Game Review - 'Star Wars: The Old Republic - Shadow of Revan'

3 stars for 'Shadow of Revan'

Revan will never have the same iconic status as characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader - but, to some, he is still in important figure in the Star Wars universe. He is also, perhaps, the most recognizable figure from the Old Republic era made popular by Bioware's games. And, yes, Revan is definitely a 'he', now. Despite being the customizable player character of Bioware's original Knights of the Old Republic (if that's still a spoiler for you, at this point, you have no one to blame but yourself), Bioware went ahead and created a canon version of their character for use in both a tie-in novel, and for appearances in Bioware's MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Revan's story is a complicated one - surviving the 300 years between his first appearance, and SW:TOR, thanks largely to a misguided attempt to destroy the seemingly immortal Sith Emperor, which saw him betrayed and trapped in stasis, which was told in the tie-in novel Revan, by Drew Karpyshyn. He was finally released by the finest heroes of the Republic, in a story-line available to Republic players in SW:TOR. And, his desperate and crazed attempt to finally destroy the Empire by launching a genocidal plan that would wipe out the Sith race was stopped by Imperial heroes in a story-line available to Empire players. And, for a while, it seemed that that would be the last we saw of Revan. Though, now, he's back in SW:TOR's most recent expansion, Shadow of Revan - leading an army made up of the cult that had grown up around his legend in the 300 hundred years since his disappearance, and seemingly determined to wipe out both the Empire and the Republic, if necessary, to achieve his goals.

The expansion introduces a new story-line, which promises to be the same sort of story-heavy experience that SW:TOR is known for, taking place over two new planets - Rishi and Yavin 4. It adds new Flashpoints and Operations for those looking for new, group-based, challenges. It also raises the level-cap of the game for the second time since launch - up to level 60. And, to top it off, it also completely re-works the way that the game's classes operate, replacing the old skill-trees with the more stream-lined Discipline system.

As a story-focused follow-up to two very popular single-player RPGs, SW:TOR has always seemed to walk an awkward line between catering to single-player fans, while still giving MMORPG veterans enough group-based content to hold their interest. In Shadow of Revan we see another attempt to walk that fine line, with the inclusion of a 'Solo' option for the game's new Flashpoints. Both the series of Flashpoints which make up the prologue to the new content, and those included in Shadow of Revan, itself, can be run alone with the aid of a powerful droid. But, and this is the important part, only once. The 'Solo' option will only be available while working your way through the story of Shadow of Revan - after that, the Flashpoints go back to being group-focused content. So, Bioware are able to work their new Flashpoints into the story without requiring players who aren't interested to have to force themselves through group-based content. It seems like a reasonable compromise, to me. Even the final battle which brings Shadow of Revan to a close comes with a similar concession - offering the option to either fight alongside your team of NPC allies, or to take on the fight as a standard Operation with a team of 8 players. This concession doesn't extend as far as the new, proper, Operations, though - they remain solely group-based.

The Shadow of Revan story-line actually began months before the release of the new expansion, with a series of Flashpoints which told a story of betrayal within both the Empire and the Republic - and, which ended with the surprise revelation that the figure behind all of this was Revan, himself. It was a pretty cool moment for those of us who were able to experience it, unspoiled - and, of course, for those of us who weren't still bothered by Bioware creating a canon version of a once playable character. So, on both counts, it was a pretty cool moment for me.

The expansion, itself, kicks off when your character is drawn to Rishi, a planet located in some back-water part of the galaxy, and which is home both to its native race of bird-like aliens, and to a Port Royale-inspired settlement of lawless pirates. Of course, your old allies, Republic SIS agent, Theron Shan and Sith Lord Lana Beniko, have created a cover-story for you, in an attempt to keep your arrival a secret - leading to some entertaining stumbling about as everyone you meet is convinced that you're actually a dangerous pirate, who also may be a cannibal (which struck me as especially funny with my Jedi Knight character). From there, it's a straight-forward task of eliminating Revan's pirate allies, and uncovering the exact details of his plan.

So, things get off to an impressive start in Shadow of Revan. Not only is the story more than interesting enough to hold my attention, but Rishi itself is simply a lot of fun to explore. Unfortunately, things do seem to fall apart a little once you move on to the second part, on Yavin 4. Rishi established a gradual pace of story-progression which made for a very promising start - but, once the story progresses beyond that point, it all started to feel a little rushed. Yavin 4 is smaller, for one thing - though, that being said, it is still just as impressive, visually. There are fewer missions to complete, fewer places to explore - basically, a general sense of there simply being less to do.

This becomes much more pronounced as you approach the very end, when the time comes to prepare for, and launch, a final assault. A temporary alliance between Republic and Imperial forces, as they join together to take on Revan's own army of fanatical cultists, simply feels like it should be much more epic in scope than what we, ultimately, see. And, it does seem to be heading in that direction, at first. But, after running through a few missions intended to help reinforce the alliance, the actual battle with Revan's forces ends up taking place in a single, brief, cut-scene. The player isn't even given the opportunity to take part. Instead, you are told that it's time for the final assault, you get a bit of footage of what looks like a pretty epic battle, then you're told that it's over - and, that it's time to go after Revan. That's pretty much it. I have to admit that I was hoping for a bit more.

Then, there's Revan, himself. The revelations about what he is planning, and why he is so determined to wipe out both factions in order to achieve his goals (which I wont go into, here), are tossed at the player so rapidly, and with so little opportunity for reflection and discussion, that none of it really has the impact it was clearly meant to have. Honestly, it's a pacing issue, more than anything - the story is still there, clearly, but it really needed to be given more time to develop.

All that being said, though, there is still something pretty awesome about being able to see important figures from both sides of the conflict joining forces to help you take on Revan.

One of my favorite features of Shadow of Revan, though, is the brief (and, perhaps, temporary - we'll just have to wait and see) return of unique class missions. The separate story-lines for each of the game's eight classes was one of SW:TOR's most unique features back when the game first launched - so much so, in fact, that the gradual move away from those distinct and separate story-lines has been a near constant source of disappointment for many players.

Shadow of Revan makes some attempt to bring them back, though - with a new, and unique, mission being offered for each class. These new missions aren't necessarily going to be tied to the new story-line, though - instead, they will be call-backs to events that took place in the past. The mission available to the Jedi Knight, for example, will offer an opportunity to reunite with an old friend, and to put aside galaxy spanning conflicts, for a moment, to focus on the simple task of helping people - in order to remind yourself of what a Jedi is supposed to be. There was nothing flashy about the mission, and there was no epic conflict to be found there - instead, it was a simple moment of quiet reflection for a character that I have been playing for over 2 years, now. It wasn't what I expected, or even what I thought I wanted, from my Jedi Knight's new class mission - but, it was actually better.

Shadow of Revan also ends with a very clear set-up for the central story-line that will carry the game into the future - and, it does feel like a genuinely exciting direction to take the game (even if some many feel that it is also a rather predictable direction). So, that's something. In the end, the final moments of Shadow of Revan were satisfying enough - I just wanted there to be more to it. Especially after the promising start we had on Rishi.

In the end, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with how things progressed once I made my way to Yavin 4 - though, even feeling as rushed and abrupt as it did, it was still a satisfying conclusion, overall. Shadow of Revan starts off strong, but falters a bit toward the end - but, it is still an entertaining addition to the game.

© 2014 Dallas Matier

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