Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire is the fifth Digital Expansion to the BioWare MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic. First announced on June 12, 2015 in advance of Electronic Arts's official presentations at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo on June 15, Knights of the Fallen Empire features a renewed focus on cinematic storytelling, as well as new worlds, new companions, and a dynamic story that is affected by the choices players make. The expansion was first hinted at in the Community Cantina Tour held in Anaheim, California on April 18; wristbands were given out that featured the hashtag #FallenEmpire and the date "06.15.15," and a secret image featuring a throne and the hashtag was hidden in the files given to attendees and later posted online. Knights of the Fallen Empire focuses on the new threat of the Eternal Empire and its leader, the Emperor of the Eternal Throne. At Level 60, the player's character is frozen in carbonite and awakens five years later to find that the Eternal Empire has become the dominant force in the galaxy. The player becomes the "Outlander" and builds an alliance to wage war against the Eternal Empire.
Sometime after the Invasion of Ziost, the Eternal Empire of EmperorValkorion enters into the Galactic War between the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire, and led by its new emperor, Arcann, the Eternal Empire decimates both the Republic and the Sith. Players awake from carbonitefive years after the galaxy has fallen to the Eternal Empire, with the Republic and the Sith Empire having all but collapsed, and must gather new and old companions and take the fight to the Eternal Empire as an "Outlander."
Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire is a Digital Expansion for the video game Star Wars: The Old Republic, and raises the level cap of the game from 60 to 65. Knights of the Fallen Empire has been described as having "a renewed focus on cinematic storytelling," and introduces "new worlds to explore, new companions to recruit into your alliance, and a dynamic story that players will be able to shape based on the choices they make." The original eight class stories are also enhanced to make them more immersive and engaging. Single-player story arcs, the game's end-game Operations, and other content were also upgraded to levels 60 and above. Players are able to create one level 60 character in order to experience the Knights of the Fallen Empire storyline without having to play through the existing game.
The story of Knights of the Fallen Empire will be told and released in smaller "chapters," the first nine of which were released at launch. Sixteen chapters, the last five of which are unnamed at the moment, are listed on the game's website, and the chapters are said to be released monthly after launch. Any subscriber, regardless of when they subscribe, will have access to all of the Fallen Empire chapters that have been released up until that point. Knights of the Fallen Empire is set five years after the events of the existing game, and will introduce new companions, as well as reintroduce some of the existing companions in the new timeframe. A total of five new companions will be added, including Lana Beniko from the Forged Alliances storyline and the previous expansion, Shadow of Revan. The new level cap will allow for a focus on "increased mobility and action-packed combat," and the expansion's focus on single-player story will result in restrictions on grouping during story missions and arcs.
Knights of the Fallen Empire was first hinted at in the Community Cantina Tour in Anaheim, California on April 18, 2015. Attendees received wristbands with the hashtag #FallenEmpire and the date "06.15.15," and the flash drive of files given out to attendees also included a secret image, featuring the hashtag and the Eternal Throne, which was later posted online. The Digital Expansion was officially announced during Electronic Arts' presentation at the Electronic Entertainment Expo on June 15, 2015, though the name was released on June 12in the schedule of Electronic Arts' presentation. The game's announcement took the form of Sacrifice, a cinematic trailer developed by Blur Studio like the game's previous trailers, and the full-length trailer was released afterwards online.
As with other expansions, Knights of the Fallen Empire was preceded by a number of subscriber rewards. Players who subscribed by August 10 received Nico Okarr, the smuggler who appeared in the Return cinematic trailer, as a companion, and those subscribed by August 31 received an exclusive set of blasters for Okarr. September 30 saw subscribers receive Nico Okarr's duster coat, and subscribers by October 19 received a swoop bike inspired by the one seen in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. The Epic Story Boost, which rewards subscribers with 12 times the standard experience for class missions, remained in effect until October 19.
Alexander Freed wrote Chapter 10 of Knights of the Fallen Empire, entitled "Anarchy in Paradise."
That Fallen Empire places such a heavy emphasis on story isn't much of a surprise in itself. After all, good yarns have always been what set SWTOR (and its legendary predecessor, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) apart from its competition, but this expansion takes it to a whole new level. The nine available story chapters (short though they are) show BioWare in top form, and its emphasis on bringing factions together strongly suggests some good inspiration from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Knights of the Fallen Empire kicks off as the hero follows the missing former Sith emperor to where he's apparently been moonlighting as the emperor of another empire far, far away. Five years pass in which that so-called "Eternal Empire" takes over the old Republic and Empire. Naturally it's your job to save them all after a carbonite-enhanced vacation, but not without meaningful plot twists, surprising deaths, Sith and Jedi romancing together — mass hysteria!
he characterization involved has never been finer, and the ensuing hours are filled with companion NPCs who don't fit into the cozy delineations of light and dark sides — they're more like regular people. The only two exceptions are the two children of Emperor Valkorian, who come off as sadistic and petulant brats, but it rarely matters since the main plot wisely keeps them at a distance. It's good stuff, and BioWare smartly lets new or returning players create a brand-new level 60 character so they can enjoy the story immediately.
