E3 2015: You are the chosen one in SWTOR’s Fallen Empire

    
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Star Wars: The Old Republic fans are still hungry for more Knights of the Fallen Empire information, and we can’t blame them. As we noted in yesterday’s part one of our BioWare interview with Lead Designer Michael Backus, Studio Creative Director James Ohlen, and Senior Producer Bruce MacLean, this new expansion will be quite a departure from how the game has developed up to this point. Today, we bring you part two, which focuses on companions, new content, some tidbits on the Eternal Empire, and what goodies players get when they grab the expansion. Oh, and did we mention the regular class stories are getting overhauled as well?

A whole new game

Since new players can be granted an instant level-60 toon to start straight into the expansion, it’s hard not to consider the SWTOR and Fallen Empire two completely different games instead of a game and its expansion. At this point you may wonder what they have in common, and those who have played the base game might question how the two will connect together. For instance, since you get five new companions, what happens to the old ones?

Backus said point blank that answering me would involve spoilers, so he wouldn’t share. However, he did note that while you were frozen in carbonite for five years, your companions still had to live through the passage of time. In your absence, their lives went on — but the choices you made involving them might have something to do with where their lives headed after you disappeared. Companions are, in Backus’ words, “super important.” He said the team focused on making the experience better, giving companions more content, and making your decisions impact your companions as much as their decisions/actions impact you.

From the walk-through, we learned this: Lana Beniko, your Sith Lord companion, tells you that your memories of all your previous companions all dying is probably just stasis-induced dreams, and I know for a fact at least one old droid companion was there to help you out of a tight spot. But what happens to the rest is something for players to find out. Backus did say this, however:

“We’re doing a lot of cool stuff with companions. Some of it I can’t tell you about, but the gameplay in this system reflects the fiction and vice versa. We built both together. We said, ‘What if there were an opportunity to interact with this companion in this way?’ I can’t give you too many specifics, but the answer is it is very possible that classes and the companions start to cross-pollinate.”

Backus also said which companions you end up with will be reflected in the choices you make! He explained, “With the fall of both the Republic and the Empire, effectively you are that chosen one. They feel you can help rebuild, and part of that rebuilding is you going out and finding your companions. And who those companions are is kind of part of the player choice.” We know that Lana can be one, and we also met a new HK55 droid that’s programmed to protect meatbags at all costs. But it sounds as if all players will not have the same options depending on those choices they have made and will still make.

New worlds to explore are also a part of the expansion. One such world is Zakuul. Although it appears to be an ecumenoplis like Coruscant or Nar Shaddaa, it is not; Backus notes that while the city itself is very vast, the world also has outlying swamps and other terrain. Although we don’t know to what degree Zakuul is explorable, McLean noted that players will be fighting through the scaffolding in city heights as well as visiting the surface and the underbelly of the world.

What about the new abilities for the five new levels? MacLean stated that specific information will be released in the upcoming months but that “the general philosophy is on increased mobility and action-packed combat.” As for more information on PvP and flashpoints, Backus deferred those questions until later, saying the studio wants to reveal that information at a later time. However, fans should be assured that devs will be announcing more and more content and features as the October 27th release draws closer. “We understand that our players still love [flashpoints, Galactic Civil War, etc] and we plan on addressing those things as we progress,” said Backus.

It isn’t just the expansion that’s bringing something different to the table. As MacLean put it, “We’re also going back to the original game and we’re evolving the eight base class stories so that leveling up takes a fraction of the time it once did, with an epic story guiding you the whole way. It is a Knights of the Old Republic-inspired BioWare RPG experience in each of those eight class stories without the ‘go kill eight womp rats’ side quests.”

The Eternal Empire

Backus delved a bit into the story about major players who were seen in the trailer as well as those in the walk-through. The Emperor of the Eternal Empire is Valkorian, who has twin sons — Thexan and Arkan — and a lightning-flinging daughter, Vaylin. Backus noted that there are a lot of politics going on with this family, but he wouldn’t share details saying that the background is part of the chapters of the epic story. He did, however, note that “some of the lore and some of the fiction that we are establishing actually starts with Shadow of Revan.” As he put it, “I guarantee that once you play through especially the first nine chapters if not the first 16 chapters of Fallen Empire, if you go back through Revan and play through Revan, you can start to see hints of what’s coming.”

What happened to the Empire and the Republic? That, too, is in the story, but suffice it to say that they were conquered and now folks from both those sides are working together to get you — the hero — to the point where you can save them all from the Eternal Empire. No, really: You are the chosen one. Literally. As Backus said, “You’re special, and you’re special for a reason!” You need to restore your power and be the figurehead to fight the Eternal Empire. The whole story revolves around you.

