Neverwinter - Return to the Forgotten Realms
Neverwinter Nights has long been a favorite game of mine. So when Cryptic and Perfect Worlds announced that they were going to do a MMO using the Neverwinter license, I was pretty excited. I have been playing the open beta now for about a month and logging in about 80 hours of gameplay (man I need a life), I feel confident talking about the game and it's pros and cons. And since they have announced the official release to be taking place on June 20th, I feel that now is as good a time as any to discuss this game.
First, a little background on it. The game itself is set in the 4th edition of the tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons. It uses the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, which has been around since the days of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or even 2nd Edition. The reason I mention this is, that with every new edition, they move the time-line of the world of Faerun (the main location for Forgotten Realms) ahead by a number of years. When this happens, a whole lot of changes happen in the world. When they made the change from 3.5 to 4th edition (just go with it, it's a tabletop thing) they again changed the world of Faerun, this time drastically. The rules for magic changed, gods died and were reborn or completely disappeared and cities were destroyed and rebuilt. This is the current setting for the game Neverwinter and may confuse some of you who enjoyed playing Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2. Both of those games were set in the 3.5 edition, so things have changed since then. The main storyline quest of this game centers on the city of Neverwinter (surprise!) and the recent attack of the Necromancer Valindra. By traveling to different areas surrounding Neverwinter you then start to piece together a plot by various different factions to bring about the downfall of the city.
You control your character in typical fashion for an MMO, however the targeting and attack system is slightly different. Almost all your attacks require you to target a monster with the reticule, and you can actively select your target by simply moving the mouse over the monster you wish to attack.
This can lead to a quicker reaction time when fighting a large group of monsters and wanting to take out specific ones without having to cycle through every single one via the tab button. Also, the different class abilities are very unique and dynamic, never leaving you feeling like you are playing the same thing with just a different class name. You have various abilities that fall into one of three categories: at-will, encounter and daily. At-will powers you can use by clicking your right or left mouse button. Encounter powers you can use by pressing a specific key and they have a cool-down timer on them. Daily abilities you can only use by filling your action point meter (the little 20-sided die in the middle of the screen). You get action points by doing different things, typically though just by dealing damage. You also have a class specific meter ability to the left of your character. For the Great Weapon Fighter class, you fill it by doing and taking damage. Once filled, you can activate it and you gain increased damage and immunity to any sort of crowd-control abilities.
The classes are broken up into several different roles: Guardian Fighter (Tank), Great Weapon Fighter (Damage Dealer), Devoted Cleric (Healing), Trickster Rogue (Damage Dealer) and Control Wizard (Crowd Control). I have mostly played the Great Weapon Fighter and the Trickster Rogue, but I've also played a little bit of the Devoted Cleric and the Control Wizard. All have been fun and use unique abilities that progress nicely as you level up. There is also a (as of now) unspecified class that they are going to be including later in the game. My theory is that it will be either the Ranger or Druid class, since they have a nature skill in the game currently that no class can use without kits. You can also give your character a first and last name, which is always a nice little touch.
Free to Play
This game has a lot going for it. Cryptic and Perfect Worlds are going with the Free to Play business model, using micro-transactions to sustain the game financially. It certainly does not seem to fall into the “Pay to Win” trap that a lot of similar Free to Play games fall into. You can buy Zen with real money, then use the Zen to pay for various in game items. The Zen store offers a lot of in and out of game options, the ones that I've taken advantage of has been to increase the amount of characters I can have. You can buy mounts, dyes for clothing, mounts and companions as well with Zen.
Speaking of companions, I should explain what that is. You do not venture alone into danger, instead you bring along a companion. There are various companions that you can obtain, each with varying levels of power. The starting set of companions that you can get in the game consist of basically the same roles as the character classes. I was playing a damage dealer as the Great Weapon Fighter, so I selected a healer as my companion.
The game has professions that you can choose to level up and they use a rather nice system. Essentially you hire people to craft things for you and they do that on a timer while you can go about your adventuring. And in an effort to makes crafting and professions even less tedious, Neverwinter gives you the ability to log into the game via your web browser to collect finished crafting projects and start new ones. You can also access the auction house via your web browser as well, which is another nice touch.
Of course, this review wouldn't be complete without touching on one of the cornerstones of the Neverwinter franchise. Since the first Neverwinter Nights, you have been able to make your own dungeons and put them up online for other people to play. Neverwinter introduces the Foundry, a system for you to make your own dungeons and put them up for other players to interact with. This is probably one of the coolest features for me. It has some flaws, but all in all it is a very well done game building mechanic. I've played around with it for a while now and am currently trying to make a dungeon to put up. However, I seem to be failing horribly at it, though I blame myself and not the game itself for that. The coolest thing about this feature is that it essentially means there will never be an end to game content. As long as people are willing to release new Foundry quests and campaigns, the game will always have new content.
Now, I have to say there are some flaws to the game. First, I have to bring up the dungeons. Almost every dungeon I have played in follows the same rules. There will be three bosses. Each of those bosses will summon additional weaker monsters for the party to fight once it gets down to a certain number of hit-points. Wash, rinse, repeat. There has been some variation to this, I remember a fight against an ice troll boss who froze himself and you had to run up and destroy the crystals that were freezing him. Also the fight against the Aboleth boss was kind of different with the dropping sections of platform. But these are the exceptions, not the rules.
Also, as much as I hate (read: loathe) PVP, it is pretty limited in this game. There are only two PVP maps and both use the same capture the flag rules. As the game progresses, it would be kind of nice to seem some different maps and game play options for PVP, only because I do enjoy PVP when there is something more to it then just kill the enemy players. When there are goals or tasks to do on top of that it becomes a lot more fun to play.
These are some of the smaller and more nit-picky problems I have with the game. In game, the auction house is broken. It is hard to search for items and putting in limits doesn't actually do anything. There is only one mail box in the entire city, so if you get mail you have no other real option other then going back to Neverwinter to retrieve it.
There are way to many different currency options, some of which don't really do all that much. You have PVP money (glory), you have real money (Zen), you have astral diamonds (which you get from professions and doing dailies), you have gold (normal money), Ardent and Celestial Coins (you get these from praying once a day at an altar) and Tarmalune Bars (you get these from Nightmare Lockboxes and you use them to buy level 60 PVE gear, mounts and Companions).
That is seven different currencies that all buy different things. Some of them could be combined. For example, to unlock a Nightmare Lockbox and get Tarmalune Bars, you have to use a Nightmare Key. The only way to get a key is to buy one with either Zen or Astral Diamonds. So just get rid of the Tarmalune Bars and make people buy the stuff with Zen or Astral Diamonds. As it is, it is just another currency I have to keep track of.
I recommend this game, heartily. I have been having a lot of fun playing it and certainly say that this game will likely only get more fun as they keep releasing content and players keep producing more Foundry quests. There are some things that aren't quite right, but the things they did get right greatly outweigh them. It is free to play, so there really is no excuse not to give it a try.