Monday 10 October 2016

What can we expect of Knights of the Eternal Throne?

Last week, Bioware released a ton of information about their upcoming expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne (aka "KOTET"), which we now know will be released on December 2nd (early access 29 November). Everyone was expecting a trailer, but we got so much more! You can find the official information here. In this article, I will try to read between the lines and present you with some prospects of, hopes for and opinions on KOTET. If you listened to episode 170 of the Corellian Run Radio (which aired yesterday with me as guest) there will be some overlap, but I'll go into even more detail here.

'Betrayed' trailer

Let's talk about the most epic thing first: the trailer. It was made by Blur, the same studio as the previous one and, oh my, it was awesome! No, that's not just me fangirling, I haven't heard anyone not like it so far. I'm not going to describe what happens in it, you can watch it for yourself here (if by some miracle you haven't yet): 

I love seeing Senya as a young mother, but it also makes you really sad, because you know something will go wrong. I'm won't discuss everything about the trailer here - that would take up a whole blog post of its own - but there are two things I do want to talk about.

First off: the ambiguous title of the trailer, "Betrayed". Who betrays who? The most obvious explanation would be that Senya betrays Vaylin by not saving her from whatever ill fate her father has planned for her. But now look at Vaylin's face at 4:14. She doesn't want to be saved by her mother: it is too late. In a manner of speaking, Vaylin betrays Senya.

No doubt the trailer's title is intended to make us think and discuss about what is going on - a strategy to engage with the audience. It has definitely reached it goal: everyone is talking about it.

My favourite scene of the trailer: so cute!

There's another goal behind this trailer, and that is to give Vaylin a face. Out of the three siblings she has thusfar been the most one dimensional; she is portrayed as a mean, spiteful witch. But in the trailer we see her as a young and innocent child, looking up to her older brothers and testing her limits. I find the scene at 0:26 (picture above) the most revealing. Cute young Vaylin is exploring the force by making her wooden toy spin through the air. She is happy and is having fun, but then her mother stops her: she is not allowed to use the force. It suggest Senya is too stern for her daughter. You can understand how Vaylin grows up frustrated if she is not allowed to learn about her powers. But what really went wrong is whatever happened at that dark place her father brought her afterwards. Senya, Vaylin, Arcann, Thexan: they are all victims and no matter their deeds you cannot help but feel some measure of sympathy for them.

We think of Vaylin as "the crazy witch". Due to the trailer, we now know it was not always so.

New level cap is 70

I'm starting off with the boring. I might just be getting old, because an increase in level cap doesn't excite me that much anymore! Levels are such an obvious way of keeping players busy - but then again, an MMO without levels is hard to imagine, and to balance the amount of content with that of character levels we can use a bit more in SWTOR, especially with all those new chapters coming up. Still, the most positive thing I'm thinking about having to progress five more levels is that my midbie PvP characters that were getting awfully close to level 65 have some respite. 

One thing, though: I do hope all operations and flashpoints get scaled to the new level cap. The lack of a new raid with Knights of the Fallen Empire (aka "KOTFE", the previous expansion) was explained by working on a scaling system for group content, and indeed it has worked out quite well so far: all raids at the current level cap are just as challenging as they were on previous level caps. Let's hope they keep it this way, so we can continue to enjoy on-level group content at level 70.

Was Vaylin held on one of the new planets?

Two new planets

We are getting two new planets, and that's all we officially know about it. However, a name that is buzzing around is Nathema, the planet that the Emperor 'consumed' (like Ziost, but before that) to make himself immortal. Now I had honestly no idea about this planet, so I looked up some background information, which proved to be quite interesting:
"Born in 5113 BBY as Tenebrae, (...) the child who eventually became the Emperor killed his own father at the age of ten and was granted the title of Lord Vitiate (...) three years later. Vitiate renamed his world Nathema and ruled it for the next century, content to exclude himself from Sith power struggles and even the Great Hyperspace War when the Galactic Republic destroyed the Empire in 5000 BBY. Summoning the remaining Sith Lords to Nathema with the promise of salvation from the Jedi, Vitiate turned on his fellows and used their strength to perform a ritual that made him immortal, at the expense of every living thing on Nathema."
- Valkorion page on Wookieepedia, consulted at 10 October 2016

This shows once more how ruthless Valkorion is, and how he acts in his own self interest time and time again. People have also suggested that the dark place where Vaylin is taken to by her father is Nathema, because it is void of the force. Again, though, for now these are just rumours. I know some more things about the planets has been datamined, but I've kept myself away from it because I sometimes feel it just spoils things. 

