Neverwinter Review: A Co-Op Experience Forced MMORPG


By Jason Harper (Hhean), OnRPG Journalist

 Neverwinter Guardian Warrior

Neverwinter wasn’t always intended to be the FTP MMO it is today. Early interviews from Crpytic had them paint the game as a Co-op game similar to Diablo or Borderlands, but was repurposed after Perfect World bought the company from Atari. It shows. The game is at its best when it provides tightly scripted sequences with interesting set pieces and plots, but any time it falls back on standard MMO tropes, it puts its greatest weaknesses to the fore.

 

Unlike Turbine’s Dungeons and Dragons Online, Neverwinter doesn’t try to keep to the spirit of D&D. It uses the Faerun setting and reuses a lot of names and stats from D&D, but what these things actually do within the game is nothing more than window dressing. If you’re a purist who wanted an online version of their favourite tabletop dungeon crawling experience, then you’d be best off looking elsewhere. The game is an action RPG first and foremost, with an emphasis on a well-built skinner box rather than any real sense of adventure or exploration.

 

Character creation features a boilerplate UI that displays a series of drab, lifeless mannequins. Cryptic have never really made great looking games, but their excellent character customisation always made the process of making a new character fun. While you are given a variety of aesthetic options to choose from, no two characters of the same race and gender wind up too different from one another, regardless of what silly hairstyle you give them. While the rest of the game looks better than the opening character select, its muted colour palette, stilted animations and drab characters means no-one is going to call it a great looking game. The game also seems to assume that all surfaces were made of plastic, making everything look like action figures are moving between dollhouses.

 Neverwinter Town Combat

You are given the choice of five different classes that share names with D&D staples and little else. The Rogue is a teleporting single target damage dealer who disappears in clouds of black smoke. The Cleric is a ranged healer, a far cry from the healing bruiser in most D&D products. The Guardian Fighter is the standard tank who taunts enemies before smashing them with their shield. The Greatsword Fighter is a burly AoE melee damage dealer that pretends to be a Barbarian on the weekends. Then there’s the Control Wizard, who’s that kid in the playground who holds the nerds down so the other bullies can turn their victim into a punching bag.

 Neverwinter Control Wizard

This is a game with randomised starting stats. No joke. Once you’ve picked your clay faced adventurer and given them a job to do, you must submit yourself before a random number generator to determine your character’s starting statistics. Curiously, Cryptic seem to be aware of how awful it is to have a character be left to the whims of a digital dice roller, and opted for players to be able to randomise between a limited pool of stat arrays. You cannot simply choose which array you’d like for your character from a list, and have to keep mashing the reroll button until you get a stat block that isn’t going to make your character a waste of flesh. Someone at Cryptic likely thought this would somehow give the appearance of an ‘authentic’ D&D experience, in spite of the fact that the point buy system has been the standard for over two editions now. This is the realm of absolute disasters like Wizardry Online.

 

After escaping character generation, you will be confronted with some of the worst voice acting found in MMOs. Stilted. lines. read. from. a. script. mount a full frontal assault on your speakers while the camera zooms into a plastic, dead face to draw attention to the game’s lack of lip sync. One of the NPCs even switches their voice every time you speak to him, switching accents and mannerisms with each new quest. You can step away from the NPCs while they’re delivering their exposition and they’ll keep blathering while you can go and do something productive.

 Neverwinter Guided Storytelling

The combat will likely make or break your enjoyment of the game, since there’s little else to fill your time. There’s no tab targeting, but the game’s ‘action’ moniker and centre crosshair is just smoke and mirrors. When you use an ability as your crosshair is near an enemy, you will lock on to them, and be unable to target anyone else until they are no longer a viable target or die. The strategy for most fights is to hold down your left click to auto attack the enemy while you slowly build the resources needed to blast them to bits with your various abilities. While there is a dodge function available, it’s only useful to move when an enemy puts the big red ‘I’m about to attack here!’ marker on the floor. It’s a tepid effort, neither slumping into drudgery nor elevating its player to excitement. If you want something to relax to, it can be a good way to switch off.

