I logged on the other day and was instantly greeted with the fact that my subscription was changed to Preferred (I found out later that this was because the mailing address for the card on my subscription was changed, but that is besides the point). Taking it as a sign, I spent a little time before subscribing again to see how it affected my game experience.
I’ve gone Free to Play a few times, for one reason or another, in the past, but it never lasted more than a few hours before I gave in and subbed again. I actually crumbled during a previous F2P spand and blew some credits and Cartel Coins on unlocks, so I have mostly everything I need unlocked. Predominately quick bars, so it’s really not that terrible of an experience. The annoying parts of F2P for me are the vain ones, like the inability to emote, color match, and hide your head slot. I don't spend a ridiculous amount of time with character creation for no one to see my hot toons, so those are actually also unlocked on the Sorc. I don't remember blowing those coins, but I make a lot of late night calls I often regret down the road. To my disappointment though, Color Match and Hide Head Slot unlocks aren't universal. When I logged onto my Operative to get a few games in on Bastion, I didn't match at all. At a whopping 775 Cartel Coins each, which is pretty high, it really should be a legacy unlock. With all my wild server hopping these days I don’t have the CCs on hand.
The first real issue I came across was respec costs, a whopping 122,150. With the credit limit of 350,00 without escrow, I could only respec twice before I ran out of credits. Which of course I did because I respec all the time to PvP. The cost to respec as Preferred is also lower than that of Free to Play. As F2P you’re basically stuck in your spec because the cost would just be too high.
I also hate that you can’t post on the forums or do PTS as F2P, another factor in getting me back to subscribing. I don't post on the forums much, I get annoyed too quickly with some of the keyboard warriors there, but PTS is important to me. But, PTS is only up so often, so if I really wanted to just bounce back and forth between subscriptions and F2P that's not such a limiting factor.
In order to do operations as F2P you have to buy a Weekly Operations Pass. 250 Cartel Coins or 450,000 credits on the GTN. More than you have without escrow. The pass allows you to do any and all Operations you want though, and there is no limit besides the normal lockout system. Technically, one could even do progression raiding as F2P, you'd just need to be stocked up and unlocked beforehand. I ended up resubscribing to raid, but I probably just could have gotten someone to buy me a pass and I would pay them back.
For PvP, F2P can’t do ranked but you are allowed 5 regular warzones a week. It was 250,000 credits for weekly warzone passes on the GTN or 250 cartel coins. A pass still doesn’t allow you to do Ranked. I think this is silly, and it’s no wonder PvPers sight it as an example of PvE preference. You can essentially do all things PvE but not all things PvP. While that definitely has something to do with why the Warzone passes are cheaper than the Operations Passes, the fact that they are obsolete is probably the biggest reason. We’ve known for a while now it’s possible to do more than your five matches as long as you are in a group or have someone queue for you. Even though the queue is locked after 5, you can still be queued as part of a group. I ended up just inviting people from warzones who were good into a group with me and they queue’d me up.
All in all, a subscription really isn’t necessary to fully play this game. With just a few unlocks, and maybe a pal to hold money for you, the game experience is comparable. That is what makes SWTOR F2P pretty successful. Sure you’ll be restricted on a stuff, but you can very much still play the game. If one planned ahead, I can see it being really easy to go on a 3-4 month rotation of subscribing. Pay for a month and save up all the passes you need, and then unsub again. I might start doing that during content droughts in the future, it might keep me calmer.