Never thought I’d Neverwinter

I nearly dismissed Neverwinter out of hand based on some previous beta videos and preview write-up as by all accounts it really shouldn’t be a good game in this day and age. The characters are truly appalling looking (I’m shallow), some mechanics like movement miss the modern-day iteration, and apart from the foundry (which isn’t entirely unique either) it really doesn’t offer anything new to the genre.

There are many MANY other games out there now and being free isn’t the major selling point it used to be. Somehow though, by miracle or design, they have actually pulled together a decent mmo(ish) experience.

ok..so this turned out way longer then I intended again. So much for a short concise post.

Combat

The combat feels rather decent considering a few of the game eccentricities. For starters, Neverwinter has ignored the modern-day approach towards constant movement and has certain animation locks on skills.. Some that can be cancelled, others that can’t. While this did annoy me at first coming from Guild Wars 2 I got used to it rather quickly. Because of this, and with the restricted skill bar it kind of feels like if GW2 and Tera had a baby.

Both of those respective games have very different yet polished combat styles. Tera works well with the movement locks as it has many skills for a particular occasion and the selective movement abilities work since all monsters have animation tells on skills. GW2 works with a limited skill selection because your focused more on movement (or should be) and they want players to be more active on combat rather than there skills. You would think then that a game like Neverwinter, which really doesn’t get the feel right from either wouldn’t play well but surprisingly it does.

Combat is rather fast as your dodging many rather well (if simple) choreographed damage skills and generally with trying to manouvre yourself into place. Each class seems to have their own distinct movement skill as well which really suits it’s playstyle… my wizard was teleporting around and the greatswaord fighter a sprint tool. The skills are rather tactile with some excellent effects suited to its class.. My barbarian was smashing earth and the wizard controlled the elements. To me the skills, with their restricted timer can be rather strategic, some are just do as much damage while others are more situational.

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So far the combat situations though are rather generic.. Groups of mobs with a mix of range and melee and often a certain elite enemy. They have taken on that rather terrible trope of just standing around with nothing to do which is very noticeable at times, for instance on encounter was in a burning building yet everyone in there was content being slowly asphyxiated while waiting for.. Me apparently. I could have just gone to the pub and had a pint while waiting for them to die and gathered my reward from their corpses later. Usually becasue of this it will be you initiating the fight in the way choose which makes them feel far less dynamic.

Sometimes it does get a bit more interesting with ambushes and such which are rather interesting to work around but so far most fights feel way to similar. I’m still sub 20 so this may change later.

Customisation

The customisation isn’t too extensive but it seems enough that each class has a few different playstyles they can do. There are many skills to choose from as you level, many which focus on key class mechanics. The design makes you want to try and fill out a perfect deck to utilise this specialisation properly. Then at level 10 you unlock the specialty of your class to increase a certain aspect, for my wizard I aimed for better control effects over damage.

I really don’t know what to compare this system to as it is once again a mash-up of a few but it looks interesting, allows for Min maxing, and is just a nice way to differentiate yourself from others.

Questing

Kill, collect, protect is all you will be doing once again, unfortunately the way the have presented these to make it interesting and give some agency are rather poor. Some of the npc actions and cut-scenes are hilariously bad too..b grade horror bad acting and scenes. I have already skipped many of these quest briefings because they just aren’t appealing due to their very low production values.

The world you quest in is very instanced. There will be a main map for the zone which you come back to accept and complete missions in, as well as a few side missions but a lot of the quests will be taking you into various other locations in the zone. Luckily though these little instanced areas are really well designed, often enough with thus sort of design it’s just a way to be lazy and recycle content and themes and while some areas may be similar here the are all great to explore.

These instanced places are like mini little dungeon delvings’, just like Dungeons and Dragons should be and they can be rather extensive. The look and feel of then are excellent with great detail. With the different environments they have and they you will constantly be exploring it creates a nice change of pace from the overarching zone design so you don’t get bored of any one theme.

Neverwinter

I like the traps you sometimes find in these too and hope the expand on them in later missions to add a bit more diversity as they make you be more conscious of your surroundings. The only bit I really want them to improve on is promoting some different playstyles in these instances as so far it’s just kill kill, it just needs some stealthy sections, or even puzzle points to think over.
I really want to say something though…a glowing path to quest points…seriously? I don’t know whether they think we are all imbeciles  and feel insulted or if they were just trying to make questing require as little thought as possible but whatever its reason it is perpetuating the overarching development trend of dumbing down mmo’s (and games in general), and I don’t like it. Do we really need this? I know it can be turned off but still, you should be trying to engage your players not just funnel them down a linear path. You need to capture people in the lovely environments not having them act like zombies from point to point.. then when done straight off to the next game.

