The Dungeons and Dragons universe is full of stories to tell and places to see. One of the most important of which is the Forgotten Realms, the area that’s home to some of the IP’s most popular games, from Baldur’s Gate to Icewind Dale. Oh, and Neverwinter Nights, that game was kind of a big deal too. But the point of this article isn’t to talk about Neverwinter Nights or any of the other games I just listed, we’re here to talk about Neverwinter the MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment that released just a year ago.
Previously controlled by Atari, Neverwinter isn’t even the first official D&D MMO, that honor belongs to the appropriately titled Dungeons & Dragons Online. Unlike that game, and the many that came before it, Neverwinter was never designed to be an accurate recreation of the D&D ruleset. It is instead a recreation and conglomeration of D&D rules and features, a conglomeration that results in a game that is fast, fluid, and addictive to play. Rather than awkwardly adapting a pen and paper game’s rules, the developers at Cryptic were able to adapt the source material as they saw fit, with the full support of Wizards of the Coast and the creative team behind Dungeons & Dragons.
As we cited in our original Neverwinter review, the game has featured a robust selection of features and a surprisingly high level of polish for a game that is purely free-to-play. Rather than starting out as a subscription based game and ditching that model down the line, Neverwinter was instead built from the ground up to grow and thrive in the free-to-play space. This was a decision that has worked wondrously and the breadth of content is a testament to that design choice.
The game features tons of PvE questing content, in-depth storylines, deep lore, dungeons, skirmishes, and even a limitless amount of player created content. Additionally, there is a deep PvP system with tons of options and the end-game content mixes PvE and PvP together in a unique way – it’s a truly unique experience. Ultimately though, the biggest key feature, is the intense action combat. Rather than locking onto an enemy and trading blows until someone falls over, players have to actually move around and react in real-time with each and every attack.
Like any successful MMO though, Neverwinter has shown its strength not just in the content available at launch, but in the ways that it has grown since. Cryptic and Perfect World have released three great modules of additional content that continue to expand the game with not just new content, but new classes and races as well – all free of charge. Module 1, the Fury of the Feywild, introduced lots of new PvE content with a brand new campaign, dungeon, skirmish, and boon system, in addition to brand new races.
The second module, my favorite, is Shadowmantle. This module introduced the versatile Hunter Ranger class, a huge adventure zone, a new campaign, new skirmish, new dungeon, and the artifacts and collections systems, as well as new paragon paths for each class, new companion bonuses, and other various updates. Finally, the most recently released module, Curse of Icewind Dale, is arguably the largest and most diverse yet. This module brought 3 new large zones, an epic skirmish, new profession, a PvE and PvP campaign, Heroic Encounters, new Hunter Ranger paragon path, overflow experience system, dungeon delve keys, new enchantments, shared account banks, and more extra updates. It doesn’t stop there though, because hot on the heels of Module 3’s release, PW was quick to announce the 4th Module for the game, Tyranny of Dragons, but were light on details.
Needless to say, Neverwinter is alive, healthy, and doing very well. The most endearing thing about the game, for me, is the fact that it actually manages to juggle several different things and deliver quality experiences for all facets. I can honestly jump into the world of Neverwinter and do one of about a dozen different things at any given time and have a blast. Most games at this point, after being around for a year, gain a reputation of being “good PvP games”, or “good solo games”, or “good raiding games”, or one of several other labels. Somehow, Neverwinter has been able to separate itself as just a “good MMO”.
Interesting enough for an MMO, Neverwinter can actually be enjoyed as an almost entirely solo experience. You eventually unlock a companion that goes with you just about everywhere, complimenting your skillset and making battles much more manageable. Combine this with the fact that most of the campaign missions and Foundry quests can be completed by yourself, and the game is surprisingly solid as a single player RPG. However, the skirmishes, larger dungeons, and PvP experiences remain in case you want to dabble.
By employng a hub structure that utilizes Protector’s Enclave as the primary social center of the game with other zones and instances branching off of it, the game is able to run extremely well on systems of all tiers. It also makes the game much more manageable and easy to digest, since all of the pieces are separated into clean chunks. The bonus event system is another great feature that I can’t recall seeing in any other games. The game has a constantly refreshing bonus event that will be featured for a limited amount of time, and participating in the featured event will net you some bonus rewards. For example, if skirmishes are featured, by doing skirmishes in that timeframe, you will get some extra goodies.
The sheer amount of content and steady stream of meaty updates keeps this game a contender in an over saturated market. In fact, it was selected as one of our top free-to-play MMORPGs of 2014 – a distinction given to only 5 games. Whether you’re an MMO fan, a D&D player, or just a fan of RPGs in general, Neverwinter has something to offer everybody. Congratulations on an amazing first year!Related: Cryptic Studios, Launch, MMORPG, Neverwinter