Monday, February 11, 2013

Neverwinter Spring

This weekend saw the first of three short betas for Cryptic's upcoming D&D flavored MMO, Neverwinter. Massively have been giving the game extensive coverage but Tipa at West Karana has by far the best write-up I've seen.

Last November I mentioned my interest but it had faded somewhat . Most of the information that trickled out didn't sound all that inspiring. I didn't even bother signing up for the beta, far less lay out $60 for the "Founder's Pack" so I could play three weekends then have my characters deleted. Oh, and then another three days with my real character before the game launches completely free-to-play. Yes, I know there's a mount and a companion and some other odds and ends but, really... $60 for three beta weekends a month or two before a full F2P launch?

This seems to be a thing, though. City of Steam did it too and I guess if you know you are going to play the game and you know you are going to spend that much in the cash shop anyway, it does no harm to pony up in advance and have the benefit of beta. I can't pretend I won't be doing it for EQNext if the opportunity arises.

Neverwinter, though, I am not that stoked for, but Tipa's piece and some of the comments on it have rekindled my interest, as have some of the videos and screenshots. It's still the Forge content creation system that I most want to get my hands on, but the game itself looks like it could turn out to be fun.

I played Dungeons and Dragons Online for a fair while, first in beta, when it was rubbish (and that's being generous) and later when it had been tarted up into something that could pass for a real MMO in a dim light. By then it had become sort of fun, but the reliance on repeating story-driven dungeons on increasing levels of difficulty struck me as ludicrous after a short while, so my stay was short.

Another point against DDO was the Eberron milieu. It was unfamiliar and I can't say it grew on me much in the time I spent there. I'm no big-time D&D fan but I do know and like the Forgotten Realms setting and that alone makes me considerably more interested in Neverwinter.

I also like what I've seen so far of Cryptic's MMOs. While neither Champions Online nor STO grabbed me, that had more to do with the genres they inhabited than anything about the way they were made. I found both of them clean in design, straightforward and pleasant to play. I have reasonable confidence that the House that made those could make a fantasy MMO that I would enjoy.

There's still the action-MMO aspect to get past, but I found Shawn Schuster's negative impressions of Neverwinter's combat strangely encouraging. The very things he rails against, the hand-holding, the clunky, static movement, the lack of strafing, lead me to hope that there might not be all that much "action" after all.

Anyway, not long to wait. Neverwinter should be out in a couple or three months. I'm quite looking forward to it.


  1. I'm all for tactical combat, but I'm not sure I can do static anymore. Not in new games, anyway.
    I read the NW beta impressions on and absolutely nothing in that article appealed to me; Small world? Restricted class choices? ..."Control Mage"? :D

    Probably for the best though; I have no hype in me this year, hehe.

    1. I hadn't read the article but I have now! Again, I find much of that quite encouraging. If the Forge tools are anything even halfway decent (and from what people say about the STO version they should be) then I don't imagine lack of places to explore will be a problem.

      I also like the idea of an MMO that takes place within a city - we used to do a lot of that when I actually played AD&D. When you have locations that are interiors, instancing becomes far less of a problem.

      Five classes at launch is plenty. If Cryptic know what they are doing they'll be selling many more classes in the cash shop as time goes on, I'm sure. I've always been a lot more interested in having a wide variety of races than classes in MMOs anyway. Neverwinter is a tad short in that department, but then D&D never had a very imaginative choice of playable races, at least when I played.

      The screen shots look fantastic, too. Really look like high-medieaval fantasy for once instead of the usual science-fantasy-steampunk look that's been the norm for MMOs for many years. I bet there's steampunk lurking there somewhere, though. There always is nowadays.

  2. You don't like Eberron?!?! bah! I ran an entire campaign for my friends in that world. Loved the steam punk feel of it. I own the core Eberron books for DnD 3.5 and 4. Thus, I was extremely disappointed by DDO, although I have heard it has changed drastically since I played it years ago.

    As for Neverwinter, I have heard of it, but never really thought much of it, until recently someone was saying that they are attempting to rip of GW2 and do it better. That caught my eye, because it seems Anet is floundering recently with GW2 and I would love to see another company have a go at Arena Net's philosophies.

    I will check out the reviews you recommend in your article. Thanks!

    1. I doubt Neverwinter will be on much of a par with GW2, certainly in anything like the scope of the world. The main reason I'm looking forward to it is for the "make your own adventure" toolset.

      Being able to get creative is something I really miss in GW2 with its lack even of housing. Whatever happened to our personal instances?

  3. As for DDO, I suspect that the choice to be set in Eberron was foisted on Turbine from WotC. Given the time frames, I assume Turbine was negotiating the license for DDO around the time WotC was trying to positioning Eberron to take the crown from the "old" worlds. They probably saw an MMO as a great way to reinforce that this new setting was the wave of the future. Sadly, DDO's performance didn't quite give it the reputation WotC wanted, probably. :)

    I still love DDO, though. It has a really powerful character development system that allows for high customization of characters. Of course, the downside is that all that choice also makes it super-easy for someone to really screw up their character irrevocably (beyond paying a lot of real cash for a reincarnation). But, I've created a few really great characters that really feel personal to me given my choices.

    Given the reportedly limited customization options in Neverwinter, I'm not quite so enthusiastic about it. We'll see if they can make the user content generation work or not, I guess.

    1. I think you're right on the reason for the setting. I knew it was one of your preferred MMOs from your blog. I think it has a lot to recommend it and had Mrs Bhagpuss liked it better I'd have played it longer.

      I do have a very serious problem with a game that places so much store on replicating the D&D paradigm, to the point of having an actual DM voice-over, requiring you to play through the same scenarios many times over to level up. That was the real game-breaker for me.

  4. Will be interesting to see what they do with the player generated adventures portion. It's one of the things I am surprised has not been added to more MMOs as it's a genre where people consume content quicker than devs can dish it out coupled with the fact that there is an expectation for it to last months if not years. Many great things have come out of user generated content. Day-Z, DOTA, Counter Strike, Dear Esther are a few of the big ones.

    Neverwinter Nights carried on for years because it had a robust level editor and you could create entire campaigns. Here's hoping that the toolset they provide offers more than just setting locations and adding text triggers.

  5. I'll wait to see just how 'open world' this new D&D game is. Also I'm disappointed by the lack of character customisation, character building is part and parcel of the D&D experience IMHO.

    Still it is worth checking out since its F2P, but there's no way I'll be paying for beta access etc.


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