The approach isn't without some sacrifices, and some of them would have had us screaming that BioWare had changed the fundamental nature of SWTOR just three years ago. Pushed off the stage, for instance, are the lovingly crafted stories for each individual class; nowadays, everyone experiences the same story past 60 regardless of whether they wield a blaster or a lightsaber. Sometimes the new direction clashes violently with the old one, particularly in the way the beautiful, semi-realistic models for Knights of the Fallen Empire's NPC cast make the elongated models of player characters look as though they stepped out of a poorly rendered El Greco painting. They clash further with the lovely new planets the heroes venture through, and they're light years from the technical fireworks BioWare shows off in the expansion's introductory trailer, which looks at least as good as anything I've seen from the footage for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It's all well and good that story is king here, but the problem with Knights of the Fallen Empire is that BioWare pushes it toward despotism. It's so focused on attracting new players to a legitimately good new Star Wars story (conveniently ahead of the upcoming movie) that it makes combat so easy that it's insulting. I'm normally the kind of guy who reads forum threads in search of the merits of this or that build, but I never bothered in Knights of the Fallen Empire. I barely bothered with the layout of my hotkeys. Mash some buttons, any buttons, and you should get through fine. Ability rotations? Ha! I understand the reasoning behind the new focus on single-player gameplay. Star Wars: The Old Republic's MMORPG elements were never as good as they could have been, and the way the new story anchors you to what's essentially one long story instance for five levels precludes any need to play with friends. But I still fondly remember learning to play well in order to defeat some tough single-player bosses back in 2011 and 2012; here, there's none of that.
If BioWare wanted to minimize the challenge so completely, perhaps it would have been better off teaming up with Telltale. As it is, I can't imagine anyone truly finds the new combat fun; for me, it's exasperating after a mere hour. I kept wanting to feel some kind of excitement over seeing yet another group of troopers ready to feel the wrath of my lightsaber, but the ease with which they fell over made them mere speed bumps on my way to the next the next cutscene. It doesn't help that many of Star Wars: The Old Republic's old bugbears still remain, such as linear corridors that discourage exploration and the way most enemies stand around patiently in hallways waiting for you to beat them up. (Somehow, mysteriously, performance on my PC is awful relative to other MMORPGs all these years later, too.)
Much of this ease springs from the changes to companions. KotFE's great shift is that they no longer have their own gear or specialized combat roles; instead, you can switch them between combat, healing, and damage dealing roles with a simple right click over their portrait. Playing as a Jedi Knight, that meant that all eight companions I met throughout the story focused on keeping me healed, which they did absurdly well.
And so it goes for the roughly eight to 10 hours it takes to level from 60 to 65, until at last Knights of the Fallen Empire settles into what passes for its current endgame (until BioWare releases the tenth of the 16 chapters, scheduled for February 11). On the new hub world waiting at the end, the sight of other players came as a bit of a shock after so many hours of watching SWTOR try to masquerade as a single-player Knights of the Old Republic sequel. Even for someone like me, who regrets the loss of so many of SWTOR's cooperative elements, these other players can feel somewhat intrusive.
In some ways, they are. Unless you actually choose to bring along friends, the current SWTOR endgame is every bit as single-player focused as the main story content if you don't choose to jump in old raids (which have been upscaled for level 65 players). It's centered on building alliances with various NPCs by undertaking flashpoints (SWTOR's fancy word for dungeons) and heroic missions ostensibly designed for two or more people, but all that rarely matters since the companions you can bring along remain as powerful as they did during the leveling content. There are some nice touches, such as a cinematic view for conversation that recalls Knights of the Old Republic and allows for more dialogue options beyond the usual three.
Unfortunately, it smacks of missed potential. The heroic missions send you off to beloved planets from the original launch like Hoth and Tatooine, and BioWare's decision to make the entire world sync to your level — Guild Wars 2-style — adds a touch of vitality these spots have long needed. Unless you're fresh off the starship, though, this is all stuff that feels overly familiar by now. Greater potential awaits in the Star Fortress flashpoints which can be tough solo after a recent companion nerf, but the six fortresses themselves look a tad too similar too each other and the experience devolves into the same "fighting bad guys down metal corridors" that pervades so much of SWTOR. Repeat these a bunch of times and turn in some crates, and the denizens of the galaxy will start to love you. It gets tiresome quickly, and that's bad news for an expansion that hinges on hoping players hold on to their subscriptions for each new episode.
If you're just in it for the story, there are far worse ways to spend $15 (and it's included in the $15 subscription fee if you're already subscribed). BioWare wants to show us it can still tell a good Star Wars tale, and to its credit, it pulls it off. After all Star Wars: The Old Republic has been through after four years, though, it's more than a little tragic to see just how completely BioWare has shrugged off the non-story parts.
With the release of the Knights of the Eternal Throne fast approaching, I figured it was worth recapping the Knights of the Fallen Empire story in ‘dot point’ form with a touch of humour.