No KotFE Nostalgia for Me

I realised that with SWTOR having turned ten in December, this also means that it's already been six and a half years since the release of Knights of the Fallen Empire. Sure hasn't felt that long to me! Like it or not, the two "Knights of..." expansions made huge changes to the way SWTOR works, many of which can still be felt today, long after the narrative has pivoted away from Zakuul, and to me a lot of these still feel relatively "new" somehow. Looking back at my blog archives, I found this post from 2016, when Bioware was promoting Knights of the Eternal Throne, in which I was talking about how I thought that KotFE had been a pretty good expansion really.

Is it time to get nostalgic for good old KotFE yet? A thread I saw on reddit the other week certainly seemed to think so. Reading it did make me wonder just how many years it had actually been since I last started a character on the KotFE expansion content. I explained in this post from 2019 how KotFE and KotET are kind of mental roadblocks for me that I simultaneously don't want to deal with but also don't really want to skip, so I've got exactly one character of each class caught up with current content and everyone else lingers at some point pre-KotFE because I just can't get myself to make the jump that would require me to abandon my companions and commit to hours and hours of story content I'm not crazy about before I can get back to a happy place.

These ponderings combined with a desire to finally, for the love of god, get a Republic saboteur character into current content, actually got me to pull the trigger on launching my slightly dark side smuggler into KotFE chapter one.

I'm only a few chapters in at the time of writing this, but I can already tell that no, I definitely haven't secretly been longing to get back to this. The first few chapters are a wild ride and quite fun in their own way, I won't deny it... but knowing what's to come, the story's flaws are glaringly obvious now. Back in the day I was willing to give Bioware the benefit of the doubt while always hoping for a better outcome later. Sure, the transition from the Emperor as we met him on Ziost to Valkorion in KotFE chapter one made absolutely zero sense, but hopefully there'll be an explanation for that later, right? Unlike back in 2015, I now know that the answer to that turned out to be "not really". (We did get some closure with Echoes of Oblivion eventually, but that was several years later.)

The early KotFE chapters also set up a lot of characters as really intriguing, just to completely drop the ball on them later. Koth's introduction is super fun, but then contrasted with his care about Zakuulan civilians and his worship of Valkorion to create conflict. At the time, that could have gone in all kinds of directions, but now I know that he mostly ends up whinging a lot until the game gives you an opportunity to kill him off if you really didn't get along with him.

Likewise, Arcann and Vaylin are introduced as powerful and brash, but also with hints that their relationship with each other and with the rest of their family could be more complex than it initially appears. But nah, Arcann is just an angry man-child (until a Voss ritual magically reforms him, or not), and Vaylin is simply an angry psychopath to the end, with any attempts to evoke empathy for her ultimately not going anywhere.

However, the biggest problem is that the very first chapter, with the iconic scene of Valkorion asking you to kneel, is nothing but a sham. You're technically given the choice to reject him (I mean, you did just spend the previous expansion opposing him), but ultimately the game doesn't actually give a damn about that and railroads you into doing what he wants you to do anyway. There are a few conversation choices where you can say that you don't actually want to sit on the Eternal Throne, but they become fewer as the story progresses, because the writers need you to want the throne, so after a while that's all you're allowed to say, never mind how your character would have felt from a logical point of view.

Similarly, the story just decides that you hate Arcann and want to personally bring him down, and again, the odds are that this might make no real sense to you. In chapter one, he either helps you kill Valkorion, or he kills Valkorion himself and then just uses you as a convenient pawn to shift the blame. And yeah, he freezes you in carbonite for five years after you pass out, and that's something your character would surely be angry about, but not like "I hate you with all my soul and want to take over your Empire now" angry (unless you're a Sith I guess). Ironically the sorts of things that could have been used to justify you being really mad at him, such as the lost time, missing companions and the damage he's done to Republic and Empire, are downplayed at every point because who cares about all that old stuff, we're in "Keeping up with the Valkorions" now.

Basically, I think that in hindsight KotFE and KotET are actually quite a bit worse than I perceived them to be at the time, at least in terms of how the plot treats the player character, and in terms of hours of build-up that just end up being wasted.

"OK," you might say, "so the story was bad, but don't you think the chapter format was kinda good? New story content every month! Imagine how good SWTOR would be if we got those kinds of story updates but for Republic vs. Empire..." (someone did actually leave pretty much this as a comment on my blog once). But to that I still gotta say: "no, thanks". Sure, chapters with a more coherent story would be better than what we got, but I still don't miss the chapter format in general, for a number of reasons:

  • Bioware was only able to release story content like that on a (roughly) monthly basis by pretty much stopping development on everything else about the game. I like the story, but I also want planets, flashpoints, operations etc.
  • KotFE/KotET chapter length was largely created by cut scenes that don't involve or even show your character and are therefore the exact same on every playthrough, plus by making you fight hordes and hordes of boring/unavoidable enemies, which I consider unnecessary padding that I can do without. I know we're all still mad about 7.0 delivering too little story, but you know what? I've played through that story on six characters already and can honestly say that I enjoyed it every time.
  • As mentioned in the previously linked post about story skipping and the issues with replaying KotFE/ET, pausing in the middle of a chapter is awkward, meaning they are not well suited as content that you can easily pick up and put down.
  • The nature of chapters has meant that a majority of their content has to take place inside phases, with whole locations like Asylum and Vandin only existing within that story and not being available to re-visit outside the chapter, making the galaxy a smaller place. Even when Bioware tried to add a proper outdoor location for KotFE chapter fourteen in the form of Darvannis, it kinda fell flat because there wasn't really anything there other than the chapter phases (though for a while it was good for harvesting crafting materials I guess).

