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First of all, shaiya today is a very different game than it was back when it was new. While it is technicly free to play, you should only expect to get to about level 50-55, (2 days - 1 month depending on if you have help or not and play amount) after that you'll be levling (slowly) in pvp areas, and risk gear and experience if not using pay items. There are 3 modes, (normal, hard and god), each with more skill points, more skills, more stat points, and can use higher quality enchantable gear. The god mode characters also get deletedly permamantly if they dont have a pay item with them to revive them (or a priest, but priests are usually targetted first in pvp). These pay items are sellable ingame, but only people who sell them, farm bosses (usually camped by the lead guild in each faction), people that sell power leveling, and hackers can realisticly afford them.
The cost is about $50 a month to keep a god mode character form being deleated or just being repeatedly pk'd, which can make you lose up to 5% if your xp towards the next level.If you want to avoid being 1-shot by the heavy spenders in pvp, expect to spend several hundred to several thousand on improving your gear. Personally, I find it very sad, it was a great game, AieriaGames decided to take in a direction that became unrealistic for a lot of people. They have tiered spender events each month giving out items not available normally in-game, that make a big difference ($20-50 for lowest tier, $300-500ish for highest). They have spender only items that increase the power of armor and weapons, to the point where it isn't realistic to pvp without then, and a large number of bosses can be solo'd by these characters. They also periodicly 'upgrade' skills, I think thats more of the developer's fault that the folks at aieria. Still though, i knew several mages that spent a lot ,and had thier characters lose all thier ranged aoe's, and had them replaced by -slightly stronger center'd on the caster versions, which meant they had to be in the enemy's aoe range to hit them, which meant thier spell would most likely be interrupted.
Final thoughts, not recommended for free players or light spenders. Used to be a great game, but the last few additions unbalanced the game too much. There are private servers out there that only have some of the changes in them, some of which seemed more active that the Aieria servers too. Also, keep in mind I just quit, so my opinion is a bit biased.