Let's Talk About... Secrets of the Enclave

This post has been sitting in my drafts for literal months, mostly thanks to Galactic Seasons sucking all the air out of the room when it came to my writing energy, but I knew that I'd come back to it eventually. SWTOR's story updates are just way too much fun not to write about them!

I had to think a bit about how to structure this post, because technically the 6.3 story update is extremely easy to sum up (spoilers incoming by the way, if you don't want to read any of those, get out while you can): Your faction finds out that Darth Malgus is doing something in the old Jedi enclave on Dantooine, so you follow him there with two companions, but as it turns out he's already gone. The end.

However, while reducing it to that single sentence is truthful, it's also kind of unfair. It's truthful because, well... it's strictly true, and you could argue that this update's biggest major weakness is that it doesn't really move the plot along very much, if at all. But it's also unfair because not every piece of story needs to advance the plot in leaps and bounds - it's okay to focus on other things sometimes - and what Secrets of the Enclave does do is provide major insight into at least four secondary characters, feature lots of KOTOR fan service, the return of two known (if minor) SWTOR characters that we hadn't seen in ages, more information about Malgus' current status, and a bit of an update on how our faction and the Alliance's relationship with it is coming along. So I guess these can be my sub-headers for this post or something.

First I'd like to note though that Secrets of the Enclave sits in a funny place in terms of faction split, in the sense that it's kind of the same story but at the same time it isn't. Strictly speaking you hit all the same notes along the way both as a Republic and as an Imperial player, but since you're coming at things from a different background and with completely different companions, it actually feels quite different as well. The closest existing piece of content that I can compare it to is probably Korriban Incursion/Assault on Tython, where the gameplay is identical for both factions but it obviously evokes quite a different feeling depending on whether you're attacking or defending. Secrets of the Enclave has a lot more dialogue that either of those did though.

Your guides along the way

Let's start with the friendly faces that assist you throughout your journey to and inside the Dantooine enclave. There's an interesting behind the scenes interview with writer Caitlin Sullivan Kelly on the official SWTOR website in which she explains why she chose the characters she did to accompany the player in this flashpoint, but in short each side needed someone with a connection to Darth Malgus and someone who could provide a bit of exposition/history about the enclave.

On Republic side, the former position is held by Aryn Leneer, who actually kicks off the mission to the enclave for both factions (Imperials are inspired by having captured some footage of her testimony to the Republic). Her connection to Malgus is that he killed her master during the sacking of Coruscant (he's the poor chap that Malgus offs at the end of the "Deceived" trailer). Back then she tracked him down to get revenge and they duelled - a fight that she lost, though she was spared for reasons. Not gonna say any more; if you want all the details, go read Deceived, the book! In SWTOR we first encountered her in The Task at Hand last year, where we saw her sensing Malgus coming to Dantooine (where she'd settled with her family) and freaking out about it. Apparently this cumulated in her finding him at the enclave and alerting the Jedi about his presence, which is why you're being approached to hunt him down. Aryn comes along as your guide and struggles with her emotional connection to Malgus along the way.

Your other companion on Republic side is Arn Peralun, who was introduced at the start of Onslaught as Tau's new padawan. He has previous experience fighting Malgus by your side in the Objective Meridian flashpoint and he also seems to enjoy reading up on things as demonstrated by his intro on Onderon. Here he shows that he's also read up on Jedi enclave on Dantooine and provides historical context for what happened there. Honestly, I quite liked him in that role. I felt kind of "meh" about him on Onderon and Mek-sha as he seemed a bit too defined by his trauma and insecurities, but it's fun to see him come into his own, clearly emboldened by his time with Tau.

On Imperial side, his role is filled by Darth Rivix (also first introduced in The Task at Hand), for whom I guess it makes sense to gather a lot of knowledge considering his ambassadorial role, though your other companion keeps expressing a mix of bemusement and suspicion about just how knowledgeable he appears to be about Jedi business. As I mentioned in my first post about Secrets of the Enclave, the animators also did a great job with his facial expressions, from subtle eyebrow raises to slight smirks. He's not all smooth talking though... if you make the light side choice after defeating the second boss, asking Rivix to let him go, he goes ahead and kills the guy anyway, something that will make my Sorc very suspicious of him going forward!

Your connection to Darth Malgus on Imperial side comes in the unexpected form of Darth Krovos, whom we first met during the intro to Kuat Drive Yards more than seven years ago (gosh, I hadn't realised she's been around such a long time) and who's been making small reoccurring reappearances since then but hasn't exactly been fleshed out a lot. In this story update we learn that she's known and respected Malgus for a long time, and she does in fact plead his case with you, expressing the belief that regardless of what it may look like, Malgus is sure to still have the Empire's best interests at heart and to keep that in mind when it comes to dealing with him.

I really enjoyed what Bioware did with all four of these characters. The studio's always been good at writing believable and amusing party banter, and I found it particularly fun to listen to the exchanges between Rivix and Krovos - you don't get to hear Sith interact in what you could call an amicable manner very often! On Republic side, I already mentioned that I liked seeing a different side of Arn.

