SWTOR: Rix’larril’an of the Ascendancy – Commentary Track 1

By Paige Francis Posted Monday Dec 11, 2023

Filed under: Epilogue, Epilogue, Paige Writes, Random 7 comments

As teased in the last post, Rix’larril’an’s upcoming adventures on Dromund Kaas will introduce Revan to the world of Star Wars: The Old Republic. I say “introduce” because, despite Revan being created by BioWare for the first Knights of the Old Republic roleplaying game…they were THE playable character in that first game…BioWare had to adopt a canonical “version” of Revan, and a canonical story, for SWTOR. To be fair, this had already been done in comics, at least; from what I remember. There *may* have even been a novel or two by the time SWTOR was introduced. Point being, to the players of the earlier games, Revan existed primarily as head canon…Revan had made particular choices along an overarching path and ended up being a particular person. And that person mostly didn’t agree, to varying degrees, with what the official Star Wars canon became. Yes, secondary canon, “Legends” canon; this will all be dealt with when appropriate. We’re not talking about canon philosophy. Within the SWTOR universe, I’m not exactly a fan of how Revan was integrated. But the same concept applies to each character you create in The Old Republic, and some of these choices end up being…incompatible…with future expansions and stories. That’s not even counting the two big game-changing expansions that created an entirely new concept of “The Emperor” and were also, incidentally, written with force-using characters in mind as the player; leaving the non-force-using characters to just fill in their own blanks as to why they got sucked in to the story.

RPGs are all about choices. YOUR Imperial Agent probably won’t be like MY Imperial Agent. I’ve played each of the class stories through at least twice, and there are many, many choices I haven’t experimented with. I see an awful lot of playthroughs on YouTube described as “lightside” or “darkside,” “evil” or “good;” but the game lets you get more complex than that. Certain classes lend themselves to a story crafted for a particular path. Playing the Sith Warrior as an insane murder machine has SO many delightful moments it just makes sense. But the Sith Warrior also has quite a lot of good dialogue if you play the character more lightsided…whoever wrote a lot of the Warrior’s story just nailed it. I tend to really like the Imperial Agent’s story…it has more complexity and subtlety than many of the other stories. But it also has some pretty big unanswered questions, and some of the earliest added content throws out one of the Agent’s big recurring (yet completely optional and dialogue-driven) themes.

All “official” character-building is done through the dialogue choices. Following Knights of the Old Republic, BioWare developed a concept generally called the “dialogue wheel” or “conversation wheel.” This isn’t used in SWTOR. Not directly, anyway. But something that was developed along with the “wheel” was “interpretive dialogue choices.” That is, the conversation options you were presented with WERE NOT what you were actually going to say…they were phrases meant to convey the NATURE of what you were about to say. BioWare is rather notorious for…this not working very well.

Warning: the following clip contains language some people might find objectionable:

For those farming the reputation and influence options dialogue can give you, or who just care about what their character is saying, [ESC] cancels out of a dialogue scene completely; [SPACEBAR] skips ahead to the next piece of dialogue or interaction. These are the two most important keys in the game to remember, IMO.

The conversation possibilities BioWare built in for the agent follow certain lines. You can be kind and caring, “First, see to the wounded! Our discussion can wait!” You can be vicious and ruthless, “Thank you for the information. I don’t need you anymore. {BLAM!}” You can be pragmatic, which sometimes nets you lightside points and influence with your more honorable companions, “Let’s propose a trade. He clearly needs the credits and he can’t hurt us;” and sometimes results in darkside points and reputation with your scumbag companions, “Killing him is the fastest way to solve the problem.” These are your money-making conversations, as far as “official” character growth is concerned, and these three types of choices frequently appear together. Secondary, flavor choices for the Agent usually follow some storylines that are only expressed in dialogue. You can be pro-Empire or anti-Empire. You can take either of those stances and still have a separate opinion on the Sith themselves, something most of the other classes don’t get to express. I think this comes specifically from the Agent storyline itself. Imperial Intelligence is, as far as any Imperial player character is concerned, the only *real* manifestation of Imperial bureaucracy as a government function. Everything else is Moffs and Military. God, that’s a great name for something. To that extent, the Agent is the only player character invested in the Empire as a functioning government ASIDE from ideology.

