Another gripping cinematic trailer heralded BioWare’s recent addition to Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR). Adding nine chapters to the galactic story, Knights of the Eternal Throne (KotET) takes place immediately after the events of Knights of the Fallen Empire. In it, the player fights as the outlander to strip Empress Vaylin of the Eternal Throne and deal once-and-for-all with the spectre of her father.
One of the great things about this expansion is the visuals. Outdated as the game’s graphics are, they still manage to impress with their scope and perspective. Flying through the ordered chaos of a space battle on your way to planetary combat is exactly the spectacle you’d hope it to be. On a smaller scale, the level design (of Nathema’s Sanitarium in particular) is beautifully subversive, with relevant clutter and snippets of dialogue coming together to set the scene for that part of the story. You’ll find a lot more variety in the levels of Nathema and Iokath than you will in some previous expansion areas.
This expansion also brings the Empire back into the fray, with new Empress Acina at its head. Your two characters get some up-close-and-personal time together in one of the chapters, which is a good, fun-filled introduction to her personality that presents a somewhat more relaxed paced than the other chapters. If you’re a keen reader of SWTOR fiction, you may enjoy a reference to Annihilation that pops up here.
A good expansion it may be, but it’s not without its faults. Don’t expect to see much deviation from the usual ‘trash mobs’ that litter many MMOs. The lifeless clusters of soldiers can feel like a chore to work through. BioWare balances this out a little by adding new gameplay features in this expansion, but it would be nice to see further improvement in this area.
The new gameplay features do make for novel battles, though. You get to command a walker not once, but several times, and this is entertaining even when the controls seem clunky. If you enjoy sending dozens of soldiers flying at a time, this will make you happy.
Perhaps the greatest mechanical fault with this expansion is in the final boss fight. It’s easy to see coming, so it might be worth looking up all the tooltips before you get there – otherwise, the game launches you straight into combat with no time to figure out which of your new buttons does what. This is a shame, because the final boss fight is great.
There are even some new non-combat features. Letting the player infiltrate a party in SWTOR feels like a breath of fresh air compared to other missions. It’s easy to suffer from lack of direction in the beginning of that level, but the immersive-interactive nature of it makes up for early confusion. And you get to sneak round as a squeaky little scout droid later on. What’s not to love?
For once, it was the narrative that let this expansion down. Ongoing moral themes and loose ends may have been drawn together (or left purposefully open) quite well, but when you reach the end you’ll leave feeling you’ve missed out. There’s an almost complete lack of downtime, which gives no time to interact with your companions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing mid-chapter — the lack of slow-paced dialogue-only scenes pushes the story along at a breakneck pace which suits its end-of-the-line nature — but there should have been a decent epilogue scene. The fact that there isn’t is a sore loss, turning an exciting series of events into something hollow and subtly unfulfilling. It’s possible that the voice-actor strike influenced this, along with the small number of chapters compared to the previous expansion.
Another large issue takes place right at the end and won’t be detailed here because of spoilers, suffice to say that dark side players may not like the ending. BioWare has heavily weighted the consequences of your final choice towards the light side – and likely canonical – option, even though the dark side choice is not only sensible, but more neutral in its approach. In fact, there is no neutral option, which feels like a failing in itself.
So where does this place KotET? It’s not a failure by any name and as an engaging story expansion, it does deliver. The problem is that it doesn’t deliver enough story and doesn’t deliver it quite well enough. It merits a score of 7/10 for now, with the hope that more time is spent on the next expansion rather than appealing to the clamour of the impatient.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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