Is Knights of the Fallen Empire SWTOR’s Sequel?
There are a host of sweeping game changes coming to SWTOR when Knights of the Fallen Empire launches later this morning. We were scheduled to have some early hands-on time with BioWare’s expansion, but some technical oddities with the test server and Mike Bitton’s access kept that from happening. Instead, like you all, we’re now watching the clock and waiting for 11am Eastern to roll along. For it’s highly possible that KotFE will reinvigorate the game not only for current players, but those who have lapsed.
In a lot of ways, I’m looking at Knights of the Fallen Empire as a sort of sequel to the original SWTOR. Firstly, because of the story. Picking up years after the events of Shadow of Revan, your character has been frozen in Carbonite, and a lot has changed in the Universe. You awaken to find the Eternal Empire in control of the galaxy, and you’ll reunite with old friends, enemies, and new ones to confront the dangerous new faction. Without completely retconning the original story, this is as close as SWTOR will get to rebooting the narrative. It’s ballsy, but also really exciting. A whole new story is beginning here, and subscribers get one free level 60 to jump right to it if they never played through the Hutt Cartel and Revan content.
The story is the central focus of KotFE, with BioWare promising a return to the cinematic story telling that the studio is known for. It makes sense to me, as BioWare’s strength has always been its ability to spin a yarn and the love for Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 is still so strong all these years later. I’m a bit worried about restrictions on group play the new storyline with 9 available chapters from launch, and another 7 planned before the expansion’s “end”. In ESO, for instance, there are quite a few missions that can only be completed by one player, or missions that players can’t join you on unless they’re also at the same point in the story. I suspect that same thing might happen here, but let’s be frank: most folks play the story solo and BioWare is counting on that.
Combat, crafting, the main level 1 to 60 campaign, and so many other features are getting a complete rework or overhaul in this expansion too. So while many folks subscribed and powered through with the 12X experience boost, it makes sense to go back and try the original content with the newly proposes leveling changes. I know, since I never did get to do Revan that I’ll be doing just that. I suspect the old world content will feel a little stale now though, given that BioWare has been employing new cameras and story-telling tools for this expansion.
Combat’s overhaul seems more about reducing skill clutter and making things easier to grasp than anything else. For those interested, the full blog by Rob Hinkle can be found here. I’m probably most excited about no longer really needing to focus on my companions’ gear. I know that for some this was almost a mini game and fun, but it was always an extra distraction from the game’s actual fun for me.
Even lore-wise, why on earth would I need to be the one to make sure these guys changed their diapers and upgraded their weapons. Pretty sure Treek can handle herself. I also like that each one has three roles, from DPS to Healer and Tank, so no matter your chosen class, your companion can always do exactly what you need. I bought Treek because she was a killer healer and my Jedi needed one. It’s nice knowing that on future characters I won’t feel pressured to spend an extra $10 for a companion that actually helps.
While I know that my boosted level 60 will only have five levels to gain, I’m really keen on seeing through this story as the Eternal Empire storyline seems like a good “big bad” to focus on. And when I’m done with the story on one character? I’ve got loads of class storylines to still play through with the revamped old world. I just hope all these changes make for a better game, because that’s exactly what KotFE feels like it’s trying to do: take the arguably rough design choices of the earlier game and fix them, while adding a whole new journey and a whole new saga into the mix.
Official Star Wars Canon or not, I’m stoked to see what BioWare has come up with, and I hope the servers are working at 11am today when they’re supposed to. If so, we’ll see you there on Harbinger.