Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Old Republic Continues

In what was almost a stealth reveal yesterday, Bioware announced a new major expansion for Star Wars: the Old Republic.  Titled "Shadow of Revan", this is the second major story expansion of the game following "Rise of the Hutt Cartel" and like the previous release also includes 5 additional levels added to the cap.  We're also promised more flashpoints (unlike last time) and two new 5-boss operations.

In addition to the major story content, Bioware is also re-working the skill trees into a system they call "Disciplines."  Like Blizzard did last expansion, Bioware is replacing the largely ceremonial skill tree, where your choices are all but a foregone conclusion, with something more like a skill path.  As you level, the character progresses along a set path of acquiring new skills, but the path also unlocks a small pool of additional "Utility" skills from which the player can choose.  Theoretically, these utilities will change the way you play that character.

Finally, a way forward

What interests me most about the way they've approached this expansion is that they finally appear be adopting a "story first" philosophy.  Again this is all looking at appearances from a long way out, but it seems that Bioware has chosen a major story line involving a great, overarching enemy who threatens the galaxy, Empire and Republic alike.  At lease initially, every element of the expansion appears to be oriented toward facing this threat.  Finally, everyone is on the same page and participating in the same story.

This shared purpose and shared story isn't something we've been able to achieve since the game launched.  The initial 50-level experience was more like 8 stories being told in parallel, rather than one single story in which every class participated.  Each character ends up as a hero in its own class story, but relatively isolated from all the other classes.

At the same time, the galaxy has been torn apart by a number of minor and isolated threats, again, that were largely unrelated to each other.  From the Shroud to Toborro to whatever was happening on CZ-198, from the Gree to the Rakghoul, the characters seemed to be rushing around the galaxy putting out small fires.  I felt like we were watching the TV series, with each event a different episode, rather than watching a movie.

Even the Dread Masters were confined largely to something that happened in Operations.  It was only on Oricon that we eventually brought everything back together into a single story.

Star Wars Episode X: Shadow of Revan

Now, the approach feels different to me.  We've just experienced three story-rich flashpoints that introduce new characters and new environments and given us pieces of the puzzle, glimpses of what is to come.  And building anticipation for the main event, something that will require our total commitment and reward us with an epic and heroic adventure.

I realize that somewhere inside, I'm still yearning for Star Wars Episode X: Shadow of Revan.  I want an experience that rivals one of the main films, and I believe that the MORPG is capable of delivering it.  Clearly, Makeb did not reach that scale but Revan has the stature to be the next great villain.

 A brief glance back...

Just as a post script, I want to indulge myself for a minute by directing our attention to one of my posts back in August, SWTOR: Fall Calendar where I predicted that the new expansion would be released on December 2nd.  If you are a subscriber and pre-order, that is indeed the date when the game is first available.  That's also the date when the mechanical changes to skill trees go live.

So, while I claim that prediction is accurate, it's still up in the air whether we'll see any further update in the late October/early November timeframe as I also suggested. 


  1. I also like the news about the 12% story quest experience boost so I can now level my army of alts.

    1. I agree that the XP boost is one of the more interesting things for current subscribers who are facing that two month wait. It's a perfect time to work on another character or class.

      (Just want to mention that it's 12x experience boost rather than 12% which is very generous on Bioware's part.)