As my Sunday draws to a close and I say once more, “where did my weekend go” I have some time to reflect back on the Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter beta Aurelis and I played. It was a nice opportunity to try something new after being out of MMORPGs for quite some time now. After all, Aurelis and I are pretty much table top gamers at this point outside my dalliance with Haypi Monsters on the iPad/iPhone. We actually managed to put in a few good hours to get a feel for the game. It gave us the opportunity to get relatively far into our character classes and I will certainly say the game has come a long way since we saw it at Pax East 2012!
One of the things that we liked right away was the fact that we recognized certain aspects of Neverwinter. We have somewhat recently almost completed Neverwinter Nights 2 and to see familiar places was nice. I felt at home and the lore was solid. There is a lot of Neverwinter in the game and if you’re into that setting this is a wonderful delve. It is an opportunity to explore a curated version of the world. It is a big step up visually from the last Neverwinter game and that shows almost immediately. We also enjoyed the fact that the game did, in some ways, match up spiritually with the mechanics of our 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons sessions (I’ll elaborate on that a bit later).
Familiarity also took on a slightly darker meaning as well. Neverwinter follows a quest hub model that feels so much like every other MMORPG that has released in the last few years. Initially it was subtle because the quests would send you off to your own instance (which we really liked) but then it turned into the usual story of us being sent out into a zone to kill five orcs, find three orc maps, and speak to guard Forgettable. I don’t mean this to come off as overly negative. It was very well executed but for MMORPG weary players it quickly felt like we were doing the same old thing.
Dungeons & Dragons
To call Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter a fair approximation of tabletop D&D would be like saying I like gnomes (an outright lie). What was done well, however, was taking the feel of Dungeons & Dragons and turning it into an MMORPG. The classes are familiar, the races match up, and the abilities, while MMO-er-ized, did in fact feel like the table top session for the most part. The game gets the spirit of D&D 4th edition with its presentation of powers and abilities. Would I say that it is a wonderful tribute to the tabletop title it is modeled after? Yes. Does it function mechanically like the Neverwinter series traditionally has? No, I’m afraid not. Does that matter? In this case, I don’t think so.
Neverwinter presents a pretty darn cool action MMORPG when it comes to combat. It is fast, it is interesting, and it doesn’t have a mana bar. It accurately represented “at will” powers from 4th edition. At will means I can use it as much as I want over and over. I truly enjoyed that. Encounter powers were similar but had longer cool-downs. You also had daily powers that required you to fill up a D20 with “action points” to use. In that way it does approximate the tabletop experience with how often you can use each power. I also just need to repeat: Neverwinter doesn’t have a mana bar. God bless whoever decided that was unnecessary. Yes, there is a skill to resource management. At this point, I don’t care. I just want to play. I just want to kill orcs. Neverwinter does that exceedingly well.
I’m a huge cleric fan and since Neverwinter offers that class I had to play it. It was one of the most enjoyable clerics I’ve played yet. The game follows the 4th edition mentality that you don’t have to have a ton of “heal only” skills to be a healer. In fact I only have one! Everything else heals through my normal actions and, to be honest, I felt pretty darn powerful. Aurelis is playing a rogue and I certainly held my own with her. The skills are interesting and offer a variety of choices. You can focus a bit more on AoE or single target. The version I played didn’t seem to have a melee option but that was ok. I threw giant spears of light at my enemies and that worked nicely. I have to give a very positive review for how the cleric played thus far. I’d be interested in seeing the other variants of it and how survivable it is later in the game.
I didn’t run into a lot of bugs in my hours of play. The only one I can think of is when I moved my mouse on certain parts of the map the NPC icons for that location “ran away” from the cursor. It was actually pretty funny. Beyond that the game is stable, works as intended, and is pretty well polished. There were some missing art assets for icons but that isn’t a bug. That is perfectly normal.
Would I “buy” it?
The best answer is that I don’t have to. Neverwinter is free to play but does offer some founder packages (a big purchase up front for a lot of cool things and some currency). With that said, as someone who has played virtually every fantasy MMORPG since they were text based it just didn’t feel enough difference to pull me away from my table top. You shouldn’t base your decision on that though! I would actually highly recommend the game to someone looking for a faster paced MMORPG. If you’re looking for something different and exciting Neverwinter is awesome. If you’re into the lore of that world the game delivers in spades. It is a solid MMORPG at a bargain price. It won’t change the genre but I liked it and I’ll certainly be playing a little more in the future.