The Old Republic’s Expansion Delay is a Necessary Disappointment

A delay in releasing Star Wars: The Old Republic’s Legacy of the Sith expansion has seemed like an inevitability ever since it was announced earlier this year alongisde a vague Holiday 2021 release window. Then, just three weeks ago, a developer livestream seemed to reaffirm that the expansion would be releasing this year after all. Well, it seems that a lot can change in three weeks, and with only one week remaining until the expansion’s announced December 14 release date, Legacy of the Sith has now officialy been pushed back to February 25, 2022.

There’s no doubt about it – the immediate impact of this announcement is terrible. The team at EA/Bioware have done an admirable job of hyping this expansion up given that neither the studio, nor the wider franchise marketing machine have seemed all that interested in boosting the game’s public profile since 2016’s Knights of the Eternal Throne expansion. The 10 year anniversary milestone is a major one which has evoked a lot of nostalgia for the game and the team haven’t been shy in playing into that as a relatively cheap way of drumming up excitement for this new expansion.

While the Sith Emperor has been the game’s major big bad up until this point, it is Darth Malgus’ masked mug which has been the literal poster boy for the game since its launch, so it is convenient that he has risen from the grave just in time for all the anniversary excitement (I say “just in time”, but his dragged-out resurrection has actually been the game’s central plot point for the past three years now). Once again it is Malgus who looms large over the expansion’s key art, but it is also he who has been chosen to grace the cover of Star Wars Insider magazine’s December edition. Sure it’s only the exclusive edition that’s available in select comic shops (the regular edition has Vader on the cover), but it was this rare acknowledgment of the game outside of its community that seemed the biggest vindication of all that Legacy of the Sith was going to be a major moment for the game – a revival not unlike Malgus’s own.

Beyond the nostalgia pandering however we really have no idea what Legacy of the Sith is actually about. Sure we know that we’re headed back to Manaan, and new planet Elom, but there’s not really a sense of what we should expect from the game’s story. Instead, the major talking points surrounding this expansion have been its ‘combat styles’ system and UI overhaul. Sure, both of these are great changes and go a long way towards showing that Bioware are still in it for the long haul, but the game’s primary focus has always been on its story – it’s what the majority of fans care most about too, so why not give us a reason to get invested in that again?

This isn’t lost on the game’s playerbase. The top comment on a Reddit post making note of how little new content SWTOR has seen in 2021, decries the game for having “just given up on story”. While this is from Reddit and therefore tinged with hyperbole, the point remains not entirely untrue. The general consensus among other commenters that the slow drip-feed of new story content has diminished their interest in the game’s key selling point should be a worry for Bioware. Both the A and B plots of the game (Malgus and the Mandalorians respectively) seem to be reactionary turns in the story – after 10 years there’s a niggling feeling that the game’s plot is becoming a way to prop up its cash shop rather than to tell a narrative with any real impact. I don’t personally believe this is the case (Creative Director Charles Boyd’s passion 100% rings true), but that at least is the perception.

Players are desperate for a new cinematic trailer to usher in the Legacy of the Sith expansion. While expensive they do a great job of generating hype for the game and are also a tool for investing potential players in the game’s story. A new cinematic would also be seen as proof that EA/Bioware/Disney are still committed towards growing the game beyond its existing playerbase.

Last September’s 6.2 update did a fantastic job of wrapping up the Emperor’s storyline in a satisfying way, but one year on from that we still have no real justification for why our character’s story should continue beyond this. From a narrative point of view the team have painted themselves into a corner thanks to years of power creep, but it’s at this point that things should be dialled back to make way for more personal stories rather than another galaxy-level threat. This is something that SWTOR should be able to really succeed at, but the build up to 7.0 has so far failed to invest us in such a way and instead seems to be pulling us into yet another big war. The time for looking backwards should be done once the actual 10 year anniversary date has been passed. Now the team have the opportunity to head into the new year and build some momentum for our character’s stories which could propel the game into its next decade.

It’s a bit of a tired talking point now that games should wait to be released once they’re actually feature finished and polished so there’s no real need to belabour the point. The Legacy of the Sith delay has rubbed the community up the wrong way and they wouldn’t be wrong for feeling like that – an announcement of a 2+ month delay only one week before its expected launch is just not a good look. But, its a better one than shipping a broken, half-baked mess out the door right on the cusp of the holidays. By the time February rolls around all will mostly be forgiven and forgotten. Assuming the story delivers the goods, the combination of giving the game more time to bake and more time to drum up hype for the expansion itself rather than the game’s 10 year anniversary (plus moving away from that other little MMO expansion which just launched) will undoubtedly give The Old Republic the boost it’s so obviously on the cusp of.

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