I know I'm late to the party on this topic, but I wanted to share this. Mechwarrior Online has its fair share of flaws, but it had a good system for getting people exposed early on to different kinds of mechs without penalizing them.
When you first log in, you have no money and own no mechs. However, there are 4 mechs available, one of each weight class, for you to use for free. The catch is that you can't customize them and you can't earn experience in them (necessary to level them up -- there is no overall level for your account in that game). Once you play with the free mechs for long enough and earn enough money, you can purchase whatever type of mech you want. There are no level restrictions. If you want to play nothing but heavy mechs, you can, but they're more expensive than light mechs. You also can only own 4 mechs at once unless you buy more slots with real money.
This system allows players to experiment with different classes of mechs without penalty (well, without any huge penalty) and then play the game they way they want in terms of the mechs that they decide to purchase. That was one of the few things MWO did really well, and I'd love to see it in Dreadnaught too. The World of Warships model isn't as rewarding for me because I felt like I had to just punish myself with grind to unlock aircraft carriers, and I quickly got bored with that game. If I had been able to save up for a massive ship without having to buy a dozen others first, I might have stuck with it longer.