10 Thoughts On… Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter (Facebook)

When I heard that there was going to be a D&D Facebook game, my mind went racing. Were we finally going to get a giant, online D&D campaign going? That turned out not to be the case. Instead, we’re getting a social tactical RPG. It’s practically an oxymoron, but it sounded intriguing to me.

Lucky for me then, I just happened to get in on the Beta on day one. They’re offering limited spots, but they are adding new ones every day. I was only one of three staffers here that got in, though there were quite a few more that wanted in.

So, I’ve spent several hours with this game. It’s time to see what it’s all about.

1.) You start things off just like you would any D&D game. You make your character. There are four races and four classes to chose from. For races, you have human, dragonborn, eldarin, and halfling. For people like me, the lack of half-orcs was a bitter blow. Each class offers special traits. For example, a dragonborn gets a nice strength bonus as well as a breath attack. The four classes are fighter, wizard, rogue, and cleric. It may not seem like much, but there is plenty to work with here. These classes are in many ways modified versions of what we’re used to. You then set your stats by spending allotted points. Once you’ve done all that, the game gives you a quick tutorial quest in which you slay goblins and figure out the basics.

2.) This is basically a simple SRPG. Characters act based on a turn order, they move around a 1×1 grid system, and battles end when all the characters on one side are taken down. Each adventure is a dungeons will several rooms. After you’ve killed all of the bad guys in one room, you move on to the next. Eventually, you’ll reach the boss room, kill them, gather the loot, and claim your reward.

What’s interesting here is how combat works. You can take a move action and an attack action each turn, but there are also non-attack actions that you can use at will on your turn. For example, a cleric can move, attack, and still use healing spells. This is a big change for those of us used to D&D rules and even SRPGs. It gives you much more flexibility. I can’t think of any other RPG where chugging a potion didn’t waste at least part of your turn.

You have to manage your party through the rooms pretty carefully, as they don’t regain HP between them. Also, most non-basic actions can be used once per encounter rather than adventure. This means you can use powerful spells even against the lowliest skeleton. These are still one shots, however, so you need to use them wisely. Blasting that low level grunt with an acid arrow might feel good, but what are you going to do about his big brother?

3.) Wizards are interesting in this campaign. They don’t get a melee attack. Instead, the tried and true magic missile is the base attack. While wizards aren’t that great against singular foes, they’re the best class for dealing with groups. Many of their abilities have big ranges. Leveling with them, you often need to chose between newer and flashier spells, and less flashy spells that keep you alive. For example, when a level two wizard levels up, he must chose between an electric attack or a shield spell. These guys are great for crowd control and at least one should be in every party.

4.) I’m not overly impressed with the fighter class. At the beginning, they kind of suck. Sure, they get more HP and are strong, but the long range attackers can get quite a bit done before the fighter even gets in the battle. They don’t work well as tanks, as enemies will attack whoever the hell they want and often have ranged attacks at their disposal. They do get pretty strong later on. You can equip them with a bow for long range attacks, which is a godsend. As far as their skills go, you usually chose between a nifty new melee attack or a buff. Fighters do get plenty of opportunities to regain HP without the use of spells or items, which is useful. I don’t think you need a fighter in your party, but they can come in handy under the right circumstances. Also, they should always be dragonborn. Any other race is just a mistake.

5.) Rogues are the most versatile of the classes, and therefore, probably the best. They’re the only class that starts off with both a basic ranged and melee attack. They’re the only class that can unlock doors and disable traps. Thir abilities usually involve applying negative status effects on enemies. A level one rogue can use a stun attack that causes an enemy to lose a turn. They seem to have stolen this from the monks. They have so much utility both in combat and out, that they’re essential to any party.

6.) Lastly, we have the clerics. They’re decent in melee combat because they can use heavy armor as well as shields, but they’re not as strong as a fighter. It is their spells that make them what they are. You will have to chose which route to take: heal or harm. Most levels have you choosing between a new healing spell, or a new attack spell. Both are great. The healing spells can save you mountains of gold in potions, whereas the attack spells often come with negative status effects, such a increased vulnerability or fatigue. If they could pick locks and/or disable traps, they’d be the best class in my opinion.

7.) You can have up to three characters at the start, but you can only use one at time. Parties consist of four members. Hey you over there in the blue suit. Put your finger down. There’s no contradiction here. In fact, before you take on quests, you’ll need to gather recruits. In town, there are few shops that offer new weapons, items, and consumables. In the tavern, you can hire recruits. These are actual other player characters you’re using. That nifty level four wizard is the creation of another human being. You can hire up to three guys at a time, and you get them for one adventure. However, you can only edit your own character, so if you don’t like someone’s equipment, you’ll have to drop them for someone else.

An interesting fact, it isn’t game over if your character bites it. In fact, you can continue on until all members of your party are dead. Once an adventure has been passed or failed, your character is back to life like nothing happened and even gets experience for what he or she did. You’ll have to retry the mission though. It is a system designed for leniency and casual play, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

8.) Loot is handled interestingly in this game. When you come across a treasure chest or a lootable corpse, you don’t immediately get an item. Instead, you’re given what I’d almost call a scratch card. You chose an icon, and it spits out a random award. You can use special luck potions that reveal one of the treasures at random, but these cost money to get.

Another way to get items is via a daily treasure chest. Each day you visit, you get a free treasure from your house. There are also achievements you can earn for various actions. These give you reward items that you must claim from your treasure chest.

9.) When you’re making a Facebook game, you need two things, a social aspect, and a way to get people to spend real money for in game items.

The social aspect is kind of neat. You can add a friend’s character to your party free of charge. This can be great for a low level character. I created a new rogue and added Alex Lucard’s Level Three cleric to the group. Extra healing spells certainly do not hurt. If you hire party members the normal way, it costs gold, so make some friends and get them to level up!

The coolest thing in this game is that people will hire your character. When this happens, you can elect to become an active spectator. While in this role, you watch someone play through an adventure. You have a group of boosts that you can activate to help them out. The benefit is that you earn gold, experience and energy for your character!

There are also other basic things you can do, such as send gift requests, friend requests, and the like.

In order to leech money from the populace, the game utilizes a special currency called astral diamonds. You rarely get these except for by earning achievements and possibly in your daily chest award. Diamonds can be used in cases were you don’t have enough gold to buy an item, hire a teammate, or if you need a door unlocked. There are of course, several things which you can only buy with diamonds. Whether through design or error, the game has plenty of tricks to steal these suckers from you. For example, I needed a locked door opened but didn’t have a rouge with me. The game send I could buy a spell and open the door. The button to do so said “buy 5″. As far as I could tell, this meant that I would be buying five spells for an unknown spell. A click on this button instead gave me one spell and cost me five diamond points I didn’t know I was spending.

Another aspect that marks this as a Facebook game is the energy bar. Each adventure costs energy, and when you’re out, you can’t do anything. This is a hallmark of games like Mafia Wars. You can’t be allowed to play the game too much. And if you want to keep playing, you’ll have to send requests or pay real money. It’s nothing we’re not used to at this point.

10.) Though I have some complaints, I’m really digging this game. It is a perfect SRPG for casual play. The social aspects are interesting, and the gameplay element offers far more depth than the usual fare. I’ve become quite addicted to it, and I suggest that if you can, get into the Beta. This is easily one of the best Facebook games I’ve played.

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