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Only the lucky gamer will avoid paying for Neverwinter’s upcoming free beta test

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Neverwinter is an upcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game published by Perfect World Entertainment and developed by Cryptic Studios, a firm best known as the original creator of City of Heroes. As the name would suggest, Neverwinter is set firmly within the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse, and more specifically within the titular city. If you’ve been playing role-playing games for a while you’ll recognize that name from BioWare’s excellent Neverwinter Nights (or, for you older folks, the ancient AOL game of the same name). The city of Neverwinter has always been a popular destination for D&D players, and with Cryptic Studios’ pedigree behind it, it’s easy to see why Neverwinter would be highly anticipated by fans.

As of now the game sports a nebulous 2013 release date. Supposedly it will show up toward the beginning of this year, so it makes sense that Perfect World Entertainment would want to commence beta testing on the game. Less sensible is how the company intends to go about this. The good news is that instead of a single beta test, Perfect World plans to host three: One on the weekend of February 8, the second on the weekend of March 8, and the final test on the weekend of March 22. The bad news is that in total the test will only span a maximum of nine days, leave scant little time for players to get acquainted with the game. More crucially, it also limits the number of players that can take part in the beta test.

Assuming you’re anxiously awaiting Neverwinter, you’ll want to drop your name into the running for a public beta spot as soon as possible. To do so visit the official Neverwinter website and offer up all your necessary information. We will warn you ahead of time though that given the test’s short scope and necessarily limited playerbase, the odds of your being granted a gratis place in one of these beta test weekends is quite low. Don’t worry though! Perfect World Entertainment has you covered. Or, that is, it has you covered if you’re willing to shell out at least $60 for the privilege of aiding the beta test effort.

As with many modern MMOs, Neverwinter is offering prospective players the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the game and offering solid rewards in exchange for your hard-earned cash. As Kotaku reports, there are three tiers of the Neverwinter Founder’s Program. The first, which is priced at $20 (despite being labeled a “$50 value”), contains an Amulet of Protection, a Small Bag of Holding and a handful of minor in-game items designed to give new players a solid start in the game’s fantasy realm. Consider it a starter kit.

The next two tiers are where things get interesting. Not only do both of the higher-value Founder’s Program tiers offer guaranteed access to the Neverwinter beta test, they also deliver a number of excellent bonuses. As you’d expect though, these goodies are going to cost you. For $60 you can pick up the “Guardian of Neverwinter Pack,” which includes the following:

• Three-day head start access to Neverwinter Open Beta
• Unique ‘Gold Moonstone Mask Regalia’ head piece
• Unique ‘Armored Horse’ mount
• Unique ‘Direwolf Companion’
• In-game and forum ‘Founder’ title

If you’re independently wealthy or a huge D&D nerd you may want to burn some of that excess cash on the “Hero of the North Founder’s Pack.” This one features a $200 price point (though it boasts a $550 value), but also includes the most impressive extras, including the opportunity to play as a doppelgänger of D&D’s most famous dark elf, Drizzt Do’urden. Have a look:

• Five-day head start access to Neverwinter Open Beta
• Beta Weekend Friend Invite code
• Exclusive access to ‘Menzoberranzan Renegade’, a Drow playable race like the legendary ranger Drizzt Do’Urden, complete with unique racial abilities and tattoo
• Unique ‘Armored Spider’ mount
• Unique ‘Panther Companion’
• In-game and forum ‘Founder’ title
• VIP Game Access to skip-the-line and get priority log-in access

We often complain about pre-order schemes that offer the wealthy a more complete, entertaining gameplay experience, but in this case we won’t bother. If you’re willing to shell out $200 for a game that has yet to prove its value or even basic functionality, then you probably deserve to receive a little something extra from the people who created the virtual world. Expect your fellow players to sneer every time you summon your spectral panther buddy though.

Earnest Cavalli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Earnest Cavalli has been writing about games, tech and digital culture since 2005 for outlets including Wired, Joystiq…
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