SWTOR: Is regretting a decision a sign of a good story?

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Some spoilers ahead for SWTOR’s Chapter 10, but either you’re way more behind than I am or you’ve beaten this months ago, so I’m not terribly worried here.

Anyway, as part of my month’s goals, I went through the entirety of Fallen Empire’s Chapter 10 last night. It was another field trip to Zakuul to check out a possible ally, a mission that I found preposterous on two fronts. First, we had scads and scads of allies, thanks to the Chapter 9 interlude. And I wasn’t even trying hard to collect them!

And second, why in the BLUE BLAZES do we keep going back to Zakuul? The enemy planet? The planet filled with bad guys and uber-bad guys that all want to kill you? I mean, this chapter makes such a big deal out of how frustrated Arcann is that he can’t find me — to the extent that he ends up firebombing five worlds — and if he’d only pay attention to history, he’d know that I’d be coming right back to his planet within a week, probably in the exact same zones. It’s like playing hide-and-go-seek with someone who is deliberately trying to get herself found.

The real reason, of course, is that the devs spent a lot of effort making some pretty cityscapes and they wanted to reuse them as much as possible, even if logic and common sense had to fly out the window.

Anyway, once back on the planet I bumped into yet another old Agent companion — Kaliyo — which would have been a total surprise except that the splash screen for the mission spoiled it. She wasn’t too happy to see me, probably because she felt abandoned. Tough — I was a corpsicle for five years. She can deal.

Apart from the pathos-filled reunion (which I handled diplomatically), the mission itself was the height of tedium and backtracking. Seriously, it was way too much running all over the same zone maps, fighting the same waves of skytroopers, and clicking on the same glowies.

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Eventually we did get into a great set piece fight at the Overwatch’s HQ. Would’ve been nail-biting, too, if there was any chance of actually failing. I loved the gunships firing in through the window, especially when you got to blow it up. I’m the A-Team in one Chiss-sized package.

The interesting part of Chapter 10 came at the very end, when Kaliyo revealed that she had planted even more bombs around the city that would go beyond mere service disruption (our original intended goal) and detonate public areas, skyscrapers, etc. Lots of human collateral damage, but she reasoned that Zakuul as a planet was the enemy, so all was fair game.

The light side choice was to shy away from this, while the dark side leaned more toward the “revenge! REVENGE!” aspect. I was feeling all cranky and contrarian, so I figured that my character had had enough of this planet. Blow it all to smithereens — after all, wasn’t that what Arcann was doing anyway?

In reflection, it was a bad choice. Terrible one, even. I felt horrible as I saw all of those buildings come down, more so after I got back to the home base and the various allies chewed me out over it. Koth even stormed off, leaving me permanently (?), saying that this wasn’t what he signed on for. I won’t say that I’ll miss him — he’s a whiner, that one — but it was a shock even still. It’s the kind of heavy cause-and-effect consequence that BioWare often promises and only sporadically delivers, especially in an MMORPG.

I logged off actually wanting to rewind the clock and choose differently. I even had my character throw a snit fit and stomp out of the room saying that she was done with it all, much to the dismay of my companions. Emotionally, this all sent me plunging a bit (although not too much, this being a game and all).

Yet it got me thinking that this result was, in its own way, a sign of a good story. That eliciting an emotion, even a negative one, from the effects of a personal decision and seeing that play out, meant something to me. Getting a player to care can be a herculean task for devs, especially in games with reset buttons everywhere. So regret, if properly earned, can be as powerful as elation or surprise.

I’ll live with my regret. I’ll forge on. I don’t even know where my character’s morality lies, but I feel as though she should make up that one bad choice in any way she can.

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3 thoughts on “SWTOR: Is regretting a decision a sign of a good story?

  1. bhagpuss August 9, 2016 / 10:14 am

    That’s precisely the kind of emotional experience I play video games to avoid and the reason I strongly dislike “meaningful choice” in quests. It’s not that I want to feel like the hero – I just never, ever want to feel like the villain. Bad things can happen around my character – that’s fine – but my character must not do bad things.

  2. Galactrix August 9, 2016 / 4:03 pm

    After hearing what happened, I’m glad I convinced Kaliyo to make the light side choice 😊

  3. mmobro August 10, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    I half thought this question was rhetorical. Choice and consequence is one of the most powerful tools for building a memorable story. And it sounds like the experience was rather ho-hum until the climax. And yet despite (what seems like) an overall mediocre experience, you were greatly impacted by a singular event. That’s the power of choice and consequence. There’s no doubt that regretting a decision (or the flip side of reveling in one) plays a powerful role in crafting a good story.

    The Witcher series is my favorite game series precisely because choices matter. There’s so much more emotional weight to a story’s events when you’re the one directing those events. That’s what sets games apart from other mediums. The ability to actually change the direction of the story is really only found in video games, sadly to a minimal degree thus far.

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