While it's been out on the Public Test Server for awhile and available in the live game since last week, the Rakata Prime Flashpoint teased at the PAX Prime Cantina Tour Stop does indeed complete the trilogy of Flashpoints that lead directly into the as-yet-unrevealed next expansion for Star Wars: the Old Republic. This past Tuesday, Community Manager Eric Musco and Lead Writer Charles Boyd took to the game's official Twitch channel to run through the Flashpoint and reveal who the big bad of that expansion might very well be. Please note that this will spoil the ending of the Rakata Flashpoint, so if you don't want to learn more, you might wish to wait to read this article until after you've played through it.
The two BioWare employees took to a live server to gather up a couple more people to play through the tactical Flashpoint, with both of them answering some questions in the chat, although firm answers were typically few and far in between. With the past assurance that the new expansion would be out before the end of the year, I'm sure I'm not the only player starting to check the calendar. With the second expansion that warrants an x.0 designation since the game launched almost three years ago, one has to wonder if there will be time to properly devote to a closed beta test. It's a given from past experience that the expansion's overall design is probably locked in stone by now, but we as players like to get in there and give our feedback, or cheerfully find ways to break things, or the raid-minded of us like to get in there and learn new fight mechanics to try for those all-important server-firsts.
Whatever our reasons for getting a look in on the new expansion, BioWare hasn't got all that much time to get it out to us and still not mess with the currently-announced schedule for Galactic Strongholds, the last phase of which launches next month. My personal theory is that the new expansion will launch sometime in November, perhaps even around an Austin-based Cantina Tour stop. Of course, if they do it in November, they're going to get ignored in the media blitz surrounding BlizzCon and the launch of Warlords of Draenor, but I'm sure they're aware of that. So, maybe they'll push it out to early December to avoid the Warcraft hype and the American Thanksgiving holiday.
However, wouldn't it be nice if BioWare told us the name of the new expansion that's no more than three months away?
Now, the story leading into that expansion is complete with when players in groups of four run through the Rakata Prime Flashpoint. The Forged Alliances story arc began with the twinned Flashpoints on Korriban and Tython which allowed players to visit the opposing faction's Force-wielders' starter planet, and I'll admit it was fun as a Republic character blasting away at a Sith Lord that I snarled at as a young Sith Inquisitor when I was a lowbie on the Imperial side oh so long ago, and I had the tug on the ol' heartstrings going to Tython and seeing my beloved Jedi Temple in ruins and occupied by the Sith. The opposite wasn't quite true, because said Sith Inquisitor is not so young anymore, and I'm fairly sure he doesn't have a heart. We got to meet the characters of SIS Agent Theron Shan, Sith Lady Lana Beniko, and learn of the villains Darth Arkous and Colonel Darok and their conspiracy against both their governments.
After shenanigans on the watery planet of Manaan, a beautiful world that a number of players have asked for further quests and story upon, the two unlikely allies find a third partner in the form of Wookiee smuggler Jakarro (four if you count Jakarro's droid head translator C2-D4) and team up with the players to get through the Rakata Prime Flashpoint and the final battle with the two villains. During the Flashpoint, we can see moments when the two primary allies don't exactly trust one another and are given a couple of lightside/darkside choices.
After the fight is concluded and the two traitors are defeated, their mysterious master is revealed, and it's none other than, dun dun dunnnnn, Revan. He orders an orbital bombardment that players can easily escape, and we were left with an all-too-brief teaser video that showed Revan announcing his intentions to fulfill his plans opposing both Empire and Republic and lighting up a purple saber.
Folks who played through the Dromund Kaas story will know of the Revanites, a mysterious cult that claimed some major infiltration into the Sith Empire's hierarchy and whose leader was either killed or not killed by the player depending on the darkside/lightside choice that was made. It was a fun little rich storyline that Republic players didn't get to see or have an equivalently meaty story on Coruscant. However, Republic players get to free Revan during one of their Flashpoints required to fulfill one segment of the HK-51 questline, so there's a bit of a tradeoff there.
