Neverwinter Previews

Cryptic Studios' Dungeons & Dragons-based MMORPG continues to garner further interest now that it has moved into open beta testing territory, with the latest impression pieces coming to us from a few different sources.

Ten Ton Hammer:
A game needs to be about far more than combat, especially one sporting (Dungeons and Dragons) in the title. Some of the most important staples of D&D are cool environments, extraordinary monsters, and epic quests. Neverwinter has all of these in spades. As you gain power, you're given more important quests and missions to investigate. As you progress through the game, you begin to realize that the last dungeon you claimed was the coolest dungeon you've ever seen soloing (I'm looking at you Clocktower) is no longer the coolest...because the dungeon you're in at that moment is now the coolest.

The further you go, the more monsters you encounter, each with their own special ways of dealing as much damage to your poor character as they can. I find myself regularly trying out different power combinations and methods of dispatching just as much pain and agony back at them. As you delve into Neverwinter dungeons, not only will you discover more methods of death, destruction, and dismemberment, you'll be greeted by some old D&D classics. The Mimic and the enormous Gelatinous Cube that tried to eat me the other day were both brutal and welcome sights. They're not overused and provide just enough flair and distraction to be a joy rather than an annoyance.
Questing in Neverwinter falls on the (kill 10 rats) / FedEx side of the MMO fence. There's little reason to veer off the shining path except to find hidden caches of potions, enchantments, and money. I suppose that the game would feel much less linear if I turned off pathing but, then again maybe not. The quests and the lack of exploration will remain the same even if the sparkles are gone.

Oddly enough, quests in a party with like-leveled characters are not 'shareable' at times. For instance, Shelassa found a quest in a zone in which we were playing. She tried to share it and was unable to do so. This happened several times. I realize that there are quests that are class-specific but partied players should at least be able to obtain the quest, or simply see it, in order to tag along, if not to benefit.

In this phase for the Neverwinter Open Beta, marked the first time in the game where I participated in an event where I participated in back-to-back Cloak Tower dungeon runs. While the loot from the run was insignificant since other players forgot about the dungeon keys, the fact that I was grinding for Astral Diamonds felt like I had been playing this game for a very long time. It felt like second nature as I immediately picked up daily quests, which also yield some unique rewards. While I haven't had a chance to really sit down and look at the Foundry, just the initial glance into the way that the built-in feature works is sure to excite die-hard Dungeon & Dragons fans as well as any kind of player wanting to step into the DM role.

Combat in the Neverwinter Open Beta, for the most part felt unchanged as I progressed through the same quests found in previous beta sessions. While quests seemed to have been altered and tweaked for various reasons, it felt easier transitioning through quests as the Guardian Fighter by slowly whittling down enemies by soaking damage. Much of the interface seems to be unchanged, as well as the tree for one's abilities. While the buddy system still uses the Star Trek Online means of adding friends, it feels like a hurdle that becomes easier after the first time.

And Games on Net:
Unfortunately, progression is remarkably linear, with the main questline following a reasonably straight path of missions above and below ground, coupled with a talent tree that doesn't enjoy much branching out. If you decide to be a Guardian Fighter, for example, you'll likely find yourself doing a lot of blocking. All of the time. Thankfully, the various dungeons are long, sprawling and varied in their design and structure, with difficulty levels curving at an acceptable rate. Cryptic have also thrown in timed events that reward you for completing certain quest or mission types within a certain period; such as fighting back a player-created invasion via the Foundry, or competing in a skirmish with other players. The only problem with this system is that some of this content can take much longer to complete than the time allows I remember rushing through dialogue and battles as the seconds ticked away, eventually losing my 150% experience reward.

It's also quite difficult to feel like you're part of a community while the cities are (currently) bustling with commerce, people and a surprising lack of spam, the game feels a little lonely. Entering dungeons, where you will spend a significant amount of your time, are instanced affairs that feel cut off from the wider fight. Unless you've made a conscious effort to find other players, whether via chat, your guild or matchmaking, you'll probably take advantage of the companion system, which allows you to purchase allies to fight alongside you.