By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I played TOR during the Beta and first month after launch before I lost interest and went on to something else. I didn’t really think TOR was bad, but I was not willing to pay to play it. Then, the inevitable happened: Free to Play. Did it have some caveats to it? Of course, few things are really “free.” But if you are a subscriber to The Old Republic, you get to play Knights of the Fallen Empire. Yes, that is the only way. There is no workaround. However, if you sub for one month and then stop subbing, you keep all access to story content that came with being a subscriber. You keep access to all of the other expansions that came packaged with KOTFE (Rise of the Hutt Cartel, Shadows of Revan); you don’t lose your character progress or anything, which was something that admittedly worried me. My next fear was “I don’t have a level 60! What am I going to do?” Luckily you can make a level 60 and jump straight into the Knights of the Fallen Empire. It also gives you crafting stuff and the companions from previous content! My next fear was also allayed. The new expansion comes with a tutorial if you make a fresh 60, which gives you your powers in small chunks so you can take time to learn what everything does. That was terrific for me, because I have not played in quite a while, except for occasional chunks of time when it shifted to f2p.
There’s one very important, humongous change to TOR that I have to thank Bioware for. Bioware makes terrific single player games for the most part (I have my reservations about some of them, but that’s irrelevant), and typically write fantastic single-player narratives. So one of my big problems with TOR was everyone is a special snowflake. Everyone is the one man affecting change throughout the Universe. That bothers me a great deal. From a narrative standpoint, I hated it. So when I started Knights of the Fallen Empire, I came to an important realization: This is more like KOTOR! Yes. It is more of a single player narrative, with a gripping story that is told in episodes (we have the first 9 chapters right now, I’m just coming to the end of that as I write this), and though there is still multiplayer content to delve into after you are done with that first bit of the story I imagine, this feels much better to me. I wasn’t really enchanted by the earlier stories told in the game, and frankly, I would run out of interesting narrative fairly fast. But KOTFE has had a terrific story that I will try not to spoil in this article or my images I took from my gameplay.
Subscription will be required to get the next chapters which will start dropping in 2016, which is kind of a bummer, but I’m willing to bet this will recoup their numbers. The story is fantastic, and people who come for just the intro will no doubt want to see where it goes next. I’ve found myself playing more than I ever did in the past two years. I’ve also found myself leveling a character again, as it is considerably easier to do! Leveling is much more casual friendly as stats have been simplified: Mastery is the stat that deals with your class abilities (which replaces Strength, Willpower, Cunning and Aim). Surge is gone, pushed into Crit. I have to say, the stat system really bothered me with how ridiculous it was, and I think pushing towards a simplistic system will work out here. Flashpoints and Operations were also changed; quite a few of them got reworked, giving people more of a reason to go back and revisit the game to see what all changed. I also really like the idea of Solo Flashpoints, even though at its heart this is a multiplayer game.
As you progress, you form an Alliance, kind of like your own cartel, cabal, or guild. Post Chapter 9, you can keep recruiting people to grow your base of power, and of course there are new companions to go along with a new story! Speaking of companions, you don’t have to spend all your damn time adjusting and juggling gear for your companions; that’s gone! Yay! I hated having to deal with so many gear sets all the time. I also love that you can change your companion’s spec (Heal/Tank/Damage) at a whim, so no matter what I am playing, I have a buddy to complement my weaknesses as I progress through the game. The companions are incredibly powerful now even on a fresh default level 60. But if you’re built up your influence with them, they will save your ass from some truly tight spots. Tons of class changes happened too, and I won’t go into that. Those interested should grab a large coffee and settle in for quite the lengthy set of patch notes. Though its worth noting that the feel of the classes has been preserved, with dps balance being pushed closer together from the lowest to the highest than just about any other MMORPG I can recall. The notion of Legacy-wide Datacrons is terrific too, which boost stats and things of that nature.
Trust In The Force: Great
Do I think this is going to net Bioware/EA a ton of money and get all those subscribers back? Probably not. Do I think it is a step in the right direction? Absolutely. It caught my attention again, and when more content comes out I may find myself subscribing again so I can resume my love of Star Wars lore. This is the year of Star Wars, with Battlefield, and The Force Awakens revitalizing interest in even the less interested. If this expansion were botched, it is my firm opinion that the game would have died. The last couple of expansions were pretty bland, even if the ideas behind them were interesting. Shadows of Revan showed some promise of life in the game, but just wasn’t on the level of KOTFE. This expansion being as good as it is was critical. And giving all the other content with it was a good idea so players new and old can experience things they didn’t, or couldn’t (or weren’t willing to pay for). Is it worth the price of admission? Yes, 100%. Subscribe again, look at the new story, immerse yourself in The Old Republic. The game now is what it was promised to have been back when hype ran incredibly high and budgets higher. Give SWTOR some love; it finally deserves it.