Neverwinter Review

Developer: Cryptic Studios / Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment / Played on: PC / Price: Free / ESRB: Not Yet Rated

I can’t tell you how many F2P MMOs I’ve played that promise to deliver a retail-quality experience without the pricetag. Even though Neverwinter never explicitly made that promise, it’s the first F2P that satisfies it. Not once while playing Neverwinter did I have to excuse a problem on account of it being free. It’s not only a solid (if traditional) MMO, but it introduces a lot of great ideas that would justify a retail price tag.

Rather than adopt the old WoW template of manual targets and toolbar skills, Neverwinter uses the new TERA / Defiance scheme. Your targeting cursor is locked to mouselook, and you attack enemies by aiming and triggering one of a limited set of actions (4-5 as opposed to WoW’s 20).

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These mechanics make the combat more immediate and intense. For instance, dodging attacks isn’t stat-based — either you move or use an evasion skill to slip attacks. Luckily, large hits are telegraphed via glowing areas on the ground, making large boss fights much more approachable than, say, WoW’s raids. My only real complaint concerns Neverwinter’s liberal screen-shake during most attacks. It looks impressive in the early hours with Neverwinter, but after an extended session my eyes grew tired of the effect.

Though questing is traditionally the go-to activity in any MMO, it’s actually the most boring in Neverwinter, but that’s a credit to the game’s other activities. Neverwinter’s questing isn’t bad, it’s just completely predictable. You scoop up a list of tasks from various NPCs, all of which rotate through MMO standards like “kill seven of an enemy” and “gather four of an item.”

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As such, questing ends up being a time-killer while waiting in queues for other, more interesting events. It’ll whittle away twenty minutes here and there, but over an hour of questing pushes you far into bored territory. Neverwinter does, at least, cut out the fluff from questing. Glowing trails and clear map indicators show you where to go and what to do plainly, which is appreciated since all you’re doing is turning the exp crank.

Neverwinter’s user-generated content is more interesting, mostly because they’re more willing to stray from MMO norms. Of course, the quality of that content is equally mercurial. I’ve played genuinely funny, engaging missions alongside poorly paced quests with bizarre visual glitches and dialogue riddled with grammatical errors.

The bottom line is that the toolset has the capacity to produce amazing content, and seeing a list of new content every time you log in is extremely refreshing. It’s exciting to dive into random quests with no idea of what to expect.

Though Neverwinter’s dungeons play out similarly to most other MMOs — it’s a series of hallways and rooms, capped with a huge boss encounter — the environments are well crafted and fun to romp through. The variety of environments is impressive. In a given dungeon I’d move through up to eight visually distinct areas ranging from ancient towers with vaulted ceilings and closed-in caverns rimmed with glittering, glowing gems. It creates a real feeling of movement and exploration, which WoW’s broad and flat dungeons can’t compete with.

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The boss fights get intense as well. One fight flooded the boss arena with increasing numbers of normal enemies. The longer you took fighting the boss, the more would come out. Functionally it’s a DPS check to make sure you’re not cheesing out the boss, but it also means that you’re fighting a swarm of fifty dudes, something I haven’t experienced in any other MMO. Incidentally I had a super move that deployed a small, magical black hole that sucks enemies up and spits them out. Brother, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen fifty little dudes spray out of a magical vortex.

Neverwinter’s PvP is, surprisingly, amazing fun. Thanks to Neverwinter’s more responsive combat, PvP ended up being my favorite mode of play. The rules are typical: 5v5 capture and hold between three points. While the ruleset doesn’t reinvent the wheel, Neverwinter’s magic is in the interplay of the classes. There’s a robust rock-paper-scissors interplay between the classes, their skills, and the related cooldowns.

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For instance, I played as the “Control Wizard” which can lock other players in place by freezing them or choking them in a small magical vortex. This is invaluable when enemies try to flee from team battles; if you hold them in place the rest of your team can pile on and finish the kill. Naturally, other classes have abilities that allow them to break any holds, meaning I had to bait those out with other skills to lock them down with longer roots. It’s a mindgame, and an enjoyable one at that.

