By Stratics forum member, Llewen.
I’ve been playing Neverwinter pretty heavily for the past few months, long enough to have formed an opinion, at least on the game basics. For those who don’t know, Neverwinter is the new free-to-play fantasy MMO produced by Cryptic Studios and published by Perfect World. It is fully live as of June 20, 2013 and supposedly set in the D&D universe of The Forgotten Realms – more on that later.
First off let’s deal with the good news, “free to play”. When they say “free to play”, they really do mean “free to play”. There are no restricted access areas in the game and almost everything in the game can be acquired through game play. That by itself is unusual and deserves a thumbs up. If you do choose to fork out some real money, Zen (the currency they use) can be used in any of the other free to play MMO titles Perfect World publishes.
Neverwinter was developed using the same game engine as Star Wars Online and Champions. The original concept is the game would be a co-op style MMO and you can still see that in the world design. The world consists of a network of maps which are each designed in a linear fashio,n very much like what you would see in a game using Valve’s Source engine, albeit on a larger scale.
The only exception to this is the central hub map which is designed in a more open fashion. But there clearly has been no attempt to make an open, contiguous world. Each map is an instance, with only one way in or out, with the exception of the central hub map. Let’s just hope there isn’t a fire on any of them. It would be a disaster.
And while we’re on the topic of the world, let’s get into graphics. The world is very pretty, the characters and the items they wear are pretty. With a few exceptions the artwork is detailed and the animations are decent. The one odd thing is the player characters only look straight ahead, which strikes me as odd for a title debuting in 2013. It also is very playable on a low end gaming rig with plenty of configuration options which should help it run with acceptable frame rates on any reasonable gaming rig purchased in the past two or three years.
Now for the bad news, especially if you were expecting another Neverwinter Nights style D&D game. With a few exceptions the “Neverwinter” and “D&D” names are really just a sales gimmick – this game in no way plays or feels like D&D. The Forgotten Realms world lore, and the D&D 4th Edition rule set are just a rough framework to hang what is really just another World of Warcraft clone. The first person shooter style aimed combat (read “carpal tunnel inducing clicking and button mashing”) is dumbed down to a point where very little skill is involved. You have to be well out of range and wildly off target, to miss with an attack. You also don’t really have to worry much about timing with the exception of attacks with long cool downs, just click as fast as you can and you’ll do just fine.
As for the quests and the story line, well, you don’t really have to bother yourself too much with that if you don’t want to. All you need to do is talk to every non player character with a diamond shining overhead, click on all the dialogue options, and follow all the shining trails, which for the most part will take you directly where you want to go without much thought involved. When I played World of Warcraft I really thought that it wasn’t possible to make the quests any easier, or to have your hand held any more as you do them. I was wrong.
But at the heart of Neverwinter there is something that is truly unique and more than that, I’d have to call it revolutionary. That is the Foundry. The Foundry is a set of tools that allows players to create their own adventures and quests and have other people run through them. Best of all, it works! The quality of those quests and adventures can be pretty spotty. However these created adventures and quests can be ranked by others. So you have the chance of seeing how popular they are based on player critique. Just the fact that the designers have found a way to allow players to play Dungeon Master in an MMO is pretty remarkable.
I’ve been around gaming for a very long time, and if there is one thing that I truly love about a game, it is player created mods. From the original Half-Life mods as in Counter-Strike to the modded GUI’s for WoW (that are so well done the game just isn’t fun without them), to all the mods available for the Elder Scrolls series; consistently the really good player created mods are simply better than the original published content. This is true of Neverwinter’s Foundry quests. They are more challenging, often more beautiful, more intricate and for the most part they come with story lines that you actually have to pay attention to.
But the most important question: is the game actually fun? Surprisingly, for someone who loves the open-world-sandbox MMO design concept, the answer is yes. It’s just about the perfect “down time” game. You get home from work, you’re exhausted, stressed out, and you need a few minutes to yourself to unwind, with no frustration, and without having to think too much. Neverwinter is just about the perfect game for that. It’s also great for taking a break from more intense and challenging gaming experiences, like online Scrabble – but I digress… And if you are looking for more of a challenge, and better story lines, The Foundry makes Neverwinter a truly never ending story.
Originally I gave Neverwinter 3 stars out of 5, but that was before I saw some of the wonderful player created content produced with The Foundry. The Foundry is a game changer, not just for Neverwinter, but for the MMO industry, and Neverwinter may well go on to be one of the true classic MMO’s as a result – 4 stars out of 5.
This review originally posted on our forums. Opinions posted by our community members may not reflect the official opinion of Stratics Staff. The writings by community members, when brought into a Stratics portal for publication, undergoes editorial changes for grammer, spelling and structure. All other content, to include logos, screenshots and game graphics belong to the respective game publisher.
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