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That face is cute.
Now, since I know this is going to come up, my experience with Shaiya and my opinions of it are based primarily on closed beta testing, open beta playing and GSing ( More on this soon ) and now I am in my second week of a GM internship, so yes, my opinion may be biased but I will try to keep it as honest as possible. That said, GMing doesn't really leave me time to play the game and I'm trying to inform about the gameplay, not the dubious joys of GMing!
At any rate, I've played a lot of free and pay to play MMOs. Shaiya is definitely above average in quality, especially given the drought in the current market. When I first sat down to play it I was dubious. It does have a very Lineage 2 look to it which, while far from a bad thing, can make it easy to think 'Oh, clone.' I stuck with it ( probably due to the drought, I admit ) and found myself playing a game which in all honesty surpasses games I've paid to play.
Some of the features of Shaiya are an acquired taste. The difficulty modes do add longevity to it, especially Ultimate mode ( Reminiscent of Diablo II's much missed Hardcore ) though the effort to unlock them does tend to make them seem less accessible than they could be. That said, it is well possible to reach the Hard and Ultimate difficulty modes exceedingly quickly with the right groups.
The community varies. Obviously I want to say it's wonderful and sparkly but it's not. It's advertised as a 'Mature' game and some people do use that as an excuse to be rude, but for the majority of the time the community is helpful and fun. The PvP is intense, most of the time seeming fairly balanced, and exciting updates are planned for the future.
The Aeria Game Sage system is something I had not run into before, where players volunteer to help, sort of like a voluntary mini-GM, which has definitely proven useful and fun both as a player and as a GS.
It is certainly, in my humble opinion, the best staffed game ( Or company? My experience is primarily Shaiya ) I've played, with both the GS' and even the GMs highly in evidence and quick to respond and attempt to help.
I think my favourite part of Shaiya is its potential. The Shaiya Team is working on getting updates specifically for the Aeria Shaiya, which means that the suggestions of the current players will shape the game as it grows. Yes, the suggestions of players are taken very seriously, both in terms of criticisms and praise.
For both old and new players, would be great to see you in Shaiya, and hopefully you will find the same enjoyment that I have found in this strangely appealing game.