I've been looking into picking up this game, largely because it's been a while since I've played a good crafting game. There are obvious similarities to the crafting systems of both Vanguard and FFXIV, though I'd probably have to try it for myself to gauge how good the crafting is. FFXIV's crafting is good and interesting, while Vanguard's had little to offer besides massive amounts of tedious grinding, but the differences are for reasons too subtle to pick up by reading a wiki and various guides. Still, I have some questions about other things in the game.
1) Is this basically a deserted, single-player game below the level cap these days? Or is it still viable to do grouping content on the way up? If groups are impractical to come by (and I'd regard "spend 20 minutes spamming to get a group" as meaning they're impractical), how much content does this preclude?
2) Are there any non-obvious barriers to playing a lot of alts and passing items between the alts pretty freely? I read of a timer on the mail system, but is it still practical to gather materials on one character, mail them to another character, craft stuff, and mail it to yet another character that uses it?
3) How active is the combat? Does the skill of the player matter a lot, or is success almost purely about level, gear, or other progression of your character? I gather that it's not "action" combat, but there are ways to make slower paced combat interesting--and some games do and some don't.
4) I see stuff about a recommended leveling path that covers a relatively small subset of the zones. Does that mean the rest of the zones are abandoned and broken, or is it just there to pick a path for people who would otherwise be confused while the other zones are still fine?
5) Is the game pretty polished by now, or is it a buggy mess? More than 11 years after launch, they've surely had time to fix whatever was broken years ago if they cared to.
6) It looks like they have an expansion every year or so. Would I constantly have to buy expansions on the way up, or do they give all but the latest expansion away for free?
7) I read that subscribers can split their experience between main level and AA. Some stuff said not to neglect your AA, but other stuff said that you get AA levels included as you gain main levels and made it look like there was no point in not putting all of your experience into your main level. What is going on there?
8) How compatible is the game with playing for relatively modest chunks of time? There's nothing wrong with needing to spend several hours to do something if it can readily be split over numerous play sessions, but having to play for a contiguous two hours at a time to progress is a non-starter for me.