Neverwinter a hardcore MMORPG

This is where Neverwinter’s best hope for longevity lies, as the ability to make your

own content – and play and vote on content made by passionate fans – far outstrips

waiting around for official content patches. Alas, Cryptic placed some odd limits on

the Foundry creation process, such as not allowing enemies to drop specific items for

use later on in the dungeon, which ruins the sense of immersion and good

storytelling. Somewhat humorously, it also includes few safeguards against “leveling

dungeons,” which allow you to beat up Neverwinter’s deadliest NPCs and leech off

their XP while they just stand there motionless.

Player-versus-player combat also suffers from some strange deficiencies, as it offers

only two five-versus-five battleground maps and one giant 20-versus-20 battlefield at

launch. Even with the pleasures of the action combat, the variety grows sale long

before the level cap – particularly when you throw in lingering class imbalances. As

for crafting, it’s just not that engaging. You technically don’t even take part in

the actual process; much as in EVE Online (and Star Wars: The Old Republic, for that

matter), you hire specialized workers who run out in get the materials and make armor

or potions over the course of mere minutes or many. The design keeps you in the

action, sure, but few things in Neverwinter hurt so much as reaching the high levels

of the crafting skills and realizing that, unless you have the luck of Neverwinter’s

Tymora, you’ll likely need to spend premium currency in the markets for rare

components.

Which begs the question: what does it cost to play Neverwinter? On one hand, it

doesn’t pressure you to invest money in it for much (if any) of the leveling process;

on the other, the cash shop starts to make its presence known around the endgame. For

me, it was respecs that first sparked some worry. Although you can technically earn

enough cash for respecs by earning premium astral diamonds through daily quests and

the auction house, the going rate is such that you’ll usually end up spending around

six bucks for convenience when you want to respec. Some of the other prices are more

frightening than Neverwinter’s dungeon bosses. Certain companion characters (which

you’ll need if you were foolish enough to choose a non-healing companion for a melee

class) cost $30, and epic mounts will drain around $40 from your bank account. Still

– and here’s the kicker – you can play Neverwinter entirely for free if you have

the patience to grind out premium currency or don’t mind limiting yourself to

severely limited inventory space. Everything else is for convenience.

Neverwinter isn’t a hardcore MMORPG, nor is it likely to compel you to cast aside

your current favorite MMO to devote your full attention to it. But taken in small

doses, it’s a generally fun and free romp through one of fantasy’s most beloved

universes, and the player-generated Foundry missions occasionally yield more

memorable moments than fantasy MMOs with massive budgets.

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