Daily Archives: May 30, 2013

Neverwinter at First Blush

With the summer hiatus upon us, we have begun looking at other games.  Gaff and I have been back in Middle-earth.  Potshot, on the other hand, was keen for fresher, if maybe not greener, pastures.  He has been been poking his nose into Neverwinter.

Ah, Neverwinter.

A new MMO-ish sort of game based on the Dungeons & Dragons campaign environment of Forgotten Realms.  What is not to love?

Well, there is the Cryptic Studios factor.  I haven’t liked their last three games.  Two of those were super hero games, City of Heroes and Champions Online, and super heroes are not my thing.  But then there was Star Trek Online, which I really, really wanted to like.  And which I cannot bring myself to play.

So my approach to Neverwinter has been half-hearted.  I did download the client during the first weekend of open beta.  And then I proceeded to let it sit untouched until last weekend, when it was just I and the Potshots on to play.  So I got into the game at last.

And, for the moment, it reminds me a lot of Dungeon & Dragons Online.

Certainly the parallels are there.  Character creation shows you in an epic armor set.

Meet Epic Sven Sverdsk

Meet Epic Sven Sverdsk

And then the game tosses you on a beach and forces you to scavenge for equipment in what is becoming the video game equivalent of the of starting your D&D campaign in an inn.

Why can't I get the stein?

Why can’t I get the stein?

You get some gear, learn a few of the game mechanics, finish up the intro quest, and end up in town.  This is where I met up with Potshot, in the guise of Fergorin, the dwarf guardian.

Sven and Fergorin

Sven and Fergorin

And, continuing the DDO parallel, the town is pretty much a lobby.  There is no world to explore.  Rather, the game is made up of a series of instances and shared zones.

Where Neverwinter starts to break the parallel is in how good the game looks.  DDO is into its seventh year and the graphics, especially the character models, were really feeling their age the last time I played.  For Turbine, DDO was the game before LOTRO, and while I love the Middle-earth environments, the character models were never award winners, and they were an improvement on DDO.

Neverwinter though looks marvelous.  Character models look good, environments are rich, and animations seem to be mostly spot on.  My warrior’s first attack animation seemed to go off without his weapon a good portion of the time.  He would whack somebody with an invisible sword first, then his giant two-handed sword would materialize in his hands.

As a group we ran through the first instance together, clearing out a vault in town.  Adventures seem to be built in stages.  You fight your way through some bad guys, avoid some traps, and make your way to a camp fire, where you heal up and start the next stage.  Okay as far as it goes, though the camp fires do show up in odd spots.  who builds a fire in the middle of a vault.

Game mechanics took some getting used to.

Neverwinter combat is very active.  Common MMO style combat is face the bad guy and press buttons.  Neverwinter ends up closer to the Diablo series, where it is click to kill.  You primary attack abilities are mapped to the left and right mouse button, and movement is in the FPS style, where you steer by aiming the camera.  You also have to aim your character at an enemy to attack.

That meant me stumbling over the controls for quite a while, and even when I started getting used to it, I still kept setting of secondary abilities that were mapped to the Q and R keys, because I use those keys to strafe left and right normally.

We made it through the first instance.  The game is good about showing you where the loot it.

Treasure chest highlighted

Treasure chest highlighted

That done, we decided to go see what The Foundry had to offer.

The Foundry could be the big draw for Neverwinter, as it allows people to create their own campaigns.  We picked one that was rated high and which had several stages and gave it a try.

Overall it was well done.  It had indoor and outdoor segments.  Things looked good, including some very nice lizardman models.

Now THAT is a lizardman!

Now THAT is a lizardman!

And there were even good, old fashioned traps, highlighted in red once detected or tripped… in our case it was mostly tripped.  We should have brought a rogue.

That was a painful room to cross

That was a painful room to cross

All in all, the adventure we chose, which had a few follow-on segments to continue the story, was very good, to the point of not being obviously different from the initial quests that the game itself offered.  I am not sure if we chose from a particularly talented author or if the tools offered by The Foundry are just that good, but it seems to bode well for the game.

Which brings us to the inevitable catch.

I am just not feeling it.

And I cannot tell you exactly why.  I just do not feel any big pull to go back and play.

Maybe I just haven’t played enough.  I am past about the three hour mark (Raptr says I have less than that, but it didn’t notice I even had the game installed until after our group night), which is not a lot of time.  But I have been hooked on games in far less time than that.

Or maybe it was the lack of edge to the game.  At no time did I feel my character was in any real peril.  He seemed to be able to kill stuff as he was.  He got a couple of item upgrades along the way, but I couldn’t tell how much of a difference they made.

Again, it is too early to call the game “easy.”  We were just doing starter things, which should be on the easy side, and Foundry stuff with a group of three, which may have been too many.  I don’t know.

And then there is the lack of worldliness.  I appreciate the game getting us straight to the action.  You jump into an instanced adventure and it is go time.  But, while I complain about pointless or repeat travel at times, at times travel has been part of the adventure.  Even out short time with Neverwinter Nights 2 involved some tales of the road.

Anyway, that is where I stand at the moment, though the jury is still out.  While I am not hooked on the game yet, neither am I fed up with it and ready to move on.  We shall see where I end up in the next few weeks.