Here we go kids, just one week left until Bioware and EA roll out early access to subscribers for their newest update to the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG and I could not be more excited. The only problem is, I feel like I've been here before with this game. This same level of excitement, this uncontrollable urge to level as fast as I can, and the endless swirling of possibilities that lie in wait for me on October 20th, are all too familiar.
I'm going to take a close look at this new expansion and ponder if it's truly the update fans have been clamoring for, or if it's just another quick money-grab from EA to bide time until they finally admit just how badly they screwed up.
First It Was With Rise Of The Hutt Cartel
Not the greatest, but not that bad. This update introduced players to a third party conflict brought on by the infamous Hutt Cartel as they invaded and subsequently doomed the planet Makeb by endlessly mining the radioactive chemical, Isotope-5. The player's mission, depending in your choices, was to save the planet (or doom it), save the citizens (or doom them) and retreive the Isotope-5 (or leave it). A majority of die-hard players felt it was too easy and became annoyingly repetitive over time.
On the other hand, EA did introduce gay and lesbian relationships in the update that, although were restricted to the planet, showcased how much effort they were putting in to making all players feel welcome. The story and cutscenes, in defense of Bioware, were actually not that bad if I do say so myself.
And Then Came Galactic Starfighter...
This update can only be described as a major let-down. It was the new puppy that the kids begged and begged their parents for only to love it for two weeks and then abandon it like it had a severe case of mange. We all had such high hopes for Galactic Starfighter that were just crushed the instant the newness began to wear off. It was basically a carbon copy of the space battle missions in vanilla SWTOR that people only played for that little experience boost or because they were hard up for credits.
Galactic Strongholds: Something That Took Far Longer Than It Should've
Fans were roaring with excitement when this expansion was announced in March 2014. It finally granted players with homes to call their own. A luxurious floating palace on Nar Shaddaa, high rise apartments on Dromund Kaas and Coruscant, and every A New Hope's biggest fan's dream come true: A Tatooine moisture farm. The update also gave guilds the ability to purchase one of these strongholds to share with members and guild ships to call their own, the latter being something fans had been asking for since beta. Decorations became a permanent fixture to the cartel packs and everything seemed right with the universe once again.
If it looks like a gift and walks like a gift and sounds like a gift, it must be a gift, right? Wrong. Galactic Strongholds was in no uncertain terms: a bottomless money pit. People became so obsessed with unlocking rooms and decorations that they went wild on their credit cards and on their SWTOR dailies, racking up millions and millions of credits to open every single room of their respective stronghold(s).
And to make matters worse, this opportunity to use cartel coins or just credits did not apply to unlocking spaces on guild ships. Big mistake, Bioware. Instead, you were told to gather a mass amount of players and hunt down enemy NPC's with the hopes you could actually beat them and they would drop frameworks to help you unlock parts of the ship (which you also still have to spend credits on even if you have the insane amount of frameworks). To top all that disappointment off, the guild ships do not have the ability to engage in guild vs guild space warfare. Bummer, I know.
And Finally, Shadow Of Revan
I give this one as a step in the right direction for Bioware. Excellent story, excellent cutscenes, refreshing new side characters, an amazing prologue to play with friends before launch, and the incredible epilogue that came after. This time, players were introduced to one new planet, Rishi, and another that called back to A New Hope, Yavin 4. This time, you were tasked with forming an alliance with the Republic or Empire to stop a mass legion of traitorous soldiers, Jedi, Sith, etc...called Revanites. The main goal of the uneasy alliance was to stop The Prodigal Knight himself, in his foolhearty attempt to ressurect and destroy the former Sith Emperor, Vitiate.
This update was beyond impressive, but it still had its unfortunate drawbacks. Many players who came back for the new expansion were let down when they discovered it took relatively less than a week to beat it multiple times. Many changes made to improve PvP were also a massive let down as fans still struggle with finding any kind of balance in the warzone arenas.
Knights Of The Fallen Empire: Good Idea Or Waste of Time?
Bioware has promised a return to cinematic story-telling heralding back to the glory days of Knights of The Old Republic and its sequel, The Sith Lords. This time, it looks like they really mean it. They've promised regular updates on top of releasing nine chapters for the new expansion. Subcribers will be rewarded with a new companion, new gear, an awesome speeder, and one week of early access beginning on October 20th. Along with those rewards, they'll also be granted with one free instant level 60 character so they can skip through the original story and get right into KoTFE.
On the other hand, there is so much wasted opportunity. This would have been an excellent chance to reinvigorate every aspect of the game, especially PvP. Let down the walls and have Republic and Empire players play together on the same teams, it would make things so much easier and fair in the arenas. When I realized that they had decided not to take advantage of that with a story that clearly puts the galaxy in shambles, I was incredibly disappointed and nearly all of my excitement for KoTFE went right out the door.
In conclusion, if you're really into playing the game solely for the story, you're going to have a helluva time. If not, you're going to have a good time for about a week and a half or two and then be right back where you were before the expansion was released.
I bet KOTOR 3's looking pretty good to Bioware and EA these days.