Showdown on Ruhnuk - Uneasy Story Thoughts

In my first impressions post about the 7.2 story update, I noted that it featured a lot of very well-done cut scenes that reminded me a bit of Knights of the Fallen Empire, and not in a bad way. Since then I've been thinking about how to best describe my thoughts about the 7.2 story more comprehensively, and it's been surprisingly difficult.

Let's start with a brief summary of the plot - this will obviously contain spoilers. Despite its length, Ruhnuk is actually easier to summarise than the previous update, because despite being longer, it's a fairly straightforward story which mainly gains its run time from cut scenes and companion chatter that isn't necessarily crucial to the plot.

Basically, as per Shae's call at the end of Digging Deeper, you travel to Ruhnuk with her, Rass Ordo and Akaavi (plus Torian if he's alive in your playthrough). The unique nature of the planet makes communications difficult, which is good for being sneaky but also makes it harder to call in support. You sneak around Heta's base of operations and run into Sa'har of all people. Your character recognises her, but a trigger-happy Shae spooks her and she runs off before you can have a meaningful conversation.

As you continue to sneak around the base, you briefly get separated, at which point Heta and crew show up and subdue you by pointing a bunch of sonic weapons at you that basically look like giant spotlights. Shae finds you again and challenges Heta to a duel, who accepts. Meanwhile you get knocked out and dragged away as a captive.

Rass shows up to rescue you just in time for you to witness the duel between Shae and Heta in a big arena. You also notice Bask Sunn on the edges, pointing one of those sonic weapons from earlier at Shae to weaken her and ensure Heta's victory. You can disrupt him or allow him to keep going.

Either way, Rass has managed to get a call for support out at last, which means that Shae's Mandalorians descend upon the scene and a big brawl between them and Heta's followers ensues. Shae's also been injured during the duel and needs rescuing. In the melee, you end up fighting Sa'har's brother Ri'kan, who it turns out has a history with Rass. In the end, Heta and her forces retreat.

In the epilogue, Shae recovers from her injuries and shares her thoughts on everything that happened - mainly she's quite annoyed that Heta got away again. You learn that Rass and Jekaiah's sister died during a mission in which she clashed with Ri'kan but his forces were beaten, and that Ri'kan blames the Ordos for the mission's failure. We also get a view of Heta's situation - she, too, is somewhat frustrated because she lost her secret base and her fleet suffered losses. Ri'kan tries to cheer her up by spoiling that Sa'har has knowledge of a powerful weapon that they could use to their advantage, somewhat to Sa'har's dismay. Heta is intrigued and immediately wants to learn more from Sa'har, with Ri'kan once again getting left behind.

So, there is a lot to love about this update. I already said that the cut scenes are great. There are some interesting minor choices to make, plus of course the major one of how to react to the discovery of Bask Sunn manipulating the duel in Heta's favour. The characters are interesting and I liked learning more about them.

The thing is... I really enjoyed my first playthrough of this story, but the second one already felt a lot less fun, and by character number three things were actually starting to drag a bit - and that gave me KotFE vibes in a bad way. Mind you, I've struggled with the replayability (or lack thereof) of newer story updates since Shadow of Revan. However, it's not always been equally bad. For example, the Jedi Under Siege story was very fun to replay because it was different for Republic and Empire, and there were a number of nice little touches that included different lines of dialogue for different origin stories.

In general, breadth is more fun to replay than length - which is not to say that you can't have both, but realistically it seems that Bioware investing in one always leads to cuts in the other area. In line with this, Showdown on Ruhnuk is a reasonably long story update, but it doesn't have a lot of breadth. It's the same for both factions and all classes, and personally I haven't run into any lines that were different based on your origin story (maybe if you're a smuggler and talking to Akaavi or something).

However, I realised that there was something else that was bothering me, and it's got to do with the non-player characters. There is some good stuff there: I quite like Rass Ordo and appreciated the addition of some flirt options with him, though you can also be very curt in your conversations if you don't like him. Similarly, the dialogue encourages you to think about your relationship with Shae, and just how far you want to go in your support of her feud against Heta. Seeing Akaavi and Torian again was also neat.

Heta, Sa'har and Ri'kan though... they are still relatively new characters all things considered, and I do find their stories and relationships interesting... but they are fairly independent of the player character. We keep seeing cut scenes of what they're up to elsewhere; we see the ways in which the relationship between Sa'har and Ri'kan is strained - and again, to some degree I'm here for that, but it's not very fun to replay because it's just like watching a mini-movie that's always the same and doesn't involve your character at all.

Again I couldn't help but be reminded of Fallen Empire and the relationships between Arcann, Vaylin and Senya. These were also kind of interesting to uncover... at first, but ultimately they largely played out without your input. Vaylin hates Senya because of her childhood, and you can't do anything about it other than tag along while Vaylin snarks and Senya cries about it. Arcann's big change of heart comes about when he sees his sister attack his mother, again something for which your character is not present for. There's all this investment in backstories that ultimately have no impact on your playthrough, and that's the kind of thing that tends to start to bother me after a while, because it feels like the whole budget is being spent on telling other characters' stories instead of yours. Sa'har and Ri'kan are far too new to annoy me in that way, but I'm a bit worried whether we'll ever get to interact with them in a meaningful manner, or whether we'll just get to watch their sibling conflict play out in "meanwhile, somewhere else" cut scenes, until one day we'll get the option to kill one or both of them and move on.

