There is no part of this game that is pay to play. There are, however, many many MANY ways for you to spend money if you so choose. I’m a F2P and the only thing that has tempted me to spend money, other than showing support for a game that I’ve spend way too many hours on, is FOMO. There was a faction event weekend when I was short on a few gems and sigils, but in the end I just played a bunch of treasure maps to make up the difference. And the campaign mythic, two of which I’ve accepted I won’t have for a while, just like any of the dozens of other mythics I still don’t have.
Yes, the game has added features that try to get you to buy virtual products. That’s their goal. While it annoys me, and much of the community, I’ve ignored it. My shrine is filled, there’s a permanent exclamation point there, and in another 30 hours it will empty itself and then be filled again.
Now, I hear you that you’re frustrated with the new monetization (e.g. warbands are not happening unless you’re spending cash or happen to be a new player, who they are designed for), and I’m frustrated too. Like many here in the forum, I would love QoL fixes over new features, even new non-monetized features. Yet calling GoW a pay to play game is ridiculous.
The bigger question is: will this trend force enough people out that it essentially dies, or will more people start/continue spending because FOMO is crippling to some?