Star Wars: The Old Republic is growing again. As the MMO celebrates its five year anniversary, BioWare has pulled back the curtain on the next expansion to the game, Knights of the Eternal Throne.
The new expansion is a continuation of the previous, the episodic Knights of the Fallen Empire. Here, it has your player character, The Outlander, going head to head with the remnants of the Eternal Empire. This time, however, the player will be faced with new challenges and choices, and even have the chance to take up the mantle of the Eternal Emperor themselves and sitting on the Eternal Throne.
The story this time around will focus on a separate relationship within the family, between the mother and daughter pair of Senya and Vaylin. "With us, it’s more about the relationship between those characters and how it leads to that impact on the galaxy itself," stated Creative Director Charles Boyd, in an interview with TechRaptor. "How it leads them to change the entire universe of Star Wars, and how you, the player, becomes a part of that family. "
The Outlander will be faced with many more choices as the family dynamics between the characters, along with the other members of the Eternal Empire—the now deceased Emperor Valkorian and his surviving son Arcann—develop. Valkorian acts as the "devil on your shoulder," giving you more adoration and guidance than he ever gave his own children, and this causes the rest of the family to take an interest in you. "They are coming after you not because of who you are, but because Valkorian has seen you as his successor, and how he attached himself to you," said Boyd. "So ultimately it is Valkorian that they are trying to fight, and that leads to them to fight you and they develop this relationship with you separate from their father, and you become a kind of an antagonist to them in their own right as a sort of surrogate member of this family."
The dynamics also change based on the choices the player makes. One moment shown was Senya, a former companion to the Outlander who betrayed them during the last expansion, pleads with the Outlander to redeem her son Arcann, one of the major antagonists of Fallen Empire. The player has the choice to allow Senya to go ahead with her plans, or refuse her, which leads to major changes to the storyline down the road; Arcann can become a potential ally or a major adversary, depending on your choices. The changes to these dynamics, including massive chunks of the storyline altering to player choices, are a design mandate for Knights of the Eternal Throne. According to Boyd, "It’s reacting to our player’s feedback and what they have wanted out of this story ... so being able to do the whole story in one go and really show how each choice has a consequence and how each choice leads to different things—and in some cases wildly different things—is what makes it great and hopefully delivers on our player’s expectations of what they want in a BioWare story."
Ben Irving, one of the Producers of Star Wars: The Old Republic, also talked about how important that diverging content is for a BioWare game:
I remember growing up playing BioWare games and I played with my best friend who lived across the street, so at the end of our play sessions we would call each other and be like “What did you hear? What did you do? You could what? How do you kill her, I hated that person how do you get to kill her?” And then you would kind of reload an old save game try to do play the different paths. I think that’s one thing that we're really excited about that this expansion is having that across all our players who are playing online together, but they are having this different experience and it kind of encourages them to go back and replay and see a different outcome.BioWare is looking to make the storyline of Knights of the Eternal Throne impactful, but of course, adding more dynamic player choice and consequence is just part of the expansion. According to Irving, players' tastes are changing, focusing more on a "binge culture" for their products. "That’s how our players are playing the game these days," he stated. "That kind of the feedback we got when looking at player behavior, that’s the thing that people wanted to see, so we want to make sure we are doing that for our players … more at once and filling the middle with that repeatable multiplayer content to give you reasons to login every day, have something new for you to do."
This sentiment is part of the direction BioWare is going with The Old Republic. "I think the last five years we learned lots of things," said Irving. "We made mistakes and we have done things that are great, and our philosophy in general is to always pay attention to how our players play the game or go with what we think players really want to do in the game and make decisions that ultimately are best for the game."
"You have to be humble and you have to be critical, and you have to be willing to say 'You know what, I really love this thing but when we put it out, they weren’t that big on it,'" added Boyd. "And it’s time to adapt, it’s time to do what’s best for our players and give people what they are looking for."
Some of the new content includes mixing up mission types for the single player storyline, including the ability to control ground walkers and mechs in certain missions, remote controlling droids to sabotage foes, and infiltrating bases while in disguise. Other changes include a challenge mode, where players can customize their entire experience to make it harder or easier, depending on their own choices, and, of course, increased powers and abilities as the level cap rises.
The big multiplayer mode revealed was called Uprising, which is a 1–4 player, action-packed mode that is designed to be short and full of activity. "You don’t just kind of grind your way through a bunch of mobs, you enter a room and everything goes crazy, and people come out of the woodworks to fight you," said Irving.
A final change is the Galactic Command System. Here, it will allow players to choose the light or dark side, and in doing so it will change the balance for players on the game's servers. So if one server has more Dark Side players, the entire galaxy will contain more Sith Lords spawning all over the place. All of these changes will be added after the Knights of the Eternal Throne storyline is finished.
It is clear that Knights of the Eternal Throne is being set up as a major continuation of the Star Wars experience. When asked what the best sales pitch they could give to players to try out the game, Irving had this to say:
Star Wars is so big right now with all the movies coming out, and I think people are excited about Star Wars and were telling the only Star Wars story where you play at the center of that story. You are out there, you are participating in the Star Wars universe, you make the choices that you want and you influence the direction of how the story goes, and I think if you love Star Wars, and you love storytelling, then you are out of your mind if you don’t play Star Wars: The Old Republic because it’s the only place you can kind of get that fix."Star Wars: Knights of the Eternal Throne will be released on December 2nd. Players who decide to become subscribers from now until December get special bonuses, including Shae Vizla, the Bounty Hunter shown in previous Old Republic trailers, a Rapid Recon Walker Mount, and three days early access to the expansion. All of the details are of course on SWTOR.com.
What are your thoughts on Knights of the Eternal Throne? Are you satisfied with the direction the expansion is going? Leave your comments below.