Skirmishes

These are great short bursts of high action, lots of mobs with one or two bosses that get completed within 10-20 minutes. The setting seems to be the zone map and aim to tie in a few points of the story and lore of these areas. It isn’t some sort of long winded affair that the questing usually is, just experience the real troubles first hand. They get handed out as well with normal quests although I’m guessing they are optional but they really are a nice distraction from the standard questing and are a fun experience.

Dungeons

Dungeons are exactly what you would expect to them to be. Lots of trash mobs in between a few key boss characters. They are the linear kind but have a nice aesthetic design that changes slowly as you progress, the design makes the experience interesting as there are always some new visuals and the linear aspect keeps the party moving so the action never stops. Same monsters you are used to on the map with just a lot more elite ones with simplistic mechanics and attacks which once again makes it kind of boring and requiring little thought.

The only one I’ve done so far, the clock tower, was incredibly easy for the group. No one died or went down and we all just kept playing through. The mechanics to the bosses were incredibly simplistic, kill the adds, dodge the red stuff,????, profit. Even for a beginners dungeon it was easy. Did I have fun… I have no idea.

I think this is because, even though Neverwinter has a trinity system the dungeons aren’t specifically made for them. Our party composed of 3 rogues and 2 wizards.. Hardly a well constructed group but we did it easily because the main attacks were telegraphed with ample time to avoid. You have a lot of movement abilities ti use although often enough just strafing around will be enough, and if not you can chug health potions like they’re water.

It was a little chaotic at points, and it wasn’t very strategic but it was fun? to do, I pew pewed a lot and it felt fun but looking back in retrospect it seemed a rather souless affair. It was an introductory experience so this might be part of it. So far I think the dungeon and skirmish finder doesn’t seem to make a standard group on purpose so maybe all these encounters will be more flexible. This could be a great thing for getting people in and trying these, or it could be a terrible experience like GW2, or it could just be boring if the don’t get the challenge right.

Neverwinter

PvP

The early brackets are kind of fun with everyone just screwing around and not being too serious. Skills are a bit restricted still so there is little variation in the fights. Damage seems like it is scaled really well at the moment, death is more meaningful as there aren’t any one shot kills or anything close to that. You play rather strategic because of this, coming in and out of combat accordingly,  trying to find the right moment to use your skills.

The map was a bit small and simple but going by some other viewings the appear to get more complex with various paths and overhangs. Based on a capture the flag type mechanic , very similar to gw2 conquest with little variation on this mode. Not sure if there are any other different types.

It’s all not very serious and more the token experience developers tend to add but kinda fun nonetheless.

Foundry

From what I’ve seen it actually it offers everything that Cryptic could not. They have some nice lore pieces, well written dialogue, nice stories to follow along with. There is also a wide variation on many different mechanics to fill in the gaps that the developers either haven’t or can’t make due to certain restraints such as missions for different group sizes and difficulty, structured content for many, continuation by a few of the people developing them, and they seem to accommodate many different playstyles as well. There are those that are all action and then some that are more focused on the situation and the people. It is impossible for Cryptic to create something for everyone, questing has been mostly designed to accommodate solo players and this gives a lot more options and hopefully a lot of replayability for long term players.

The way it has all been set up is well designed. they are very easy to find out in the world. The npc and the notice board are in each zone and display the specific mission centered there. They are very easy to navigate and there is a lot of information usually on them to make an informed decision in regards to what sort of gameplay your after. Getting into them is really easy as well, enable the mission from these spots or even use the pop up menu system and then follow the bright glowing markers.

So far I don’t think they have implemented the creation tools very well yet, a lot of what you may want in terms of complexity in the environment and character tools is really limited.. there is a nice selection but not enough. It really needs to be expanded on further so people can tell their tale appropriately. it’s a nice start, and some of the creations that are coming out of it are good but it can be soo much more. It is also not very polished yet either, a few things like npc’s in particular are very buggy and not very user friendly.

