This post contains spoilers for the Shadow of Revan story, including Ziost, as well as for some of the early chapters of Knights of the Fallen Empire. Read at your own risk!
As much as I've generally enjoyed the KotFE story so far, there's one thing that's been bugging me about it: Valkorion.
Shadow of Revan's main story arc ended with the Emperor being newly strengthened, if still incorporeal. Then things went wild on Ziost to show us just how powerful he had become: not only could he possess countless people at once, including trained Jedi Masters, but he could also consume a whole planet just for the fun of it. I remember Rohan commenting that the character seemed to have become too powerful for it to be very believable that we, the player characters, could still defeat him.
Then the Knights of the Fallen Empire announcement came and we were all a bit confused. What did any of this have to do with Vitiate? Surely we weren't suddenly going to ignore the biggest threat to the known galaxy? Players like Xam Xam did intricate research in an attempt to tie it all together, but it all sounded a bit far-fetched (to me) any way you sliced it.
I was pretty shocked when the big mystery was already solved in chapter one of Fallen Empire and that it was really as trite as Vitiate = Valkorion.
Your character has the option to express confusion about this on a couple of occasions, and of course you have Lana and Koth to embody and remind you of the two opposing and seemingly irreconcilable viewpoints of Vitiate still being his same old self, just in a new disguise, or Valkorion supposedly being a fine old chap and generous ruler. However, you get so swept up in the events of your escape and everything that happens afterwards that there isn't much time to think about the subject in depth.
Fortunately I could suspend my disbelief enough to enjoy the ride, but the problem of Vitiate and Valkorion supposedly being the same character kept nagging at me at the back of my mind the entire time. First off, there is the feeling that the whole premise simply violates everything we've known so far. The Sith Emperor has always been described as supremely powerful, but not without limits. The Jedi knight story has a heavy focus on fighting him, and there are parts of the Sith warrior story that also show that the Emperor's powers could be curbed by cunning individuals. That we are supposed to accept that during all this time he also happened to inhabit a different body half a galaxy away does not mesh with this at all.
And then of course there is the problem of personalities. The way Vitiate is described in the lore is basically as batshit insane. Even as a baby he was emotionless and scary, and went on to torture and kill his own parents at a young age. While he certainly possessed a certain amount of cunning, he was never the subtle type. He enjoyed killing and made no secret of it. He's basically just an extremely powerful psychopath.
And then we have Valkorion, who entered a relationship with a Zakuulian woman that seemed genuinely loving at least at first and which produced no less than three children. His subjects have nothing but praise for him and the way we see him in KotFE he comes across as incredibly charismatic and impossible to truly read. You might want to argue that it's just good old Vitiate putting on a show again, but it just doesn't fit Vitiate's character in my opinion... not like this.
I have a hard time imagining how Bioware is going to come up with a convincing solution for this dilemma that won't feel incredibly forced. I suspect that it will come down to Vitiate and Valkorion not being quite the same, perhaps different aspects of him or something. There was one line during my Marauder's playthrough which caught my eye, though I don't remember the exact wording - my character said something about how she immediately recognised her old Emperor in Valkorion's throne room, and Valkorion replied with a comment about how it's a shame that she didn't see other things quite so clearly... which I understood to be an implication that there is more to the Vitiate = Valkorion equation than meets the eye. I hope it won't be too similar to the solution to the Revan storyline though.
What do other people think about this?