28/08/2017

Crisis on Umbara - The Story

While my last post took a non-spoilery look at the nature of the new flashpoint, this one is going to be about the story, which means spoiler time! If you haven't played through Umbara yet and don't want to know what happens in advance, you'll want to skip this one. You have been warned.


So... that was quite a twist, huh? Except... I felt nothing, which was a bit of a surprise in itself. I suppose the problem is that I had been kind of spoiled about the identity of the traitor, which greatly diminished the impact of the big revelation of course. I kicked up a bit of a conversation about this on Twitter:
I don't think I follow anyone on there who would deliberately spoil things for others, but several people had made some "totally not spoilers" reaction comments once the identity of the traitor had been datamined, which pretty much gave it away anyway in context. The fact that everyone was "so shocked" meant that it had to be someone unexpected, someone so close to the Outlander that we would have expected them to be above suspicion. The fact that many people were not just surprised but actually upset meant that it had to be a love interest, someone whose betrayal hurt their feelings, which pretty much narrowed it down to Lana or Theron. Finally, it was mostly ladies who seemed to be upset by the new developments... so Theron then, eh? All I could think of when he suddenly pulled his blaster on us on Umbara was: "As I thought, then." I guess there is some advantage to me rarely bothering with the romances in this game; at least it saves me from being upset by stuff like this.

Of course, the problem remains that as a light-side player, the whole development simply doesn't make sense. Some of the things Theron says, such as that he doesn't like what the Alliance has become, are understandable, but his actions are not. Going to such extreme measures in this context just feels totally out of character. But even if you don't agree with this assessment and find his actions believable, it's still galling to be told that you're being betrayed because of the Alliance, considering that you haven't really had a chance to make a difference. Lana and Theron are the whole reason the Alliance even exists; it's an organisation of their making. Scrapping the Eternal Fleet and the Eternal Throne wasn't an option at the end of KotET, though I'm sure many players would have taken it quite happily. So we're being betrayed for story developments that we didn't have a chance to avoid. Bleh.

For a dark side character, the basic betrayal at least has some logic to it. You are quite a tyrant, and Theron not liking that is believable. I've often wondered why Theron and Lana stick with you if you consistently make decisions that they disapprove of. It's just a shame that it only works for about half the player base. That said, this version still manages to include some ridiculousness: As a Force user for example you get the option to Force-choke Theron the moment he betrays you... but then you let him down again for a moment to hear his explanation... and then never do anything again while he walks away. I'm usually not easily annoyed by characters doing something stupid/sub-optimal because people don't always make perfect decisions. However, your character forgetting about their Force powers mere seconds after they last used them was just too weird.

Other than that, there are some more supremely bizarre bits of dialogue in places. My favourite was the former Cipher Nine complaining about how spies like Theron are always scum. Um, what? Remember who's talking here! The message you broadcast to the galaxy at the end had me squirming as well, in both of its iterations. My trooper, who was still seeking reconciliation, was offering Theron a bunch of Eternal Fleet ships to command. I wouldn't expect that kind of thing to interest him, and my character would never even think of making such an offer! Who wrote this stuff? On the dark side, I didn't like my Sith warrior - who has a history of taking her vendettas highly personally - simply offering a bounty on his head. No, I wouldn't want some bounty hunter to kill him, I want to get my revenge myself! Just argh.


Now, the game has always had the occasional moments where your character said things that you didn't really expect/like, mostly because the short paraphrase in the dialogue selection menu didn't really hit the mark and the actual dialogue line came across quite differently. But this is getting out of hand - they are putting way too many words in our characters' mouths and it's getting highly uncomfortable. They need to bring back some more granular dialogue choices - even if they don't have any effect on the outcome! I'd just feel a lot better being given the choice of not saying anything sometimes instead of the weird things that the writers put into the Outlander's mouth in places.

Either way, the big question is where the story is going to go from here. My own first thought was: Hopefully we won't be chasing Theron for the next couple of patches. Yes, his betrayal was very personal, but I'd rather not waste resources on just chasing one guy. He was at his most dangerous while he was sabotaging things from the inside, but now he's just another enemy of the Alliance who's "somewhere out there".

Of course, this is where I saw people suggest that it might all be one giant ruse anyway. Theron has played dangerous games before - wouldn't it make total sense for him to try and infiltrate this mysterious order by faking a betrayal? Of course he wouldn't be able to tell you or it wouldn't be convincing. Double agent Theron Shan! I actually think that would be pretty cool and I was kind of amused by some of the reactions I saw to the suggestion...

