Some of the biggest drawbacks of being a free-to-play player is that there won’t be a lot for you to do once you complete you class storyline and reach the free-to-play maximum of level 50. If you’ve gotten that far in the story, and enjoyed the game, I highly recommend subscribing for at least one month – that way, you unlock all the expansions and preferred perks, even if you only stay subscribed for one month.
Subscribing is when you pay monthly for the game, at about $15 a month. Subscribing gives you access to 100% of the game’s content, including the storyline past the original class stories, all of the expansions, and no restrictions. When you subscribe, you unlock all the previous expansions and can play them forever, even if you unsubscribe in the future.
There’s also an in-between state called preferred. Preferred players have a few less restrictions than free-to-play-players, and you can become a preferred player by spending at least $5 on the game either by subscribing for at least one month or by buying some cartel coins. Most preferred players are players that subscribed in the past, but are not currently subscribing. If you subscribed in the past, you’ll keep any expansions you had before, but won’t be able to play any newly released ones until you subscribe again. The expansions usually include a new storyline and a level increase, so if you haven’t subscribed recently you might not be able to level all the way to level 70.
You’ll also have lots of little drawbacks if you try to play with a friend as free-to-play. You can still play with each other easily while doing the stories, but you can’t do things like trade, mail, expand your inventory, quick-travel easily or revive in-place if you die a lot. Preferred players can do a few more things than free-to-play-players, like being able to trade with each other and mail items.
Preferred and free to play players deal with a lot of restrictions once they finish the storyline and start digging into the other non-story content.
One of the biggest challenges is the credit cap. For free to play players, you’ll only be allowed to hold up to 200 thousand credits. Preferred players can only hold 350 thousand credits. Any credits you earn beyond that point will be thrown into an escrow – a bank that holds your excess credits that you will be returned to you the next time you subscribe. You can also buy escrow unlocks with cartel coins that will grant you a chunk of credits from your escrow and temporarily bump your credit cap, but won’t permanently make your credit cap higher.
This can make it extremely difficult to buy expensive items like rare armors, mounts, or luxury stronghold unlocks. For a seasoned player, this restriction is by far the most frustrating, because no matter how you like to play it’s a large part of the game to earn and spend credits.
Free-to-Play players are locked out of chat until level 25, to help prevent chat spam. Players shouldn’t stress too much about this, level 25 comes fairly quickly and players should reach it by their second or third planet.
Free-to-play and preferred players are limited in the number of characters they can make. With the United Forces update, Free-to-Play players now can have a default of up to 4 characters per server. Preferred players will have a default limit of 12, but may have more unlocked.
If you’re currently a subscriber and are looking to downgrade to playing without paying as a preferred player, there’s a few things you can save up for and buy before you have a credit cap as a preferred player. Some unlocks you might want to purchase before going preferred are
Keep in mind a majority of these unlocks have a “legacy-wide” version, and it’s usually worth it to buy the legacy-wide one if you want to have them available on 4 or more characters.
If you’re a free-to-play player, it’s usually recommend for you to subscribe for at least a month rather than trying to buy your unlocks piece by piece. When you subscribe for a month, even if you unsubscribe the next month, you’ll be permanently upgraded to preferred status which comes with lots of permanent unlocks like 2 out of 3 craft skills, rather than the 1 crafting skill free-to-play players get. This is on top of being able to level to max-level, and unlocking all the most recent expansions.
As for content as a prefered player you’ll be locked out of three major parts of the game: pvp, operations, and galactic command.
For pvp, you’ll be restricted to five warzones per week per character. There are ways to get around this, but only if you have a friend to queue up with who is subscribed. You’ll also be locked out completely from ranked pvp, the highly competitive version of pvp for advanced players. If you are interested in earning gear through PvP, you’ll be locked into earning only half the currency required to buy level 70 gear. As a preferred player you WILL be able to earn unassembled components from warzones, but you won’t be able to earn command tokens which are the second currency needed to buy gear. The good news is if you are playing as a preferred player, you can earn a pile of unassembled components, and then turn them in with a few galactic command tokens the next time you subscribe.
