10/05/2016

KotFE Chapter by Chapter - Chapter 10: Anarchy in Paradise

Here we are, with everyone talking about the recently released chapter thirteen... and I'm about to discuss chapter ten with you, because that's how far I've come in my chapter by chapter discussion. Give it another month or two and I'll be all caught up just in time for the grand finale! At least things are a bit different from here on out because we're covering chapters that were released following a monthly cadence instead of in one big chunk. Remember, there be spoilers!



More than three months had passed between the original KotFE release and the unveiling of the next chapter in the series, Anarchy in Paradise, though we had known from the preview picture that it would feature Imperial agent companion Kaliyo, apparently nicknamed "Firebrand" on Zakuul... because Bioware doesn't care about story characters getting confused with old raid bosses.

Since a break was assumed between the end of chapter nine and the start of ten, it starts with a bit of a "reminder" of what's going on. We see Vaylin enterting Arcann's throne room and getting criticised for being unable to locate the Outlander and the Gravestone, even though she's been searching in five sectors. Arcann is convinced that someone must know their location, and orders that random planets in those same sectors are to be bombed in order to frighten the civilians into revealing what they know.

Back on Odessen, Theron has summoned your character because he has a lead on a potential ally on Zakuul called Firebrand. Koth immediately objects to this classification because said Firebrand is a known terrorist, but Theron still thinks that her skills could be useful. Scorpio offers to use her Lady of Sorrows identity to set up a meeting.

You and Theron travel to Zakuul to meet "Firebrand" in an abandoned transport station, though you have to dispatch some skytroopers first, who immediately display a new affinity for aggroing in odd and annoying ways (such as from all the way across the room), which was presumably introduced to make the combat more dynamic and interesting but in practice only ends up being annoying. Sadly this continues throughout the whole chapter.


Kaliyo isn' too impressed by you coming to her under false pretenses, though she recognises you as the Outlander who is supposed to have wreaked havoc at the droid factory in chapter three (where Vaylin caused its reactor to become unstable and it either blew or up or nearly did, based on your choices then).  If you're an agent, she recognises you as well of course... though I didn't find it to be a particularly heartfelt reunion (apparently not even if you romanced her). Either way I thought it was a nice touch that she appears with whatever customisation you had on her pre-KotFE. As a knight you can also express a vague sense of familiarity as you briefly met her in one of Doc's companion quests (though apparently this option was missing due to an oversight when the chapter originally launched).

Kaliyo is not particularly impressed by your offer to join your Alliance; in fact she accuses you of "having stolen her thunder" with all your antics on Zakuul, but she's willing to talk some more if you come along to help her with her newest project. Theron leaves you to it. (Sure, Theron, leave me alone with the terrorist, why don't you?)

As it turns out, Kaliyo's project involves planting bombs on a bunch of power junctions, so you go along and help her. On the way you fight more skytroopers, as well as a new mob type, the "sky turret". Sadly that doesn't make the fights any more interesting. Kaliyo reveals that she's already got a plan to wreak havoc at the "Overwatch", the Spire's command centre from which most of the local droids are controlled. She talks about how the citizens of Zakuul are totally dependent on machines and unable to take care of themselves, so she wants to show them what "real life" is like by depriving them of their droids for a day or two. If you were to help her, you'd supposedly acquire what's essentially a blueprint of the city and would be very helpful for planning future attacks against Zakuul.

At one point during your tour across various maintenance platforms, Kaliyo needs a minute to talk to a contact, which you are allowed to observe from a distance. It's a young woman with giant scars on her face who turns out to be the daughter of the Overwatch administrator. Kaliyo explains that she and her friends are "groupies" of sorts who like to spice up their boring lives by assisting with her rebellious and risky endeavours, though this one mentioned that several of them want to drop out and the girl herself seemed uncomfortable too.


Later, Kaliyo also wants to know about your motivation for fighting Arcann. She professes that her own is just a love for anarchy and a desire for revenge, as the war against the Eternal Empire had messed up her previous gig as a freelancer. She also complains about the Zakuulans some more, saying that nothing can hurt them as they are too used to everything forever getting fixed and mended by their droids. "Even you killing their Emperor just made them sniffle", she proclaims hilariously... which is an interesting contrast to Senya's comment in chapter five about how the Zakuulans have been blind to Arcann's corruption because of their intense grief about Valkorion's death.

You finish up with a brief trip to Kaliyo's apartment - which is surprisingly luxurious, with a bar tender droid and a little pool. Seems that she traded up after living with the agent! She shows you some holos of young Zakuulans, showing how their attitudes have changed from being awed by Firebrand's antics to being genuinely frightened and put off by the Outlander. She considers this a "wake-up call" for herself.

Eventually Kaliyo decides that it's time to blow the junctions and you hop into her speeder together to invade the Overwatch. Valkorion briefly whispers into your ear to express a certain approval of Kaliyo, as she only "enhances" perfection from his point of view. In the first room of the Overwatch, there is a little bonus mission that is so obscure that even Dulfy failed to include it in her guide (and I managed to miss it multiple times until I saw someone else mention it). You click on a couple of monitors to pick up the mission to free two prisoners that are being interrogated - if you had noticed them before and were wondering what they were about, that's it! They are either siblings or a couple with the last name "Beta" and dressed up as vigilantes or something... makes you wonder.

Inside the Overwatch, you get your city blueprints and Kaliyo gets ready to blow things up when Overwatch administrator Tayvor Slen shows up. He reveals that he was involved with Kaliyo and was basically sponsoring her activities to keep her in line and make sure she didn't do any permanent damage. Kaliyo is visibly pleased to rub her betrayal in his face and basically says that she's done being his pet and wants to go back to doing some real damage.