I guess it's just important to me that my character can have some sort of relationship with the NPCs that are central to the story. I didn't mind playing second fiddle to Shae on Ruhnuk, because we've fought her and worked with her, and (depending on your choices) there might be some tensions there that make you feel like your choices have meaning. It's the same reason I like Darth Malgus as a character. Sure, from a Republic point of view he's just another evil Sith, but on Empire side he gives you all those missions while levelling, then you work with him on Ilum until he betrays you. On Ossus, you work with him again, and again he turns against you and the Empire. That's some history, man, and that stuff is at the back of my mind whenever I get to interact with him. Even if the dialogue wheel doesn't give me explicit options to express all those thoughts, they're still kind of there in the background. I just can't get invested in the same way when it comes to characters we barely get to interact with.

In summary, I really enjoyed the Ruhnuk story the first time, but on replaying it I'm awkwardly reminded of some things I disliked about KotFE, and I can't help but worry whether we're heading in a similar direction again. I'm not saying it's exactly the same - we don't have the awkward chapter format to deal with, and the setup for this story has been much more organic than the weird KotFE timeskip and change of focus ever was. However, I'm definitely feeling a bit uneasy is what I'm saying.

Oh, and on a more humorous note, there's of course the part where your character gets knocked out... something else that happened a few times during KotFE but hasn't happened in a while. Please tell me I wasn't the only one who sighed when that happened and went: "Yep, here we go again"?

Anyway, that's just me - I'd love to hear other people's thoughts on this. If you've replayed the Ruhnuk update on alts, how did you feel about it? And how invested are you in what happens to Sa'har and Ri'kan at this point? Let me know in the comments.


  1. I think it is the best they can do given they don't have planetary arcs any longer to deliver that sort of NPC build up. Movie-style independent cutscenes are really the only tool they have to help the player understand what is going on in the enemy camp.

    I do agree, though, that the more linear the story lines the duller the replays on alternate characters. I still have alts I'd like to get through KotFE / KotET, but having the story beats be so similar every playthrough it gets harder and harder to be motivated to do it 'one more time'. :sigh:

    Oh, as far as being captured, that particular cliche (being dragged by two enemies) always reminds me of the original Half-Life game when . :) While Half-Life is from the 1st person perspective, the situation has stuck with me since I first played it over 20 years ago. So in my case, I tend to laugh and have a fond moment of nostalgia for a favorite game series.

    1. Want to buy an edit button! My link text should have said "Gordon Freeman gets capture and two guys drag his body off to ... a trash compactor to be crushed", then the smiley and the rest of my comment. Ah, well, Blogger you win this time.

    2. I think it is the best they can do given they don't have planetary arcs any longer to deliver that sort of NPC build up.

      Hm, I hadn't considered things from that perspective. I guess my question would then be: Do we need to know that much about what the enemy is doing while they are doing it? We could instead be hearing rumours with just bits and pieces of information, making it more of a mystery that can result in a big reveal later, while focusing more on whatever our characters are involved in at the moment. Imagine if the agent class story had been interspersed with cut scenes of Darth Jadus plotting... I don't think he would have nearly as many fans.

      And interesting HL association! For me it's less about the being dragged and more the general being knocked out and needing to be rescued by allies. It's a trope I don't mind every now and then, but in KotFE it came up several times in short succession. It was also one of the things I disliked about the original Sith inquisitor story, where you also seem to pass out and need rescuing at least once per chapter.

    3. From our character's perspective I agree with you. I'd rather have more left to our imaginations than have things explicitly spelled out. I do wonder if the current style of storytelling is because Bioware pushes their "cinematic storytelling" too much. It is if they want to make a movie and have forgotten we're in a game and to stay grounded in the player's character's perspective. Let me feel like I'm (or my character) is the prime mover, not the NPCs. (The latter is one of the disappointments of Blizzard's ho-hum storytelling.)

      :chuckle: Repeated themes were an issue in several of the class stories. I remember the Jedi Knight constantly having to deal with a super-weapon every planet. That one got old really fast, even if super-weapons are a fixation of the Empire.

  2. For pretty much everything starting with the duel, the cutscenes are gorgeous and I knew immediately I was going to spacebar them more often then I watched them through. The stuff you have to say about getting to have relationships with major NPCs is interesting--it didn't bother me, except that the gap between what I know and what my characters know is getting larger than I'd like. I don't think our characters are even sure that Sahar has the holocron?

    1. except that the gap between what I know and what my characters know is getting larger than I'd like

      Indeed, that is another good way of putting it. Part of "roleplaying" my character is seeing things from her perspective, and having too much information that she doesn't have kind of skews things a lot. I want things to be interesting from her point of view.

    2. Funnily enough, I'm the opposite. Not that it's wrong to feel that way and I understand the opinion, but for me I like seeing cutaway scenes to what other characters are doing. Makes it feel like an interactive very long movie/tv show.


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