Crafting

I’m not sure about the implementation so far.. love how they have integrated an out of game application into it, a lot of games are trying to do this and it’s a great way to get people continuously thinking and engaged in your game. Even how you hire minions to craft for you seems like an interesting take as mos people don’t want to be standing over a crafting table for hours. It adds a decent utility to the experience, I think it could be meaningful as gear drops don’t seem to happen very often when questing so it’s good to pick up and use from the start . I like to actually craft over a bench when it is meaningful and even though you aren’t actually crafting it I guess this is progress, if in a different direction.

The experience gain through it though seems good so far and you don’t have to create an abundance of useless items.. having it so you can craft ingredients needed and still gain experience for crafting and your character is great. It’s hard to tell how important crafting will be as you level further and reach cap though but so far I think it can and should be done as your leveling which a rather good recommendation.Neverwinter Market

Gathering has been designed as part of the class mechanics in a way. There will be many gathering points out in the world and in the instances and each class has the ability to gather from one of these without any tools, if you want to get all of them you can buy kits from the merchants but they seem rather expensive during the earlier levels so you will be mainly only gathering the one type. They are actually rather hard to find at times requiring some exploration and a keen eye as they don’t show up on the mini-map but because of this I actually get excited when I do find them. They don’t contain anything too important I think but they do add a nice little side project for people and a reward for those who like to explore.

Cash shop

I have to admit I never really looked much into it, it doesn’t seem too important although having a mount and a mercenary straight away seems like it is a nice bonus as you have to wait many levels otherwise, and with great cost. I am still laughing at the people who spent 200$ though… Seriosly.. two..hundred dollars for a ftp game, I don’t even spend that much on a sub or btp mmo and so far I haven’t really even worried about it. A lot of cosmetics are purchasable, as well as a few gameplay tools like mounts, pets, mercenaries and such. You can transfer a different currency earned through play to this currency to buy things but I believe the conversion rate is rather appalling. If I get more immersed in the experience I might buy a couple things to support the game.

Is it a little Pay to win…kinda. You can buy nice gear, decent stats and all that with the astral diamonds.. earnable through play but far easier to gain by paying however I don’t see that as being really important when it is primarily just for PvE. Who really cares in the end if your survivability and damage is better than anyone else, you’re not getting rewarded more because of it and it only shortens the lifespan of the game for that person.

The Feel

The world looks great from what I’ve seen so far, the maps look amazing, have some interesting set-pieces and backdrops, and everything is very cohesive. Everything about the world and the many instances make you want to explore it to see more, breathtaking visuals at every turn and it really does well to promote your immersion. The character creation options are rather decent but there is something about these characters that puts them right in the middle of uncanny valley… fugly weird little things they are. I can kind of forgive this though as from what I’ve seen the armor design is rather nice, my plate mail warrior and light robe wizard were wearing appropriate clothing for the occasion. The heavy armor has the better detail and design but it’s nice wearing pants as a wizard.

I know many people have already declared that Neverwinter is in no way true to the PnP versions with its combat and design but to me, a less than geeky gamer who really hasn’t tried much pnp beyond a few campaigns of cyberpunk, it felt like dungeons and dragons should. The class designs and group functioning work well, the action mechanics aren’t over the top, and the many little instances you go into are like delving into separate self-contained instances like you would expect. In this aspect it kind of reminds me of a more mmo version of Dungeons and Dragons online, DDO has more parallels to Diablo in its style and Neverwinter more mmo’s with its third person view and mechanics.

I especially thought the little cut-scenes displaying the names for bosses where really cute and a nice touch, they made these events more special then they could have been just based on combat.

Neverwinter

Even the barrels and boxes that roll around when you collide with them are awesome. There is just so much in Neverwinter that screams out its PnP background regardless of its non-adherence to official 4e rules and regulations. It downplays a lot of the dice rolling that goes on, and for an mmo in this day and age I really think that’s a good thing as I like a lot more predictability in my skills and combat. I want to know how my skills work without randomness getting in the way.

So yes, I take back my previous comments and tweets regarding this game as I eventually did play it and I am enjoying it. It isn’t a very compelling game, it isn’t even particularly deep, it has a few funky lag and polish issues, and it has a lot of parts of it underdeveloped but it’s fun for random gameplay now and then..and its free, like actually free with restrictions that really don’t hinder your experience.

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