I saw an ad for this yesterday and got really excited about the permadeath feature. But then after some research, I realized:
1) You can have a paying membership (which costs the same as a typical WoW membership) but that membership really just gives you a couple of things that you don't have to buy, like an extra bag, protection from thieves, and some in-game discounts on items you sell and buy from vendors. But just because you have a "Royal Membership" doesn't mean you are not going to need to spend money at the store. You will, most likely.
2) The Royal Membership allows you to give stat upgrades to people you group up with. The more Royal Members who are part of the same party, the more upgrades everyone gets (stackable upgrades). Which means if you aren't a Royal Member, it would make logical sense you would have trouble finding a group to party with.
3) You can prevent people from stealing your items by purchasing an item in the store. Which means if I take the time to carefully plan out an attack to get someone's gear, then find out they have purchased an item preventing me anyway. Lol.
4) There are a number of questions the main site FAQ doesn't answer - like are potions the only way to recover your HP while you are fighting? (You have to purchase potions with cash.) And there is some kind of sacrifice system you have to participate in if you don't want permadeath. (Does this require buying items at the Shop?)
Hopefully with updates, they will get with the program.
@diaskeaus Let me answer your inquiries as I am addicted to this game!
1) Your membership description is correct! And yes, as a matter of fact, becoming a member will not save you from buying items with Real Cash, like those "mandatory" forge guards if you're into improving your gear, or the really useful Dimento Medals. (While membership doesn't give you free access to the shop, it does give you discounts on Very Good Items, such as Dimento Medals)
2) Correct! Membership will give you stats and XP bonuses the more members are in the party. Though it might sounds like people will not party with you if you're not a member, the reality is different! There are many unions (i.e. Guilds) in the game, and most union will not require players to be a member. In 300 hours of gameplay, i have never encountered people LFG with membership only (i know because i became a member 2 weeks ago).
3) Yes and no! Membership will prevent your EQUIPPED gear from being stolen! Your Alt weapons will not be protected and accessories, equipped or not, will never be protected.
4) Potions, with the exception of the lower-tier ones, cost real cash! But really, they are not worth your precious savings, trust me! They're not even that good and if you ask me, it's a simple waste of money to purchase those because there is much better stuff with game currency that has the same purpose, but differently (i.e. camps). Camps will heal your HP&MP and one can be used for the whole party. As for sacrificing stuff against permadeath, I never had to spend a dime for it! Some medals with the only purpose to raise your revival percentage can be obtained with repeatable quests or in-game currency. I do know though that you can always spend Real Money to raise your chances, but i know no one who actually did so!
Hopes these answer your questions!