Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter – PC
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Release Date: Jun 20, 2013
Reviewed by Jason Flick

Review Score: 4 of 5

I’ve always enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons over the years. While I dabbled in the original tabletop adventures complete with Dungeon Masters, rulebook and their iconic dice sets. D&D, for short, is one of the biggest selling RPG franchises ever and has branched out from its tabletop roots over the years. One of its most successful campaigns is The Forgotten Realms which included Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights.

The Realms also has world class writers like R.A. Salvatore to bring the world to life including famous characters like Drizzt. The newly released free-to-play Neverwinter MMO by Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment takes players into the world of Forgotten Realms for some role-playing fun in a way that I rather enjoyed. Now the words free-to-play and Dungeons and Dragons are not something that I would say in the same sentence often despite the fact that this is the second D&D MMO to go that route.

Players start off by creating a character from one of only two available slots (more unlocked by purchase) and proceed to select their class from one of the 8 available races. These races include Humans, Drows, Dwarfs, Halflings and the demonic tainted Tieflings to name a few. From there it’s on to choice which of the 5 classes you want to be. While you can choose from the Guardian Fighter (Defender), Great Weapon Fighter (Tank), Devoted Cleric(Healer) or Control Wizard(Controller), I went with the Trickster Rogue. To make things better I played as a Menzoberranzan Trickster Rogue, because I love Drizzt and stabbing enemies in the back from the shadows is so much more enjoyable.

The tutorial that follows felt a lot like a dozen MMOs before it as you end up on a beach after your ship is attacked and you get accustomed to the fighting style and equipment of your specific “lost all of your gear” survivor before making your way into the main adventure. The first thing that I noticed upon viewing the map is that experience does not really fit into the open world feel of other MMOs. As the title implies most of the combat and story takes place in zones in or around the city of Neverwinter. The overall story when it presents itself is pretty linear but was interesting to me as I found myself going up against wererats, bandits, spellscarred and the like.

I have to say that one of the things that I really liked about Neverwinter is the combat itself. Chasing the growing popularity of active targeting, Neverwinter requires you to aim at your enemies to actually hit them. I’ve played MMOs so long that this new direction is exactly what MMOs need to progress into the future. Characters also have stamina bars that need to recharge so you can’t just keep hitting them until they die. I also liked how each class has a different way to accrue Action Points which are in turn used to execute Daily Powers.

As your gain levels you gain the ability to earn the ability to have companions and mounts. While playing, I found myself playing solo for a good while, only partnering up with a handful of players off and on when needed or for a change of pace, thanks to choosing a healer companion. I could do all the fighting worrying little about my health as she kept my health adequately high as long as she not under direct attack since there is no automatic health regen outside of combat. You can however gain health and buffs if you rest near periodically placed campfires throughout dungeons and the zones at large. On the several occasions of playing with some experienced players, it was a blast as we assumed our roles, like my ability to see and disarm traps, almost without hitch. It’s also a great way to make sure you don’t miss any loot chests due to not having the right skill or kit on hand to open secret doors or collect items.

The main event of Neverwinter may be a linear experience but there are a few things that break up the formula. For starters there is 5v5 and 20v20 Player vs. Player instances that are interesting. I spent some time in the 5v5 “territories” based PVP instances and for the most part it was fun. Most of the group instances take forever to queue up however depending on how many people are looking to join however but you can continue on your other zone “kill x” missions while you wait at least. Though I believe Neverwinter’s best chance at keeping things new is The Foundry.

The Foundry allows players to be their own Dungeon Masters creating their own stories, maps and even entire campaigns using the resources provided by the devs. There are some really good ones out there already and I look forward to seeing what the community at large can do. There are basic requirements in place by the devs when building your content to discourage exploiting the system. The loot drops and rewards from these quests are also generated by the in-game engine and not the creator of the quest to avoid any item exploits as well.

Most of the time when a title is released as Free-to-Play, one of the first things that comes across people’s minds is that one facet of the game is going to suffer, be it the actual gameplay, technical issues, graphics or any of the other key elements that make up an MMO. Neverwinter may have some shortcomings, but its graphics are not really among them. While not wholly detailed or refined as so of the MMOs I’ve played in recent years, Neverwinter still looks good as you travel through rebuilt Protector’s Enclave to the wintery frozen visage of Icespire Peak all the while listening to so rather enjoyable RPG score music. The character creation options are also pretty nice as you tailor your character’s look. There are some clipping issues with hair and most of your class specific armors all look the same. You can however dye your clothing with dye packs purchasable through the Zen Market.

The Zen Market is where the Free-To-Play element really comes into play. Like most titles in the F2P market, you can actually play the game just fine without purchasing a single item. However for those players that like to have a leg up or a little more customization or variety in their characters and game you can purchase them with Zen. Zen is the special currency that can be bought with real-world money or by purchased with Astral Diamonds via the Astral Diamond exchange. Now I have to say that some of the items such as companions can get downright expensive at the cost of $20 dollars or more. Though given the fact that Neverwinter offers a good deal of content for absolutely free it’s to be expected.

As a Neverwinter Nights and MMO fan, I actually enjoyed this Neverwinter MMO. In most MMOs, I spend most of my time going solo, interacting with groups and guilds, making friends as I go. This time, I definitely wanted to experience this title in the grand tradition of D&D with each class having their special abilities instead of a jack-of-all-trades hero. Neverwinter offers a more polished and finished MMO with the Dungeon and Dragons rules at its core. If you love or like Neverwinter and Dungeons and Dragons then you should definitely check out the Neverwinter MMO.