Desperate Defiance - NOW We're Getting Somewhere!

Alongside opportunities to dance around the holo pole and fish, Patch 7.5 also included the latest update to SWTOR's ongoing storyline. And it was GOOD. That's it, review done!

I jest, of course. You know I can't write one of these without using a few thousand words.

Before I get into the story itself though, we have to talk about cut scenes, which is to say that yes, the KOTOR-style scenes in which the player character is unvoiced are back once again. In 7.3 they surprised me, but I was ultimately okay with the way they were integrated into the story. In 7.4 I was somewhat dismayed to see them make a return in the continuation of the main storyline while also being inserted in what felt like somewhat random places to me. At this point I'm kind of resigning myself to silent protagonist cut scenes simply being "a thing" in the new story updates from now on. I can only guess that it really is just a cost-cutting measure and that the devs therefore can't really comment on it in any way without it sounding bad.

A holo call on Odessen. In the foreground we see Hylo Visz, Admiral Aygo, a yellow female Twi'lek Jedi, Lana and Theron, and on holo we see General Daeruun, Chancellor Galena Rans, Arn Peralun and Master Gnost-Dural.

This bothers me because I want to see this game at its best, and considering how pivotal the voice-acted characters have always been to its value proposition, unvoiced cut scenes just aren't on the same level. On the other hand though, I can't pretend that it totally ruins my own enjoyment of the story. It is what it is, and I think after this I will no longer comment on the mere presence of KOTOR-style cut scenes in new story updates. It just seems to be the new normal, unfortunately.

I will say though that the way these were inserted in 7.4 bothered me more than in this update. Here, they felt at least well-used to me in the sense that the black bars usually came up when we entered a quiet moment during which people were just standing around and talking to my character, and the devs at least made the most of it by also giving us more conversation options in those situations.

On a related matter, in the first half of the story on Hutta, I actually found myself missing even the KOTOR-style cut scenes, because several steps of story progression happen without any cut scenes at all - there are just some voice-over lines while you click on stuff, the same way you get when handing in dailies on Rishi and Yavin IV. This just stood out to me because the whole bit in the warehouse for example struck me as something that easily could have had at least two cut scenes in my opinion, even if they had just been KOTOR-style. As it was, all the dialogue with Virta just happened in quick voice-overs, and as a result I couldn't even remember her name or what she looked like after several playthroughs and had to check back just for writing this post. It's interesting to see how much of a difference the more cinematic editing makes to how memorable I find the characters. But anyway, what "bit in the warehouse" am I talking about anyway? Let's get into the actual plot. Full spoilers ahead as usual!

Sa'har cowers behind a corner while eavesdropping on Ri'kan and a Hidden Chain soldier

We start with a shot of one of Heta Kol's ships, surrounded by wreckage with a Republic logo on it. On board, we see a Hidden Chain soldier execute a prisoner while Ri'kan looks on. The latter then receives a report about a missing strike team, which Sa'har - who's standing just around the corner - overhears.

We switch to a shot of our characters honing their skills on Odessen which actually seems to be class-specific, something I really liked. My trooper and agent were shooting target dummies, my warrior was working on her lightsaber technique, and my consular was mediating with rocks floating around her head, which I thought was neat.

A female yellow Twi'lek in traditional Jedi robes mediates while surrounded by floating rocks

Lana (and Theron, if he's alive for you) show up to tell you that the Republic or Empire (depending on faction, obviously) wants to have a chat about the whole Mandalorian situation. They are not best pleased with this whole civil war causing chaos all over the place while you're supposed to be allied with the leader of the Mandalorians. You do chat with them for a bit but end up cutting the conversation short as you receive a call from Sa'har, who wants to meet you on Mek-Sha.

In a hideout there (I never realised before this conversation that she came from the orphanage on Mek-Sha), she tells you that she's got a plan to get Darth Nul's holocron away from Heta. It's being used to power a machine that awakens the Force in people, and Heta has been kidnapping people to use these new Force users as soldiers for her cause, which sounds like such a badly thought-out plan, it immediately made me think that Heta's clearly not as clever as she thinks she is. Anyway, this machine is being kept on a well-guarded ship that can only be reached via special shuttles, and after what Sa'har overheard earlier, she knows that one such strike team shuttle has gone missing on Hutta. She proposes to steal it from there and to use it to infiltrate the ship.

