Star Wars: The Old Republic - Knights of the Fallen Empire Impressions

With the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion coming tomorrow for all players of Star Wars: The Old Republic, it's a good moment as any to round up some of the first impressions published on the net by the specialized press.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun was impressed by the story but much less so by the gameplay:

The Fallen Empire and its utopian society is a great setting to explore the force in a more nuanced fashion that its binary light and dark affiliations. Existing outside the schemes of Sith and Jedi, the force isn't painted through any specific moral lens, allowing a more thoughtful interpretation of its influence.

Valkorion, the Immortal Emperor, has a personal attachment to your character that, as the story progresses, casts the Emperor in increasing shades of grey. Though he might seem like a typical power hungry egomaniac and he certainly can be after the first few chapters I felt a little disturbed by just how much I began to see his point. The story revolving around the tension brewing between his family is intimate, humanizing Valkorion in a way similar to other evil dads that Star Wars is known for but without all the melodrama.


It's a bit of a shame that, as great as the story can be, the drama it weaves clashes with The Old Republic's MMORPG conventions. Cutscenes are exciting but the combat sequences between them is anything but. Waves of enemies will crumble beneath you without so much as a sneeze and boss battles are too long and too simple. I get the sense that this was done intentionally for those who, like me, jumped to level 60 to experience the new story and aren't as familiar with the combat. But Bioware's attempts to slim down the MMORPG so that it better fits within the tight confines of the story doesn't complement either aspect very well. I almost wish I could skip the tedious fetch quests and combat altogether and just watch the story scene to scene.

Panels and Pixels calls it an "exceptional expansion pack" and offers some rather in-depth first impressions:

As the story progresses Bioware make some increasingly bold moves, showing you that they're not playing it safe this time. Some daring decisions really shake up the status quo with twists and turns that rival the best moments across all of SWTOR's lengthy class storylines. Simultaneously it's impossible not to see some specific influences at times. It's still an original story, don't get me wrong. But certain beats are pulled right from Mass Effect 2, making you a famous figure in a galaxy where your allies are scattered and the odds are heavily stacked against you. While the pacing feels deliberately reminiscent of KOTOR, with some very similar moments thematically. For better or worse you'll never forget you're playing a Bioware game.


Speaking of the dialogue system, I was surprised the first time I got a small notification telling me a character would remember my recently chosen action. Pulling influence from Telltale's adventure games, Fallen Empire has not only revamped reputation for your allies, but ensured they won't forget significant actions either. After clashing with one character too many times they marched out of a conversation explaining that they didn't like the way my character had been acting. This is something that we never saw in the original SWTOR, where every companion you found would be a compulsory and compliant member of your crew for the entire story. Now things are different, companions have conflicting agendas to one another and keeping everyone happy is just about impossible. This change brings heaps of potential for dramatic character interactions and a more immersive experience, as your choices can create or shatter your good reputation with a favoured character.

Finally, Massively Overpowered offers a first impressions article and also discusses the "illusion of choice" in the expansion in another video. Here's an excerpt from the article:

The Knights of the Old Republic formula was a giant fetch quest, but what made the game interesting was your companions, or more specifically, your interaction with your companions. Mass Effect 2 had a very similar formula. The vanilla version of SWTOR kind of followed this formula, but it didn't have the same strength of character. Many times, I felt the original SWTOR stories forced a companion on you because the game required that you have a companion at that time. Knights of the Fallen Empire companions flow naturally with the story, and it feels possible that anyone you run into could become your companion.

The fact that any companion can do any role makes choosing companions a lot easier. At first, I was opposed to this idea, but as I played through the game, it made more sense to have your companions be so flexible. For the purposes of the story, you would want to have one companion over another, and many times, certain companions weren't available because of your place in the story. Allowing every companion to fill every combat role prevents awkward companion swaps before stepping into some cutscenes.


I can't exactly critique individual bits of the story without spoiling too much too early, but I can talk about how the story is presented in the expansion. And its biggest flaw is that this story doesn't fit into an MMO. In fact, it doesn't feel like an MMO at all. Even when I hit the parts of the story that introduce the new player hub, the game doesn't create any feeling that I am part of a large, multiplayer game. Even the new flashpoints, the Star Fortresses, are intended to be soloed. I'm not opposed to solo gameplay. I just know that there will be critics of it, and more than Elder Scrolls Online'˜s solo gameplay, KOTFE'˜s solo game seems to completely ignore that we are even playing an MMO because many of the large phases won't even allow other players to participate in the action.