Publisher: Perfect World
Developer: Cryptic Studios
System requirements: Windows XP SP3/Vista SP2/Win 7/Win 8, 2.8 GHz Core2Duo or better CPU, 2 GB RAM, 512 MB GeForce 8800/Radeon HD 2900GT or better graphics card, DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound device
ESRB rating: Not rated at press time
Release date: Early 2013
If you’ve been keeping up with D&D news, you’ve no doubt heard some stuff about the upcoming Neverwinter MMO. This week, I was given a chance to muck around in the city of Neverwinter in the first of several beta weekends. I spent a lot of time killing enemies, setting off traps, forming groups with other players, and screwing up my group runs because I suck at healing. In other words, another day in the life of an MMO player.
The game is set up with five classes, only four of which have been officially revealed. I saw some stuff about the fifth, but nothing definite while I was logged in for Q&A. The four classes are the Devoted Cleric (heals), Guardian Fighter (tank), Control Wizard (crowd control), and Trickster Rogue (DPS). The game utilizes D&D 4th-edition rules, including at-will powers and all the rest. This gives the MMO a fast feel. Rather than having auto-attacks and 40 skills on quick bars, you instead bind your at-will powers to the mouse buttons and fire them off all the time, while you put encounter and daily powers in your rotation with hotkeys. The game plays out with a third-person camera and standard WASD key control, and it really only needs about 10 hotkeys with the character builds I saw. Rather than having tons of skills, half of which you rarely use, it seems like the game is streamlined in its design.
Surprisingly, character generation does involve rolling dice. While the generation of stats is random, I did notice that every roll of the dice generated a different kind of optimal starting build. As such, I wouldn’t be put off by the possibility of screwing up a character at the start of the game just because of an issue with the random-number generator. You can re-roll as often you want, and all the rolls end up being optimum in some way. Neverwinter also has the standard roster of races you’d expect in Faerun: elf, half-elf, dwarf, halfling, tiefling, humans, and at least one unannounced race. Race impacts abilities and skills, but I found that just about any race has something to contribute to any class. And taking its cue from MMOs such as Lord of the Rings Online, faces are customizable for anyone with an appearance obsession and a half hour to kill before entering the world.
Quests and dungeons follow the standard format we’ve come to expect from MMOs, although I was pleased to see that traps and secret doors make an appearance in dungeons. Certain classes have skills that let them deal with these items, but any character can purchase tools that also let them interact with these objects. This lends a little bit of table-top feel to the game.
The biggest surprise to me was the Foundry. I hadn’t read very much about Neverwinter before I stepped into the game, but it turns out the developers are going to include the Foundry toolkit. This allows members of the community to build their own zones, dungeons and adventures to share with other players. We got a short look at it during the beta weekend, and I have to admit I was surprised to see that a free-to-play MMO would include a feature such as this. Having the ability to create your own content in this way is definitely an attempt to put this game into the tradition of BioWare’s classic Neverwinter Nights.
And yes, Neverwinter is going to start out free to play. While I’m not at all surprised by this, thanks to the dynamics of the video game industry, I didn’t get to really see how the game is going to be monetized (so don’t ask about prices, because I don’t know). It looks like it’s shaping up to be fine product, so we’ll have to see how everything plays out upon release.