One way or another, you go along with the plan, and find yourself in the Minboosa District on Hutta, where - naturally - a slave rebellion is going on and causing chaos. Turns out the Mandos got held up because the local Hutt impounded their ship in the mayhem. For some reason I found the mental image of battle-hardened Mandalorians getting their ship towed by a Hutt incredibly amusing.

Sa'har and a female yellow Twi'lek Jedi master with their lightsabers drawn as they look up at Yusinduu the Hutt looming on a balcony

As you investigate the area, you run into some of the rebellious slaves and help them out in order to get to the Mandalorian shuttle. The new area on Hutta is pretty small, but I've got to admit I still wondered whether it wasn't meant to be a daily zone at one point, based on the various tasks we're being asked to complete for the slaves. I mean, you could argue that it wouldn't make sense for a group of escaped slaves to be a daily hub, but then dailies rarely make a lot of sense and the tasks they give by themselves definitely gave me daily or at least repeatable mission vibes (à la Interpreter's Retreat).

At one point you run into Yusinduu the Hutt himself and a big fight breaks out. In the aftermath, you find yourself teaming up with two of the leaders of the slave rebellion, a Rodian called Adi and an Evocii called Rakit. Adi seems like a fairly gentle soul - is it me or was it hinted that he might be at least a little Force-sensitive? I'm basing this on what he says about Sa'har's thoughts when she's out of the room. Rakit serves as a bit of a foil for him by being more fierce and wanting to inflict as much damage as possible to Yusinduu during the escape.

When you're ready to storm the place where all the spaceships are stored, both Adi and Rakit run into trouble with their respective tasks and you can only help one of them. Adi wants to slice the elevators to help more people escape, while Rakit is trying to disable the defensive turrets. Interestingly, helping Adi results in more people getting away, but Adi himself gets mortally wounded and dies, much to Rakit's despair. If you help with the turrets, Rakit and Adi both make it out, but Adi is dismayed to see that many of his fellow slaves didn't make it in turn. (I also saw someone mention that helping Adi and saving more "random" slaves means that you get NPC support for the fight mentioned below, but I can't say I noticed that myself.)

Rakit holds a wounded Adi by the shoulders while looking worried

You also run into Yusinduu again, piloting a walker like Karagga at the end of Karagga's Palace, and putting up a surprisingly tough fight for modern story content. I've not actually died to it or anything, but on one try I lost my companion, and more than once it actually made me think of popping my heroic moment for safety. Otherwise he was a bit of a disappointment though, as I thought based on the preview that he might have a bigger role than showing up in that one scene and then going straight into boss fight mode the next time you run into him.

Either way you get your shuttle and you arrive at Heta's ship. Sa'har disables various alarms, though this doesn't prevent you from having to fight your way through wave after wave of Mandos. You free a group of slaves on the way, featuring a nice touch: if you didn't save Mina Nehrum in the last update, she's among the freed prisoners here. You can escort the prisoners to your shuttle, leave them to look after themselves, or even encourage them to join the fighting. Here I have to say that choosing the escort option is extremely annoying, because it will cause new Mandos to spawn in the corridors you just cleared, twice. They're not too hard to dispatch, but having to clear the same corridor three times in quick succession is not my idea of fun gameplay. Eventually you get to the machine, though Ri'kan is also there and intercepts you. A fight ensues, during which the machine gets destroyed and the ship is damaged to the point that it will blow up soon (because isn't that how it always goes).

Sa'har stumbles while fighting Ri'kan in front of Heta Kol's machine

While Sa'har stands up to Ri'kan, she panics when he appears to be sliding off the platform and wants to save him, crying for you to help her pull him back up. Here you get three options: to help her, to dive for Darth Nul's holocron first, or to just grab the holocron and walk off. The latter made me feel like a right bastard. The second one isn't too bad because your character says something like "hang on", clearly intending to help, but then gets cut off from the two of them by falling debris. If you do help to pull Ri'kan to safety, Sa'har will grab the holocron for you and give it a meaningful look before handing it over... but then Ri'kan wakes and attacks her again just as you're running to leave, and she pushes the door shut behind you.

