Next week, on Dec. 2, BioWare will release its sixth official expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Coming hot off the heels of the completion of last year's serialized Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne will continue the story started in that add-on, with both Galactic Republic and Sith Empire forces facing off against a new enemy known as the Eternal Empire.
A struggle for control of the galaxy has been at the heart of The Old Republic since its release in 2013 — and, heck, it kind of forms the basis of most Star Wars fiction — but Knights of the Eternal Throne will take that fight to a surprising finale: The character that players control throughout the story will take the Eternal Throne and become the rightful ruler of the galaxy. While BioWare isn't revealing all the twists and turns of how this will come to pass, the developer says that the player ruling the galaxy will form a core part of the MMO's new endgame system, called Galactic Command.
"All the gear you get in the game now comes from Galactic Command," said Star Wars: The Old Republic producer Ben Irving in an interview with Polygon last week. "The idea is that you play whatever activity you want, and you earn points. The harder the activity, the more Galactic Command experience points you receive. Then you get a command rank, and every time you get a command rank, you get a loot crate with powerful gear. That's the way that you get gear. The higher your command rank, the more powerful the gear you'll get."
"you play whatever activity you want"
Players will be able to go up to a total of 300 Galactic Command ranks at the launch of Knights of the Eternal Throne, providing a huge cycle of ever-increasing rewards for players eager to spend a lot of time in the game. Most importantly, players will be able to increase their Galactic Command rank from any activities in the game, so whether you're raiding, playing solo or focusing on player-versus-player, you'll be able to continue progressing.
In another change from the last expansion, Knights of the Eternal Throne's story chapters will be available in full at launch, rather than released episodically over the course of the next year.
"What we think worked really well in Knights of the Fallen Empire is a giant story chunk to bring people back to the game," Irving said. "We're excited about progressing the story and seeing what will happen to characters. What didn't work as well is the monthly cadence. We're in this binge-watching era between Netflix and other things where people want all their story all at once."
Beyond the dramatic story about the fate of the galaxy, Knights of the Eternal Throne will attempt to pull players in with unique setpieces that play differently from anything that's been done in the game to this point. In our playthrough of the first chapter, we were able to take control of a giant walker mech, using its firepower to cut a path through a dangerous battlefield. We saw clips of later setpieces, such as one where you go undercover as an enemy soldier to sneak into an Eternal Empire stronghold and one where you remotely control a tiny droid exploring a hostile base.
"we're the only Star Wars story game that's in the marketplace"
BioWare and Electronic Arts are pushing Knights of the Eternal Throne as the biggest and most shocking expansion to The Old Republic so far. In fact, Irving believes it's evidence of the kind of stories the game can only tell because it's relatively disconnected from the popular Star Wars film franchise.
"Being 3,000 years before the movies gives us so much flexibility around story decisions," he said. "How do you save the galaxy and rule the galaxy if you're part of the Skywalker series? You can't do that. You can't do big, meaningful things. We have all of the freedom to make the choices that we want. But because Star Wars is so exciting right now, people's nostalgia buttons are being pushed. If they say, 'Huh, I want to play a Star Wars story game,' we're the only Star Wars story game that's in the marketplace right now."
Knights of the Eternal Throne's full nine-chapter story will be available Dec. 2. The additional content will come at no extra cost to anyone currently subscribed to the MMO, but it will be locked away from free-to-play users. You can watch us play through a chunk of the first chapter in the video above.