I've dabbled in the game for an hour or two and it seems to be getting to that point. I could be mistaken, but it seems like 75% of the content in this game says "Purchase from the store". In their defense, the prices aren't too bad, which is more than I can say for most FTP games.
Is this what you've been noticing as well?
I'm a bear! Yar!
Yes and no beyond the unlocks from the basic challenges you'll either have to do one of four things in order to get the 'extra/pay' items.
1. find them on the auction and buy them there.
Something that's probably really easy, if your worried about credits breed the basic animal and sell it on auction people love and seem to 'lust' after the Maanhare on the auction as any I've put up have sold for full price xD (2700 eco points)
2. Finding creatures via gps.
So far as I've discovered it takes the gps 1 week to resets after you find the creatre, you also don't have to be connected online to find the creatre(still not fully sure about that I know I've got the 3g modle but I don't have service on it) and you generally find the creature when you get to about 50m from it. The creature is random but it's still a nice little extra help.
3.Getting free token boxes as your daily gift.
Once I got a free bronze box as a daily gift, it was really nice but I'm betting it either only happens once a week OR it's a daily log on thing that they don't tell you what you get. I'm hoping they do give out free silvers however I'm not holding my breath.
4. Buy the token packs on the psn, warning they are random and not just 'tokens' to be exchanged. Also the artifacts have levels too them which give different amounts of percents based on there levels. Warning you lose anything you put into a challenge after that challenge is finished.
So those are the ways, Luckly the prices for each pack are as such. bronze 0.25$ for six tokens with a low chance at getting one silver token. 0.50$ for a silver again six with a low chance at getting a gold, 1.00$ for the gold with an extreamly low chance at a plat token, then finally 1.50$ for a plat which is seven tokens mostly gold with a med chance at getting a plat.
The plats per drop rate is still pretty low, I was given 15$ to spend on the game and outta 10 packs I probably got plat token. Now I've also spent a few dollars myself here and there and gotten a few more plats so I'm not really sure of what drop rate for what.Every pack also holds a chance for having one or two token of a lower level tear as well it seems. (gotten a gold pack before and had a silver token in it)
It's a good game ya don't 'need' to pay to win, technically the only 'win' part comes from completing the challenges which you don't have to pay to win it just help sometimes making it easier xD I've not spent any token stuff on challenges yet mainly because I wanna keep them a challenge however another thing I know people do to help challenges is to buy the tokens from the auction cause then all it costs is energy.
Hopefully this all helped, I know I personally enjoy the game and don't mind spending a few extra bucks here or there to support them, also I hope to see updates later on. Mind you as a fair warning silver, gold, and plat creatures are harder to handle especially with only the basic three plant items. If your going to buy and use some I would suggest unlocking the other plant items first as it will make it infanately easier to take care of and keep a balanced ecosystem.
Oh yes the biggest advantage as well to having a silver or gold creature other then reselling them when they spawn more is the added extra eco points.
I'm pretty sure you only get one free bronze token pack as a daily reward for starting the game. After that, it is just 2800 ecopoints. It is basically just there to show you what happens when you buy the packs.
If you are after specific creatures, the auction house is the best way to acquire them. You'll actually get what you're after, unlike with the token packs that are random.
To make money to use at the auction house, complete the challenges. Then buy two animals from a species that is just within your budget and start breeding them in your free-play ecosystem. Once you have a decent number, you can start auctioning them off at the rate they're breeding. Use that money to buy another pair and repeat.
Buying token packs with real money and selling off the unwanted tokens doesn't seem like a good way to generate ecopoints either: you're limited to running 4 auctions at a time, and each auction lasts 48 hours. You can easily get to a point where you are breeding high level creatures faster than you can sell them. And if those creatures are worth more than the tokens you bought, then you'll make less money by selling the tokens.
The one place where buying packs might make sense is if you need artefacts. They only come from the packs and since they're single use, every artefact you see in the auction house was probably bought by the seller for real money. To acquire the more useful artefacts like a terraformer, you might have more luck spending real money.
There isn't anything really to "win". This is much more of a sandbox game. You can buy anything you want with ecopoints through the auction house especially if you plan well.
Beating challenges can be made easier by paying but why bother. I suppose when the online challenges come along there will be a pay to win aspect but those challenges are a very minor part of the game.
I think that if you stock up on items you bought with ecopoints rather than $ you could do well in a challenge anyways.
Regardless, buying a few bronze packs can help you get an ecosystem running with some nice new creatures. At a couple quarters it isn't a big deal.