Chains in the Dark Story Review

It is here! My big 7.4 story review. I'm always surprised by just how much I have to say about new story updates, as this post once again clocks in at close to four thousand words.

However, before we get into the actual meat of the story, let's talk about a certain "technicality": the KOTOR-style cut scenes. In 7.3, it was slightly startling when the conversation interface switched to that style at the Interpreter's Retreat, but I rationalised it as that section being a secondary story within the primary story and ultimately didn't mind it too much. However, this time around, the devs inserted silent protagonist cut scenes into the story seemingly at random, and I was less of a fan of that.

Don't get me wrong, I get that this format saves a lot of money and I don't mind it being used for anything that's not the main story, but to have a scene with an NPC with "proper" cut scenes and then in the next conversation with that very same NPC it's black bars and silence from our character - that's just jarring and confusing. I'd love to know what Broadsword's criteria were for creating some scenes in that style and not others. As a player, I'd really like to be able to manage my expectations, and the way things were done in this update was not helpful in that regard.

Anyway, with that out of the way, let's get to what actually happens in the story. Full spoilers ahead!

We start with a visit to Heta Kol's fleet, where we see Heta surrounded by Hidden Chain Mandalorians when Ri'kan walks up to her and tells her that they're "ready" for something, leading to her ordering everyone to their stations. Sa'har looks uncomfortable in the background and when Heta leaves, she expresses doubt to Ri'kan whether they're doing the right thing, but her concerns fall on deaf ears.

Next we see Jekiah Ordo giving orders on what I can only guess is Shae's new flagship, when suddenly a bunch of red dots start popping up on his galaxy map to indicate Hidden Chain activity. He contacts Shae to ask for advice on what he should focus on but doesn't seem to get a response.

We switch scenes to a cantina in an unspecified location that is later revealed to be Port Nowhere. The player character is having drinks with Rass Ordo and you have an option to flirt with him while waiting to see a Harido Wald contact. Suddenly there's an explosion and the Hidden Chain attacks! It's not called out in the dialogue, but it was noteworthy to me that these attackers are all from clans that we haven't seen fight for Heta previously, such as Bralor, Farr (like Ceta Farr, the Revanite from Dromund Kaas), Rodarch, Werda and Sharratt of Nar Shaddaa heroic fame, which seems to indicate that despite her defeat on Ruhnuk, her support has actually been growing.

You fight off the boarding party and blow up the tether they've attached to the station, but a group of them has already taken hostages. You can play it safe by using what you see through the security cameras to take out the hostage takers with a remote surprise attack, or you can opt to just charge in and leave the hostages to scramble in the crossfire, which leads to some injuries. They are grateful for the rescue either way.

After defeating the Mandalorian boss (who has some pretty interesting fight mechanics for a story encounter by the way), Rass gets a call from Jekiah telling him about the Hidden Chain attacking, to which you're like "no duh"! He says he's lacking resources and needs someone to check on the situation on Ord Mantell. One of the former hostages overhears this and chimes in with some advice on how to best get a foot in there.

Now, here the devs did something interesting as the hostage in question is different based on your background:

  • For Republic Force users, it's Master Cedral Gend, who's the quest giver for the Republic-side seeker droid/Seeds of Rage quest chain.
  • For Republic tech users, it's former(?) agent Folaris, who gives the exploration mission "Partial Eclipse" in Coruscant's Black Sun sector.
  • For Imperial Force users, it's former assistant overseer Markan, who instructs young Sith inquisitors on Korriban to see their class trainer.
  • For Imperial tech users, it's Thera Markon, daughter of Crysta Markon, whom bounty hunters meet and help out in their class mission on Rishi.

Now, usually I love recurring minor NPC appearances like that, but here it didn't work as well for me because some of these NPCs were so obscure that I didn't even recognise them, and when I did, there wasn't always a dialogue option to indicate recognition when there probably should have been.

On my trooper, who did the first run through, I at first mistook the hostage for Beryl Thorne from the smuggler story (who does look similar, but has a different hair colour), but then I looked at her name in the chat log and figured it wasn't anyone I knew. There was no dialogue option to indicate recognition, even though my trooper did do her quest back in the day.

On my warrior, I once again had no idea who the hostage was, but there was an option to ask "Do I know you?" (which does make sense in context since warriors don't get a quest from him but might have seen him around the academy) and after his reply I had to google him to confirm that he was indeed an existing character.

