Hey there. MMO veteran here. (Ragnarok online, WoW 5+years raiding hardcore, Aion, SWTOR from beta up to f2p transition, GW2 first few months)
1.Here is what money helps with:
PvE aspect is about grind to upgrade gear and money speeds up the process. You can get your class weapon from very first dungeon run if you buy a brilliant key. Or it can take you up to like 20 runs untill you get lucky. You get more Exp, Blade & Soul gold, Materials, Bank and Bag space. So basicaly you pay2skip some of the grind.
PvP is affected by your level (how much skill points you have to put into skills) and if you have unlocked “Final tier” of your skills (which also helps). If you pay you’ll level up a bit faster and can stay ahead of others untill they reach cap aswell. Having more gold will allow you to buy some of “Final tier” skillbooks of auction house.
So money DOES affect gameplay if you wanna race time & be ahead. Would you consider that P2W or not is up to you.
2. When leveling you have main storyline yellow quests & blue sidequests. If by “linear” you meant RPG (as in – roleplaying) – you’re NOT roleplaying sh#t in this game. Main quest in on rails. You don’t make choices.
How open the world is varies from zone to zone (in terms of how FREE you are to move around). Some zones are pretty vast & open. Others have a TON of invisible walls. Like, you have all these neat kung fu (more like Kung F U ) running, jumping, wallrunning abilities => you wanna take a shortcut & run over this hill but NOPE theres an invisible wall => so you run zig-zag following a road instead of parkour’ing over all that. And that happens alot.
3. Leveling options? Not alot. You pretty much follow main quest & either do all sidequests or skip some of sidequests in favour of grinding mobs in specific spots. Leveling through dungeons (like in WoW) is not an option. Leveling through PvP is also not an option.
No “skill trees”. You modify skills individualy. That mostly changes your rotation rather than the whole playstyle. Cookie-cutter specs with mb couple of skill points to toss around.
4&5. Combat is pretty awesome. Very timing oriented. So kinda latency-dependent to be smooth. Overall this game is more of a “MMO-3rd person action” or “MMO-spectacle fighter” rather than an RPG. (unless ofc having leveling system & items with stats is ALL it takes to be an RPG)
6 Playing with group of friends is awesome. Nothing revolutionary in terms of mechanics (pretty unpolished). PvE is very basic in terms of complexity & challenge.
7 Exploration almost non-existent. (There are few spots where you can go “out of bounds” but nothing interesting to find. Most of the time you just fall under the map & die or bump into an invisible wall.
8 Most of F2P limitations you can overcome via currency exchange.
If you want to know more about blade & soul, you can visit our site.Of course, you can buy blade & soul gold here.