While most of Neverwinter is a predictable-but-better version of other MMOs, the crafting really caught my attention. It’s still an assembly line where you feed ingredients into one end and get a new item from the other, but it borrows from The Old Republic by letting you queue up crafting tasks for NPCs. Here’s the brilliant bit: you can access this system through a web portal; just by clicking a bookmark, you can collect revenue from completed tasks and assign new ones.

There’s a bit of a Facebook game slant to it as well. Some crafting tasks can take a long time (up to eighteen hours) but, wouldn’t you know it, you can spend in-game currency to finish the tasks immediately. It’s not as obviously scheming as social games though; the currency you spend is not purchased directly with real money… but more on that in a bit.

Currency implications notwithstanding, exposing crafting through a webpage is fantastic. I’d queue up long craft jobs during the day and accrue a pile of money, experience, and treasure chests that’d be waiting for me the next time I logged in.

Regardless of how fun the game is, every F2P has that point where the penny drops and you see just how the game intends to part you from your money. Pleasantly, Neverwinter is tasteful in that regard… with a few exceptions.

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To start, there is no currency in the game that is purchased with only real money, so it is possible to work your way to buying anything in the game. It works through a currency exchange, in which you can trade astral diamonds (a currency you accrue through daily quests and crafting) for zen (the currency that can be purchased in bulk with real money). Naturally, exchanging astral diamonds for zen is so expensive that buying worthy items just through astral diamonds would take ages… but it is possible, so that’s nice at least.

Items bought with zen are largely ornamental: cool clothes, vanity mounts, visual effects, and digital trinkets of that nature. The biggest schlocky temptation to spend real money takes the form of nightmare lockboxes, which can only be unlocked with nightmare keys… which can only be purchased with zen. It’s not a criminal offense, but there is that nagging reminder of mysterious treasure constantly kicking around your inventory unless you’re stalwart enough to trash the box right away. Ultimately, free games have to make money, so an amount of nickel and diming is to be expected. I’m glad that Neverwinter does it in a respectful, unintrusive way.

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I wanted to pay special praise to Neverwinter’s production values. The environments, graphics, and audio are all on par with a retail product, and more than that a good retail product. The city of Neverwinter itself is wonderfully constructed, complete with an especially-magical floating island. Moreover, I especially like the voice-overs that continue playing even after you’ve accepted a quest. It’s a great way to get a dose of lore without being locked to a wall of text.

Even though Neverwinter doesn’t challenge MMO norms in terms of content structure, it delivers retail-quality gameplay, endless expandability with user-generated content, and a fantastic twist on crafting that had me obsessively checking my crafting queue for hours. With a pricetag of free, all you have to lose is your time, and I can imagine about a hundred worse ways to spend your evening than playing Neverwinter.

+ Retail-level quality of content, gameplay
+ Lasting PvP enjoyment
- Boring questing

8 / 10

  1. Completely forgot this game came out last month, nice review, made me actually download the thing, and I hate MMO’s (Still waiting for Blizzard to return my soul…)

  2. I didn’t like the game too much. Kinda felt mediocre.

  3. I want to agree with your overall positive review. For a free game, the graphics are fairly impressive and I like the web approach to crafting. I wish crafting had more value to the character at lower levels but Leadership is reasonably rewarding.

    Sorry to hear that questing isn’t your thing, but actually I find it to be the best part of the game. The questing environments are some of the most visually interesting of any recent MMO (including the surrealistic GW2). And the quest mechanics are a huge step above SWTOR’s outdated “click on three blue objects” paradigm. The Linkletter Spellplague narrative is a textbook example of what MMO storytelling should be. Zones like the Neverdeath Graveyard are engaging and compelling as the quests pull you through the area and reveal the stories there.

    This huge potential for storytelling will be the key to Neverwinter’s staying power as an MMO. Each new zone gives quest authors in the Foundry new material, new environments and art assets, with which to tell their own stories, and we’ll see that process repeated with the Feywild mini-expansion in August.

