Neverwinter is a free-to-play MMO that features the Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition ruleset. Being made by Cryptic Studios, the same people behind City of Heroes/Villains, DC Universe Online and Star Trek Online, they are no strangers to the genre. What is different however is the high fantasy setting as well as the ambitious real-time combat that exists in the game as well as the very impressive scenario builder.
The game is set in the rather well known city of Neverwinter
, which is a region in the Forgotten Realms environment as developed by Wizards of the Coast for Dungeons and Dragons. D&D players familiar with the realm will find themselves at home in Neverwinter
Taking place 100 years after the Spellplague catastrophe that affected all of Forgotten Realms, the city of Neverwinter
is blighted with monsters of all kinds since the volcano Mount Hotenow exploded.
Lord Neverember seeks to restore Neverwinter
into its former glory and it is up to the players to either aid or hinder his efforts, depending on their own causes and masters they serve.
The player can be one of the core races found in D&D, including dwarf, elf, drow and human. The archetypes of cleric, fighter, wizard and rogue are also present, but they are broken down into sub-sets just as they are in 4th Edition D&D.
The level cap is 60, and that is where Neverwinter
deviates from its 4th Edition D&D roots. While it encapsulates facets of Heroic and Paragon tiers of D&D characters levels, it does not follow the same level progression of 1-20, as that is more suited to the pen and paper based RPG.
The combat in Neverwinter
is somewhat unique for an MMO in that it is very much real-time. The player is required to time their attacks as their opponents create opportunities to do so.
Positioning is also key as flanking or attacking from the rear inflicts a significant amount of damage on the enemy. All of this demands a certain amount of skill on the player, requiring them to have an intricate understanding of their character's abilities when engaging in combat. This combat model also encourages players to work with one another.
For example a warrior will grab the attention of enemies while a rogue will back stab them. This is a welcome addition to the MMO genre as one of the most common complaints people have regarding MMOs are the leaden combat systems present in them. If Cryptic Studios can pull this off without it being affected by latency, then Neverwinter
will become a welcome a addition to this increasingly crowded MMO market.
Another key differentiator that Neverwinter
boasts is a scenario editor. Like previous games bearing the title of 'Neverwinter
', players can create their own adventures within the city of Neverwinter
or even beyond its walls. Called the 'Founding', this editor is based largely on the tools Cryptic Studios use to generate content for the core of Neverwinter
. Players can create rooms, fields, villages, deserts, lava filled lakes, the list is almost endless. These environments can be filled with monsters, all of which are drawn from the menagerie of creatures that are found in the Forgotten Realms universe. D&D players will again be in familiar territory as all monsters come in the four core types: controller, striker, defender and minion.
The interface is based on a simple drag and drop device that enables users to quickly develop adventures that can include story elements. The editor is even robust enough to support branching story-lines that occur only if certain conditions are met. Authors of these scenarios can run through them in a god-mode like manner to test them as well as just how entertaining and engaging they are.
The inclusion of such an editor does of course mean that the users are creating content for an MMO. What incentive do they have to do such a thing? Well apart from the kudos of making a scenario other players are enjoying in the game, they also get paid in the form of in-game currency that other players choose to donate to them as a thank you for making the scenario. The most popular scenarios are ranked by those who play through them and it is those who glean the most of the in-game currency.
appears to be an ambitious departure for Cryptic Studios, with regards to its setting and combat model. The scenario editor is not however new to the developer, as they have something similar for all of their previous MMO titles, so to see its presence in Neverwinter
comes as little surprise. This does mean of course that they know how to manage and police user created content, as it could be argued that people will create scenarios simply to exploit the system. It is unlikely that Cryptic Studios will hold much quarter to such actions.
Whether or not it will be another feather in Cryptic Studio's increasingly crowded cap remains to be seen. But from what has so far been shown and demonstrated, Neverwinter
certainly deserves to be placed in amongst the 'ones to watch' list for games arriving in 2013.