I had the opportunity at the beginning of the month to update SWTOR to the latest patch, so I’ve been spending a lot of my gaming time trying the game out again. My main account has Preferred status (since I was previously a subscriber), and I had a handful of their Cartel Coins currency saved up (Cartel Coins are what you use to buy stuff from the in-game store), so I’ve bought back some of the functionality you lose by not being a subscriber. I also started a second account, as a free-to-play member, just to see what the differences are.

I suspect that if you were coming in fresh – that is, you hadn’t been a subscriber before – the basic account would seem perfectly fine; all of the complaints about “restrictions” that I had were because I’d gotten used to the game as a subscriber. That said, if my biggest complaint about the restrictions is “I’m not getting for free now what I was paying for before”, it’s a pretty petty complaint! Beyond that, in comparison to, say, the first incarnation of World of Warcraft (I dislike the term “vanilla”, but that’s a different post), it’s actually roughly similar to the privileges we got as part of the base game, and there are quite a few additional benefits (for instance, being able to craft directly from the bank/storage, which WOW still doesn’t implement).

On the other hand, as a Free or Preferred player, Bioware does tease the extras you get as a subscriber in the interface (“Subscribers get extra reward options when they complete a quest!”, “Subscribers can hide their head-slot item!”, “Subscribers get a full set of action bars!” etc.), which means that even if you’re not a subscriber, you know what they get that you don’t – which is, I have to confess, a pretty good way to get people to pony up the $15 a month.

The two biggest complaints that I had do still hold: you can’t disable Auto Self-Target on buff and healing abilities (meaning that you have to target the person you want to affect before you start casting; this is really only an issue because I got into healing classes in WOW and RIFT, where you could toggle the spell and then click the person you wanted to affect, and so my muscle memory is wrong); and there’s still no water in the entire game that’s more than calf-deep, which means that there’s no swimming. The latter sounds ridiculous, but it’s a matter of verisimilitude; if, for example, you have to cross a body of water (as you do in the Republic trooper and smuggler starting zone), you’re just wading, instead of having to swim across it.

There’s also the issue of same-sex relationships; these have been teased and promised since before the game launched, and they’re still not implemented. Part of this, I suspect, is that they want to add new characters to have same-sex relationships with, instead of, say, letting my female Imperial Agent have a relationship with Kaliyo; I’m not sure I understand the justification, but that would be a stumbling block. And, to be blunt, the percentage of players for whom this is an issue is smaller than the percentage of players who want to see additional endgame content and off-rails starship combat, so that’s what’s getting the developer attention right now. Still, I hold out hope.

All in all, I am actually having fun with SWTOR again now that I can play it, and I’m hoping that this time, I can keep it updated and actually be able to play in the long term – since being a Preferred member seems to be enough for me right now. (Although Bells gave me a week of Subscriber status as part of SWTOR‘s recruit-a-friend program, and the subscriber benefits are pretty sweet…)

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