From: Fairchild, TX USA
My wife and I play this game a lot. I LOVED the old Mechwarrior games until Microflaccid got their hands on it, but even then, the MW4 series, Vengence, Black Knight and Mercenaries were still fun in their own right.
Both of my sons are twitch gamers, NOT AT ALL used to somewhat real ballistics (bullet drop, muzzle velocity differences) nor tactics so I get to 'own' them or 'school' at this game and it really p!sses them off. No fun like busting your kids' chops on a continuous basis!
We've been playing the 'beta' since late last year and yes it's free to play.
That being said, you can have MUCH more fun if you invest a little, like buying a 'hero' mech which earns 30% extra C-bills from each match.
Some of the restrictions are, I believe, you can't alter a 'trial' mech, which is what you'll pilot if you're FTP. But you CAN make enough C-Bills (money you earn in game) to purchase MOST of the mechs available. THEN with an 'owned' mech, you can refit it with different armor, weapons, ECM/ECCM, etc.
But certain things REQUIRE Mech Credits (MC's) like Hero Mechs (30% bonus to C-Bills earned) Champion Mechs (10% bonus to XP earned) Premium Time (50% bonus to BOTH C-Bills and XP earned) and YES the Premium Time bonus stacks with Hero and Champ mech bonuses. MC's are also required to purchase cockpit items (hula girls, fuzzy dice, etc) special mech paint jobs, and special consumable items.
My wife and I have so much fun playing, it's considered part of our monthly entertainment expenditure, so we've committed $50 each at 3 month intervals.
I think right now they have something called the 'Cadet Bonus,' which will over 25 matches reward you with about 8 million C-Bills, enough to buy any but the most expensive Atlas, I believe.
Anyway, give it a try, and if possible play in a GROUP (Lance) it's a lot more fun that way. Lani and I have met some great folks online and we play as a lance weekly.
Also, you might want to get a headset with a mic and download the free C3 voip app. That's what most of the folks to communicate in game.
Jim, if you have any more questions, please email me at email@example.com and I'll be glad to answer them to the best of my ability. Also, if you decide to play, send me a friend invite to thanatos74 on both MWO Online and C3.
If you liked the old Mechwarrior series, I think you'll like MWO Online a lot!
Rob, 'Thanatos74' McClure