The Force Is Strong With Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Newest Expansion

Not that long ago, in a galaxy quite close to home, I remember first laying eyes on The Old Republic. Although half a decade younger, I can still recall how excited fans were for the BioWare MMO, especially those who had previously abandoned the now defunct Star Wars Galaxies. With EA’s esteemed masters of the role-playing genre beavering away on this newest project, the hype began to build at a rapid pace. It all came to a peak during E3 2009 with the debut of this astounding CGI trailer.

The excitement surrounding The Old Republic would continue right up until the game’s eventual launch in 2011. Despite being tagged with many of the genre’s typical tropes and trappings, The Old Republic had a rich narrative core that would adapt to key player choices, which played well to critics and fans alike. Instead of forcing you to read through pages of dialogue, much of the story came through fully-voiced cinematic cutscenes. It’s a fantastically immersive touch to the traditional MMORPG template and one that had BioWare’s name firmly stamp on it.

– ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW –

Despite all this, The Old Republic fell on hard times soon after launch. No one could quite put their finger on what had gone wrong – all the components were present and perfectly aligned yet the number of paying subscribers began to dry up.

When caught in that kind of situation there’s only two ways out – to shut down the MMO entirely or adapt to changes in the market. Of course, with so much money invested in The Old Republic, EA elected to keep the game running, steering it back on course with a free-to-play model and regular content updates. Over time, these have continued to expand BioWare’s take on the Star Wars universe, introducing new playable races, areas, instances, and story arcs.

Knight Of The Fallen Empire is the latest in this long-running chain of major expansions. It’s arguably BioWare’s most ambitious and highest profile addition to date, as evidenced by a boost in the game’s level cap, not to mention another jaw-dropping CGI trailer. It couldn’t have been planned for release at a better time too, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens eagerly eyeing up a string of box office records for when the film launches next month.

There’s absolutely no chance of a cross-over though, it has to be said. Much like the core game and its eight distinct storylines, The Fallen Empire takes place long before the events of the prequel trilogy. Once again you slip back into the role of your custom avatar, this time charting a course for Wild Space. Whether aiming to be a hero or a villain, you’ll walk the same path in this faction-neutral adventure to locate the Sith Emperor.

Your journey begins aboard Darth Marr’s warship, prior to its destruction at the hand of an unknown assailant. It isn’t long before you are dragged before the very man you’ve been searching for, this time posing as the ruler of the Eternal Empire. With the galaxy at war, this rising faction has kickstarted its own campaign of all-out destruction, enslaving entire civilizations in its quest for power. Next to Emperor Valkorion are his two surviving children, both powerful warriors and force adepts.

In a sudden twist of fate, Prince Arcann turns on his father, cutting him down and framing you for the assassination. As he ascends to the throne, you are encased in carbonite and left to rot as the Eternal Empire continues its purge of the galaxy. Luckily for you, your frozen form is rescued five years later by a ragtag band of rebels looking to the brakes on Arcann’s galactic campaign. After narrowly escaping his maniacal sister, Vaylin, you flee Zakuul bearing a new title – The Outlander.

swtor3

Considering my lengthy hiatus, I found the name all too fitting. Although I’ve always kept an eye on its progress over the years, the last time I actually sat down to play The Old Republic was a month after its original launch. Needless to say, it felt pretty overwhelming at first. You see, those who want to hop straight in and play Knights of the Fallen Empire can do so straight away, creating a character at level sixty and throwing them straight in at the deep end.

It’s similar to what Blizzard did last year with Warlords of Draenor and can be equally as disorientating. After a brief bit of exposition, the game’s UI will assault you with a huge panel of icons, each one activating a specific power. Without properly reading the descriptive text or stats for each one, I went about unleashing a flurry of saber attacks and force powers.

Thankfully, jumping in at level sixty means instant access to some pretty decent gear. Combine this with an efficient cast of AI companions and you’ll find yourself blitzing through The Fallen Empire without breaking a sweat. Although beneficial for newcomers and those wanting to explore new areas and progress the story, I felt it was just a little too easy. That said, the reduced level of challenge did encourage me to engage more with the story instead of having to worrying about grinding for experience points.

Of course, this was another area in which I felt like an Outlander – at least to begin with. Having taken the shortcut to level sixty, my avatar had effectively made his mark on the galaxy long ago, exploring a vast network of planets on his path to becoming a hero of the republic. Although I never got to experience these adventures first-hand, they’re occasionally referenced in The Fallen Empire, as are a number of key characters. This newest tale is spun in such a way that even as an Outlander I started to see the full picture and, more importantly, began to feel involved in these events. Considering how late I am to the endgame party, that’s an incredible feat for an MMO to pull off.

swtor2

Accessibility is the key word here and unlike in many games, it doesn’t denote an inherent dumbing down of the core game. BioWare is clearly proud of the work it’s done on this expansion and wants everyone to see it, whether they’re veterans, lapsed players such as myself, or complete newcomers, and who can blame them? Even when compared to the fantastic Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare’s work on The Old Republic shines, sporting some fantastic dialogue and cutscenes.

Speaking of BioWare’s work on other game series, this latest update feels more like one of their post-launch content packs as opposed to your everyday MMO expansion. Although there are several chapters of the main quest still in development, once released, Knights of the Fallen Empire could be played as if it were its own standalone adventure. Depending on how far BioWare plans to stretch this story arc, you could may even find it viable in future to play through the entire thing over the course of a single one month subscription. That’s just crazy.

If you’re still unsure of the expansion’s appeal, however, Star Wars: The Old Republic still offers a pretty rewarding free-to-play experience. Although tagged with certain limitations, the bulk of the game is still there and readily accessible, spanning eight comprehensive class-based story lines.

– PAGE CONTINUES BELOW –

2 Comments

  1. tried playing this game twice, two different machines, two different OSs, and on both the bloody game messed with my windows display setting.
    both times to something my monitors couldn’t handle.

    and the amount of time i had to spend fucking about trying to render my pc usable again.

    now, i admit, i didn’t have high quality monitors, but that doesn’t change the fact the bloody game altered my windows display setting, something the game should not do.

    no game should go fucking around in your systems basic settings.

    and there were a few years between each attempt so this is an ongoing thing.
    i got a new pc and assumed they’d have stopped the game doing that.
    but no.

    maybe if it was anybody but ea they might have.

    i’d really like to play the game but there’s no way that thing is coming near my pc again until i know they’ve stopped it changing windows settings.

    that’s why i’ve been hoping for a console port, they couldn’t make the same fuck up there could they?

    could they? o_O

    doesn’t seem like they’ll ever port it at this point.

    • A console port seems very, very unlikely at this point. The conventional control scheme begs for a keyboard and mouse. Besides, it just wouldn’t be a good fit for consoles now, especially with EA focusing on the films and not the expanded universe.

Comments are now closed for this post.