If you’ve ever rolled a Goblin in the World of Warcraft and played through their starting area where Deathwing descends to erupt Mount Kezan after getting hit with a football (Or at least that is my interpretation of events) you’ll get a cutscene after boarding the ship to get the heck off the island where the goblin ship stumbles upon a fierce naval battle between the Horde and the Alliance. Strangely enough its the Alliance who turns cannons on you first and blows the goblin shipped pack with you in the prison hold below due to being tricked into being sold as a slave. Now of course this is a good reason for the goblins to want to join the Horde right? That the Alliance are a bunch of jerks and the Gobbies were just sooooo innocent. Of course the goblins had no way of knowing that it was the Alliance that shot them from below deck and even more interesting to me is the comment that the Alliance commander makes before they fire on you – No witnesses. They want no witnesses to what they’re doing.
It’s no strange concept to anyone on Azeroth that the Horde and the Alliance have been at each others throats since the Wrathgate broke whatever hope there was for the vulnerable peace that was forged in the wake of the Third War and the Legion’s attack on the World Tree Nordrassil. So what were the Alliance doing that was so suspicious that they didn’t want any witnesses to their actions? Well, we do get a few clues as we continue our quest to find a new home on the Lost Isles. One is that the ship that attacked us was carrying a very important prisoner: Goel the World Shaman, Former Warchief Thrall or Green Jesus depending on how you want to view him. Thrall was on his way to the Maelstrom to help the rest of the Earthen Circle protect the churning hole in the center of the ocean from imploding the planet after Deathwing, that Old God driven mad dragon aspect of being a nuisance, destroyed the World Pillar in the Plane of Earth that held things together. And wow wee does this sound like Chris Metzen’s D&D campaign notes when I write it all out like that. I should steal some of this for my own campaign.
Back on topic, we also learn that the ship is being crewed and overseen by the SI:7, the Alliance’s black ops secret forces. Which would make sense if you wanted someone to go on a secret mission to capture the former warchief of the Horde and the current holder of the title ‘World Shaman’ that was made up just for him. The real question comes in the form of WHY the SI:7 and in turn the Alliance would want to capture Thrall. The Alliance leadership KNOWS he has stepped down from his position with the Horde and left Garrosh Hellscream to lead to rabble. They KNOW that Thrall is on a diplomatic mission to aid the Earthen Circle to help stop the world – that place that they too live – from shaking itself apart. So why try and stop him?
I think the answer strangely enough comes 80 levels or so later on the opposite faction. When doing the quest chain for the Alliance to head into the Twilight Highlands, you find yourself investigate some strange activity around Stormwind with the young Prince Anduin who has begun to take a more active interest in his people’s welfare. Throughout the questline you make something of a disturbing discovery that the current head of SI:7, the man standing to the right hand side of the King himself, is a member of the Twilight’s Hammer – a cult devoted to the Elementals and Old Gods that seeks to bring about the End of the World. You ultimate stop him and prevent an assassination plot on King Wrynn but this plot element may in fact be the missing piece to solving the question of the Goblin starter zone all the way back at the start of the game.
Allow me to speculate. The SI:7, a powerful organization with little oversight that carries out secret missions for the safety of the Alliance and headed by a man who is secretly in a cult that wants to bring about the apocalypse, attacks and kidnaps the former leader of the Orcs who just so happens to be on a mission of peace to help stop the apocalypse. They attack the Horde ships hoping to sink them and chock the whole thing up to inter-faction conflict while they secure their prisoner and inadvertently aid Deathwing in bringing about the Hour of Twilight (ie said apocalypse.) However, a group of goblins accidentally happens on the scene and knowing if the word got out that this was more than just two groups that hated each other attacking each other got out – especially by the hands of goblins who are by nature greedy, not above blackmail, and have had dealings with both factions previously – well, you’d probably want to make sure that your secret activities of abusing your authority to help further the goals of an insane dragon would remain hush hush and thus give a simple order: No witnesses.
