This preview is partly reproduced from Nick_Tan's article on gamerevolution.com.
Despite my propensity to gravitate towards RPGs, I have intentionally missed the World of Warcraft phenomenon, as well as Final Fantasy XI (if you can call it "Final Fantasy"). MMORPGs have eluded me mostly because I don't have a PC that can handle them, and because I realized that if I were to actually start one, I would probably get fired for missing work and annoying co-workers with WoWspeak. For me, one step into Azeroth is a slippery slope towards homelessness and buying a Toyota truck.
So paint me disinterested and unmotivated as I schlepped my way up the hills of San Francisco to see Perfect World International, my face already testing out the fake smile I would have to plaster on right after I entered the door. I expected to find some World of Warcraft clone with level-grinding, skill-tree-choosing, dungeon-crawling, potion-drinking, spell-casting, blahdy-blahdy *snooze* - and for the most part, Perfect World was exactly that... except I was awake and interested the whole time.
Perfect World isn't special because it's free-to-play - plenty of MMORPGs have already boasted, are boasting, or will be boasting that. It's both free-to-play and impressive. Already popular across the western pond, in China, Malaysia, and other PAL territories, Perfect World attempts to create that same appeal in a market where simply saying "free-to-play" causes most players to take a screwdriver and cram it in their ears. But even without a monthly fee, it comes surprisingly close to matching the functionality and addictive gameplay of a World of Warcraft.