So, my last video game review actually went pretty decently, and I also rather liked doing it, so let's do another one, shall we?
Today I want to review Neverwinter, a somewhat-newer (in the scheme of things, anyway) MMORPG set comfortably in the Forgotten Realms universe (for those of you unfamiliar with the various sectors of fantasy, Forgotten Realms/Faerun is the world that brought us Drizzt Do'Urden and Elminster).
Besides the pleasant, comfortably familiar setting that the game uses, which is nice, it's obviously very important that we look into the actual gameplay. Now, this is not my first race around the MMO track. I was addicted to World of Warcraft during my early adolescence, like most of us were, but even after that I kept seeking out something new and fresh. No MMO is without its flaws, but the biggest trait that the majority of them share is that they are absolutely no fun to play by yourself.
Well, I suppose it makes sense. The whole point of these games is to play them with friends, but considering that about 95% percent of all MMO content can be run solo, it's only obvious that some people (like me) will want to play these games by themselves. Yet, sadly, most MMO's are absolutely, horrifically, ungodly boring to play on your own, and get insufferable the instant the allure of the new game wears off.
Neverwinter, stupendously, does not share this trait.
Not that it doesn't have flaws, of course. Just a mere paragraph ago I stated that no MMO is without its flaws, and Neverwinter is not the exception to this rule. Let's start off, quickly, with its cons:
No Housing: While not all MMO's include this, most of the newer ones do, and old ones are even starting to introduce them. It was something I was really warming up to, but not something Neverwinter considers worth including.
Bizarre Interfacing: Due to the unique combat system (which I'll go into in detail, shortly), the mouse becomes the reticule and is integral to combat. This makes selecting menus and whatnot impossible, so most small functions have to be done by using the keyboard. The alt key can be pressed to paralyze your avatar and allow you to use the mouse, such as to chat, but this is tricky if you're in a stressful situation. Is it an improvement on games like DC Universe Online, which handled this issue with much less fluidity and ingenuity? Certainly. But it's still not ideal.
No Weapon Styles: This is going to be a dealbreaker for a lot of people playing this game, and it's a little twitchy for me too. While I've seen some higher-level characters using variations of their class weapon, your weapon style is determined by your class. If you are a Rogue, you get two daggers. A Great Weapon Fighter, you get a two-handed sword. A Ranger, you get a bow. While you can upgrade the weapon itself, you can never get a different kind of weapon as far as I can tell.
Ouch! Those are some... unpleasant cons. But I'm going to be completely honest and say that if I made a grocery list of things I want in an MMO, Neverwinter has most of them, so let's move on to the game's pros.
Most important is the combat. As I stated above, the mouse is used as a reticule and both buttons are used in combat. Rather than having your avatar stand solitary and click various buttons to create combat effects, this game rewards mobility rather than punishing it. Combat is fluid and dynamic, utilizes a smaller number of buttons which are close to the standard movement keys, and is actually extremely goddamn fun.
Each class also has a unique transportation style attributed to the Shift key, all of which are pretty awesome (though I'm not positive what Ranger does). Fighters get to charge, Mages and Priests get to teleport, and Rogues get to do cool rolling maneuvers. These come into play a lot, as boss creatures will light up the floor with their big attacks, giving you a chance to actually dodge out of the way of them. This makes the combat extremely cinematic and amazingly engaging, keeping you on your toes especially when a lot of creatures with various area effects gang up on you, forcing you to dodge and block and attack, turn invisible, teleport away, etc. This makes Neverwinter fun to play on your own, because rather than every fight being so drudgingly long that you have time to refill your drink, you get very engaged with what's happening in the game.
Costumes look great in this, and avoid the “hilariously silly” kind of armor style of other games like WoW. Even at low levels you get to feel like a total badass as you strut around in your starter gear, chopping up the bad guys and looking great doing it from day one. Also, in a unique twist, all armor is skimpy – however, shirts and pants can be put on underneath it, giving you total control over how scantily-armored your avatar is. Staying with the aesthetic note, character customization is an intense process that leaves your character looking very unique, and even allows you to modify your character's body type. I was even (GASP) able to create a female character with small breasts. Now what other game can offer you that? (It really sucks that I'm serious about this.)
Because combat is awesome, PvP is also awesome, and Neverwinter is the only MMO in which I have willingly indulged in it without being forced to by some kind of quest, though I do wish it offered more stages and types of PvP battles (at just past level 30, I can still only do the Domination matches, maybe more will open up later). There are also a few other “contained” types of events that team your character up with a random group of other players, letting you go on cute little mini-raids.
Another huge pro for this game is that you have a special bag for crafting equipment. This bag has infinite space.
Let that sink in.
Every time in any MMO that you've ever picked up random cheap scraps of wool, or twigs, or dust, or whatever random crap that you might someday need but don't really want and have to carry around with you? Gone. Over. No more. You never have to worry about your crafting supplies until you need them, and even then you have them whenever you want them. I haven't indulged in crafting much because I'm so bored with the very concept of it, but from what I've seen of it, it's been designed to be as convenient and spend as little of your precious time as it possibly can. Twenty-five thumbs up.
Questing is standard fare, though the focus on solo-player instancing makes it extremely convenient and easy to do your solo quests without a billion other players stealing your harvest items or wholesale slaughtering the mobs you're supposed to be killing your own self. Neverwinter's only stand-out addition to standard questing is the sparkly trail (which can be turned off, for you masochists) that leads you to your quest objectives rather than allowing you to wander around for hours on end looking for stuff.
Honestly there's a lot to say about this game and a lot I could talk about, such as the enriched leveling system, your personal adventuring NPC companion, and the absolutely glorious user-made quests, but this is already getting pretty long and I don't want you guys to start getting bored. So I'm going to make one final point.
Neverwinter never puts the heat on you to pay money. It's free-to-play and so far I haven't chipped in a single cent. Of course there's a store, and lots of awesome stuff to buy – but most of it is frivolous fun stuff that, while it'd be cool to have, is in no way necessary to enjoy the game. At level 33 I have a trusty mount (a normal horse, but still), plenty of well-upgraded equipment that looks cool, all the potions I need, three tricked-out companions, and access to any quest I want. Unlike, say, The Old Republic, which makes it very clear early on that if you don't plan to pay money you can go straight to Hell, this game seemingly couldn't give a damn if you do or not.
So, there you go – Neverwinter is a fast-moving, fluid, beautiful, atmospheric, and fun game that's designed with your convenience in mind and doesn't demand your hard-earned cash (even though I'm sure it wouldn't mind some of it). I've never had more fun playing solo in an MMO.
So, if you're ever feeling bored, or are disillusioned with the online RPG you're currently sinking hours into, consider giving it a shot.
For more of my reviews, make sure to check out my brand-new Review Library!