On my consular, who has done the seeker droid chain and obviously would have recognised Master Gend, I had the option to ask "Do I know you?" as well, but in that context I obviously didn't want to pick it as I did know him. I guess you could play it as they so obviously recognised each other that there was no need to comment on it, but it's been so long that it still felt a bit odd.

Either way, you agree to check on the Hidden Chain activity on Ord Mantell while Rass gets recalled by his brother. This is where the story splits for Republic and Imperial players.

On Republic side, you travel to Fort Garnik to seek out Captain Blyes, who once probably gave your trooper or smuggler their very first side mission. (I actually got a bit confused by this because I went straight to the new area Kessan's Landing and ran around aimlessly for a bit, only later realising that this bit of the story actually takes place on "old" Ord Mantell. In hindsight I think making you go there was a pretty clever move on the devs' side, as I think it's good for an MMO from a social point of view for new players to also see higher-level players near the starting zone - as long as they're not competing for the same resources.)

Captain Blyes is not in his office, and his nervous protocol droid eventually admits that he's several hours overdue. You find him getting smacked in the face by Black Sun smugglers in a hangar in Oradam Village and rescue him. He's grateful but has no idea about any Hidden Chain activity - though he promises to look into it if you can deliver a few supplies around the area first.

You meet up again in the frontier town of Kessan's Landing, and when you arrive there you also run into Arn. Apparently Blyes inquired about more reinforcements, and Arn is all he got - can't say I entirely blame him for being disappointed! One of Blyes' scouts has a lead on potential Hidden Chain activity in the geothermal power plant, so this is where you're off to.

Meanwhile, on Imperial side...

You go straight to Kessan's Landing, to see Ord Mantell heroic quest giver Gizmel Gam, who's apparently become known since then as the type of scoundrel who'll work for anyone. You don't immediately find him in his office either, but instead it contains a couple of disgruntled people who are clearly not happy with something he's been doing and are also looking for him to complain. You can talk to them or just sneak off to search the other locations you overhear them mention as his potential hideouts.

As you search around town, you find more people that are similarly annoyed with Gizmel about something or other. (I've got to admit I chuckled at the droid in the cantina that's called ME-3P and says nothing but "Meep. Meep.") You eventually find him in the so-called Legate Lounge (which features an Ortolan playing the organ Max Rebo style) and he promises to help you if you first take care of his most urgent problem, some SIS agents that are on his case.

You find the SGS agents posing as mechanics in a local shop. There's supposed to be a saboteur option here, but it launched buggy and shows for loyalists instead, and only for them, which makes no sense of course. Might want to hold off on taking any Imperial saboteurs through this bit until they patch it. Either way, you have the option to resolve things peacefully or violently.

When you return to Gizmel's office, you're surprised to find Darth Krovos and her retinue there. Turns out that she's got assets on Ord Mantell to help stir unrest, and Gizmel contacted one of those people in an attempt to sell you out. She knows about the Mandalorian in-fighting as well and thinks that it's in everyone's best interest to get rid of them here, so she's planning to assist you. Gizmel is still deemed useful enough to provide more intel, and advises you to check on a drop-off the separatists expect at the geothermal power plant to find out what's going on between the separatists and the Hidden Chain.

As you sneak inside the power station, the stories of the two factions converge again. You run into Hidden Chain and separatists working together, and eventually encounter a Cathar woman fighting some of them off with a blaster and some minor Force powers. She introduces herself as Petra and explains that she was looking for her sister Mina, who used to work in the station but has recently gone missing. She also explains that she saw the Hidden Chain remove vital cooling rods from the power plant, without which it will explode sooner or later. As you can see signs of a meltdown being imminent already, you agree to help her with cooling things down at least temporarily by redirecting some water from a reservoir. Arn or Krovos hang back to first flip a vital switch and then to provide remote assistance/intel afterwards.

After you save the power station from immediate doom, Rass Ordo calls you on holo to share something he deems very important: Shae Vizla hasn't been responding to Jekiah's calls for help and is effectively missing. Petra is somewhat alarmed by the whole conversation (presumably because she's just been fighting Mandalorians) and questions whether she should even trust you, but you agree to track down the Hidden Chain together to retrieve the cooling rods, both to foil their plans and to assure that the power station can be repaired.

Your search leads you to a crashed tram car (the opening of which involves a brief sequence with an adorable Gonk droid), in which you find cages and what looks like some deceased prisoners, one of whom Petra recognises. She gets very upset and angry, and her worry about her sister intensifies. She reckons that the enemy must've continued to the nearby supply depot of Fort Ronnig and that you should go there.

