Launched in December 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic brought to gamers an online Star Wars experience based a few thousand years before the events of the movies. Known by the acronym SWTOR, this MMO allows you to join the Republic or the Sith Empire, with eight different class stories to enjoy. The game has had an F2P option since late 2012, so here I want to review the SWTOR Free-to-Play experience for you. Although I have been playing over five years, I set up a second account with none of my usual unlocks to make this review as helpful as possible.
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- F2P Limits & Restrictions
- Get Started Today
Without having to commit a single penny or cent to SWTOR, you have days and maybe even weeks of gameplay you can enjoy completely free.
You can create up to 4 characters per server on your Free-to-Play account. Initially you can select from three races: Human, Cyborg and Zabrak and decide whether they are male or female characters.
Republic Zabraks are different from Sith Empire Zabraks, who have the “Darth Maul” look about them.
Character creation is highly detailed – from how tall or strong they appear, to facial features, make-up and hair style. Zabrak will stand out as different due to their unique horns and tattoos. Their hairstyles differ to humans and cyborgs too. My very first character was a male Zabrak!
Other species may unlock as you progress, or can be unlocked with Cartel Coins via the Cartel Market (SWTOR’s Money Market).
Although you are limited to four character slots per server, you can enjoy eight different class stories. All you have to do is set up characters on different servers, if you do not want to delete characters. You can choose your character to be:
- Bounty Hunter
- Imperial Agent
- Jedi Consular
- Jedi Knight
- Republic Trooper
- Sith Inquisitor
- Sith Warrior
Here are the classes I set up on my Free-to-Play account:
The class stories are mission-driven and told through choices and cutscenes. As you develop your character through choices they make, there can be consequences on that story. Your character will also have their Force alignment (for non-Force users this could be considered ‘morality’) adjusted towards the light, dark or neutral-alignment.
Jedi Consular Story on Tython
To give you a feel for how cutscenes and questing works, here’s the Jedi Consular story on the planet Tython. This was on my Free-to-Play account so I have tried to well-represent your experience should you begin playing SWTOR.
Each class gradually picks up five companions (aka “Crew Members”) as the story progresses. Each has their own story to tell and some will have missions they will drag you along for too. These companions can join you in battle – to heal you, deal more damage (DPS) or try to detract attention from you in battle (Tank). You gain your first companion on your starter planet. Here are the companions you get first for: Imperial Agent (Kaliyo), Jedi Consular (Qyzen Fess), Jedi Knight (T7-01) and Sith Warrior (Vette):
Should you choose to craft, or simply gather crafting materials (say to sell to other players), companions can go off to perform Crew Skills Missions for you.
How well they perform in such fights and in crafting or gathering missions, depends on the level of companion influence you have over them.
Each class has at least one, and sometimes two, companions you can choose to pursue a romance with. In the base SWTOR Free-to-Play game these are only cross-gender (“Male” characters can only romance “Female” characters and vice-versa. Same-gender relationships were only introduced in later content). Likely for programming and database reasons, genders are binary. Though once you reach Knights of the Fallen Empire (and maybe Shadow of Revan) I believe you can flirt with NPCs of either binary gender.
As an aside, you may encounter NPCs in the galaxy you can flirt with. In the interests of keeping my blog family-friendly, I’ll leave it up to you to investigate that aspect yourself!
Although there are only eight classes (this is true for Subscribers too, by the way), each one has two sub-classes. And each of those has three trait trees you can follow. That means there are 48 different ways you can engage in combat in SWTOR! Thus a Jedi Consular can be a ranged damage-dealer, a healer or a double-bladed Lightsaber wielder. An Imperial agent can be a ranged sniper, a close-range healer or a knife-wielding damage-over-time damage-dealer. Some specialisations allow for Tanking (e.g. Sith Juggernaut, Jedi Shadow) or healing. As far as I can remember all classes have a DPS specialisation, but not all offer Tank or Healing.
Not only do you have the 8 core class stories, but you can quest on 17 different, immersive planets too. These planets usually have their own storyline – and in some cases “Bonus Series”, which are also story-driven. The planet Voss is not officially Star Wars but was invented by SWTOR, but it is beautiful nonetheless!
- Hutta: A swampy world ruled by greedy Hutt clans. Agents and Bounty Hunters start here.
- Tython: The lush, green planet where the Jedi retreat after the Sacking of Coruscant. All Jedi start here.
- Korriban: The dusty, harsh home of the Sith Academy. All Sith begin their story here.
- Ord Mantell: the starter planet for Smugglers and Republic Troopers, a war is in progress between Republic Forces and the Separatists who seek to leave the Republic.
