Since the Internet has had it’s users there have been online games. And during all of that time, there have been several varied attempts to create a Dungeon and Dragons video game. Especially with the name Neverwinter.
While the game Neverwinter Nights, created by Bioware in 2002, was the most well known and most popular game (there is still content being used to create modules and there are still active servers that host complete worlds created by different people) it wasn’t the first. The first came out in the early 1990’s and was a text based MUDD that featured Nasher as a character questing through a complete story. Since then, there’s also been Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2, created by Obsidian. The first Massive Multiplayer Online game was released in mid 2000’s with Dungeons and Dragons Online, and while it had references to Neverwinter, it didn’t start in Neverwinter.
Now, Cryptic Studios has developed their own MMO called, simply Neverwinter. It’s a throwback of sorts, to remind players of the original Neverwinter Nights, even using the font that was popularized by the Bioware release. However, that’s the only similarity (along with the fact it takes place in Neverwinter). There’s some good with this game, but there’s also a lot of bad.
It’s standard Cryptic development, which they used in both Champions Online and Star Trek Online, and is becoming their own sort of stamp on online games. Many of the animations used in the game are used in both Champions and Star Trek, as are many of the voice actors. The game was only in Beta, so I’m not going to be too harsh on the character creation system. It was very lax compared to Champions which has a much more indepth creation system. You could literally spend hours just creating a character in Champions, whereas in Neverwinter, they have a series of cookie cutter choice that you can tweak, or you can make your own additions and changes. Again, not nearly as extensive as Champions, but it’s also only in Beta.
Game play itself is pretty decent, and something which can be expected from Cryptic. After all, this is the fifth MMO they’ve created (they created City of Heroes and City of Villains as well). Even the system for levelling up is a familiar one for those who play D&D. However, it’s all very cookie cutter, and there’s very limited customization. You get feats based on your class with some racial feats levelling up as you go. You can swap out certain feats to use at various times, and as you battle you gain advantage points to unleash a massive attack.
It was a decent system for adding to attribute points which includes Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. Every ten levels you add in more attribute points, two at level 10 and 20, and six at level 30 (only one point per attribute). I only managed to get to level 30 in the two days I played. There are 60 levels, which means even at casual play, one could reach the maximum level very quickly (hardcore gamers might do that in a day).
Early on, you get a quest that sends you to a livery, and you can then purchase a horse, which is pretty cool. However, they don’t allow for attacking while in the saddle. Any prompted attack automatically takes you off the horse and you’re planted firmly on the ground. Even in Neverwinter Nights, Bioware had made allowances for riding combat (it was one of the last patches that Bioware released with the game, which was patch 1.69).
Getting a mount isn’t the only thing available. You can also have a companion to help you with your quests. The choices are a devote cleric, a warrior, a guardian or a wolf. I went with a devote cleric, because I have a tendency of losing hit points fast. Having her along for the ride helped keep me topped up. Your companion will even level up as you progress, which does take time. Longer for higher levels. You go to your character sheet, click the companion tab, and click on the level up button for your companion and they go off and level up (which you just have to imagine they are doing something else and not presently available for an hour or so). Handy to have a backup companion, that way you can swap to that one as the other is levelling up (I had two clerics).
The vistas were actually nice, the area is well done and looks much improved from what Cryptic did in Champions and in Star Trek. The only problem I have is… it’s still the same. It’s very cookie cutter, whereas they took their work from Champions, tweaked it and made Star Trek, then took that work, tweaked it and made Neverwinter. Even the quests are of similar design, right from having a spawning point in dungeons. There were lots of “go collect x things”, which is really tired and boring (yes, let’s do the same thing that every other MMO from time in memorial has done). Even the big dungeons are copy and pasted from what Cryptic did in Champions and Star Trek. Five player teams needed to do a major dungeon. Even the monetary system is similar, right down to mining and refining a particular type of ore that can be used as money. This ore is one that can be acquired through quests.
I didn’t get a chance to go through the crafting ability, which has been titled as professions, so I can’t really comment on that at all. The combat was actually fairly good, and it looks as though they’ve done away with the tab targeting that most games use (you have a targeting reticle and your target has to be in front of you in order to attack). It makes it a bit more fluid and dynamic when you’re in battle.
The biggest downer is, there’s nothing really new with this, with the exception that they seemed to over use the word “Never” when naming things. Seriously, having a leader of a city of Neverwinter named Neverember, and have the Neverdeath graveyard. What next, Neverwater for the city port and Neversobber for a pub?
The game is only in Beta, but there was a severe number of races and classes that were missing from this outting. No paladin, no ranger, only wizard, no sorcerer. And I believe that Wizards of the Coast ditched druid for the D&D 4.0 release (which Neverwinter is based on). But there was also a lacking of races. Wood Elf was it’s own race, which I don’t understand why you can’t just have “Elf” and a series of subraces in there (such as Sun Elf, Wood Elf, Grey Elf, Drow).
As I said, it was only a Beta, so there may be more changes on the horizon, but so far it seems to be standard Cryptic design, which isn’t bad. They were successful with the two previous outings, but it’s also not great because it’s nothing new. I’ll have to see what changes come about with the next Beta weekend.