I had the pleasure of beta-“testing” Neverwinter over the Weekend I made it to lvl25 with two characters (Guardian and Cleric). I managed to archive that with little over 12 hours’ worth of playtime.
What I did notice is that there is a lot of missing information about how this game actually works. What it is and what it certainly isn’t, and sadly it’s hard to find information what actually makes this game fun! Keep in mind, it’s still BETA and I had to write some bug reports myself and found many ways to break content.
First off, what Neverwinter isn’t:
It’s not D&D ruleset, neither 4e or anything remotely. When cryptic says ‘inspired’ they literally mean ‘taken names’.
D&D combat is about avoiding damage. You build up AC, you extend your saving throws, you wear immunity / reduction gear. Unless you have been one of these barbaric / fighter multiclass with pure strength and con (and slurping heal potions like a waterfall) – your typical fight was about not getting hit or at least waging if the costs of heal potion is worth the fight. That’s why I would also argue there was no holy trinity in D&D. There wasn’t even aggression, usually the one who got the best AC / protection buffs headed in first, and that could have been everyone. If one would want to argue that a fighter with shield was a “tank” he did it exactly the opposite to what your generic MMO Tank does. They avoided damage (AC!). They did not soak it up. You balanced your gameplay between boosting your AC and loosing AB, or going more offensive. In Neverwinter potions are still your major source of healing.
We all can agree that waiting for an 16 roll to actually hit 1 out of 15 times isn’t very compatible to ‘Action combat’. But that change in how combat works also removes any need of values like AC. In Neverwinter you still have AC in your character sheet and also on gear. However I have yet to see me or an enemy missing. (Doesn’t happen). Evidently it shows how much of an empty stat AC is when you return to the low level areas. You still get hit with every attack despite having the double AC.
When a player opens his character sheet you will notice values like Crit, Power. These are your real interesting stats and generic MMO as it gets. It’s hard to say if there are even any throws and checks in, because you can’t see the roles in combat log. However a player can ‘resist’ certain attacks, in conclusion there must be at least a counter stat then.
With that out of the way, I can now focus on writing what Neverwinter is, what makes it fun, what personally seems shallow.
What Neverwinter is:
- Neverwinter has your generic MMO item quality levels in loot. White, green, blue. Such a wasted opportunity that they couldn’t come up with something more akin to the D&D universe.
- Neverwinter has generic item ‘loot & throw away’ bloat. I’ve changed weapons 4x every hour (and almost every other slot).
- Bloated and “fluff” stats. Like the initial character attributes you set are nothing near what they should be or resemble in D&D. Increasing attributes or purposely having them lower, also having the stat AC on gear, are misleading. They are just shallow tackled in and scream ‘hey we have D&D 4e rules here!” Especially the ‘secondary’ class attributes felt more like an RP feature than actual impact and value at all. In fact, since you can’t see throws and due to ‘action combat’ won’t have any meaningful impact. I wager if charisma does anything at all for the current cleric class. Seeing that you could only spend one point per level also severely limited any differences the attribute system could archive. They could have made an attribute list for each races where you could choose during character creation how “elfish” you feel as an elf, and spend 20 points in it. That’s how meaningful attributes feel currently.
- Itemization – more of the same, Gear doesn’t seem to have attribute bonuses either. (blue lvl30 gear still had just higher damage ranges and bonuses like + crit + power). In the end, it appears again very gear centric putting emphasis on the MMO stats instead of the D&D ‘fluff’ stats.
- Balance of difficult. While the beginning (till lvl 15+) is generally easy (like in every other game) it lacks any appropriate difficult and scaling for group play. Due to its action combat nature you blast through enemy encounter groups, doing it together is sometimes ridiculous and ends up more similar to a racing event where each player actually gets to press at least one skill till the enemies drop dead. I can only imagine how boring it must be for 3 or more people. The first instance ‘The cloak Tower’ is ‘soloable’ at lvl17 for a cleric. Well until the last boss, when there is a timer and the boss can’t die anymore despite having empty hp bar (or as long as his 10 minions are alive which keep spawning) I was able to kite kill everything with ease but I couldn’t kill the minions fast enough (or it was a bug, who knows- I gave up after 10 minutes of running in circles nuking / healing). Doing it later with a group was disappointing since I barely got to heal / nuke at all, I was busier with keeping up because I am forced to stand still when placing my 3x Heal over times buffs, which makes me always run behind the ground trying to catch up. Gving the benefit of doubt, its the entrance dungeon, things are supposed to be super easy right?
