Hyperspace Beacon: Impressions of SWTOR’s Visions in the Dark for gamers still on the fence
After the last couple of lackluster chapters, I’ve lowered my expectations for the Star Wars: The Old Republic story. Not because I think that the BioWare writers are bad by any stretch; I think that Charles Boyd and the other writers are great. BioWare storytelling has topped the charts for a long time. In fact, players have always counted on the quality of BioWare’s storytelling even when the gameplay has been less than optimal.
But I’d like to look at this last chapter, Visions in the Dark, from the perspective of someone who might not have bought into chapter 10 and 11 of Knights of the Fallen Empire. After all, I have been recommending against subscribing to the game after those chapters released. So if you’ve been following my advice, then you probably have been waiting for something to blow you away. You’re likely looking for something to change your mind about SWTOR storytelling.
This column may not be that something. I found myself walking away from chapter 12 more confused than when the chapter started. Confusion isn’t necessarily disappointment, but I’m not sure it’s mind-blowing either. Depending on why you are interested in the SWTOR storyline, this might be a good time to jump in. (If you are PvPer, then you should at least jump into to taste the new warzone. It’s interesting if not amazing.) However, I will have to dive in deeper to give an accurate assessment of the storytelling side of Chapter 12. I promise no deep spoilers even for Chapter 10 and 11.
Expositionally, we were told that Chapter 10 and 11 would lead directly into 12. Given the teaser image, we knew that it would focus on something to do with Valkorion directly, but other than that, we didn’t know any of the other parts just by playing through. However, when the developers announced that we would explore other parts of Odessen, extrapolating that we would run into Satele and Marr was simple. Essentially, this chapter, which ran a bit longer than the previous two, is divided into three parts: the Alliance war room, Valkorion, and Satele and Marr.
The alliance war room
The Alliance war room is the best of the bunch. Although it mostly centers around giving orders to different teams on the ground, while playing it I really felt as if the things I did in the last couple of chapters were actually adding up to something (and weren’t just missions to introduce our favorite former companions). If you’ve played Mass Effect 2, then you know this feeling: Before the strike team invades the Collector base, it gathers in the Normandy’s war room, and the decisions you make in that room determine the ultimate fate of the crew. And clearly, the SWTOR writers knew that I would feel that way because this one ends on a cliffhanger. Hopefully, this scene will greatly impact the story over all and not be resolved cheaply.
A discussion with Valkorion
The Valkorion section of chapter 12 was the most confusing part. Even having played through it twice, I’m not exactly sure what was happening.
I’m spoiling anything by saying that you go to talk to Valkorion away from everyone else. And you confront him. I’m not going to tell you why or what the ultimate outcome is, but I am very confused at Valkorion’s motivations and his reactions given your history with him.
I think the biggest issue in this scene stems from the dialogue choices and the lack of differentiation between past Dark- or Light-Side choices. It appears that Valkorion acts uncharacteristically hostile toward you regardless of your past choices, and then at the end, he still does the same thing to you regardless of your choices leading up to the scene and during the scene. I was very confused by that — maybe Boyd wouldn’t mind clarifying that for us.
In the valley with Satele and Marr
I enjoyed the Satele and Darth Marr section of the story. It will solidify what people have believed about the Force for a long time: The Force is neither dark nor light; it just is. However, do listen to Darth Marr as you play through this, as he says some things that are clearly not Sith but aren’t exactly Jedi either. I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that.
My chief issue with the Satele and Marr storytelling moment wasn’t the shift in the characters but rather understanding the difference between their point of view and Valkorion’s position. From what I can see, all three want to destroy Arcaan. (Is that a spoiler? Nah.) All believe that dark and light are old constructs, and all believe that they have risen above that. They also all believe that you are the person to take down Arcaan.
Yet, when confronted with this similarity in perspective, Satele says that they are not on the same side as Valkorion. Is this a philosophical difference? Is she saying that he is pure evil and there is no way that she could be on his side? Or is she saying that she’s never met with Valkorion — she doesn’t know for sure — but there is no way that she and Valkorion agree? Given the direction of the story, I’m going to say that there is a philosophical difference, but I’m having trouble seeing what it is exactly. It’s not as easy to interpret as the Light Side vs. Dark Side debate.
Force or no Force…
One more thing before I go: non-Force users. Since the beginning of Knights of the Fallen Empire, the story has focused heavily on the Force, what it can do, and what it means. From my perspective, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on those who don’t use the Force. Of course, there have been chapters like the Lady of Sorrows that told us how Zakuul society works, but anything that is directly tied to your character clearly revolves around the Force whether you play a Force-wielding character or not.
I like the Force; I am a Star Wars fan after all. But I find the stories that focus on human strength the most interesting. The Force is a MacGuffin that can do whatever we want when we need it, so it’s refreshing to see it not being used sometimes.
You probably should jump back in, especially if you are a Force user. (I foresee a lot of nerdy debates over the Force.) At very least, chapters 10, 11, and 12 combined are worth the price of admission, even if you decide not to stick around for chapter 13.