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The Old Republic Awakens: Story Expansion Out Now

Sorta singleplayer

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.

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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.

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