This past Friday saw the long anticipated announcement of SWTOR’s next expansion timed to coincide with its tenth anniversary.
Legacy of the Sith is expected to launch during the holiday season at the end of this year and seems to feature an array of release content in line with Onslaught. Although the story will be set on one planet instead of two, based on the preview images I expect we’ll be spending more time on Manaan than we did on either Onderon or Mek Sha. Once again, it looks like the capstone of the story will be a flashpoint, this time exploring Sith ruins on the planet Elom. Likewise, we’ll be able to venture into a new Operation that continues the Czerka story started on Dxun, but with a rather more horrific setting.
The expansion will also come with some system changes, most notably “Loadouts” and “Combat Styles.” Being able to hot swap specs and gear and action bar layouts is something that is long overdue to SWTOR and it’ll be nice to not have to remember how to set up action bars for my countless alts! Combat Styles promises to be interesting. SWTOR has already separated character leveling from story progression, so it’s probably natural that they’d sever gameplay from story as well.
A common complaint about SWTOR is that having each Advanced Class associated with only one weapon type limits players ability to be inspired by famous characters from Star Wars lore. Clone Troopers and bounty hunters use every weapon under the twin suns, and even Luke and Anakin dual wielded lightsabers on occasion. Combat Styles will allow players to swap out their characters’ actions and skills for the moves of any other advanced class so long as it is another Tech class if they use blasters of any type or a Force class if they use a lightsaber.
There is already precedent for this in SWTOR lore; Satele Shan, Jace Malcom and Darth Malgus show off moves from multiple advanced classes in SWTOR’s introductory cinematics, and it will be cool that players will soon have some of that flexibility too. My very first SWTOR character was a Smuggler and as much as I enjoy playing the story with him, I never particularly cared for the Gunslinger’s static crouch and shoot gameplay. With Combat Styles, I’ll be able to switch to a Mercenary’s run and gun ability set while maintaining the two-gun action I associate with gunslingers in popular culture.
I’m curious to see how Combat Styles play out within the game. I fear there might be some negative social aspects, but I wonder if it will really affect my large roster of alts. I have a Sentinel and a Guardian and a Sage and a Shadow and a Sniper and an Operative and a Mercenary and a Powertech and many, many more. In theory, Combat Styles will mean you really only need to maintain one Force-using character and one Tech-based character on each faction to have access to all roles and specializations. Personally I think I will probably stick to my roster of alts to cover those bases. It seems wildly out of character for my Sage to start slamming her Lightsaber into the ground like a Guardian or my brash Gunslinger to be sneaking around like an Operative.
Many of Legacy of the Sith’s changes will come with and, I suspect, require under-the-hood updates to the User Interface. Over the last couple of years, the SWTOR team has been updating elements of the UI, and to be honest the changes haven’t always gone off without a hitch, so we might have to experience some growing pains while they work the kinks out, but I hope it will be worth it in the long run.
While I am very much anticipating Legacy of the Sith, I must admit this was not the most exciting expansion announcement ever. I hate, hate, to compare SWTOR to World of Warcraft, but, man, Blizzard can do expansion announcements. They’ll run a teaser where they tear a hole in the heavens and show off new a class or race or host of customization options, and it’s a drag that SWTOR just can’t compete with that level of hype. As much as I wish otherwise, I fully understand the days of SWTOR launching an expansion with a Blur cinematic are in the past. The story sounds neat; the concept art looks amazing; Combat Styles should be interesting, but I think the announcement was missing a little something extra. Something to make players sit up and say “Holy cats!” or “Fork yeah!” and not “Okay, more of the same.” We all know that the SWTOR team prefers to keep the story as close to the chest as possible, but directly teasing a cool new character or an unexpected bit of lore might’ve been in order.
I don’t think more of the same is a bad thing, but it’s maybe not exciting. I consider Onslaught a successful expansion, and the good folks at Bioware absolutely should be commended for the hard work and truly fun content they produced for us despite the considerable challenges of the previous year. At the last Community Cantina event in New York City in 2019, I asked Keith Kanneg how long he expected Onslaught to last, and he answered, about two years. And it is to the credit to the hard work of everyone at Bioware that Onslaught is matching that expectation.
And that gives me hope for Legacy of the Sith. Based on the quality of Onslaught, I am very much looking forward to exploring the new expansion. I believe Keith that the tenth anniversary will last the whole year, and I look forward to the celebration ahead of us.