If you create a non-human character for the Imperial Agent, you will get conversation options that allow you to comment on the Empire’s legal, intentional, xenophobia. This is actually a pretty strong secondary storyline for the Agent. If you make this choice; you will get frequent conversation options concerning the Empire’s doctrine and your own opinions. You even get to beat up a bunch of people for it, if that’s your bag. Your single-planet romance options (basically, you can have a one-night-stand sexual encounter with various NPCs you come across) change whether you are a human or a non-human. Because of the xenophobia, you see. Added to this, if you specifically choose to play the Agent as a Chiss character, you get some unique dialogue options. This is probably the major factor that lets me be as “creative” as I am with my interpretation of the Agent’s storyline.

And it IS important to note, for those who DON’T play the game, I do engage in a small amount of manipulation of timelines and encounters. This typically takes the form of tying things together that aren’t EXPLICITLY connected in the game; but the connection makes logical sense. To me, anyway. I have also used elements that are only revealed in other class storylines. I do want to emphasize that I’m not doing a COMPLETE telling of Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Novel. Just bringing in flavor details and (trying) to make everything flow naturally.

So let’s go back and take a look at some specifics.

All of the background story is, of course, my creation; but a lot of the information about the Chiss, the Chiss Ascendancy, and the Chiss Expansionary Defense Forces are actually in the game. Every now and then you’ll come across a glowing datapad, or a rock, or a crate in one of the bases, or anything really; that is clickable. These are lore objects that when activated will add an entry to your “codex;” your personal atlas of everything in the game. The codex is categorized and numbered, so you can tell when you’re missing an entry. But most likely, and most easily, you can search online for the missing entry and find out where to go get it in the game.

There is a “scene” when you arrive at the Jiguuna spaceport (all class stories start with an in-game cinematic) that I originally wrote into my story then discarded. The Agent leaves the shuttle and, while walking through the spaceport, sees a couple of guard-looking characters conspire and point in her direction. The Agent casually ducks down next to a pallet of cargo and starts playing at examining the contents. The guards run toward then past her, and intercept a Rodian that was right behind her. I’ve always wondered if this scene had a specific intention, or if the writers knew it could be openly interpreted. Starting the game, all you know is you are an undercover secret agent for the Empire. You could interpret this scene as initially believing your cover has been leaked. You’ve been made! It’s all gone to hell already! What will happen next! Or, you could interpret the scene as it begins, as a savvy agent seeing the opportunity to observe how this Hutt-controlled environment works. Clearly security is tight, there was somebody on the shuttle with you that WAS expected, and people were waiting for them. Maybe they were just clumsy or stupid. Or maybe whoever is in charge of security around here is VERY well-informed and in control.

You may be surprised to know I didn’t exaggerate Jheeg’s contributions very much. The Agent actually does have conversation options where they can point out how stupid his “Red Blade” idea is, how badly he screwed up EVERYTHING, and you get to recommend to Keeper he be put to death immediately. Jheeg returns later in the story. Sort of. It’ll be a surprise.

No, really, you don’t have to kill Karrels Javis. It’s totally a choice. After laying on the love really thick (he’s just an average Joe trying to live his life, you help him look good with Nem’ro, he’s got two boys who are “free traders” and totally not smugglers, he’s getting old) Keeper tells you he has to be eliminated because the effing Sith went and screwed it all up. Also note that this happens right after Darth Jadus interferes for some reason in your mission…they give you plenty of story reasons to distrust the Sith from the beginning. BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO KILL HIM. You can go lightside and let him leave Hutta; make himself scarce. Of course, this is after you identify yourself as an Imperial Agent (in a cut scene…the player doesn’t choose to do this) RIGHT AFTER HE LEARNS ABOUT THE SITH APPRENTICE KILLING HIS SON AND MAIMING THE OTHER. I mean, why would you do that? He HAD NO IDEA you were Imperial. You could have used Imperial resources to send him off on a wild goose chase to avenge his sons or something. But by narrowing it down to “kill him unnecessarily” or “save him against orders,” they give you a simple lightside/darkside choice. It’s not elegant, but you can lean into it with the right characterization of your Agent.

