I guess I should preface this by saying that I'm one of the few people I've talked to who thinks A New Hope is significantly better than Empire, but that's a thread derailment for another forum
I think I wasn't very clear in my original post--probably I didn't have a good grasp at the time of why it left me with a funky aftertaste in spite of all the great components. I wasn't actually bothered by the lack of player agency or even plot movement, and the mood issues I talked about in my first post weren't really it either, as I've liked plenty of other gloomy stories that were way more manipulative. I've been playing individual missions over again, (and again I'll say before any criticism that this is a really, really good game) and I think I've figured out my issue:
I feel like there are two different stories going on here against the same backdrop--one concerning this pilot who is contacted and will witness the awesomeness that was previewed in the first campaign, and one emotionally and technically loaded meditation on losing a tragic superwar. The reason it seemed so labored is that for me the two arcs dragged on each other rather than feeling complementary.
On the one hand you've got this really well fleshed out war story that's full of all sorts of coolly-developed sci-fi and real world detail, a romantic subplot, sociological interest, etc. It's also packed with dramatic events, but it lacks an overriding thrust to propel the player through the narrative--lose a battle, reflect, lose a battle, reflect, win a battle, reflect, lose a battle, etc. This could be a really cool campaign on its own, sort of like a playable appendix that could add depth to the background of the actual story, but the context of what has already been revealed in BP1 makes it feel like this really elaborate dungeon crawl--you must have experienced X amount of death and misery to fight the boss and advance the plot.
On the other you've got the big-picture aliens and crazy mind business. This part is stuck on the back burner for almost the entire campaign, advancing in fits and starts, getting poked at during or after missions, never allowing you to get fully immersed in the more immediate stuff. It totally dominated my attention because after playing AoA, I was anticipating that this was where the story was actually going, but it just refused to go, sabotaging the pacing and crispness of a campaign that was already really heavy on reading. It's like there was too much good content and insight and it all had to get crammed in, hence the fusion into a single (half of a) story.
Basically, I think Laporte doesn't belong in the campaign. If she were a normal (non-extra-sensory-gifted) protagonist then the scope of the story would have made a lot more sense to me and her character arc could have sustained the structure in a more meaningful way. As it is, half of her contribution comes from threads that have nothing to do with the emotional or intellectual center of the piece. Her alien deal is a shiny, jangling external element that distracts and detracts to the point where I'm reading her interactions as "Hey baby, I've noticed you also excel at destroying the GTVA, wanna get dinner sometime?". It's like Rick Moranis and Casablanca--they're both great, but not together. And the ending could have been so much stronger if you hadn't been rescued by the dun-dun-duuuun Secret Dudes! Ok not enough sleep, might write more later. Great game though!