 

The few times when Neverwinter’s combat almost drags itself from the fetid pools of mediocrity is when you encounter a new enemy type and have to figure out what new type of red marker they place on the floor. Enemy diversity in the game is very limited, as most packs of enemies will comprise of a combination of a big and small melee guy, an archer or two and a wizard. The odd surprise like some of the monstrous giants and ogres that have deadly, yet easily avoidable attacks are unfortunately too rarely seen outside the games constantly repeating template.

 Neverwinter Cryptic Sticks to What KNows

Structurally, the game sticks to what Cryptic already knows. If Champions Online were set in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world rather than silver age comic books, it wouldn’t be too far removed from Neverwinter. The player does one to three quests before fighting in a micro dungeon, ultimately building towards a final boss dungeon before moving on to a new area. It’s not a terrible formula, but it leaves you hungry for a change of pace.

 Neverwinter Big Boss

When this structure is abandoned in favour of a tighter narrative, Neverwinter gets off the couch, cleans itself up and screams for attention. During these sections it shows how strong a co-op experience it could have been, had it not been buried waist deep in MMO trappings.

 

Only, it is sometimes difficult to call this an MMO at all, as most content is designed as a single player experience first and foremost. If you consider that a negative, and was looking forward to something more group oriented, then the dungeons and skirmishes provide a moderately entertaining diversion. The rest of the content in the game won’t scale with the number of players though, so bringing more than a single player to anything else in the game will turn the already easy game into a complete cakewalk.

 Neverwinter Review

You might think that with all of these problems, Neverwinter is a thorough chore, and yet it never quite feels like it. Following the game’s glowing breadcrumb trail to complete its never ending stream of tasks is a satisfying experience due to the steady stream of strategically timed rewards. Each level feels meaningful, while never seeming hard to reach. Loot spews out as a glorious golden fountain from fallen enemies as each chest floods your inventory with new toys. Even the game’s simple crafting system is just another way of delivering a steady stream of goods to your pack. It makes it very hard to evaluate the game’s merits while every monkey part of your brain is screaming at you to keep pushing the buttons that keep shooting bananas your way.

 

The game’s greatest strength outside of its efforts to send you into a greedy stupor is The Foundry, a toolkit given to the game’s players that lets them build their own content. Outside of the inability to customise your own map layouts, and being unable to change the layout of the UI, the Foundry has a more robust feature set than seen in any other MMO. The way that the custom quests and dungeons can tie in with doors in the game world rather than being limited to some terminals off in one corner of the map is incredible. It lets the Foundry’s stories feel right at home alongside the developer made content. Some of the content to be found in just this first week is already more entertaining than most of the developer made stuff, making it likely that the game’s future is likely to be found in the Foundry’s quests.

 Neverwinter Succubus

Neverwinter is a game that’s worth trying out for an evening or so. If you have a download limit and are concerned about using up your cap on something so disposable, then you’re likely better allocating your bandwidth elsewhere. It’s certainly not worth actually spending money on, since the items in-game bought with real money get you little, and most people are unlikely to stick with the game for more than a week. It’s not a bad game, but it does commit one of the worst sins of game design. It’s dull.

 

Graphics: 2/5

Controls: 3/5

Features: 5/5

Customization: 2/5

Community: 3/5

Social Media :
  • Deadbroke

    Wow , really 2/5 graphic wise , when it actually looks way better than all the mmo’s out there. Doesn’t looks like a fair description of the game to me. Lack of objectivity?

    I’ve read the article carefully , and the disadvantages you stated concerning it , could be said about Diablo 3 , which , in most of the gaming websites had a mark of 18/20.

    I’ve to say that the game does not really require an actual skill form the player so as to get to level cap , and run most instances/kill high end bosses , so one of the weak points would be that Neverwinter is not challenging at all ( So if you are looking for challenges , this is not for you , walk away.)

    But , again , isn’t it a little out-dated to say that easy leveling is bad? In all the new mmo’s it is easy to hit the level cap. Or sometimes there is no level at all ( Age of wushu). If you want a game where it would take you ages before you can hit the cap , then u’d rather want to start some of the 5-6 years back asian grindfest mmos. ( We all got bored from this shit didn’t we? )

    Neverwinter , might not be your mmo , but yet it will keep you hooked for sometimes , the PvP arenas/battlegrounds are just amazing compared to what’s on the market. The game allows you to exp all the way to level cap just doing battlegrounds. So if you are a PvP fan , you certainly must try it out

    Anyway that’s my 2cent

    Deadbroke

    • Bobsy

      Dude the graphic look like something in 2004. The player models probably have been made for 1 hour max. This game have the worst particle effects ever! Have you even seen the fire animation??

