26/09/2016

My Five Favourite Alliance Alerts (so far)

While there's still at least one more Alliance alert to come (Zenith), the end of KotFE's main storyline seems as good a time as any to look back on this part of the expansion as well. And no, I didn't just decide to rip off Calphy; this has been sitting in my draft folder for a while.

I wasn't actually that keen on the Alliance alerts at first, because the first couple were pretty dull in terms of gameplay: kill some things, click on some things, done. But like with the story chapters, you could clearly see things evolve as time went on, and the later alerts got more and more involved, offering both more interesting dialogue and a greater variety of mechanics.

It eventually struck me that the Alliance alerts are basically KotFE's missing side quests, the optional stuff that fleshes out the background a bit. It's just a shame that so few of them relate to Zakuul, which is the one place that really needs to give us more reason to care. On the other hand I do have to give Bioware kudos for taking the opportunity to add new content to old planets this way and making good use of areas that used to be a bit empty (the latest Alliance alert taking place at the ass-end of nowhere on Nar Shaddaa is a good example). And we do get glimpses of bits and pieces of what else is going on in the galaxy - again, the latest mission is a good example, with Rusk giving insight into the Republic's current relationship with the Hutt Cartel.


While I'm not a huge fan of the "retro" interface per se, I have to give Bioware credit for really making the most out of saving on voice actor bills in this part of the game, as the dialogue is chock-full of class references and you simply get to make so many more conversation choices than in the regular story chapters. Levelling characters for the DvL event has really highlighted for me how much they've cut back on that front over time. For example one of the trooper's very first class missions on Ord Mantell has you talking to the wife of a deceased spy, and in that one conversation you seriously go through four or five dialogue wheel steps of trying to calm down the woman as she gets increasingly hysterical. In KotFE you mostly get to react to an important statement or event once and that's it. Your character also frequently speaks without prompting. The Alliance alerts however manage to successfully bring back some of that feeling of navigating your way through an entire conversation. As an experiment, I counted the number of dialogue choices I got to make in a chapter (27 in Visions in the Dark) and those I got to make in an Alliance Alert (in Little Boss, I still counted 28, even while treating the five item hand-ins as one). While those totals are roughly equal, there's a lot more happening in the story chapter - the Alliance alerts just prompt you to choose a response that much more often.

Anyway, which Alliance alerts so far would I personally classify as my favourites? Let's do it countdown style and go from number five to number one in reverse order.

#5: A Kindly Old Monster - Doctor Lokin

While this one isn't terribly interesting from a mechanics point of view (though the fact that it can only be completed during the Rakghoul event makes for an interesting twist), I adored how different it can turn out depending on your choices.

Based on my first playthrough on my Commando, I wouldn't have rated it very highly. It was the exact same spiel as with many Alliance recruits: I introduce myself politely, run an errand for him, then he agrees to join me. But on my Marauder I was in for a surprise. I had her act as haughtily as ever, which meant that she tried to intimidate the good doctor initially - but he would have none of it and set his pet rakghouls on her instead. Infected by their bites, I was suddenly at his mercy to get a cure - and after I'd finally gotten that, I didn't want to recruit him anymore because - what a jerk! Which kind of impressed me because it went completely against what I had planned to do at the start. Any story that can create emotional responses as strong as that is a good one in my book.


#4: Shining in the Darkness - Guss Tuno 

I found it very interesting that this mission doesn't require you to kill anything or even to click on stuff on the ground - it's purely dialogue-based, merely requiring you to accompany Guss Tuno on his renewed attempts to become a Jedi. The objective of your mission is interesting by itself, as I found it one of the more surprising revelations that Guss went back to pick up his training again after everything that happened.

There are a lot of funny conversation choices to be had here, especially if you don't encourage Guss to simply cheat. His new master is a also a fascinating character in his own right and I wouldn't mind if we ended up seeing more of him.

#3: Arma Rasa - HK-55

I think this is the only Alliance alert that features a "proper" cut scene, that of HK wrecking the lab just as you come down to have him reprogrammed. Again, I've appreciated this mission for trying something different (having you program a droid by running through a bunch of different simulated scenarios with him). There's also that funny achievement that encourages you to accompany a friend while they do it so they can tell HK to shoot you. Finally, the release of the HK bonus chapter has lent additional weight to this mission as certain scenes in the chapter actually play out slightly differently based on your choices while reprogramming HK.


#2: Freedom Fight - Bowdaar

This is the Alliance alert that brought us the Eternal Championship, and while the Championship's appeal to me was short-lived (I think it's really more targeted at dps players), I think that the introduction of a replayable and rewarding solo challenge like that was a great move. It also turns this recruitment mission undoubtedly into the most interesting one in terms of gameplay involved.

#1: Mixological Profiling - Niko Ocarr

And at number one - we have a mission that is very short and sweet but hits all the right notes along the way. Nico is amusing and mysterious, never really letting you get a word in edge-wise, and yet all it takes to get him to join you is you mixing him a drink - which is a very simple "click on stuff " task, but is amusing for all the things you are allowed to add to the drink if you like (explosives?). It also cracks me up that he is sad if you don't add a little umbrella. This mission is just pure fun and can easily be done on every character without ever feeling like a chore.

1 comment :

  1. The "KOTOR" style dialogs have one redeeming value, but it's a biggie. They can crank out these chapters by putting a handful of NPC VAs in a VA booth and have them run through all the dialog once. If they had to do the PC voices, they'd have to put 8 VAs in the booth for each line of PC dialog alongside the NPC ones, and they're busy recording the main storyline voice work at the same time.

    Also, an awful lot of the Alliance Alert VA work is non-Basic, which means they don't even need to put the VA into the booth, they can just choose from the selection of pre-recorded lines. I doubt it's a coincidence that the Star-Fortress companions, to a sentient, do not speak basic.

    Conservation of detail, indeed.
    "Story" Characters are (including Darth Marr and HK-55) 14 basic speakers and one binary speaker (T7)
    Alliance Alerts are 7 and 7 (or 8 and 6, I don't recall if Skadge speaks Basic or Huttese)
    All 6 HSF companions are non-Basic-speakers

    (Plus Tanno Vik - whose absence from recruitability has been rumored to be due to unavailability of the VA)

    ReplyDelete