It’s been a week since Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, and the state of Star Wars video games has been doing pretty well. The single-player Jedi: Fallen Order from Respawn got an hour on the biggest stage in the whole convention and a lot of attention from attendees. While Star Wars: The Old Republic didn’t have a panel to show off their new expansion, I did notice a few BioWare Austin folks in the crowd checking out their fellow EA affiliate studio’s work. The SWTOR player community raised the funds for and staffed a fan booth on the show floor all weekend, with cosplay and props on display (that gorgeous Satele Shan dualsaber!). They also had a PC set up so interested folks could check out the game, as well as a contest to win some cool in-game items and an extremely rare Studio version of the collector’s edition of the game.
What’s interesting to see here over the course of several Celebrations is how the BioWare MMO has become a more formal member of the Star Wars community. Just a couple of Celebrations ago, the game was rarely mentioned in official Lucasfilm, Disney, or EA communications aside from investor calls, but now it’s being actively promoted on starwars.com. It’s also intriguing to remember that SWTOR is still considered Expanded Universe/Legends material, the only such property still in production since the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm and the overhauling of Star Wars canon in 2014.
At this year’s Celebration, SWTOR‘s Creative Director Charles Boyd not only cosplayed most of the long weekend, he appeared to discuss the MMO and their news for a few minutes on the Star Wars Show. Former lead writer and primary creative behind the game’s Imperial Agent class, Alexander Freed was also in attendance to promote his new book Alphabet Squadron. Freed and Boyd tag-teamed Freed’s panel on Monday discussing video game writing to an interested crowd.
However, the 7-year-old MMO had its own shindig over the weekend, one of their Cantina Tour stops in a large ballroom in one of the hotels. I’ve been to a goodly number of them over the years, including one in Austin with the most devs per capita and the one in San Diego where they introduced the world to voice actor megastar Darin De Paul as Emperor Valkorion, and this one was probably the biggest one I’ve been to. There was a whole stage’s worth of cosplayers, more folks from the dev team than usual, and plenty of repeat visitors wearing t-shirts given out at previous Cantinas.
This one also had probably the meatiest news drops as well, so let’s get right into it. Game Producer Keith Kanneg took the stage along with Boyd and Community Manager Eric Musco to do a recap of recent updates and upcoming content. They mentioned Game Update 5.10.2 ‘Heralds of Victory’ that has already gone live with pretty cool credit-sinks in the form of guild heraldry and also updates to the in-game preview window. We were already aware of Game Update 5.10.3 ‘The Dantooine Incursion’ in passing, but the trio expanded upon what we knew. It’s a new recurring in-game event that allows players to deal with some Imperial-hired pirates infringing on a Republic outpost, and of course the Empire will want to take advantage of it if the pirates don’t betray them first. Boyd pointed out that Dantooine is permanently available like the portion of Ilum when the Relics of the Gree event isn’t up, so players can visit when the event isn’t on and go exploring if they like. It’s currently available on the Public Test Server for folks to check out right now.
After the recap of this upcoming content, the team then did the big reveal. SWTOR‘s 6.0 iteration is an expansion entitled Onslaught, and the basic story continues increasing the war between Republic and Empire, picking up where the Jedi Under Siege update left off. Players as the Alliance Commander built up during the Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion will get to choose which faction to help. They will get to visit the planet Onderon, first seen in the old Expanded Universe Tales of the Jedi comic series but subsequently brought into current canon during Clone Wars, the future birthplace of Saw Gerrera. Onderon’s moon Dxun will also be home to a new Operation for players to tackle involving the corrupt Czerka Corporation. The mined-out moon of Mek-sha also makes an appearance as a waystation and home to some rather unsavory people. It used to be owned by the Hutts, so what else did you expect? Players will get to revisit Corellia as part of a new Flashpoint, and one hopes the map is better than the current Chapter 3 version with its dead ends and difficult pathways.
More exciting features in the expansion include the release of the latest playable race, the long-requested Nautolans; new much more epic and dramatic character select screen music, possibly an update to the neglected Galactic Starfighter system, an increased level cap of 75; and finally something they’re calling the Spoils of War. BioWare is making good on their promise to let players choose their gear paths. There will be a major overhaul of itemization and the Legacy system across the entire game, and they are going to be adding a new gear slot for Tactical Items, new items that can affect or power up certain player abilities. Set bonuses are going to make a huge return as well, as the new Tactical Items can impact those as well. TIs can be acquired in PvE, PvP, Galactic Command, and crafting, and will offer a greatly increased amount of customization to player characters.
Onslaught is due to be released in September 2019 and will be free to all subscribers. The new Nautolan race will also be included with the expansion. One imagines it will be a cartel market unlock for premium or free-to-play accounts. Go to swtor.com for more information.