      • A Gamers Insanity

        Heck even the combat feels kinda stale in that game. I do like NeverWinter as a game, but come on they could have take it one step further with the graphics and the combat.

  • Neverwinter not Challenging Deadbroke? Sorry mate but try the mad dragon on epic difficulty without a tank mate^^

    • Shyunpu

      Try to run any instance in any other game without a tank ^^

  • AbaddonXK

    Err…this article is clearly using pay-to-play criteria to judge a free-to-play game. 99% of F2P games don’t even have voice acting on more than main story quests and random blurbs from random NPCs, yet in a game where nigh on everything any NPC says in text form is present in voice form as well, you complain that it’s stilted and paint it as a negative. The one part I agree with there is the few times when different bits were clearly recorded at different times, leading to differing tones/inflections. It is quite immersion-breaking, but it is thankfully rare.

    I’d also like to say that your understanding of the combat is weak at best, or you’re simply exaggerating to make your article more interesting. You only “lock on” to an enemy until either you stop holding down the button or your cursor/the target is moved quickly enough away. I do wish that they would remove (or, at the very least, add an option to remove) this lock entirely and simply have your spells target whatever your cursor is currently over WITHOUT automatically centering it on anything for you, as it’s far more of a frustration and hindrance than a help.

    However, the real problem with the combat is simply the formulaic fights, though not at all in the way you claimed; while normal packs vary quite a lot (all little guys, multiple big guys, all melee, all ranged, a mix of any of the above, etc.), every boss is pretty much the same fight: big beefy tank with a smattering of skills to use who is completely innefectual at doing anything to anyone, accompanied by hordes of minions who will slaughter you and are in fact the only reason any fight is challenging, if it is. Essentially, the real boss of every dungeon is those same minions you just fought through for 30 minutes, just with a big boss-shaped “despawn button” you need to press (kill) to beat them. It’s quite a shame that Cryptic doesn’t seem to know how to do anything else for their boss fights really, but there are some good player-made boss-like mobs at least.

    I do agree with most other points, and Neverwinter is far from perfect. Namely, the bland character customization and the whole not-being-D&D thing are major let-downs. But the sheer scope of what the Foundry adds (especially when you consider that it’s only the beginning and they’re working on so much more functionality for content creators) combined with the enjoyable, though not revolutionary, combat makes this game something that I think will do quite well for quite a while. I’ll certainly be sticking with it.

  • Kitsunami Lupo

    A disappointingly biased review, with an intent to slanderise an interesting title. I personally find that I enjoy Neverwinter, it does have its flaws but it also has a lot of bonuses to it that really make it shine. The foundry is not the only one.

    In future however you should play the game for longer than a day before you write a ‘review’ as this is clearly not what you did. In previous websites I have worked for as a writer, before my current position with Gamersaurs, I was expected to play an MMORPG for at least 3-4 days and reach a level of experience that was adequate to begin commenting on the games content. This generally meant: Have completed one or two dungeons, be at least 1/4th way to max level and have played about with more of the classes and tried out or at least looked into all the content available to a new player.

    I am seriously wondering if you did this, especially as you have not mentioned PvP. This game comes with PvP by the way, which is incredibly good fun and features domination. You capture and hold a control point, and its then a race for the team to get the most domination points (1000) and win. Its scoreboards only show kills, assists and score so I found a lot of team play going on instead of everybody racing to have the most kills in the match.

    You also don’t mention crafting at all. While it is just really a facebook styled minigame, it is still a part of the game that you should have toyed with and be able to comment about if you are writing a ‘review’

    I also can’t believe you are describing this game as plastic. it has some pretty amazing visual effects (spellcaster is shiny) and although the graphics are not cry-engine top of the line, they work well and fit the fantasy dark feel of the game, especially of the Neverwinter area. Its also worth noting here that you seem to have come in expecting something else. This game is set in the Neverwinter area, but it at some point will also feature Balders Gate, which as a series has had a lot of hack and slash rpg’s. Frankly I felt like i was playing a Balders Gate MMORPG, and that is definitely not a bad thing.

