The MMO has quickly become the flavor of the month. It seems that game designers are in competition to build the next World of Warcraft. Since no other game can steal the thunder from Blizzards massive online monster the game developers have started to brand their games as “free” in order to steal the precious players from WoW.
Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment have recently released Neverwinter Online a new take on the MMO, with many of the familiar devices which have caused others to fall down in a ball of molten rubble.
Neverwinter Online is modeled loosely after the popular RPG game Neverwinter Nights, a game based on Dungeons & Dragons rules. The only thing that the MMO version shares with its predecessor is the name Neverwinter which is the main city in the game.
On the one hand Neverwinter looks gorgeous; the cities spout an aura of life with non-player characters addressing the player as they pass through the streets. All the quests created by Cryptic are voice acted with crisp dialogue.
On the other hand the constant cries of the patrons of the city can get tedious. There is only so many vendors yells of “The best goods in Neverwinter” one person can take before the voices pierce your ears and you shut the sound off.
The controls in the game are simplistic which makes it quite easy for the average game player to get into. Essentially the game uses W, A, S, D for movement and Q, E, and the 1-6 keys for combat, potions, and mounts. It seems like the game was designed to be easily ported to consoles once it reaches good response from the PC gamers.
There are five different classes one can choose from each with different abilities and roles: The Great Weapon fighter a master of two-handed weapons and expert in multi-enemy battles, the Devoted Cleric powerful healer, The Trickster Rogue fierce one on one damage dealer who can disable traps, the Control Wizard a mage with abilities to disable enemies and deliver powerful attacks, and finally the Guardian Fighter a protector of the group with a shield and sword to tank damage and keep his party alive.
While in the process of leveling there are many quests to complete. In addition to the story mode quests there is a system which allows players to create and share quests with the rest of the community, referred to as Foundry Quests.
Foundry Quests are like Dungeons & Dragons adventures, player created quests with stories that are composed in the minds of your peers. The better adventures are recognized by Cryptic and given the spotlight each week, they also become credible as requirements in daily quests that require you to complete player made quests.
One of the best and at the same time worst aspects of Neverwinter is the player vs. player system. The PvP gameplay is fast paced and relies heavily on skill. In order to win you must outplay the enemy player. The downside although is that the queue system can leave you in a team with less players which steals all hopes of victory. Usually a team will queue in with 4 people and become overwhelmed quickly which ensures a quick defeat.
The lack of an end-game raid encounter is a big indication of how rushed the final product was, once level 60 the most a player has to look forward to is a venture into the same dungeons they did while they leveled except with an increase in difficulty. These dungeons sometimes take upwards of 45 minutes and can end in no reward due to the difficulty of the encounter and lack of skills of players.
Like most “free” games Neverwinter uses a form of currency in order to buy special items for characters, this is categorized as ZEN in the Perfect World market. ZEN can be used to buy items in order to help you become stronger, complete professions quicker, or to trick out how your character looks.
Neverwinter Online is a polished game visually; the problem is that in content it is far from ready to contend with the big boys of the MMO world. You can level up quickly to max level without a dedicated week off from work, once you are there though you might be bored and regret the investment.
In the end Neverwinter Online is a console game made into an MMO. You do quests, battle in PvP, and fight some really cool encounters. Once you finish that though there really isn’t much you can do, even PvP is pointless after you play for one day and get all the gear you can purchase for the PvP currency. On the bright side if you want to kill some time and don’t want to spend cash, the game is free.