Review: Neverwinter Online Beta

First and foremost, I’d like to preface that…I am an old coot. If you don’t know what that is without googling (and don’t bother with that new fangled Urbandictionary), then you’re younger than me…and that’s just fine. Also, I’ve been granted an honor to write for ole Jonnie boy’s sacred Backlog and hope that I’ll be able to participate, help, inform, humor, and enjoy this experience. Without further ado…one, two, SkiDOOOOO!

Since Dungeons and Dragons is a beloved game (enjoyed by myself and many kinsmen), I wanted to make this review with some side input from the “playing” friends of my group, as well as my thoughts and feels. Within this article you’ll find a few thoughts on their positives and negatives, maybe even gripes to their utter exuberance. Our plan was to play together, and on our own. I think you will enjoy the method as it was…and is, part of my madness.

I jumped right in to building a character (which D&D Online does well, as does Neverwinter), and came out with the spitting image of my most recent irl D&D character, my Dwarf named Doppler…a cleric learning the ways of his Cleric grandpappy. There aren’t many classes or races to choose from, but the customization is still good. If you’re familiar with playing actual D&D, you roll your dice (typically in accordance to your DM’s request) to find your stats. With Neverwinter, it’s a random roll for all stats. There is an option for re-roll the dice if the numbers aren’t up to your liking. I kept my first stats since they seemed fair. After around 15 minutes of customization, I figured it was time to launch my character into the game.

 

Doppler in all is stunning Dwarfiness.

Doppler in all his stunning Dwarfiness.

Doppler giving this Orc the spiritual bird, lay'n the smack down!

Doppler giving this Orc the spiritual bird, lay’n the smack down!

First off, one of my favorite things to do is to start off any MMO by trolling the chat with how (fill in the blank) game is exactly like WoW. Of course the game is not, but what fun it is to see that chat pane light up with all sorts of colorful verbs, nouns, & adjectives. What I was ultimately worried about when starting Neverwinter the first time was wondering “How similar will Neverwinter be in comparison to D&D online?” DDO was made back in 2006 and suffered from many different this and thats, but we’re talking Neverwinter today…so deal with it *shades lower onto face*.

One DnD friend (Username: Rossicle) felt that the game has a straight forward learning curve. And although I agree with this, another DnD friend (Username: MrPink) feels that the starting area was a bit lacking. MrPink felt it was gimmicky, leaving you wanting. I felt that it was quick to try to push you through the first several levels, and on into the main city of Neverwinter. I guess this may be a sign of the MMO times, but most of “MMO’ers” (if that’s not a word, give me enough time to put it in urbandictionary.com) these days want levels, talents, and abilities a bit more quickly. It could use a bit more story and feeling, is all I’m getting at.

Neverwinter has a “similar” look and feel to DDO…and that’s about it. The graphics, although not completely realistic and not cartoonish like WoW, or anime like Tera, are quite pleasing to the eye. I thoroughly love the dwarf base model (and all the customization). There were a few bugs here and there, but it being a beta, I won’t even take time to gripe. Medium to high-end pc’s/lappies will enjoy the enhanced graphics of Neverwinter. One thing that does “grind my gears,” that I hope to lord Neverember they fix is the quest givers’ mouths. It’s a small pet peeve, but if you’re going to have the quest givers mouth the words to the voice reading the quest, make the mouth not just open and close. Friggin PS1 games had correct mouth shape for pronunciation. It’s 2013, there has to be an app for it by now.

Cloak Tower dungeon with a Control Wizard and his tank companion. Got a bit harry a couple times.

Cloak Tower dungeon with a Control Wizard and his tank companion. Got a bit harry a couple of times.

Basically, the game takes on the 4th edition rules (which most dice rollers avoid like the plague, vs the favored version 3.5) and integrates it into the fictional city of Neverwinter, within the Forgotten Realms campaign. For many Forgotten Realm enthusiasts (of which I am quite ignorant), this game has a certain appeal, from what I’ve read online. Just playing it and not knowing the backstory of Neverwinter, I must admit that I now want to know more. Although 4th edition may not be the most popular, it may have found its niche here in MMO land.

As I had previously alluded, nearly all the quests are voice acted and make for more interesting questing, vs the a-typical “grabbing a quest without reading and grinding away.” You might find yourself doing this with some (or most if that is your choice), but if you enjoy story, it isn’t hard to listen to the quest read after you’ve accepted it and heading toward your goal. Which brings me to the Sparkly Glowing Trail of Direction; a quest aid (and dungeon aid which we’ll note on a bit later) which helps direct you to a mob to kill, item to collect, or how to get back to the quest giver to turn in the quest. You can go wherever you want, but it’ll be there just in case you lose your way. I found myself forgetting and ignoring it until I got lost or had trouble looking for a quest item. It seemed that it magically appeared to me, even if it had always been there.  One new to Neverwinter will find that most quests are not hard, but are more fun if you party up with locals doing the same quests. But, if you’re on your own, the SGToD will help you progress along.