    You do not seem to understand the combat: there is no ‘lock on’ feature, you can stop fighting and dodge or move at any given moment plus you can change target because you fire/stab at what you are aiming at, not what you are ‘targetting’ with a lock. Every attack has a chance to be dodged or to miss, the only real exception to this being magic missile (which as you all know, magic missile -never- misses in dnd)

    Secondly, there is class and race specific questlines which add depth to the game. The dialogue is what i would expect from a title launching as F2P. Also, to add to this point the game is PACKED full of lore: Something you do not mention is the sheer amount of collectible and hidden lore you can find to read and flesh out the game experience. By the time I hit level 20 my lore page had grown from a single clickable description about Neverwinter, to about 12 each with about 1-2 pages of scrolling wordplay. The game also features many achievements as well.

    Thirdly, the foundry is simply amazing. There are some incredible pieces of work in there made by DM’s which are worth the playthrough. Especially those who have already found a way to create skill checks. I have encountered these twice now, and though they were used only for lore/extra dialogue options it does open the doorway to future use of checks for other things.

    And lastly, the difficulty level is always low at the start of a mmorpg. This is the industry standard, for you to be judging its difficulty before you get past at least level 15 is wrong.

    I would not play the tutorial of a game then complain that the entire game is easy, that it is subpar, lacks content and storyline and of course, that there was no mob variety. Would you?

    By the way, the game starts to get really difficult once you pass the 30’s, monsters are incredibly varied ranging from demons and were creatures through to undead, orcs, goblins, kobolds, dragons and skeletons. Its everything you want in a DND arcade game, which is exactly what this is: A extremely fun co-op DnD Arcade game.

    When the games fleshed out a lot more with future classes, more paragon paths and so forth there will be a lot of fun to be had, so I too shall be sticking with it.

    – K.Lupo, Journalist/Head of PR, Gamersaurs.com

    • AbaddonXK

      “You do not seem to understand the combat: there is no ‘lock on’ feature, you can stop fighting and dodge or move at any given moment plus you
      can change target because you fire/stab at what you are aiming at, not
      what you are ‘targetting’ with a lock. Every attack has a chance to be
      dodged or to miss, the only real exception to this being magic missile
      (which as you all know, magic missile -never- misses in dnd”

      Sorry, but you’re wrong here. The game really does use something of a disguised tab-targeting system as the article said, just a bit less extreme: while you can’t actually push tab to target something, anything your cursor is currently over is essentially being targeted as if you had; any ranged power you use (not including ones manually placed on the ground) will hit that mob that your cursor is over, no matter what. In addition to that, when you use a ranged power the game automatically centers your cursor on the enemy it’s closest to, and keeps it there until you let go of the button in the case of continuous At-Wills. Players can use their dodge skills to avoid things in PvP, but it works the same there otherwise.

      Melee powers are slightly different in that you also have to be within a certain range or else they’ll fail and the game doesn’t center your cursor on the enemy with them, but they’re also far worse on the auto-assist aspect as the game goes so far as to forcibly orient your character towards nearby enemies when you use them whether you like it or not, which makes trying to have precise control over your aim a study in frustration.

      It would make a world of difference to remove these auto-assist features, and personally I’ve been asking them to since the first beta weekend as I dislike the game taking so much control away from me, but as it is currently they essentially just locked the camera of a targeted game to the cursor.

  • kthx

    Whoever wrote this review had a bad day lol

    • Bobsy

      No thats just the reality. The game is lame.

  • j_young

    How are you going to give this a 2/5 for graphics when http://www.onrpg.com/games/allods/ gets a 5 wtf

  • Phenoca

    Very pessimistic… But I like reading pessimistic reviews 🙂

  • Stefano Salvetti

    Cmon OnRPG… you firstly post a very positive editorial (http://www.onrpg.com/articles/editorial/neverwinter-nights-and-days/) and then after just 3 days you kill NW as dull???… Other MMO competitors asked you to write this negative review?? My trust in you is going to take a break!

  • Stan

    Spot on Review. The game is terrible for an MMORPG released in 2013.