13/04/2016

The Lonely Soldier

The last two chapters of Fallen Empire have brought something into very stark focus for me: My (main) character is losing her identity.

I haven't roleplayed with other people in a long time, but I always immerse myself in the in-game conversations and try to consider them from each individual characters' point of view. I'll admit though that I'm quite lazy with my main: Most of the time, she's really just a stronger and braver version of the real me.

Havoc Squad has been another important part of her identity. She's been a member since she was level one and has been its acting commander since about level ten. That's a long time to get used to and settle into the role of valiant defender of the Republic.

When Knights of the Fallen Empire was originally announced, I looked at it in the same way I treated any of the planetary story arcs that have been released since lauch: There's trouble afoot in the galaxy, and I (in this case the commander of Havoc Squad, but a fairly generic hero) was going to take care of it. I missed the class story, but overall I was OK with what was going on.


But things quickly turned out to be different. I lost all my companions. And let me state it outright: I'm actually not a huge companion fangirl. I like them well enough, but I rarely romance them and to be honest, since I spend so much time in content where they don't feature (raiding and PvP), I often kind of forget that they are there - but as it is so often with things, you don't know how much you'll miss something until its gone. I immediately missed that comforting security blanket of having my own squad, and part of what's holding me back from starting KotFE on more of my alts is not knowing whether I'll even canonically see all of my companions again once I let them go.

The new companions aren't great replacements either. Don't get me wrong, I think they are great characters. But it's pretty clear that they all have their own agendas and that ours is an alliance of convenience that will fall apart as soon as we disagree on something strongly enough. They don't provide my character with somebody to rely on.

Personally, I thought that my first priority after getting thawed out of that carbonite block should have been to get the old gang back together and look into getting the Republic back into shape. But Bioware had different ideas for Fallen Empire: you're given some tidbits of information about your former companions and your old faction, but somehow, you're not supposed to care that much. Overthrowing Arcann, a guy whom you've known for all of five minutes of your real time, is suddenly your sole focus. I decided to run with it because there were many things about those initial chapters that I enjoyed, but my "real" objectives kept nagging at me. I almost got teary-eyed when I got my old ship back. Finally something to connect me to my old identity!

Then things looked up for a while. That Tanno Vik had returned to a life of crime and had no interest in re-joining my cause was a bit annoying but no real surprise - it's not like I ever liked the guy that much anyway. But I got both Yuun and M1-4X back and they were both highly enthusiastic about rejoining me and said that they'd pretty much been waiting for my return, like good sidekicks are supposed to. I was halfway there on the road to re-building Havoc Squad.

And then chapter eleven happened, with the re-introduction of Aric Jorgan. He, too, was happy to see me, but also a bit surprised. For him, time hadn't stood still. He had become the new commander of Havoc Squad, and aside from the cat himself it consisted of a bunch of strangers.

(On a side note, particularly as a trooper it's kind of disappointing that you don't get a chance to get to know these characters a little better, but it's implied that Kanner, the lady with the bun, is Jorgan's XO, and if you take the time to wander around a bit after the first fight in the swamp and read all the squad members' tooltips, you can learn a bit more about them. Kanner is designated as "special assault", Xaban (the Twi'lek) as "tech rifleman", Torg the Kaleesh is a "heavy shot" and one-eyed Dengril is the field medic. Apparently I forgot to take a screenshot of Abbeth the Kel Dor, oh my. But that just as an aside.)


The point is, in this chapter it finally hit me that there really was no going back. My character was no longer the commander of Havoc Squad, because Havoc Squad as an entity had moved on. That didn't make her unimportant, but it took away one of the core features that have defined her for the past four years, and that's been quite disorienting.

Chapter twelve then took this confusion and made it even worse. Without going into the actual content, there is a lot of talk about the Force, and as a non-Force user I felt a little lost. There was one moment where people talk about you needing a new weapon where I was genuinely worried for a moment that maybe I was going to get a lightsaber now and - surprise, surprise - we would all become Jedi/Sith canonically. This wasn't the case, but it came close, with the story even bestowing a little bit of Force sensitivity on us if we didn't have any before.

