Neverwinter is a new free to play MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Play Game) that makes use of the Dungeons & Dragons lore. As huge fans of the D&D universe we here at VoF Productions were totally geeked to start playing Neverwinter in the open beta. The staff congregated around soda and pizza, gathered our parchment and ink and began the sleepless nights of perilous testing in order to provide our readers with a detailed and solid review of the game. We lost sleep for you guys and gals. Really, we did it for you and not because we are hopeless nerds I promise.
The lost sleep was well worth the incurred wrath of loved ones and employers. Neverwinter proved to be a wildly addictive and gratifying game to play. It is loosely based on D&D so those of us familiar with the vast character customization of the game will be mildly disappointed that we can’t be a mad necromancer, squirrel adoring ranger or fist wielding monk who attains peace through violence. The class and racial options are limited but users are given a great deal of physical attributes to adjust, as well as in depth character histories. You may choose your city of origin, a brief background in that city, the deity that your character worships and any detailed lore you wish to write out for other players to read.
The Neverwinter open beta phase has come to a close and the dust has settled on how the game will ultimately take form. The game holds all the charm and abilities of other MMORPG(PVP, Dungeons, Skirmishes, Crafting, Mounts and more) while introducing its own flare to the mix. The first thing that sets Neverwinter apart from others is the great lengths the creators have gone to create stunning scenery and involved ambiance. This is truly a game where a good set of head phones and a large monitor are essential to enjoying the experience. While many of the features will be familiar to veteran MMORPG players there are some unique highlights and faults to the game that set the table for an auspicious adventure.
Ease of Use – From the moment you start your heroic adventure you are barraged with a multitude of possibilities. The game is very complex but through spectacular design the developers ensure that everything is intuitive and slowly introduced to the player so that you never feel overwhelmed. The game has many features that guide you from task to task and takes great lengths to confirm that you understand and make use of everything made available to you. Maps are detailed, zones are easy to navigate, and traveling between zones is simple and swift. Through the first half of the game you progress linearly through the story which helps you ease into the mechanics of the multifaceted gameplay. However, as you navigate your way through dungeons and enthralling stories your options are expanded to allow a more individualized progression. The game is very thorough in teaching you the ropes of adventuring and you should never feel like you don’t know what to do.
Cooperative or Solo – Though you are playing alongside many other adventurers clad in Elvish wands, Dwarven steel and Gnomish cod pieces you may find yourself wishing for a more reliable partner in tomb robbing adventuring. The game accommodates those who do not wish to wait for friends or share their precious loot with stranger by offering purchasable companions. You may have one active companion engage in combat with you that can be trained and equipped at your discretion and they never ask for their share of the loot! Companions have unique abilities that can complement or conflict with your character. A rogue may wish to have a cleric companion, a cleric may wish to have a warrior, and a deranged madman may wish to have a mangy dog named Ted to complete the illusion of insanity. Companions make entering dungeons without a party a less daunting affair and allow you to role play the selfish gold hoarding antisocial dictator you’ve always fantasized of.
Immersion – On top of the breathe taking scenery the game furthers your immersion into the world of Neverwinter by having the speech of nearly every quest giving NPC(Non-Playable Character) voice acted. Yes, this MMORPG takes the extra step to make you feel like you are actually having a conversation. You are not just ignoring a wall of text by clicking furiously on the accept button regardless of whether the NPC has just asked you to slay goblins or burn down a village full of orphanages run by adorable kittens. The game makes the quest objectives interesting and logical and encourages you to actually pay attention to your goals. Furthermore you have the option of picking up scrolls, journals and other various lore items that provide you with reading material to dive deeper into the lore of the D&D realms and give you a better understanding of the events that are unfolding around your character and the world they inhabit. To see that such great time was taken on an MMORPG to make a player feel like they are truly part of the world they are exploring gives this author hope that the quality of these types of games will continue to climb back to the accolades bestowed upon the previous generation of role play games.