Republic players have to fight their way into the enemy base while taking out a whole lot of defences, while Imperials get intelligence about a secret back door that bypasses a lot of that. Either way you eventually find a separatist leader guarding the cooling rods. You defeat her, but she gets one more message off to tell her associates to "get the assets off-world" and activates explosives around the room. You now have the choice to insist on disarming them, or to make a run for it to try and capture the "assets"/prisoners.

I found this to be a very interesting story choice, as it's not clearly light or dark or even necessarily a moral question, but more a matter of having to make decisions with limited information. If you just wanted the Hidden Chain to not have the cooling rods, letting them blow up seems fine, but if you wanted to return them to the power plant, it's potentially very bad for the population of Kessan's Landing to let them get destroyed. You prevented the power station from blowing up on the spot, but what will happen without the cooling rods in the long run is anyone's guess. On the other hand, running after the prisoners might end up being a completely futile endeavour as they might already be dead anyway, like the ones in the tram car - who knows what the Hidden Chain even wanted with them.

If you go for the prisoners, you find Mina in one of the prison cells and the two sisters are delighted to be reunited, but Mina says that some people have already been taken away. Mina then takes charge of the remaining prisoners and vows to lead them home. Outside, you and Petra see a shuttle take a few more cooling rods aboard and take off. If you save the first set of cooling rods by disarming the bombs instead, you arrive just in time to see Mina and the last few prisoners get taken away on the same shuttle, much to Petra's distress.

Almost immediately afterwards, a different shuttle arrives and lands, spitting out more Hidden Chain mooks and the leader of Clan Varad, Tyrus Brokenblade. It's interesting to note here that Petra asks who he is, and your character replies with "I don't know" - because of course they don't, it's only you as a player who's seen him multiple times in the "meanwhile, at Heta Kol's" cut scenes. That clear dissonance between what I knew and what my character knew felt a bit jarring to me to be honest... then again, you could also see it as a clever way of making the player invested in an encounter that would otherwise just be a random mook to you. Interestingly enough, Tyrus tries to convert you to Heta's side, framing it as someone with your power being wasted on Shae. Eventually you come to blows (if you don't start the fight, Petra will) and he's another pretty interesting boss fight for a story encounter! Though you still win of course.

Unfortunately, Petra gets too close after Tyrus has been forced to his knees, and he manages to impale her on his techblade. I honestly thought she was gonna die there, but it turns out she joins the Outlander and Sabine Wren in the "walks away from being stabbed in the chest" club. In fact, she's more than fine because the latter two at least needed medical attention, but Petra literally just walks off and appears completely fine when you talk to her later. I don't know, maybe the injury isn't meant to be as severe as it looks in the cut scene?

Anyway, just as Tyrus is about to strike a second time, delivering what definitely would have been killing blow, a pink light saber blocks the attack. It's Sa'har! He calls her a traitor and claims that Ri'kan will enjoy killing her, which gets her riled up and the two start fighting again. Eventually you team up with Sa'har and beat him down for good. Sa'har tells you about how she gave the holocron to Heta, who is now using it to build some sort of machine (which is what all the raiding is about) but that she feels it's all wrong and wants to stop it but can't do it by herself.

It turns out that Tyrus still isn't completely down, and he crawls forward to reach for his holocommunicator and call Heta. Sa'har responds instinctively and cuts his hand off to prevent him from doing so... on screen! I mean, there's no blood or anything of course, but we actually get a close-up of his disembodied hand, which is I think the "goriest" this game has ever gotten visually (at least the bounty hunter's head deliveries were always in sacks...).

Sa'har panics and you can now decide to either take Tyrus prisoner (in which case your ally will comment to tell you more about his identity on your return to town) or kill him (Sa'har refuses to deal the killing blow herself). She tells you that she needs to return to Heta and cover her tracks, but that she's still planning to sabotage her and that she'll contact you for help when the time comes. Her last comment is "your friend is gone", which is meant to indicate the (severely?) injured Petra having just walked off, but for extra confusion she was still lying there for me visually, seemingly half dead, but apparently none of my characters cared enough to even check on her. I'm pretty sure that's a bug.

You return to town, which is once again different for Republic and Imperial players.

As a Republic character, you re-unite with Arn in town and tell him about what happened with Sa'har. Petra shows up to complain to Blyes about everything that happened and to accuse everyone of not caring about the population of Ord Mantell. Blyes is somewhat dejected in response and admits that the people have indeed been neglected... he comments that he'd be appreciative of any help you can provide (do dailies please).

