For anyone interested, Neverwinter Online is now officially ‘live,’ not that there’s much of a distinction between ‘live’ and ‘open beta.’
Aside from bug fixes and tweaks, ‘live’ also introduces the Alchemy profession and the Gauntlgrym end-game content.
Alchemy seems like it has good earning potential and could be a lot of fun to play around with. However, progression isn’t done through the normal XP grind. Instead, you have to ‘experiment’ to advance, which is just a fancy way of saying that Alchemy progression is essentially random. So, first you gather resources (10 minutes), then you make virtriols (another 10 mins) and then experiment (starts at 2 minutes but rapidly requires a greater and greater investment of time). If you’re lucky you’ll acquire ‘Basic Alchemy Knowledge’ after the experiment (an object that looks like a scroll, which binds on pick-up, so you can’t buy or sell them). The first experiment only requires 1 B.A.K., but the next requires 3, then 4 and I’m sure the requirements grow as you progress. Add in the random nature of acquiring B.A.K.s and you can understand why my first reaction was “This sucks.” But I was trying to advance the profession using only one apothecary…which of course will take forever. Using multiple apothecaries on multiple open profession slots (you can have up to 9 in Neverwinter) would industrialize the process somewhat, making progress much faster. It’ll just take time to acquire sufficient apothecary hirelings.
Gauntlgrym consists of a PvP element and a PvE element. I have no idea what’s it like because you must join a guild to do anything in Gauntlgrym. Basically, the guild master picks one of two (or maybe three, not sure) NPC factions competing with one another to exploit Gauntlgrym (an ancient Dwarven city recently re-discovered). I’m not big on being in guilds, so I’ll probably never experience any of this content.
Neverwinter is free-to-play, using micro-transactions to pay the bills. In my experience it is technically true that you can do everything in the game without spending a dime, but you’ll progress faster (especially in professions) if you spend a little money.