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Neverwinter Open Beta Day 1 - Launch Day Cash Shop Blues

Neverwinter, I don't know how I feel about you yet. You fun jerk.

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Neverwinter's first day being open to the public has gone about as well as anyone expected. Server issues abound, whiners in bulk, and a fair amount of small bugs have plagued the game's first day. Even so, I pushed through and have had fun. Mostly.

Ahem.

After sitting in a two hour queue, I still managed to spend about 10 more hours charging into foes and pondering over which belt I wanted to equip. Is that enough time to formulate an informed opinion? If we were talking about another genre, it may be; but because of how long it takes to progress in MMORPGs, I can't say I have a solid opinion one way or another on Cryptic's new MMO.

I can say I hope they get the server issues fixed as soon as possible. Sitting in queue twice, for three hours in total, is no fun.

After trying yet another class (Great Weapon Fighter), I can still say that combat feels fresh, fast, and fun. Moves flow well into one another and are quick to execute, giving you the chance to position yourself better before taking a hit if need be. I still find myself getting excited to charge into enemies with my Guardian Fighter and hearing the collision sound effect. It just feels so good.

Unlike last night's article, which was more focused on my first impressions of the combat, I can say something for certain: If you don't like the combat, you probably won't like the rest of Neverwinter.

Speedy Speed Quests n' Currency

Much like beating up baddies, the rest of the game seems to be focused around instant or near-instant gratification sans some user-made Foundry content. Quests don't take long, switching from zone to zone is done via an over-world map for the most part, and leveling is fast.

But..

... you are constantly reminded to use the secondary in-game currency, Astral Diamonds, on small purchases and the Zen cash shop currency is mentioned very frequently by in-game UI blurbs. There is no way to forget that this is a free to play title -- there is just too much reminding you to visit the cash shop and see what's for sale.

I'll take good screenshots tomorrow, I promise.

This is something you would expect from a fully launched game, not from an open beta. The MMO-savvy know that most of today's "open betas" are in fact soft-launches to iron out some last bugs. Even so, the amount of reminders to spend rare and cash shop currency are excessive. It's a brown, ugly stain on an otherwise fun experience.

Consider this:

You can refine up to 24,000 Astral Diamonds per day. There are high level items for sale from some vendors that cost 1 to 2 million Astral Diamonds each. You are either going to be spending some dough or grinding for a long time to get your hands on those items.

It's weird coming from a game like Aion, which keeps its cash shop mumbo-jumbo mostly outside of the game. Neverwinter seems focused on Zen and the Astral Diamond market. I may be wrong here, we will certainly see in a couple of weeks -- but for the time being, it just seems excessive.

Maybe I'm more used to an organic MMO experience, but the cash-grabbing seen here is very daunting. I want to have fun and just decide to turn to these other currencies and the cash shop on my own time, I don't want the game itself to remind me that I have a wallet every 30 minutes. Come on, now.

In the end, it doesn't really matter.

For you see, despite the cash shop junk and the NPCs reminding me that they take Astral Diamonds as currency, the game is still very fun in action. They've done a good job on the "carrot on a stick" gameplay that makes MMORPGs what they are. While I would love more involved quests, finishing a quest and opening a treasure chest feels gratifying. Slamming myself into enemies even more so.

If this is the way the market is heading, I'm not sure how I feel. While Neverwinter's gameplay itself is a blast, there are just some practices and bits and pieces stuffed in there that make me wonder if I'm just wasting my time. One could argue that playing an MMO in itself is wasting time, but really I just don't want to be nickel and dimed to have fun.

Originally Published May. 1st 2013

Associate Editor

I have been sick. I will be back on Wednesday, finally.

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