Write, and most importantly re-write are two of the most important rules of writing. It is how writers improve their craft, and how stories can evolve from not bad in the first novel to unbelievably awesome in its sequels. Many authors who write a tiny first book write longer books come volume four, because they have a more confidence in what they can achieve.
SWTOR: Knights of the Fallen Empire (KOTFE) is Bioware-Electronic Art’s means of hitting the reset button SWTOR during it’s fifth year. It jump starts a new storyline that takes place five years after the Rise of the Emperor expansion, focuses more on story content than other aspects of the MMO, and tried to catch the wave made by the release of The Force Awakens last December.
I have now completed KOTFE on Crimsèn, I have decided to weigh in my thoughts and experiences on the direction SWTOR is going. Over all, I am glad that a new expansions, Knights of the Eternal Throne, is coming in the fall (probably around the same time KOTFE was released) as SWTOR is my main video game right now. My views about the expansion are mixed with a positive slant. For this review I shall list what I did and did not like
WARNING- There be spoilers below.
What I liked:
1. Fast Forwarding to the Future:
To me, this was the best they could have gone about post-Rise of the Emperor. After that expansion came out, there really wasn’t much for the game to move forward on in the story since there were so many threads going on at once: War between the Empire and the Republic, rebuilding of Sith Intelligence and the SIS, hunting down the Emperor, the eight different class stories, and even following where the Hutt Cartel went after Rise of the Hutt Cartel. With KOTFE, they were able to condense the story down so it was easier to follow, and characters could more easily slip into it.
2.Postmodern View of the Force:
It is ironic that one has to go back in time for the philosophy of the Force to evolve past what it was in the original trilogy. Yet, that is what KOTFE tries to do, especially in chapter 12. In fact, a more postmodern understanding of the Force appears throughout the Old Republic universe starting with the original Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR).
To give the comparison, in the Star Wars movies and majority of KOTOR Force is presented in very modern terms: Everyone clearly knew that if you were a Sith and/or using the darkside of the Force, you were evil. The darkside choices were “evil” choices, the darkside ending resulted in bad things happening for everything but those who joined you, and the Galaxy is doomed. To end, the Sith Empire was clearly the evil faction. No one was ever good from the Sith Empire, unless they were redeemed. By contrast, if you were a part of the Republic and/or used the lightside of the Force, you were good. The Republic always did good, the Jedi always were always the givers and trying to seek the greater good in the galaxy, and the lightside choices were clearly the “good” choices.
Yet in KOTOR those divisions were not always clear cut: Revan being brainwashed into serving the Jedi wasn’t exactly a good thing, even if in one ending good could be accomplished through it; and the Jedi didn’t help the Republic against the Mandalorians. Furthermore, they did not go assist planets like Cathar from being destroyed even though they could have prevented it. It’s similar to the prequel trilogy and Clone Wars series where the Jedi only help the Republic, even if it means aiding Jabba the Hutt to the expense of the people he enslaved on Tatooine.
“If you seek to aid everyone that suffers in the galaxy, you will only weaken yourself… and weaken them. It is the internal struggles, when fought and won on their own, that yield the strongest rewards. You stole that struggle from them, cheapened it. If you care for others, then dispense with pity and sacrifice and recognize the value in letting them fight their own battles. And when they triumph, they will be even stronger for the victory.“―Kreia to Jedi Exile
KOTOR II, made by Oblivion, really goes beyond KOTOR in terms of questioning the clear divide between light and dark. This is especially true of the character Kreia. Kreia is the Jedi Exile’s mentor throughout the game, and in her teaching she was not afraid to challenge and question everything the Jedi Exile, and by extent the player believed to be true about the Star Wars Galaxy: What is good? Does an act that is good always have a positive impact? If a Jedi loses their power, are they still Jedi? What makes a Jedi good? Why were the ‘good’ Jedi not rushing to the Republic’s aid during the Mandalorian Wars? Why did so many Jedi fall to the darkside along with Revan, save one? Why are the SIth so appealing, and is it because they are necessarily evil? And who are you anyway? All these questions are asked by postmodern philosophy to the modern philosophy, and like KOTOR II postmodernism does give all the answers.
Chapter 12 builds on this. Like the postmodern, it tries to move past the divides modern thought creates. In the world it was often reason/science vs. faith/religion. In KOTFE it moves past Jedi vs. Sith to wider understanding of the Force. It was a really good chapter, in truth, hence why I made sure to record the cut scenes. My other reason for recording the cut scenes is in regards to…
3. My main character grows in KOTFE’s story that remains true to his character in fanfiction and role play:
My main character in SWTOR is a Sith Pureblood who became an Imperial agent, instead of got trained as a Sith. Through the course of his backstory he stripped himself of the Force, like the Jedi Exile did before KOTOR II. Both in RP and in game, Crimsèn could not really align himself with Jedi or Sith when his Force awareness came back. Although during RP stories many tried to make him a philosophical Sith, I could see from the interactions that Crimsèn was only partially going along. Eventually I had to come to terms with him just not fitting the mould. As his mythos says, he chooses an alternate reality.
And while they flourished upon a cadence of war the Oathbound left a writ upon the tapestry of history. Let it be known to those who read this is the splendor weaved by Crimsen, formed of ancient blood and raised by Imperial Intelligence. A story that appears to be plain and simple is never quite so.
This is what floored me about KOTFE: It developed over the story a philosophy of the Force that my character could embrace, and with such an embrace come to terms with this part of himself. Instead of embracing either/or in terms of philosophy, he acknowledges their place but sees the times are different. He needs his own, and his own philosophy is that if he remains true to being himself, true to fighting to defend the galaxy against Arcann, and be a loving and caring partner to his romantic partners, then the Force will give him the power he needs to further achieve it.