- Dromund Kaas: The capital of the Sith Empire.
- Coruscant: this city-world is the heart of the Republic.
- Taris: Formerly a city world, devasted by an ancient Sith and now plagued by the Rakghouls.
- Balmorra: home to some of the best weapon engineers in the galaxy. Expect war here as both Empire and Republic want these resources.
- Nar Shaddaa: Another city-world, ruled by Hutts and holding secrets of Revan.
- Alderaan: Yes, the same planet destroyed during A New Hope. A bloody civil war between the ruling families is ongoing here.
- Tatooine: The iconic desert planet of Tatooine, which features centrally in Star Wars movies.
- Hoth: The icy, unrelenting world of Hoth won’t give you a warm welcome!
- Quesh: A toxic rock, where the Empire is trying to force the Republic to break the Treaty of Coruscant.
- Voss: A beautiful, autumnal planet, home to Force-using “Mystics” who are wary of outsiders but appear to be able to resist any forced attempt at invasion.
- Belsavis: A previously-secret prison-planet, home to some of the worst criminals in the galaxy.
- Corellia: A key Republic Core World. It is here that your class story, and the planetary questlines reach a peak as the Empire tries to steal Corellia from the Republic.
- Ilum: A night-time Icy world, in which Darth Malgus plays a huge part. You will also play a pivotal role in the Battle of Ilum!
Take time to #StopAndStare! Tap the link below to see some planetary beauty in SWTOR.
Here are the thumbnails. Simply tap on a thumnail to open the gallery. You can then browse the whole gallery full-screen.
On your planetary map (M key), if you toggle “Exploration Missions” on, then there are tons of side missions you can undertake too. If you want to find “Bonus Series” when you later return to the planet, you will need this toggle to be switched on. Planets that have bonus missions are:
- Nar Shaddaa
While access to Section X requires a Cartel Market purchase, you can still partake in three daily areas once you’re Level 50. These are:
- The Black Hole: based on, but separate to, Corellia.
- CZ-198: the now defunct Czerka Corporation Headquarters, but still holds valuable information. If you can fight through the droids and a toxic spill. I double-checked with swtorista, and although you can come here at Level 50, this area has Level 55 enemies. So maybe take a friend with you on this one.
The Dread Masters have planted “Seeds” across the galaxy, which the warp people and nature around it. Can you find and dig up these seeds before they cause more widespread chaos and panic?
You can use gear from quests, loot or events to make cosmetic outfits for your character. Although you only get one outfit slot on a SWTOR Free-to-Play account, more can be unlocked with credits.
There are in-game events that regularly cycle. These give you a chance at increasing reputation with factions. You can also obtain unique armoursets, mounts and pets only available from the event vendors. These are:
- Rakghoul Resurgence: Alderaan, Corellia or Tatooine see an underground Rakghoul infestation. This event has a clever mechanic of spawning enemies that are your character’s level.
- Bounty Contract Week: The Bounty Brokers Association have openings for non-Professional hunters to earn credits. You are ultimately tracking Most-Wanted criminals but you begin by eliminating their Lieutenants. You can exchange “Completed Contracts” in the Cartel Bazaar (on your faction’s fleet) for rewards. Incidentally the vendors are available even when the event is not on, in case you forget to spend them during it!
- Relics of the Gree: A higher-level requirement is set for this, but if you wait until Level 50 you can play this event on Ilum. You may need a small group, or at least one other player with you, to make the most of this event.
- Life Day: the Winter/Christmas festival in SWTOR. It mostly involves throwing snowballs at players and NPCs to earn “Snow-Covered Parcels” which can be exchanged for cosmetic outfits, mounts, stronghold decorations and pets.
All players, including Free-to-Play accounts, can acquire a Security Key. This gives two-factor authentication, via a mobile app, when logging into both the SWTOR game and website.
Having this set-up grants you access to the in-game Security Key Vendor and grants your account 100 Free Cartel Coins per Month. You may want these to earn some of the unlocks mentioned in this post!
As I have done with my other game reviews, I will give an overview of some of the limits and restrictions that SWTOR Free-to-Play accounts have.
As a Free-to-Play player, you characters have a level limit of 50. However, given how much content you can enjoy this will not limit you, not really. Ilum finishes with two Flashpoints (stand-alone missions) but these are level 50 and if you run them solo you get a droid to help you through.
Since July 2019, Free-to-Play Accounts have a credit cap of 1 Million Credits. This may restrict your ability to purchase mounts or gear from Galactic Trade Network (GTN), the player-to-player market. However, as the limit used to be 200,000 – you’ll find you have more options open to you now!