  4. I would have to disagree with the review itself on the factors of pvp. The visuals of this game though, admittedly is of the higher qualities in mmo’s. (and the engine does not kill older computers memory, like many other games)

    But as a player that does mostly pvp, I will say that the fun-stick is blown out early. In pvp now, half or near half of the ‘player characters’ are bots that run a pre-run script. Even at level 60 when blessedly, bots became scarce again, they still exist. Pvp in this instance is not a challenge, the bots are wearing the starter beginner gear, and those same beginner skills only, they do no damage, and cant react.
    So say you are in a match with one team having 3 bots, and the other team having none? That is not pvp, its a 2v5 with the 2nd team having 3 bots, that any one person can easily kill all at the same time.
    Having 3-6 bots in a match is not uncommon, but is now the norm (especially in the 40′s to 50′s where leveling takes longer, you will find the most.
    Domination pvp in this game is not about domination or pvp, its about botting a character up the levels, and whoever is dumb enough to actually try to play the game right, has to suffer them.

    On the pve side, botting is also rampant. The same characters will constantly and endlessly farm the same items by script, pick up specific things for sale on ah (for ad). Mind you, this is only for those that do not know how to duplicate items yet, like the enchantments and runes on the auction house. The bos are easily recognizable and an unfortunate neusance the real ‘players’ have to deal with, knowing our competition for ad and items, are non players that do not even need to sleep, eat, or take a break, and does not mind stealing kills.

    Per skills and feats, while most skills work and class features, there are others and even important ones, like a clerics forsight, that do not work at all. There are others I believe work, but you would not know it, because you don’t see it on your character sheet or affects underneath your character.

    If I had to give a ballpark calculation on working feats, or feats working as they are written, I would say about a quarter of them in total are not working at all, or not as intended.

    On the forums people are very upset at balance issues, but it is hard to balance classes at all, when their feats and powers are not working now but maybe, just maybe might down the road.

    All of these reasons, are why most of the people in the guild I am in now, have left. All my friends that came to play here are gone, none of them are left.
    far too many people I knew here are gone, because of these issues.

    A catch 22 as it were, for all the missing people, bots have filled the void, so at last their playerbase isn’t affected too badly. They can show their investors how many people are playing, though it is a lie, because bots technically cant ‘play’ This leaves cryptic with an inability to do something about the bots, because they now need them to keep the game active and invested in.

    I needed to say all of this to be understood. I would rate this game as a 2 only. Its graphics and low memory usage for the game to run is rather outstanding. Its gameplay due to the bots has diminished to being questing the only worthwhile thing to do (because of experience, though yes it gets boring after a few hours, mind numbingly).
    Pvp is the worst of every game I have played on (and has gotten reviews of being worse, than mmos’ that advertise no pvp
    For just an example of reviews given by players that have played for a while, go to mmobomb.com.
    The common theme for reviews after playing longer than a week, is to stay away from this game. It is that terrible.

    (To answer a question of why I am still on it, as I have mentioned in the forums, is only to see what cryptic will screw up next.

  5. I have not played many MMO’s per say. I have however played Ultima Online for 10 years and Pirates of the Burning Sea for about 5 years with a little AION mixed in. The crafting system in this game is different but as for as useful for anything other than AD it is a joke. No customer service with the alchemy gateway bug that has many toons locked out from gaining a level is awful.I expect many players will be leaving the game pretty fast as content aka questing is indeed boring. Once you get 5 or 6 toons to level 60 there is nothing to do that can be called exciting unless creating another toon and doing the same quest line over and over again is your bag. It may be a awesome game someday but it will take a while to get there.

    Game needs:
    Better Customer Service
    New Quest Lines
    Cooking Profession
    New Class
    PvP Fix This game has the worst pvp I have seen since the Age of Conan

  6. The PVP in this game is not enjoying. No actual PVP duel (1v1). No GuildBattles. No PK system. Small and boring faction war that has only 5 towers to dominate.

