Over the last weekend, I had the chance to try Cryptic’s New MMORPG – Neverwinter. If you’re thinking the name sounds familiar, that’s probably because you played the Neverwinter Nights series from Bioware/Obsidian. Although not part of the series, both games are set in the same D&D world, albeit in the later ‘Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition’ timeframe.
The lands of Faerûn are still feeling some effects from the Spellplague that ravaged the world. Although the city of Neverwinter managed to avoid the brunt of the Spellplague, it wasn’t so lucky later on, when a volcanic event tore the city apart! It’s now 25yrs since the eruption, and Neverwinter is being restored under the watchful eye of Lord Neverember of Waterdeep. However, he needs adventurous types to aid in the rebuild, and rid the city of the various evils that are trying to undermine his plans…
I will preference this by saying, this isn’t a full review. I didn’t get much chance to really delve into all the games intricacies, so this is more some broad strokes on how the game feels, and first impressions.
If you’ve played Cryptic’s previous games (the under-rated Star Trek Online, the ageing but fun City of Heroes, and Champions Online), you may have a preconception of how this will play. However, Neverwinter feels like a huge step forward over those earlier titles. My previous pet hate of Cryptic’s games has been that ‘elastic’ feel of the control… It’s hard to describe, but i always felt a disconnect between your control and your character with Cryptic games that I didn’t get in other MMOs. Rather like your pulling something around using elastic bands, than feeling like you have solid direct control over your character. Thankfully, Cryptic seem to have finally nailed it, and the control feels direct and responsive. Which is good, given the combat in NW steps away from the standard MMO ‘1-9 key rotation system’, for a more action orientated ‘left click to swing your sword, right click to shield smash’ option. It’s not as connected and visceral as Conan’s head slicing hackathon, but it’s close, and a nice change from the MMO norm.
In general, Neverwinter does feel like Cryptic looked at all the MMOs out there now, and cherry picked ideas from all of them. The combat (and intro actually) is a bit like Conan. The economy is very much like STO. The animation and story driven quests feel inspired by SWTOR and LotRO’s systems. They’ve done their homework, and constructed an MMO which takes elements that work from other titles, and produces a solid, well put together game. It feels like they’ve worked hard to nail down all the things players expect in a modern MMO, which is a refreshing change from the usual MMO system of releasing the game with only the bare bones, and spend 6 months adding in ‘features’ that really should have been in at the start…
Being Cryptic, there is of course, a lot of options in the character creation. Plenty of hairstyles and face sliders to choose from. Plus, for any of you old school paper D&D players, I think you’ll like the fact that you roll dice to set your base stats. There are lots of options to set up backstories and additional character info. It does seem like they wanted players to feel immersed in the character they’re creating. Also, if you’re an aspiring Dungeon Master, you can delve into The Foundry – Cryptic’s player mission creator, allowing you to tell you’re own stories throughout Neverwinter.
As I mentioned, I didn’t have all that much time with the game (around 8hrs, which is no time in an MMO), but what I saw I liked. Neverwinter may not be the most original or ground breaking MMO, but it does seem extremely well thought through, and well put together. Graphically it’s pretty, and whilst the controls maybe different, they’re fun and easy to pick up. It seems Cryptic have worked to construct an MMO that provides a good solid base to build on, which should allow them to concentrate on adding content, rather than ‘features’ that really should already be there. I don’t know how much end-game stuff there is in Neverwinter, but if they’ve done their job right (and it does appear they have), Cryptic should be able to supply a steady stream of official content to complement the player build Foundry quests.
With the Closed Betas now over, i’m really keen to get back into the game proper, and start the real adventure.