First of all, a word of warning: I'm not going to give my thoughts on the Rise of the Hut Cartel expansion here. There is already an article for that, here. I will analyze the evolution of the various forces of the galaxy during the Battle of Makeb. Which means
* SPOILERS *
So you have been warned. By the way, for those who wish to maintain some suspense in the faction that they have not yet explored, here is a plan to redirect you directly:
- The Hut Cartel
- The Republic
Now, let's break down what is happening to all of these stakeholders:
The Hut Cartel
By the end of TOR Vanilla, the Hutts were threatened by a few marginal Sith. What prompted the Supreme Mogul Karraga to take action. One operation later, and the Cartel was beheaded. The ACH expansion introduces us to its successor, Toborro. There is nothing moderate about this one ready to calm things down, as evidenced by his invasion of Makeb.
The Battle of Makeb is a disaster for the Cartel. Difficult to find something to say in their favor. Toborro is dead, and it happened after many Hutts disowned him and surrendered to the Republic. His number two, Archon Szajin is missing. Other losses are also to be deplored, in unexplained circumstances. The iso-5 droids who were to form the army that would restore the old Hutt Empire were activated too early, and were left behind during the evacuation. Too few were moved elsewhere in time. Even the regulatory mercenaries have abandoned them, or the other way around.
The Hut Cartel is therefore divided in two. On the one hand, those who had to bow to the Republic and combine their military forces with it. And on the other hand, those who have never directed their shuttle towards Makeb and have remained neutral. They can still afford to be. But since they are only a minority, they remain more vulnerable. It's hard to imagine that the Cartel can still be a great threat in the war between the Republic and the Empire.
At the start of the Battle of Corellia, Supreme Chancellor Janarus disappeared. The situation was risky enough for a successor to be elected: Leontyne Saresh, former governor of Taris. Too freshly come to power to profit politically from the victory, it needs a significant act to consolidate its position. Will Makeb be the one? In passing, let us note that she appointed Jace Malcom to the supreme command of the armed forces of the Republic. Nice promotion for someone we may have met as a colonel in the Alderande bonus mission series (and of course in the Hope and Return trailers).
So, was Makeb the big win Leontyne Saresh hoped for? Well yes and no. On the one hand, the objectives set have indeed been achieved. Even better, rallying part of the Hutt Cartel and subordinating their forces to those under the command of Jace Malcom is a bonus that one could hardly hope for. Rapid action, the threat of the Cartel immediately dismissed. Exemplary of efficiency. She can brag about that.
But at the same time, Makeb has proven to be a source of trouble. The instability of the planet necessitated a forced evacuation. Some of the refugees can be returned to the army, but there is always another who cannot, by choice or by physical incompatibility (age, injury, dependent family, etc.) and which will have to be taken care of. Food and medicine resources… Finding a new place to install them and help them do it… The price to pay for Makeb is not obvious at first glance, but it will be high. And to win what? The battle against the Cartel was not necessarily necessary and could have been fought elsewhere. The rallying of part of the Hutts was not easy to strengthen an army which already has the upper hand in the ongoing war. Was a battle for a dying planet really worth it? The final cutscene of the planet shows us that Chancellor Saresh is aware that she can be presented with the bill. And then there is this unknown data: the presence of imperial commandos on Makeb has not been explained, and the destruction of the planet seems to have been slowed down ...
The Republic therefore won a mixed victory. In the long run, the battle for Makeb may have cost resources that could have been used elsewhere. But only a few rare observers can afford these kinds of thoughts. In the shorter term, Makeb's victory offers very good propaganda prospects: both for Chancellor Saresh's political career and for the morale of the Republic's army. The High Command even feels confident enough to make an announcement that a Jedi commando has eliminated the Sith Emperor. It shows how ready they are for the next clash.
The Battle of Corellia was a terrible defeat for the Empire. Besides some Sith lords who tore themselves apart, several members of the Dark Council and high-ranking officers were killed by the Republic. There was even a Jedi raid on Dromund Kaas. Darth Malgus embarked on a rebellion that nearly shattered the Empire, and claimed that this raid had killed the Emperor.
What is the Empire's position on Makeb? Well he is the third player, the one who watches and waits to win the bet. And he does win it! If anyone can be considered the overwhelming winner in this battle, it is the Empire. The population and the Hutts gone, the planet stabilized, they are the masters of the terrain and the ISO-5. No one knows what they're doing, and they can get stronger for the next battle.
In addition, while no central authority gave direction to the Dark Council, now Darth Marr is placed as the main authority. He even goes so far as to impose an old follower of the traitor Darth Malgus. You could see some elements of it in Operation Explosive Conflict on Denova (and in Drew Karpyshyn's novel Annihilation, but as I am waiting for the spanish release to read it I can hardly speak about it), but here it is clearly named as the source of this reconciliation. And when Supreme Chancellor Saresh announces the Emperor's death, he reacts by saying that it doesn't matter. So Darth Marr is now the real power at the helm of the Empire, no matter whether it is sitting on a throne or in a council without an official leader. He poses as the one known in the Extended Universe as the Dark Lord of the Sith. And he waits, ready to face the Republic again.
Decapitated by the Empire, overwhelmed by the Republic, the Hutt Cartel seems in too bad a position to permanently disrupt the ongoing war. Maybe a new set of two Flashpoints and a new op or two before the next expansion takes us in another direction. On the side of the two playable factions, the absence of direct confrontation makes it possible to place several parallels. Both took the opportunity to strengthen themselves while waiting for the next battle. And especially the emergence of two faction leaders, who should be much less absent from those of 1.0 that we only meet before their disappearance depending on the leveling classes. If their roles are confirmed, TOR should find itself much more alive.