SWTOR: Knights of the Fallen Empire – First Impressions

SWTOR: Knights of the Fallen Empire – First Impressions

Oh, this is nice. The Star Wars hype is strong, and I’m soaking it all in. The new Force Awakens trailer is out, I have my tickets purchased for Dec. 17, and Knights of the Fallen Empire early access has started.

So how does KOTFE compare to Star Wars: The Old Republic’s other story content and expansions?

This feels like BioWare’s storytelling.

While SWTOR’s story content has been good, and even great at times, the presentation of the narrative has clearly had to share budget with the many other aspects involved in building an MMO experience. Powerful and emotional decisions like are made in Mass Effect and Dragon Age — decisions that can literally get your companions killed — had to be softened in SWTOR so that players didn’t lose access to important companion roles. The story needed to feel personal but ultimately had to be a shared experience so that players were contributing to a general cause and progress.

With KOTFE, BioWare has stated they’re pushing back into their cinematic storytelling roots, and immediately into the first chapter of KOTFE, you realize just how true that is.

  • The dialogue feels much more active, with the blend between combat, cinematic and dialogue being more fluid and giving that masterful illusion of player control that we’ve seen in BioWare’s other games.
  • The companions feel more involved. They’re no longer set pieces tagging along but fully involved characters who express their desires and move the narrative along with you.
  • The narrative is told through action, instead of through quest dialogue.

The story feels like a finely crafted singeplayer experience. It feels like a BioWare story.

So what’s the rest like?

The graphics are nicely improved with some added environment and lighting effects. My characters have a nice gold SWTOR icon next their names for my having completed all eight class stories (woohoo!). The new content and character models look spectacular. Several of the games systems, like gearing companions, questing and leveling, and datacron hunting, have been simplified, and overall, SWTOR feels much easier to jump into and feel engaged.

But SWTOR is still a massively multiplayer online game, which carries the expectation that it offers fresh content for group dungeons, player-versus-player combat and raiding. With the heavy focus from BioWare on the singleplayer story aspect of SWTOR, many players are concerned this means less budget going to the multiplayer content. And most likely, they’re right. The flashpoints, PvP and operations are still there and will receive content updates — in fact, they’ve been given some great polish — but with such a strong push into building the story and narrative, resources have to be pulled from somewhere.

Is it worth the switch in focus? BioWare’s accountants will know soon, but it’s clear that BioWare is making SWTOR easier to get into for new and returning players — and just in time for the Star Wars hype.