Thursday, 18 June 2015

Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 1): the trailer

This was a pretty bad blogging week for me. I've been busy with arranging things for studying abroad slacking so hard! So I'm going to make up for it now by posting a mini series about the upcoming Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion (celebrating birthdays is for the weak).

In case you live under a rock (and you must be a pro at rock-dwelling, for I live under a rock, too, and even I have seen it): this is the trailer for Knights of the Fallen Empire, the newest SWTOR expansion to be released this fall.

Coffee and trailers

I'm not a great fan of the title, as it's quite generic. I keep forgetting game titles like this. The short version would be KotFE, which isn't exactly easy to pronounce: the first time I read "koffie" (Dutch for coffee). Apparently I'm not the only one who thought of coffee. So for the rest of this article I'll just refer to it as just that if I can't think of the name at the spot. There, I warned you.

I'm also not a fan of trailers, generally speaking. This one was received enthusiastically by SWTOR fans, but in my own opinion it was somewhere in between okay and good. It was certainly a lot better than previous SWTOR trailers (with the exception of the first SWTOR trailers that were just that good) that limited themselves to generic stuff like "war is upon us, we need you, bla bla". It should be, too, because Bioware hired Blur, a company specialized in making trailers, to make it for them. But it isn't on par with, say, the latest Star Wars movie trailer that [spoiler for the rock-dwellers] ended with a shot of Han Solo and Chewbacca [/spoiler] that had people talking for weeks.

I'm a fan of this very first SWTOR trailer

The Coffee trailer is aesthetically pleasing, with the two brothers presented as reference to black and white knights. This motive from folk tales strengthens the feeling of epicness that fits well within the Star Wars universe. Star Wars ultimately boils down to swinging lightsabers in epic battles, after all (no I'm not talking about LOTRO's epic battles, let's pretend those never happened).

Twists and tropes

The trailer story has some nice twists that trigger our attention, like [spoiler] it being the white knight that unintentionally kills his brother as his father's prophecy foretold, not the other way around as the viewer expects [/spoiler], but otherwise largely corresponds with epic storytelling stereotypes. For instance, notice how there are two royal sons and their father. For instance, no female characters of importance. The parent, or offspring for that matter, being female would've been a less obvious choice. Of course Bioware, usually aiming for gender equality, does make an effort: we do get to see a shot of an evil female red twi'lek somewhere (and we know there are female protagonists in the story from the release notes), but that's it. I don't want to bring forward the Bechdel test or something; there's no point for trailers (not much dialogue) and I don't want to go down the feminist road. You can exchange my example of 'female' with someone of any non-white race, 'disabled person' etc etc. My point is merely that the storytelling largely follows expectation patterns that are embedded in Western culture.

Something that I do like are the motives of brotherly love and comradeship that are implied throughout the trailer. Sometimes less subtly so, as with the cheesy shot of the two boys playing; sometimes more subtly with the two holding hands at unexpected moments. This gives the knights some character beyond being mere faces of evil. It also makes me curious: how do things turn out the way they are in the trailer? Who is the father and what are his plans? And how does this tie in with what we know about lord Vitiate?


Overall, it was a good-looking, well polished trailer. Maybe not extremely original, but it introduces new important characters to the public and it seems to have made people longing for more. Exactly the goal of a trailer.

More on Knights of the Fallen Empire

Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 1): the trailer
Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 2): overhyped?
Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 3): group content
Knights of the Fallen Empire (part 4): the newest trailer and story leaks


  1. Very good point about the "tropeiness" of the trailer! I had similar thoughts about it to be honest, but I was too excited about the expansion announcement in general to go into a detailed trailer analysis. :P I was kind of surprised to see Bioware create a trailer that is so strongly dominated by male characters and to see them playing the associated tropes quite so straight. (Personally I didn't think that the brother in white being the one to lose his temper was quite that much of a departure.) It did make me wonder how differently I would have felt about it if for example one of the siblings had been female.

    I also struggled a bit with the fact that the trailer is all about an NPC faction kicking both the player factions into the dirt. I mean, on the one hand the story of the two brothers was engaging and made me care about them, but on the other hand I was kind of annoyed by their actions. I usually expect a trailer to make the player feel good about their character in the game. This one kind of went: "Ha-ha, you lose."