The ship blows up behind you, with the clear implication being that the Twi'lek siblings probably died in the blast. You talk to either Arn or Krovos about what happened, how you got the holocron, and about what to do with the freed prisoners. I found it ironic that considering they're Force sensitive, Krovos is okay with sending them to Korriban, but Arn says there's no way the Jedi will accept them. Interesting case of the Empire actually being the more pragmatic ones.

It seems like you actually achieved a major victory for once by getting the holocron back and striking a major blow against Heta Kol... but we're not quite done yet. We pivot to a cut scene that shows Jekaiah Ordo receiving a message from Shae at last that basically says "sorry, but I gotta do what I gotta do", followed by a cut to Shae and four extremely badass-looking mercenaries breaking into Malgus' fleet prison and cutting him loose. Maybe that's just my interpretation, but he actually looks slightly uncertain when she frees him, as if he's not entirely certain just WTF she's doing either and why (though he does manage to hide it well). And that's the cut.

Shae Vizla and her crew of mercenaries getting ready for the prison break

Obviously, the first thought I had after this story was: Hallelujah, we're finally getting somewhere! The criticism I see people level against the current storyline the most often is that it's just been going on for too long in real time, and while I don't entirely agree, it's definitely a criticism I understand. It's been more than three years since we were introduced to Heta Kol's rebellion, and Malgus has been sitting in his fleet prison for more than two years of real time. Several patches seemed to be more focused on establishing background lore than making anything actually happen. It's definitely been a bit frustrating at times.

And yet, here we have a single patch in which we finally see Sa'har turn on the Hidden Chain for real, you steal Darth Nul's holocron back and foil Heta's plans, Sa'har dies (?!), Shae comes back and breaks Malgus out. That's seemingly a lot of finality, and suddenly we really have no clue what's going to happen next. I love it!

However, main plot progression aside, there were also a lot of fun little details that I enjoyed, like the aforementioned class-specific intro. In the call with the Republic, I was happy to see Arn having our back, while the Imperial call amused me with the way Acina, Xarion and Krovos presented a surprisingly unified front of annoyance. If your continuity has Emperor Vowrawn instead of Empress Acina, he's so smarmy during the whole conversation, I absolutely loved it.

A close-up of Emperor Vowrawn on holo

There were also some fun bits of gameplay - when you meet up with Sa'har on Mek-Sha, you have to follow a trail of light to find her, and one of the tasks for the slaves involves playing as a gonk droid. Yusinduu being a tough fight actually kind of impressed me, though I was less keen on the encounter with Ri'kan, which just kind of stops at one point with him becoming immune to damage, apparently because an RP dialogue between him and Sa'har needs to play out, but fire keeps spawning under your feet the entire time, which I thought was a bit confusing and annoying.

Sa'har as your companion for this story worked really well in my eyes. I would say that based on past storylines, there's a certain balance to be struck between making a companion sufficiently interesting and giving them goals of their own, and making sure that they don't end up usurping the story, causing your character to just tag along and gape while the actually interesting decisions get made by other people (*cough*FallenEmpire*cough*).

Sa'har tries to plead with Ri'kan as she blocks one of his blows with her lightsaber

Sa'har straddles this line really well in my opinion because we know a lot about her and can understand her motivations, plus she's played a meaningful part in the story leading up to all this, yet at the same time she's also extremely insecure and lost, meaning you can build her up or tear her down, the story still makes sense either way because you're in charge. In the dev stream, it was also hinted that our interactions with Sa'har would affect her behaviour going forward, but to be honest I didn't really notice her responding noticeably differently in multiple playthroughs depending on whether I was nice or mean to her. That said, there's always a chance that I simply wasn't consistent enough in my responses to reach the right trigger point, which is something that has been a problem for me in this and other Bioware games in the past. If you noticed any changes in Sa'har's behaviour based on your conversation choices yourself, please share in the comments. Either way, there doesn't seem to be room for further follow-up to see how Sa'har has been affected by all this, because she's dead now, right? (Insert meaningful eyebrow wiggle here. No character in the Star Wars universe - or many an action movie to be honest - is dead until we see the body.)