The ensuing fight is pretty impressive visually, with support vehicles flying up outside the building and shooting through the windows, blowing glass shards everywhere, but mechanically you just spend a lot of time mopping up weak adds while the boss is immune to damage for prolonged periods of time.

Once he's down, Kaliyo reveals that actually, she's also planted bombs at various civilian targets this time. You can let her go ahead with blowing these up as well (or even pull the trigger yourself) or talk her out of it. The latter option is a bit... strange. Knowing Kaliyo, I expected the dialogue to go along the lines of: "No, this wasn't part of the plan! I won't let you do this!" - "Meh, whatever." In practice, your character launches into a speech trying to appeal to Kaliyo's better nature... and... it works? Okaaay...

You escape the Overwatch together with Kaliyo's speeder and make it back to Odessen, where Theron asks you if you want to keep her. You get the option to say yes, yes and "maybe, but really yes". If you blew up the civilian targets, Koth freaks out at you. You've got the option to apologise and try to calm him down or tell him that he needs to get over it. If you choose the latter, you will actually get an alert a bit later on that he has tried to steal the Gravestone (though he failed) and that he has taken a shuttle to leave Odessen. Basically, you pissed him off enough that he left you.

You get a brief scene between Kaliyo and Scorpio where it's acknowledged that they know each other - as an agent you get some particularly amusing conversation options here. Kaliyo says that she'll keep herself busy taking care of her own business for a while but that you just need to give her a call once you're ready to make your move.

Shortly afterwards, you get bad news in the war room (aside from Koth's betrayal if you did trigger that). The Alliance has found out about the Eternal Fleet bombarding five planets for supposedly supporting you (as we saw Arcann and Vaylin discuss at the start of the chapter). Senya is distraught and blames the deaths on the Alliance. You get to choose from a couple of options as for how to respond but the gist of it is that you can't really react in a major way.


We finish with another view of the Eternal Throne, where Vaylin is pleased with having finished bombing those worlds, but instead of being pleased to see her, Arcann is angry that the Outlander was on Zakuul once again and managed to make a mess of things yet again. He says that in order to regain their honour, he wants all his Knights to engage in duels to the death. It's telling that even Vaylin appears shocked by this, after mostly coming across as the crazy and ruthless one until now.

Conclusion

I think that I would have rated this chapter reasonably high when it first came out, simply because I was happy to get some new content. After having seen how much better Bioware has done with the consecutive chapters that have been released since then... well, we know they can do better.

The big thing that this chapter has going for it in my opinion is that we learn more about the citizens of Zakuul "in the flesh" instead of just from codex entries. However you may feel about the way they live their lives, it's certainly interesting.

Also, the fact that you can piss off Koth sufficiently to make him leave you was welcomed by many as a sign that choices do matter in KotFE, though it remains to be seen whether there are any further-reaching consequences to this particular choice, aside from one less companion in your Alliance panel.


The fact that you get no choice about recruiting Kaliyo would have been my biggest con initially, though story developments since then have shown that Bioware had a greater plan here that wasn't as trite as I expected it to be. Nonetheless one has to wonder if they couldn't have chosen another character for this. Kaliyo is just such an incredibly hard sell for light side characters... and even many dark side ones in my opinion. Do you really want to lead an anarchist and liar with a known history of betraying her benefactors into your super secret base? The nonchalance with which everyone treats this is just crazy.

In between these major pros and cons we have a whole lot of "meh". After keeping busy with Alliance alert missions in the months before chapter ten's release, many couldn't help but feel that its story felt like yet another one of those recruitment missions, just a bit longer. I can sort of see why Bioware needed something like this to be part of the storyline (since all the actual Alliance recruitment is optional, and it would be weird to go from having virtually no followers to having lots of them overnight), but it was still a valid criticism.

Also, there was way too much (boring) combat for what to amounted to about an hour's worth of content. While the devs clearly tried to make things more interesting with the introduction of sky turrets, the more erratic mob behaviour and the mini boss fights (which were okay really), it just wasn't good enough overall. All those skytroopers just felt like an unnecessary way of padding the length of the chapter that didn't really achieve the desired results.

However, things started to look up soon...

5 comments :

  1. Considering I've not played Chapter 10, that's fine with me. I've been focusing on finishing up the Epic questline for the original portion of LOTRO (the Shadows of Angmar part), and haven't done much in SWTOR other than logging in and playing around in lower level zones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I knew you'd been spending more time in LOTRO lately, but I'm oddly impressed that you've managed to stay away from the new story so thoroughly! Are you planning to wait until the last chapter is released and then play them all at once?

      Delete
  2. I would definitely agree that Chapter X is one of the most tedious chapters yet released, particularly when it comes to replaying the blasted thing.

    The "Combat, combat, combat!" nature - even if it is ironically more realistic than the typical and oft-mocked standing-around-and-gawking fashion of traditional MMO mobs - becomes stale very, VERY quickly, and this severely impairs the rest of the chapter.

    Additionally, the Chapter dedicates a fair portion of its time informing you that Kaliyo is just not a good long-term investment for the Alliance, purely because of how Zakuul views her and her antics. The player can opine at the start that "terror is a useful tool", but the chapter swiftly de-constructs this view. Heck, the final act of Kaliyo's plan is probably also attributed to the Outlander, meaning that Kaliyo is just... 'there'... when all is said and done.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think someone at Bioware is irrationally fond of Kaliyo and that's why she got the part, whether it makes sense or not. :P

      And yeah, it's funny how more "realistic" mob behaviour doesn't automatically translate to more fun or more interesting combat.

      Delete
  3. Ch.X is IMO the low point of KotFE, both in story/"choice" (you can choose to be a cartoon sociopath or not) and in tedious combat mechanics. I have this suspicion it was artificially lengthened when they missed shipping the eternal championship with it.

    ReplyDelete