic. Many of these motivations are at direct odds with each other, so there is no single direction you could take to please everyone or even most people. So where do you go from here?

Making a story arc focused on one of our companions makes sense at this point because it avoids the issue by simply ignoring it. It doesn't matter what exactly we want to do with the Eternal Fleet if we don't have to make a choice about it because we're not doing anything where it would actually come in handy. And while you can still get people like me that grumble that they don't like Theron that much and aren't there more important things to worry about than chasing him around the galaxy anyway, at least it's not something that feels utterly wrong for any character. With that in mind, I've decided to embrace this arc and roll with it.

To get back to the actual flashpoint's story, Saganu tells you that Theron is hiding on the Chiss world of Copero, sheltering under the roof of a Chiss miscreant who is too powerful to be taken out openly - but if the Outlander just happened to kill her while chasing Theron Shan it would be most welcome. That... feels a lot less contrived than anything that happened on Umbara, well done.


I also really liked the use of environmental voice-overs during the early part of the flashpoint to give you a bit of time to talk to Temple. More importantly, at one point you pass a holo terminal where a news bulletin is running which updates you on what's been happening with the Republic and the Empire after the events of Iokath. If you sided with the Republic, you learn that Empress Acina has been supplanted by Emperor Vowrawn (last seen kneeling to Emperor Arcann in KotFE chapter two). If you sided with the Empire, you hear that Chancellor Madon has resigned (looks like Calph's burning desire to finally find out more about him won't be sated any time soon) and has been succeeded by Galena Rans. (Is that the former Supreme Commander Rans or a relative? I have no idea what his first name is actually.) As someone who always devours every bit of info about what's going on with our old factions I appreciated the way they managed to fit that in there without making things too complicated.

Anyway, you have no trouble locating the Chiss miscreant and taking her out. Unfortunately Theron played her too and is already on his way out again. You run to catch his shuttle but he gets away again. The big revelation comes at the end when you see Theron talking to the masked guy from Umbara again and he reveals that the mysterious order he is working for is basically another branch of the Heralds of Zildrog. Okay, that's... not totally surprising I guess? But on Zakuul those guys were a bit of a joke, how can they be such a big threat now?

The above paragraph sort of sums up how I saw the flashpoint after my first playthrough. It's all fine and well, but we didn't really accomplish anything here, did we?

The main thing I realised on my second playthrough is that this flashpoint more or less confirms the theory that Theron is actually a double agent. It's easy to miss the first time because you don't know what it is, but you see Theron switch on a little device when he talks to the Herald at the end. Afterwards you get a message from Hylo that she was able to intercept a transmission that basically reveals Theron's conversation with the Herald. Coincidence? Clearly not when the recorded message is exactly the bit of conversation that happened after Theron switched on the little device! So while our characters still don't officially know, it's pretty clear to us as players that Theron isn't really on those guys' side.

Then there is the star map that reveals Theron's next destination. Bioware has already hinted that the next story update will take us to a planet we likely didn't expect to return to, but now we know the details. Well, if one can read star maps that is. I don't, so I still don't really have a clue. If you were able to make out where Theron is going next, do let me know in the comments!


Finally, I liked the nuances many of the cut scenes delivered. I liked the conversation where you are asked to pass judgement on Syndic Zenta for example. She's not exactly sympathetic, but she hasn't done anything to make you hate her either, and you know virtually nothing about just why she's so hated by the other Chiss. The usually rather charming Saganu's pressure to kill her on the spot feels uncomfortable. It's something that made me think twice even on my dark-sided Marauder.

The cut scenes with Theron and Valss are also a joy to behold - their faces tell so much yet leave you guessing about even more. Theron is clearly somewhat uncomfortable with what he's doing, but also seems to hold a certain affection for Valss, while the latter's face repeatedly shines with an almost religious zeal. It makes you wonder what the story is between those two - could be good material for a short story to post on the website or something.

What are your impressions of the Copero storyline? I've seen a lot of people talk about the mechanics this time (which I will cover in another post) but I haven't seen much feedback about the actual events of the flashpoint other than that people hate Theron's new haircut. (No shock there.)

4 comments :

  1. If the galaxy map is indeed accurate, it seems that the Emperor's secret is located on Oricon; it's the only planet located in that particular section (just above the Seat of the Empire).

    If Oricon is indeed the planet (well, moon) it looks like we might get some more information on why Vitiate sent the Dread Masters to study the Phobis Devices and why they eventually chose it for their base. The Dark Side is clearly very strong there, so it would make sense if this was because Vitiate had hidden something there.

    Whatever it is the Order is searching for is, however, unlikely to be a Phobis device given that they're not particularly secret - their existence already having been revealed in-game - and Oricon is one of two worlds confirmed to house a Phobis component; Dromund Kaas and the Dark Temple being the other.

    Plus, the Empire more than likely looted the Palace of all known technologies including the Devices after the death of the Masters since Dark Side is often treated as the 'canon' option for Empire characters.

    Anyway. I do find it rather disappointing (albeit rather amusing) that in the intro cutscene rather than approach Copero you actually fly towards Manaan: you can clearly see the destroyed Ahto City in the ocean. Makes me wonder if Manaan was a placeholder in the original cutscene rendition and they accidentally included it instead of the 'correct' one.

    Shame; I'd have loved to see what Copero looked like from orbit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ambiguity in Oricon's Codex Entry helps support this theory:

      "Anyone with an affinity for the Force can sense that the rocky Outer Rim moon is immeasurably strong with the dark side. Perhaps this is because the legendary Phobis devices are housed on Oricon; perhaps the Phobis devices were built on the moon long ago because of the dark side's preexistence there."

      Delete
    2. I love how much you are geeking out speculating about this.

      I have to admit I actually had to look up the Phobis devices. Have they been mentioned anywhere other than in a codex entry? And I saw repeated comments about that particular codex entry being bugged and unattainable, has that changed since then?

      Delete
    3. They haven't been mentioned anywhere other than Codex Entries sadly.

      Even then it is possible that the devices have suffered a bit of a 'retcon' - the bugged DK entry mentions that the core component was stored in the Dark Temple yet the Oricon entry heavily implies that all the devices can be found on the moon.

      It's ambiguous, really. I myself was a bit thrown by the wording of the Oricon entry when I looked it up after writing the first comment since I was still under the impression that the Dromund Kaas entry still held true. Now I'm not so sure.

      But, eh. As I say I sincerely doubt that this 'biggest secret' is one or more of the Phobis Devices, since if we take the Codex as being written from an in-universe perspective somebody out there clearly knows about them. Not much of a secret if historians in the public domain can learn of them.

      We'll have to wait and see.

      Delete