For pve, you’ll be locked completely out of operations, the 8-man group content where you can fight bosses as a group. As a free-to-play or preferred player, you can run as many flashpoints as you’d like.
Operations are some of the most interesting group content available in the game, and preferred and free-to-play players are completely locked out of operations. In the past you could purchase operations passes with cartel coins, but these have been retired and you now must subscribe to run operations.
With the new Galactic Command system, level 70 preferred players are also locked out of getting the best gear in the game. Preferred players can still get ahold of some great crafted level 70 gear, but they won’t be able to win any gear from operations, from pvp or from galactic command or get any set-bonus gear. If you’re interested in doing the hardest content in the game wearing the best gear, it’s no longer an option as a preferred player. Even if you’re not level 70, you’ll still be locked out of wearing most level 70 gear in the game, including blue, green and purple-borderd gear, without buying an unlock called AUTHORIZATION: ARTIFACT EQUIPMENT. This unlock costs cartel coins, and can be unlocked per-account or per-character. If you had gear equipped before you went preferred, you should be able to wear it, but you won’t be able to equip any new purple-bordered gear or level 70 gear until you purchase the unlock from the cartel market or the GTN.
If you became a preferred player after hitting level 70 and want more gear, you can get some of the powerful non-set-bonus crafted gear from the GTN, including the very expensive 240-rating crafted gear. If you have a friend who has these schematics and wants to help craft you gear, just keep in mind you will need the AUTHORIZATION: ARTIFACT EQUIPMENT to wear it. If you’re buying it from the GTN, you will likely need to buy multiple escrow unlocks first… you’re probably better off working out a private deal and trading items for it instead. If you are a preferred level 70 player, I wouldn’t worry too much about getting the best gear in the game,
If you’re a preferred player, you might be asking yourself what you can do after you finish your class story, if you aren’t able or interested in subscribing. The game still has a lot to offer!
Free to play players are the most limited in what they have available after they finish their class storyline and hit level 50. Free-to-play players have access to playing at least two different characters… so I definitely recommend trying out one of the other 8 class stories with your second free character. Since you only have 4, you might want to try a character on the opposite faction – both sides have entirely different side-quests. As a free-to-play player you will definitely want to also do any side quests or planetary quests you encounter along the way, as there isn’t any new planetary story quests available to you after you finish your last quest on the planet of Ilum. Once you’ve finished Ilum there are a few more repeatable daily area quests you can check out on Ilum, Belsavis, and in the Black Hole on Corellia. Heroics on all planets are also repeatable, and are a great way to earn some quick credits.
Free-to-play and preferred players also have access to a majority of the flashpoints in the game, so you can group up with others and try out the 4-man group flashpoints. Most flashpoints also now have a solo version available that you can play by yourself.
You also have access to space missions, an on-rails shooter that you can access near your ship’s galaxy map, but you are limited to 3 space missions per week per character.
If you want to try flying in space battles against other players, Galactic Starfighter is available even to free-to-play players.
Don’t forget as a free-to-play player you can also hop into pvp – player vs player warzones – just make sure to grab a subscribed friend to group with if you want to do more than a few matches. You’ll be locked out from q’ing yourself, but if your friend q’s up your group you will be able to do unlimited warzones with them.
Other things free-to-play players can check out are: stronghold decorating, crafting and collecting.
The basic strongholds of Coruscant and Dromund Kaas only cost 5,000 credits for their initial unlock, and you can unlock quite a few rooms a little bit at a time before you get to rooms that are beyond your credit cap.
Crafting unfortunately is severely hindered for prefered players, as you can only queue up on crafted item per companion at a time instead of queueing up many items and allowing your companions to craft them over time even if you are away from the computer. The good news is if you are crafting for fun and for yourself, rather than as part of a crafting production line, crafting as a preferred player is very viable, especially if you buy the unlock which allows you to have all three crew slots available.
