Preview: Knights of the Fallen Empire brings Dragon Age-style companions to The Old Republic

At TwitchCon I had the opportunity to spend some time with the new expansion of Bioware’s Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic. If the name of the new expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire, sounds familiar that’s no accident. According to senior producer Cory Butler he views the game’s new content as the spiritual successor to Bioware’s original Knights of the Old Republic RPG. What’s more, Butler calls this new content the best ever produced for the nearly four-year-old game.

Even since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm and the plans to bring back the Star Wars franchise in a major way the public’s love with the galaxy far, far away has only increased. Bioware has seen the benefits of this resurgence as the game has enjoyed an increase in active users, new users, and subscribers since the release of the first trailer for The Force Awakens.

Bioware now wants to build on that growth with new content aimed at bringing in new players, bringing back the old ones, and reminding everybody why we were so excited for a Star Wars MMO to begin with.

What the expansion offers

Knights of the Fallen Empire consists of a sixteen chapter story, the first nine of which will be released when the expansion goes live October 27. The expansion is free to current subscribers. Players will also receive a free level 60 character with which to play through the content. Chapters 10-16 will be released at a rate of one chapter per month beginning in January 2016.

The story focuses on The Eternal Emperor Valkorian, who raised twin sons on the edges of Wild Space and used them to lead an onslaught of both the Republic and the Sith Empire. As seen in the trailer “Sacrifice” one of the brothers kills the other one, an event which it appears Valkorian was waiting for, in order to take his stronger son under his wing. Since The Eternal Empire is waging war on both the Sith and the Republic it doesn’t really matter which side you take as far as your ultimate goal is concerned. However, how you achieve that goal is still up to you.

While The Old Republic combines the famous storytelling of a Bioware RPG with the multiplayer aspects of an MMO, Bioware understands that most players have always focused on the class story, which is the more traditional RPG aspect of the game. Fallen Empire is designed with these players in mind, and the game creates a sweeping story for players to explore with numerous new companion characters.

According to Butler these companions will interact differently with the player based on their decisions. In a way similar to another Bioware RPG, Dragon Age, the same action might endear you to one companion while alienating you from another.

Another added feature is the ability to choose what your companions' primary attributes are. You can decide who the healer is, who the tank is, etc. This way your party will have everything you need, and you can choose your companions based on which characters you like having around, rather than which skills you require for a particular fight.

The Old Republic is currently free to play up to level 50, with a level cap of 60. For players who simply want to play the game as a single-player RPG, the class story parts of the game have been updated, allowing players to achieve level 50 without ever having to access the MMO aspects of the game.

As somebody who loves Bioware RPGs but has never been a big MMO fan, and somebody who is way more excited for Star Wars than I ever thought I would be again, Knights of the Fallen Empire looks to be exactly what I’ve been waiting for. We’ll have more when the expansion launches next month.