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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: The New Free* Trial

By Michael Bitton on July 11, 2012

BioWare has been utilizing a number of programs to get new players to check out Star Wars: The Old Republic for a number of months now, ranging from the short Weekend Pass trial (4-day) to the old Friends of The Old Republic (7-day) trial. However, during this year’s E3, BioWare announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic would be opened up to all with a new permanent free trial (up to level 15) set to launch in July.

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Yesterday, BioWare launched the new Free Trial and revamped Friends of The Old Republic trial, but should you bother? This week, we’ll look at the new trial(s) in greater detail and talk about some of the reasons you may or may not want to give SWTOR a spin (or another look!).

The new Free Trial is fairly straightforward at face value. Gamers can open up a new Star Wars: The Old Republic account and level up in the game, for free, up to level 15 without a time limit. If you’re familiar with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning’s “Forever Free” trial, this one is pretty similar.

And to just quickly explain, the Friends of The Old Republic Trial is now identical to the new Free Trial, with the only key difference being that an actively subscribing player must refer you to it. Of course, the referring player receives a snazzy new Kurtob Alliance speeder if you convert to a paying player. Players already taking part in the old Friends of The Old Republic trial will be automatically converted to the new one, extending their allowed play time indefinitely (again, up to level 15).

One notable area that was immediately disappointing to me is the fact that former players will be ineligible from taking part, unless they create new accounts. Basically, if you’re looking to play low level characters on your main account, it doesn’t look like this will be possible at this time. This is a major downer, as former players may want to check in with the game from time to time, and if they are enjoying the experience, might actually resubscribe to the game. Sometimes you aren’t sure whether or not you want to pay up to play again and all it takes is messing around on one of your characters to reignite things. Of course, BioWare adopting a full-blown free-to-play model would ameliorate this issue entirely, but that’s a discussion for another day!

Fortunately, former subscribers received an e-mail today granting them a free week on BioWare to check out the latest update, Update 1.3: Allies, free of charge. Be sure to check your e-mail/junk box (or go here) if this interests you.

So, other than the aforementioned eligibility restrictions, what else are Free Trial and Friends of The Old Republic Trial players restricted to?

Straight from the Free Trial FAQ:

  • A Free Trial character cannot exceed level 15. The player will be notified via in-game notifications and chat message once they have hit the maximum level for the trial experience.
  • A Free Trial character will only be able to play on their Origin World, Capital World, the Fleet, all Warzones, and in their first Flashpoint. A message box will appear if a character attempts to go outside of these areas.
  • A Free Trial character will not be able to use general chat, trade chat, or PvP chat. The character will only be able to use local chat, group chat, guild chat, and reply to whispers.
  • A Free Trial character will not be able to send or reply to mail by other trial characters. However, your character will be able to receive in-game mail during the trial.
  • A Free Trial character will not be able to use the Galactic Trade Network or trade with other players.
  • A Free Trial character will only be able to level their Crew Skills ranking to around 40.
  • A Free Trial character will not be able to earn Legacy XP.

Also, while I’m sure this is more to cover BioWare’s ass, characters may be deleted on what BioWare considers “abandoned trial accounts” if they deem it necessary. Again, I don’t think they’d actually do this, but it’s something worth noting.

Basically, the Free Trial as its currently set up is fairly restricted, but most of the restrictions are reasonable and appear geared towards preventing spammers and gold sellers from having an easy means of abusing the game.

That brings us to the main question then:  should you even bother checking out the game now that the Free Trial is available?

YES!

If you’ve never played Star Wars: The Old Republic because you’ve been on the fence about the game, the new Free Trial is a great way to check it out for yourself without the pressure of time. Sure, there are some restrictions, but you’ll be able to sample any of the game’s eight classes (and class stories) and decide for yourself whether or not you want to part with your hard-earned cash to continue.

With that said, while the game has improved much over recent months, the basic premise of SWTOR is the same. This is still a themepark game with a heavy focus on storyline. If this isn’t something that interests you on any level, that much certainly hasn’t changed.

We’ve previously heard from BioWare that they’ve found that once players actually give the game a shot, they tend to pick it up, but are there really that many people out there who haven’t checked out SWTOR using the previous trial offers? That remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure though, the combination of the launch of the Free Character Transfer Service, the new trials, and the return offer for former subscribers, should definitely have servers booming for at least the next couple of weeks. Let’s just hope the team takes advantage of all that forward momentum!

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