In the Twitch chat, there were several on-topic questions about the Flashpoint, and one viewer asked for the Flashpoint to be available before level 55, to which the answer was that it doesn't fit earlier in the storyline. A number of questions were asked about the voice actors, with a few keen-eared viewers remarking that Revan in the Flashpoint didn't sound like Jeff Bennett, the actor who played him in previous game content. However, neither Musco nor Boyd were willing to discuss names for various voice actors due to contractual obligations, although they agreed that having a voice actor stream in the future was a good idea.
Another frequently-spammed question was whether SWTOR was considered canon. It was quite amusing to watch Musco avoid giving a yes or no answer, because it's very likely that BioWare is not authorized to announce whether it is or is not. That designation is in the hands of the Lucasfilm Story Group, who has oversight over the game and with whom Boyd said he had a meeting last week. What Eric Musco did was turn the question on its head and say that if the point was 'is it Star Wars?', then the answer was absolutely yes. One final frequently-asked question was answered, and that was whether there could be playable Wookiees. While Boyd said he understood a player's wish to be a big Wookiee swinging at one's enemies, the simple fact that they cannot speak Basic meant they'd be far less fun to play than we players seem to think it would be. The notion of having a mounted translator droid head like Jakarro's wasn't plausible beyond one or two singular characters (and wouldn't help keep voiceover costs down), so his final answer on the question was that we would 'almost certainly never' see them as playable.
So, with the end of the Flashpoint, we got a brief teaser video with Revan and the strong implication that he was the ultimate villain of the next expansion. We still know absolutely nothing else about that expansion, not even its name or what planet(s) it might feature. We don't know of any other game improvements that will be linked to the expansion. We know there's likely to be a level cap increase, perhaps up to 60, but with the expansion no more than three months out, it's probably time for BioWare to start telling us more to get the hype train going.
Personally, I'm starting to wish for content that wasn't a direct continuation of a game that we've played ten years ago. Sure, Knights of the Old Republic was a great game that helped build BioWare's reputation as a game studio, and its story (and that of its sequel, the Obsidian-developed KOTOR 2) are very rich with deep and personal stories to play through, but isn't it about time we start seeing more content that isn't relying on our nostalgia to be interested in it? Yes, the game was originally intended to be something of a KOTOR 3 back in the day, but wouldn't it be awesome to see something completely new and innovative, to see a new legend being created?
One of the downsides to reusing Revan (again) is the fact that even if you have him flipflopping sides or going his own way (again), we're still playing through the same overall story that began over 300 years ago in-character. There are only so many times that it will make sense for him to go lightside, then go darkside. Then go lightside again, then strike out on his own, yadda, yadda, yadda. With all the Cartel Market armor sets that also harken back to both KOTOR games over the past couple of years, it feels almost as if Revan is the only character of value and his story are the only ones that are important. This time, however, we're not playing as Revan, so we're merely secondary to BioWare telling his story. Sure, from a marketing perspective it's a safe bet to reuse him, but isn't a little risk worth it? The game has needed another kick in the rear thrusters since Makeb was launched and played through a year and a half ago, something huge to be more than just adding systems and secondary gameplay options, and revisiting Revan is taking us down a familiar path. Sure, the new movies next year are the new hotness in the Star Wars universe, but using Revan and his story yet again is starting to give me a bit of the 'been there, done that' feel to gameplay in SWTOR, much like every time they bring back the Daleks in Doctor Who. I get that there are most likely canon and legal issues behind the scenes that necessitate taking the safe path to avoid stuff that the new movies could contradict, but the safe path isn't as intriguing or thrilling. I'm cautiously optimistic that Charles Boyd and his team will come up with an interesting story, but I'd be far more excited if this new expansion featured stuff we haven't seen before, much like Makeb's story was all-new.
What are your thoughts on the game's expansion and what direction it's going?