There is a free trial available, but not on Steam currently.
Anyone who finishes the main story now gets a free row lot.
Physical goods are finally shipping soon, and episode 2 has been announced.
Also here is the Q3 schedule: https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/forum/index.php?threads/q3-schedule-update.132153/
Good info! Yes there is a free trial available! Here's the direct link - https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?page_id=85197
As you can see, much like most MMO trials there are a few limitations mainly designed to keep trolls / real money traders / spammers from messing up the game, but it will let you get started. Don't worry about things not being on Steam - one great element is that accounts directly on the SotA page can generate a Steam code for their use when you apply a full game key to the account.
Episode 2 is the first major expansion to SotA. There have been at least 5 major episodes planned since the earliest days of the game, as some of the early backers have pledges that include at least those 5 and in some cases, even all future episodes. Its worth it to mention that Ep2 is scheduled to add many major features, but there are even more connected to "Stretch Goals" if they can raise the funds needed to implement them. To this end they've brought back the Stretch Goal Store (Ep2) - https://www.shroudoftheavatar.com/?page_id=40715 . Basically, these are items that you can purchase and will be available to you in game right now in some form, but will be drastically enhanced if their stretch goal is met for Ep2.
For instance, they've started with Mounts. There are several foals you can purchase now plus a hitching post item. If enough people buy them, then an upgraded version of me Mounts feature will be present in Ep2 with new functions, and your foal (which currently acts as an in-game pet) will become a fully grown horse able to be ridden! They have also mentioned a number of other stretch goal categories including Flexible Lot Placement (ie right now major fixtures like basements and houses have to be placed in certain places on their lots, and minor fixtures have several options. With this upgrade, there will be a chance to upgrade the underlying placement tech for houses and whatnot to allow massive flexibility!), Pack Animals (and of course a whole sub-system of useful trade routes and whatnot that would make use of them), and even playable Elves - the last of which is personally the most exciting for me. Remembering the last time they did some thing like this, we may also get Nautical stretch goal as various forms of boating were scheduled for an expansion as well.