Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knights of the Fallen Empire (review)

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Back in 2003, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic placed itself as one of BioWare’s iconic games in its legacy for crafting epic narratives that capture the hearts and minds of its audience. In 2011, Bioware jumped on the chance to join other companies in crafting an MMO alongside the likes of World of Warcraft and EverQuest 2. While many strove to take the crown from World of Warcraft‘s dominance, BioWare tried to maintain a balance between its signature narrative quality and MMO mechanics. Did it succeed? That was up for discussion among fans, especially those who had expected that BioWare + Old Republic meant this product was a sequel to its beloved RPG.

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Let’s clear some things first…

This is not a sequel to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic nor its actual sequel, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2 – The Sith Lords. Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knights of the Fallen Empire is the third expansion to its MMO. Prior to this was Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadows of Revan. Yes, that’s right, as a continuation to the storyline of Revan from the original Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, there was a story quest that dealt with Revan, his recovery from the Sith, and whether or not he achieved salvation. The culmination of Revan’s storyline resides in Shadows of Revan which many players lauded as its best story content for the MMO.

Continuing the development of mechanics and narratives in Shadows of Revan, players found the doors blown off its hinges when Knights of the Fallen Empire catapulted them into a continuation of where Revan’s storyline hinted. For those unfamiliar with Revan’s happenstance since the original RPG, he sought to confront the Sith Empire in its true location and went missing. His mind was shattered and his life preserved, tortured by the true Sith Emperor who captured him. The Exile, in the original game’s sequel, managed to recover him. But in the end, Revan did not succeed in defeating the distant Sith Emperor who had the power of jumping and inhabiting bodies.

Knights of the Fallen doesn’t do much to explain the connection of these various points, but it was designed for veterans of the Old Republic franchise while welcoming newcomers into the fold. I had to do some digging and talk to some players to confirm that The Eternal Emperor, Valkorian, is the Sith Emperor that Revan desired to confront. Is this a spoiler? In a sense it is, but there is no reference point or connecting plot in this expansion unless you have been paying attention to the narrative prior to Knights of the Fallen Empire.

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What it’s not…

  • Is a sequel to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It needs to be repeated because the expectations of a BioWare RPG versus an MMO are different.
  • Single Player game. While you can easily play this game alone, there are elements in this new expansion that can be resolved in a group or with people. There are options to solo, but it’s more efficient if you find people. For example, to acquire one of the optional companions, you need to fulfill the destruction of some World Bosses or locate this rare spawn for a loot-drop (which you need to do multiple times) to fulfill a reputation quota.
  • A sandbox. There is a genre of gameplay that some MMOs take, which allows them to craft and build. While there are team-building and reputation-building, crafting is not as pivotal to this game. Before this MMO, a previous incarnation, Star Wars Galaxies, was a sandbox MMO that allowed you to craft items and build structures. This is not that game.
  • An offline game. MMOs need a stable internet connection to run. Sure, there are chapters and sections of this expansion that feel more like a single-player game, but in a realm of online-and-offline ambiguous content, you need to remain connected. It returns to a more MMO feel by the time you hit Chapter 9 of this narrative-driven expansion.
  • World of Warcraft-killer. WoW has its own issues and BioWare has focused its product to standing on its own versus competing in the same space as Blizzard. While MMOs often share the same roots, the shift in focus is obvious. For players like me who enjoy BioWare’s products, this is a great shift!

