At least for one gamer, BioWare’s efforts to increase SWTOR’s visibility and accessibility via free-to-play is proving a successful lure. Taking a break from SWTOR earlier this year was a good personal decision: I had taken a character to 50, seen the barren nature of what lay beyond, and had a hard time summoning the enthusiasm to level a new character all over again. Besides, it was another subscription that threatened to stretch my gaming budget too tightly when I wanted to head back to RIFT and was eying TSW.
But on the eve of F2P, it’s happened. Perhaps enough time has passed that the fields of my interest in the game are fertile once more. Perhaps the notion that I won’t have to pay (and I really won’t) sings to me with that tempting siren’s call. And perhaps I’ve regretted not taking a Republic character to 50.
So I decided to sub for a single month to get a jump on things, as well as to unlock a few character benefits that will persist into F2P (such as extra inventory space). I dithered about once more with a Consular, but I quickly remembered why I couldn’t bond with the class — not because of the fight mechanics, which are actually interesting, but because the character’s personality and story are borderline comatose. Thus, I rerolled a Smuggler — a male this time, because darn it, I’m romancing something — and began to live out the Han Solo fantasy.
It’s interesting when you return to an MMO that you played pretty extensively. Some of it feels wonderfully fresh, while other less desirable memories come crashing down on you. You remember the more… unsavory elements. In the few days I’ve had time to dip back into SWTOR, I recalled how I’m not a huge fan of the excessive side quest dialogue (which gives new meaning to the word “inconsequential”) nor of the still-lacking talent trees that just pale in comparison to many other character build options in MMOs.
Yet, there have been a few welcome moments as well. I do enjoy being able to pick speech options and see how NPCs react. The main class story is engaging enough, and the scifi setting is a very nice change of pace. And, at least with the Smuggler, I dig the look and combat. Unlike the last time I rolled one, I’m not doing a Gunslinger this time around. Oddly enough, I like the look of a single blaster more than two, and having options to stealth and heal are quite important to me. And while it’s pretty linear, sometimes that’s relaxing in its own right.
Instead of coming at the game as a near-main MMO, I am definitely enjoying the mental shift to making it a side activity. A game to “pop in” when I’m in the mood for some Star Wars, but certainly nothing now that’s going to take precedent over, say, Guild Wars 2 or LOTRO. There’s far less at stake too: If SWTOR wears out its welcome again, then there’s little pressure to keep me there. I’m there as long as the fun lasts, but not a moment past that.