Whatever their identity, I really hope we get to walk around and explore on these planets, though. Somehow instanced planets like Darvannis don't feel as 'real'. It's only when I spend time somewhere walking around on my own to check things out that it feels like my character has actually been to a place. I wouldn't mind having an area with dailies on one of the new planets either. It's been a while since we had any new ones.

It is confirmed that future flashpoints will be like Star Fortresses - will uprisings, too?

Galactic command system and uprisings

Unfortunately, we are not getting a new raid with KOTET. However, we do get a new form of group content for "up to four players", called "uprisings". Looking at the group size, this will be something in the spirit of a flashpoint, or even a flashpoint-Heroic +4 crossover. There is also mention of a "galactic command system" (yet another button for the top bar). Considering the term "uprising" I'm half expecting a sort of alliance alert system, but then for uprisings as they pop up all over the galaxy. Jason and Mox (on the Corellian Run podcast) were talking about a sort of extended Dark vs Light event that would be tied to these uprisings: the choices of players would determine the attunement of our world. That would be really cool. But we're now getting into the territory of speculation - we don't know a lot about uprisings at this point. Nevertheless, the developers have made me curious; I'm happy to get some form of new group content and I'm certainly hoping uprisings will be challenging and fun.

Difficulty modes: story - veteran - master

Talking about challenges, it is clear that the developers have listened at player feedback from Knights of the Fallen Empire. An often heard complaint is that combat consisted of skytroopers, skytroopers, and more skytroopers - and as a result was very monotonous. Playing through KOTFE was easy peasy from a gameplay perspective: I played all the way to, and defeated, Arcann naked on my marauder (I only found out I wasn't wearing any armour when I wondered why I suddenly had to use kolto tanks while I was snoring through it on my light armour sage previously). This of course is fine for casual players, but SWTOR also has a veteran playerbase that is well acquainted with its gameplay.

If it's done right, higher difficulty modes will not just feature skytroopers with more health and firepower, but encounters with new mechanics as well.

Adding different difficulty modes to story chapters is the proposed solution, and I'm really positive about this. If it works for single player games, why not for MMOs? If you're playing through the story on your geared main, you can turn the difficulty up; if you quickly want to blast through it on an alt, you can turn it down. The best part is - and I was not expecting this - that this will also be available for all previous chapters of KOTFE. So doing that on alts might be more fun when KOTET is out.

The tricky part for this will be for the developers to make higher difficulty modes more challenging in a fun way, not just increasing the skytroopers' armour and health so it takes longer to chop 'em down. The positive thing is that Bioware has experience with this. If the different modes are anything like Mass Effect or KOTOR, I'm all in!

More about KOTET

Of course I'm not the only blogger to write about KOTET (just the slowest one). So if you want to read more thoughts about it, I can recommend the following:
  • Fibro Jedi presents a thorough overview of everything KOTET offers in KOTET: what we know (don't read below "Other snippets about this expansion" if you want to avoid datamined info).
  • Shintar of Going Commando was the first to jump upon the news with a great analysis in Knights of the Eternal Throne Officially Announced! As always she manages to make some surprising observations I managed to overlook (do I sound jelly? Maybe I'm a bit jelly).
  • Galactic Antics has a ton of thoughts about the upcoming expansion in Throne of Everlasting Chivalry. If the new expansion ends with another cliffhanger, he has the perfect title ready for the next one!
  • Finally, Knights of Tomorrow dives deep into the trailer in Thoughts "Betrayed" - My thoughts on the KOTET trailer! with an eloquently written analysis of Senya and Vaylin's relationship with one another.

But wait, let's wrap this up before you head off...

Senya has become a close friend to my sage... but is she still?

