Reviewed on: Playstation 4
Neverwinter, based on the Dungeons & Dragons license and set in the popular Forgotten Realms universe, was developed by Cryptic Studios and originally released on the PC back in late 2013. It incorporates the 4th edition’s rule set, and promised players rich adventures, complete with numerous iconic characters and locations for those familiar with the novels, the tabletop adventures, or even other D&D video games.
I’d only played small portions of this MMO on the PC due to the fact that I’ve never really possessed a computer capable of playing anything that isn’t an old school isometric RPG. Console has always been my preference for my gaming entertainment and until recently, MMOs weren’t a big thing on them, so I could never claim to be a huge fan of those either.
It always seemed kind of dull to me. Go to this place, get this thing, come back to this NPC and receive your reward. Rinse and repeat. The core of MMOs represented what I hate the most about some of the more frequent quests in modern RPGs; fetch quests. Being spoiled by quality side quests from older games, getting mundane filler quests like those were equal parts disappointing and infuriating. Why can’t Jack go and get his own priceless family heirloom from that den of zombies nearby? It’s his own fault for losing it in the first place! And in the worst place possible!
I’ve got a few friends who are avid MMORPG players, however, and maintain that playing these games is a rewarding experience for a multitude of different reasons. Some of them have good stories, I’m told. If they don’t have good stories, then the combat is fun. They get a sense of achievement from obtaining all of these legendary bits and pieces of armour. Or, simply, it’s a way for them to kick back and play video games with their friends.
When I heard Neverwinter was coming out on the PS4 in 2016, I was uncharacteristically excited. I love Dungeons & Dragons, and I loved Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights and yes, even Sword Coast Legends (what little of it I got to play, anyway). The Forgotten Realms is something of a second home to little nerdy me. I love its places, its lore, its characters. I’d played a little of the PC version of Neverwinter on my old laptop, but it was near unplayable, so it was hard to judge the game based off of my limited experience with it.
Purchasing the early access, I waited a day for it to download with my terrible internet, and dove in. It’s pretty simplistic as far as MMOs go, and it’s probably a little more linear than most fans of the genre would be comfortable with or used to, but I almost feel like that’s part of the reason why I already love it so much. You’re given a clear idea of where to go and what to do, so I’m not thrown into the deep end and just told to go forth and adventure. I enjoy being given a sense of direction in video games, but not the point of being completely static.
You get given a choice between nine of the popular Forgotten Realms races: human, three different sub-races of elves (wood, sun and dark), dwarves, halflings, half-orcs and tieflings. Eight classes follow this selection, and they’re pretty standard D&D classes, consisting of Great Weapon Fighter, Guardian Fighter, Hunter Ranger, Devoted Cleric, Trickster Rogue, Oathbound Paladin, Scourge Warlock and Control Wizard. You’re given a few more questions about your character, such as their origin and the deity they worship, though I’m told this has no effect on any gameplay or quests in the game and exists for “flavouring”.
Myself, I opted to play my usual trope: a female dwarf rogue. She worships the all-father god of dwarves and used to be a plundering pirate before coming to the city of Neverwinter in search of further riches and adventures. How many games let you play a female dwarf pirate, I ask you? Not many.
Neverwinter’s story consist of battling the undead forces of the sinister Lich Queen Valindra, who has turned her attention to the city of Neverwinter and aims to conquer it. Naturally, ending this threat is not so simple. Your character begins their adventure washing ashore after the ship they were on is sunk by Valindra’s Dracolich – yes, her great big undead bloody dragon.
The game’s tutorial walks you through controls outside the city’s walls before taking you into the heart of the city itself that serves as a hub for the game, which was much appreciated by this MMORPG noob. After dealing with the prologue, I could leisurely walk through the city and talk to merchants and quest-givers. The city is quite large, sealed off into separate sections that players of the single-player PC Neverwinter Nights games would recognise, though naturally the aesthetics have changed.
You don’t have to worry about getting lost in this massive city or outside of it, because at any given time, a sparkly trail will lead you to your current quest destination, much like the directional assistance Fable II and Fable III provided. Given I have the directional skills of Zoro from the One Piece anime, this particular mechanic was particularly welcome.
The combat is fun, almost World of Warcraft-esque, and doesn’t suffer from much complication given you’re accessing abilities from a gamepad and not a variety of keys on a computer keyboard. Button mashing isn’t a thing with Neverwinter – you’ve got multiple skills that you need to map out and plan, making combat more enjoyable and less of a chore. You get multiple skill trees and abilities based on the class you’ve chosen that you upgrade as you level up. Grinding is definitely there, as is standard MMO fare, and I thought I would dread it, but because the combat feels so fun and familiar that I actually go out of my way to seek combat.
Neverwinter comes with numerous previously released expansions that your character can only access after level 60 or 70 (which is the cap) – a tad disappointing, as I was pretty excited to go and explore the Underdark expansion, whose main questline was written by R.A. Salvatore, the author who created the infamous, broody drow ranger of the Forgotten Realms universe, Drizzt Do’Urden. I understand the level requirement, though – and it stops me from exhausting everything I want to do and see early on, so while I grumble and pine for the Underdark, it will feel more rewarding once I ultimately reach it. Good things come to those who wait, right?
Micro-transactions are there, and yes, they’re a little annoying – because I purchased the early access instead of waiting for the game to go free-to-play and was given a bunch of promotional items that would normally cost around $60. Pretty sweet deal for me. It gets irritating when you realise you only have two character slots on start-up, however. If you’re an alt-aholic, you’ll need to cough up real life money in order to purchase Zen, an in-game currency that can be used to get more character slots, as well as other items like mounts, special item packs, a new background during character creator, and more.
I haven’t gotten into the meat of the multiplayer or raiding yet, so I can’t really comment on it. Some quests require (or at the least recommend) that you do them in groups, and often you can select an option at the quest-giver to wait in a queue so you can be teamed up with other individuals looking to complete that particular quest. World events are definitely a thing, but I’ve only experienced Relic Hunts so far, which is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. For some reason, I was paired with another player during the Relic Hunt – he seemed just as confused as I was, so I’m hoping the sudden and non-consensual party-up was a one-off glitch or mistake. If not, a sudden “forced” multiplayer component could prove to be annoying for myself and other players in the future, who prefer to take things at their own pace.