    1. Haha, I'm excited about the expansion news too, if you can believe it. I just started writing down what I thought about everything that has been said and it became, well, a book instead of a blog post. So I decided to do it in parts and the trailer part simply happened to be the one I had written most about. I had so little time that I just posted it yesterday and only could polish it with captions, links and pictures/videos today. Hopefully I didn't break any blogging rules or something, hehe.

      I think the perspective of the trailer, trying to make you sort of rooting for the bad guys, was interesting. It made me a bit sad, because it made me think about that if you would get raised like that, it's actually believable you end up doing those horrible things, because you are not offered a choice and don't know another way. Think about child soldiers, for instance. I think the dichotomy you describe is exactly what they were going for. Maybe this is what sets this trailer apart from the earlier ones. It's a good point: I feel like I should've mentioned this in the blog post now!

  2. I think this trailer more than any other for the game thus far presents a good character analysis opportunity, including as you point out the reversal of black/white anticipated outcomes.
    We of course can understand through Arcann's reactions to his father that he constantly desires recognition and that both he and Thexan - i think that's his name? - share a bond of trust and support. The three separate scenes of them clutching each others' arms are used to great effect. Additionally, you do have to wonder, as well, whether Arcann understands what having yellow eyes means, bearing in mind a certain "revelation" right at the very end.

    Hopefully once the expansion itself launches we start seeing more prominent female characters. It is unfortunate that the trailers as a whole only showcase Shae Vizla, Eleena Daru, Satele Shan, and "Darth Talon's Ancestor". If this expansion follows BioWare's precedents we should be receiving a good slew of decent female characters that should make up for this dearth, and hopefully the rumoured second trailer will feature one or two.

    1. I'm not worried at all about prominent female characters; Bioware has always delivered in that regard. In fact, I often feel the SWTOR world is more equal than our offline life with so many women occupying high positions! I hesitated a bit because of this to mention the 'lack of women' in the trailer at all, For me it was just the first example that came to my mind when I thought why the trailer, although being different than earlier SWTOR trailers, still felt like a 'safe choice' for me. Anyway, I hope I didn't come off as whiny. I did enjoy the trailer a lot and it is great to know the developers are working on something larger than what we knew of before (Yavin IV stronghold, togruta race and PvP changes).

  3. Now I do feel that I lived under a rock for a while, because I only managed to watch the trailer yesterday. Although I knew there was a trailer, just had no time to watch it.

    I liked the trailer, but it also made me feel sad :(, it really feels like these two brother have a horrible father.

    I am very existing for the new expansion the story seems very interesting so far. Though also still a little bit vague, I am wondering what really happened with the empire and the republic, and most of all the jedi order. I guess we will find out :). Although I do hope that they do not kill Satele Shan, since she is my favorite character by far.

    1. You live under a dune (not a rock), everyone knows this! ;)

      It seems the trailer is set somewhat further in the future. I'm a bit confused at how this fits in the game, too. I do feel like the Republic is a bit too thirsty for war right now with supreme chancellor Saresh leading it. When I met her first on Taris I was like "wow, this twi'lek is really going for it. She'll make it work", but lately her decisions seem to be more irrational and aggressive. Perhaps this will have something to do with the Republic's apparent fall?

      I'm also really rooting for Satele Shan being okay; she is such a symbol of hope for the order. It's a bit worrying that there is no mention of her, nor darth Marr, in the released notes. I've read about Imp players being worried for Marr, too. It's kinda cute that we've gotten so attached to our favourite NPCs. Let's hope for the best!

    2. Oh yeah you are right, dunes that is the real thing ;).

      What I am missing that in the list of all the characters is a good guy, I have the feeling most of them are bad or at least grey. A good guy could still be Koth Bortena – The Exiled General, however the story seems a little bit grey. There is nobody from the jedi order on the list, which migth be good, all the jedi are in the temple and there is at least no new grand master, so that is hopefull. But yeah we really don't know.

      Ps. greetings from Terschelling :D

  4. Well the trailer won the IGN's best E3 trailer "award" :P

    1. Oh, that's pretty cool. I bet they're really happy they decided to go with this then. Thanks for dropping by and letting us know!

      Clicky version:


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