In the latest expansion for BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, Knights of the Eternal Throne, we have a new look, additions of Galactic Command, Light vs Dark, class changes, and nine new chapters to the story of the Alliance’s battle against the Eternal Empire. These chapters pick up with you, the Outlander, now commanding an alliance of Imperial and Republic forces, Mandalorians, Zakuulans, and others who came to ally against the Eternal Empire and Empress Vaylin. Your destiny is to claim the Eternal Throne and restore the galaxy or rule as Emperor with help from your allies and the presence of Emperor Valkorian.
As a long time player, since Beta test, and a Star Wars fan I found the new chapters to be epic and add to the Star Wars saga. However, as far as the new updates to the gameplay I felt the new expansion lacking in what made this game a great MMO. Before I go into the awesomeness that is the newest stories let me first delve into the changes made in the game and with update 5.0.
After five years The Old Republic is still going strong and I have seen its evolution from the very beginning. First and foremost this is an MMO and when playing through the three chapters of the class story it is essentially an MMO. Once you get to the new story the chapters essentially become single player instances. The planets you encounter in the base game, which are vast and open, have side quests, dailies, and heroics to expand on the gameplay. I also find that the side quests work with your character’s story. Take for instance the Revanite quest on Dromund Kaas, in Shadow of Revan you reveal that you met them. My Imperial Agent actually joined the Revanites so it was interesting when I mentioned it to Lana Beniko.
These are still around on the base game planets, but the new expansion story planets, minus Odessen and Zakuul, are now single player instances and are not as vast as say Tatooine. Once you achieve level 70 the Galactic Command becomes available and players can use it to do heroics and dailies on the main planets, enter warzones, fight in the new uprisings, and replay chapters. When replaying chapters it will not change outcomes from your previous play through.
The thing about doing quests and heroics are the rewards. I found the looted gear in the new expansion to be terrible, at least for an Agent and Sniper. Every time a prototype gear is dropped it is for a force user or a trooper/bounty hunter. I am not having great luck finding good gear. Either that or I just have bad luck on gear. Still have my moddable Dread Scout Jacket from Belsavis. You can also get gear by leveling up you Command points and getting Galactic Command stashes.
Other changes are the addition of the light vs dark system. Players choose which side they want to fight for and as players play and win battles they move their server to the light or dark. I chose light only because my Imperal Agent is light V. When you enter warzones you will be asked to join a side as well. Players can also choose difficulty modes either story or veteran. If you are an experienced player or have a group go with the veteran mode, story feels too easy. BioWare also made changes to the interface with the menu bar compacted. If you know the hotkeys it won’t be that frustrating.
Some abilities were taken away and new ones added, as an Agent I still kept all the good abilities and at least snipers keep cover, which was imperative in the last boss fight. Shiv is gone but I got maim, at least I am able to knife enemies. A complete list of changes can be found here.
One thing that has changed from the first years of the game is in update 4.0 when they messed with the leveling system. It use to be players had to do all the quests, at least some of the heroics, fight in warzones, and do operations and flashpoints just to level up enough to pass a planet. I didn’t do many flashpoints but it helped at times to get higher levels later on in the game when gameplay got much harder and it was more difficult to move on. Warzones also helped in earning points to the next rank. Now players can skip that and go straight through the story arc. If I level up a new character I will go through all the quests and do the heroics again, at least for the experience and gear.
Another new feature in update 5.0 is the new engine that shows facial expressions during conversations. Some are not always dialogue acceptable especially in my case my Agent never looked impressed and sometimes had a scrunchy face. Also the addition of surprise, shock, and weird grinning didn’t always play well. Though the shock did at some moments. Vaylin always had the most expressive of faces.
In the past I never really thought much about expressions. I always considered my Chiss Agent to be very stoic and disciplined plus he is a spy and wouldn’t expect him to give away feelings easily.
As with most Star wars RPG games there are romance options. Star Wars the Old Republic always had good romance and now you can pretty much romance everyone no matter what gender your character is, except for companions from the class story.
Let’s move away from the game updates and move on to the story of Knights of the Eternal Throne. At the beginning of Knights of the Eternal Throne you are the Commander of the Alliance to defeat Empress Vaylin and are destined to take the Eternal Throne. In Fallen Empire you are the Outlander who forms the Alliance on Odessen and defeats Emperor Arcann. In his defeat his sister Vaylin becomes ruler of Zakuul and the Eternal Empire. All along you personally struggle with Emperor Valkorian who transferred himself and his power to you at his death. I kept him at bay never using his power and trying to get rid of him, though he did save my life and provided needed advice at times.