If you'll look beyond my /emote dancesexy, you can sexy this mystical trail leading me to my next quest.

If you’ll look beyond my /emote dancesexy, you can see this mystical trail leading me to my next quest.

When it’s time to go slay that undead walker or drooling orc warrior, your combative spells/actions are simple at first, and you’ll find them on your left and right mouse buttons. Neverwinter uses a target based combat system, complete with reticle for targeting the baddies. Although the target style “seemed” similar to tera, while casting a multi-firing spell shot with my Cleric, a moving mob would be followed by my reticle. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I’m curious how this would play out with PVP. MrPink added that he felt the game had, “decent combat that involves some tactical decision, rather than face tank and mash skills.”

My Cleric had a slide dodge action that helped to avoid being knuckled down every now and then. While playing with other classes, it seems that all (if not most) of the classes have some sort of avoidance action (read: blink, tumble, etc). I did enjoy evading an attack that would have normally knocked my socks off, and Rossicle commented that it was a very rewarding fight mechanic (in total).

What if I were to tell you that around lvl 15 you get a companion?! Do not scoff for I speak TRUTH! It’s true, and as MrPink exclaimed, “it makes life much easier!” Still learning the ins and the outs of the game, I was still in the mindset of working on being a healer class, so I chose a clerical companion to aid me in my travels and dungeon runs (I’ve since been belittled in chat for making said horrible choice). Before that though, I was in my first dungeon, well before I had finished the quest to pick up my own companion, and another member of our group in the dungeon had his tanking type warrior companion. When a couple of the other dungeon members had left, his companion was able to give us a bit of an edge to finish the dungeon. I’m not sure I can heal them, for I tried and was unable to focus my heals or target them. If this is due to my ignorance, please…leave a comment below stating otherwise.

As you fight, turn in quests, etc. you’re leveling up…and it feels gewd. You start to accrue points for “Powers” and “Feats.” Powers (At will, Encounter, & Dailies) are going to be your spells and actions/attacks. There are many to choose from and it appears that most have 3 ranks (1 point spent to gain a rank), and by the 3rd rank, the spell or attack is now it’s most powerful. The feats are a bit different, what seem very talent tree like, but allow you to put points into 3 different categories to better help you attain a Paragon Path of your choosing. For me, I started putting points into the healing and damage since I’m leveling. MrPink felt that the system, as a whole, was easy to learn and had more than enough to choose from. We’re both wondering if within the game the trees will develop cookie cutter builds as the game progresses forward…but I can’t see the future ever since the accident so I’ll just have to wait.

Split screen of the Powers and Feats tabs.

Split screen of the Powers and Feats tabs.

A split screen of both character sheet and Quest Log. Powers & Feats tabs

Split screen of both character sheet and Quest Log.

As you’re questing, similar to DDO, you’ll enter a one man instance (or two-man if you have your buddy along) “dungeon.” This could be the sewers, a library, or building that you enter; in doing so you fight plenty of bad guys, fighting your way to the end where the boss (the focal point to the quest) is waiting. Well, now he/she is mad and you need to fight for your life. I never had issue with any of these lower level quest instances, maybe because I can also heal myself, but they range from easy to pretty darn tough. After said boss has had their life force removed from them with due haste, you see a glowing trunk. Upon opening, it’s full of useless….uh, I mean….full of items that will tuck nicely into your small slot bag. Well criminy…my bag’s full of rat’s teeth and feathers! Where’d I get feathers!?!

Rolled a Guardian Fighter to get an idea on tank-types. Time for heads to roll!

Rolled a Guardian Fighter to get an idea on tank-types. Time for some heads to roll!