Other MMOs: Here are some evil guys. You need to kill them! Don't ask why they are evil though, they just are. Or maybe this one guy was good at first, but then he was corrupted by some evil entity. Yeah.

Bioware: So one of your most trusted advisors finds out about this dangerous secret society that is a threat to you and the galaxy and decides to infiltrate them by faking that he's betraying you, but you don't know that so you really think that your love interest broke your heart! Quite a twist, huh?

Fans: Sigh, what is it with Bioware always going for the most boring and overused clich├ęs...

Only in the Bioware community...

Personally I would be cool with that theory turning out to be true, though at the same time it would be a bit of a shame if I had another "twist" ruined for me simply by being able to guess what it was going to be in this case. Still, at least this direction would make more sense for a light-sided Outlander than Theron actually betraying you for flimsy reasons. For a dark-sided Outlander though, I would love it if the betrayal was real, because it's deserved for them. Maybe Theron wasn't planning to really turn on you but then decided to change sides for real after seeing your reaction. That would certainly return some semblance of choices mattering to this plot.

16 comments :

  1. In terms of the story, I fully expect there to be a "dramatic choice" between Lana and Theron, regardless of whether or not Theron truly is innocent. They are now the only two romance Companions left who absolutely nothing can have happened to, and for some it will most definitely be a difficult and - compared to the rest -
    purely emotional choice (Aric/Kaliyo was strictly unnecessary, Koth isn't consciously driven away by you, and Vette/Torian was more a strategic choice).

    Heck, even I wouldn't know who to kill of them both...

    Plus it would feel in-line with a mysterious organisation who wanted to destroy the Alliance to try and destroy them psychologically before they destroy them physically, and what better way to do this than to kill one of their closest supporters but make them choose who?

    Otherwise I think we will be chasing Theron until we learn more about this organisation. We need a "set-up phase" where we can perhaps go to Coruscant (although this may be harder than I want to believe, seeing as the Republic helps Theron if you side with the Empire) and discuss things with the people who knew him best.

    I would just like Marcus Trant, Teff'ith, and Gnost-Dural to appear, damnit. That said, I have a feeling that if Trant in particular does appear he'll be making his exit at the hands of Theron, either to make himself look more committed or genuinely because he 'betrayed' him by helping the Alliance. Regardless, for people who knew their history that would certainly be a big moment and so the stakes are raised no matter Theron's intentions.

    Beyond that, I'm also fully-convinced that there is someone else within the Alliance who has been helping this Order; the Uprisings happened too quickly after the Throne was taken for me to be comfortable that it was Theron who was selling on the data and revealing locations. Theron's just "the easy answer".

    It's going to be interesting, that's for sure. I'm curious to see whether the Alliance survives in a serviceable state beyond this next Expansion.

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    1. I can't really see them forcing a choice between Lana and Theron, as that would pretty much mean the end of the "dynamic duo", with both of them having to be written out of future plot lines. I'm not saying I'd be against the idea; I just don't think it's very likely.

      And yeah, featuring any of the characters you mentioned would be a nice nod towards everyone who read Annihilation. A deeper investigation into Theron's background would certainly be the best time to do it.

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  2. I must skip, but I'll still give your post a good ol' thumbs up, Shintar. Just because I know from history that you simply don't write poor posts.

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    1. Aw, you're making me blush!

      I've also been pleased to see more activity on your blog again as of late - now you just need to get around to updating the header and those about pages... ;)

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    2. Except for June, I've been keeping up a semi-regular schedule of 1/week to 6/month. Given how the Summer started and how it has ended (eldest mini-Red is now ensconced at university), I'm surprised at how much I have been able to post.

      Yeah, I've been looking at updating PC a bit. Not sure what exactly to do with the graphics, because I've seen what Rades did with Orcish Army Knife and I thought a) "That is cool!" and b) "That takes up a lot of processor time!".

      Then again, I'm not a designer person. I'll freely admit that my strengths lie in the engineering of things rather than the creative side of things.

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  3. I think the problem with Bioware twists is that we expect to be WOWed by their story choices. Over time it gets harder and harder for them to do that since we seen most of the types of stories they tell. (As a Kotor before Swtor player, topping the Kotor twist will always be difficult -- and that's the gold standard.)

    I agree that this chapter made no sense for a light side character. Even the offer of a hundred ships felt off. It's not like you can truly make parts of the fleet independent -- nor would you want to. And Theron's reaction to people fighting back against a light side toon, umm, Ord Mantell separatists? Someone is always going to fight those the perceive in power.

    Hopefully they will flesh the story out more over the next two patches. I think we'll get another trio of flashpoints similar to how Forged Alliances worked.

