Review – Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire by Stephen Vincent

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Star Wars: The Old Republic ­– Knights of the Fallen Empire was released on October 27th and is the latest expansion to the massively multiplayer online game that chronicles a time period thousands of years before the Star Wars film saga.  Developed by BioWare, and published by Star Wars video game master licenser Electronic Arts, Star Wars: The Old Republic, or SWTOR, has survived and to some degree thrived in the turbulent, and dwindling MMO market.  Knights of the Fallen Empire returns to SWTOR’s roots of placing story as one of its four “pillars” of gameplay.   

While Knights of the Fallen Empire (or KOTFE), represents BioWare’s refocusing on story, it also represents a sizable departure for the game that, while successful, has never reached the potential that it could have.  The Old Republic’s elder game content often felt handcuffed by the comics and novels that bookended this particular time frame. Now that much of what has come before is non-canon, that seems to have opened up the writers of the game to pursue directions that they may not have been allowed to go before.  KOTFE successfully introduces a third faction, the Infinite Empire of Zakuul, which the armies of the Republic and the Sith Empire (of which you are on one side) wish to take down.

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BioWare clearly wishes this expansion to be a jumping-on point for people new to the game.  Players will be able to create a character and start them at level 60, the starting point for the KOTFE storyline.  A tutorial segment of the game will take effect as you progress through the story and hand-hold players on the abilities vital to the class you’ve chosen, while being thrust into a massive conflict aboard a Star Destroyer.  Much like the previous iteration of SWTOR, you’ll be presented with choices. Now, more than ever in the game’s history, these choices will have significant impact on your storyline, and not all of these choices will come easily. Characters will remember your choices, and whether or not they agreed with them. BioWare’s knack for engaging characters and storytelling really shines through in this expansion, on a level with some of BioWare’s top games, like the original Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect 1 and 2.

The game content that comprises this expansion is divided into nine chapters. The nine chapters whiz by, and you aren’t given a proper moment’s rest.  There do not seem to be any natural breaking points for that all-important bathroom break. Throughout the game there are portions where getting so much story does take its toll on gameplay.  Fights can get repetitive, and often just serve as filler for getting from point A to B.  Once you’ve reached the top character level, 65, and complete the main storyline, you’re finally given a bit of a breather.  End game content is focused on expanding your roster of allies, and building up a rebellion to this Eternal Empire.

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BioWare has found a great way to utilize older content in a fresh way. Finding old friends and recruiting new ones are your top priorities.  Also on the agenda is taking out battle stations that threaten the worlds that older players of the game have fought through while leveling. Tatooine, Alderaan, and others are under siege, and taking out these battle stations are the flashpoints (think dungeons) you must trek through to free these planets.

With Knights of the Fallen Empire, BioWare has reinvigorated my excitement for this game.  I now look forward to freeing the core worlds, and building my rebel alliance.  EA and BioWare are hitting on all cylinders with this expansion.  If you’re a lapsed SWTOR player or someone looking with a Star Wars gaming itch that Disney Infinity 3.0 or Battlefront isn’t likely to scratch, you’d be hard pressed to find better than Star Wars: The Old Republic – Knights of the Fallen Empire.

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