Just keep in mind as a preferred player with a 200,000 credit cap or a preferred player with 350,000, you’ll be severely hindered in any activity that involves buying items!
All players, from level 1 to level 70, can also try out roleplaying – it’s a free activity that’s not supported directly ingame, but something that a lot of players enjoy. Roleplaying is a way of acting as your character, and interacting with other players as if you are your character in chat – you could roleplay as a serene jedi, a hardened trooper, or even an imperial mechanic!
A while ago I wrote on the blog about how I had become disenchanted with Star Wars: The Old Republic. I was no longer logging in and playing like I used to. I knew, eventually, that my account would go into the Preferred status, because I removed my payment information from my account before my subscription ran out to prevent it from auto-renewing. However, even though I knew it was coming, I was a bit shocked when I did finally log in, because my guild needed a fill-in for an operations group, and I was available.
Being a Preferred player means that I don’t pay monthly for a subscription, but because I had previously paid something into the game, I’m not a “Free-to-Play” player. There are some restrictions compared to being a subscribed player! This is not a comprehensive list of restrictions, but the ones I’ve run into doing my usual gameplay.
In order to even get into the Operation, I needed to consume an Operations Pass. No problem, I have millions of credits. I’ll just get one on the GTN—right? Well, on the GTN on the Harbinger that day, Operation passes were nearly 900k credits, which I could normally easily purchase, but because I was a Preferred player, my credits were placed into what’s called an Escrow, and I was limited to 350k credits. I tried to think of ways around it, like donating 350k credits at a time to my guild bank and getting my credits “refilled” from the escrow, but it absolutely does not work that way. Once you use the credits you have on hand, they’re gone, and the amount you have in escrow is still inaccessible unless you either subscribe or pay Cartel Coins to withdraw from it.
I ended up using 240 Cartel Coins, which I had saved up from when I was a Subscriber, to purchase the one-week consumable Operations pass. It is definitely not a sustainable system for someone that wants to run Operations every week, but as someone who hardly logs in, it wasn’t much to spend.
When I finally got into the Operation, my guildies warned me not to remove my gear. Why? I guess I can’t wear Artifact or “purple” grade gear. There is something you can buy in the Cartel Market that unlocks this for your character, but I think it’s about 1200 Cartel Coins. Down the line if I ever wanted to optimize my gear more or upgrade my gear, I’d probably buy it, but I don’t need to have better gear than what I already have for the current end-game content. I did test out the Outfit Designer, which still had all of the “looks” I saved for my character. I remember a Free-to-Play restriction being that you couldn’t color-match your armor to your chest piece.
Another restriction is that you don’t have as many hot bars as a Subscriber. This wasn’t noticeable to me though, since I had designed my UI in such a way that all my essential abilities were on the hot bars that were provided.
We did run into a bug during the Operator IX fight in the Terror From Beyond operation, where there was an error transitioning from one color to the next during the first phase. I was going to report it, but as a non-subscriber I’m unable to do that. I guess since I’m not paying, my complaints about bugs don’t matter. Anyway, one of my guildies put in the report for me, so at least it got done.
Preferred and Free-to-Play players also cannot play the story in Knights of the Fallen Empire. I did play chapters 10 and 11, since my subscription didn’t run out before the latest chapter had been released. I think I will want to play the rest of the story, but maybe when it’s all released so I don’t have to subscribe monthly to access it.
Obviously there are plenty of things I could’ve done to prepare for becoming a Preferred player, but I had no motivation to log in and do anything in-game. For now, I’m fine with how it is. If I do start playing on a regular basis again, I will subscribe. My guildies offered to pay for my subscription, but the money wasn’t the issue. I like to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, so I will subscribe again when there is a new operation to play in SWTOR, which I’m guessing won’t happen until at least next year… or ever?