Developer: Cryptic Studios
A beta code for Neverwinter was supplied to us
Neverwinter is a F2P MMO and is based in the popular Forgotten Realms setting. Having no relation to the previous Neverwinter Nights titles, Neverwinter is a fresh start and it does a solid job trying to differentiate itself from other MMO’s on the market.
Neverwinter kicks things off by showing you that things aren’t going to well for the people of the city as the lich queen Valindra assaults the city and factions plot to overthrow the king. You can pretty much guess what happens next since the story goes in a fairly predictable route, but it’s interesting enough to keep you from skipping the dialog menus. I’m not a big MMO guy, I’m always trying them out but the grind and combat just gets too tedious for me after a few hours and I always end up dropping them; Neverwinter thankfully shares more in common with more story focused RPG’s than regular MMO’s.
Despite being F2P, Neverwinter never forces you to drop down cash to play the game. There’s a lot of stuff to do without needing to buy any Zen/Astral Diamonds and you can earn resources by doing tasks in the professions menu. As you complete various set objectives you’ll unlock more slots to do simultaneous profession tasks that will finish after a certain amount of time.
There are five classes to play around with in the game: Guardian Fighter, Great Weapon Fighter, Devoted Cleric, Trickster Rogue, and the Control Wizard. Their names tell you exactly what you can expect to get out of each class and they’re all neat enough to make you want to play around with each one. Each class also has a specific dungeon skill that will let them access hidden areas or treasure; the rogue can see & disable traps while the great weapon fighter can open hidden chests.
The combat is where I start to feel somewhat conflicted with the game though. On one hand it’s a lot more engaging than your regular MMO and feels more like a hack and slash RPG game (Dragon Age-ish maybe), but on the other hand it can feel pretty mundane at times. Take for example the control wizard class, you’ll be flinging magical missiles at your enemies rapidly and throwing spells at them like crazy while pulling off a really cool teleport move that can help move you into more strategic positions. It feels really fast and fun when you’re doing it; the best part is that there’s no mana to worry about in this game so it makes the combat a lot faster for all the classes. Now while the mage was a blast, the great weapon fighter feels a bit duller with a sprint that isn’t super useful for dodging and you’re just pulling off the same three sword swings with the occasional skill thrown in to spice things up. The classes definitely feel different in terms of how the combat plays which is a good thing, but some of the classes left a sour taste in my mouth. Of course that doesn’t mean everyone will have the same experience, there were tons of great weapon fighters having a blast smashing dudes during the few PVP events I participated in. The sprint & teleport I mentioned can be used as a useful dodge mechanic and the combat is polished enough that you can actually dodge enemy attacks. It always annoys me how an enemy can hit you with a physical attack despite missing completely by a few feet in many MMO’s and Neverwinter not going down this path is nice to say the least. Also, all of the classes have a unique dodge move as well with the mage teleporting and the rogue rolling which is kind of neat.
The skills page reminded me a bit of Diablo 3 in that it’s very straight forward and doesn’t give you much freedom when trying to personalize your class from everyone else. As you take a look at the skill tree (more like a branch) you’ll notice you won’t be able to go wherever you want since you’re restricted from accessing the higher tiers until you spend a certain amount of skill points. You also can’t fully max out a skill (each one has 3 levels) until you, once again, spend a certain amount of points which means you’re going to be dumping two points into every skill until you can access the final upgrade level for the skills you want. At first I was a bit annoyed with this, but I soon realized that by getting slow access to later skills I’m forced to learn what the skills I currently have do and how to use them; once I unlock the next tier in skills I then know what the previous ones did and I can now work towards learning how to incorporate these new skills into my combos. It’s a nice accessible approach that I’m sure will appeal to many people out there. You’ll also get two stat points every 10 levels which is a bit disappointing since I would’ve preferred more points to play around with there. Once you reach level 10 or so, you’ll be able to level up feats and these give you a bit more freedom when customizing your characters, but they’re all just variations of the core class skill and are all passive abilities.
As in most MMO’s, you’ll have your story quests to go through and your typical fetch quest side-quests to spice up the moments when you’re not trying to save the world. The story itself holds more promise than it delivers, but there are some solid moments that actually got me interested despite the laughable at times voice acting.
Now the most interesting thing about Neverwinter is definitely going to be the Foundry. Hopping over into the Foundry will let you build your own levels and quests complete with proper NPC characters and more. You can link together various areas to create a proper quest and narrative too. I fiddled around a bit with the tool-set and it’s a lot easier than I expected it to be, but I’m the kind of guy who’d rather play quests made by people who are going to be much better than myself at this. A handy filter also lets you sift through the garbage creations (there are a lot) to find the gems. There’s a particularly enjoyable quest called Tired of Being the Hero that offers a surprising amount of replay value for a user made quest. I think I spent more time playing Foundry quests than I did the regular ones and I really hope future MMO’s try to include something like this.
There are a lot of really interesting locales to visit but my main issue with them is that they feel more like levels than actual places. The game isn’t open-world so you’ll need to access the map to travel to these places and many of them are small enough to make me laugh at anyone lazy enough to use a mount. Each area has a few smaller in-door dungeons, but that doesn’t help the entire game feel more like stages in a Mario game than you exploring a large world. On the plus side, the environment looks pretty damn good visually with the character models themselves being fairly average looking.
The Final Word
Neverwinter isn’t going to be that game that pulls me into the MMO world, but it did a damn better job than many other MMO’s out there. The setting is interesting enough and the combat slightly engaging which makes it worth giving a try, but it’s going to be the Foundry that keeps players going.
– MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair