Ryu’s Musings – A Journey through Star Wars: The Old Republic

Posted on July 11th, 2015 by Ryu Sheng |

In the run up to the launch of the new expansion, due to launch on October 27th, I decided to return and make use of the 12x XP for class story missions.

While they have run this event several times before, it’s the first time that I’ve seen it run for this long, almost 5months; usually it runs for a week or so at most. What this told me was that they are putting all their hopes on this expansion, trying to get as many people unto it’s level requirement as soon as possible.

I do find it odd however to have as many restrictions on it as they have, firstly the only people who get the 12x XP are subscribers. Which isn’t a bad thing, i actually applaud them for giving something back to subscribers, even if it’s just a short cut. However where I really scratch my head is with the expansion itself, it’s only available for subscribers. Personally I see this as being a suicide attempt by Bioware/EA.

As things stand at the minute the game has dwindling players, on either sub or F2P models, this expansion could have had the potential to revive it for a while. However limiting things to subscribers only will have interesting consequences.

On the one hand, it could prove successful and bring the game back from the ether and make it a must play, reviving subscribers, and turning it into a successful game once again. That’s probably what the Dev’s and and EA are thinking. And i can see it happening…for a while, maybe a month or two.

The problem stems for the way the new expansion is structured. In the base game it was a class based solo-able story. In fact the emphasis was heavy on the solo action, with only Flashpoint’s and Operations being group based. You were however rewarded for doing things as a group, increased XP and social points which increased your rank, and allowed you to buy unique ignore items and emotes.

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Yet despite this the game was still very much about you, your story, your rise to power and your actions. it was a single player game with some interesting group mechanics. Honestly i loved it, rather than the usual grinding for reputation and levels, you have that same grind, wrapped up and slightly hidden behind an amazing set of stories. I particularly loved how each class and each side (Republic or Empire) had totally different stories, but were all inter connected.

For me this achieved something that almost (i would say all) every other MMO had failed to achieve, true replay-ability with meaningful and distinct changes. Though as a consequence of that it lost it’s MMO feel, and I feel that was why a lot of people didn’t get into it. With subsequent expansions, Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan were less like this, and more directed with little changes between classes and sides, though they were told from opposite sides of the conflicts, which makes for some replay-ability.

However with the upcoming expansion Bioware have billed it as a ‘return to cinematic story telling’, which for me initially meant  it was returning to it’s roots. However it seems they’re taking the changes they started in the previous expansions and going completely for a scripted and linear directed story.

Gone are class stories, as are the faction aspects. Both Republic and Empire are now on the same side battling against the Eternal Empire. What this means is that no matter which class or side you pick, the story is going to be exactly the same. There will be some class ‘flavour’ added, though what that means exactly hasn’t been revealed as of yet. However I’m guessing it means there may be the odd class specific mission chain to do, as well as some class specific banter.

All your companions from the base game are gone, and your given a new set, which I’m not happy about, though I do understand it from a lore aspect. Given the story they’ve got for the expansion, it makes sense you’re starting from scratch and need new companions. But, I’m still going to miss my Jaesa on my Sith Warrior, she was so much fun when I turned her to the Dark Side.

On the other hand, Bioware do amazing cinematic stories and as I said in my other post the trailer practically had me salivating over the new story; and despite my reservations I’m eagerly waiting to get stuck into the story.

The fact they have to pass everything by LucasArts and J J Abrams would have been something to rejoice, but now that LucasArt’s is not the same as it was originally, and has none of the original staff behind it (‘cause Disney fired them all after it acquired LucasArts), I doubt any of them have the insight needed to really direct a story. As for J J Abrams, I shudder at the thought of him deciding how this game will play out.

Abrams is amazing when it comes to TV series (i still love Alias, no matter how old i get!), but his movies tend to be hit and miss. His fascination with lens flares is getting old, obnoxious and annoying, and he’s fast becoming the next Michael Bay!

Part of me is dreading his interpretation of Star Wars, but just as equally there’s a part of me looking forward to it, remembering his good movies and shows like Alias.

However, in the game context, i do worry about to many directing minds. With to many people having a say in what the game does and doesn’t do and have makes me wonder how well it’ll turn out.

One of the things I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing is how the companions work. While you have a new crew (which as I said I’m not to keen on), you aren’t limited to that crew. In fact there are quite a few companions to recruit including some from the base game, even previously restricted members. Want Jaesa with you and you’re a Jedi Knight, or a Bounty Hunter, this will be possible (if she’s one of the returning characters). Though getting her to work with you will require you do do a quest chain to win her support.

Honestly this aspect of the game makes me so happy, as every class i’ve played has had characters I’ve loved and wanted on other characters. And frankly, who doesn’t? I’m hoping they bring back all of the characters in some way, even if it’s just a cameo for class/allegiance’s. For example, if I’m playing my Sith Warrior Jaesa makes a cameo appearance in some form. This could be expanded in some way for the characters you’ve romanced.

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Another aspect of this expansion that has me ‘happy as Larry’ is the amount of chapters it has, 16 all told, that’s four times the base game’s. If they’re as long as the chapters of the base game we’ll have a new story that will easily take best part of 40 hours to complete. Now, while I’d personally die a happy man to see that, i expect it to be no where near this. Especially since they’ve been making comment such as ‘streamlined experience’. That said, I still expect to get around 16-20 hours out of this, which given that it’s free for subscribers, is a huge thing.

I expect a few months after launch it’ll be made available to the F2P gamers as a Cartel Market or cash purchase. But for the foreseeable future it’s subscriber only, which as i said could be a double edged sword that kills the game; only time will tell!

Honestly, i’ve not hated anything Bioware have put out, i’ve loved everything they’ve done and spent countless playing their games over and over again. I’m hoping for another instant classic this time around! Hopefully the various ‘Big Business’ that are looking over Bioware won’t interfere and ruin the game to much

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