Early Access: Neverwinter
By Jonathan Doyle (Ardua), OnRPG Journalist
There are many ways I could talk about the recent Press Beta for Neverwinter ahead of this weekend’s beta.
We’ll get right to the meat of it. Have Perfect World and Cryptic delivered something you should play?
I am not sure when that reality finally came together in my brain, all I can do is bring you through what’s on offer and see if it comes together for you as well.
I personally have never before played Dungeons and Dragons. I dabbled in Dungeons & Dragons Online from Turbine but beyond that, I haven’t really ever actually had the pleasure of sitting down with a bunch of people and hacking and slashing my way through an adventure.
In my limited experience then, I think it’s safe to say that’s changed. Coming into the game you are presented with the creator and by the end of it, you have a proper character sheet. Stats are rolled up, racial modifiers are applied, you get your city, and you get your background… I end up tied to this character because well… it all bodes thinking about. Do I want more Charisma? Should I reroll everything? What about how I want to play the character? All of that and nothing said about actually crafting the character.
Custom Custom Custom
City of Heroes started out life in Cryptic land. Champions Online and Star Trek Online sprung from those self same brains. If there’s one thing you can expect from Cryptic it is the ability to craft the ideal character for yourself. They haven’t let you down here. In fact, given the realities of Neverwinter, it’s safe to say they’ve gone beyond that and are letting you craft the game that you want.
Back to the character though. Cryptic makes it easy to just go with a preset. Practically “Yeah that Dwarf looks fine, let’s go with him”. If you want to be in the game quick, it’s a matter of clicks. If you want the Dwarf, the Halfling, the Tiefling of your dreams. Well… they have that covered. I’d even argue maybe a bit too thoroughly. Do I really need to be able to give myself nails that would give Wolverine pause? Me personally almost certainly not but there’s someone out there who has a Half Elf in mind with nails that’d take your eyes out. Everyone is covered.
Walking the World
Character created, named and born into battle in Neverwinter; what comes next? Well… battle. Lots and lots of battle. The tutorial section is brief, rewarding and doesn’t threaten to overwhelm you. Between a “Level Up Wizard” that reminds you what each new ding brings and a sparkling path (that yes you can turn off) that leads you along the encounter, it’s hard to get lost in the new world as you see it.
The Level-Up Wizard Has Spoken
The combat gets laid out quickly and sticks to the action ideal. Two at will powers are bound to the left and right mouse buttons. Movement is your standard W,A,S,D and other powers are then bound to keys 1-5 and Q, E and R. Place your hands, start your engines, slay!
At first I admit, I was a little confused by the battle. Using a power (in fact you can hold down left click and just spam whatever it is) rooted my little Dwarf to the spot. Not that that was a problem, I kept the mobs in my sights and reintroduced them to their graves. Since then I have heard the design decisions and have to say I agree with them. Planting your feet, shifting your hips and hurling that bolt of energy really feels more involved to me than circle strafing with fireballs.
By the end of the short encounter tutorial you’ll be packing a daily power, some basic potions and such, both mouse powers and some of the encounter powers.
Everything else I could review… I could take you through the intricacies of character building, I could go on and on about the companion system, I could even wax lyrical about why I love Dwarfs. What’s really important though is why would or should you play?
First, cost. It’s honestly true. Neverwinter is free to download and free to play. Yes of course there’s a shop involved, you’ve seen the founder’s packs. Yes there will be other transactions to tempt you, but this is a game that is literally asking for no money down.
Secondly, the experience.
It really started to come together for me when Art Lead in Cryptic Joe Jing brought myself and some others through one of the five man dungeons, specifically the Cloak Tower. That’s when all the little touches that I personally saw and knew to be the signature style of Cryptic studios made sense. That’s when I knew why everyone should visit Neverwinter.
It’s fun. But it’s not just generic fun. It’s as I said before – whatever you want it to be. Role-players can have the deep Dungeons and Dragons experience that they want. Lore hounds can come and see how the world is changing. In fact lore questions seemed the most popular during our dungeon run. Why certain Tribes of Orcs were here and what happened to other places and so on. It really really is Dungeons and Dragons. It really is Neverwinter.
Then there’s the Foundry and it all takes off.
User Generated content is hardly new, but it all matters what you do with it. Thinking about the Foundry is what finally brought it home for me. Do you just want to kick back with four other friends and go beat seven shades of you know what out of a dungeon? There’ll be one for you. Heck, if there isn’t, you can make one. Hop on the Guardian Fighter you love so much, chat with friends over the built in Voice Chat and let rip with the mayhem. Fight till the pansy Elves can’t keep up.
Even better, do you want to craft a story? Do you want to give those selfsame friends a treat and spin a tale for them that will draw them in and reward you all for it?
That’s what got me. I have never played Dungeons and Dragons, but now I can. I can be the DM over my own personal Foundry born story. I can be part of an adventuring group out to conquer anything the Devs and the players can throw at me. I can just be a random Halfling stabbing my way through the world. Barring some 5-man dungeons, anything you want to do is there for you to solo or tackle with friends. In the end it all got me because it wasn’t a question if Neverwinter was right for me personally.
Neverwinter is right for you and your mates. It’s ripe for bringing friends together and beating them over the head with fun. It’s a world poised to introduce itself to anyone who has ever wanted to hop in and dungeoneer.
Biggest selling point isn’t that it’s completely free. It’s a fun time waiting to ambush you and your friends and keep you coming back again and again.
Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out our screenshot section for more character customization images!