Two things to finish out Hutta. The recruitment of Kaliyo Djannis is automatic…she’s your first companion whether you want her or not. The recruitment scene pretty much sets up how you interact with her every time. You like her and want her on your team, or you don’t. This continues throughout many conversations: you either like what she does and gain influence, or you don’t and lose influence (technically, it’s almost impossible to not develop positive influence unless you refuse to interact and you don’t use her as a companion, but she is your only companion for quite awhile.) Kaliyo is Chaotic Evil, but she hates the Sith. She’s also very pro-girlboss, and won’t tolerate chaotic or evil actions toward female characters you interact with…mostly. She likes the murdering of most people, chaos and irreverence, and doing things for profit or power. She hates it when the Agent is pro-Empire, and truly DESPISES you being deferential toward Sith Lords. She also doesn’t like it if you are helpful to anyone for any reason if it’s unnecessary to achieve your current goal. It is VERY easy to gain influence with her if you’re playing a mostly darkside character, and the path of least resistance is to just follow along with this plan through the first few sections of the game. If you get uncomfortable with how evil your character is getting, around the time you’re working through the first tier of Darkside Points and getting close to tier two, you can try out being a nicer person with your second companion. Personally, I’m a big believer in defining your character and playing to that design, but it should be recognized the game doesn’t always cater to that. It can also be fun to just go through every option in every conversation with every companion to find the influence gains. You also find all sorts of mistakes doing this.

Second, there is one particular sidequest I regret not including in the story. Something you can pick after you get that final quest with Kaliyo is rescuing a mercenary who got caught infiltrating Fa’athra’s palace and is now frozen in carbonite. I mentioned Fa’athra even had a Hutt frozen in carbonite decorating the entrance to his abode; it doesn’t stop there. He has an entire GALLERY of beings frozen in carbonite in his basement. That’s also where you can pick up the codex entry (on the Empire’s side) for carbon freezing. Helpful tip. You can do this mission on the way to finishing out the story mission for the Agent; it is essentially in the same room. There are some pretty interesting dialogue options with the mercenary once you unfreeze him. Although this quest also illustrates something interesting about SWTOR: sometimes hibernation sickness, specifically the blindness, is a thing in this game…sometimes it’s not. The mercenary manages to find his own way out; you don’t have to escort him.

The Black Talon flashpoint. Here’s the most interesting thing to point out: you don’t have to kill Captain Orzick. Killing Orzick actually changes a couple of events significantly. Or rather, in our case, NOT killing Orzick would have changed a couple of things significantly.

First, if you kill Orzick (the darkside option), Sylas takes command. She then fails to recognize the boarding pods and you have to go kill the droids sent to disable the ship. If you spare Orzick (the lightside option), he recognizes that shuttles containing boarders have made it past the turbolasers and are headed for the ship’s docking bay. You then head to said docking bay to fight a few mobs of boarders, then a squad of named Republic Special Forces as they depart their ship; instead of fighting a giant sabotage droid in the Engine Room. The infiltration of the Brentaal Star plays out the same; you still have to fight the same bosses. You get some dialogue with the crew of The Black Talon and the padawan Yadira Ban that can give lightside, darkside, and influence options. I obliquely referenced some of these conversations in my story, but none of it is significant. You can capture The General instead of killing him; it’s all for DSP/LSP/influence. Kaliyo, of course, likes it when you murder, insult, challenge authority, and even litter.

