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The Old Republic's newest expansion is as close to KOTOR III as we'll ever get

Knights of the Fallen Empire is the KOTOR III we've waited 12 years for.

Way back in 2003, a little game called Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was released. Gamers loved it and the game received praise across the board for its engaging story and fun (at the time at least) gameplay. It was so popular and successful, in fact, that a sequel was rushed through development and released the following year. Despite its flaws, said sequel was deemed a success as well.

The second installment ended with quite a few loose ends story-wise, and a third game was all but guaranteed.

It had to be coming, right? The first two were so successful that a third chapter had to be in the works. Well, it's twelve years later and we never did get Knights of the Old Republic III. What we got was The Old Republic, an MMO from BioWare. The game was touted as "KOTOR 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9" by Greg Zeschuk - former VP of BioWare - but the game has been met with mixed reviews.

Overall, The Old Republic has been moderately successful, though the same problems have plagued the game since launch: lack of endgame content, old MMO tropes, a stale battle system, and a graphics engine that has aged poorly. The game struggled to keep subscribers after launch and was forced to adopt a free-to-play model in November of 2012. 

Fans were disappointed with the direction the game went and felt that a true KOTOR III would have been a wiser decision. 

BioWare's latest expansion goes a long way towards fixing that problem.

Knights of the Fallen Empire is the Knights of the Old Republic III we've been waiting for - or at least as close as we'll ever get. 

At the end of KOTOR I and II, fans were left wondering what exactly Revan was afraid of, and why he ventured back into the Unknown Regions in search of this evil. The Old Republic revealed that it was Darth Vitiate, the emperor of the new Sith Empire that he feared. What BioWare's game failed to do in the vanilla game - and subsequent expansions - established him as a villain worth fearing. Instead, they chose to focus on other villains such as Darth Malgus and a renewed Darth Revan. In fact, unless you played a certain class, you never made any contact with Vitiate at any point in the game.

This new expansion fixes that immediately as the first chapter opens with your character in search of Vitiate...and finding him. The game proceeds like a singleplayer game from there and doesn't reintroduce MMO elements until the end of chapter 9, though even then everything can be done with minimal player interaction. 

As far as the gameplay goes, the game still suffers from the same problems it has for years. Fortunately, the streamlining and 'quality of life' updates have turned the game into quite the enjoyable pastime. Leveling takes little to no time and combat has been made a tad easier with the update to companions. All of this is so the player can gain access to the new content as quickly as possible. 

Even classic BioWare tropes are presented in enjoyable ways.

Throughout the vanilla SWTOR experience, choices were made that seemingly have no effect and characters come and go at a rate that may cause you to not remember even half the people you meet by the end of the game. Fallen Empire does what it can to fix those problems by narrowing its focus. Fewer characters meant more character development for each, leading to a more likable and memorable cast. Limiting the storyline allows BioWare to make a branching narrative that provides real consequences to your actions. The newest chapter provides one such example, though I won't spoil it here. 

These elements come together to create an experience that fans have been asking about for years. No, the game isn't Knights of the Old Republic III, and at this point it's doubtful we'll ever receive it, but for those that want to play that game, this may be the best chance we have at doing so.

Published Feb. 29th 2016

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