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Friday night games, GAMES

Friday Night Games: “Star Wars: Knights of the Fallen Empire”

Does Bioware take its Star Wars saga in a new direction?

Star Wars: The Old Republic was released in 2011 to generally positive reviews. Since then there has been numerous updates and several expansions, including: Rise of the Hutt Cartel, Galactic Starfighter, Galactic Stronghold and The Shadow of Revan. Most of these added new features, raised the level cap and added a bit of story. However, within its first year the game switched to a hybrid subscription and free-to-play model due to dwindling subscription numbers. The aim of Knights of the Fallen Empire (which is only available to subscribers) was to bring storytelling to the fore and allow players to make choices which would impact their characters journey. Does this new expansion succeed?

Your first choice begins on your ship: decide if you are ready to embark on this new story and leave the old world behind. The old world being everything you have done since level 1, including all your companions. So if you have not finished all your companion quests, then you better think twice before moving on. This is because in Knights most of your companions are gone after what transpires in the first chapter.

Without spoiling too much, after the events of Shadow of Revan the Empire and Republic have an uneasy alliance. While searching for the Emperor you are attacked by the Eternal Fleet of the Eternal Empire of Zakuul and captured. Some ‘stuff goes down’ and you are taken away and put in to carbonfreeze. Five years pass until you are released by some friends, old and new.

You do not have many familiar faces to meet in this new world, which makes meeting old friends quite rewarding. However, once you complete the first nine chapters you are able to call back all your old companions rather than wait for the story to bring them back in. I have opted to wait for the story to bring them back, which makes me miss my companions who I have spent hours of game time with.

Yet you do meet some new companions who are wonderfully realised characters, some of who are quite diametrically opposed. I have my favourites, but it does depend who I am playing. That said, this story is a one-size fits all for the most part. There are a few nuances in dialogue which change depending on your class, but overall it will be the same story no matter which class you have played.

While different class stories would be great, I know it would probably be too costly, and the story is already fantastic as it is so having only one story keeps it tightly paced. It is certainly a non-stop rush through these nine chapters, a couple of down-time parts notwithstanding, and I genuinely felt a part of a true Star Wars story. The action, humour and drama are all pitch perfect for this universe.

One thing which appears to be lacking is your choices do not seem to impact the story in any significant ways. I have played through several times with different results, but nothing major has forced me to reconsider my decisions. However, I have a feeling the choices I have made so far will manifest themselves in more obvious ways as the story progresses. I certainly hope in a few chapters I will be regretting a few things I have done.

The final seven chapters will be released monthly starting in February.

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One significant feature introduced here is the ability to have your companions take on three roles in one. They can be a tank, damage dealer or healer and they do these all equally well to fit your play style. However, their power in these roles seems overly high. For example, you can make it through the entire story with a companion healing you the whole way without ever worrying about dying. Of course, the combat is not terribly difficult for the most part. It is there mainly to change things up rather than make you really work for your progress. I do not mind this too much because I like being able to focus on the story more, and the endgame content is more focused on the combat where you can take part in heroic quests, flashpoints, PvP or attack strongholds.

The lower level planets have also been streamlined to make it easier to level by only doing class missions and planet arcs, all of which are excellent stories to get you to level 50. The developers have also introduced level scaling where your level will be set to the planet cap. For example, if you go to a level 15-20 planet then your level will be set to 20 even if you are a level 65 player. This actually helps you enjoy the lower levels if you missed anything the first time through, and you get to keep all your level 65 powers too.

Knight of the Fallen Empire has an epic story, it looks amazing and the characters you meet are fantastic. It is an excellent start to this newest story, with the final chapters raising the stakes ever higher. I am certainly eager to see where this goes and what follows after it. Sign me up!

FINAL VERDICT

This latest expansion brings new features and content to a game which was written off by many ages ago. Yet the game community continues to thrive and this story is simply epic. Knights of the Fallen Empire is what a lot of people wanted since 2011 (short of a Knights of the Old Republic 3) and it brings a strong Star Wars story with solid characters you really care about. However, this is only the first nine chapters and there are another seven on the way. So, we have to wait and see if the story holds up and if the choices I have made really mattered. Yet as starters go, this is a great new direction for one of my favourite games.

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