So this may mark the longest it’s ever taken me to get through an MMO expansion, as I started Knights of the Fallen Empire, oh, back in October 2015 and am only now wrapping it up in the late hours of May 2019. Despite a really strong start, I ran out of steam midway through and left the game for a good long while. I am glad I came back, however, because sometimes you want to see how everything plays out, you know?
The final two chapters accelerated the drama and tension of this expansion, which had a tendency to sag in the middle. SCORPIO, predictably, betrayed me and my crew, and unpredictably stole the Eternal Throne from right out under Arcann and his sister. Having a former companion, even a shady one, become a Big Bad Boss, is a pretty gutsy move on BioWare’s part. I always liked SCORPIO because she was a darker, more sinister droid that you always felt could turn on you at any moment.
And despite the last couple of levels being nothing but lengthy excursions through the corridors of enemy ships, there was enough narrative development and cool set pieces (especially when said ships were breaking apart all around me) to make it worth the journey. Other than a very brief interlude between the missions, I didn’t see or hear from another player, which definitely felt weird for an MMO. BioWare’s choice to greatly skew this to the single-player realm took away that feeling of “playing alone together” that so many of us enjoyed.
The final mission, the Battle of Odessen, was masterful from start to end. It was just the right length, exciting through and through, and ended on a series of fascinating cliffhangers:
- Arcann is defeated but sort of (maybe) comes around to the light side again as his mother steals him away
- SCORPIO gives all of her GEMINI “children” free will to stay and serve or head out to the stars
- A good chunk of the Eternal Fleet, including the flagship, is destroyed
- Koth returns — and steals the Gravestone
- The Emperor ghost reasserts himself to give me a small pep talk
- And Vaylin takes the Eternal Throne with SCORPIO’s permission, with the droid remaining to be her right-hand advisor
It wasn’t all that shocking, but it kept me glued to the monitor for the last half-hour or so. I liked the bits of humor that my character interjected, but disliked that my choice to shoot down Arcann’s shuttle was yanked away from me due to BioWare’s Plot Armor. Seriously, BioWare, if you’re going to give me a serious choice, then let it play out. Doing otherwise makes me feel like you’re handling me instead of trusting me to forge a path. It felt ironic that the droids of this episode were given more free will than I.
So as the curtain descends on Fallen Empire and rises on Knights of the Eternal Throne, what say I about this expansion as a whole? Like many SWTOR players, I’m deeply divided on whether or not the trade-off between MMO and single-player storytelilng was worth it. It was certainly initially exciting, receiving all sorts of publicity and acclaim, but I think that all of the production values couldn’t replace the social component (not to mention simply being able to explore areas and go on a variety of quests instead of just one main one). If you’ll excuse the expression, a balance needed to be struck here, and I think BioWare recognized that following Eternal Throne, which is why the game’s shifted back to its former format.
I am generally inclined to be kind to this expansion, because a lot here works well. We get the return of major companions, a daring time shift to five years in the future, lots of funny quips and NPCs, some amazing moments, an awesome main ship, a couple of poignant deaths (I’ll miss you, HK!), some residual tension between Empire and Republic, and crazy space battles. I have plenty of criticisms too (and if I never have to see another skytrooper again, I’d be a very happy man).
In any case, it’s time to see if I can get through the next expansion in something less than four years. I think that’s doable.