The problem is: I don't want it. Sure, I'm interested in the Force as a concept and Jedi are cool, but I chose a trooper as my main because I was interested in all the other stuff going on in this galaxy far, far away. I think the very first Star Wars EU novel I ever read was Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, and while I honestly can't recall any of the stories in it off the top of my head (it's been a long time), I do remember that it instilled me with a fascination for the "side characters" of the Star Wars universe and the sorts of lives they lived. I liked that SWTOR at lauch wasn't just about the Jedi and Sith.

I have to admit that by now, I'm actually a little worried about where the story is going. I don't think it will be bad or unentertaining, but I do worry what its outcome will mean for my main. She was never meant to rule the galaxy or use the Force or any of that stuff. I'm a little afraid that in a post-KotFE universe, there won't really be any room for the random troopers, smugglers, bounty hunters and agents of the galaxy anymore as we all get shoehorned into following the Force, and that would be a real shame.

17 comments :

  1. I have a very similar feeling on my Agent. Not so much with the companions, the old crew was very much "allies of convenience" like the new crew. But very much with the story.

    In some ways, I think it is worse for the Agent, because the Agent story was all about the difference between Force users and normal people. How normal people cope with and survive when all men are not created equal. To suddenly cross over to the other side feels a bit like a betrayal of the Agent story.

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    1. Yeah, the agent also has the additional factor that its class story is a lot about powerful people trying to manipulate you... which is happening all over again in KotFE, except this time you're supposed to listen to them? Ehhh...

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  2. As much as I can tolerate uncharacteristic advancements for my own main class of Sniper, I do have to agree that this is a real problem, if not the most significant thereof, when you look intrinsically at the new story and its direction.

    BioWare are keen to push that we are now this character of "the Outlander" without any real consideration of what our characters prioritise above all else. Republic, Empire, all long-standing obligations? Who gives a damn about all those; let's instead focus all priority on this situation of Zakuul without allowing us even so much as in-game news of events "back home", save for again situational trickling-through.

    I mean, seriously, we've known our Companions for four-and-a-half in-game years before our disappearance and we're unable to reach their holofrequencies and inform them of your survival?

    Chapter XII definitely does provide some really jarring moments in this regard; our characters are forced to go along almost unquestionably with the Force instead of potentially being snarky or dismissive about the ideas raised. Makes sense for a Jedi, but definitely not for a Smuggler who has based their entire existence around luck.

    "The Outlander" definitely does feel like they should be an entirely new individual in their own separate game, but unfortunately we have to tolerate this bizarre mish-mash of class representations which all but ignore prior accomplishments.

    'Argh', basically.

    (Additionally, I want to say from those descriptions - of which I was not aware, so thanks for noting them down! - that Abbeth is the replacement for either Tanno or Forex, depending on whether or not Torg's "Heavy Shot" description effectively designates him as the Explosives Expert. Forex is the only one who has no designated role in Havoc outside of "supremely powerful battle-droid", so his replacement is not exactly easily identifiable from descriptions alone..!)

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    1. Follow-up:

      After some digging, I was able to learn that Abbeth is apparently listed as a "Scout", suggesting that he is in fact the replacement for the Infiltration/Exfiltration Specialist that is the player Trooper as described by Tavus in the Prologue.

      I was originally assuming that Kanner was fulfilling this role, but it seems that she could well be the "new Tanno Vik" whilst Torg is the "new Forex".

      Jorgan should've hired a Gen'Dai to replace Forex. :P

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    2. 'Argh', basically.

      Love it! :D

      And I thought you might appreciate the extra info about new Havoc.

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  3. I can't really see my Smuggler or Bounty Hunter giving two hoots about the whole Zakuul thing. Neither of them cared about their respective factions and they would just carry on with what they used to do: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Now let's get down to business.

    In fact, I stopped playing my Smuggler for the longest time when the class story forced her to cheerfully become a Republic privateer. She had no interest in that, and it really soured me on that story. I only came back a long time later to finish it out of completeness. I wouldn't have minded so much if the character had been railroaded into it in-story (blackmail or something), but your response choices were basically three flavours of "Sir! Yes, Sir!" Killed it for me, as it didn't seem like my character any more.

    So I'm very glad I began KotFE with my Jedi Knight. It really does seem to fit her like a glove, and I do enjoy it immensely. I don't think I shall ever bother playing it with my Smuggler of Bounty Hunter, though. It is the story of some other hero, not them.

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    1. Yeah, that part of the original smuggler story was a bit meh, but you could subvert it somewhat by choosing to not actually help the Republic but instead sell to the highest bidder and such.

