Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Shadow of Revan: The Unnecessary Expansion
The first time I played Knights of the Old Republic (a friend’s copy on Xbox), I got bored and quit shortly after encountering the first rakghoul. I was young, immature and had Halo 2. A couple years later, I saw the game on a Steam sale, read some reviews and bought it, deciding that I’d commit to beating it this time. I’m glad I did. The story of KOTOR is wonderful.
If you’ve not played KOTOR, stop reading this, and go play it. 1) You owe yourself the experience of KOTOR’s story; it’s masterfully told in a medium that forces you to personalize it. 2) I’m about to spoil everything about KOTOR. You’ve been warned.
In 2008, I stumbled upon a cinematic trailer for an upcoming Star Wars MMO being developed by BioWare. “Whoa!” my mind said, “Star Wars + addictive MMO mechanics + BioWare + Old Republic storyline. Yes, please.” Whatever your opinions of MMOs may be, I love them. If I had more time and/or less responsible leanings, I’d play many more of them, so the prospect of a new Star Wars MMO was a low bar to satisfy my growing excitement. It didn’t need to be great or revolutionary — just give me Mass Effect, with lesser graphics and a blaster pistol.
When Star Wars: The Old Republic launched in Dec. of 2011, some people complained that’s exactly what it was: Mass Effect dialogue, sub-par graphics and lightsabers. Yep, and I loved every minute of it. I dove into every class, consumed with the greater story being told and relishing the illusion of control I had on Imperial intelligence, Jedi training and smuggling runs. I was seeing the galaxy unfold before my spaceship’s cockpit.
That’s so Revan.
The first challenge with any Revan story is that he’s both good and evil, light side and dark side. Forget any of that morally gray talk; Revan had been a Jedi, turned full Sith, who then converted back to Jedi (according to BioWare official lore). He was both sides of the coin, and after spending 300 years imprisoned by the Sith Emperor, he was hungry for vengeance.
And there was the conflict: Revan remains a Jedi at the end of KOTOR, but he still possesses his knowledge and experience from being a Sith. He strives to flourish and nurture, as a good Jedi, but then in SWTOR, he knows the Emperor must be destroyed for the sake of the galaxy. Revan is the idiom “the end justifies the means” in personal miniature. To what extent will he go? Which of his personalities will triumph in his pursuit to vanquish the Emperor? Will he be Jedi or Sith?
You, me and Revan.
The Shadow of Revan expansion was meant to be big. It’s the last great episode before this entire storyline and its cast of characters are concluded. Bastille Shan’s lineage, Satele and Theron, join players for the expansion. Revan’s iconic Sith visage is plastered across the splash screen. The Emperor nears revival. This is it. Everything since KOTOR will come to completion.
Through the vanilla SWTOR story, Republic players had freed Revan from the Emperor’s prison. Consumed with vengeance and saving the galaxy, Revan pushed his HK assassin droid production into full swing, and Imperial players are launched into an attack on Revan’s hideout to stop his planned Sith genocide. During this attack, Imperial players kill Revan — but there’s a catch: Revan pulls an Obi-wan, bows his head and disappears. That’s the last heard of Revan, and through the Jedi knight story, the Emperor is vanquished.
But then with The Shadow of Revan everything gets weird.
Players quickly learn that someone powerful is attempting to fully revive the Emperor. This is very bad and must be stopped. After learning more and completing the first planet’s story, players are attacked by the resurrected Sith: Revan. Revan has returned, with a physical body and consumed with vengeance. He must revive the Emperor so that he can kill him. That’s weird #1.
Players follow Revan to Yavin 4, a small hidden moon where the Emperor has been resting. Revan’s cult followers are manipulating the powerful Force connection innate to the moon’s ecology to funnel power into the Emperor’s tomb. Players race through the dense forests, combating the Revanites and seeking a solution to stopping Revan. Then the solution is provided by the prodigal Jedi: Revan. Revan has returned, with a spiritual body and intent on saving the galaxy. He must thwart his dark side self from reviving the Emperor. That’s weird #2.
Eventually, players reach the courtyard outside the Emperor’s tomb and confront the dark side Revan. The story falls to pieces here. After a battle with evil Revan, the player talks with him, as he bemoans his inability to defeat you and resuscitate the Emperor so that he can have his vengeance. During evil Revan’s talk, good Revan spirit shows up. You’re actually talking to Revan when Revan shows up to talk to Revan. Yeah, that’s weird #3.
Take it full circle.
Remember, Revan is both sides of the coin. He is light and dark side. When you had killed Revan, his spirit left to take refuge in the Force, but his body was possessed with his dark side passion for vengeance against the Emperor. Both physical and spiritual bodies were preserved. Now, with his dark side body defeated, Revan’s body and spirit meld. He’s dead once again. The Emperor isn’t revived. No, wrong. The Emperor cackles, jeers and revives himself with just enough strength to constitute more patches and teasers. Your war with Revan’s cult had provided just enough death for the Emperor’s return, and now the entire galaxy risks destruction.
Wait, so that means we’re back to where the vanilla story lines ended, right? Revan is dead and one with the Force, and the Emperor is somewhere gathering his strength. Why did we go through all of the weird double body, revive the Emperor, oops you failed, wait no you didn’t events of The Shadow of Revan expansion? Nothing was gained; no progress made. What a waste of story opportunity.
The gameplay was great. The subterfuge with the pirate gangs, the new solo mode for flashpoints and the overhaul on skill mechanics have solidified SWTOR into a solid experience. Even the poorly crafted story still kept me interested and curious to see the events concluded. I look forward to the next expansion. Let’s see where BioWare takes us next. Hopefully Revan stays dead this time.