I had a nostalgically grand time playing Perfect World’s new MMORPG, “Dungeons & Dragons – Neverwinter” tonight and I must say, I’m pretty impressed. Like most kids who grew up in the 80’s, I love Dungeons and Dragons and Neverwinter has given the players a nice taste of the good old D&D magic. Cryptic Studios has gone out of their way to make sure that they remain faithful to the world that so many role-players adore while bringing the city of Neverwinter to life.
Of course the player can customize their avatar from every minute feature of the body, to the color of their skin and the scars on their face. There are many signature classes to choose from–Guardian Fighter, Control Wizard and my personal favorite the Trickster Rogue. Neverwinter doesn’t stop there. Just like in D&D, you can create an entire world that your character is from by picking a location on the map, choose a deity and even custom write your own history and bio that is visible not only to you but to any other player who decides to stalk you and inspect your goods. There’s even a die role for your attributes!! Awesome!
Meet my sexy character, Faral Moonwalker — Trickster Half Elf Rogue
The art is amazing, as expected and for a Beta, gameplay was pretty smooth. There were a few bugs and glitches that I had to endure but it didn’t really hinder me. I only had to type /killme once because I was stuck in a deep hole that I couldn’t get out of. Kudos to the engineers who were probably crunching for weeks to get this thing running. This world is massive and there are plenty things to do. One thing that I haven’t figured out yet, though, are the professions and skill sets. I’m not sure where to find a trainer, but maybe that’s not set up for the Beta.
The skill tree is extensive and branches into three sections which differs from class to class. As you level up, you receive Skill points and Astral points that you can spend on different stats or skills. If you are wanting to stay on top of the latest fashion trends, you can purchase some dye and change the look of your gear.
One of the coolest things I’ve noticed so far is the Recommendation feature. For every weapon, armor or jewelry that you wish to adorn your character with, the game will offer a *Recommended on the piece that will give you stronger stats. I really appreciate this as it can be overwhelming at times trying to do the math and figure out if I really need that much critical strike or if I should stick with adding more HP. Another nice feature is the sparkly trail that tracks your quest for you. Basically, it’s a glittery beacon that lights up the correct path for the first quest on your tracker. Though it’s easy to go on auto-pilot and forget to look at the world around you (sounds like real life), it’s also extremely convenient when trying to remember where to go next. It kept me from getting lost several times. There is an option to turn it off, so don’t stress if you really want to immerse yourself and explore the world on your own.
One of the cool things that I’ve spoken about before are mods or player created quests/content. Players have access to the developer’s game engine, like Skyrim and Starcraft have done very successfully and Neverwinter is no exception. There are message boards all over the town where you can access The Foundry. This is where you can see all of the player created content, rate and review these quests, tip the player-designer who created said quest. This is a very cool incentive for players to create content. A player who receives a lot of tips could have their quest featured or use their hard earned tips for in game content such as companions or cool gear.
Now, as my love for MMORPG’s is vast, my patience for bad quests is small. I played a few player created quests tonight and though I wasn’t expecting pure genius (it does happen more often than you would think), I was really disappointed in one certain quest. To save this player any embarrassment, let’s just call this “The Quest That Shall Not Be Named”. It is possible you may figure out which quest it is by my description, but that would require some serious quest playing.
The Quest That Shall Not Be Named:
I am ALL for giving players the opportunity to expand their creativity and put their own love and care into their favorite games through mods, but some this one seem a bit contrived. First of all, this first chain of what I fear is to be a “omgwaytoolong” quest goes on forever. There is a ton of running, with some easy, yet sporadic killing on the way. The enemies are pretty cool looking but there really isn’t any challenge to them. It seems like the tuning of difficulty could have been tweaked some and ramped up as I journeyed further into the level. Every single time you encounter one of these enemies, not only do they die easily enough but a booming, demon-like voice yells out something like, “Feel the pain”, which is actually quite accurate because this is quite a painful moment. The voice over is oddly cutoff when you kill the poor bastard and leaves the potential cool moment flat.
The layout is way too long. It feels like the designer was trying to make a point at how labyrinthine they could make their levels and give that sense of “WOW, look at me. My levels are so intricate and expansive. Pretty bad ass, huh?” Not so much. I’m bored and frustrated. This totally kills any sense of pacing. The first section was actually not bad, starting in a building and then warp into the killjoy level, but all in all, this level is very dry.
Also, story wise, I’m confused. This could be my fault, however, since I can’t remember if I just click, click, clicked my way through the dialogue. Other than having to find some child, who come to find out has been flayed and left for dead (um, can you say “cross the line”?), I really don’t know what’s going on. There are so many sloppy placement of rock walls and items that are hanging off edges unnaturally that it’s pulling me out of this “space”, which is sort of a good thing I guess.
There’s also some random stuff thrown in the middle of an area that just doesn’t make sense. Like this lighting wall.
You’d think there would be a conjurer on the other side of it making this wall of lighting that would harm the player unless they used a ranged weapon or something to kill him in order to pass through unharmed. Nope. It’s there for no reason and doesn’t add to the game at all. It’s unfortunate. Seems that there were a lot of fun assets that the designer had access to and just threw everything in there except the kitchen sink.
I feel what is really missing are more puzzle features that would allow more exploration, discovery, and more rewards. There is one section just before you’re warped to the labyrinth of floating rock paths where you have to locate a key somewhere in the building and that works. However, that’s it. The enemies respawn when you travel back to an known area and have some decent drops, which is fine, but I ran for about 20 minutes and finally got to what I thought was the end, seeing as there was this giant vortex opening up. I assumed I needed to enter the vortex so I could move on but other than some cool animation when my character came near it, it didn’t do anything except look cool. Then I realized, oh crap, I still have one more piece of information that I have to gather on these monsters to complete this quest and it’s waaaaay on the other side of the map.
SO, I had to run for 20 minutes to get that one clue and then run ALL the way back to the vortex to complete Part 1 of this quest. What??? Since this is the end of the level, why punish me by making me arbitrarily run a million miles back to the vortex when it should have opened up right near me. All of the other quests done by the Neverwinter level designers did this? Oh well…back to the town. Oh, and there isn’t a part 2 to this quest, which I guess is a blessing in disguise.
All that being said, I give this designer MAJOR kudos for trying and working really hard to put this quest together. I appreciate the intent they were going for and hope that they had a great time working on it. Who knows, this player could end up being the next David Jaffe!! So, keep designing my friend, learn from your mistakes and continue to make great games.
Anywhoo, Dungeons & Dragons – Neverwinter is a pretty rad game so far and I’m looking forward to playing more. Maybe I’ll be a Controlling Wizard next time around!!
Set to release early 2013, check out more on Neverwinter at nw.perfectworld.com
Game On–Gamer Geeks!
Enjoy some screenshots from the Beta Weekend!