      And yeah, smuggler and bounty hunter probably have it even worse than my trooper. At least she has some interest in being heroic and saving the galaxy...

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  4. I believe the issues you're having with your character are what your supposed to be having right about now. Your character is being harassed across the galaxy by some intergalactic usurper, who also is aware that the Immortal Emperor is in your head ("daddy issues!"), and everything that held you on to your previous identity is gone. How do you handle this? How does your character handle this? You're no longer defined by your place in the Republic vs. Empire conflict, but how you can pull together a ragtag rebellion without being able to rely upon your past anchors.

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    1. That may well be, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. It simply feels like the kind of story written e.g. for a Jedi knight player.

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    2. Look at all the trailers they release for the chapters, everytime time we turn around, it's a Jedi Knight they show, so yeah it's gonna make us that play non force users kind of left out in the cold, I don't think Bioware really thought this through entirely when they decided to make KotFE, but I for one, am enjoying the game play.

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  5. As I played this chapter I had similar thoughts about my trooper. He wouldn't want to rely on the force or shady force characters from the past. But then he also would want to re-unite with Havoc and take it to Arcann directly with the Republic flags flying. I doubt Bioware will give that option...

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    1. Ack, I just found that this comment had been sitting in my spam folder for a month! Naughty Blogger!

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  6. In addition to what you and Calphaya bring up, I keep feeling like there's a weird disconnect between the events of the story and player character, even as just the Outlander, but especially considering they were someone before that. The best thing in game I can compare it to is if, in Chapter Two of the Agent story, you - instead of being focused on breaking your mind control - just merrily went along with it, like following Hunter really was your new mission.

    For the "Outlander," this story is a nightmare - you've got an evil Sith lord stuck in your head, you've lost your companions (possibly friends or lovers), you've lost five years of your life, possibly your home country, and everyone you're surrounded by wants to use you. But it isn't played like that. Which, as soon as the initial momentum runs out, makes it feel really flat and unreal to me.

    Why isn't getting Valkorion out of your head a priority? (For you, if for no one else.) What about your friends/crew/team/whatever? It hasn't been five years for YOU. Where's the emotional response to ANY of what happens. And, yes, I get why the game in general downplays our character's emotions, but this goes too far. They either needed to sell us on wanting to go after Arcann or give us dialogue options that indicate tension between what the Outlander wants and what they're able to do. And at least leave room for headcanoning some amount of distress. (Hell, a few short scenes of introspection would go a long ways - the Outlander staring out a viewport or whatever before someone comes up with the next bit of plot.) And they really drop the ball on the whole Valkorian thing.

    (Worse, we're apparently supposed to listen to him, since Marr and Satele more or less agree with him now. :\ Which is making this all feel less and less like Star Wars, at least to me.)

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    1. I suspect that this may be a side effect of Bioware having been just a bit too in love with their new story when they wrote it. Along the lines of: "Wouldn't it be awesome if all of this happened?" As a result they didn't take enough time to consider how all of it might make players feel along the way. That's my theory anyway.

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    2. Honestly, they seem to be in love with Valkorion, which is even weirder. But, yes, I think they got caught up in how cool they think their story is and didn't think about anything else - how the players might feel, whether it fit all of the classes, how the story would actually be for a character experiencing it. Makes it a bit of a mess, unfortunately.

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  7. The fact that most non-force users feel left out is very strongly noticeable in all chapters, however, we knew how story will be developed in the game after the initial "origins" and have had enough time to get used to it.

    I am probably lucky (D'OHG!) to not have yet played a non-force alt of mine that played the original story as if they don't care at all about what Republic and Empire do to each other or what others do to them. I do have a few of those too, but choose to play the KOTFE stories first with my "more related" characters and classes.

    Yes, it's sad to see all under the same hood and being forced to do what they may never have done had they be offered a choice, but I was prepared since 2012, when we learned that no more personal class stories are to be created. :)

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    1. Ah, but the end of the class stories implied that our identities wouldn't change anymore, that we would just continue to go on somewhat generic missions that might be important in the grand scheme of things but wouldn't change who we are. Makeb for example still worked alright for any class. KotFE on the other hand is a continuation of our personal story after all - with the problem being that for a lot of classes it doesn't really mesh with the identity the game gave them previously.

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