Although the theme-park style of Neverwinter was certainly a turn-off for me, the player-generated content of the Foundry is the genuine savior of the game's long-term health. The Foundry provides players infinite hours of questing, hand-written and created by other players, and with a place for players to offer suggestions to one another, a Foundry community has flourished during the beta. Many of the Foundry quests are superior to the game's actual quests, and while leveling my alt, used the Foundry for the bulk of my questing. Many of the Foundry quests explore deeper into the Forgotten Realms universe, and offer players a With infinite quests, players don't need to simply jump onto the gear-grinding track at level 60 and begin running the epic treadmill. Questing is definitely one of the strengths of Neverwinter, and by allowing players to make and run their own quests forever, the designers have provided a healthy alternative to the demands of end-game play for those who are less interested in the typical MMO lifestyle.
For those who are interested in the MMO lifestyle, content at max level is slim right now. That said, after over 150 hours on my first character, I have still not entered the 'final dungeon', Castle Never, and with Gauntlgrym coming out tomorrow, this feels like a hollow complaint. Cryptic has been throwing content at us faster than an overly-zealous mage shoots Magic Missiles at the darkness, and their End of Open Beta event has me squeezing in a few extra minutes of game time between everything else I do, my personal benchmark for MMO enjoyment. With their first free expansion, Fury of the Feywild, set to launch sometime this summer, the Neverwinter team has a lot on the horizon. For now, though, the content that has been coming out has been enjoyable and original, while maintaining a very true D&D style. While during the beta things got a little stale at times, if Cryptic can keep up a production cycle like they have been in the last few weeks, then Neverwinter players will have nothing to worry about.
The Zen Market (Neverwinter's real money shop) is something that has been surrounded by some controversy, especially in the discussion of free to play versus pay to win. The case against the Zen Market doesn't hold much water in Neverwinter, as players can buy or sell Zen or Market bought items via in-game currency. Players who want to enjoy the game without spending a single dollar will never have to, and the majority of the items in the market are cosmetic rather than functional. That said, Neverwinter does have a few places that hits you where it hurts. They give you very limited bag and bank space, and even respeccing your character to try new feats needs to be purchased with real money. Although being charged for respeccing feels a little bit like a slap in the face, spending a few dollars in this game goes a really long way. Some good news regarding these costs as well is that Cryptic has also recently announced permanent price reductions on a number of items in the Zen Shop, which not only obviously makes the game cheaper to play, but gives credibility to Cryptic's willingness to come to the table, even on things like their profit-center.
As both a D&D and MMO player, Neverwinter earns a big thumbs up, but it may not have what it takes to become your day-to-day MMO. Neverwinter will be a great game to play alongside other games or for a casual gamer to jump on and quest around for a few hours a week, at least until more endgame content is released. The user-generated content of the Foundry adds endless playability, but beyond engaging with that community, the need to purchase bag space and respecs may grate on some players. Neverwinter definitely has a lot to offer, but just because it's free to play doesn't mean it's actually free to play.
Neverwinter is an extremely fun adaptation of D&D's 4th Edition, with all of its strengths and weaknesses. Though the game is arduously linear at times, they've made the roller coaster gameplay into a wild ride with beautiful environments, and just the right amount of freedom to explore.
Dungeons & Dragons fans will enjoy this game for the iconic feel that the game has, and for the huge host of favorite monsters that Cryptic has included. Spending some money is almost a must, but the bang for your buck can get you far if you spend it wisely. Casual and social gamers will have a blast playing through this with their friends, while more hardcore MMO players might want to take a pass for something more dedicated.
Editor's Note: WarCry believes MMOs are ongoing experiences which are difficult to permanently judge with a review score. We will be offering our opinions on the experiences of MMOs as they come out and hopefully these reviews will be helpful for you in deciding which game you'd like to try.