KOTFE: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Many people have many different opinions about KOTFE, and I am no exception. I went from drafting a first impression when the original nine chapters dropped to letting the experience sink in a little first; didn’t want it to be too emotionally laden. I think the draft has had enough time to fester mature, especially now that lots of info about KOTET is out already.

(Side note: Altogether, the draft(s) were about seven pages long and I was dreading the editing. I’m honestly relieved to finally get all of this off my chest – all the while sparing you most of the superfluous rambling.)

But before we start, I think a disclamer is in order: I love SWTOR. Dearly. Voicing my concerns is not hating or trolling, it’s a sign that I care. GW2, WildStar, Aion and Rift are all games I silently left behind because they mean nothing to me and I don’t care whether they’re doing well. If the same applied to SWTOR, I’d be long gone already. And even if for me personally ESO is the superior game in terms of overall quality, it doesn’t allow me to bond with my characters nearly as strongly as SWTOR does. This is why I’m here, criticizing it – because I want it to be healthy, not struggling.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s start with the important part. Fair warning, my general motto of “make it short and sweet” doesn’t apply to this one. There was a lot to dissect in this expansion, so bear with me please.

THE GOOD

  • The family part of the story is intriguing.
    The “struggling family” theme is an old hat in an even older galaxy and comes in a myriad of different flavours, but I like all of them. Give me all the force-user family drama. With KOTET around the corner and replaying KOTFE right now, this speculation makes more and more sense to me and I’m anxious for it to be true. I want a fourth sibling.
  • The chapters came free of additional charge for subscribers.
    Since storytelling is the game’s strong suit it makes for a good incentive to sub. While I was sceptical of the chapter format at first, I eventually came to like the regular content bits and ensuing community chatter.
  • The chapters had atmosphere to them.
    More than many of the vanilla story phases I’d argue, especially with details like the Vode An in Mandalore’s Revenge. The environmental art has become more detailed, which is important to me. Not only what you can explore, but also how you explore it feels good. I liked jumping around the level in Visions in the Dark.
  • The animations, facial expressions, textures and camera work are on another level.
    The cutscenes in KOTFE are a real treat. Whatever one might think about the story, pulling the Gravestone out of the muck, performing Gault’s “Plan C” or using Valkorion’s power doesn’t get old.
  • “Classic” conversations add a few interesting dialogue options.
    You have to give them that. At least they acknowledge your background.

  • Taken by itself, the new crew is fun.
    I appreciate how this ragtag gang is starting to come together over the course of the chapters. Their interactions are believeable.
  • KOTFE explores the personalities of (some) vanilla companions further.
    Kaliyo, Aric, Gault, Vette, SCORPIO… we all got to know them a little better, thanks to this expansion.
  • Some of the alerts are very well done.
    I freaking love the Usar’s riddle alert, however easy it is.
  • Companions became more flexible.
    As a Darknessin who only ever wanted to take Khem with her, the flexibility of companion roles was a fucking godsend. (Jokes on me that he’s gone now thanks to the very same update.)

  • We get new Planets to visit.
    Which, I’d argue, is important in a Star Wars game.
  • More PvP content was implemented.
    F i n a l l y.
  • The Eternal Championship was added.
    And it serves its intended purpose, so that’s one for the “pro” side.
  • Old content was made more viable through revamps, scaling and level sync.
    For me, this change is huge. Running heroics in between queue pops is a thousand times better than running in circles around the fleet. Not to mention that I finally have disposable ingame income. I’ve also played most of these heroics for the very first time.
  • Miscellaneous QoL changes.
    No use in listing them all, but they should be mentioned at least. Polish like this is important to keep a game in good shape, so to speak.
  • Aric Jorgan finally uses a sniper rifle.
    As it should have been since 2011. Yes, this absolutely deserved its own bullet point.

THE BAD

  • Character development of the family members is lacklustre.
    The glimpses of interactions between them are too short and too vague to reveal anything interesting.
  • The “common enemy” trope detracts from the Star Wars feeling.
    It’s so cliche, yet so defining. The binary of Light and Dark, Empire and Republic is being dissolved without offering anything substantial in return. The idea of being grey/neutral is never being expanded upon in a meaningful fashion.
  • The chapters are too short.
    Piggybacking off the former bullet point: In general the chapters are too short to dig into many of the topics, with subsequently are dealt with only superficially. Sometimes completely meaningless actions fill up most of the chapter and the important part is crammed into the last three minutes (The GEMINI Deception).
  • Lots of the plot twists were painfully obvious.
    SCORPIO, please. Less death stares, more drama.
  • Everything else about classic convos.
    For real, man!

