Shadow of Revan - Final Thoughts
On December 2nd, early purchasers of the Shadow of Revan expansion were granted access to two things: the new content that was being added for the $20 purchase of the expansion pack, and the new skills and streamlined combat systems. For people who have played SWTOR in the past and are just curious about the new discipline system, I’d recommend just logging in and trying it for yourself. There is also a lot of information (and opinion) on forums and in the blogosphere about how successful or not those changes were. For this portion (part three of a three parter: 1,2) of the review, I’d like to focus on the content that was added specifically for the expansion.
Bioware set a few precedents last year with regards to how they are approaching expansions: the additional cost gives access to additional story content and planets, but the separate class stories are probably a thing of the past. The content will have some differentiation based on whether you play for the Republic or the Empire, but the eight highly individual stories are probably too expensive (in time and money) to produce. The expansions contain meaty story content, but there is a lot of quality-of-life, competitive and cooperative material that gets added in the interim via the game updates. The last, and perhaps biggest precedent set by the release of Rise of the Hutt Cartel in April was that it was made available to all subscribers without charge five months later in September.
So for this final review piece I asked myself: is the content available today worth $20 when it seems likely that a few months down the road it will simply be made part of the subscription? The additional content that gets added with the updates may or may not be accessible to players depending on whether they purchased the expansion, subscribe to the game or have enough cartel coins on hand to buy in to whatever new system is being added. Things like the appearance shop and special events are made available to everyone, but higher level flashpoints and nightmare mode operations require reaching max level and thus purchasing the expansion pack. Those specific updates aside, is there enough content to justify the cost?
As a player of the game since launch, and an avowed SWTOR story junkie I would say the answer is a resounding yes. The story added with Rise of the Hutt Cartel was interesting, but hardly held the level of drama and intrigue that we had become used to when levelling up through the class stories. Shadow of Revan, on the other hand, not only calls back to some of the class stories and flashpoints that we’ve played through a few times, but even references Bioware’s earlier game Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic. It brings the scrappy team dynamic from the original Star Wars films to the table in clever ways that couldn’t have happened with the companion story system, and brings us to familiar locations that hold a place in the heart of many Star Wars franchise fans.
The story content is fantastic, and the addition of solo mode flashpoints is a smart move that makes playing through flashpoints very enjoyable. The first time through many flashpoints in a group, there can be some pressure to skip through the story so people can get to the fights more quickly. With the solo modes, players can take their time and soak the story in at least once before going into loot-farming mode. Hopefully we’ll see solo modes for some of the earlier flashpoints down the road, and also hopefully this indicates Bioware taking bolder steps in working important story material into the flashpoint content. It’s been a bit of a sore point since launch that the first flashpoint players come across in the game is very cinematic and fun, but the rest tend a little more towards the dungeon crawl side of cooperative gaming.
Shadow of Revan is not all smiles and sunshine, however. The story content, while well crafted and finely tuned, does not last terribly long. I played through the four introductory flashpoints (which had been available as group content previously but were released with solo modes for the expansion) and all of the rest of the single player content within a few days. Once the story is over, the game reverts to a similar array of activities as was available before.
The options will be familiar to people looking for end game PvE activities in SWTOR: A new set of daily and weekly missions opens up on Yavin 4 which reward basic and elite commendations. The consolidation of the commendations system bears mentioning: rather than having Classic and Planetary commendations, each tier of end game gear is purchased with its own currency, either basic, elite or ultimate commendations. This simplification is very welcome, especially from someone who remembers when there were separate commendations for each planet!
As of this writing, however, the options for earning commendations at level 60 is a little thin through the group finder. Bioware has posted on the forums that they will be adding more hard mode flashpoints with the next update, but currently the only group finder activities available are the two new flashpoints, the four previously available Forged Alliances flashpoints in hard mode, and the story mode versions of the new operations. It is possible to get some commendations through dailies and weeklies in the previous zones for those activities, but for people who really enjoy hard mode flashpoints through group finder might be smarter to hold off on buying the expansion until more hard mode flashpoints get added. The relatively thin group finder options at level 60 are a disappointment.
Another important issue has plagued my server (The Shadowlands) on and off since the upgrade to version 3.0: there have been frame rate issues which have varied from being relatively minor to game breaking. I mention the specific server because it’s the only one I’ve seen identified by Bioware as having problems, and it happens to be the one my characters are on so I got to experience the problems first hand. If any one on different servers has seen similar issues please post in the comments and let your fellow players know.
Bioware has addressed these issues in patch notes, but there still seems to be stuttering when things get hectic. The issues only rendered the game unplayable for me a few times, once right after the new content launched and intermittently after the last update. Bioware has been fairly quick to acknowledge and address these problems, but it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on Twitter and the SWTOR forums for the latest.
Overall, Shadow of Revan is a must-buy expansion for folks who really enjoy the work Bioware has done with storytelling in the Old Republic universe. People who love running operations have some new content to work through, and will purchase likely based on whether the groups they run with have purchased already or not. More casual players, like myself, who enjoy solo and group finder flashpoints will find themselves without a whole lot of variety at the new level cap however so plan accordingly. If that is where your passion lies, it might be worth waiting a little while until Bioware adds more.