The compact version of the Eternal Throne story is within nine chapters you save Voss, pilot walkers and a giant robot, infiltrate and crash a party for Empress Vaylin on Zakuul, explore a droid planet, visit the home world of Emperor Vitiate, rescue Empress Acina on Dromund Kaas, put an end to Saresh’s plans, battle on Odessen, make tough choices, and fight to take the Eternal Throne. How it all plays out is up to the player, my story was light sided and would be much different from a dark sided or even neutral player. It also depends how you played Fallen Empire, which companions you have, and if you decide to save Senya and Arcann.
The hardest part of this story was to make the tough choices that meant the fate of an ally. When it comes to choices that matter and each having potentially galaxy wide implications BioWare came on top with Eternal Throne. Most choices in the class story had consequences and changed the end depending on light or dark, but I went rogue at the end and still came back at the wishes of the Empire. With the new chapters, choices do really matter and makes for a much better story.
What I found to be some of the best parts of Knights of the Eternal Throne were the new planets, despite the fact they are instances. I was glad that I got to explore them. Between Nathema and Iokath, I am going with Iokath. Nathema was great as the home world of Vitiate and a prison for Vaylin. Vitiate destroyed the world during a Sith ritual that drained the force from all life including Sith lords that he invited to the planet. All life was eradicated and he became immortal, asserting himself as emperor of the Sith. Seeing that destruction and being where it all began was a treat for any fan of the Old Republic lore.
However, Iokath was slightly more my favorite as it was a planet of droids. On this planet you get separated from your companions and are greeted by a strange droid that ends up just following you around. It also acted as a healing companion against enemy droids. Once you meet Torian, it leaves. Throughout the planet mission you have to battle lots of droids, free yourselves, pilot a giant robot, all the while evading Vaylin who is also trapped. There are also huge revelations on both planets that made this game worth playing.
Going back to Dromand Kaas was interesting, especially with both Theron Shan and Lana Beniko. Empress Acina is introduced into the story and the Minister of Logistics, Lormin, who you just want to slap. You get shot down in a shuttle and then must find your way back to your companions and learn who was involved.
One of the big things about the game is recruiting allies and companions. There are not as many companion recruits as Fallen Empire but there are a few good ones, depending on your choices.
Besides getting walkers and robots to command, during some missions you acquire special weapons to defeat enemies. For instance on Dromund Kaas players receive an energy weapon called the Actuator Restraint Cannon that is used to deal a lot of damage to creatures, enemies, and tomb horrors. Also, when in command of certain allies you get different abilities to use. On Iokath the strange droid has three abilities including heal. Abilities are also available at the final boss fight.
Gameplay is good in this expansion and the entire game itself. Being a dps character I can take out multiple lesser enemies using suppressive fire and hold back with a healer and deal damage. For my Agent who is an engineering Sniper he uses explosives, plasma probes, and other gadgets to take on enemies. Some enemies require a tank but your companions and can fill in any necessary roles if they are equipped. As a dps player I set all my characters on heal because without a healer Snipers are not resilient. Entrench and shield probe come in handy for close range enemies.
I didn’t find any major issues with using abilities, each class has their own set and they work for the role in which they serve in a fight. Interestingly, I was able to last longer on my Agent in a fight with many enemies than with my Sith Warrior. This was because of the ranged abilities like suppressive fire. Relying solely on lightsabers and a tank role can leave you vulnerable when enemies continuously spawn.
There was a good balance of enemy types from normal, strong, elite, and champions. At times the elite enemies where easier to kill than the strong. Champion bosses are always going to be a challenge. BioWare does offer the chance to fight a variety of enemies in a mission, and for real challenges heroics are the answer with many strong and elite enemies.
However, at times I felt the game a bit unbalanced and on some fights the boss was designed for characters with a tank role and not ranged. In those fights it’s about learning the bosses weakness and finding the right abilities to get you through the fight. Timing is also everything and in SWTOR some enemies will indicate when they are about to deal major damage using their special abilities.
As for the characters I felt that the story was well written with great dialogue. Choices mattered and were very good. BioWare designed the battles fought to be epic and they delivered but it was the dialogue that made the story, plus characters reactions to specific situations. The cinematography, which was great in both Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne was the best in the entire MMO and felt as if it was a story. At times it was not just about the Outlander but also his allies. They played a pivotal role in the story and were not just companions. BioWare did well on the story and a challenging and epic gameplay. Also exciting new planets. The backgrounds and artwork is also really good, minus the clipping issues with some of the outfits, hair, and Twilek heads.
Even after five years I am still enjoying this game, except for the Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Makeb as they were terrible. There are always going to be more expansions, though I do hope they are more like the Shadow of Revan gameplay as a mix of story mode and flashpoints or actual new class stories.
If you haven’t yet played this game I would highly recommend this for Star Wars fans and non fans alike. The best part is its not just about the force users, the non-force users get great stories too. In my opinion, and after playing some of the other class stories, the Imperial Agent is by far the best story and class. They also get an awesome ship followed by the Sith Warrior ship.
For more information visit the Star Wars: The Old Republic Site