  • BioWare is playing favourites with the vanilla companions.
    Taken by itself it wouldn’t be a big deal, but since the original crews played such an important part in the class story arcs, giving some of them time to shine while others get the shaft feels bad.
  • We now have a situation of complete and utter companion bloat.
    What started out as a feature that supported SWTOR’s unique approach to storytelling well has now devolved into little more than a nuisance whose prime concern is quantity, not quality. Adding insult to injury, the chapters even dictate what companion you have to have by your side. Instead of giving this defining feature more depth, they made it shallower.
  • Returning love interests are dealt with very, very briefly.
    One would think reunions and, well, generally being together again would be a bigger deal after being forcefully separated for half a decade. Plus, they are still class restricted. Boo. Not even [Flirt] options.

  • The biggest part of the content is recycled and braindead easy.
    Here we are playing through age old content again, with companions powerful enough to do the job alone. You know, instead of making it so easy they could have left it alone and offer buffs to the people who don’t want to deal with it. But nah.
  • There are far too many instances areas.
    The planets are smaller than ever and filled with packs of mobs that don’t give a fuck about your stealth. Oftentimes the ratio between cutscenes and gameplay is so bad that the fighting feels like an ad break during a movie.
  • There are no meaningful side-quests.
    There’s lots of unexplored potential in Zakuul and even Odessen that could have been developed through side-quests or even a planet story arc.
  • Maxing out the alliance specialists is a lot of grind for virtually no reward.
    I mean, I love the crates for the credit flow and pretty orange shells, but the specialist reputation is almost meaningless.
  • Insufficient class balancing.
    Presented without comment.
  • Double-lightsaber classes play single-saber animations in cutscenes.
    Consequently stabbing themselves multiple times. Ugh!
  • The whole story is human centric. 
    Come on, let me protest a little. Winkyface.
  • Hylo reconciled with Gault without bloodshed.
    How the hell could they let that happen?

THE UGLY

Side-note: The fact that there is a petition calling for a SWTOR Netflix series with thousands of signatures supporting it should give you an idea of how flawed the much too narrow focus on story is.

  • The alliance side of the story with its one-size-fits-none approach makes the player character nothing but disposable.
    This is such a big deal to me that it practically overshadows everything else in this expansion. Your character goes from being someone with a personality and a history to being little more than a sock puppet running errands for Lana and Theron. You are the commander, but your advisors pull the strings.
    Can you imagine the class story arc without your character in it, heck even RotHC and SoR? I can’t. KOTFE though? Entirely different story. I’ll cut this point short, because there are so many incidences and examples to point out and I could rant on forever and ever. Very unhappy with how that turned out.
    As someone on Twitter put it: Being the Champion of the Great Hunt was more fun than being the Outlander.
  • Your relationship with Valkorion was fluff at best during KOTFE.
    The whole storyline started with Valk going crazy in your head after your oh so important decision to team up with him or not, but it never amounts to anything substantial. The weapon from chapter 12 eventually didn’t mean anything, either. I’m sure more of this will make sense come KOTET, but instead of being smart and present KOTFE as a coherent picture with nuances you have yet to discover with the following chapters, it’s all just kind of … a mess.
  • Remember when [Kill NPC] used to actually mean something?
    Both Arcann and Satele should be dead in the water after taking these options.
  • S k y t r o o p e r s
    Kill. Them. All.
  • Friends have to stay out.
    Since side-story arcs aren’t a thing anymore, KOTFE is solo-play only. I sorely miss seeing characters of friends and mine in cutscenes together. A separate planet-arc for Zakuul at least would have been fantastic.

Whew! Glad that’s over now. All in all I have to say that KOTFE turned out to be weaker than it looked at first, but I undoubtedly did have my fun with it too.
Luckily it’s also easy to dodge – lots of my newer toons will probably never touch it. I generally prefer my spaceships populated.

Moving on:

Knights of the Eternal Throne

Chapters coming in bulk, talk about “choices matter” with more substance, clarification about where their priorities lie, the renewed diversification of endgame content – to me this is a sign of them taking at least some of the feedback seriously. I am very much looking forward to seeing my personal playstyle finally contributing more toward the progression of my characters, especially with Galactic Command around the corner. The GC feels so… starwarsy. I like it. Insert grabby hands here. Also, insert grabby hands for repeatable chapters; about time they implemented this feature.

What I don’t like is a) 5 new levels, which feel utterly redundant in a game with sky-high XP gains and b) RNG gearing. RNG sucks. End of story. Cosmetics are fine, but having your character strength depend on it (especially in PvP!) is… just… no. What was their motto here, back to the roots?

I’m also still wary of how KOTET will feel in regards to the sock puppet problem. It probably won’t change much compared to KOTFE simply because I doubt there would have been time to make any profound changes, and the purchasable insta-65es support that. Ah well. Whatever. I guess I’m used to it by now; you just have to roll with it.

It’s just a pity that after watching the newest Blur trailer the first thought that sprung up in my head was “why didn’t they just make a movie about them”. If it wasn’t for the GC, I’d probably stay unsubbed and just watch everything on YouTube at this point, that’s how interchangeable the Outlander is for me.

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Published by

ethu

Level 24 biologist. Has a weakness for non-humans, beer and voices lower than a 100 Hertz.

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