I submit for your approval that the leader of the SI:7 ordered those ships to destroy any witnesses because they actively sought out Thrall’s ship and Thrall himself to stop him from ever reaching the Maelstrom. Does my idea seem far fetched? Perhaps, but remember this is the same expansion that required you to play an Undead to level 20 to find out what happened to the rest of the Worgen starting zone story as well. Or the truth behind the Tragedy of Camp Taurajo that required playing both the Alliance and Horde side of the story AND had additional information in the Jaina novel about what happened. The Cataclysm expansion is full of weird intersects in the story. So is it that hard to believe that they planned this? I would argue that no, it’s not. In fact all the pieces fit together a bit too well for this to just be a coincidence in story telling.
Because I will say this: I don’t have a ton of love for the content of the Catalcysm expansion, but damn did it have some great story moments in there.
Well… that was… uh… short?
Heck the Plants Vs Zombies guys got more time. Yeesh. I was expecting to have a chance to say more, but really almost all they did was cover was the exact same bullet points as they did in the press blurb and didn’t go into much more details. Yes, Bioware storytelling where choice matters. Yes, ally or betray with new and old companions. Yes, brand new story focus. Join now! Play now!
About the only thing NEW we got from this E3 presentation was a teaser trailer, a date – October 27th, 2015 – and the news that this expansion will be free to subscribers from the get go. Which considering the attempt at trying to rebuild the often toted and mostly eroded ‘Fourth Pillar’… giving it away to your subscribers is a pretty good idea.
The trailer definitely sets up something epic coming. An empire – not THE Empire mind you. Two twin heirs growing in the force. Their trials and battles and their attempt to overthrow their father. It definitely feels like something big is coming. What’s more interesting is how we will play into it.
Now, the ACTUAL info we want to know is over at THIS website.
- Knights of the Fallen Empire is the first NINE CHAPTERS of a brand new story line involving a third faction emerging and attacking both the Sith Empire and Galactic Republic.
- Your character will become the Outlander, a veteran of the Great Galactic War (levels 1-60).
- Hand pick your companions from new and old to build a new crew to tackle this story.
- Choice driven storyline where your actions and decisions actually matter.
- Play one of eight class based stories.
- New chapters added monthly starting in Early 2016 to Subscribers only.
There’s also a bunch of cool Subscriber rewards for joining earlier including:
– Nico Okarr companion (He’s that Smuggler from the Republic opening video, I think) – Subscribe by July 31st.
– Nico Okarr’s Blasters (Hey! Cool guns!) – Subscribe by August 31st.
– Nico Okarr’s duster jacket (Oh yessss…. gimme gimme gimme!) – Subscribe by September 30th.
– KOTOR inspired Swoop Bike mount – Subscribe by October 19th.
– And finally, if you are a subscriber for AAAAAALLL of those (and I assume uninterrupted), you’ll get 7 days of early access starting October 20th.
The website also dives into a bunch of the characters that will be featured including the twins, their father – the Immortal Emperor, and returning faces such as Lana Beniko and HK-55. Some of the character descriptions seem to imply that we will choose who we can ally with as the Outlander. Be it joining forces with the Emperor, or helping the Dark Prince overthrow the Eternal Empire perhaps? It also has concept art and the names of a bunch of the chapters already posted. This is looking to be a HUGE expansion. Almost like a relaunch of the game. Except that the old stuff doesn’t appear to be going away.
Actually in that exact vein, it seems like its very much the intent that the old stuff doesn’t go away as it’s all that F2P and Preferred Players will have access to. The FAQ states quite clearly that Subscribers get KotFE for free, but only subscribers will get it as well as the following 7+ chapters. If you unsubscribe, you keep whatever you’ve gained access to – the first 9 chapters after 10/27 and one would assume whatever chapters you ‘unlocked’ by being subscribed. This is backlogged to whatever has been released, so if you wait until all 16 chapters are out and then subscribe, you’ll get all 16 right there. If you unsubscribe then, you’ll still have those 16 chapters unlocked to your account.
