05/06/2016

KotFE Chapter by Chapter - Chapter 12: Visions in the Dark

Nearly there, only two chapters behind now! At this point, the Outlander has a steadily growing Alliance at her disposal but not much else. Will this chapter finally bring some actual progress? Spoilers say yes.



After he stayed completely quiet during the previous chapter, we already knew from the preview images that this chapter would feature the return of Valkorion in some manner. But in what way?

The chapter starts with another meeting of your crew in the war room. Using the data you stole in the previous two chapters, Scorpio was able to pinpoint a relay station under the Spire from which all the commands to the Eternal Fleet originate. It's easy to see why this is a powerful piece of intel: If you could get in there, you could disrupt Arcann's control over the fleet or bring it under your own command! However, everyone disagrees about what exactly should be done to make the best use out of this. Kaliyo is in favour of the "taking over" approach (with her doing all the infiltrating), while Jorgan sees blowing up the relay and thereby robbing Arcann of control as a perfect mission for Havoc Squad. You have to put your faith in one or the other.

After that, Lana suddenly advises you to consult with Valkorion because he knows the Spire better than anyone else. Okay, first off: Since when do we want to take advice from Valkorion? Secondly: So far he's only ever come out to talk whenever it suited him, not me, what makes us think that he'll suddenly be up for a chat? Sadly, neither of those questions are an option, instead you get told to "travel to a secluded area" to speak with Valkorion. This just adds another level of weirdness, because why is seclusion necessary? I get that my character might not want to start talking to herself like a madwoman in front of everyone else, but getting a little bit of privacy hardly requires you to travel out into the middle of the forest.

The cherry on top is that you then have to pick up a backpack of survival gear. Just what do you expect to happen while having a little chat with Valkorion? This is oddly prescient to say the least. Njessi humorously likened the survival gear to Dora the Explorer's talking backpack, and it's clearly designed to replace your healer companion while you're all alone with Valkorion. What, not everyone runs with a healer companion? Perish the thought! As a tank or healer, get ready for some tediously long fights while you have minimal dps at your disposal.

That said, the Odessen Wilds are pretty damn beautiful. Ever since I first set foot on Odessen I wanted to see more of the planet, and while what you see in this chapter is pretty limited and somewhat "spoiled" by it being night-time, it's better than nothing. By a little pool you manage to call forth Valkorion to chat, however he is not pleased to be bossed around like that and knocks you out with a blast of Force power. When you wake up, you are elsewhere in the forest and unable to reach your companions via comms. Valkorion whispers in your ear that he needs to teach you a lesson.

You make your way around the forest slaughtering aggressive wildlife while Valkorion keeps lecturing you about how you're only alive because of his intervention, how weak you are, how you're not living up to your destiny etc.. If you're dark side and have accepted his help pretty much every step of the way, this is a bit confusing. There are neat little stone cairns around the environment which you can jump to, however as far as I an tell they neither help you with avoiding the stalkers nor do they really speed you up in most places - they are just a little bit of fun.

Valkorion keeps going on about how you need to become something greater than you are right now and that your only alternative to certain death is to claim the Eternal Throne for yourself and reshape the galaxy. You duke it out for a bit, until he suddenly says that he can't stay to "protect you" any longer because he has other matters to attend to... and with that, he leaves. He claims to leave you with a final token of his favour, which shows you being gripped by Force energy until you pass out.


Meanwhile, at the Eternal Throne... Arcann is sulking because his father won't face him, and he and Vaylin think of Thexan once again. Vaylin comments that "he was a good brother", in a tone that seems to imply that Arcann isn't. He points out that it was him who freed her from their father's control, and she assures him that her support lies "here". (But is that really with him or just with the throne?)

You awake inside a grounded spaceship quite similar to those that Jedi characters travel in. Surveying the area for details reveals that it seems to belong to a Jedi as well, and one that has been staying here for a while. As a non-Force user, you'll also find yourself imbued with a sudden power to tame an animal to be your temporary companion - Force users achieve the same effect by briefly meditating at a nearby stone circle. Making friends with baby sleens is pretty fun!

Eventually you find the owner of the camp, and it turns out to be Satele Shan. So her and Darth Marr's Force ghost really are on Odessen as seen at the end of chapter nine! Sadly there is no "why have you been hiding in the woods all this time" conversation option. Satele sounds older and more tired - she admits that she failed at defending the Republic against Zakuul and has been hanging out on Odessen pretty much ever since. However, she feels that she has learned a lot in the meantime and asks you to follow her along a path lined with beacons that you are told to light, which is very reminiscent of a quest that young Jedi can do on Tython.

