Review: Neverwinter Beta

Image credit: Vijay Maharajan/Cryptic Studios

You would have thought that the developer behind City of Heroes/Villains, Champions Online and Star Trek Online would have chosen to rest on their laurels, but no, Cryptic Studios are back in action with their new take on the established Neverwinter series. The main game itself is based around the city of Neverwinter after a spell plague, so while it does take place in the same world as the popular 2002 game Neverwinter Nights, it is far enough in the future to be thought of as separate. A parallel could perhaps be drawn to Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: the Old Republic, where a famous singleplayer RPG has been turned into an online RPG. In both cases, a key factor that made the games so popular has been their deep and well thought out universes. People were able to get sucked into the story and truly enjoy the experience. Consequently, I intend to review Neverwinter based on the same criterion: Can you get into the game?

As computers have evolved, so have the capabilities of the game designers who work to bring about seamless graphics throughout huge open worlds without inducing lag. To this end, Neverwinter caters to a wide range of computers. At the highest settings, the characters are well polished and blend in well with the world. The artwork of the game sets the tone beautifully with its dark pallette to suit the dark feel of the game. Furthermore, the animations for the abilities are often spectacular. In terms of graphics, the game really does suck you in. However, in the long run, the options for visual customization are a little lacking. To compare it to Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft or even Runescape, the character appearance can become borderline monotonous. In order to own any sort of ‘exotic’ looking character, you have to buy the overpriced items from the in game shop with real money.

Secondly comes the gameplay. The combat system is simply addictive. Use the abilities you have to suit the situation - dodge the enemy while chipping down their health or using the terrain to hide from view and use that time to charge up your trump spell. You have to be prepared to face either a massive ogre or an entire horde of well-organized minions. Furthermore, the amount of customizability with item stats, unlockable traits, leveling paths and abilities used allows you to match your character to your play style In terms of gameplay, the problem at the moment would be the backtracking. While a good teleportation system does exist, players will often have to trek through minion infested battlefields to get to their target location, only to find they have to go back again. Nevertheless, this is only true of the open world. The dungeons are fairly linear and can perhaps be compared to more of an action-based game. Nonetheless, dungeons are dynamic, in that the monsters are designed based on the average level of the party doing that dungeon, meaning that questing with lower level friends is completely feasible.

Often a gamer can be totally thrown away from a game based on its social system, as well as the other people who play it. Neverwinter isn’t really in either extreme in this regard. The facility for guilds are present; however, with a relatively uninteresting PvP format, there really isn’t much need for joining a guild. Perhaps that will change in the future, perhaps not. While there are dungeons that require parties of 5, you can take them on with strangers, which means that you don’t actually need friends to play the game. Personally, I found this game to be best when played with friends as you co-operatively complete dungeons. Sadly there is no cross-server interaction, meaning isolation from friends on different servers (and with 2 free character slots per account, you often have to delete characters to swap servers). There are rumors of Neverwinter merging the 3 servers in the official release, but this is unconfirmed.

Every good game needs a trademark feature. In Neverwinter, the Foundry is its banner. The Foundry allows players to make their own quests and share them with other people and some are very, very well made and they can only get better. The Foundry quests are peer-rated so you can play the best of the best without having to grind through boring quests. Players can therefore level up quickly whilst having fun without having to repeat tedious dynamic quests such as in Guild Wars 2 to gain enough levels to do the main quests..

In conclusion, Neverwinter has the potential to become a brilliant game, with its lead features being its gameplay, atmosphere and the Foundry. In my opinion, however, it is currently being let down by its money-minded nature with its overpriced items and the massive bonuses they provide. It is not possible to successfully play against other players without buying items with real life cash, sadly. Otherwise, despite still being a beta, it is largely glitch free and has a very active team behind it constantly making improvements. This is definitely a game I could get into and it's made even better when playing with friends. I very much look forward to seeing the full release!

Neverwinter will be available for PC.

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