The wording is vague but it seems like the post 60 experience will be re-introducing the 8 class stories concept along with the dynamic your-choices-matter storytelling. Thus building on the 1-50 is for free, 50-60 is purchasable and 60+ is unlocked for subscribers. With all this focus on the ‘new’ story coming for Level 60+ players (Which makes an interesting note that NO WHERE does it say there will be a level cap increase. Maybe they are very much focusing on making this a playable storyline and doing away with leveling for it? Would be kind of a radical move. But I’d back it. Leveling is kind of archaic concept that often proves to be a barrier to narrative. Heck, we’ve nearly completely chopped it out of my D&D game. It’s an afterthought really. SEE UPDATE BELOW) I would not be surprised if the Cartel Market saw it’s own version of the ‘Jump to Level 60’ service/token/thing that so many other MMOs have added.
Overall, it definitely has my perked my interest. I am definitely looking forward to this one. What all this ‘dynamic’ story means for my Class Story Summaries? I dunno. Worse comes to worse they’ll still be an excellent tool for the 1-50 experience. I’ll try and keep up with the news here and give my take on it. Meanwhile, Heavensward is also just around the corner and it’s time to take to the skies on my black chocobo once more (Hey, do you remember when Black Choco’s meant FLYING? Congrats. You are also old now. Welcome to the club, we meet on Thursday in Uldah.)
- Looks like Dulfy.net is reporting that yes, the level cap is being increased to 65 (Only 65 for 9 chapters?!) and you WILL be able to create a Level 60 character right out of the gate (meaning hopefully that no, it will not be a Cartel Market thing)
- I’m also seeing notes flying around that the basic premise is that your character gets frozen in carbonite for an unspecified amount of time (considering the old companions are supposed to be around, it can’t be THAT long) and when you emerge the Empire, Republic, and Galaxy at large will have changed dramatically from when you were frozen.
- Also Yes, the Class Stories are returning, and YES, new and old companions get new stories.
Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ – The largest story-driven expansion to date, Knights of the Fallen Empire, marks a renewed focus on cinematic storytelling in Star Wars: The Old Republic. The expansion will deliver on the hallmarks of what makes a great BioWare™ game: new worlds to explore, new companions to recruit, and a dynamic story that players will be able to shape based on the choices they make.
They’ve said there will be more news coming during their press conference on Monday, making it officially the first time I’ve ever wanted to watch EA’s E3 conference because honestly if they can deliver on what this small pitch is promising? Oh I will be one major happy camper. I mean, consider this: new worlds – plural – to explore. I mean, that one can go either way really because technically The Shadow of Revan had worlds plural. It had Rishi and Yavin-4. Even though together they were about the size of Korriban and Tython put together (heck, even the layout of Yavin-4 resembles Korriban a bit, with the raid being where the Sith Academy is, followed by tombs to the East and then wilderness on the far east. Wait… you don’t think that was intentional with the heavy Sith influence on both… do you?) but hey, I will take two planets of a single biome each over one. The new companions to recruit also sounds promising. Again, companions plural. What does that mean? Well, it could mean a couple of things. The first is of course we can recruit multiple companions in the expansion to our crew. The second is something like each class gets one new companion each leading to multiples, or finally that there will be multiple possibilities for what companion will join your crew. Like ‘choose one person from these two to live! The survivor joins your crew’. Honestly, the more exciting news is the possibility of Bioware Austin turning their gaze back to the companions. The devs have posted multiple times that they’ve been hoping to get a chance to do things like expand on the companion stories, and this may be the opportunity to do so. Finally, and really let’s be honest – the big one – is “a dynamic story that players will be able to shape based on the choices they make.” Now the key here isn’t the choices part. We’ve had choices all along. It’s just that most of our choices are the illusion of choice, or create a minor detour before hopping back on course (fight this mob, go to this one room and flip and switch, etc.) The key thing in this phrase that actually excites me is the word ‘Dynamic’. Dynamic is one of those things that screams ‘Fluid!’ ‘Multiple paths!’ ‘Different outcomes!’ and why the heck not. After all, SWTOR has been very much been “single player” in terms of it’s storylines. Not every bounty hunter is the canonical winner of the Great Hunt simultaneously, nor is every Consular the Barsenthor of the Jedi Order. Your character is – in terms of the narrative at least – the only one. So why do we all have to follow the same trail? Dynamic stories is something I have wanted since the game launched. Well, that and scaling planets so you could do them out of order (Imagine accomplish all your act one objectives in the order YOU choose!) which honestly has sort of been implemented with the Rakghoul and Bounty Contract events. Honestly, this is exciting to me. I am really looking forward to see what they have to say on Monday, and what news is to come about Knights of the Fallen Empire, which by the way is kind of a cool homage name to KOTOR. I likey.