Aryn's dialogue had the heaviest lifting to do since this was the first time we interacted with her in game, and you can't expect people to instantly care about her just because she was in a novel, but I felt that it was done well. The grizzled veteran coming out of retirement to protect their loved ones is a common stereotype for male heroes, but seeing a female fighter in that role is more unusual, plus here it was also coupled with a certain vulnerability as Aryn admits at the start that she realised while following Malgus that she's in no shape to stand up to him on her own the way she did when she was younger.

KOTOR fan service

The flashpoint takes place in the abandoned Jedi enclave on Dantooine, a location that features in both KOTOR games... need I say more? I can't actually comment on the KOTOR II stuff too much as I haven't played it but would still like to at some point, so I didn't want to dig through spoilers too much if that makes sense. The dialogue makes reference to the events of the first KOTOR as well though, which I did get!

This is all pretty cool but has limited relevance to the story we're being told in the flashpoint. I'm kind of hoping it's not just gratuitous fan service and it will turn out that Malgus's plan has at least a vague connection to something that was brought up in this context.

Surprise cameos

There's not just fan service for KOTOR fans, but also for long-time SWTOR players in the form of cameos from two minor characters that we haven't seen in a long time. Personally I always enjoy these, because if you don't remember them it's not a big deal and the story still works, but if you do it just adds that little bit of extra flavour.

On Republic side the final boss fight is against none other than Captain Colonel Golah of the Imperial Reclamation Service, whom Imperial players will remember as one of the quest givers for The Thing Czerka Found on Tatooine. There's a nice callback to his cordial relationship with the late Darth Silthar as he basically complains about how the Sith nowadays aren't what they used to be. In general he sounds a lot more bitter than he was back then, and you get the impression that he's definitely seen a lot of nasty things in the meantime (even beyond the events of that mission on Tatooine I mean).

Meanwhile Imperials face off against none other than Leeha Naarezz from the Jedi knight class story, and here too it's obvious that the events of the past have left a mark on her, though she still employs her personal pet droids.

What's Malgus up to?

As mentioned in the introduction, Malgus is actually already gone when you arrive, though you learn that he managed to steal some kind of artefact. He also claims during a sort of echo/vision to have broken his chains unlike any Sith before him, and... he makes it very clear that he wants you dead, as he apparently counted on you (as in, the Alliance Commander) to come looking for him and laid a trap for you. You escape of course, but the intention is quite clear.

As a Republic player this isn't exactly surprising, though I was a little disappointed to find out that he feels no differently about you if you're a (former) Imperial. Why do you hate an Imperial-aligned Alliance Commander so much, Malgus? I get that you'd hate the Emperor or Empress, but don't you care about the Empire itself? And we got along so well on Ossus... I feel that my dreams of a renewed Malgus team-up for Imperial players are pretty much dashed at this point. And it's also a shame in-character, because it feels like age hasn't made Malgus any wiser and he's pretty much repeating the mistakes he made on Ilum by discarding even the possibility of certain people (aka the player character) coming around to his side and actively forcing them into opposition against him, which will likely end up becoming his undoing this time around as well.

Still, Krovos sends you a letter afterwards in which she basically says that she still has faith in Malgus, even after he tried to kill you all, so make of that what you will. She may just be wrong, but it would be cool if that turned out to be an angle that players could pursue further.

The thing is, we still don't know what exactly Malgus is up to beyond freeing himself from Vowrawn/Acina's control. Being a lone wolf with no help (as we learn during the flashpoint, he even ditched the medical droid), what can he really hope to achieve? And how does he feel about the Empire and its citizens at this point? I look forward to finding out.

The Alliance and the Republic/Empire

The mission debrief for Republic characters involves a holocall with important people in the newly rebuilt Jedi order, one of whom is Tau and another Master Sal-Deron, someone who Imperial defectors would already be familiar with. A new Nautolan called Master Vinyor Tesh is also introduced and shown to be very suspicious of outsiders. The Jedi are definitely presented as being more cautious in their rebuilding efforts, and quite a far cry from the proud and public role they took during the game's base storylines.

Imperials catch Rivix chatting with Acina and revealing some more details about Malgus stealing a book on Ossus. I actually thought it was pretty hilarious how scared Rivix looks when you walk in on him. I hadn't even thought he was doing anything suspicious talking to the Empress without me in the room, but he looks like you just caught him doing something really naughty. He reassures you that there'll be no more secrets between the Empire and the Alliance, but if he also disobeyed your order during the flashpoint there's definitely a bit of suspicion there, just in case previous chats with Rivix left you feeling a bit too trusting of him.

In summary

I think all of that should give you a pretty good idea of why I loved this story update even if it didn't advance the plot very much. It's packed full of character development and lore, and that's just something that SWTOR does really well. I'm looking forward to seeing where this story goes next, though we might not find out yet in the next update, considering that there's also the plot thread with the Mandalorians still going on. Then again, the expansion has Sith in the name, so who knows? Either way it's good times for SWTOR story fans.

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