So yeah, I can only speak for myself but I absolutely do not miss KotFE's story, neither the content nor the format. I'm only slowly developing a desire to get more characters through it because Bioware keeps adding more content after it that I actually enjoy replaying and that I want to see from the perspective of different classes.


  1. I agree. I find both stories quite the roadblock for progressing characters. There's too much sameness you get shoved through that it is just hard to redo it all, over and over again.

    It is telling for me that I dislike both of them enough that I never quite remember whether KotET or KotFE is the first set of episodes. I usually have to look it up.

    While I still dislike them, I've mellowed some about them. I've come to realize that what I mostly dislike these days is the gameplay of -- checks -- KotFE. All the Skytroopers, all the unskippable encounters. Normally I'd listen to all the dialog, now I just spacebar as much as possible and just power through to KotET. There I'm more willing to slowdown and try to enjoy the story. It's still a slog, but I'm not wanting to rant at Bioware.

    All this said, I still only have two characters, one from each faction, all the way through both. The rest were stuck in various early chapters of KotFE. I've started moving them through Chapter 10, at least. Now I'm more comfortable revisiting chapters when I feel like it. I may even run a very old character through both, someone who I had parked a long time ago.

    1. I don't want to disregard the "samey" argument because I know it all too well, but on the other hand... There are a lot of zones in MMOs that I like so much that I have no problem running 5 chars through them in 5 consecutive weeks. For example Rishi in SWTOR, or leveling WoW toons in Mists of Pandaria.

      Also now that I think about it, I think I've done the Yavin 4 story on every mirror class despite running them for dailies/weeklies at the same time on a max-level class. Some things are just endlessly repeatable to get into the zone and listen to a podcast at the same time... and some (like the chapters) are: Ugh, not again.

  2. Thing is, really, I'll watch cutscenes with my own character... and space bar the rest. Stealth? Yes please! I'll skip as much as I can simply because I don't wanna be bothered.

    I like some things in KOTFE/ET a lot, but, good lord, there's a reason why I have classes who STILL haven't been through it...

  3. A friend of mine is very thorough when it comes to his toons. Each and everyone of his 40+ toons is up to date with the story. It does take him some time, not only because he has so many toons, but because of his main passion in this game. He is a NiM Raider and with his main raiding team he is always under the first five teams to kill new operation bosses. He has three to four days a week reserved for raiding, but tries to squeeze in some extra time to do at least - at that time - one chapter. Lots of spacebarring, but every single toon has to finish every single story. I find that quite impressive. Pretty heavy workload. I prefer the Shintar approach and stop before KotXX. I can't even get myself to speedrun these two expansions on story mode.

    1. That's some dedication from your friend! Even if it sounds an awful lot like work... Especially in raiders I find that kind of devotion to the story content pretty rare. I'm more familiar with the type that has six max-level characters but has yet to do the Onslaught story even once...

    2. My friend is not only part of the very top of raiders in this game, or a very dedicated story player. He also is an achievement hunter. If a new flashpoint comes out, you can bet your life savings on it, that all achievements are done within a week or two. 100%. Everywhere. OPs, FPs, Planets.

  4. While I completely agree with the what you said about the awkwardness of the chapter content, way that the instanced content made the game world overall smaller and that Bioware ultimately needed to force a story outcome it could continue for the 2nd expansion, one thing that is missing from this post is the alliance alerts and I have to say, this has been some of my favourite story content since Revan.

    I just picked up Blizz (has there ever been a better character?) and am going through the ridiculously difficult solo eternal championship content at the moment and it's been brilliant fun. All that and I get to keep all these great companions in my story.

    I really have enjoyed a lot of the zakuul story as well, really, even if the fights end up being quite samey.

    I've loved it and I haven't even got my agent to the new story yet.

    1. I have slightly mixed feelings about Alliance alerts. As I wrote in this post, I kind of consider them KotFE/ET's "side quests" and I like how they flesh out the lore, but I don't really need that many companions to be honest... and I dislike how the companion icon keeps flashing until you've done all of them on each character, which feels like the game is nagging you to be a completionist.

  5. While only having played a fraction of hours you did I could've mostly written this word for word. It was ok the first time per side (because it was new) and I've been dreading starting it ever since on all other characters. And I mostly didn't start it until all the "missing" companions had been back over the years. I think that part was actually shitty game design, maybe taking away your favourite (and romance option) companion, and also maybe the only one you had at a high influence level (or whatever it was called back then).

    The chapters of both expansions together would've made a nice Star Wars solo game RPG, but not in this MMO.

  6. I really kind of dread playing everything from KotFE through the last flashpoint before Ossus. Some of the areas are quite pretty, but that whole stretch of the game just feels way too on-rails to me. I always breath a sign of relief when I set foot on my first proper planet (Ossus) after all that, even if it's a small one.


Share your opinion! Everyone is welcome, as long as things stay polite. I also read comments on older posts, so don't be shy. :)