Her Sithiness is perplexed by the newest expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Shadow of Revan expands the game with five new levels and two new planets to explore as you try to forge a cross-faction alliance to deal with the Revanite threat. The core story is awesome and well-paced. But there are so many misses in this expansion that after two playthroughs I’m ready to go back to Dragon Age: Inquisition already.
One of the really fun things about Shadow of Revan is the recognition that people want to experience “end game” content without grinding and having the schedule groups. This has always been a bane for me as a gamer. I lost interest in WOW and other MMOs precisely because I knew I would never see the end-game content without “dedicating” myself to the job of joining a guild and meeting the guild’s often arbitrary requirements. Even though most games now have group-finder functionality, the truth is for those of us that prefer to just play at our own pace; forcing us into groups to finish a game is frustrating. Particularly when you are in a flashpoint for the first time and want to enjoy the story while everyone else is rushing through.
Star Wars has always allowed players to have their own personal end game content with their class stories, but the expansion ups it a notch with solo flashpoints. In solo flashpoints, you are joined by an assault droid that helps heal, DPS, or tank for you throughout the flashpoint. While in solo flashpoints, your stats are also boosted to withstand the assaults from enemies. While you still earn better rewards from group flashpoints, solo flashpoints allow players to go through the expansion on their own terms and actually enjoy the story.
Unfortunately, the solo flashpoint system has not been rolled out for the entire game. It only applies to flashpoints tied to the expansion. This is one of the many let-downs of the game. This is simply great functionality. Not offering this option for the rest of the game just seems like a tease. Particularly when so many players just power through the game to get to the end and are skipping over the lower flashpoints, even group finders can’t fill the void.
SPOILER WARNING BEGINS The Solo Flashpoint option allows for what is perhaps the most epic moment in the game for me: the final fight with Revan. Because you aren’t just facing Revan with your companion of choice or some random group of people. You are standing alongside Satele Shan, Darth Marr, Shae Vizla and an assortment of other Republic and Empire heroes who have joined forces to fight with you. Who needs group finder when you can have a Jedi Grand Master and a Dark Lord of the Sith? It is a moment that just does not get old. END SPOILER
Shadow of Revan opens up lots of new territory. We visit Manaan and Rakata Prime in flashpoints. Rishi and Yavin Four are exploreable planets with tons of content to enjoy. Both Rishi and Yavin are genuinely fun even after multiple playthroughs, unlike some planets that just feel like they drag. There are a couple of dailies on Yavin that are annoying, however. Both involving having to wait for a critter to respawn in order to kill it. No matter when I try to do these quests, there is always a “line” of players waiting for their turn to activate the quest and complete it. I really wish they would adopt a more open approach and allow everyone who participates in the kill to get credit for it, if for no other reason than to stop the endless waiting and prevent trolls from jumping in front of the line or tagging someone else’s spawn.
As you go through the game, each class also has a unique personal quest that ties up some loose ends from your main class story. It is sort of a “Where are they now?” activity that lets you see what happened to some of your “friends.” I got a little teary-eyed during the Imperial Agent personal quest. And I confess to a bit of smug satisfaction at the end of the Trooper personal quest. And the Sith Inquisitor personal quest made me laugh. Can’t wait to see what happens with my other characters.
While terrains look good, some of the character models in Shadow of Revan feel rushed. In particular, I am really disappointed in the model for Lana Beniko. It just does not look right. Even characters that we have come across previously in the game look slightly off in the expansion. And in some cases, have different voice actors. It breaks some of the emersion of the story. Also, some of the new gear rewards mesh oddly on your character, particularly if you go back to older areas that have cut scenes. For example, I went back to Makeb to finish up the planet story (I had powered by characters to 55 and then stopped to play DA:I before the expansion hit). In one cut scene, the cape on my Inquisitor’s armor set, which was newly acquired on Yavin, seemed to be folding at bizarre angles. And I had similar issues with companion armor sets on Oricon.
Unlike other expansions, your companions don’t seem to give a crap about what you do. While they will trigger individual banter when you enter certain areas (Kaliyo makes me laugh every time we approach the Revanite base on Yavin with her comment), they don’t respond to your decisions with approval or disapproval. Even when you are openly flirting with Lana or Theron in front of them! This seems like an odd thing to miss, considering how much the affection system impacts your companion’s abilities. While I think allowing the romance options was a nice idea, it was a half-hearted one. But my Sith Inquisitor did get to kiss Theron Shan, so I guess there is that.
Speaking of companions, the expansion missed an opportunity to add a new companion to the player’s crew. It would have been awesome to have a chance to recruit Jakarro, and I really feel like players were teased with the way he was introduced and how the story played out.
SPOILER WARNING BEGINS The expansion continues the Star Wars tradition of bizarre and arbitrary light side/dark side points. One example of this is during the Legacy of the Rakata flashpoint. We have learned that the Revanites are using Rakata tech to create an army of mindless cyborg warriors. When you get to the temple, you learn that there are a bunch of these cyborg warriors in suspended animation inside the chamber. If you enter the chamber, they will wake up and attack you. Or, you can override the console and kill them all, with the added benefit of destroying the technology that created them to prevent the Empire from using it for themselves.
Now on one hand, we can run into the chamber, slaughter all of the cyborgs in combat, and risk the tech falling into Imperial hands. On the other hand, we can give the cyborgs a quick and painless death and destroy the evil tech. Which do you think is the dark side choice? If you said “slaughter the cyborgs in combat and risk the tech falling to the Empire,” you would be WRONG! Now this is bizarre for several reasons. First, we’ve already confirmed that the cyborgs are under control and can’t be “saved” earlier in the story. So going through an actual fight with them is pointless as they can’t be reasoned with or cured. Second, it is clear in the scene that the Empire will try to claim this tech and make their own mindless cyborgs, which means you would be condemning more soldiers (or slaves) to becoming cyborgs. Third, we learned from other quests throughout the base game (such as the droids at Grathan’s estate) that the “light side” choice is to give the enslaved cyborgs a quick death. But for some reason we’re supposed to do the reverse now. END SPOILER
Perhaps the most annoying thing for me about the expansion is that, despite the main story being focused on getting the Republic and Empire to unite against Revan, there is no option to actually do this. In fact, despite the whole story arc about the two factions working together, there are still areas that will flag you PvP if you wander into them. I just rescued Republic soldiers from the Massassi, but if my Imperial character wanders too close to the Republic flight path I’m going to get shot and forcibly flagged for PvP? Seriously, shouldn’t Yavin of ALL places be a non-PvP area? Why are there still separate flight paths for these two factions when they are supposed to be working in unison? Nowhere in the game does the forced separation between the two factions feel more artificial than on Yavin. This could have been a great opportunity to have cross-faction questing. In fact, the story arc demands that this should have been an option! This is another point that broke the emersion factor of the story.
I really enjoyed the expansion, but there are all the little things that leave me with the impression that it was rushed out the door. There are too many places where the game doesn’t go far enough with an idea to really make it a slam dunk. While there is still replay value, I’m not as inclined to actively make it a point to get all of my characters through the expansion in a hurry.