The second big change is that, if you DON’T kill Orzick, the rest of the crew don’t “die under mysterious circumstances.” Orzick is still in command, no one gets unalived, and Kilran is so happy we got The General back he doesn’t squash Orzick like the insignificant cog he is. Kilran, incidentally, shows up in other stories OUTSIDE of The Black Talon flashpoint.

Dromund Kaas is the first “full” planet on the Imperial side, but even then it is much smaller than later planets. I mentioned how moody and atmospheric the place is, and that it would benefit from having a horror soundtrack playing all the time. Of course, PLAYING THE GAME, it does. There are some great riffs on classic John Williams scores for Empire themes,  especially the Throne Room music from RotJ, highlighting the near-constant background music. It would also help if you could actually SEE the constant rainfall in any direction other than looking up and out into an empty sky, or hear squishy footsteps instead of the thumps of feet on solid ground.

The Agent’s first significant conversations happen when you reach Imperial Intelligence. You have the option to be antagonistic and irreverent toward Keeper, which Kaliyo loves. Or you can be sympathetic with Keeper and treat him like your best bud. Kaliyo isn’t a fan of this approach, but having done this story many times, I rather like the “you and Keeper against the world” vibe you can generate. You can also be strictly business, which is boring but won’t offend anyone. Except Kaliyo, occasionally. Likewise with Darth Jadus, you can be all “Yes, Lord Jadus. Of course, Master;” and play into his “we are all servants of the Sith” power fantasy but you won’t make any friends doing it. Most of your work here is just establishing your relationship with the Empire, Intelligence, and the Sith. All are story beats that will be revisited.

The investigation of the Slave Rebellion at The Unfinished Colossus pretty much goes how I detailed, except that the events I mentioned are technically completely separate. One doesn’t feed into the other, because the wannabe Sith slaves story is an optional quest. There is some great dialogue and voice-acting in this quest: “But we know the Sith Code!” “Yeah, it doesn’t work like that buddy.” “Our victories will set us free!” “I think you’ve taken one too many zaps from the shock collar.” The part about Darth Baras being behind the Slave Rebellion is true, though. It’s part of the Sith Warrior story. See, Baras (a Star Wars: The Old Republic Meme Hero, the Great Chungus himself) is on the Dark Council, and is an enemy of Darth Vowrawn. Vowrawn is the Master of Qet, the Sith apprentice building the statue to honor Vowrawn and show Kaas City how important and powerful Vowrawn is. Darth Vowrawn actually does become an important character much later in the SWTOR story. And no, the statue doesn’t look AT ALL like him. There’s also a Heroic2+ quest in the area to blow up some construction equipment the slaves are misusing. “Heroics” are open-world mini-flashpoints recommended for small parties because of increased difficulty. But you can usually solo them after a little over-leveling and/or gearing up a bit.

And finally, of course, Samara Mindak. I covered everything with the pic that I didn’t include in dialogue. If you’re human, cyborg, or Sith Pureblood, you can romance her to get access to her father. Explanation: at this point in history, the Sith Pureblood have been considered the highest form of darkside force user; basically genetic perfection. Therefore any family of Sith with Sith Pureblood ancestry has had higher status in the Empire. The Sith Pureblood seen in the game; though, are described as generally NOT actually being “pure” Sith Pureblood; they’re just “more” Sith Pureblood than the more human-looking or “alien” Sith. The Empire is on the cusp of rejecting this ideology entirely, due to the rampant and growing xenophobia; Sith Pureblood don’t look “like humans,” they look “like aliens.” By contrast, the purest Sith Purebloods are more likely to be of the opinion that all non-Sith Pureblood-Sith should be expelled from the Sith order, but the Purebloods are vastly outnumbered by the more humanic Sith force users.

You can threaten to take away all of Samara’s wealth, either from the outset or in response to her demands to gain ownership of her father’s wealth and holdings in exchange for her information. You can also just consult with Watcher Two and promise to give her all her father’s stuff. To which she is actually pleasantly surprised, as if she didn’t expect that to work. And finally, once she “gives” you the information, you can either leave, or kill her. Mostly for fun, darkside points, and influence with Kaliyo.

