BioWare Austin's Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG has gone through quite a few changes since its initial launch in 2011. Following four previous expansion packs and a change to free-to-play, the developer is now looking to breathe even more new life into the galaxy in the game's fifth expansion. Emanuel Merino got the chance to check out what Knights of the Fallen Empire brings to the table.
Star Wars: The Old Republic has seen new life since its change to free-to-play. The game is as successful as it has ever been and that means that the team at BioWare Austin has been hard at work to provide its fans with new content. Knights of the Fallen Empire is a new chapter in the The Old Republic's storyline. The war between the Republic and Sith Empire has largely been settled and there is a new power, The External Empire, threatening the galaxy.
The focus of Knights of the Fallen Empire is stated to be on what BioWare does best, storytelling. As such, player choice and companions were a big focus of Bioware's efforts. There are five new companions in the story and they all have their own story lines and are influenced by players' decisions. Players can still bring along friends into various scenes and encounters, but they are just along for the ride, in the player-tailored story.
Knights of the Fallen Empire's story is broken up into episodic seasons. The first season will start on October 27 where nine chapters will be available upfront. After that, players can expect a new chapter every month until the season is over. After a short break, Bioware will then start work on season two, which is already being sketched out by the team. Using this episodic season model, new content for The Old Republic can continue on indefinitely as long as players want more.
New players who want to start from this new content are given a level 60 character to allow them to jump right in. The level cap is being raised to 65 complete with new abilities. Another focus is to make combat faster and more action oriented. This was shown during the demo, where the player character made short work of enemies and knocked several off of ledges.
I was shown a brief gameplay demo of chapter three of season one. The player character, The Outlander, has been frozen in carbonite for several years by agents of The Eternal Empire. Fortunately, people have gone out of their way to rescue them because of the Outlander's potential to stand up to this new threat. As they are making their escape, the Eternal Empire's Skytroopers begin attacking the city of Zakuul. One of the major decisions to in this chapter is whether or not the player chooses to stop a Sun Generator, which powers the city, from going critical and killing a lot of civilians. One of the cons of letting the generator explode is that this is the home city of one of the companion characters and it could potentially affect the player's relationship with him.
Visually, Knights of the Fallen Empire looks fantastic. Neither Sith nor Jedi, the force users of The Eternal Empire have a look all their own. They are often clad in ornate white armor and wield weapons with golden lightsaber blades. Even the robotic Skytroopers, the Empire's foot soldiers and cannon fodder, have an interesting unique look. Aesthetically, The Eternal Empire looks like it would be right at home inside of Final Fantasy XII. BioWare did a good job creating a visual language for the Eternal Empire that looks new but stills feels familiar and at home in The Old Republic.
Overall, Knights of the Fallen Empire seems like a return to what BioWare does best. The visuals and storytelling looked like an episode of The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels, and the faster combat looked more like a throwback to KotOR than it did a traditional MMO. If only the game were available on more platforms than just Windows PC. I think Knights of the Fallen Empire is something a lot of Star Wars fans would love to try.
On a related note, if you think Knights of the Fallen Empire is something you would be interested in trying, I would recommend signing up now. BioWare is giving out companions and items every month leading up to the expansion's launch, so it's worth jumping in early if you are the least bit interested.