- The UI has some neat helpful features like quick selection of items without the need to actually search your inventory. If you want to equip you new shoes, you don’t need to scout your inventory and double click the item, you could open your character sheet and pick the shoes out of all shoes you have available for the shoes slot.
- Very early on you need to make decisions based on what you like to achieve due to the limited ability slots. And those are game changing. Switching certain daily powers make or break your fights. The Abilities are also switchable out of combat.
- The abilities and slots are very well designed and allow tactical depth. At lvl13 I could pull 10 orcs, 5 taskmasters and the ogre at once (near the market and that's a lot!) and solo kill them on my Guardian fighter. Thanks to a mix of hp potion spamming and high Single target damage (challenge) and the daily power that allows your damage to heal yourself. My power filled in less than 20 seconds and I could spam my healing daily to keep my hp up when my shield stamina broke. It all was possible due to the skill to focus the taskmasters with “challenge” to quickly kill them and then HP surf with the healing daily. This simply wouldn’t have been doable with a different setup. This is where the game shines. Die, raise - and repeat - succeed.
- It’s action combat and the combat pace feels exactly like playing Baldur’s Gate or Icewind dale / biowares NWN on high levels. You got your “trash”, the tough ones and the bosses. Blazing through Skeletton hordes while keeping the big one busy is a lot of fun.
- THE FOUNDRY - While playing around with early characters I would have been forced to go through the same quests over and over, and since the path is very linear I was exhausted after the second time and didn’t feel like running the beginners quest arc a third time. This is when ‘THE FOUNDRY’ came into play. Creation was locked this beta but there had been a few missions from alpha. Now the foundry is hit and miss content since its user created and at this stage barely anyone got enough time to put in polished and well-designed missions. Most are really 5 minute “test the foundry” missions. Examples would be: three enemies, one room,one lootbox that’s it - or barren empty maps. But there were a few good ones, naming the Crypt of Doom, or DOOM CRYPT (thanks for the laughs!) I spend a good half hour inside that made 4 levels and the fights have been challenging, allowing me to skip the first quest arc.
Of special note: The maps and the World
It’s not seamless, this game is like STO or TSW. By a far stretch the map size and zoning felt like Biowares NWN. Just with more branching of little instanced areas put into the mix. Although I prefer huge seamless worlds, this worked for me. The only downside (while it’s minor) was - because you can travel to every part of the map on area borders in Neverwinter, it seemed, in the end, less like a town (cut to partial pieces) but more like not connected random zones. In games likes Bioware’s NeverWinterNights you go through the zones in order to reach your destination zone (or port to the bunch of connected zones of that area). It made the zones feel ‘connected’ and a little bit like a world rather than just individual zones.
All in all an amazing great Action combat game. It’s not D&D rules, also a lot of people don’t like action combat either, but this game clearly says what it is (action combat) and it does it amazing well. It’s a wild mix of STO’s FPS mode and TERA. The story picks up at lvl20 and gets interesting. I’m just a little bit worried about the (cryptic) supplied content. It doesn’t seem like much, and having experienced the STO foundry its questionable if user generated instances can keep you for months involved.
I personally look forward to the next beta and the release and will play it.
Playing: EVE Online
Wants to play: ArcheAge, Lineage Eternal: Twilight Resistance / Star Citizen / FFXIV AAR / Neverwinter
Used to play for 5+ years: Lineage 2, Lord of the Rings Online and Ragnarok Online
Utter disappointing MMO experience for 1 - 3 Months:
WAR / AoC / SWTOR / RIFT / AION / STO / TSW / GW2 / GW / Vanguard / Planetside2