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Friday, May 10, 2013

This is madness. This is Neverwinter.

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Neverwinter hasn't launched yet. Oh no siree. It's in "open beta", meaning anyone can play it for free and there will be no more character wipes. But it hasn't launched yet. People in global chat keep saying so if anyone points out anything negative. Which is a good job, because the servers have been down a lot, the game has seen major exploits (one of which saw people gaining a level every two minutes), and there are plenty of bugs and rough edges.

That's one ugly dwarf...

Just like every MMO launch then. Except Neverwinter hasn't launched yet. So that's ok. Here are some thoughts about the game anyway.

Neverwinter is very linear, with a main questline (full of fantasy cliches) leading you by the hand through each area (and a handy glowy trail to follow if being lead by the hand isn't enough for you). So far even the dungeons are incredibly linear, following a single path through to the end (with an occasional extra side room or two to explore). It's taken the Pavolvian nature of early WoW quests (click on quest giver - do easy quest - get reward) to extremes.

Due to the linear nature and the heavy use of instancing the world doesn't feel like a world at all. It feels like an instanced group game with a social hub attached. Small zones that connect through gates that teleport you to the next one (even if the next zone is meant to be miles away) increase the gamey feel of the world.


Graphics are pretty good (when pushed up to max) but not astounding. The voice acting is almost universally awful. The narrator when you first log in is just dire. I thought it was a joke...

On top of all that the UI is weird. It's not intuitive at all (backspace to reply to a /tell?!!! What?!!) and can't really be modified. It doesn't matter though because the game is pretty easy. It has never felt challenging in the way that The Secret World does. Dungeons are simple run throughs (you can ignore most of the traps, they don't really hurt) and the bosses are just big piles of hit points with a few easily telegraphed attacks that only the most dim-witted player could fail to avoid.

There are no real social systems. You can easily find a group and run a dungeon, but they all end up disbanding straight away afterwards. You'll probably never see those people again. The world isn't conducive to roleplaying either.

And yet...

...having said all that I should really hate the game. But I don't. In fact it is brilliant fun, especially when played with a few mates. It doesn't make any sense!

Part of that may be down to the combat, which is ridiculously easy (think Diablo-like click-a-thon), but feels visceral and fun, with some great animations and feedback. The game somehow manages to feel like Dungeons & Dragons, despite the over-simplification and obstacles it puts in the way, and when you have a dungeon run with a good group it just feels really, really, really fun.


Best of all it is truly free to play. I haven't felt the impulse to spend a single penny on the in-game store yet (good job too, because some of the items are ridiculously priced). Which means you can all try it without any obligation.

Neverwinter is never going to be a place I put down roots. It's a casual MMO, not a world to lose yourself in. It's massively flawed as an MMO.

But, damnit, I can't think of a better word to describe my experiences of playing than.... fun! I like fun! Fun is good!

So, my advice is give Neverwinter a go. You might just have some fun.

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