By: Quinn Potter
To say that Neverwinter is a “Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG experience” from Cryptic Studios is a serious understatement. Like the original game, this is a long-term investment in characters, settings, challenges, side-quests, teamwork, problem-solving and big payoffs. Yes, there are dungeons. Yes, there are dragons. And, yes, there is so much more.
Graphics are sweet, clean and practically glitch-free. The colors pop a bit, which gives the game an amplified, magical reality. Settings vary from sewers to underground dungeons to swamps, to about a zillion other parts of the Forgotten Realms. There is a bit of an uneven quality to the graphics, however. Costumes are richly detailed, shadows around flickering torches are well-done, but the characters’ facial expressions can be quite stiff.
The Protector’s Enclave — basically your homebase with shops, merchants, banks, etc. — is particularly well done in both design and rendering. You’ll meet a lot of characters here. Be sure to ask them questions, barter with them, or simply interact to gain information if possible. The Enclave is where you keep your inventory, so you’ll be here quite a bit to check your satchel, knapsack and other storage that can purchased with zen (in-game currency).
The sound is good, if somewhat muted. Some characters have softer voices, but you can adjust the volume. The voices are tailor-made for each character and match quite well in terms of both accent and phrasing. When you’re in large contained spaces (inside a dungeon), the characters’ voices have a true-to-life echo, which is a neat detail.
There is a soft, repetitive background theme playing depending on what action is taking place. The music isn’t a highlight, but it isn’t intrusive, either. The fight scenes have nice sound effects without dominating the action.
So, a quick review for those who weren’t hardcore D&D fans back in the day. Pick your character (wizard, fighter, trickster, etc.), give yourself a name, customize your character (face, body, armor), pick your skills, decide on your origin and choose a god to worship. Now you are ready to enter Neverwinter. Watch a cut scene tutorial, gather your gear, practice map reading, basic combat, talking to other characters and how to open your inventory. And then finally you’ll begin your first quest.
What’s great about Neverwinter is that your ongoing tutorial will have a gentle learning curve that comes in the form of quests. This section of the game may take 10 hours (or more) to complete, depending on how fast you complete each level. Newcomers don’t have to have any D&D background to complete these tutorial levels. There is a clear path that takes you from one adventure to another.
Around level 10, you will learn to praise the god you have selected to worship. Level 15 will let you pick an NPC (mine was a common companion – a dog) who can also level up as you go. By level 20, you can ride a steed. Throughout the whole tutorial, you will continue acquiring new allies, gaining access to new territories, mastering new fighting techniques and finding new weapons /armor.
The world of Neverwinter is so huge that it’s hard to pinpoint a primary objective. In general, a basic day of gaming here is going to involve dungeons, boss fights, completing quests, acquiring new skills/ knowledge / powers, teamwork with other players, an exchange of goods for money, praying to a god, and filling up your inventory.
Where, exactly, this will all take place or what, exactly, you will be fighting depends on how far you are in the game. What’s clear is that these action-based quests are a good fit to the Xbox One platform. Building Neverwinter on the D&D narrative gives players access to a rich trove of information. It truly puts the “epic” in epic.
Among the high points of playing are being invisible, using your special daily ability, using teleport scrolls to zip back to the Protector’s Enclave, or communicating with other players on a headset so you can coordinate actions / battles. The appeal of any MMORPG is probably going to be the interaction you get with other players, so it’s worth some time to either connect with friends or create a good team that’s going to get you where you need to go.
Neverwinter is vast, fun, thoughtful and well-crafted. It’s a joy to learn and joy to play. This game sets a high bar for what other MMORPGs should do – be easy to jump into, glitch-free to join with other online players and give a sense of satisfactory rewarding gameplay for the time invested. Oh, and it’s free!