Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter kicks off as it means to go on: with a graphic and gritty depiction of the Litch Queen’s advancement on New Neverwinter as her undead forces advance and kill everything in their wake, she’s soon halted and her unrelenting push is forced back onto itself. As you can imagine, your goal is to head to the Litch Queen and stop her while saving Neverwinter in the process.
It’s here you start, awaking upon the shore after the opening cut scene’s battle has played out, discovering that you ship has sunk and it’s just you left to save the world. Thankfully you can fill in all those plot holes left in your memory by talking to NPCs and making choices to divulge more information about the world around you and the missions you’re undertaking.
It’s also refreshing to see that Neverwinter isn’t like traditional MMO’s that throw you into huge, wide-open areas full of BAMS and other monsters. For Neverwinter Cryptic Studios really wanted a story-driven MMO that plays and feels like other single player RPG’s such as Dragon Age and Mass Effect. What this means is that you are going to be traveling paths, towns, cities, houses, basements and, obviously, dungeons.
D&D Neverwinter’s combat is action-based meaning that as long as you’re aiming at the enemy you’ll hit them. You can also see certain enemy attacks as they highlight its area of attack, thus allowing you to quickly dodge out of the way of attacks. Neverwinter has also done away with Mana, instead placing your abilities onto timers. Regaining health is now as simple as finding a camp or resting at a fire, meaning you wont have to waste a lot of moves and time trying to heal between fights. You’ll also gain action points each time you attack an enemy, these point work towards activating your extremely powerful daily power – which varies from class to class.
This feature means that those who haven’t played an MMO before can ease themselves into it nicely. Playing alone isn’t a lonesome experience either as it just feels like a single-player title, as areas aren’t densely populated with players unless you’re inside a city. You could also play through the entire story yourself if you feel like it, but there are group instances that occur on a timer if you want to jump in and play with others, but there’s always another waiting around the corner.
D&D has always allowed players to fully create their own hero with everything from looks to the characters backstory. Thankfully, D&D Neverwinter is no different, in that it allows you to select your characters Origins, Deity affiliation, and also grants you the ability to write your own biography for your character that can be read by other players. It really lets you feel like you’re creating your own hero within the world of Neverwinter.
Character creation also has a lot to offer. You can select one of the eight races – with a ninth one coming soon. You’ll have Humans, Dwarfs, Half Elfs, Drows, etc. to choose from. After you choose your race, it’s time to pick one of the five classes on offer and, just like with the races, there’s another class on the way. Once all of that’s done and dusted, in true D&D fashion it’s time to roll a die for your ability scores that become your character’s stats. If that wasn’t enough, you get to pick an ability bonus to further increase one of your stats.
Levelling up your character grants you feats that, in turn, give you points for additional battle advantages known as paragons. You can choose between Conqueror for weapon specialisation, Protector for defence, and Tactician to help change the flow of battle with traps.
Companions also feature in Neverwinter but need to be purchased with Zen – the real money currency. They can also be summoned at any time to aid you in your battles, but you can also purchase equipment to help make them better in many different ways. Paying with Astral Diamonds –in-game currency – means you can send them off to train and improve their effectiveness. However, during this time you won’t be able to make use of them until their training is complete. Companions come in many different shapes and sizes, for example you can have anything from a badger to an elf, or maybe you want a golem. And, as Neverwinter is continually being patched to add new things for you to purchase all the time, you’ll never feel like your money being wasted. Large amounts of Astral Diamonds can also be traded for Zen again making it so you don’t feel forced to take money out of your own wallet.
You can achieve Astral Diamonds by completing special missions that reward you with them, along with artefacts, money and experience. There are also Foundry Missions added daily that offer up special loot and genuinely separate it from the pack. These missions allow you to play user-generated levels to add longevity to everything. When you’re creating levels, you can place NPCs and craft your own storylines across areas, allowing you and others to weave new narrative into the world of Neverwinter.
Wonderfully, Neverwinter isn’t like many other free-to-play games out there. Instead of that nagging feeling where you’ll eventually hit a wall that can only be bested by real money, Neverwinter lets you get almost anything on offer through hard work. There’s just a handful of items and objects that cannot be obtained this way, but that’s not really a big issue. You can play through the entire story plus get the weapons and armor you want, as long as you’re willing to spend a large amount of time gathering what you need. There is the option, if you want it, to just pay for almost anything outright, but they don’t twist your arm into doing so.
Neverwinter is a good looking game, most of the time. The fact that it’s a f2p title really outdoes itself as it’s incredible when you stop and really pay attention to some of the details. The character models and armor all look really good, but other times they can look a bit dated. One thing could be seen as a negative is that there isn’t really an open world to explore. You can quick travel to each place, but there aren’t any massive areas with hidden caves or anything like that.
If you’re new to MMO’s this will ease you into the whole process. And it’s also really nice that areas just don’t feel crowded or overly bustling while you’re exploring. If you’re a fan of Dungeons & Dragons lore then this has a lot to offer to you, there’s backstory for almost everything and you’ll easily be pulled in if you allow it too. I think that everyone that’s a fan of MMOs should really give this a whirl, it’s free-to-play so what do you have to lose?
Audio/Visual – 4/5: The soundtrack is pretty good and quest NPC’s are voiced well, which helps when they look rather good too. Shame that sometimes things do look dated though.
Gameplay – 3/5: Feels simple at times, but it’s much better during intense encounters.
Innovation – 5/5: Offers a lot and the Foundry will keep you hooked for a long time to come.
Value – 5/5: Free and really good fun with friends.