Any credits earned over this will be put into an ESCROW which you can only access either by purchasing unlocks from the Cartel Market or by subscribing.
When you first start playing, your character walks very slowly. The “Sprint” ability unlocks for a character when they reach Level 10.
SWTOR Free-to-Play players can only list 2 items, or 2 stacks of items on GTN at any one time. While this limits your ability to earn credits, with the credit cap that does not really matter. And as games like FFXIV stop you using the player-to-player market while F2P, any access at all is more than others offer.
Since the July 2019 Changes to F2P, Free-to-Play accounts can use 3 Quickbars – a total of 36 slots. This means you may have to use the Abilities panel to access items such as mounts or Quick Travel. Depending on your class you may need to use a slot or two for medpacs!
When you are granted a ship at the end of either Coruscant or Dromund Kaas, you’re informed you have a “secure captain’s locker”. However this, and personal Cargo Hold access are locked for Free-to-Play accounts.
You can unlock this in two ways:
- Cartel Coins: buy some Cartel Coins (CC) and pay 80CC
- Play to Unlock: by completing the portion of your class story on your first planet, you can earn 20 Cartel Coins. Doing this for 4 different classes (once per server) will earn you 80 Cartel Coins. Then you can purchase the unlock from the Cartel Market.
However, of all the MMOs I’m reviewing and have reviewed so far, SWTOR is by far the most restrictive on inventory and storage space.
SWTOR Free-to-Play characters only have access to one Crew Skill. That means each character can only either gather one resource or craft one type of item. If you want to craft, you’ll need to use 3 Characters each with a different crafting role, simply to fulfil the ability to craft one type of gear.
This can be made to work if all your characters wear the same type of armour (Light/Medium/Heavy) or carry the same kind of weapon. But you will be logging in/out of your characters frequently if you wish to do it this way.
You can always buy crafting materials from GTN, but this can be very costly in terms of credits. Again compared to LOTRO (my review of this is in the works) and FFXIV, this inability to craft is very restrictive to be honest.
You cannot learn the skill allowing you to use mounts until you are Level 20. Admittedly this gives you time to earn the credits to buy a mount. But it means you should expect to be on foot for a good portion of a new character’s life. And the first ten levels, you cannot sprint!
As per my post on making outfits in SWTOR, there are two appearance options locked to Free-to-Play accounts:
- Hide Head Slot: if your helmet or hood is ugly and makes you look unfashionable, you cannot hide it!
- Unify Colours: without this option, you may end up with clashing colours from one armour or outfit piece to another. You could dye these pieces, but unless you can craft dyes, you will have to buy them from other players. This is rarely cost-effective.
Both these options can be unlocked via the Cartel Market.
You cannot use what is called Artifact Equipment as a SWTOR Free-to-Play player. Such items are shown by their purple outline. You can still use Normal (Green) and Prototype (Blue) gear, however.
As you have access to so much content, you should not find this restriction have any negative impact on your ability to play the game. But should you so choose, this can also be unlocked via the Cartel Market.
Once your character reaches Level 20 you will be prompted with a reminder that your XP rate has now dropped. Do not worry about this. There are so many missions available to you that reaching the level cap of 50 will not be difficult!
- Limited Emotes: unlike other MMOs, SWTOR has a very restrictive set of emotes for Free-to-Play players. Some can be obtained from players via GTN or from the Cartel Market, but many are subscriber only.
- Legacy Titles: Legacy titles cannot be shown above your character. (Next point has been corrected)
- Character-Specific Titles: You cannot show any character-specific titles you earn without a Cartel Market unlock. You can still see earned titles in the Character Panel, just not display them for you and others to see.
- Legacy Name: even if you have the most awesome name for your legacy, this cannot be shown to other players without you unlocking it.
- Legendary Locked Out: if you complete all 8 Class Stories on one server you can unlock the Legendary Character Flair. This is like a frame or portrait around your character’s avatar, visible to you and other players. Free-to-Play accounts cannot earn this unless you unlock a further four character slots. And there are more cost-effective ways to go about that!
Even with all the restrictions and limits mentioned above, SWTOR Free-to-Play has a lot to offer. Tons of missions and video cutscenes make for an immersive story-telling experience. Beautifully crafted worlds give you a wide experience of galactic cultures and lore and none of the limits stop you progressing easily to Level 50.
If you want extra guidance on making the most of SWTOR F2P, swtorista has an excellent guide to help you do just that. So why not jump into a Galaxy Far, Far Away and make your first characters as an SWTOR Free-to-Play account? Tap here to learn more! May the Force be with You!