Many new players ask the question, “Should I subscribe to SWTOR?” and others ask “When should I subscribe to SWTOR?” This article will cover the basic differences between free-to-play, preferred, and subscribed accounts, and when and if you should subscribe.
If you are a brand new player, you are usually a free-to-play player. That means you haven’t spent any money into the game, and are trying it out as an expansive free demo. The free-to-play version of the game allows you to access all eight class storylines, the planetary storylines on both factions, and all the classic flashpoints – and the class storylines are often considered some of the best story content available in the game. You will also have access to the first two expansions for free.
Once you reach level 60, you won’t be able to level up anymore, and once you’ve finished the first two expansions you won’t have access to the later story expansions on your free-to-play account. Free-to-play accounts also have a lot of annoying restrictions – the biggest ones include the inability to wear certain types of gear, a credit cap of 1,000,000 credits (as of late 2019), and not being able to run unlimited warzones without a friend, and free to play players are locked out of Operations, the 8-man max level content in the game. The good news is you won’t have to worry too much about these restrictions until you are finished your class story and want to explore what content is available in endgame – if you’re completing all quests in the game, there’s well over 100 hours of gameplay. Personally, I’m on hour 50 on my Free to Play account, and I’ve only gotten to my sixth planet on my first class and I’ve really enjoyed it so far, even with the few restrictions my free to play account has.
Preferred players are one step above free-to-play players – they are not currently subscribed, but have spent money in the past on the game. They receive less restrictions, and may even have access to some expansions depending on when the last time they subscribed was. If you are a returning player from the launch of the game or you subscribed years ago – you are automatically considered a preferred player. In addition to the story content free-to-play accounts have, preferred players have access to any expansion stories they’ve unlocked, but are still restricted in PvP and preferred players also can’t run Operations. If you’ve subscribed anytime in 2020, you should have all the expansions unlocked and be able to reach level 75.
Subscribing & Unlocking Expansions
Now that we’ve covered free-to-play and preferred, let’s talk about subscribing and expansions. At the time of making this video, there are five expansions which are: Rise of the Hutt Cartel, Shadow of Revan, Knights of the Fallen Empire, Knights of the Eternal Throne and Onslaught. The first two are free to all players. The great news is that you no longer need to purchase the other expansions separately – to unlock all the current and past expansions, all you need to do is subscribe for at least one month. Even if you decide to unsubscribe after that first month, you’ll still retain the ability to get to max level, and the ability to play the expansion storylines on any of your characters, even new ones. For this reason alone, most players highly suggest subscribing for at least one month to unlock the expansions. There is no way to unlock the expansion storylines without subscribing.
Unlocking the later expansions don’t really come into player until level 60 or after you finish your first free-to-play quest on Ziost – so if you don’t plan on staying subscribed or are trying to save money, you might want to wait to subscribe until you’ve finished the “free” game content. I can personally say that the classic game’s class stories are fantastic, even on a free-to-play account. On the flip side, if you have the money available and you’re enjoying the game, you might as well remove the restrictions early and subscribe now instead of later!
Subscriber Storylines & Expansions
Subscribing for at least one month will unlock all the current expansions permanently, so you’ll be able to play all the expansion storylines and reach level 75 even after you unsubscribe. Let’s go through exactly what storylines you receive if you subscribe, in addition to the 8 class stories and planetary quests free to play accounts have.
In short, you unlock five expansions,
- Class Story x8 & Planetary Arc Story x2
- Hidden Exploratory Quests: IMPORTANT SETTING
- Quest Types & Heroics
- Achievements, Datacrons and Secrets
- Solo-Only Story Order
- Soloable Group Content
- Starter Planet
- The Fleet
- FLASHPOINT: The Esseles (Republic)
- FLASHPOINT: The Black Talon (Imperial)
- Capital Planet, Coruscant or Dromund Kaas
- FLASHPOINT: Hammer Station
- FLASHPOINT: Kuat Drive Yards
- Republic Taris / Imperial Balmorra
- Imperial Balmorra Bonus Series
- Republic Taris Bonus Series
- FLASHPOINT: Athiss
- Nar Shaddaa
- Nar Shaddaa Bonus Series
- FLASHPOINT: Mandalorian Raiders
- Tatooine Bonus Series
- FLASHPOINT: Cademimu
- Alderaan Bonus Series
- Republic Balmorra / Imperial Taris
- Republic Balmorra Bonus Series
- Imperial Taris Bonus Series
- FLASHPOINTS: Taral V & Maelstrom Prison (Republic)
- FLASHPOINTS: Boarding Party & The Foundry (Imperial)
- Hoth Bonus Series
- FLASHPOINT: Colicoid War Game
- Belsavis Bonus Series
- FLASHPOINT: The Red Reaper
- Voss Bonus Series
- FLASHPOINT: Directive 7
- FLASHPOINT: The Battle of Ilum
- FLASHPOINT: The False Emperor
- The End of the Original Game
- FLASHPOINT: Kaon Under Siege
- FLASHPOINT: Lost Island
- The Black Hole (Corellia)
- Section X (Belsavis)
- EXPANSION: Rise of the Hutt Cartel (Makeb)
- Macrobinocular & Seeker Droid Quests
- FLASHPOINT: Czerka Corporate Labs
- FLASHPOINT: Czerka Core Meltdown
- Prelude to Shadow of Revan
- FLASHPOINT: Incursion on Korriban
- FLASHPOINT: Assault on Tython
- FLASHPOINT: Depths of Manaan
- FLASHPOINT: Legacy of the Rakata
- EXPANSION: Shadow of Revan (Rishi & Yavin 4)
- FLASHPOINT: Blood Hunt