Professions – Neverwinter’s unique approach to crafting and professions has proven to be the most addictive substance the game has to offer. Instead of picking up thread and shears to create your own works of art you purchase or find assets and professionals to do your evil bidding. There are currently six professions available for users to engage in. On top of the typical MMORPG favorites (Leatherworking, Alchemy, Mailsmithing, Platesmithing, and Tailoring) Neverwinter introduces a profession dubbed Leadership. The professions all behavior very similarly but the perspective of Leadership is very interesting to me. You hire mercenaries to perform tasks like guard duty, scouting, protect caravan and feeding the poor. When your minion completes their assignment you collect payment for their efforts. It gives you the feeling that you operate your own shady little mercenaries’ guild. The aspect of delegation and managing minions makes professions in this game very rewarding both in player satisfaction and the rewards bestowed for engaging in a profession.
Cash Shop – Neverwinter has an in-game cash shop that allows you to purchase items and services that expedite progression, gussy up your character like a cheap French harlot or give you an added advantage. What is wonderful about the cash shop in Neverwinter is that the game never really requires you to make purchases. As you endeavor to slay every living thing south of lawful good you will be given or rewarded the currency or treasure to experience everything the game has to offer. Bags, mounts, companions and other essentials can be found within the game (albeit not as quickly or proving as effective as their cash shop counterparts). This means that you can play through Neverwinter spending your time rather than your rent check.
The Foundry – Those of us that fancy ourselves story tellers will methodically enjoy the Foundry. The Foundry is an editor that allows users to play dungeon master. Users craft stories using all of Neverwinter as their pallet. This unique MMORPG feature will most certainly give Neverwinter an edge in the market because as we have seen time and time again user generated content can take a decent game and make it something great. I participated in one of the quests written by a user and found the tail to be as enthralling if not more so than the tails the game has to offer. As the game ages and new players make use of the foundry we can expect to have more stories to experience and exponentially increase the value of Neverwinter. This constant influx of new content from users like you will keep the game interesting long after you have explored all that the Neverwinter developers have created for you.
No Item Previews – I found this one unusually disappointing. The game (as far as I have divined through spamming every button and click I could find) does not allow you to preview items you wish to purchase or even items that you are in possession of. To see how something will look on your character you must have it and equip it. I’m a very aesthetic player and having the right look is more important to me than having the right gear. Because you cannot view an item before you don it, purchasing expensive items is a visual gamble. This fact alone could cost you a sizable chunk of gold looking for the right look.
PVP – Player Versus Player (PVP) combat is a common part of MMORPG games. I’m not familiar with PVP in other MMORPG but there are a few things in Neverwinter that make the concept a little disappointing. First the game highly rewards individuals who have purchased advantages in the cash shop. With mounts alone there can be as much as 60% movement speed difference. That is an incredible advantage when one must navigate between points swiftly to secure a team victory. Second the game matches you not by level but by level bracket. Meaning everyone will be leveled up within the PVP match to a certain level, but you will not gain any of the abilities or gear attached to that level. What does this mean? If you are level 32 and it upgrades you to level 39, the guy who joined at level 38 will have a distinct advantage over you in combat because he has 6 levels of gear and abilities you do not.
Religion – Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the game is the ability to pray to your chosen deity for blessings, experience and fabulous loot. Once every hour you may grovel indignantly to your deity at an altar or resting place. This is a wonderfully unique feature that makes you feel like you may serve your chosen gods nefarious or altruistic purposes. That is, until you realize that your rewards are arbitrary and do not reflect your chosen gods design. I sincerely hope as the game expands and patches that the deity portion of this game is extended to make your selection meaningful and your godly pleadings unique. The game already includes class and race specific quests that make your decisions interesting so it would not be a great leap for the developers to make a chain of quests enacted by your arrangements with one of the many gods who inhabit the realms.
The game developers truly listen to the desires of the community and half of the things I set out to complain about were patched as I was writing this review. If this spirit of collaboration with the community continues Neverwinter will quickly take its seat near the top of the MMORPG ladder.
For this hardcore cape wearing, wand wielding nerdy author the most disappointing thing was the lack of play through customization. The game forces you into a path of white or grey, the option to play the bad guy simply does not exist. You are also limited to five classes for your protagonist which makes playing a unique character rather difficult.
With the games faults listed the game is still a very enjoyable alternative to pay to play MMORPG. It is in its infancy and promises to expand are already being delivered. This great hope on the horizon coupled with an already solid and clean game has this author eager to continue playing long after the ink has dried on this parchment review.