BioWare have always claimed that Fallen Empire was going to be their big chance to return to their roots, something which was met with both enthusiasm and scepticism. With the expansion having launched, we can finally see for ourselves how successful they were in achieving this outcome.
I absolutely loved it. It was fantastic to see BioWare pull out all the stops and go in full force with the story as the primary focus. Whilst I would not go so far as to say that this is the "KotOR III" I've seen several people liken it to, I cannot deny that the story was far-and-away superior to any other story seen in this game thus far.
On the flip-side, for the most part, the choices you can make are very self-contained: even if an alternative is chosen on a second playthrough the outcome may not even be wholly noticeable from what you chose before when everything is said and done. The vast majority of choices have their full resolution in the first nine chapters, so it's difficult to say whether we're going to see any further long-term consequences to our options save perhaps for one string of options. I won't say what this involves but given that it results in three possible outcomes towards the end of the current story, there is still much more potential that could be explored in the future.
It doesn't help, admittedly, that we are still early days into this expansion and we still have many months ahead of us until we can see the conclusion. With such a long gap they couldn't feasibly include too many loose strings to be tied up in later content so they had to tie them up quickly where they could. Not that this harms the expansion in the slightest, but it's definitely something to be aware of.
The Alliance system after Chapter IX does have some more meaningful choices, however; as of right now there are two known characters who you can just choose to reject completely. Considering that this system is going to be what will carry us through these next few months story-wise I can easily see decisions of that sort having some consequences if not at full strength. It's like Mass Effect 3 all over again..!
What is especially worth noting with this expansion is that this is the first time that the story has fully acknowledged that the other seven individual characters besides the one you're playing the story on actually exist. For the most part, we've only seen certain Companions turn up in another's story, resulting in some wonderful connections, but never did they acknowledge that they were travelling with someone of note. Now, not only does the bio of a certain Companion identify that their master "disappeared" but certain Companions also directly mention their former master when you encounter them. It's a very nice little attention to detail but it does raise the question of what exactly happened to the other seven characters at the time of our own's disappearance...
In terms of peripherals, this expansion has so much fantastic stuff. The environments, the cutscenes, and the music all add up to one "glorious whole" which really sets this expansion up as being one of the best things, if not the best thing, to have happened to this game. I'll go on to talk about the characters in more detail next week because the people whom you meet and travel alongside for this expansion are absolutely fantastic. Well...
One of them might have earned my especial ire, but I'll get to that when I get to that.
To conclude, the story is pretty much everything BioWare implied it would be. It's the "standard" RPG many have been asking for, and is one of the best MMO expansion stories out there. All that remains is to thank BioWare for bringing us this high-quality story, and I look forward to seeing where it leads the game to next!