AA is the most fun I've had since Ultima Online/Everquest, this brings the open world,crafting and PVP of UO to modern games, and actually does some of it better. I will be really really surprised if we don't have a western company trying to copy this model. There are trade runs to make cash/currency, Wars, no instances, a beautifully designed world with meaningful travel, unique and changeable classes/skills, and honestly even though it's been translated, good lore... guild effort is needed to get anywhere and a 200 person guild is about a mid sized guild here.
There is just so much to do in this game, the depth is just awesome. The racial stories aren't bad either if you take the time to do them. I will agree that free to play is not the ideal model for this game just because it encourages spammers, but they are fighting spammers.
There is plenty of player housing left, just don't join the 4 most popular servers and expect to find one. No one is running scripts to place a house, you can place within an hour and a half of starting a new character if you have any experience. In a few weeks an entire continent will open up with more housing. In addition, rent must be paid every two weeks, as players quit a lot more housing will open up.
This game is just fun. It's open world pvp once you get past the level 30 zones. There is an East vs. West faction and a pirate faction for those that kill their own faction too often. The sea battles are just fun.
Just a quick little rant to defend the game. If you are looking for sandbox, this is the best since UO. To be fair I'll say that spammers can be a problem, especially right before a server goes down... you can't even see chat. Better since release, but a ways to go. They increased the server caps, and I've noticed lag. The sandbox stuff doesn't start till 30 (40 if you quest as much as I do) but you will easily hit that in a week.