Five years ago, when the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO was first released, the developers made the claim that they were, for the first time, adding story as a major element to massive multiplayer games. At the time, this statement was a bit of a stretch at best and insulting to all of the other game developers who take narrative seriously at worst. Though quests in the game were generally fully voiced and characters had major story arcs dependent on their class and (to a small degree) personal choices, the game provided little change to the traditional quest model of the genre.
But now, half a decade later, we’re beginning to see the fruits of those promises as the game unrolls its Knight of the Eternal Throne expansion. The powerfully voiced content and availability of choice have been refined, culminating in a game that feels like a story. What’s more, the new content touches on the core themes of Star Wars so well that it’s worth exploring if you’re a fan and not just a regular player. The game provides subscribers with a free token for a high level character, allowing total newbies the chance to take a look at this amazing story right off the bat.
So how did we get here? And how is this really, truly Star Wars?
Back in June of 2015, Bioware released the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, an innovative endgame story line in which your character would become the leader of a group forming the core of an all new faction in the galaxy. It explored new regions of the universe and introduced interesting and often hilarious characters. The expansion shines as a refinement of those features the game does well.
With the newest addendum to this story, Knights of the Eternal Throne, we find our hero (the player character) leading an “Alliance” of rag tag freedom fighters against a tyrannical and murderous monarch. These are not the only call backs to the core Star Wars franchise. The previous expansion toyed with sarcastic quips, superweapons, and love-rivalry relationships. This next book in the story introduces betrayal and redemption, two core themes that are the heart of the original trilogy.
In KotET, we see redemption play out in many different aspects. Old foes such can be redeemed in the traditional light side/dark side way. Other characters betray you at various times, but then come back into the fold, allowing you the choice of rejecting their help or accepting them back; either way angering some of your existing allies. Choices have consequences.
In particular, we see the redemption theme play out with the expansion’s villain, Empress Vaylin, the daughter of the Sith emperor Valkorion. Though she’s always been portrayed as an unlovably over-the-top evil character with sadistic and seemingly whimsical motivations, her backstory eventually reveals a childhood of abuse which is explored in excruciating detail and provides the potential for real sympathy even as she chases you down. Depending on your choices and actions throughout the game, you may find her coming to your aide in the final battle.
Even your own character, confronted by your myriad decisions in the end, may see redemptive themes emerge. This is more dependent on your own story line. A Jedi who accepts the help of the Eternal Emperor for the greater good is quite different from a member of the Sith Empire’s dark council who temporarily gives in to delicious temptation. Ultimately you are the storyteller here, but the game offers enough opportunities for rising and falling action that it’s hard not to weave something interesting and Star Wars-y out of the assembled pieces.
So check out the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion if you’re up for some action-packed interpersonal conflict. Let us know what you think in the comments.
Featured Image Credit: Bioware