Jan 24, 2015

Free to Play: The Old Republic Pt 1

So this will be the first of my free to play entries about Bioware's Star Wars: The Old Republic.

First some backstory about my involvement with the franchise to date.

I came across Knights of the Old Republic 2 back in 2005, picked it up for a good deal and it immediately sucked me in. I did two complete playthroughs right off the bat - first one hardly completing anything (only unlocked one character's Jedi path, side quests largely ignored etc) and the second I completed as much as I possibly could.

It was a blast! Fantastic, engaging story mixed with dialogue that (compared to anything else at the time) made if feel like you actually impacted the game by the choices made. In depth item system complete with upgrades and crafting to be able to outfit your team as you saw fit.

I came across the original KOTOR after that and didn't finish it. I missed the crafting system too much and eventually another game took over. Pretty sure it was Halo 3. I still enjoyed what story that I saw, but just didn't have enough of the crafting element to keep me as heavily invested in the crew.

I played Mass Effect and enjoyed it so when I heard that SWTOR was coming out, I was ecstatic. I coveted the collectors edition, was disappointed in the US only release, bought an overseas copy and jumped on in.

And I didn't make it to level 20.

I probably chose the least interesting class (Republic Jedi of some description), but coming from KOTOR2, I was expecting to have much the same story and mechanics plus item system that I had come to love. It didn't and the main reason was that I was no longer the special little snowflake. Elder Scrolls Online has had the same issue.

I wasn't the lone hero, collecting my crew to save the galaxy. I was just another face in the army and needed their help. I wasn't the leader, I was just a follower under the command of NPC's giving me quests. Like I said, I didn't make it past 20. I know it suffered greatly from content issues and the ever present comparison to World of Warcraft, which tends to kill most new MMO's before they have a chance.

So now I am starting again under their free to play system. I already am feeling the chafe that comes with most free to play mobile games - buy this special currency to speed things up, buy upgrades, get things quicker. Even more chafing was that they restrict Purple items to a pay-for-equipping system. You get a sweet piece of loot - but to use it you have to buy an AUTHORISATION FROM THE CARTEL MARKET.

They have restricted your choice of race down to Human, Cyborg and Zabrak (at least on the Sith side), restricted the character customisation options, number of characters per server (2 per only) and even rested XP. Only subscribers get the full offering, "preferred status" (paid for something at least once) players get what they paid for plus a few extras like an extra dungeon run or battleground queue.

There are the standard things like guild and chat restrictions, but they aren't so much of a big deal. I do think that their free to play model is a bit too nickel and dime for my tastes though. I have only just collected my first quests  with my Sith Agent, so we will have to see how these restrictions feel as I play.

EDIT: After trying to reactivate my old account (which WAS a subscribed account at one point), I found out that I have no choice but to call an overseas number to take off the security key for my account, which is no longer on my phone! Annoying as shit! Particularly due to free to play players getting absolutely no access to customer support!

SECOND EDIT: Tried to Hide Head Slot - NOPE! Locked behind paywall. Subscribe or cough up microtransactions. I don't think I will last long playing this. At least WoW's "trial" allows you to just play the game up to level 20 with disabled chat etc. I enjoyed raising my level 20 Panda Hunter and finding the BiS weapon and armour for him. The level cap was never an issue! I would prefer that SWTOR went that way because the constant micro transactions are ever present, jammed in your face at every turn and lock away so much.

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