Since in the final chapter it is shown part of the story is my character gets Force powers, it allows my main to fit seamlessly into SWTOR’s setting without having to compromise himself. For that, thanks Bioware writers!
4. Better Animation in Cut Scenes
Brief plus I love the animation in the cut scenes. The detail, new character expressions, and even how conversations are carried out is much better from Vanilla SWTOR. It is so nice for Crimsèn to get more than 4-5 facial expressions. Here is an example from Chapter XVI when Crim is in the fighter:
Vaylin is a psychotic bitch who laughs at causing violence to anyone and anything. She likes to execute Zakuulan Knights for looking at her wrong, nevermind failing. She is vile but determined. One can almost sympathize with her for wanting to prove all those who considered her too dangerous to be allowed some independence. Furthermore, she often has to fight against those who insist on holding her back.
She’s evil, yet evil in a way that is relatable. At least for me. Considering I read an article by someone who though I should be avoided at all costs because of my mental conditions, I cannot help but wish for Vaylin’s determination to prove people wrong. Thankfully, I do not plan to
What I didn’t Like:
Fast Forwarding to the Future:
The fast forwarding to the future was both a good and bad move on Bioware’s part. The bad part is they are really breaking away from the original vision of SWTOR: A person’s unique Star Wars story. When the game released we had 8 different class stories to choose from, and they provided a different journey through the events of the wider galaxy with a person touch. This was one of SWTOR’s best features, and gave it a unique place among MMOs.
Now, they are firmly set in one storyline for all with little differentiation. One size does not fit all, Bioware. It certainly doesn’t fit all after delivering a game where eight classes are unique in terms of story. By condensing it into one, it makes KOTFE both repetitive on the one hand, and not fitting with some of the classes on the other.
For example chapter 12 was amazing for a character like Crimsèn, but why should Joe Blow the Smuggler care about a Force philosophy? Why would a Mandalorian drop everything and run when Darth Marr called? Wouldn’t the Wrath of the Emperor be more focused on working for the Empress? Wouldn’t Cipher Nine have snuck around behind enemy lines, like Theron did during the time skip?
The point of all these questions is but for economics, there is plenty left by the 8 class stories that could’ve been turned into a sequel for them all. It would have aligned more with SWTOR’s vision, and allowed for more unique, personal Star Wars stories. But it is what it is and Bioware had clearly decided on the one size fits all approach to eight classes that are quite different, and deserve better than to be shoved under one title.
Repetive “Time-filler’ Fight
I recorded 3/16 chapters in terms of their cut scenes. All of them ended up being 30-35 min in length. Where did the rest of the 25-30 minutes in the ~1hr chapter go? Boss fights?
I wish. I’d rather spend 30min killing 2-3 bosses, than trash mob after trash mob that not even my stealth characters cannot skip. Not only did it make the fighting repetitive, and lacking tension, but it lessened believability of the enemy’s armies being invisible and powerful.
If a smuggler can bulldoze 100s of the supposedly “best” Force users in the galaxy, and skytrooper droids gal a part within milliseconds my character engaing, what stopped the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic from sending Zakuul’s forces packing? Bioware, you cannot tell me it was because they just got lazy and gave up.
A lot of Companions, and Little Love
Even though I’m asexual in real life, I do enjoy a good love story. I also like getting to know the characters the protagonist interacts with on a daily basis. In vanilla SWTOR the companions of the main character were active partts in the eight class stories, and their own subplots the protagonist could join. It made them interesting, added to the story, and allowed people to connect with them.
KOTFE broke away from that for the most part in key ways, and in doing so I found lessened their impact during the story:
- People can collect 20+ companions now, and the majority of them are mute during cut scenes. Makes feel like they’re stalkers, sometimes.
- Most of the companions we get star in cutscenes where the player’s character is mute! Breaks with immersion, and breaks another selling point of Swtor: Fully voiced MMO. Gets worse when we regain companions we gained during vanilla SWTOR’s class stories. I’m amazed bone if them noticed how silent Cipher Nine became over 5 years. Carbonite results in blindness, not muteness.
- There is little to no acknowledgement of the player character’s romantic interest outside of chapter 9. For example, in chapter 12 Crimsèn went missing. How does his love interest express their worry and concern? Send him a letter. Not pulling Crimsèn aside, no giving him a hug when he returns, no nothing. Not what I expect from a significant other, or does Hollywood REALLY exaggerate life in a romantic relationship?
4. The Loss of Multiplayer in a Massive MULTIPLAYER Online Role Playing Game
This has been said so many times by others. All I’ll say is MMOs are not meant to be linear RPGs with one main mission, and maybe a few sidequests. SWTOR is an MMO both in vision and original design of the game. If story content is the focus, then shouldn’t it be heated towards multiplayer story content like the Dread Masters’ story arc from two years ago?
On the one hand the likes list is bigger than the dislikes list; but on the other hand the quality of the likes vs. quality of the dislikes, or lack thereof, could put the likes at a disadvantage. What is clear, however, is KOTFE is a bumpy start to a new path Star Wars: The Old Republic is placed on. This leaves both high and low expectations for KOTET, as well as a confused understand of what SWTOR is meant to be.
Am I playing a single player RPG with multiplayer aspects that aren’t relevant to the main plot? Or am I playing a MMO with a strong single player component? In honesty, I don’t know, anymore than my main knows what the difference is between him and my assassin beyond one wields a dual-saber, and he wields a rifle. Will things become clearer in KOTET, or are the developers just as confused?
What game is this that leaves so much confusion?