So I had a problem with my website that locked me out of it for a bit. I’m obviously back now, but if you’re an early bird (or in a timezone ahead of me) you’ll probably notice this wasn’t my first post today. ANYWAY. Today I have another guest post from my eBFF Kypros for you. He’s played through KotFE and graciously written a review. It is spoiler free! I’m sure he’ll be glad to answer any questions if you have them too. Enjoy!
With the release of Knights of the Fallen Empire (KotFE) last month, Bioware has put all their chips on the table, and doubled downed on story. Did they deliver, is it worth playing through, and is this game still an MMO? Read on for a spoiler free take on the latest SWTOR expansion.
You are the Outlander, well assuming you’ve subscribed for at least a month you are. Unlike previous expansion, KotFE requires a subscription to play. However, that subscription can be for just one month, meaning the expansion costs roughly $15. Measuring up against expansions from other games, it seems like a low cost of entry, however, the real value of that $15 will be determined by the content. Is there enough of it, is it fun, and will gamers enjoy it?
Without going into the specific story elements, KotFE pits the galaxy against a new foe, the Eternal Empire. Coming from somewhere in Wild Space, the Eternal Empire has proven to be the greatest threat to peace and stability, regardless of what faction you sit on. Both the Sith Empire and Republic are at the mercy of what is seemingly an unstoppable force, pushing through the Galaxy with impunity.
And where is your character through this, the one that fought for either side, the one who seemed to change the tide of every battle they were ever in? Well, you’ll have to play to find out. Needless to say you will make an appearance, but things are not the same as they were when you last left your character.
When you eventually start KotFE, you’ll find yourself without any allies, and having to start from scratch. Your companions are missing, but you still have a job to do, so you set out to make new acquaintances, with the goal of stopping the Eternal Empire.
KotFE will take you through nine chapters of gripping story and non-stop action. Seriously, it’s non-stop. Unlike traditional MMO questing experiences which take you from quest hub to quest hub with natural breaks in between, KotFE will take you from one adventure to the next seamlessly, to the point where it becomes hard to take a break from the game and do something productive in real life, like sleep.
Unlike SWTOR 1.0, there are not unique stories for each class, however, that doesn’t take away from the experience. To date, the dialogue choices available to the player were mostly inconsequential. No matter what you picked the story would end up the same, your character may look a little sickly if you were too mean, but the end would be the same. KotFE changes that. Your decisions will change the path of the game. Characters, some of which you’ve known for a while, can die based on what you choose to say or do. At one point I found myself so torn between dialogue choices I just left my computer for an hour, a clear sign of decision paralysis.
Playing through the first Nine Chapters of KotFE was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had, and there are still more chapters to come! This was Triple-A experience. It had compelling story, good challenging gameplay, and tremendous visuals. But there was something missing. There is no MMO experience in those first chapters. You’ll barely see another player running through the world, as most of the gameplay takes place in your own little instance. The lack of group play is something that had to happen. The story couldn’t support two Outlanders, let alone an entire server full. Does that take away from the experience?
To be honest I was so enthralled with the story of KotFE, I really didn’t mind going it solo. I just wanted to know what would happen next. By the end of Chapter 8, leading into Chapter 9, you’ll start to see the MMO part of KotFE come back. As the story comes to its (temporary) conclusion, you’ll begin to build your alliance. Alliances are a new feature in KotFE. The basic premise of Alliances is you’re recruiting help, New companions to presumably help you through the next few chapters of KotFE. To do this you’ll have to take part in more traditional MMO experiences. That could be completing Flashpoints or Heroic Missions which require two or more players. While the story is on hold, I’m finding these elements to be quite enjoyable. The heroic mission take you back to the old heroic quests on the original planets released in 1.0. Some of which I’ve done, but most I’ve never touched. To help navigate around, each quest comes with an instant travel to location option, which makes traversing to and from those planets much more enjoyable than previously. In fact since 4.0 (the KotFE patch), loads of quality changes have been made, including those travel changes.
One of those big changes, which allows the older planetary heroic missions to be challenging, is level sync. Simply put each planet has a max level, and if you’re above that level your stats will be brought down to whatever that max level is for the planet. You’ll keep your skills and abilities, you just can’t plow through low level enemies because you’re now the same level as them. In addition to making heroic missions viable, this change (which carries over to Flashpoints and Operations) has the added benefit of allowing you to play with friends who may not have a max level character. So where the KotFE story may not have MMO elements, the game changes, like level sync and quick traveling, actually give SWTOR a better MMO experience.
For returning players who’ve played through SWTOR’s PVP or high-end PVE, your experience will be mostly the same. There have been class changes (nearly all for the better), but you’ll be running the same Warzones and same Operations as before.
On the Warzone front however, there’s one big change that was implemented a few patches prior to KotFE. Currency costs to buy PVP gear were significantly reduced, in addition, currency can be shared across your legacy. Meaning you can now PVP on one character to help gear up others, no matter the level.
While it would have been nice to see a new Warzone or Operation, there’s only so much a team of developers can focus on, and for Bioware it’s currently story, and they nailed it. As I eagerly wait for the next few chapters, the general changes which Bioware implemented to the MMO aspects of SWTOR have made the game exceptionally more enjoyable. For the first time in nearly four years of playing, the future for SWTOR looks very bright.