The extended holiday weekend for me was largely about playing Star Wars the Old Republic and working on the Knights of the Eternal Throne content. As I talked a little bit about last week… I got caught up in the Star Wars spirit which lead me to return to the Star Wars game I keep visiting periodically. Thankfully the easing in period was pretty short and my muscle memory returned pretty quickly for hitting the right combat abilities at the right time. I would have been completely screwed if my hotbars had somehow gotten reset between times playing the game however. It makes me realize how much of game play for me is sort of fuzzing my mind out and letting my fingers do the actions on their own. I think that is in part why I keep setting up various games in the same manner so I just don’t have to think about the controls and can instead focus in on enjoying the story and world.
One of the things that I am amazed by is just how compelling this game is when it releases new content. While the early expansions Rise of the Hutt Cartel, Galactic Starfighter and Galactic Strongholds are a bit of a snooze fest… starting with Shadow of Revan and going forward the game reaches a level that rivals the original main class stories. There is however a necessary shift from class specific stories to being a more general story that has little nuggets of information embedded for specific classes but not necessarily an entire unique arc. The logistics of maintaining class specific story arcs is just not viable given the less than solvent state that SWTOR has been in at various times in its history. Knowing that rocky history however makes me appreciate all the more the content that was accomplished against this adversity.
When I last played SWTOR Fallen Empire had wrapped up and Knights of the Eternal Throne was just about to begin. I am very thankful that they have a 2 month pass non-reoccurring option because in general this is about how long it takes for me to get the game back out of my system. I am a content locust and I swarm back into a game after a large volume of content has been released and then fly away while it regenerates a batch of content for me to visit again. This time I had the entirety of the Eternal Throne campaign as well as a bunch of side content that takes place after those events. Which should keep me busy for the better part of this sixty day pass. Again I would never suggest playing SWTOR without subscribing because the free to play experience is highly frustrating to me because it locks away a number of features that I consider crucial.
The thing that I like the most about both Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne is how cinematic the content feels. It is weirdly disconnected from the rest of the game which in itself is a little weird to get used to, but once you have accepted that fact it is really great to experience. At any point you can pick back up the story by simply hitting the play button in the upper right hand corner of the screen at which point you are teleported into the last step that you left off at. The only real negative with this approach is that I found it extremely hard to stop playing until I had finished a specific chapter of the content. I wanted to see how each step would eventually resolve, and along the way there were a few things that probably served to be controversial to long time players… but made your decisions feel like they had significantly more gravity.
Now however I find myself in the extremely weird position of having defeated this beat the content and reclaimed the Eternal Throne for all that is right and good in the galaxy. Then immediately afterwards as I started the next batch of content… found myself as a Light Side Jedi Guardian… willfully choosing to align with the Sith against the Republic. There are distinct story reasons why I did this… but man does it feel really weird to have made that decision. I am largely hoping that this just has consequences related to the current batch of content and that I did not actually join the Sith Empire permanently. Maybe the content that I just went through made me way more grey than I expected, or maybe I ultimately made the right choice given the sequence of events that played out leading me to this decision. Whatever the case I am embracing it for the time being and playing across faction, which in itself is pretty interesting that they went there as an option. I am no longer a Jedi Guardian… but instead the Commander of the Eternal Alliance… and have to make the choices that I feel best for the galaxy as a whole.
I am having a blast visiting all of this content, and it makes me realize that now that I have one of every single class… I could in theory do it over and over again if I so got the gumption. The Jedi Guardian however will always be the character that represents me, and I like a lot of the directions his story has gone in as a uniter of allies rather than a dogmatic practitioner of an ancient order. One of the things about Bioware and Star Wars that I loved… is there was always a bit of nuance to a lot of the experience. They after all gave us Jolee Bindo one of my all time favorite Star Wars characters, and now that Kathleen Kennedy has announced that they are working on Old Republic content… it is my hope that some parts of this universe can make it into the greater Star Wars story. For me… Revan and Bastila Shan is just as crucial and fundamental to the Star Wars experience as is Darth Vader or Boba Fett. I grew up without placing barriers between what was officially Star Wars lore and the stuff that was excluded… and now that I have Grand Admiral Thrawn another favorite character of mine I am hoping they swoop in and gobble up all of the Bioware goodness.
Replaying this game has left me with weirdly mixed feelings about Anthem. Seeing Bioware at its story driven greatness is one thing… but also realizing that this same studio Bioware Austin is largely responsible for reviving anthem gives me hope. It also makes me chagrin for what might have been had they given that game enough time to properly cook. That however seems to be the story of every game that doesn’t quite land solidly on its feet… is that it needed a bit more time to coalesce into its final product.