Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter beta preview
Last week I got a chance to play the beta for Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment’s upcoming free to play mmo, Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter. Below are my thoughts on the game.
First off I have to say I don’t know that much about Dungeons & Dragons. I never got into the lore, the book or any of the games, but despite this I did enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter.
The mmo is set in one of D&D’s best known cities, Neverwinter from the classic D&D setting, Forgotten Realms. In the game, Neverwinter is a city that has returned to glory after the city was nearly completely destroyed several years ago. When you play Neverwinter you will visit the cities various districts fighting of monsters who wish to destroy the massive city.
Now that is enough looking at lore and D&D, let’s look at the games beta.
The beta had six races, three classes and content up to level 25. The six races included: Human, Halfling, Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf and Tiefling. The classes in the beta included Trickster Rogue, Devoted Cleric and Guardian Fighter. For the beta I picked a human, trickster rogue which I got to level 16 after about five hours of playing.
My opinion of the game from just five hours is that the game is that it is fun, but as most people know mmo’s do tend to get boring after you play for a protracted period of time.
Ok, let’s get started. First off all we have the character creation. Character creation is your pretty standard mmo affair with a selection of appearance sliders for each race. I wasn’t a huge fan of the human male sliders because no matter what I did my character pretty much looked like a Neanderthal. In character creation you could also give your character some backstory, you could set where the character came from, the deity it worship and even write a short bio on that character. Lastly for character creation we had the “ability score” system. This system allows you to roll virtual dice to determine what your characters starting stats would be, fortunately if you got a bad roll of the dice you could re-roll again and again until you got the stats that suit you the best.
Overall character creation in the beta was pretty standard, apart from “ability score” which I thought was a fun and interesting feature.
Now let’s see what combat was like in the beta. Before I continue I would just like to point out that I only played a rogue, and as such my thoughts on combat can only be directed by my experience with the rogue class.
Neverwinter has an action focused combat similar to that of RaiderZ, another Perfect World Entertainment published game. So when you are in combat expect to be moving around a lot, dodging and using the quickest attacks you have.
In Neverwinter you have 9 buttons on your action bar. 7 attack abilities, 1 class specific ability and 1 button for potions. The attack abilities are broken into three categories: daily power, encounter and alt-will, at any given time you have access to two daily powers, three encounter abilities and two alt-will abilities. As you level in the game you receive more than seven attack abilities and as such you need to learn which abilities suit you the best. For example, I liked taking on multiple enemies, so my abilities were based around hitting as many people as possible.
Throughout my time in the beta I primarily focused on using my alt-will abilities, because they were tied to my left and right mouse buttons and they also did a good amount of damage relatively quickly. To be honest I rarely used my encounter or daily power abilities because I didn’t feel they were necessary unless I was in a position where there a lot of monsters or I wanted to end a fight quickly. While I didn’t use them a lot I did like how both sets of abilities worked together with encounter abilities charging a bar which when full allowed me to perform a daily power attacks.
I only really have two major issues about the combat apart from the abilities and these are: monsters pose no challenge and the stamina bar. Monsters in the game just feel too easy, in my time playing I died only once (death like in any other mmo is just a minor inconvenience rather than anything harmful), and that was just so I could see what would happen. The main reason why it was so is easy is mainly down to health potions. Health potions are cheap and easy to find. They have a low cooldown timer and can be used in-combat, so now matter how many enemies are attacks you; you can pop a potion and be ready to keep fighting. Now the other issue is the stamina bar. It isn’t a huge issue, but in a game that is based on action, I find the idea of restricting you to only using two dodge moves in quick succession is a bit boring because after you use them up it is just running around in circles waiting for the bar to recharge.
Questing in Neverwinter is pretty standard yet also rather well thought out. Questing is standard in the way that it does nothing new; quests are kill/destroy/collect X amount of something. Where questing shines in Neverwinter is how quests flow together. When you finish questing in one area you are sent straight to the next area, while this isn’t something new, the area you are sent to is usually a quest hub. Basically what Neverwinter does is reduce the amount of time looking for quests, so you can get into the action quicker.
Single player quests are split between open world and single player instances, in the instances you fight multiple monsters at the same time, but these instance give great rewards such as green or high level items. There are group/party quests for dungeons and events. Lastly there are foundry quests which are player made quests people can try out and rate (Foundry creation tools were not available in the beta so I will not be discussing it this preview).
As I just mentioned there is group content for those who like to play with other players. On offer are dungeons and events, both of which are for five player parties. In the beta I didn’t get to take part in a dungeon, but I did try out one of the group events. The events were relatively easy; the event consisted of fighting waves of monsters and than a boss to end it.
When it comes to levelling in Neverwinter, it is fast and simple. In my five hours or so of playing I shot up to level 16 with no major issue, I don’t know if it was for the beta or not, but it felt to fast. The reason why I think it felt to fast because I am a relatively slow leveller in mmo’s. When you get passed level 10 you gain access to feats which allow you to branch into one of three trees, each tree has a different bonus. For example a saboteur rogue does more damage when in stealth, scoundrel does more predictable damage, and the executioner does more crits, big/spiky damage.
In the visual and sound department, Neverwinter doesn’t look half bad for a game in beta. Some textures and models need some polishing, but it seems to be going in the right direction. As for sound, the game sounds like a medieval fantasy, with good ambiance and music. The one thing I disliked was the scarcity of voice acting, some quests were voice acted, but other weren’t, this could be down to the fact that the game is still in beta.
The Neverwinter beta was really enjoyable, with some parts of the game needing some improvements. Questing flows well, the setting is brilliant, but unfortunately while at the start combat is fun, it gets old quickly.
I recommend keeping an eye on Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter.
Below is some gameplay footage I recorded from the Neverwinter beta.
Beta Gameplay part 1:
Beta Gameplay part 2: