If the recent popularization of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones has taught us anything, then it is this: “Winter is Coming.”
Indeed, as an Englishman, it seems to be a permanent fixture. However, Neverwinter nearly never arrived at all. Behind the scenes Neverwinter almost succumbed to the nefarious forces fighting over ownership and rights that would’ve made the in-game combat system seem positively meek by comparison.
Thankfully though, the Neverwinter project remained steadfast in the face of adversity and has come through unscathed, rejuvenated, and stronger than ever. Cryptic and PerfectWorld should be commended for getting Neverwinter released – period.
Taking place around a city of the same name, Neverwinter’s history is a rich one. Having survived the Spellplague that decimated the surrounding cities of the Sword Coast, it finally capitulated to the fiery onslaught of a volcano raining molten fury down upon it.
Seventy-five years later Neverwinter is almost rebuilt to its former glory only to face an entirely new kind of danger, one cloaked in the cold chill of darkness. Our hero awakes bewildered on a beach, and there is a storm brewing….
Neverwinter is marketed as a new breed of MMO. The Action MMORPG puts heavy emphasis on combat systems by doing away with the keyboard full of hot keys and macros and putting control back into the players’ hands – literally back into their hands if you take into account the assigned “at will” powers guided by the mouse.
Movement is controlled via [WASD] keys. Although you accumulate multiple skills, abilities, and attacks throughout the game, you are only able to run with 7 at any one time that allows for some very unique playing styles, even across identical classes. Moreover, the need to actively dodge, evade, or block enemy attacks make for a much more realistic combat system.
This is the great touch that, most significantly, allows for the break-up of the more traditional Tank-DPS-Healer combination. No more are gamers restricted to certain parties and roles; rather, it is perfectly plausible to make groups of one entire class and succeed as long as everyone knows when and where to dodge and use potions.
Even healers can get stuck in combat and heal as a secondary fall-back option. As a healer – I can tell you – this has breathed life back into MMORPGs for me.
All in all the scope for more varied group dynamics is much greater than anything that has come before, and this is before the expected introduction of Ranger and Druid classes.
The interface is fluid, easy to understand, and fitting with classical RPGs. You have an obvious HUD displaying action points and assigned abilities, as well as a decent map to help you get around.
If you’ve ever played an MMO, or pretty much any medieval RPG, you’ll be familiar with this interface. If you haven’t, well, you’re in luck as you’ll be having so much fun that you do not care about the interface.
Stand Out Feature:
If the PVE experience can be criticised, it is that is rather stereotypical. However, it’s a D&D fantasy world – personally, I crave those stereotypes and apparently, so do a lot of others. Besides, this criticism soon becomes irrelevant in the face of the Foundry. To put it simply, the Foundry is AWESOME.
At level 15 this game changes track and offers something original and unsurpassed in MMORPG – Neverwinter offers users the chance to create their own content, upload it, share it, and be rewarded for it in such an accessible and well-managed way that you have to applaud the developers.
You can create quests, dungeons, and storylines that give legitimate rewards and experience. User content creation is incentivized by a kind of “Astral Diamonds tipping service,” allowing creators of content to be rewarded for their efforts with in-game currency. This stands to be a real money-spinner for those who care to make the effort that benefits everyone.
Particularly noteworthy is the review and rating system that allows the best and most worthwhile user-created content to rise to the top and be experienced which again, benefits everyone.
Furthermore, the Foundry acts as the hub of character progression. You can find PVE and PVP dailies here that confer extra experience, glory, and rewards. Upcoming events are posted here that can be soloed or grouped. Profession quests are also posted here, giving abundant profession nodes which lead to extra skills. All these things work in the player’s favour by aiding quicker progression and funding professions and finances in one user-driven hub of activity.
So much effort has already gone into the Foundry that there is enjoyment to be had at all levels. Most content offers multi-tiered challenges in which you are able to experience first-hand the creativity of your fellow players by actually playing in their content.
The Foundry is truly a game-changing experience and is the standout feature of this game, putting it far ahead of other Free-to-Play games and laying out a serious challenge to the more entrenched MMORPGs.
Neverwinter is a city that has been through a lot over the years, and the designers at Cryptic have done a great service by rendering it in all its medieval glory. The characters who populate it are also well-crafted and diverse thanks to the customizable character creation system and the attention to detail with shiny new armour.
This attention to detail, even at the lower levels, is sparkling and whilst not pushing any graphical boundaries, it pays due reverence to its D&D heritage. Keep me dark and dingy, but make my dark and dingy glow! That way by the time you reach the endgame, those new armors will blow you away. Stunning.
As a lazy reader, I tend to prefer voice acting as opposed to subtitles or quests presented in blocks of text, so I really appreciated the fact that all NPC quest givers are voice acted.
The score that Kevin Manthei composed for Neverwinter is in keeping with the quality of his previous work for Cryptic (Champions Online and Star Trek Online). He moves you smoothly between the baying horns of war and the soft lilting of strings and harp when you are safely ensconced in the tavern. The music is subtle enough that it doesn’t interfere with dialogue or battle, but at any rate, it is customizable in your options. It is essentially decent fantasy fare.
There are two standout features to the Multiplayer. One has already been addressed in the move away from the Tank-DPS-Healer triumvirate. That said, as would be expected, a balanced group will be more capable in the more demanding instances, but the multiplayer dynamic is a lot more forgiving and exciting for the potential a mixed group brings.
The PVP is limited at present to “Domination,” an instance taking place in 5v5 arena where you fight the opposing team for control of 3 bases on the map. It plays very well and offers a lot of experience, glory, and reward. In fact, you can level just via PVP if you should so choose. This method is especially recommended if used in conjunction with the Foundry dailies.
Neverwinter is truly Free-to-Play. Sure, there is an aggressive in-game push for you to use the “cash shop,” but you do not need to. With a bit of time and patience, you can attain everything you could gain without laying down solid cash. Thus, the game’s value for your money’s worth is superb.
This game has the potential to remain fresh for a very long time. The playing mechanics for one character differ greatly depending on your chosen skill set and playing style; this remains true across all the classes.
Moreover, even if you max out each class, you still have the Foundry to keep things vitalized. It promises to provide an endless stream of user-created content which will only get better as more people evolve along with the game.
Add to this the PVP which will have more content added, and, I suspect, the addition of at least two more classes and there will be plenty to keep this game fresh for a very long time. Already, the first installment Fury of the Feywild is planned for release in the summer as a D&D-esque Adventure Module.
- The Foundry
- Combat System
- Less reliance on Tank-DPS-Healer triumvirate
- Truly Free to Play
- Aggressive in game marketing