For a precursor to this post, and what lead up to its writing, be sure to check my this post first, then jump back here. Okay, so I was once a huge MMO gamer, my World of Warcraft days were the only way to get my ‘RPG fix with other actual living people’ before my re-induction to the tabletop world. I played long hours and ran a hardcore raiding guild for 2 straight years, disregarded schoolwork, relationships, shaving, and overall missed out on a lot of things real life had to offer. Thankfully those days are over and so what I look for in an MMO is a lot different. To be honest I don’t look for MMO’s at all anymore because of the time constraints and obligations they inter, and also my habit to become wildly addicted to them. That being said I may not be the hardest of the hardcore anymore, and if you’re looking for thoughts on the game from that vantage point you may as well stop reading now.
Recently I picked up Guild Wars 2. Yes this piece is about Neverwinter but I’m going somewhere with this so just sit tight. I picked it up on a whim to relive some old memories with a few buddies and spend more time with a friend who had moved away, also it seemed just too hard to pass up being that there was no subscription fee. The game is great, I played for a few months but have since fell out of love with my class and been too preoccupied with a glut of other great games to play. I have coined Guild Wars 2 “the MMO for adults who have jobs and/or lives” because of its ease of entry and non-committal nature. You can log in and play for a bit and hop right back off and still feel like you accomplished something, which I find greatly important between having an amazing wife and 2 kids who deserve my attention, 2 and a half jobs, and a social life away from a computer monitor.
“Pay To Win”? Nope
My only minor issue with Guild Wars was the 60$ bar to enter. It wasn’t bad, but it was still a bar. Here I was paying $60 for another MMO which I may or may or may not still want to play within a few months. With Neverwinter I feel that you’re getting all of the “gamer with a life” benefits of Guild Wars 2 and also waiving the entrance fee, because there’s none of that, the game is free to download and free to play. Yes there is a cash store “freemium” option for things but from all I can gather it is not “pay to win”. It is actually somewhat similar to Guild Wars 2’s setup for their cash store. It may be “pay to save time” however, which I’m totally okay with. Why? Because I’m an adult who can’t spend a ton of time raiding/grinding/questing to get the cool bits that I want out of a game. I’ve dropped a total of 30$ on other “freemium” games like Tribes Ascend and I’m very, very happy about it. That’s half of what I’d have spent for a major release AAA title video game and I’ve gotten at least 35+ hours of gameplay out of it so far and look forward to a lot more, that’s a pretty cheap entertainment/dollar ratio if you ask me.
With Neverwinter’s “zen” (real cash) store you can get mounts, bags, consumables, companions (which are like pets, but they actually help you fight, especially helpful for solo adventuring) and more, though you can earn all of these items in game without ever spending a dime. There’s also a thing you can do hourly by sending a prayer to your deity which grants you a short buff and some kinds of tokens that are redeemable for other goodies too, including a unicorn mount which someone I know is awfully excited about.
Apples, Oranges, and Eyestalks
Let it be known that I’m not a fan of saying “oh it’s just like X but with Y” when it comes to games, at least not on a cynical level of merely writing them off. Almost every creative work is a derivative of various other creative works so let’s just get that out of the way right now. At this point though, calling any game a “clone” of something typically isn’t fair unless it is obviously a blatant clone of another title. (see: Runes of Magic)
If I had to compare Neverwinter to another single game, I wouldn’t. I’d say that it was honestly a large blend of things with one big unique twist – the gameplay is all action oriented. The combat reminded me of a hybrid between Diablo and the old console D&D games of yore where you go around smashing barrels and racing to run over the little piles of gold and potions before your buddies did (though that’s not actually the case in Neverwinter, loot isn’t shared).
The action economy reminded me of something between classic MMO “cooldowns” (at will and encounter powers) and limit breaker abilities that you build up ala Final Fantasy (daily powers, which are over the top awesome). The grouping system is simple and easy to grab friends and go, the built in voice chat is wonderful (when it works, I had to relog a few times to get it to “click”), you share gold when in a party and items aren’t shared so there’s no fighting over loot. You will obtain items that you can’t use though, which is a good thing because it helps you gear friends, alts, or at the very least make some coin selling the stuff. Each dungeon and most quests have a chest at the end that holds an item just for your class which is a nice touch.
However most likely though, people will compare Neverwinter to Guild Wars 2. There are scrying orbs that are like GW2’s vistas -allowing you to see a large overview of the map via some awesome aerial camera angle, as well as a few other minor aspects that will prompt the comparison of the two games. It’s unavoidable and I’d rather not get into any pissing matches about it, so let’s avoid that if we can. All this being said let’s move on to actually talking about now Neverwinter plays and feels on its own merits instead of playing the name game, shall we?
Look & Feel, More Coming Tomorrow
Let me first just say that I had an absolute blast playing every moment of Neverwinter this past weekend. I really didn’t want to put it down, I even woke up thinking about playing it both days of the beta weekend. To top that off each time I woke up thinking about it, my wife had already beat me to the punch because I was woken up by the sounds of frantic clicking and spells being thrown about. Anytime a game does that to me, I know it’s doing something right.
Neverwinter feels very fluid, I thought at first that the action “mouselook always on” feel would be too twitchy for an MMO. This didn’t work very well in Conan so I was not sure what to think. After my very first combat interaction though I was glad to be wrong, the lock on features are great and everything just feels smooth and super playable. Combat in this game is addicting. Speaking of smooth though, the graphics themselves are very “D&D” and work wonderfully for the setting of the game, environments are very varied and look beautiful in a lot of places. Although they do feel somewhat dated in other aspects (especially the character models), and the animations, particularly those of your enemies are still very rough in places but it is a beta after all. Honestly though I don’t really give two shits about the graphics because I don’t play games for the visuals, they’re just icing on the cake. For those of you who are PC hardware nerds I’m running an Athlon II X4 630, 8GB of DDR3, and a Radeon HD 7850 2GB, I ran the game on maximal settings with zero performance issues when I wasn’t streaming.
Tomorrow I’ll be covering what the game’s first 20 levels felt like, classes, races, skills, character creation, leveling, builds, the dungeon I ran along with the queue’ing system, questing, and more. If you want a sneak peak or some insight into what I’m going to be talking about you can check out my live streaming coverage of day 1 that includes the aforementioned topics for tomorrow’s post. The stream is also full of commentary and questions I was taking from d20Monkey and some other people from the internet! After the gamer perspective commentary, I’ll be writing up an entire blog from the point of being a tabletop D&D player and the possibilities behind the game’s foundry. Expect that early next week.[button link=”http://www.twitch.tv/dreadgazeebo/b/375362445″ size=”medium” variation=”red” align=”center” target=”blank”]Watch The Stream, Neverwinter Gameplay In Action[/button] [button link=”http://www.twitch.tv/dreadgazeebo/c/2011709″ size=”medium” variation=”blue” align=”center” target=”blank”]Bonus Clip: “HOLY SHIT IT’S A MIMIC!”[/button]