  7. This game will not survive, constrictive gameplay average graphics, the classes have only one way and play more like power sets than a class. If I have a fighter in D&D I can use any weapon armor shield, A wizard has a choice of spells and a priest also and the rogue choice of weapons and style of play fight back stab or how ever he wants to play. The main issue is this does not even follow the very simplistic rules from 4th edition at all at times. No open world would not hurt this game but with all of the other restrictive things in the game plays more like a solo game you would buy play through the content and move on, which as of now is not much, Don’t get me wrong I had hopes but in the end it was the game design that failed as having a company who made a super hero game do this might not have been the way to go.
    To be a true D&D game first give the options you get in the books for starters which this did not, give us the basic races from start with this did not, give us the options from the start which this did not. If you don’t know that I mean just pick up a 4th edition book at a local game shop and flip through the pages, by the end of the first players book you too would be going WTF.

  8. There is absolutely no way the person writing this review has played the game for more than a hour or two because pretty much everything he said was absolute crap( only thing he got right question is boring). The combat in this game is fun and that’s the only good thing I can say about it.
    There are so many things wrong with it. Nearly every class has problems with skills not working as they should.
    I been playing mmo’s for a long time and I can confidently say I have never seen a game so ripe with bots and exploits mainly being pvp pretty much every game has 1 or more even up to the point me and my brother were the only none bots in a game which was a bizzare experience. But on the whole there are bots and exploits in practically every aspect of the game.
    Profesions well you could go as far as to say there just not required in this game they have no actual benefit to your character at all my first character was a control wizard so I thought I would max tailoring first, well that was plan I had hit 60 on 3 of the class’s before I gave up there was just no point carrying it on( and yes I was updating the q’s as much as possible thorugh the gateway on my phone) Leadership is porbablly the only one worth takeing because you can earn a little astral diamonds though it. But don’t expect to get rich.
    I could go on for pages about problems but to save mine and your time just go on the forums and you’ll get the idea.
    My honest opinion would be they should of kept it in beta for at least another 6 months. Which is another funny about 3 days before they announced the open beta was ending and game was lauching one of my mates I game with asked how much longer I thought it would be in beta for judgeing by what I seen and playing other games in beta and I had replied at least 6 months how wrong was I. ( I should of been right it definetly needed longer).
    Anyone thiking of trying it shelve the idea there are better games out there already and far better on the horizon.
    Now to deal with the reviewer I call you out by which I mean play this game for more than a hour. Infact you should play it for a hour or two everyday for the next month then come to write the review again because I could confidently bet a lot of money the review would have a different tone to it.

  9. A so-so review. Definitely gives off the impression that the author played for several hours at most, which is never good enough to build a coherent opinion.

    Combat might be dynamic and fun, while it’s fresh. But you don’t care to mention that having an imposed limit of only 5-6 active skills (and barely two passives!) gets boring very, very quickly. Switching your powers in and out is done in an extremely inconvenient way, and instantly becomes a chore. Of course some of these problems could be easily alleviated, but Cryptic has not shown any intention of doing so yet.

    Same with PvP. You quickly notice the limits, as there isn’t much to choose from. 2 maps, one style of gameplay. Tons of nasty bots.
    Boss fights? The most criticized aspect of the game. Very few challenging elements, almost every encounter is done in the same dull way – endless waves of adds rushing in to a boss’s help, trying to overhelm players by sheer numbers.

    Neverwinter can be really fun at first, but the feeling doesn’t last long. Add to that horrible customer service of Cryptic/PWE, too many blatant money-grubbing tactics, numerous bugs, and a plethora of other nuisances. There is a lot to fix in order to get it right.

  10. I love this game. I am a level 60 control wizard and stopped questing at level 50 to PvP to 60. I also enjoy the dungeons ^-^

  11. On the first day of its long waited module 1, Cryptics’ Neverwinter Online witnessed a huge wave of exploit which allows a precious epic item to be obtained at 1/20 of its original market cost, a bug that has been reported on its own test server 6 days prior to the launch, but received no attention from the devs. After the incident, Cryptics did not perform any rollbacks and expressed no intention of taking any sort of measures against the exploiters, neither are they willing to track down the exploited epic items.

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