As Mr. Walker over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun so eloquently stated, “I don’t entirely know how to justify why I’m enjoying Neverwinter quite so much.” I was able to sneak a few spare moments this past weekend to play between newborn infant related tasks such as feeding, burping, holding-so-to-make-it- stop-screaming-why-won’t-it-stop-with-the-screaming while the wife was showering, and the ever-present threat of diaper changes. Rarely can I spend more than about an hour and a half at a time in my “lands” as the wife calls them. But I was afforded enough small windows to find myself truly enjoying this game, and honestly, I’m not sure exactly why.
If you stop reading after this sentence, it is perhaps enough to know that Neverwinter is, if nothing else, as simple or as complex as you want it to be. It can be a casual game you can play here and there, or it can be a game that allows you to invest hundreds of hours exploring every little thing the game has to offer, and even create some content of your own. That dichotomy is evident right off the bat in the initial character generation (a necessary evil for some, an imagination heaven for others). Click “Next” through it and be done in 5 minutes, take an hour or more customizing everything, or find a happy medium. I was off the boat and adventuring in about 10 minutes, myself.
Because none of my gaming friends have delved into this game, I’m just following the story solo style with my Rogue Trickster (Samuel Haines on the Dragon shard, in case you’re interested). There are NPCs to talk to, and they give you all the standard quests we’ve all come to know and love; search & destroy, courier, explore, & protect/escort. Regardless of the task type, there is almost no barrier to entry. It’s been said in other places, and I’ll say it again, in a lot of ways the game feels more like an old school FPS, but with the bells and whistles of a modern-day MMORPG – and I’m saying that with a lot of nostalgic love of the old school FPS (and not a whole lot of experience with MMORPGs). Combat is especially reminiscent of the FPS; whatever beastie is behind your reticle is the beastie you’re targeting. There’s no hard “focus” that you have to explicitly change, making combat feel very fluid.
There are plenty of things to be intimidated by, and I suppose some things to be bothered by, but for some reason, I’m neither intimidated, nor really bothered by much of anything. For instance, there are about 6 currencies in a ridiculously complex monetary system, and each is used for different, yet sometimes overlapping things. I’ve been able to get by with the basic gold/silver/copper currency, and happily ignore the rest so far. There is a guild system, but being solo for the moment, I have no need of it – without friends to help me start a guild, I couldn’t use it even if I wanted to. There are things called “Events” which include other things like dungeon delves, PvP matches, and skirmishes, but I couldn’t tell you much about them, and am doing great so far without them. Crafting is a thing that exists, like in any MMO worth its salt, but it seems fairly complex, and I’ve been happy with loot drops.
There are also companions, which every player can employ. These are actually very nice. I have one now, and foresee having more. They are quite useful in filling whatever gap your own character leaves open. For instance, if you don’t deal a lot of damage, you can hire a damage dealing companion. If you don’t have much by way of survivability, you can hire a tank, or a healer. But choose wisely, you can only have one active at a time. Regardless, they often serve to get the attention of the bad guys, so you can do your thing without being pounded on. Companions are fun.
There is a thing called The Foundry, which is where players create their own adventures (User Generated Content, or UGC), but I haven’t even opened the GUI for that yet. I’d love to, and am really intrigued by the possibilities there, but if I don’t explore it at all, I’ll have fun anyway.
There is, to be honest, one thing I would see improved. There is no waypoint system, which means you have to travel, by foot or hoof, where ever you want to go – or at least to the edge of whatever instanced zone you’re in. Only there can you choose another zone to travel to. No teleporting straight to places you’ve already been from wherever you are. Fortunately, it doesn’t take too long to travel from one place to another, and I’m familiar with this mode of transportation from games I’ve played in the past. It seems a little dated now, though. I’d like a quicker way to get right where I want to go, without having to slog it too long. I’d also like Cryptic to streamline the task of moving from one zone to another. There are a few too many baffling clicks right now – why do I need to choose an instance every time? I don’t know. But honestly, those are petty complaints, given what I’ve paid for it. Which is exactly zero dollars.
I think I’m enjoying it because it’s so very simple, and yet there’s the promise of so much more if I want it (as if I’ll ever have the time). Even if I never peel away the outer layers of this game, I’ve already got more than my money’s worth out of it.