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Neverwinter Review: Welcome to D&D Infinite

Jon Prosperi | 20 Jun 2013 13:00
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Neverwinter is an MMO that knows exactly what it wants to accomplish, and does so very well. The developers of Neverwinter at Cryptic know what makes people (especially Dungeons & Dragons nerds) able to play the same game for hundreds of hours without flagging: gratifying, crunchy combat, and a permanent sense of purpose. Neverwinter takes the most satisfying aspects of D&D's 4th edition in terms of combat and development, and turns it into a D&D adventure that left me squeeing with the joy of seeing my favorite monsters and mechanics. However, along with the great things about 4th edition, Neverwinter takes on some of the bad, being a highly linear game in both content and mechanical progression.

Neverwinter succeeds at making each class' gameplay unique and pulpy, with moves such as an earthshattering blow from a Guardian Fighter, that get you excited to use them each and every single time you click the mouse or press a key. Every class has flavorful, delightfully brutal attacks that make even the most mundane of fetch or kill quests (of which there are some) into an opportunity to lay the smack-down on some unsuspecting orcs. For perhaps the first time ever, I intentionally went out of my way in Neverwinter to grind mobs while questing, just so that I could find new and interesting ways to use my moves together. Because each class has a unique Class Ability, they all play very differently, giving the game a lot of replay value. The Guardian Fighter, for example, has a Block ability, rather than the Dodge that most other classes have, allowing them to withstand heavy blows from enemies that other PCs would have to evade. Similarly, the Control Wizard's short-range Teleport ability allows them to quickly navigate any combat situation, heavily reinforcing the feel of pure control over any situation.

The major disappointment I have with Neverwinter is the same one I often complain about in 4th Edition - the purely linear progression. In nearly every aspect of the game from the story to class progression, I knew that I was being moved along a specifically designed path. Though I am not opposed to linearity, I felt as if I wasn't actually making any kind of actual decisions for my character at all. Neverwinter displayed its linearity by using a hub-and-spoke questing system which ferried me from area to area as I leveled up. I went straight from town to wherever my 3-4 quests were located, killed all of the bad guys, and then back to town, without any memorable rhythm breaks. The design choice to exclude an over-world also reflects this linear mentality; each map is zoned off from the rest of the game, and although there is still tons of room to explore, Neverwinter often feels closed and static.

Although the theme-park style of Neverwinter was certainly a turn-off for me, the player-generated content of the Foundry is the genuine savior of the game's long-term health. The Foundry provides players infinite hours of questing, hand-written and created by other players, and with a place for players to offer suggestions to one another, a Foundry community has flourished during the beta. Many of the Foundry quests are superior to the game's actual quests, and while leveling my alt, used the Foundry for the bulk of my questing. Many of the Foundry quests explore deeper into the Forgotten Realms universe, and offer players a With infinite quests, players don't need to simply jump onto the gear-grinding track at level 60 and begin running the epic treadmill. Questing is definitely one of the strengths of Neverwinter, and by allowing players to make and run their own quests forever, the designers have provided a healthy alternative to the demands of end-game play for those who are less interested in the typical MMO lifestyle.

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