Getting the goods

So how will players get this new expansion/standalone game? Those who are subscribed when the first nine chapters are released in October will get all those chapters unlocked on their account, and they will remain unlocked even if a player unsubs after that point. Those who haven’t yet bought Shadows of Revan or Rise of the Hutt Cartel and can hold off might want to as Knights of the Fallen Empire will include all previous expansions. Those who are subscribed in the months leading up to the release (starting in July) will earn special in-game items as well, the first being the smuggler Niko as a companion. Other perks will be available for each month until the expansion releases. Players who are subscribed between July 31st and October 19th will also have access to Fallen Empire on October 20th, a week earlier than it will be available otherwise.
Those who feel they are aren’t ready for Fallen Empire right now can wait before subscribing to unlock it without missing out on any chapters. Whenever players subscribe, they will get all chapters of the story up to date to that point. That means if 25 chapters have been released, one month of subscription will net a player all 25 chapters.

Instead of doing two expansions a year, devs confirmed that SWTOR will have just one really big one, though it won’t all be released at the same time; the seasons of episodic story chapters that start with Fallen Empire will continue. Free-to-play and preferred players will not see any content unless they have subscribed sometime during the release of the chapters, at which point they will have access to everything up to that date of subscription.

Don’t forget to check out part one of our E3 interview with BioWare!

Massively Overpowered was on the ground in Los Angeles, California, for E3 2015, bringing you expert MMO coverage from NCsoft, Blizzard, Ubisoft, BioWare, and everything else on display at the expo!
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mysecretid
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mysecretid

Touko 
I don’t think those things will change much. Your main crafting chances are tied to your character, not to the companions, so those should remain.

As far as I understand it, from what I read, you only begin Fallen Empire separated from your original companions by distance, and by five years in stasis. 
If you find them, presumably, your old companions still think the same way about you that they always did, once they get over the idea that you’re not actually dead. :-)

As for your last concern — I may be reading it wrong, and if so, I apologize — but the way to “separate” your companion’s stats from frumpy gear is to invest in orange (“moddable”) gear for them as soon as you can, the same as for your main character.

Find orange and/or adaptive gear you like for them, and slot in whatever mods suit their stats, at whatever level you’re playing.

I agree that some of the gear you get in game is absurdly ugly — if it’s orange, remove the mods, and slot them into orange gear for your character and companions that you do like.

The Ziost daily mission tokens, for example, will allow you to acquire orange gear with blue-quality level 60 mods in it. 
The gear itself (as usual) is pretty insultingly ugly for the most part, but you can select the offered set which suits your companion or character, strip out all the mods, and put them into orange gear on your crew that you actually _do_ like.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,

Touko
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Touko

Wonder what happens to your crafting and hard-won companion 10k affection levels, the 7 or 10% crafting crit chance etc.

And I hope they expand the separation of outfit style from stats-giving equipment for companions.  I’m really tired of hanging around frumpy looking companions…

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

SwobyJ JakeDunnegan Not sure how I missed your two posts! Okay, your first one does a better job of explaining the one off remark (MMOS are out, etc) you made which was rather.. well, you backtracked on it, and it makes a lot more sense. I agree – MMORPGs are by no means in their hayday at this point, and if anything, they are a victim of their own success.
I don’t believe we actually have less people playing them now than we did in say, 2007-2010 or whatever would be considered the golden age. Fact is, there are so many games out now, that, much like broadcast TV’s numbers are a fraction what they used to be, due to the advent of cable, even those numbers are diminished by online gaming, Youtube and social media. 
So, overall number of gamers are likely increasing in the MMO space, and will likely continue to increase, particularly if the game companies can learn to include smart phone gamers into the space as well. (That’d likely mean a huge explosion, actually) as would successful console MMOs. But the plethora of PC MMOs available means that it’s harder and harder to have any one or even several games be dominant, but that by no means that many games can’t be successful and at least keep the developers with a roof of their heads.
Your other comments about sensibilties, technologies, et all, are changing – yes, they are, but again, I think the changes we see are, as mentioned, attributed to the hundreds of games available which fractures the audience, as opposed to an outright diverting of MMO gamers to, say, start playing VR headset games, en masse. (It’s likely a combination of all of the above…)
Finally, your comment about SWTOR and playing with friends – yeah, that’s my biggest beef with the expansion. Whereas Zenimax basically said, in a nutshell, that ESO was “playing Skyrim with your friends”, and Bioware never actually came out and said, “SWTOR is playing KOTOR with your friends” – that’s how I envisioned it. I mean, their emphasis on building your legacy, doing multiple playthroughs, and story basically reeked of the concept. 
Their upcoming expansion seems to be a 90 degree pivot away from that, and it worris the hell out of me.

