Neverwinter has been on my radar for a long while now, since the first announcement actually. I had high hopes for it, the Foundry being able to make my own D&D adventures for people online, the Forgotten Realms setting which would be a departure for me from Dungeons and Dragons Online, which was set in Eberron but has since branched out into Forgotten Realms as well. There was promise of an action combat system and a new way of dealing with things, which I was assuming meant Fourth Edition rules which would have, or seemed to be set-up to, work well as an MMO. I finally got around to downloading and actually making a few characters for the game and playing in a bit on each, so I’ve put together a few thoughts. Overall though, I’m not that impressed.
1) Cryptic is known for character creation options. Star Trek Online has some amazing options for aliens, letting you go so far as to create a certain 900 year old Jedi master look-alike in the Star Trek universe if you’re so inclined. Champions Online had a bit of that as well, along with City of Heroes. I am under-whelmed by the current character options in Neverwinter, though. You have a few default faces to pick from, but from there, you can’t do a whole lot other than smush them around or pick different hair that all looks kind of similar. This means, other than facial hair and horns, most characters are going to look a lot alike in the same class, just wider or skinnier, which isn’t all that much fun when you want to look a lot different from someone else with the same class and race.
2) While I like homages and little throwbacks to older games, much like the â€˜You must gather your party before venturing forth’ from Baldur’s Gate that shows up here if you’re in a group with someone, I think they might have wanted to check out how a new character starts in Dungeons and Dragons Online before they came up with their starting story line. In Dungeons and Dragons Online your starting character has just survived their ship getting destroyed by a dragon and you wake up on shore by an NPC who teaches you some basics before you go on your way in the world. In Neverwinter, your starting character has just survived their ship getting destroyed by a dragon and you wake up on shore next to an NPC who teaches you the basics before you go on your way in the world. While I do think repeats can happen, and the circumstances after each are far different, I’d have personally gone with something different, as it immediately draws comparisons to the other Dungeons and Dragons MMO that’s been around for a while now. I went so far as to make a starting character in DDO without changing anything except camera distance from when a new character loads in, and as you can see in the screenshot comparison, while Neverwinter looks prettier, that layout and setup looks a tad bit close.
3) The classes all basically play the same. My Cleric plays exactly like my Two-Handed Fighter, and this is a problem for me. There are minor differences, like my Cleric has a burst healing spell and attacks from a distance, but the same basic mechanics apply to the Melee powerhouse that the two-hander uses. The big difference is my healing skill is replaced by a sweeping spin strike. I have the exact same buttons to hit over again, and it really didn’t provide much in the way of variation. My wife made up a caster and it played almost identically to my characters with little variation. In other Dungeons and Dragons games, if you play a healer, your skillset varies quite a bit from, say, a caster or a melee character. Sure you can melee, but you’re not built for it. There isn’t enough here to really differentiate the classes at the start, making it feel very generic.
4) Visually this doesn’t feel leaps and bounds ahead of much of anything, more on par with what we’ve already seen from most MMOs that are a bit newer. It reminded me visually of Lord of the Rings Online with a D&D Fourth Edition overlay, kind of. I know Dungeons and Dragons is supposed to be kind of a generic world, but Forgotten Realms, especially Neverwinter, has a unique flavor, and unless you’re looking out over the cityscape itself, it doesn’t really set itself apart much.
5) I like that they’ve added voice-acting to a bunch of the main quests of the game, especially at the start, trying to get you a feel for what’s involved, but it almost never matches the mouth movement, if the mouths move at all, and it lacks a bit in presentation. A few tweaks would really help this along.
6) The quest system feels and looks a lot like TERA, which isn’t a bad thing at all, as I quite liked that system, but they go a bit further with the maps and tracking that they didn’t really need to. When you select a quest, it actually lines you out a glowing blue path that will lead you to the next objective in the quest. While I’ve had MMO’s put dots on the maps and circles in areas to look in or pointing me towards a door or two, this goes beyond that. My only issue is it feels too hand-holdy. The entire time I played, I felt like the developers were guiding me along because I wasn’t smart enough to look at a map and know where to go. It took a small amount of work out and made me feel like I was being guided about.
7) Foundry quests are already integrated, and my first and only one I went on was decent enough and threw in some investigation to go along with the combat, which was nice. The blue pathing kind of killed some of the investigation a bit, but it appears the community has already started getting a good grasp on the Foundry tool, which is a good thing, as long as it works more often than the one in Star Trek Online does.
8) Unless you’re playing in a skirmish or group dungeon, the game basically punishes you for grouping up with someone by halving the loot or depriving you of it entirely if you’re in there with someone greedy. Yes, it’s easier to partner in quests, but the game is incredibly easy as it is. There are certain places you can only get with other classes, like rogues or casters or clerics in a party, but full blown chests only drop loot for one person, except for the very end. So if you’re in need of loot, which every starter character is, you’re better off on your own, which is backwards from most MMO design. Yes I’m used to some MMOs with everyone running around laying claim to loot, but when you’re on a quest, usually the idea is to put it up for roll or to give everyone separate grabs at the chest. That’s not the case here.
9) While the classes basically play the same in combat, I do have another issue. Combat is far too simplistic and dull. I never feel like I’m in any danger, even facing off against a giant boss monster. At first level I should be getting my butt handed to me on a platter often, not necessarily dying, but I shouldn’t breeze through every combat with almost no scratches on me, and I sure as hell should be using up some of those potions of healing they hand out like candy at the start. Even getting up close and personal with my two hander, I had to use maybe three potions in six levels. Running solo, I should be going through those like they’re out of style, and I’m not, which means this is far too easy, which leads me to get bored way too fast. There’s no real challenge here, which isn’t making the game much fun. It also doesn’t feel much like D&D at all, tabletop or otherwise. It feels like a generic MMO.
10) What do I actually like about this game then? I’m doing a lot of complaining here. I liked the atmosphere of the area. It felt kind of foreboding. I like the look of most of the armor and outfits you can get. I also liked the Tiefling designs. While not everyone is a fan of how the shunned offspring of the devil races look in Fourth Edition, I like the look. The tail animations are amusing and having a decent selection of horns was nice. I’d actually like to see them introduced along with Aasimar as a playable race in that other Dungeons and Dragons MMO I play, with an option to make your Tiefling the Third or Fourth Edition way. Atmosphere, Tieflings and armor aren’t enough to keep me around though.
What Video Game Release for January 2014 are you most excited for?
Total Voters: 91