Upcoming fantasy MMO Neverwinter will open to the public at the end of this month – and two weeks earlier for buyers of the exclusive Founders Pack.

You can sign up for the open beta here, and if that’s too far away, you can get a more VIP treatment by becoming a Founder. The Founders Pack costs the princely sum of $199.99, and nets buyers a host of in-game perks, along with access to a 60-hour beta weekend starting April 12th. Founders will also have an early look at the game’s professions system, allowing their characters to specialize in Leatherworking, Leadership, Platesmithing, or Mailsmithing.

Traditional RPG classes remain a staple, though the existence of mounts will add a new flair to in-game movement.

Traditional RPG classes remain a staple, though the existence of mounts will add a new flair to in-game movement.

The free-to-play MMO is listed on publisher Perfect World’s website as due for release in “early 2013”, though a specific date has not been mentioned. True to its Dungeons & Dragons heritage, it will launch alongside a tabletop game from industry giant and franchise veteran Wizards of the Coast, as well as a series of novels by R.A. Salvatore, author of countless books set in the Forgotten Realms universe.

Perfect World has released a raft of videos showcasing the game, the latest of which is a broad-stroke look at its features and feel – including a glimpse of the game’s toolset, sure to bolster its content once mod creators get their hands on it:

A love letter to both Dungeons & Dragons and MMO fans” is no modest claim for the title, which faces the task of tempting fans of the mostly single-player Forgotten Realms games, as well as competing with genre giants such as Guild Wars 2.

Despite its standalone nature, Neverwinter is set in a world very familiar to Forgotten Realms fans.

Despite its standalone nature, Neverwinter is set in a world very familiar to Forgotten Realms fans.

Perfect World’s PR campaign seems designed to address these challenges ahead of release – an absolute necessity for what is ultimately a new free-to-play MMO, striving for an identity in a highly competitive sector. The upcoming open beta should give us a clearer idea of how closely this goal has been achieve by the game’s ambitious developers.

Source: VG24/7