- FLASHPOINT: Battle of Rishi
- End of Free-to-play Content
- EXPANSION: Knights of the Fallen Empire (Zakuul & Odessen)
- FLASHPOINTS: Star Fortresses
- Companion Alerts
- Knights of the Eternal Throne
- FLASHPOINTS: Uprisings x8
- FLASHPOINT: Crisis on Umbara
- FLASHPOINT: Copero (A Traitor Among the Chiss)
- FLASHPOINT: The Nathema Conspiracy
- STORYLINE: 5.10 Jedi Under Siege
- EXPANSION: Onslaught
Operations (Subscribers Only)
- OPERATION: The Eternity Vault
- OPERATION: Karagga’s Palace
- OPERATION: Explosive Conflict
- OPERATION: Terror from Beyond
- OPERATION: Scum & Villainy
- OPERATION: DREAD FORTRESS
- OPERATION: DREAD PALACE
- OPERATION: The Ravagers
- OPERATION: Temple of Sacrifice
- OPERATION: Gods from the Machine
- OPERATION: Nature of PRgress
To Subscribe or Unsubscribe
After you’ve unlocked the expansions, there are a variety of reasons why you might want to stay subscribed, or, unsubscribe and become a preferred player. Here are some of the things to consider when it comes to staying subscribed.
The first one is the restrictions. Preferred players are limited to 1,000,000 credits (as of late 2019) at time, and with many cosmetic items running into the millions, this can put a severe hamper on any player who enjoys fashion, player housing, or buying high-end crafted gear. Although preferred players have less restrictions than free-to-play players, preferred players will still be missing things like artifact authorization to wear purple-bordered gear. Players can often offset those restrictions by buying unlocks before they drop down to preferred status.
Speaking of gear, preferred players are unable to earn gear via Galactic Command. That means players who are interested in gaining the best gear in the game must be subscribed – preferred players can only continue wearing most gear they’ve already earned, but will not be able to get new gear. If gearing up is something that’s important to you, you’ll need to stay subbed while you play to continue earning gear.
The good news is that good gear is not needed for the average player. Only players who play the most difficult content in the game will really need great gear – for example Veteran and Master Mode operations, Master mode flashpoints, ranked PvP and the more difficult levels of the story chapters require better gear. Casual warzones and veteran flashpoints will automatically bolster your gear to an acceptable level, and most story and solo content is meant to be played even by casual players.
For players who do enjoy some of the hardest content in the game, including operations and ranked pvp matches, you will need to be subscribed. All operations and ranked pvp are completely locked behind subscription. There used to be passes available to do operations outside of subscribing, but they have since been removed from the game.
In short, if you are still playing sub level 60 and your main storyline, not a lot changes if you subscribe except removing some of the convenience restrictions, and of course you unlock the expansions. If you are looking to progress your story and level beyond the classic game, you should definitely subscribe at least for one month. And if you’re at max-level, whether you subscribe or not will really depend on the types of things you want to do – players who want to do expensive collecting, operations or ranked pvp must stay subscribed, but players who might move on to something not locked behind subscription including group flashpoints, leveling other characters or achievement hunting have a lot more leeway when it comes to deciding if they want to subscribe or not.
Apart from all these reasons, players of course have to consider the financial aspect of subscribing. Subscribing costs approximately $15 USD per month. If you are a student and only working part time while paying the bills, or are working on saving money, SWTOR’s subscription cost is a luxury and may not be worth it to you right now. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m really enjoying leveling on my free-to-play account, and I also went for about 6 months unsubscribed on my main account – I just had to be a bit creative about the activities I did ingame, for example I got really into achievement hunting and roleplaying, both of which are not locked a subscription. On the flip side, if all the bills are paid and you’ve still got some money left over, SWTOR’s subscription cost is about the same as three expensive coffee drinks or one expensive movie ticket – and you get an entire month’s worth of hobby or entertainment time. I personally consider it a pretty good deal, especially compared to some other hobbies that require buying physical objects like gardening or board games.
Players often also consider how much time they spend ingame when they are buying a subscription. For example, if you only play once a week, subscribing might not be worth it to you, especially if you spread your free time between the game and other hobbies or other online games. On the other hand, if you are very busy and short on free time, you might want to subscribe to remove some of the free-to-play or preferred restrictions, to make the short time you have available more enjoyable. And of course, even doing operations or pvp once a week with friends can be extremely fun, and that alone might be worth the cost of subscribing to you. Players who play very casually, but very often, might also consider subscribing just due to the sheer amount of time they spend in the game. Personally, the reasons I stay subscribed include supporting the developers and the direction of the game and to encourage new content to be made, to remove the credits restriction so I can play fashion in space and decorate my stronghold with expensive items, to have access to all my many characters at once, and to be able to do the occasional operation with friends.
I hope this article helped you decide whether or not you should subscribe to Star Wars: The Old Republic, and may the Force, be with you.