It is here that in both single player instances, or dungeons that require a small party, that the Sparkly Glowing Trail of Direction comes back into play. I often wondered if It was there, not so much as an aid, but to distract you from exploring other rooms where you’d find lock boxes, tomes, and other items lying around that you can snugly fit into your little satchel. I agree with  what MrPink said about the trail (especially in terms of instances)that it, “can leave the quests feeling incredibly linear. That being said I enjoy that there are lots of secret areas to discover; but sometimes the minidungeons are really straightforward and don’t leave much to the imagination.” (Minidungeons being the 1-2 man dungeons/instances)

For the multiple player dungeons, there is a queue. You can all rest easy now for I know you all were quite worried. You should know that queue times were long. Because people are still learning this beta, you’ll get grouped up with people who (for any number of reasons) leave mid dungeon. There is NO way to start back up the queue, and you’re typically stuck with having to restart. I don’t like that…and everyone in the realm seems to make note of it as well in the zone chat. The 1st dungeon when you’re in the lvl 15’sh, Cloak Tower, being my first…was a bit drab and only gave a slight challenge with 2 people and a tanking companion. I know that it is the first, but I think it could have been so much more. That said, I’ll hold off my opinions and possible nay saying on dungeons until I am able to experience more of them at higher levels. I am still looking forward to upper level dungeons and end game quality/quantity.

After finally finishing the Cloak Tower dungeon, I headed back to the city (Protector’s Enclave) to turn in the various quests (one of which being the one where I’d acquire my companion), and empty my bags of garbage. Some of the quests pointed out how to use the various markets, train for pvp, where the auctioneer was located, and a few other informationals. I must admit, I’m a little overwhelmed when going to the various markets. There are, what seems like, too many forms of currency. Money…I understand. You pick it up off dead mobs. You get some when finishing certain quests. It’s the almighty Coin! But then you have Astral Diamonds and others I have no clue about, it makes my head spin. MrPink felt that the use of Astral Diamonds is a bit too vague. Learning curves are part of any game, and with MMO’s it takes time to absorb all of the game’s many nuances; especially after having played others for long periods of time (read: WoW). I’m willing to put forth more time into figuring out the entirety of vendoring.

My Guardian Warrior "think" he can read. He wasn't taught to read, but to SMASH!

My Guardian Warrior “thinking” he can read. He wasn’t taught to think OR read, but to SMASH!

Another part of the learning process for my character, when back in town, is an introduction to crafting. I’m sorry, but I’m lazy. And because of this laziness I typically don’t dive into the crafting during a beta (that and I’m married with children, yada yada yada). Most of my time is just plain playing, killing, collecting, etc. So I’ll leave this up to MrPink to better explain: Neverwinter has, “a robust crafting system that rewards long term.” You’ll also want to know, to craft, you’ll need materials that you collect. To collect, you must have a skill in that node (dungeoneering, religion, theft, nature, etc). You’ll know what you need, for the node will tell you once you mouse over. You can buy “kits” that allow the same thing as having the skill, but they cost money, and could easily wipe you out financially. You also collect these kits off mobs and drops/chests. That’s the only way I’ll obtain them, for I usually horde my coin. Another interesting thing is…the kits have a percentage of success. Every so often they just don’t work. And you’re left eyeing over materials you can’t place in your grubby hands. Awwwwwe! 🙁

When you learn of crafting, you find that you can only craft one thing at first, for a time. MrPink commented that, “it can be slow and tedious.” He went on to elaborate that you then train an artisan (NPC) that will become your “main man,” your asset…the person in charge of the crafting operations. Just like other mmo’s, all crafting items require materials. When you run out, you either hit the grind and have plenty of kits in your measly bag, OR….send that asset out and collect your materials. Assets love collecting materials! MrPink, “As you level up professions and your character level, you gain more slots to have multiple tasks running at once. So, you can level a low profession stupid-fast, or you can multitask two professions.”

Doppler busting out all KINDS of AOE. this one not only hurts, but it heals all party members.

Doppler busting out all KINDS of AOE. This one not only hurts, but it heals all party members.

As is the norm for me with playing a beta, I learn of all types of great options designed within the game, for the benefit of their fan base, yet don’t always have time to fully embark into. That which I vaguely allude to is…”Foundry.” To me, the Foundry option is a method of sorts, to get traditional play in the digital realm. You’re able to create your own locations and develop adventures for your group similar to being the DM of your group of dice rollers. Will this take off? Not sure. If you plan on role-playing your online toon, this might be a lot of fun. Time will tell if it flops.

There are other sites dedicated to playing actual DnD online like www.roll20.net. Very simplified, easy to use, and very much free. Which leads me into Neverwinter’s money aspect. As in, “what’s this game going to cost me? Well!?  WEEEELLLLLLLLL!??!?!”

As far as I can ascertain, not a dang thang! My hopes, from seeing what Enmasse did with their “completely” free to play model of their game TERA Online, is that Neverwinter too will be free to play what ever, when ever. There was an exponential boom of population in TERA the day it went  free to play. And you can level up from 1 to 60, all the dungeons and raids, all items that are needed, all available. This is my dream for all MMO’s. I guess that’d be a DreaMMO. Get it?! No? Ok, moving right along. Costs are going to vary, but they’ll inevitably be primarily for helping you level and/or making you look more sexy in-game.

