Patch 1.5 introduces Free to Play for Star Wars The Old Republic and a big part of the Free to Play system is the Cartel Market. When you first log into the game after patch 1.5 hits the servers, you will get this welcome message:
Although the game will be Free to Play there will be lots of features and benefits that only the paid subscribers will get and these will be flaunted to the Free to Play players, enticing them to join the fold. The features include unlimited access to warzones, operations and flashpoints, as well as unlimited access to end game purple gear.
Free to Play players will use the Cartel Market to pay for weekly passes to things like flashpoints or operations. Subscriber players earn 500 Cartel Coins per month, just for being a subscriber and they can then use these credits in the Cartel Market to purchase all sorts of neat upgrades and trinkets.
Bioware use the 'Featured' and 'Newly Added' tabs in the Cartel Market to make players aware of the latest and greatest items available.
Most players on the test server seem to be purchasing the Packs. You can purchase either a Crime Lords Cartel Pack or a Black Market Cartel Pack. In the two screenshots below I have joined two screenshots together in each in order to show you the full list of what is in each Pack.
The Black Market Pack is the cheaper of the two. The prices are listed near the bottom right.
After you purchase your Cartel Items you need to Claim them so that they will then appear in your inventory. You can purchase things in the Cartel Market using on character and then logout and log back in with a different character, and claim the items with that different character. Your Cartel Coin value is shared across all your characters on your account. You can only claim your Cartel Market purchases for one character although you can change what character is using them. On the test server they are bound to a character for five days and then they can be changed to another character. Bioware have already stated that this binding is prevent the use of the Cartel Market for quick credit transfers, but the five day time frame on the test server is not set in stone yet.
When you open your Crime Lord Pack an animation appears ingame to assure that all the players around you see you have new goodies! I was able to purchase three Crime Lord Packs and this is what I got from them:
The first pack gave me a Probe Droid pet and a metallic purple mount, along with a minor social boost and some crafting mats.
The second pack provided two new mounts, both different, a space mission experience boost and some crafting mats.
The mounts are all multi-speed mounts, meaning that you can use them with speeder piloting rank 1, through to rank 3, and the mount scales with your skill level.
The third pack I opened gave me an Imperial banner and an orange torso item. This orange torso item is an invisible top that acts the same way as any other armor/chest piece does, but allows the player to be bare-chested if they are male. When equipped on a female character, the default bra is still visible.
The Black Market Pack provided me with one less purple item and one less crafting mat, compared with the Crime Lord Cartel Pack.
I received a relic item in the Black Market Pack that is a level 50 equipped healing trinket. In the screenshot below you can see the trinket in action.
The Force Apparition appears to heal you. This happened in the first 10 seconds of combat whenever the 2 minute cooldown was up. So although the stats look cool on this relic, I am really not too sure how useful it will be.
If you're not into the random-rolled packs, the COSMETIC tab has a variety of mounts and pets available.
The UNLOCKS tab is where most Free to Play players will get the things they need to experience more parts of the game. If you see an exclamation mark next to Buy Now, it means that your account already has that item unlocked, and you shouldn't waste your Cartel Coins on it. UNLOCKS like Section X and bank Tabs are provided with subscriptions. The UNLOCKS tab also provides the ability to unlock specific species without having to level to level 50 first. Certain UNLOCKS are applied account-wide (across all your characters).
There are five tabs of armor and weapons. At this stage there is only one melee weapon - a Gammorean guard axe. There's also only one variation of a color crystal listed - orange/yellow. There are a full range of armor looks available for your character and this includes unique Sith looks for Republic players and unique Republic looks for Sith players. All the armor, from what I can tell, is simply recolored items for equipment that is already in the game - nothing brand new. The armor levels range from level 15 to level 43. So there is no end game armor there, it's all strictly cosmetic and not game-breaking. All the armor is adaptive, allowing any player to equip any look they choose, so long as they meet the minimum level requirement.
I'm not too sure if I like so many items being strictly random access via the Cartel Packs. I guess we're all going to end up with 5 or 6 mounts we never use, or we'll be able to sell the items on the Galactic Trade Market for inagme credits. I didn't experience any duplicate items in all the packs I bought, but I'm sure that it will happen for some unlucky players unless Bioware have the randomness well planned.
Some items, especially the XP boosts, are a bit expensive for subscribers who already pay a monthly fee. For a full paying subscriber I would expect to be able to get the necessary XP boosts automatically without having to spend extra money. The Cartel Market has potential, I just hope that Bioware don't get greedy to the extent where subscriber players are needing to buy boosts on top of their monthly subscription, just to fully enjoy the game.