Bioware announced on Friday that its Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO is now Free 2 Play. As a result, my productivity over the weekend suddenly dropped dramatically (heh). The subscription option is not gone entirely, but players are now able to create characters up to level 50 without paying anything. This approach is similar to the way World of Warcraft and Star Trek Online handle the Free to Play model.
Installation is simple, and is just a matter of walking through a few standard steps and accepting the EULA. While the initial download for the installer is small, you cannot jump into the game until you download all of the assets — and Star Wars: The Old Republic is far from a lightweight game with an asset download of about 25GB required to play (plus future smaller patches).
As a free subscriber you get access to the entire game, but there are several other limitations that might just annoy you into purchasing a subscription. If you are vigilant, it is possible not to pay anything. Some of the larger restrictions include XP-rates, number of characters per account, medical probes, reduced reward choices, and not being able to sprint until level 15 of all things (!). After level 10, the rate at which you gain experience points is reduced compared to paying subscribers. As an alternative, you can purchase XP boosters to make up the difference. Unfortunately, you cannot purchase it with in-game currency. At least it’s another one-time charge instead of paying every month for a subscription. The number of characters per account is restricted to two, so you will need to delete one or pony up for a subscription if you want to play as additional classes to get their stories. That’s unfortunate, but not a deal breaker and something that Star Trek Online also does. Medical probes allow you to respawn in the same area as opposed to respawning at a medical center. This would not be so bad if it was not for the biggest issue I have with the Free To Play version: getting around the game takes forever! With a quick travel that has a 2 hour cooldown and not being able to sprint until level 15, it takes a long time to get from mission areas and back again. This became especially evident on Coruscant where walking from the taxis to the senate tower in particular was a slog.
With all the major limitations out of the way, I will say that the game is just as good as my friend has been trying to tell me since launch. In particular, SWTOR is really fun, and I would even go as far as saying it is addicting. While it is not KOTOR 3, it is really close and definitely fills in a gap. It definitely encourages you to go for the subscription option but it is enoyable enough that the restrictions are worth putting up with, however annoying.
When I started out, the combat took a bit of getting used to, as you move around with WASD, aim the camera with the mouse, and also right click to attack. With ranged weapons it will likely not be an issue but when you are running in with a lightsaber, it may take a bit of training before you hurt the enemies more than yourself (heh). I wish that there was a keyboard key to auto-target the nearest enemy, especially since my companion just loves to walk in front of me when I'm trying to target someone with the mouse (KOTOR did combat that way, from what I remember). The force abilities of the Jedi Consular are satisfying indeed.
(Hint, if you go with the Jedi Shadow option as I did when you chose an advanced class, you get a free double bladed lightsaber in a backpack that shows up in your inventory–the game doesn’t make this clear at all and it took me reading on a forum after looking around the game for a couple hours trying to find a double bladed saber that is required for some of the Jedi Consular’s abilities… It ended up being in my inventory the whole time, d’oh).
You can grab the game from Bioware’s SWTOR website. If you are a Star Wars fan, I encourage you to try it out for yourself. The download is huge but ultimately worth it. Just keep an eye on the time as otherwise you may look up and notice it’s 5 AM and you missed all the Black Friday deals!
What do you think of SW:TOR?