Neverwinter Online Review

Being a sucker for games that have rich back stories and engaging lore, I was stoked to play Neverwinter Online because of the source material – The Forgotten Realms and the Dungeons and Dragons franchise.

Neverwinter Online is an MMO game developed by Cryptic Studios. It was Released on June 20, 2013, and is based loosely on the eponymous city from the opus of R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels.
Cryptic Studios has a deep well to work with, and judging from their other games (City of Heroes, Champions Online and Star Trek Online), it would appear that they are up to the task and do this game justice. What they produced instead is a stand-alone game that took a lot of elements from the famous franchise, made it their own while at the same time sticking to their roots and introducing some new concepts to the table. How would it fare with other games of the same genre? Let’s find out!

Off to the Races

For those familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons and Forgotten Realms lore, they are in for a treat with the playable races in this game. Neverwinter Online lets players choose from six of the famous races that inhabit the said world. There are the Humans, Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, the Drow and Tiefling. Each race has their own strengths and traits that players can utilize to sway the tide of battle in their favor. Cryptic’s use of these races certainly pays homage to the source material.

so, a dwarf, a human, and an elf walk into a bar...

so, a dwarf, a human, and an elf walk into a bar…

The classes in Neverwinter are divided into the Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Wizard types. Each archetype, with the exception of the Cleric and Wizard, has a subclass that provides a different dynamic for players. For the fighter class, there is the Guardian Fighter and Great Weapon subclass. The Rogue class has the Trickster and Archer subclass. From their namesake, one can construe that the Guardian Fighter is the tank in the game that soaks damage for the team, while the Great Weapon Fighter is the damage dealer that opts to go melee in battles. The same goes for the Tricker Rogues and Archers, the former preferring cunning and being elusive while the latter bombards opponents with various projectiles from afar. Each class has strengths and weaknesses that are vital in team composition, player-vs-player skirmishes and dungeon runs.

On Your Toes, Always

Cryptic Studios developed Neverwinter Online as a hack-and-slash MMO in order for players to be alert at all times while playing the game. Unlike in other MMOs that have a targeting system and static battle sequences, Neverwinter provides a more dynamic fighting mechanic. Players need to aim and time their attacks and spells properly in order for them to hit; power strikes need to be charged up and distance needs to be considered before flailing one’s broadsword around waves of enemies. Dodging enemy strikes and spells require players to actually move in order to dodge or block them. Enemies would often converge towards the player and try to swarm if their numbers give them the advantage to do so. This makes the game fast-paced and exciting as it keeps the players constantly thinking and really be invested in the game, capitalizing on timing and landing their strikes and spells at the opportune moment during the battle sequences.

Skills that Kill

Being that this game is considered as a hack-and-slash MMO, the players are given powers that they can level up as they see fit. These are the At-will, Encounter and Daily type of powers. At-will powers can be used by the player as much as they please because these powers do not have any cool downs (this is especially beneficial in clearing waves of enemies); Encounter powers are abilities that recharge at certain time after use. Daily powers are the more stronger abilities that players can use to dispatch enemies, but its cool down is longer than Encounter powers.

Apparently, some skills require jazz hands

Apparently, some skills require jazz hands

Another thing worth noting is the streamlined skill progression. New abilities are unlocked by leveling up, just as any other MMO game. The selection of abilities are not as diverse as one would expect but it gives room for players to get familiar with their characters’ abilities first before going up their respective skill trees. This way, players have to really commit in picking the skills that they want as they level up.

Of Dungeon Dives, Quest-seeking and People-Slaying

The quests Neverwinter provides players are easy to accomplish as well as easy to locate. This is in part due to the inclusion of a quest locater that players can use when questing; it makes tracking down objectives less of a hassle. Players can follow the glowing trail that leads to their destined place where their quest begins and ends. But of course, this golden trail is not always readily available for players – for instances that require puzzle-solving as well as secret treasures and rooms, the quest locater won’t be available. A substantial number of quests are available for players that are tied to the story, apart from the daily given quests that can be chosen by the player, ensuring that there is always something that can be done in Neverwinter.

Dungeon runs are tied within the main narrative so that players would get the hang of various instances that require one or more players. Single-player instances are configured in such a way that it is not as difficult to complete; once a character reaches a certain level, he is given a companion that can be summoned to aid in the said dungeon runs. This nifty add-on makes single-player instances more manageable to take on.

Multiplayer instances entail other players and team work to be successful. There is a queuing system that shows up the HUD that brings the said players to the dungeon once the required number of participants has been fulfilled. Once a player has completed a multiplayer instance, he has the option to rerun the instance again by queuing with other would-be dungeon-goers.

The Hulk went berserk that one time he forgot to wear sun screen and went to the beach

The Hulk went berserk that one time he forgot to wear sun screen and went to the beach

The Player-vs-Player mode in Neverwinter enables gamers to pit their characters against other people. In PvP, players gain experience points faster. Astral Diamonds and Glory are also given to those who engage in daily PvP; Astral Diamonds are one of the many currencies that is needed to acquire more powerful equipment while Glory can be used to buy gold which is used in the PvE part of the game.

The only available map for players at the moment is the Domination map. It is a 5v5 Capture-the-Point instance where a team wins when 1000 points have been collected. Points are gained by controlling one of the three bases, killing minions as well as dispatching the enemy team.

Be Your Own Dungeon Master! – The Foundry

One of the key things that separate Neverwinter from other MMOs is the Foundry. This feature lets players create and design their very own adventures for them to play in-game. It is one of the key draws this game has because it takes the quintessential element that made Dungeons and Dragons such a popular game to play until today; creating your own adventure is rare in an MMO game, and Neverwinter Online lets the players have access to create their own scenarios. The Foundry lets players create a unique world complete with NPCs, dungeons, treasures and other instances that give another aspect in an already huge game. Tools are given to the players in order for them to concoct their own adventures and literally see it come to life before their eyes. It also has a scoring system that allows other players rate other player-created adventures and in doing so, it lets them gain praise or notoriety within the community. In this respect, Cryptic gives the players an astoundingly wide range of other quests once the main narrative has been completed. The Foundry gives Neverwinter heavy replay value because of this.

Creating one’s very own adventure can be daunting, however; there is no in-game tutorial that lets players get the gist on how to create their quests. It would have been better if the developers managed to provide a “Quest-Making for Dummies” guide located somewhere in the game, and not just a link that sends people to a wiki page that provides generalizations of how to use the program. But then again, being that this is a free-to-Play game, having this kind of option for players to tinker at is commendable. For those who have been playing Dungeons and Dragons for a long time, the promise of seeing their imagined scenario come to life is more than enough reason for them to master this feature. Undoubtedly a spring of new possibilities, story-making wise, await for those who could master this quest-creating simulator.

as the old saying goes, "Rome was not built in a day"

as the old saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”

Final Thoughts

As a whole, Neverwinter Online is a solid MMO that provides gamers with a world that is heavy on the lore and nostalgia for those who are fans of the Dungeons and Dragons and Neverwinter Nights games, as well as for those who are new to the genre. Aesthetically pleasing for a Free-to-Play MMO that gives players (especially those who have been stuck playing the role of Dungeon Master) a chance to literally create and play their own one of a kind adventures with the Foundry feature, this stand-alone game is definitely worth trying out.

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