On Imp side, you get a call from Petra when you return to Gizmel Gam's office. She doesn't trust the Sith enough to show up in person, but she wants you to know that after everything that happened, people are finally starting to ask questions, and she feels a certain degree of gratitude. She also says that she's willing to do anything, take help from anyone to either save her sister or improve Kessan's Landing's lot in general.

Krovos gives you the rundown of your mission's after-effects. If you saved the cooling rods, she's particularly pleased as this gives her leverage she's planning to use. Gizmel says the incident with the power station caused a lot of chaos, even if it can be repaired eventually. He also tries to wriggle out of working for the Empire again, which gives you the option to kill him. Finally, you tell Krovos about what happened with Sa'har, and she's not impressed.

We get one more shot of Sa'har getting called by Ri'kan, who asks where she's been, to which she replies that she was just tracking something for Heta and ran into a dead end.

Overall, I think this is a story that definitely benefits from being played through more than once, not just to see the differences between Republic and Empire, but also to see more of the small variations that occur based on your origin story and various choices. The difference between saving Petra's sister vs. not saving her is definitely worth seeing as well. Plus there were a lot of small details that I honestly just missed the first time around.

As for the core of the main storyline... I did enjoy it, and I thought the showdown with Tyrus and Sa'har was great (leaving aside the oddness around just what happens to Petra there). I thought it was interesting that Tyrus was still interested in turning you to their side after everything that's happened, and I was genuinely surprised to see Sa'har show up (though the game did spoil itself a little by the systems message that said "Sa'har Kateen has joined you as a companion." earlier on, but that came at such a random moment that I actually thought it was just another bug, hah).

It's been clear through all the cut scenes we've seen her in that she's been unhappy with what Heta and her gang are doing, but she just seemed too consumed by guilt and a desire to make nice with her brother to do anything about it. I mean, I always figured that she was going to "snap" at some point, but I didn't expect it to happen like this, with her just showing up to ask for help and outright turning against one of Heta's followers. It'll be interesting to see where that goes.

Shae going missing was also interesting, especially after how angry and obsessive she was when we last saw her in 7.3. I can't see that going anywhere good for her...

Seeing Arn and Krovos again was nice, though they didn't really get to do that much, and I've got to admit I did wonder a bit whether they were really the best people to have along for this particular ride, e.g. wouldn't hidden Imperial operations to stoke unrest on Ord Mantell be more in the wheelhouse of someone like Xarion or Rivix?

The character I had the most issues with to be honest was Petra, which is a bit of a shame because I don't think she's a bad character. In fact I thought it made for quite an interesting dynamic that she's both mad at the separatists and the Republic. Her voice actress also does a good job - if you don't manage to rescue Mina and you watch the shuttle fly away with her, Petra's repeated cries of "She was right there!" are absolutely heart-wrenching. The problem I had was just that... Petra simply wasn't a very fun person to have around and she's your companion for most of this story.

She's (justifiably) distrustful and angry and yells a lot, and to be honest that just made me feel the same way I feel about angry people in real life: I just wanted to be done with her and get away. Like, stop yelling at me, lady, I've got other things to worry about. I didn't dislike her or wanted to harm her, I just wanted her to go away and leave me alone, haha. Ironically, the one moment when I found myself really caring about her, when she got stabbed and I wanted to check on whether she was going to make it, that was not an option the game gave me.

Finally, who the hell is that Rodian in the key art? He wasn't actually a character anywhere as far as I could tell.

Did I miss anything important? Or do you just think anything I said is way off? What did you think of this story update in general? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. As it's what I'm known for on Twitter, I had a hard time telling, but it sounded like there was some new music in some places. Hopefully, we might get a release of the music from 7.2 to 7.4 soon.

    The choice between the cooling rods and saving Petra's sister was the first time in a while that I left and reset a quest to make a different choice. I originally got the cooling rods, but seeing Petra's reaction made me reset the quest. I did notice a few bugs when I went through with my male Smuggler, mainly missing VO for one choice (From what I've seen every other gender and class had dialogue), and missing lipsync for another. Makes me wonder if there needs to be a special PTS server that is invite only to play the story, to try and find those little bugs.

    I agree with you about the switching between "SWTOR Style" cutscenes, and the "KotOR Style" cutscenes. For some things like events, or the KotFE era Alerts, it made sense. But, I don't like how it's now showing up in main story content. I can kinda understand using the KotOR style cutscenes in things like the Daily area story on Manaan and Lane's Basilisk Story, but in the middle of main story content, without an explanation from the Dev's seems... off. Maybe it's funding related, since I'm not sure if this was worked on before or after the switch to Broadsword, hopefully we'll hear why they went this route.