There were several points in the story where you did get to make quite interesting story decisions with visible impacts though: where to send the slaves, whether to help Adi or Rakit when they are struggling during the escape, how to treat the freed prisoners on Heta's ship, and of course whether you try to help Sa'har during the final encounter. During the conversation with Arn/Krovos you also get to decide what to do with the holocron and the prisoners. Just interesting stuff all around.

And oh, that ending! I think it's well done in the sense that it's not surprising that Shae has gone off the deep end after how she acted when we last saw her in 7.3, but there's also a certain sense of "how the hell could she possibly think this was going to be a good idea". I'm sure that some players will have felt an immediate urge to kill her for her betrayal, while others will still want to reconcile, and I'm very interested in seeing where the devs will take us after this.

A ninja-like character somersaults over an Imperial prison guard droid

The cut scene of the prison break was also extremely cool. The moment we first see the mercs helping Shae, you can tell that these aren't random mercs but characters. I wasn't sure who it was for example, but it looked like one of them was using the Force to throw a droid against the wall? And what was up with that ninja stabbing droids with knives?! I need to know more.

What stood out to you the most in this update? Did you encounter anything interesting that I didn't mention here? And which member of Shae's prison break gang is your favourite? Feel free to share opinions in the comments.


  1. I had to watch the end of 7.5 on YT, since there is a bug that I am waiting to hopefully be fixed soon (Granted, it's a tiny story bug, so...) But, I loved the opening with my Smuggler doing target practice. I just wish the meeting with our faction leaders was a classic style cutscene. I do love the new look of Hutta (Although, I am going to rerecord the Hunter and Agent prologues since my old recordings were prior to 7.5 ><), and I hope we see Adi, Rakit, and the other side characters again. Also, I really need the music from 7.5 (And 7.2-7.4) released! There were some bangers in this.

    I agree that its good to see the story finally heating up! While I wasn't as unhappy as some other players with the pace of the story, I can understand why so many were unhappy with how long it was taking for things to happen.

    I must now know more about Shae's gang; are they Mercs from the old days, or are they part of her clan? And I need that Mon Cylamari customization for Guss! I noticed that Shae is wearing her old armor during the jailbreak, and not her Mandalore the Avenger Armor. Now, I am wondering... Will Jekiah follow in Canderous Ordo's footsteps, and take over as the New Mandalore?

    As for the use of the KotOR Style cutscenes in the middle of story content. I hope it's just a temporary side affect of the move to Broadsword, and isn't permanent going forward. But, it would be nice to hear from... anyone on the Dev Team on why the last three major patches had a mix of class and KotOR cutscenes (Part of me hopes that down the road, they might go back and replace those KotOR style cutscenes, but I know that's a dream). I just hope it doesn't happen with the Date Night quests.

    1. The question of what happens with Jekiah and the role of Mandalore is an interesting one. Shae's message kind of sounds like she effectively wants to abdicate (and her changing into her old armour like you mention would hint at that too) but I'd be surprised if it was that simple. Will the Mandos just accept Jekiah as her successor, and would he even want to be? The whole situation remains complicated.

  2. After this story and imperials being so annoying I really want to have an opportunity to cancel my alliance with the Empire. My SI just wanted to show a middle finger to the Empress during their conversation.

    Lack of voice acting during the conversation of my char and at the same voice acting for a Rodian (in basic if I remember correctly) was a very bad move.

  3. "It's been more than three years since we were introduced to Heta Kol's rebellion, and Malgus has been sitting in his fleet prison for more than two years of real time."

    Three years... not three months or three quarters of a year... full years. Three full years.

    It's absolutely beyond me how anybody is still willing to put money into this game.


Share your opinion! Everyone is welcome, as long as things stay polite. I also read comments on older posts, so don't be shy. :)