Things to look forward to

It looks like there are quite some things to look forward to in December... and then I'm not just talking about Rogue One. Knights of the Eternal Throne promises a story as compelling as KOTFE, and then some. Although I know it's unlikely to be the focus of things, I'm personally mostly looking forward to finding out what happens to Senya and Arcann. Without spoiling anything, I understand that it's kind of complicated depending on what you decide to do at the end of KOTFE's last chapter, and based on that they could very well not be present in the main story anymore at all. I feel that would be a great shame, though: Senya is a key figure that I've come to care a great deal about. I also really want to find out what Valkorion has been up to. What is his plan behind all this? The other thing I'm really curious at are the uprisings. I'm hoping they will be a lot of fun, but MMO companies do have this tendency to try and reinvent the wheel when it comes to new combat types (*cough* LOTRO *cough*). Bioware has a good track record so far, though, so they have definitely piqued my interest!

What are you looking forward to the most in Knights of the Eternal Throne?


  1. That trailer is awesome. If it was a movie I would watch the heck out of it.

    Also, beign the youngest in the family I can relate to... Vaylin, is it? If I saw my older brother doing cool stuff and being told "No, you can't do it too" I would be very frustrated and very bitter. No wonder she ends up turning to the Dark Side. :p

    I couldn't listen to the podcast because no matter what I tried the sound level was too low here. I could barely listen to the host and you sounded just like you were whispering something inaudible. :( I have no idea what caused that since everything else I watch in Twitch works fine and apparently I was the only one with the issue. :(

    Sorry, that is as much in-topic as I can make this comment!

    1. You did a great job at being on topic, even when talking about a game you don't even play!

      I'm so, so sorry you went through all the trouble to try and listen at the right time and then couldn't hear anything. :( It wasn't just you: we had to switch to a different recording method at literally the last minute because there was unexpectedly something wrong with the one we were using (Mox kept sounding like a droid). And while we could hear each other just fine, somehow it didn't go well with Twitch.

      Luckily we have recorded backup files, and they are being put together as we speak. With some luck the full episode will be available on the Corellian Run Radio website later today. I'll keep you updated, so you can listen to it if you'd like. :)

  2. I think I read somewhere that the Uprisings will take place on existing planets (vague enough to not be spoilerish I think?). That would at least guarantee a variety in scenery compared to the Star Fortresses.

    Speaking of those, you really managed to make them look good in that screenshot there; well done!

    1. Oh cool, that is pretty much what I thought then (read below "galactic command system and uprisings"). And thank you. Non-cutscene action shots are definitely tricky in SWTOR, so I'm happy if one turns out well. :)

  3. KOTET sounds like something out of Hyborea (Age of Conan), like some evil secondary deity worshipped by the Set crowd.

    1. At least that's better than what it means in German, reportedly. I'm looking forward to a future in which all expansions aren't called "Knights of the...". (To be fair, it's not just SWTOR that comes up with these generic titles, pretty much all MMOs do.)

    2. I'm sure they're doing that deliberately to reference the old KOTOR series, because they're likely tired of hearing "When will KOTOR 3 come out?"

    3. Oh yes, the devs have even confirmed they went with a Knights title intentionally. Did I imply differently? I'm trying to say: game or expansion titles don't excite me much in general, because they're usually full of stereotypes.

    4. Oh, yeah. I can agree with that.

  4. Well I am waiting excitedly for the podcast :D. But yeah I am also very curious about the next expansion, and I love the trailer :). And two new planets, that is always good. And they even said that next year there will be news about new group content, so I have high hope for a new ops :D.

    1. You can find the podcast here:
      Corellian Run Radio: Episode 170: All in for the Eternal Throne

      And I thought at first they just said they were 'going to discuss raids' (which doesn't promise anything), but when Musco was asked to clarify that, he said the following:

      "What we said is that after KOTET’s launch, the team is refocusing on group content. Our hope is that as a part of the January Producer Letter or Livestream, we will have more specific updates on what is to come. This includes all types of group content, but was a specific answer to the question of Operations."

      -- Eric Musco (Source: Dulfy: Musco responds to NYCC)

      So that's actually quite promising! :D

  5. I don't suppose the devs have said anything about whether the chapters will be solo only or group-friendly? The difficulty modes you cover above would work so well with small-groups!

    1. Now that would be something! No mention of that, though, so we can be pretty sure it's just like before - pretty much a single-player game experience. I suppose it wouldn't make sense to have multiple Outlanders from a story perspective, so they would really have to go about it in a different way in their chapter design. Uprisings - whatever they may be - will have to do.


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