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What it does well…

  • Is the narrative. Ever since the clusterf*ck that was Mass Effect 3, BioWare took a strong position in paying attention to the passionate responses of its fanbase. With that approach, it helped guide their development processes and yield amazing products like Dragon Age: Inquisition and now Knights of the Fallen Empire. While players can access the first 9 chunks of content that seem to isolate you from its native MMO components, the initial handful goes by very quickly and then opens up at Chapter 9 back to its MMO options. Chapter 10 will be released to subscribers starting at the beginning of next year.
  • Meaningful gameplay. Ever since the MMO-market became saturated with various titles vying for the attention of players, the repetition of Fetch Quests (go to a location to fetch items) and Quota Quests (kill enemies or obtain items to fulfill an amount) have soured many over time. Not to mention the End-Game content where players desire the best loot, a staple of the days of EverQuest and World of Warcraft, are gameplay methods that may not entertain people as much as they fulfill a part of MMO-gaming culture that feels this is the norm. While this expansion does not remove this kind of gameplay, it redistributes these tasks into character-oriented mission hubs (versus location-oriented mission hubs) that contribute to the overall narrative.
    • For instance, Companion quests that allow you to recruit from a combined pool composed of all the Companion NPCs from the original MMO’s narrative (both Republic and Empire) offer missions and activities. These pieces of gameplay serve as both an update to what these NPCs have been doing since the Player Character’s disappearance and culminate to team-building that feels like what players did in Mass Effect 2.
    • Not all the missions are character-oriented, some of the team-building that starts in Chapter 9 are associated with rallying planets to your cause. Furthermore, other missions involve assisting some of the key advisors who are assisting you at your home base. Yes, you have a home base. No longer is your starship the main hub, nor is your vanity housing (where you can place your trophies and decorations for friends and visitors) inheriting this role anytime soon.KotFE-Review_09
  • Meaningful reputation. In the MMO space, gaining reputation often meant doing tasks for a faction in order to receive specialized loot in the flavor of that particular faction. Since this is BioWare, much of its content is centered around relationships. While the original content of the MMO had crafting systems which helped you build rapport through questlines and gifting of relevant items, this expansion does not remove this aspect but provides you with opportunities to build reputation with various people and not skim on others. It is not clear on what BioWare plans with these reputations you are building with your team, but they did make it clear in interviews that people can do. We can expect the visceral experience from the likes of Mass Effect, as they admittedly are drawing from their entire legacy in terms of inspiration.
  • Stat Simplication. Starting from the update prior to the launch of Knights of the Fallen Empire, the key stats from various classes were combined to form the trait called “Mastery”. Not to mean the same “Mastery” trait as seen in World of Warcraft, it helps remove idle statistics in a character’s sheet and allow for a streamlining of the itemization. Such streamlining exists in tabletop RPGs (outside of Dungeons & Dragons). While this doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the game, it’s worth noticing compared to tradition methods of data architecture (I’m a nerd about these things).
  • Role simplication! Regardless if your companion in the original content was DPS, Healer, or Tank (the traditional role-types in MMOs), this is no longer an issue. Khem’val, the bloodthirsty Dashade warrior of the Sith, can now heal you of your festering wounds! Weird, no? Since the launch of the expansion, some people thought this was a strange move and preferred the original archetypal role these characters fulfilled. However, if the priority is narrative and relationships, this organization of role modeling makes sense. Now you can keep your favorite character whose personality you prefer and switch them to whatever role fulfills your gameplay needs. KotFE-Review_03
  • BioWare. In my discussion with some of the players when we had Early Access to the expansion, we agreed that it felt like Mass Effect + Knights of the Old Republic. And this is an important comparison, as many MMOs that launched in the early era were compared to World of Warcraft and FELT like World of Warcraft. This is no longer the case. Despite the framework maintaining much of its previous incarnation, Knights of the Fallen Empire genuinely feels like it has opened back up to being a BioWare game. In essence, the perspective of its development direction has matured. While it may not be the Knights of the Old Republic sequel we desire, it has become a BioWare game in the way it presents the quality of it has always been strong at.
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During Chapter 9, an homage back to the Knights of the Old Republic conversation system.

Ending in the first week of January, the MMO is experiencing its Four Year Anniversary and is offering a statue of HK-51 for your housing, plus others. And if you subscribe by January 11th, you are granted an extra chapter where you play as HK-55, an assassin droid who is a companion in chapters of Knights of the Fallen Empire. Other details of Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knights of the Fallen Empire are available on my initial post here.

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While the game is available for Free-2-play, there is a subscription model with perks. For more information visit Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knights of the Fallen Empire and join the many others as fans of the Star Wars universe, especially with The Force Awakens coming soon.

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.