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

Cosmic Cleric deleted_84829226_Infamous_ Looks like it got whacked. :P (Infamous or whatever…)

To your other points – you are right, Dogs and cats comparison – no idea why the award givers (I think it was pretty big frickin deal too! The Hugos, pretty much THE defining award – basically, the Academy Awards for SciFi/Fantasy!

1966 Hugo Awards


Anyway, I imagine that came about, because, at the time that vote was taken, Fantasy, as a genre was in its comparable infancy, whereas Scifi took off with Jules Verne and never really slowed down, and was, in fact, in its heyday at the time. But still!! I haven’t seen a multiple academy award winning movie series based on the Foundation series! Stupid Hugo awards… :P
Good point re: Order 66 – does seem particularly blind on the parts of the Jedi, including Yoda. Or, maybe he was recovering from his fight with Sidious. Or maybe it was just cheap writing. :P
By and large, I think Bioware does some great writing on their stories. Course, they’ve also had a serious bit of creative talent leave after 2012, so who knows? I still think it’s either sloppy writing, a maguffin, or shoddy research. But, ultimately, it’s just an opinion, and I’ll play it anyway, and I trust it will be interesting. ;)

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

JakeDunnegan Cosmic Cleric Infamous_ “Oh, and I assume you mean Kalidallamki=Infamous, I guess, as I know it’s not me!”
Yeah I did, sorry, replied at the wrong place.  Was playing SWTOR on one monitor and posting on another. :)

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

JakeDunnegan Infamous_ Oh man, should really finish my first cup of coffee before posting.
Order 66, not 88.  :)

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

Infamous_ Cosmic Cleric <Maxwell Smart> Sorry about that Chief. </Maxwell Smart>

Cosmic Cleric
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Cosmic Cleric

JakeDunnegan Cosmic Cleric Infamous_ Foundation series to the Lord of the Rings series is kind of like trying to compare dogs with cats; they’re both great, in their own ways.  :)
To be honest, having said what I did before, I personally always had a problem with Order 88 and how all the Jedi’s just were taken out in one blow (not even ONE Jedi ANYWHERE in the galaxy could sense it coming??), so I can relate to your frustration.
I still think though that the takeover speed is doable.  My guess is lots and lots of infiltration was going on, or they just showed up with overwhelming force.But honestly, it’ll may or may not be be explained well, it may just be a quick and dirty crutch to set up the new story line; MMO game companies usually think of story as an afterthought, generally speaking.
My suggestion to you would be to just ‘roll with it’.  Its plausible, even if it may be unlikely.
Maybe they just used “The Force” to do the quick takeover?  :)

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

Cosmic Cleric Infamous_ JakeDunnegan I have read the Foundation series – particularly after it was somehow voted as the Greatest Sci-fi Fantasy series ever, over the Lord of the Rings. (?????). Great series, though I disagree with the award. ;) 
As I mentioned to Infamous, I get the concept, though, I agree – his points are valid.. where did this entire CIVILIZATION come from?? Not The Mule – who was one dude, and his whole schtick was being able to hide. No, this is some huge thing that somehow remained undiscovered and all that. How in the hell do you even defeat something as large as the Galactic Empire that quickly? It would take HUNDREDS of years to do something like that, even with overwhelming numbers. 
Forget how long it took for Napolean to take over, or Hitler (both who failed once they hit serious opposition and even then, never really left Europe/Asia, etc)- it would be more like, at best, the multi-generational effort of Genghis/Kublai Khan or even longer, as in the case of either the rise or fall of Rome, or even the Islamic invasions that eventually ended in Spain.
This craziness the Bioware writers are spouting is just that. It’s completely unbelievable and darn near farsicle.

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

Infamous_ JakeDunnegan I agree with all your points – cept the Revan one. ;) I actually liked the story behind Revan in all its versions. If anything, it was very similar to the original story, where the fate of the galaxy is in the hands of one person. As hard as it is to believe, (specially on a galactic level) it actually has some basis in our own reality, when individuals can have a very dramatic impact on the history of the earth. (Jesus, Mohammed, Sun Tzu, Julius Caesar, Buddha etc)