GameClient_2013_05_01_15_52_01_730

Neverwinter, the new MMO from Cryptic Studios (City of Heroes/Villains, Champions Online, Star Trek Online) is now in open beta. Published by Perfect World Entertainment (Jade Dynasty, RaiderZ, Forsaken World), Neverwinter actually has nothing to do with Neverwinter Nights, other than sharing a setting and a name.

Set in the Forgotten Realms campaign of Dungeons and Dragons, Neverwinter will be “free to play”, supported by a cash shop selling cosmetic or convenience items. And like Guild Wars 2, you’ll be able to buy said cosmetic/convenience items with in-game currency as well (at an inflated price, of course).

Click read more for some brief thoughts on the game, which as was mentioned before, is still in open beta.

GameClient_2013_05_01_16_08_47_654

Neverwinter weighs in at roughly a 2GB download, installs to 3.7GB. After creating a character, you start off on a beach as a shipwreck survivor or something (so many text boxes, must click through them all because they’re so boring). You’re given a quest marker, told to open some crates, and equip your weapon. From there, the opening is a reasonable tutorial on how things work, with skills unlocking as you level. You can feel the creaky Champions Online engine underneath it all, but the combat feels remarkably solid for Cryptic, especially if you’re playing the melee classes.

There are seven races available in character creation, with an unknown eighth “coming soon”. Your choices are Half Orc, Human, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Halfling, Tiefling and Half-Elf. All available in both genders, of course.

GameClient_2013_05_04_11_44_32_746GameClient_2013_05_04_11_44_36_199GameClient_2013_05_04_11_44_39_547GameClient_2013_05_04_11_44_42_747GameClient_2013_05_04_11_44_45_815GameClient_2013_05_04_11_44_48_815GameClient_2013_05_04_11_44_51_882

Each race has it’s own set of functional abilities and stat bonuses. For example, Elves get Elven Accuracy which increases their chance to Critically Strike by 1%, and they have +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom. Beyond that, there is very little differences between the races, aside from appearance of course.

There are five character classes to choose from, with a sixth “coming soon”. They are Trickster Rogue, Devoted Cleric, Control Wizard, Great Weapon Fighter and Guardian Fighter. Since the open beta only has two characters slots (want more, gotta pay), we only checked out the Guardian Fighter and Control Wizard. You can read more specifics for each class, in the images below:

GameClient_2013_05_04_11_45_00_616 GameClient_2013_05_04_11_45_03_815 GameClient_2013_05_04_11_45_06_199 GameClient_2013_05_04_11_45_09_567 GameClient_2013_05_04_11_45_13_084

There are some backstory flavour options during character creation as well, like where you were born, your life thus far, etc – but they mostly just change text in game, and have no real bearing on the plot or missions.

So how does it play? Not bad at all. There are very few buttons. Class Special is on Tab. The Q, E and R keys are your Encounter skills with the expected cooldown timers. Pressing 1 or 2 trigger Daily Skills and require a meter to be filled before use. Shift is your classes active block/dodge. The left and right mouse buttons are your “At-Will” skills, usable at any time. Right mouse button is usually some kind of crowd-control ability.

GameClient_2013_05_01_17_02_45_066

Initially, quests are standard McMMO fare: talk to guy with quest marker over their head (a diamond instead of a !, novel), skip through tons of quest text (at least it’s voiced), then follow the sparkly trail towards the things you need to kill x number of. There are “missions” that take you into instanced areas, and these are actually a lot of fun. You could almost pretend it’s a single-player game during these missions.

GameClient_2013_05_01_15_16_55_418

It’s clear Neverwinter was designed from the start to be a free-to-play MMO: it’s very easy to get into, rewards you quickly with interesting items and abilities, and does its very best to get you to where you need to be without you having to wonder where the hell it is you’re supposed to go. When you level up, a little toast on the right side of the screen tells you there’s new Awesome Stuff You Can Do, press U to see, and it just keeps going with that idea. Being based on Dungeons and Dragons, the skills and abilities feel the part, and you can almost smell the hidden dice-rolls under them. When you come across a new boss, like during a mission, they even get their own little introduction cutscene and name, just so you know who you’re dealing with.

GameClient_2013_05_01_17_12_07_808

The crafting system is similar to Star Wars: The Old Republic – you send “hired” mercenaries out on missions, which can take up to 18 hours. You can manage this Farmville-esq system via the website too. There are NPC companions you get starting at level 16 which can come on missions with you, but we didn’t get that far to be honest.

There is a Foundry where players can create their own custom adventures, which is pretty damn cool. You build dungeons, castles, forests, place NPCs, and can pretty much design any kind of mission. Missions get rated by players, with the best-designed ones being featured in the daily “play a Foundry mission” quest.

Recommended System Requirements:

OS: Windows® XP SP3, Windows Vista SP 2, Windows® 7 or Windows 8
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz CPU equivalent or better
Memory: 2GB RAM or more
Video:  GeForce 8800 or ATI Radeon HD 2900GT performance or better, 512MB+ video ram
Sound: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound chip or onboard audio capability with the latest sound drivers
Broadband Internet Connection Required

[ Official Website ]

Personally: I won’t be playing it. It certainly looks good, the combat is fun, and Crypic know what they’re doing when it comes to designing decent-enough MMOs, but Neverwinter is too much like the old style of MMO that I’ve moved on from. I don’t want to read pages and pages of quest text, do the quest, then have to run all the way back to the questgiver to hand it in. Call me biased or whatever, but I’ve been spoiled by the ambient event system Guild Wars 2 employs. I like running around, and running into something happening, doing it, and when it’s done it’s done: no hand-in required. It feels much more organic. But since Neverwinter is free, there’s no risk in trying it, other than downloading the large client. So if it looks interesting to you, no reason not to try it.

Some more screenshots below: