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Neverwinter: The Setting and F2P Model

Now that the open beta's a couple weeks old, let's look at some of Neverwinter's most important features
This article is over 11 years old and may contain outdated information

The Neverwinter open beta has been rolling along for several weeks now and has garnered its fair share of positive reaction, especially in the enthusiast press.  As with any game (especially free-to-play MMOs, which seem to inhabit a particularly contentious space in the industry) there are some vocal dissenters, but overall response has been largely positive.  While most of the core concepts have been exposed and written about extensively, we wanted to take a moment to drill down to some of the more specific facets and see how Neverwinter stands up to its contemporaries. 

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One of the biggest selling points for a lot of players out of the gate was Neverwinter’s storied setting, not only the city itself but the larger world of the Forgotten Realms, one of Dungeons & Dragons most venerated settings.  Of course, we’d forgive you if you had no idea this game was a D&D product.  Cryptic and Perfect World seem eager to avoid emphasizing the connection to the Dungeons & Dragons brand, and in the few instances where the D&D logo is visible, such as in the launcher, it’s always de-emphasized to make room for the much larger Neverwinter branding.  It’s not clear if this is a ploy to get some separation from the preexisting Dungeons & Dragons MMO, or because Cryptic wants to carve out an independent space for Neverwinter without relying on the license.  What is clear is the desire to establish Neverwinter as a recognizable, independent brand in a crowded market.

That said, the setting is faithfully rendered. 

Characters and events from the best-selling R.A. Salvatore novels that recently redefined the Forgotten Realms are present, but the setting itself often fades deep into the background.  Most of the lore is buried in text logs that players have to track down in the environment, and it’s fairly rare that the elements used to propel the story feel exclusive to the setting. The result is that Neverwinter often ends up feeling like a generic fantasy setting rather than a world lovingly chiseled out by decades of rich fiction.  The high volume of MMO staple fetch and combat quests (retrieve X, kill X number of a specific enemy) end up feeling dry and often lifeless, so it’s lucky for Neverwinter that the action itself is entertaining.


This problem is mitigated somewhat by the presence of user-generated content in the Foundry, some of which is high quality and engaging, and focuses on what makes Neverwinter unique.  Alongside the predictable, borderline copyright-infringing quests are stories of drow invasions and Sword Coast intrigue.  Leave it to fans that were sold this game on the strength of the setting to see that promise come to fruition.

The F2P Model

The number of currencies in Neverwinter is staggering.  Gold, celestial coins, tourmaline bars, insignias, seals, astral diamonds, zen.  As you’d expect from a free-to-play MMO, most of the best, high end content is tucked behind a pay wall, though Cryptic has done an excellent job of ensuring that players with more time than money will be able to grind out that content through sheer perseverance. 


Astral diamonds, the gateway to most of the other “premium” currencies, are fairly regularly available, and Cryptic provides a number of avenues by which to hoard them.  Players can engage in daily player-vs-player events, horde-mode style skirmish battles, or group up for dungeon runs to pile up AD, or they can rely on more passive channels, like “invoking” at rest points or specific actions in the crafting system.  One of the “crafting” disciplines, leadership, allows players to engage their minions in patrols or guard duty that, alongside other rewards, yield up a small amount of precious astral diamonds.

Naturally, all of these pursuits are time consuming and require a certain level of daily devotion, and the amount of time players are required to invest to access the rarest items is extremely high.  In contrast to other MMOs though, Neverwinter doesn’t feel egregious, and while “pay to win” accusations are inevitable, Cryptic is to be lauded for ensuring that every piece of content is available to dedicated non-premium players.

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Alan Bradley
Getting played by video games since the '80s. Host of the Pictures Changing Podcast ( and notorious raconteur.