The MMO Geek: Neverwinter Impressions
Dungeons and Dragons always fascinated me as a kid. This sort of creative mentality that was designed to let you have all kinds of wondrous adventures greatly appealed to me. That said, I never had any friends who were interested in playing, and my parents wouldn’t have been thrilled with 13-year-old me hanging out with a bunch of 20- and 30-somethings who were confident in the rules. So I held off until many years later when some friends and I finally mustered up the resources, time, and understanding to give it a try. It was a lot of fun, but as someone who got roped into the role of Dungeon Master, I also found it to be a lot of work, and I lacked the time and drive to get it done regularly.
I did have a chance to try DDO, and I love that game. Great experience and storytelling. However, it’s pretty old by this point and I was looking for something more.
Enter Dungeons and Dragons: Neverwinter. I’ve been playing this game for about a week now and I must say that I am impressed. In today’s MMO Geek, I want to talk about where this game succeeds, where it fails, and any other general observations.
I have long been reluctant to get excited about Neverwinter, and a large portion of that probably is because of the limited class choices. A big thing for me in my gaming history has always been having a bevy of classes to choose from, and that is one area that Neverwinter is lacking. I understand that eventually they hope to include far more (I think I read one estimate that placed the total at 30??), but with timeline for release or schedule to expect, I’m skeptical that we’ll get anything in a timely fashion. The current choices don’t stir up much excitement in me either: the Guardian Fighter, the Great Weapon Fighter, the Devoted Cleric, the Trickster Rogue (the class I chose), and the Control Wizard. You have far more variation in race (seven total; eight if you buy a $200 founder’s pack), so that gives a bit more customization, as well as a few background choices that add a bit of flavor to your character (where they’re from ,what deity they worship, etc.)
Overall, not bad character customization, with plenty of sliders for you to tweak your character’s look. I still find the class selection rather limited.
Tell me a story
Neverwinter’s story is fairly well done. You pick up right after the events of the opening credit sequence and are immediately thrust into the fray, fighting various undead and helping to push back the forces threatening to overwhelm the city of Neverwinter. All the quests I have done up to this point have been fairly entertaining, despite being fairly straight-forward “Kill 10 rats,” and “Bring 12 items” quests. This is partially because combat is so damn fun. The game is very much an action RPG, and I love the satisfying animations as my rogue dashes and slashes, carving up all the weak little enemies who stand in my way. The game is fully voice-acted, which also adds to the excitement of doing quests.
I’d be remiss not to mention The Foundry when talking about story. Upon hitting level 15, the Foundry puts dungeon-making tools in the players’ hands and lets them go to town on creating their own adventurers for their friends (and random strangers). While the tools are a bit complex (don’t expect to just jump into the editor and churn out 10 dungeons in a night), they really allow for a great deal of creativity while creating. I realize this features has been included in other games (City of Heroes, Star Trek Online), but as a game that is set in the DnD universe, it was bound to have some great creations. Perhaps the best quest I’ve done so far has been a player created one where you are asked to solve the mystery of a strange family history. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but if you get a chance, look up the “From the Shadows” quest line. You won’t be sorry!
Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder
Many criticized World of Warcraft’s graphics for being too cartoony, and while Neverwinter’s graphics aren’t quite as dramatic, they still have a certain style to them that I hesitate to define as realistic. That said, the look of the game is absolutely gorgeous. The scenery is crisp and varied (to some extent) and the lighting is fantastic. The various areas do a wonderful job of setting the mood for whatever little dungeon crawl it is you are about to embark upon.
Cost of living
It’s all well and good that Neverwinter is free to download and free to play. However, that comes at the hefty cost of a fairly substantial cash shop. The folks at Perfect World have made it perfectly clear that while you don’t have to spend money on their game, it certainly will make things go a TON faster. For instance, horses typically cost five gold in-game. By the time I was of an appropriate level to buy a horse (level 20), I had just barely over two gold. Alternatively, you can buy a mount off of their cash shop. This sort of idea is fairly common in F2P games nowadays. The thing that sets Perfect World and Neverwinter apart, however, is the fact that as of this moment, these items are extremely expensive. To give you an idea, if I’m not mistaken a mount costs $30. As a recent college graduate, I have a really hard time justifying that.
Again, as Perfect World has said, you are never forced to buy anything. Everything in the cash shop can be achieved simply by playing the game (albeit far more than someone who has employed the cash shop) with the exception of the keys needed to unlock the epic lockboxes you occasionally find. That said, until the prices come down, I think I’ll have a hard time plopping down the money to take advantage of any available items.
A world of adventure awaits
Despite some of the issues with the cash shop and class selection options, I still must give Neverwinter a positive recommendation. The game feels very polished and runs great, and the sense of adventure you get from completing the various missions cannot be overstated. For those of you familiar with the Neverwinter setting and with Dungeons and Dragons in general, I think you’ll love it. For those of you who have never set foot into an online game or just don’t have experience with tabletop roleplaying, I think you’ll also enjoy the world that Cryptic has carefully crafted.
Download the game, make a character, pour yourself some ale, and get adventuring. If you’d like to play a bit with my Trickster Rogue, look for me on “Eburk” on the Mindflayer shard.