Based on no particular impetus aside from a vague desire to get back to it at some point now that it’s free to play, I reinstalled SWTOR, picked up a new Smuggler character and am having a surprisingly good time with it. Without the added overhead of a subscription, I’m finding it generally more fun than my two previous rounds with the game — but then, it may be that it just takes until level 7 or so to get attached to whichever “fourth pillar” applies to your class.
It seems like Bioware, despite some stumbles, is doing a halfway decent job of supporting the game post-launch. The new “expansion” is now launched and there seem to be plenty of players even in the lowbie zones and even at my weird hours. So hopefully it’s doing well.
On the downside, SWTOR has the most punitively restrictive free player package that I am seeing right now, bearing in mind recent changes that loosened things up a great deal in SOE’s EverQurest II and Vanguard. Some of the restrictions can be loosened by upgrading to a “Premium” membership, and most others can be bought off, but some of those restrictions are borderline insane.
For example, free players are limited to two hotbars. Selling UI elements for virtual currency. Free players are also limited to five field resurrecions. Not five over some cooldown period, or five per however many levels, but five field rezzes ever. Beyond that you get to rez at a regular rez point or buy more rezzes from the store. Free players also don’t get bank access, at all, unless they buy it.
None of this is a real impediment given my own involvement level, but the restrictions loom large and early and I can certainly see them turning waffling players off while providing a big disincentive for players looking to pay without a sub. Personally I spent five bucks to spring for the Premium deal, which is worth it for the four extra character slots and extra crew skill slot alone, but I am not inclined to spend any more at the moment (I didn’t say not tempted — I am after all having fun.)
I am planning to play until level 20 or so with the Smuggler and see how I feel about it then. Even if I keep in installed and continue to dabble, though, it is very likely my summer game will be EverQuest II or Vanguard.