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    1. Yeah, I do sort of understand why players hold Bioware to higher standards, but it amuses me anyway to see people be quite so exasperated with them. Like you said, there are only so many different types of plot twists they can conceivably come up with.

      I, too, am curious what will happen next. I wasn't thrilled by the developments in this update, but I can see the potential to tie into something bigger and better - once again, we'll have to wait and see.

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  4. If Bioware had been willing to to write two different versions, this could have been a much better story. Since Lana and Theron are such different people, one of them had to have "concerns" about the direction of the Alliance. If that's the one that betrays you, it suddenly makes sense.

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  5. Is there an up-to-date guide for Commando-Healers?

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    1. Unfortunately I don't know - I'm not really a guide writer myself and since I've been playing Commando as my main since launch I've never had to look for one either.

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    2. So...you do know then, how much alacrity and crit i should aim for?

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    3. I don't know what's optimal in theory right now, no. I view it as one of the perks of being a healer that detailed number crunching is not required. ;) I just take what's on the default set and augment for crit. It's served me well enough.

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  6. The Alliance always seemed to be Lana's creation, with Theron being an ally of Lana's; somewhat of convenience rather than conviction. Lana put together the "core" of the Alliance (Koth and his crew, Senya), located Odessen, and rescued the Outlander. Theron ... did the spy things. Even once the Alliance is up and running, Lana seemed a lot more central to the Alliance than Theron did. Also, for all of her (presumably dark-side, based on eyes) pragmatism; Lana is the optimist of the two. Theron is the hard-bitten spy, betrayed from birth and estranged from both his parents.

    Which is a long-winded way of saying I was surprised at first, but it wasn't unexpected. Looking back, it makes sense.

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    1. At the start of this story arc, Theron asks if we should send more aid to Zakuul. If you say "give them all the aid they need", then you get one of those influence popups that says "Theron greatly approves."

      In fact Theron has greatly approved of everything my Jedi has ever done in his presence. He's been a central character since the Forged Alliances story arc we met him in. That's a lot of free flowing positive karma. It's even possible that he could be your romance option.

      Unfortunately all that free flowing karma will mean zip when it's time for him to suddenly go psychotic and try to kill you. Any relationship you have with him will also mean zip.

      It does make sense for him to betray a dark side character though. So my Jedi now feels like he doesn't belong in this story, because this story is written around the assumption that you're dark side.

      When we say our choices should matter, this is what we mean. When a companion gets "disillusioned" so extremely as to become a hated enemy seeking my death, I want to have earned it.

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    2. Well, it'll be a refreshing change of pace from the complaining that the story assumes you're a goody two-shoes Jedi Knight :P

      The writers seemed to have been going for "great love turns to great hate when betrayed." And recall that we never had the choice that Theron appears to have wanted - destroy Zakuul and then destroy the Eternal Fleet and the rest of the works of Zakuul. And, possibly, destroy the Sith Empire while they're down. Even the light side choice at the end of KotET merely stands down the Fleet, and leaves a power vacuum that the Empire and the Republic are fighting to fill; taking away the resources desperately needed by the galaxy to rebuild after decades of war and cold war.

      All that having been said, there's a couple of things that I see as leaving the writers an option to have Theron's "betrayal" be an attempt to infiltrate and destroy the organization he "Flees to" in the end. I could write the story where they approach Theron and he says "yes" to prevent them from finding someone who who actually betray the Alliance. His actions are showy, but not all that effective in damaging the Alliance. On Iokath, he gets the Pubs and Empire stuck into each other before the Alliance arrives, meaning they control the balance of power and are in a position to grab the superweapon while the other two factions are fighting. And his "assassination attempt" on the Commander and Lana is showy but ineffective. Why does he shoot Lana with his blaster set on Stun? Even if he's ignoring the Overlord's Handbook by setting an elaborate deathtrap that he doesn't supervise, he had to take deliberate action to reset his blaster after the earlier fights.

      OF course, I've been wrong before about the direction of story; but the final scene before his jump to hyperspace sure feels "off" otherwise.

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  7. Behind the times as I just finished Crisis on Umbara for the first time. As a Sith Inquisitor, my headcanon is more ‘for the benefit of myself and my allies’ than it is ‘for total galactic domination’. In that way, Theron’s betrayal makes very little sense. I don’t play strictly dark side, so I’ve made a lot of choices that he agrees with (like mentioned above, sending more aid to Zakuul). I even offered up the Peacekeeping Fleet, as it is something my character would do. This whole situation made me immediately think of the show Charmed when Leo joined the Avatars thinking he was saving the world but he was being manipulated into actual creating its destruction. So I’m thinking (hoping) this is something similar.

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