Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Atari
Developer:Liquid Entertainment
Release Date:TBA
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
The game's main freemium conceit comes in the form of Energy. Energy is represented as a purple bar, but is effectively a timer on the number of adventures you can perform in a given period. Energy recharges slowly over time, allowing you to play an adventure once every few hours, but the basic pool of 20 means that it's almost impossible to go on more than once adventure in a row. I never felt I needed to play the game for hours on end, but failing an adventure often means waiting to try again, which is annoying to say the least. Obviously the goal is to get you to pay for extra Energy, and while it's not too big a deal next to other social games, it's still a bit too transparent for my liking.

There were a couple of other issues I ran into while playing. Your player character must be alive in order to save progress - if your character goes down during combat, and you win, you'll still have to repeat the adventure. Furthermore, enemies have a habit of attacking your character above everyone else, often killing him or her instantly in the case of more powerful enemies. Playing as a Cleric, dying meant it was impossible to progress even if I had a Raise Dead spell on-hand, and taking two Clerics was a pretty poor alternative. This meant that on multiple occasions I had to replay the same missions again and again, which wasn't very fun at all.

Outside of combat, there isn't much to do. Aside from checking out your friends' houses, you can buy and sell items at the game's auction house (which automatically sets prices based on supply and demand), or you can create dungeons at the Dungeon Workshop once you've hit the level cap (or paid for access). These meta-game features are as sparse as it gets, and compared to other Facebook games, Heroes of Neverwinter could offer a lot more as far as mini-games and other activities go, especially as there is so little to do when waiting for Energy to refill.

Dungeons & Dragons for the Masses

One thing that Heroes of Neverwinter gets right above all else is making D&D approachable. The begins with a guide, Edrick, helping you through a number of tutorial areas which introduce the game's basic functions - fighting enemies, healing, using items, trap detection, etc. - and this is pretty well-designed even if it's framed in a silly context ("Don't you remember? You inherited a house in Neverwinter! That's why you're here fighting goblins in the woods!").

What's more, Heroes of Neverwinter has a very good user interface, especially for a Facebook game, and I think even a full-priced retail product could take notes. Context-sensitive radial-style menus make it extremely easy to perform actions in combat, and the game has a very clean and uncluttered look. Getting into D&D has never been easier, and if there's one strength of Heroes of Neverwinter, it's allowing your non-gamer friends to jump in without too much trouble.

However, this accessibility comes at a huge price. Namely, the game's class and race selection are very poor - you've got Fighter, Wizard, Cleric and Rogue, along with Human, Halfling, Eladrin and Dragonborn, and considering you have exactly four party slots, there's never any agonizing over which to bring. Moreover, the number of abilities is extremely scant, with only two to choose from every few levels. While I'm not entirely up to speed on the 4th Edition rules, even what's presented here is extremely limited. D&D and all its complexity has been adapted well plenty of times over the years, and Heroes of Neverwinter simply can't compete with more fleshed out products on the market. It doesn't kill the game, but it will probably alienate some of the more hardcore fans.

Conclusion

It's clear that last year, Atari were very intent on making D&D as mainstream as possible. Along with Daggerdale, the hack-and-slash downloadable title from Bedlam Games, getting into D&D has never been easier. At the same time, it's hard to ignore that this leaves hardcore players without nearly as much to latch on to, or to keep them playing. Considering that Wizards of the Coast are beginning to show off the 5th Edition rules, with the key tenet being a return to the complexity the game is known for, it seems casual focus may not have paid off as they intended.

Heroes of Neverwinter captures the fundamental fun of D&D, there's no question - truth be told, it's hard enough to find fun turn-based RPG combat in the Western scene these days. Beyond this, though, Heroes of Neverwinter simply doesn't have enough features to toy with, enough character classes or races to make party composition interesting, or enough variety in its gameplay to warrant more than short-term play. If your goal is to get a few rounds of combat in on your laptop or smartphone, then Heroes of Neverwinter is certainly capable, at least for a few weeks; additionally, if you've got a friend or family member you want to introduce to D&D, this isn't a bad supplement either. But, frankly, those looking for a more well-rounded experience should look elsewhere.