We’re not sure if you’ve all noticed, but Star Wars is kind of a big deal right now. Not wanting to be left behind, BioWare has released a new expansion for their MMO The Old Republic. Knights of the Fallen Empire promises to be a return to the immersive single-player storytelling for which BioWare RPGs are known. While the initial release only covers nine of the eventual 16 chapters, the story is off to a great start.
A Long Time Ago...
Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic debuted in 2011, and when it did it set a fairly high bar for itself. It wanted to bring the deep and immersive RPG storytelling BioWare is known for into the MMO space. Since its initial launch the game has seen a few different expansion packs, but the new Knights of the Fallen Empire promises to be the largest to date. If the excitement around the new movie has you jonesing for more Star Wars goodness this may be the game you’re looking for.
While much of what makes The Old Republic unique is the MMO gameplay, Knights of the Fallen Empire focuses leaves much of this behind to focus on story and choice-driven gameplay. It may actually be the best of both worlds, as the MMO side is there if you want it, but it can be completely ignored if a single-player experience is what you want.
To play the new expansion you must have a level 60 player, but if you don’t have one ready, that’s okay too: the expansion comes with the ability to create a new character at level 60. While the story does begin following the events that have occurred in The Old Republic already, new players, like myself, won't feel lost. There were occasional references to things I might have understood more were I more familiar with other parts of the game, but I never felt like I didn’t understand what was going on.
Getting MMO In Your RPG
As somebody who is new to The Old Republic (and fairly inexperienced in MMO style gameplay to boot) I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I dove into this expansion. As it turns out though, there was no reason to worry. The controls are simple and fairly intuitive. While starting the game at level 60 means that you start with many more abilities to choose from than most players would be used to, the expansion still gives you time to figure out how everything works.
What I was familiar with was Bioware’s previous Knights of the Old Republic RPG which came out a couple of generations ago. This new expansion’s name is no accident, as BioWare is sending a message that fans of those games might like this one. While I occasionally found myself missing the ability to turn the game into a turn-based RPG, other than that the game does very much feel like a Star Wars RPG of old.
In addition, BioWare has taken what they’ve learned in the numerous RPGs they made since the bygone days of the original Knights and evolved much of the gameplay. Decisions that the player makes not only impact where the story goes, but also how your numerous companions view you. The same choice to spare lives but risk your own may gain you favor with one companion while losing it with another, in a scenario very reminiscent of the Dragon Age series.
While The Old Republic is free to play up to level 50, the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion is free only to subscribers. The first nine chapters are now available, with chapters 10 through 16 available at a rate of one per month beginning in January (after you’ve had a chance to watch the new movie of course).
The first nine chapters can fly by fairly quickly if you’re the type to sit down and just tear into them. Combined they may be worth the month’s subscription fee, but the upcoming chapters will have to be significantly longer in order to justify a monthly subscription for the expansion alone. Of course, there’s the rest of the game to play as well, but Fallen Empire could be a great standalone game for the right price.
It’s difficult to say if Knights of the Fallen Empire will turn new players on to the entire MMO genre but as somebody who has only just now really begun to explore it, I’ll certainly be giving it a larger look. Even if the complete game is not for me, I will be following this expansion to its conclusion.