Things I never expected to hear myself say: "I'd quite like to go back to Star Wars: The Old Republic" [official site]. This SHOCKING turn of events is in the wake of news that its new expansion, Knights of the Fallen Empire, restores a little of the KOTOR-era Bioware magic that was sadly lacking from the majority of the base game. I suspect most of us expected that EA would leave the over-hyped and, at least initially, underperforming MMO to die a slow, quiet death on its own, but instead it seems they're taking advantage of
unchecked consumerism excitement around The Force Awakens, and making TOR a far more appealing prospect for people who can't get enough of Far Away / Long Time Ago. Steven's hands-on report last week detailed why this is worth paying attention to, especially if you're more of a solo roleplayer, and now the expansion's actually out. Trailers and whatnot below.
The expansion is episodic, and chapter one launched late yesterday. This here, from senior producer Bruce Maclean, is perhaps the money quote about what they're trying to do: "When we began development on Knights of the Fallen Empire, we really wanted to bring to the forefront what has always made Star Wars: The Old Republic great -- story. Not only to deliver a great story, but to return to our BioWare storytelling roots."
The expansion is free for TOR subscribers. While TOR is now free to play, a great deal of its best stuff is locked off to subs, or in some cases as optional payments - but the latter isn't currently available for Fallen Empire. You'll have to cough up approximately $15 per month, and given this is being released episodically you can't just binge on the whole lot in the space of a single month. Clever, clever.
The expansion also comes with a 'free' level 60 character so you're good to go from the off, or alternatively it includes a 'refined' version of the main game's levelling, so you can get your own character to level 50 in a hurry and, in theory, by playing purely solo. All this suggests a fundamental philosophical shift into an ongoing, subscription singleplayer RPG, rather than the groups'n'raids model of yore - although all that stuff is still in there too. It's fascinating, in a way - is TOR slowly becoming the KOTOR sequel we'd long hoped for, years after the fact? That said, Steven's summation of the Fallen Empire experience is that the well-realised story sits somewhat ill-at-ease with the resolutely MMO-style combat it's weaved around. That strikes me as something that TOR can never change, alas.