I logged on to www.perfectworld.com and clicked over to the Neverwinter site, to find out what they are offering, package wise, for those that are thinking about getting serious with this game. The least expensive was the “Starter Pack.” Contents included some token of protection, that leveled as you level, bag of holding to expand your wienie little bag, and a chest of useful items. All for the low low price of $19.99.

What’s that, you say you want to get a little more serious? Good thing I researched this a few minutes right?! The next stage is the “Guardian of Neverwinter” Pack. You get things like a gnarly pet, an armored horsie, 600,000 elusive Astral Diamonds, and around 10 other useful items that will make you “squee” in joy. Priced at $59.99. In short, the price of a new game on just about any platform.

Whelp that about sums….what? You said you are more serious than that huh? NO no no…I don’t take you for a crazed lunatic. Hold on…there’s something else here too. Wait, there’s a “Hero of the North” pack!!! After hearing this my wife exclaimed, “Brace yourself…Winter is comine!” You get access to a new race of dark elves, a black panther pet, one absolutely crazy looking spider mount, 2 million Astral Diamonds (said with Dr. Evil’s voice), and 18 more wonderful action packed helpful items. There is a catch though, and there are a ton of things you can purchase that would be more useful in real life with $200. But fret not, for it doesn’t cost $200. Nope it’s $199.99, which will make you feel somewhat better when you drop that chunk of change. Of course it won’t; but to each their own I suppose.

Cheap, Normal, WTH!

Cheap, Normal, WTH!

Overall: Being that I wanted to find a ton more wrong with this game, it simply wasn't the case. All of us that have played it so far, have enjoyed it. It's quite fun! The learning curve of this game will take some time and some getting used to, but it's not insanely over the top confusing as other MMO's I've played. There are some visual aspects of the game that need some polish, and I hope that they address them before the game officially goes live. If you're interested in helping us form a Guild, you can find me, Doppler, on Dragon server/realm.

Overall: Being that I wanted to find a ton more wrong with this game, it simply wasn’t the case. All of us that have played it so far, have enjoyed it. It’s quite fun! The learning curve of this game will take some time and some getting used to, but it’s not insanely over the top confusing as other MMO’s I’ve played. There are some visual aspects of the game that need some polish, and I hope that they address them before the game officially goes live. If you’re interested in helping us form a Guild, you can find me, Doppler, on Dragon server/realm.

James Gordon Author b2


6 Comments

  1. Alex Kueneman May 17, 2013 6:41 am  Reply

    Excellent write-up Macgordon! I too have enjoyed playing Neverwinter.

    You bring up a good point with grouping up. I also found for certain encounters/dungeons it is important to have a group for ease; or test your skill and solo them for an increased difficulty mode.

  2. Andrew (Mr. Pink) Roberts May 17, 2013 8:59 am  Reply

    I’d like to say having looked into the currency with a bit more scrutiny that it’s actually quite in-depth. Yes there is a who bag of holding’s load worth of different currencies but each one fits into it’s little niche. Right about level 20 you finally unlock just about everything available in the game as it stands now and access to just about all the currencies. Here’s what I know now:

    >Gold,silver,copper: Base currency that every MMO player knows.

    >Astral Diamonds: This is the “real” currency of the game. These are used in just about every aspect of the later game.

    >Seals (Lion, Unicorn, Manticor, Dragon): These are dungeon based currencies you get when you que up for the 6 man dungeon runs and are dropped by all the bosses.

    >Glory: PvP currency straight and simple. Have yet to find the vendor.

    >Ardent and Celestial Coins: Gained from currying favor from the gods once a day. Used to buy incredibly powerful pieces of equipment or seals *see above*.

    Just what I have learned of the currency so far.

  3. MacGordon May 17, 2013 10:32 am  Reply

    Criminy…still overwhelming. I’m sure you’re right though, regarding the niche fitment. It’ll just a bit of time to find what is most useful, and how to attain globs of it. Thanks again MrPink for your help.

  4. Rossicle May 17, 2013 9:16 pm  Reply

    Well sad Mr. Gordon! Clearly you two delved much deeper than I have. Good write-up!

  5. Lammz May 19, 2013 8:40 pm  Reply

    You misspelled “ado”.

  6. MacGordon May 27, 2013 5:03 pm  Reply

    Your mom didn’t mind.

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