The first character I ever created in SWTOR was the trooper who's still my main to this day, and I can't remember which one of the two I made first, but Jedi consular and Imperial agent where among my first alts. This meant that my image of the Sith Empire and its Emperor was pretty... fuzzy for a long time. Even on my agent he was a mysterious figure, as nobody I talked to ever seem to know where he was, what exactly he got up to, or even what he looked like. Whenever Darth Malgus talked about acting according to the Emperor's will in a briefing, he sounded more like a religious zealot spreading a divine being's message than someone conveying what they'd been told in a private one-to-one. If there had been a plot twist later on, revealing that the Emperor was long dead and just being used as a figurehead by the Dark Council, I would have easily been able to believe it.
I realised I actually have no screenshots of the Emperor from the base game, so a shot of Malgus, who repeatedly claims to know the Emperor's will, will have to do.
Let's just say, I was in for quite a surprise when I finally levelled a Jedi knight, and later, a Sith warrior.
But that sense of mystery still stuck with me for a long time, also because Bioware kept writing the story arcs that continued the story at level fifty under the assumption that not everyone had played those two classes, so things needed explaining, yet the NPCs doing the narrating weren't exactly experts on the subject matter either. Was the Sith Emperor truly dead? It was fascinating to watch the story of a divided and confused Empire unfold on Ilum and Makeb.
Then, Shadow of Revan happened.
I didn't really have a horse in this particular race, having never played KOTOR at the time and only running a knight and warrior as relatively minor alts, but I always thought it was a bit cruel to Jedi knights to basically invalidate most of their class story. (You thought you heroically killed this guy? Nope!) At the same time it was a bit strange to make the Sith Emperor everyone's concern, from smuggler to bounty hunter. But I guess when the whole galaxy is in danger, one has to step in, regardless of one's prior role.
The Emperor's new
People were (rightly) asking where we could possibly go from there, but apparently the answer was: in a completely different direction, seemingly at random.
In Fallen Empire, it turned out that the Emperor had had a second body in a different part of the galaxy all along and had used it to get up to all kinds of hijinx. He also appeared to have received a personality transplant and suddenly lost a lot of his powers, suddenly being very dependent on his body again.
When KotFE was still very new, I wrote a somewhat frustrated post about this, hoping that some sort of explanation for what was going on was still coming. Now that we've reached the end of that story arc, I'm sad to say that this never happened. And for that reason, I'm actually pretty glad that Valkorion is dead, and hopeful that he will stay so for good now.
Don't get me wrong, I did actually enjoy fighting against all three of the Sith Emperor's incarnations. I really liked how mysterious he was to most classes in the original story. I suppose the incorporeal, planet-eating version of the character was my least favourite, mostly because he had no motivations we could understand beyond being insane and the question of how exactly we were going to fight him was never really explored. Valkorion, while totally inconsistent with everything that had come before, was at least an interesting character ins his own right (which was undoubtedly helped a lot by Darin De Paul's excellent voice acting).
Still, I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at Bioware when they decided how the KotFE arc should come about. At least from the outside, it looks more than ever as if they just wanted to get away from what had come before and create something completely different. Claiming that Valkorion was actually the Sith Emperor was simply a weak way of retaining some kind of tie to the existing story, even if it made no sense for a being in his position to suddenly go back to being trapped inside and dependent on a single body.
Either way, I think he's been used for all he was worth and then some. It's time to give the guy some rest and let galactic politics unfold without him. I was ready for that by 2.0, and I'm still happy to see what's coming now.