Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter – PC
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Genre: Fantasy Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game
Release Date: June 20, 2013
Reviewed by Malefico
OK, so this game is pretty cool. Please note that this is not a review, I just downloaded this a couple days ago and since I noticed there are now a few MMO fans involved with the Bacon, I wanted to give some details on my initial experience with this game.
It was developed by Cryptic Studios, the same company that made Star Trek Online, among other titles. It manages to stand out among other fantasy MMOs, in my opinion and based on limited play for a number of reasons. Since it follows pretty closely the game mechanics of 4th Edition D&D rules, it has some novel ways of dealing with standard MMO elements.
Character creation allows you to pick from a variety of races- Humans, Elves, halfbreeds and Dwarves are among the choices. There are five character classes to choose from, each with three talent trees. I started with a Drow Trickster Rogue, a homage to my humble beginnings in WoW, then rolled a High Elf Control Wizard- I’m not normally a caster fan, but wanted to try my hand at this class.
What follows is a limited viewpoint based on one class, but including screen shots using both characters.
Movement controls are standard, but in addition all your combat abilities are clustered around W,A,S and D. Special attacks are activated with Q,E and R, Shift activates your class ability and 1 And 2 activate your daily powers. I’ll go into a bit more detail below.
First, I like the combat. It’s far more involved than the simple point-and-click of other MMOs. There’s no auto-attack; you have to launch your offense by left or right mouse clicking each time you want to try to land a blow. While this was annoying in Rift, it works well in NW. Also, facing and distance from target matter, especially with short weapons (daggers). Finally, there is no target lock- you hit whichever enemy your hovering over at the time. Rogues start with Sly Flourish and Cloud of Steel, basic melee combo and ranged attack respectively. As you level you gain abilities that do increasingly severe damage, but some of the “standard” rogue abilities don’t come early and their use requires more planning, skill and yes, luck to utilize them effectively.
You start to get fairly powerful attacks early on, but due to the limited number of ability slots you’ll never have more than five moves, plus a class ability and one or two “daily” powers that actually work on the action point system from D&D; they recharge during combat and can be used as often as max points allow. While this system does limit the number of abilities you can activate, it also keeps you from having to press various number keys while in combat. Since the targeting system is also fluid, it results in fast action and I never felt I didn’t have the tools to deal with mobs during a fight.
Now let’s talk about Stealth, that most valuable of rogue abilities. In Neverwinter, you don’t get it until level 10 and then it only lasts five seconds. This took some getting used to, but the terrain offers opportunities for concealment and I quickly learned to take circuitous routes to enemies and only hit Stealth right before an attack. As you gain levels, you can increase the duration and movement speed while stealthed. In this game, if your stealth ability is charged you can disappear during combat, either to retreat or gain a tactical advantage.
Another thing that actually works and is useful in NW is the rogue’s ability to find and disarm traps. Even in low-level instances, traps are common and do significant damage if you try to walk through them. So the rogue class can actually make meaningful contributions to the party in between fights. Also, the dungeons tend to have little crevices and alcoves so you can hide from passing patrols without resorting to stealth all the time.
Second, the game world looks good on the POS and I’m going to load it onto my gaming tower so I can see how much better the environments are on high settings. The only thing I didn’t like about WoW (from the beginning) was the cartoonish quality of all the models. In Neverwinter, all the enemies look vicious, even the little kobolds. The animations are good as well, and when you kill monsters they are subject to some random animations so they don’t all die the same.
The game just “looks” like I would imagine D&D to be. The zones are cleverly designed and splendidly detailed. Adventure zones are reached from any of the city gates. As you leave the safe area of each zone, the area takes on the character of whatever evil forces have taken over the neighborhood. The orc zones are filthy and cluttered, the edges of the city are dark and dangerous due to the presence of bandits (and worse), and the dungeons are dank, uninviting holes full of traps and other forms of death. And when I say dark, I mean the torches on the wall are more than just window-dressing… once you leave each pool of light the gloom of the area becomes apparent. All in all, well done on the game environment.
Finally, except for the mobs you encounter on your way to the first town the foes in NW are not pushovers. They do serious damage, spawn frequently and tend to try to surround you to take tactical advantage and limit movement. And they scale in size and power quickly. By level 10 you are facing down large groups of monsters backed up by their larger cousins or other types when dealing with those that tend to form heterogeneous groups. For instance, kobolds and giant spiders (never did understand the affinity there) or groups of orcs (melee and ranged) backed up by an ogre. Since these bruisers are large, hit hard and soak up damage like crazy, I can only imagine what trolls, giants and dragons will be like.
This all plays into how the game handles damage. You DO NOT regenerate HP out of combat. You have to either take a potion or spend some time at a Campfire. Campfires are located throughout zones and instances, but especially in the dungeons they are typically guarded by a large group of creatures- you have to defeat them in order to make the area safe. I like the way NW handles this aspect of play. While in most MMOs, especially as a rogue if you get seriously hurt, you just Vanish and retreat… not an option here, or at least it’s not just a matter of waiting until you regain health. So NW offers game play that is not as easy, but ultimately more rewarding to the player.
So, while a lot of the standard MMO elements are present in NW, it takes a different enough approach to some basic game play factors that make it more challenging and fun than run-of-the-mill titles in this genre. No doubt it owes this to the fact that it’s based on a real RPG and uses the rules of the tabletop game.
One other cool feature that deserves mention is The Foundry, where players can create their own quests. The Foundry editor allows you to make a map and populate it with NPCs, beasts, loot, instances, and quest events making it a powerful tool to add content to the game. I played through several of these player-made quests, and aside fromn some typos in the dialogue found them to be entertaining and challenging. I didn’t poke around the Foundry page too much but it seems there’s already a ton of user-generated content. A rating system allows other players to judge the quest, so quality work is rewarded by higher ranking.
I’m quite impressed with Cryptic’s efforts on this game. As a free-to-play title it has to be one of the most cleverly designed and detailed worlds out there.
Once I have some more time invested in the game and have had a chance to run some instances and do PVP I’ll have a more viable basis to base a review on.
But judging from my brief time online so far, I’d have to say Neverwinter is worth a look if you like the fantasy MMO genre. Cryptic has taken the D&D ball and run with it. I’ll have a more in-depth review up in about a month.
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