Once you've done so, she reveals that Odessen is a nexus in the Force where light and dark are perfectly balanced - and that Zakuul is another such world. She says that the Knights of Zakuul have mastered the use of the Force in a different way and that you too must overcome your old teachings to defeat them. You can point out that this sounds suspiciously like what Valkorion has been going on about, which causes Darth Marr's ghost to appear with a thundering: "We are nothing like that man!" He explains how he and Satele met up, argued and came to an understanding about the Force that they now want to pass on to you. Victory over Arcann will require both new perspectives and new weapons... so you're tasked with picking up various bits and bobs that they left lying around the wilderness for you before meeting them in a cave. While doing so, you hear their voices in your head some more, comparing the Force to a river and giving similar advice to Valkorion: that you need to find a new way of interacting with the Force and that your destiny lies with the Eternal Throne.

You make it to the cave and... Vaylin is there! Fortunately it turns out that instead of this being the lamest plot twist ever, she's just a vision - though you have to fight and defeat her anyway. Satele and Marr see it is a warning from the Force and say that you need to forge a new weapon to channel the Force against Arcann. Both offer to add some of their own power into it as well, but you can reject the help of one of them if you want. If you are a Force user, you get a cool cut scene of you forging a new lightsaber at the forge in the cave. If you're not a Force user, you awkwardly hammer away at it and then step away with a look of slight confusion at your new and magical assault cannon/blaster pistol/rifle.


Satele and Marr finish off with some words about leadership and where they've gone wrong. Your final lesson is supposed to wait in a nearby oasis. Just outside of it, you kill two young cave Jorgans Jurgorans, just to run into their mother inside. You can kill her, try to calm her or simply stare her down - both of the latter will result in her leaving peacefully.

Satele and Marr appear for one last goodbye, saying that the Force now wants them to go elsewhere and that it's their duty to follow its path. You can try to convince them otherwise, but they will ignore you. If you're evil you can even try to kill Satele, though she'll hold you off seemingly without effort.

You manage to escape the wilds and return to the Alliance base, just in time to see Kaliyo and Jorgan finish up their missions related to the hyperwave relay. Lana asks where you've been but the matter at hand is more important. Whoever you sent in to strike the main blow gets surprised by a bunch of Knights of Zakuul and loses contact. The other party will then insist on following up and completing the mission. You can order them to stand down but they'll ignore you either way and cut the comm. The mission ends on a cliffhanger, with you being unsure of what's happening at the Spire.

Conclusion

After the lukewarm reception the previous chapters received for feeling a bit like slightly more elaborate Alliance alerts, this chapter was a welcome breath of fresh air. People praised it for bringing back that Star Wars or even KOTOR feeling, and the story finally seemed to be going somewhere. I saw only very few complaints about the nonsensical setup at the start, but I think we were all just glad to get back to the Force, the subject of Valkorion and the fate of the Outlander.

The strong Force focus also elicited some criticism though - tech users felt more out of place than ever, being lectured about the Force while forging a magical gun. And while some welcomed the more "grey" approach to the Force that Satele and Marr preach in this chapter as a different take on the subject, others were wary of the conflict between light and dark being too much of a core tenet of Star Wars to be treated like this.

Gameplay-wise the chapter wasn't particularly exciting but not bad either. The map felt at least a little more open than in previous chapters (even if it's still very linear) as well as being just plain beautiful, and small touches like the cairns and animal companions added a bit of fun. The stealthy stalkers could get a bit annoying after a while, but at least they were not skytroopers. The lack of a companion sadly made the "boss fights" kind of tedious for people playing non-dps characters.


Story-wise we saw more hints of dissent among Arcann and Vaylin and the Outlander's role is thrown into sharp focus by both Valkorion as well as the Shan-Marr duo obsessing over what you should and shouldn't do. It's worrying how similar their advice is, even if they claim to be nothing alike! The biggest surprise was without a doubt Vakorion deciding to leave your head, as it was previously implied that he was kind of "stuck" with you and that this was the only reason he cared about your fate. Him being able to leave certainly casts his actions in a new light, even if his motivations remain a mystery.

4 comments :

  1. I do wish that we could visit the Odessen Wilds more often. It's so nice and calm and beautiful...

    Shame about the Shadow Stalkers, really.


    Additionally, for Valkorion: there's no guarantee that he would ever offer you that advice in the first place, given that he has poured his life and soul into Zakuul and wouldn't be willing to let you know its weak spots...
    Lana, are you high on painkillers again?

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  2. Didn't like it. Mumbo-jumbo piled on more mumbo-jumbo, all going nowhere. I'm feeling a mounting sense of frustration with KOTFE. I really enjoyed the first big block of chapters that came all at once. Haven't really liked any of the ones that came since.

    I also don't like the way all the new stuff is happening in areas you never get to revisit. The petrol station station planet in the heist episode is a nice setting, but it isn't actually a planet in the sense the planets you visited in vanilla SWTOR were. Not only is there nothing else to do there, you can't even go back there again in your downtime. I wish they'd make them into proper planets with some side-quests, even daily areas or something.

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    Replies
    1. That's a fair stance to take. And I agree that the lack of revisitable planets is a crying shame. Though I do think Bioware is listening on that front, as evidenced by the latest chapter...

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    2. Ooh. Haven't found the time to play the new one yet. Sounds interesting.

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