UPDATE: See my recap and take on the E3 Presentation and other assorted news coming out about Knights of the Fallen Empire here!
So the new Star Wars the Old Republic expansion is making its way into the world slowly. By that I mean the extremely gradual release schedule depending on whether you are a subscriber, preferred or free to play. The release schedule is broken up by about a month between each tier meaning that the subscribers will get to play for two whole months before the free to play people. I’ll get into that and its consequences in a bit but first I wanted to give my first reactions to the new PvP expansion:
“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? HOW DO I GET THERE? WHAT AM I SHOOTING AT? WHAT DO I DO?! WHY CAN’T I SHOOT MORE? THERE’S A LIMIT ON SHOOTING?! WHY AM I DEAD AGAIN? HOW DO I SHOOT THEM BEFORE THEY KILL ME?! OH GOD! HOW DO I DO THIS? WHAT DO THESE POWERS DO?! WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?!!?!?!?!?!?!??!!”
That’s about how it went for the first hour or so. I eventually did start to grasp some of the mechanics a bit more, things like what the buttons did, how to tell how much boost and weapon power you have left, how to attack and fly. But really, the tutorial doesn’t give you a lot of guidance beyond how to get in to the “hanger” (the UI for Galactic Starfighter) and how to customize a ship in there. Beyond that as far as I could tell it is all trial and error. You will die. A lot.
I eventually realized that getting into to dog fights that require constant circling, strafing, and flips was not my strong suit and I often found myself dead before I could do anything and then spend another two minutes flying back from the spawn point to just die again. I tried out the Gunship (as opposed to the quick skirmisher Scout ships or the middle of the road Strike Fighters) and found the long range “sniping” ability was much more likable to my un-twitchy play style. I would plant myself hiding out on an asteroid at a distance and then fire off my rail cannon at the enemy, only moving when my location had been potentially compromised or I ran out of targets. Once I switched to the gunship, the game became a lot more fun. I racked up kills, did massive damage, and didn’t have to deal with the constantly spasming of being waist deep in the havoc of the battlefield.
This early on the game is fairly fun because most haven’t begun to unlock the full potential of the upgrades and abilities their ships can use. But that’s what has me worried about the staged release. While I get that it is important to reward the subscribers, this is creating a fairly clear hierarchy of who has access to what upgrades. When the preferred players, and even more so the F2Pers get access to the content, a subscriber playing fairly regularly will have vastly more powerful ships than those just walking in, and it is already a slaughterfest due to the experience gap, but now increased due to the equipment gap as well. New players are likely going to face a grueling slog fest of deaths to get enough points to buy the upgrades to give them even footing.
Hopefully that will be offset by the fact that Galactic Starfighter doesn’t feel like PvP. At least not like a battleground. There’s never a clear feeling that you are up against other players beyond their names hanging in space like forgotten nametags tossed aside at the end of seasonal employment. The three dimensional arena, and fixed objective based goal areas makes it seem like you are less likely to run into that situation that you’ll have the entire enemy team descend upon you and gank you. Not that it doesn’t HAPPEN. It just doesn’t feel like it. Namely because the whole thing is just utter chaos and movement. There’s no seeing the entire enemy team descending upon you from a single point like you can in a battleground/warzone. It’s more “fun”. Yes, you die a lot. But the deaths have very little consequence beyond the long flight between the spawn point and the majority of the battlefield with limited boost time and the sometimes long-feeling respawn timer.
Overall my first reaction was mixed. If you can find some kind of tutorial or run down of how each ship plays and study what each ability does before you enter the match (looking at the mouseover tooltip mid battle is near impossible). Play around with the different ships and find one that plays the way you like. There’s apparently a 4th ship style – the Bomber – coming in February when the F2P people get access, so that should add some shake up to things. But yea, you might like it. Just be ready for a steep mostly unguided learning curve when you hop in.