    1. I think they have paid QA for story testing. Just seems weird to me that they'd miss pretty obvious issues like the bugged Imperial saboteur option or Petra supposedly disappearing but lying right there. Maybe they just ran out of time to fix things and deemed this "good enough for now"; I don't know.

      Lip sync can sometimes just glitch out without presenting as a consistent bug in my experience. It doesn't happen often but I experienced it at the Interpreter's Retreat for example, where Kodom's mouth moved normally most of the time, but in some scenes/playthrough it just seemingly forgot.

  2. I've enjoyed it so far. I've only run one character through because of having friends/guildies invested in a different game at the moment, but with Galactic Seasons wrapping up for me (only the last two weeklies to deal with) I'll have more time to devote to pushing other characters through to this point in the story.

    I did see some of the same bugs you did. I suspect they ran out of time for polish for certain bits. I did find it interesting the lead writer had a forum post about why they used the Kotor-style conversations in the middle of things. Talk about synchronicity.

    I wasn't bothered by Petra's attitude. Given how messed up Ord Mantell is (among others) I found it refreshing to see someone who wasn't all super-happy to see us. It was a nice reminder of how those who have to live with the results of various actions can have quite a different view from us or our characters.

    As far as that Rodian goes in the loading screen, I feel like he's there more to balance out the image as there's two people on the right side, so there needed to be two characters on the left to give the image symmetry.

    1. I'll be finishing the Galactic Season after the reset as well. 🙂 Another review incoming!

      Do you think that forum post really answered this question though? I saw it more as a general explanation of their resource allocation (that a letter might be more work than a non-voiced, class specific dialogue option is wild to me by the way). So you think the 7.4 KOTOR cut scenes are for class-specific variations as well? Because I didn't really notice any there...

      Like I said in the post, I understood Petra's attitude; I just didn't particularly enjoy being saddled with a (temporary) companion who seemed to dislike me.

      As for image symmetry, that doesn't explain why they couldn't use another character that actually features in the story. Neither Blyes nor Gizmel are on there for example.

    2. I have to agree, the forum post from Caitlin doesn't really touch on WHY the 7.4 story is a mix of SWTOR and KotOR style cinematics, just why they didn't include letters from some companions, and why the choice of the Port Nowhere NPC was only limited to the four we saw.

      I also have a hard time believing that an in-game letter from Corso or Jorgan (Even if only Smugglers and characters who didn't kill Jorgan got it) would be more work that a class specific mention in a KotOR-style cutscene; I know I had one where *Spoiler* NPC on Ord mentioned Viidu to my Smuggler, but that's the only one I can think of off hand.

      I wonder why they didn't mention that the main story was going to be a mix of the two cutscene styles before it was released. I'm not sure how I'd feel if it was something that we'd see more of going forward.

      As for the Key art, I had a thought that we might get something set on Hutta after this, as the buildings on the right side of the photo look more like Hutta buildings than Ord buildings, hence using a Rodian.

    3. From what she wrote I was assuming there were class-specific bits in the Kotor dialogues. I've only run my Jedi Knight through the story content, so after I read that I assumed there were bits that acknowledged the trooper & smuggler. It sounds like it didn't so it might simply have been a moment where they had to cut back on efforts due to time and resources. :sigh:

      I guess I didn't mind Petra because I could see why she was that angry and that made a difference. It says something about the characterization if we can have different reactions to the same NPC. :) (Now, vanilla-era Wow's Fandral Staghelm I'd like to kick in the nuts for being such a jerk. He's a character that I disliked.)

      I look forward to your GS 5 review!

  3. I also have reservations about Petra. She wasn't a bad character, but I did find it off-putting that she was very angry all the time. I too encountered the glitch where she was laying on the ground after she supposedly left. I thought it was funny if a bit jarring.

    I'm definitely not a fan of the Kotor style scenes in the middle of the story when a minute ago we had a fully voiced scene. I know they're trying to cut cost, but it was weird switching between the two.

    Overall, I thought it was a good update.

  4. petra isnt so bad from a sith playthrough, the annoyingness of the shouting can be replaced with gleeful anticipation if you plan to hopefully turn her to the dark side, it seems that they are going to let you pull that off (we get one ds point gain for doing it a little, and other dialogue hints at it), seeing anger in petra is kinda like seeing anger in jeasa way back in the base game, it gives the character a little depth an appears a fun opportunity to corrupt someone. Dito with Sahar, if you say the self defence thing and then the hard choices option, sahar seems to genuinely consider finishing hetas minion.


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