It is also around this time that Kaliyo, if you play a male character, will start becoming a bit interested in “getting to know you better.” Which is fine, it’s a part of the game, but is also one of the storylines that caused people that were hoping for same-sex romances in the game to become a bit upset. Because Kaliyo is clearly written as being sexually and romantically interested in men and women. She has similar conversation options regarded sex and romance with the player regardless of their given gender. It seems she was clearly written to be romance-able by men and women, but all the flirt dialogue options were not present if you were female. Some of the other companions were obviously written this way as well, but not all. Just an interesting note.

That’s it for this week! Next week we’ll see how much story I write and how much I end up talking about Revan.


From The Archives:

7 thoughts on “SWTOR: Rix’larril’an of the Ascendancy – Commentary Track 1

  1. Syal says:

    And no, the statue doesn’t look AT ALL like him.

    Housecat confirmed!

  2. Scimitar says:

    I enjoy the little behind the scenes, even if I knew most of the massaging since I’m the kind of person who has played like. Almost all the character plots in swtor.

  3. Makot says:

    Just as good a read as the Chiss snark. Of course You do realise we’ll hope for getting continuation on both lines :)

  4. Daimbert says:

    On relationships and influence, they’ve made things a lot better with that in the later patches. Before, in order to advance their story and see all of the companion story — and finish their romance — you had to get their affection up to certain levels. If you did things that they disliked, they would lose affection — it was literally a negative value that therefore was subtracted from the current level — which would make that harder. In the latest edition, they made it so that influence can never go down and only go up, so taking out a companion and doing things they don’t like is only an opportunity cost for not getting that positive influence. This makes it easier to answer the way my character would in their interactions as opposed to trying to maximize what they like. In addition, it’s no longer the case that the companion events are blocked by your influence level. Instead, they trigger at appropriate times in the story, so you don’t need to maximize their influence to complete their story (I always missed a couple of their stories because I couldn’t get their affection up enough in time). And companion influence, from what I’ve heard, gives you something if you max it out, but I’ve never done it and have no idea what it is so it isn’t all that necessary.

    In general, TOR is a LOT more friendly to new players than it was, and is unique that it lets you proceed expediently through the class and planet stories but since each class has its own story it’s not really that you need to do that to get to the good stuff in the endgame.

    As an aside, since you can give gifts to companions to raise their affection that was my main strategy for getting the right romances. You can also take some of the crew skills which will produce things for you, and diplomacy is one that tended to give a LOT of companion gifts. The crew member who came with you couldn’t run them, and I think it was definitely the case at the time that different companions were better at different things, so in my first run as a Warrior I was romancing Vette and sending Quinn to go and get her something nice. When I did Smuggler, I was sending Risha out to get HERSELF something nice [grin].

    1. I remember when I started playing years ago running into problems with companion influence at the end of the class stories. I would have primarily used the first companion, since they usually had the most interactions and story, and then suddenly on Correllia everybody would suddenly give me some kind of “rah rah we’re all in this together” talk, then never have anything else to say.

      I’ve only *completed* one or two class stories in the last couple of years, but it seems like all my companions usually want to talk to me all at the same times, now…usually after levelling to a certain point or right after completing particular planets/stories. So I guess that’s the changing influence system.

      I currently have Kaliyo over 30 and Temple at 29, I think. I’m trying to get all the Agent’s companions maxxed, just to see what happens. Using Underworld Trading to get level 5 companion gifts. Forgot about Diplomacy. I may try that, since there’s not much use in crafting anything other than bioanalysis. Maybe grenades in Cybertech.

  5. PhoenixUltima says:

    “You can be viscous and ruthless”

    I think you meant “vicious” here. Unless Imperial agents are secretly made out of molasses.

    1. Just goes to show no matter how many times you proofread and spell check, you’re gonna miss something. Good catch. I’m on my phone right now, but I’ll edit it ASAP.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.