The Neverwinter Beta is the latest Free-to-play MMORPG that everyone is getting their hands on to take for a test drive. Set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe, developer Cryptic Studios and Publisher Perfect World Entertainment plan to release Neverwinter early 2013 with no set date.
Having gained access to the Beta over the weekend I set about the ancient role-play task of creating a character with which to carve my destiny into the fantasy world. Picking your race gives you a small number of racial bonuses that won’t make or break the game. Some races are better at certain classes than others, but there is nothing stopping you from mixing and matching how you like.
As you can see below the options are: Half-Orc, Human, Dwarf, Wood Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling and Tiefling.
After you’ve chosen your race you’ll have the opportunity to fine-tune how you look down to hair styles and tattoos. These were kind of restricted and nothing crazy or flamboyant seemed available for Li Awesomecloak just yet. This I imagine will be fleshed out further later.
Neverwinter Beta Classes
The game is free along with being free-to-play, players are restricted to two characters per account though more slots can be unlocked with real money purchases. Not all classes are currently available but there are a few options.
Martial Classes use the inherent skills and abilities of the character without any external arcane or divine help. Guardian Fighter, Great Weapon Fighter, Ranger and Trickster Rogue.
Divine Classes call upon the divine power of a deity. All players choose a deity on creation though this is really only for flavour. Currently only the Cleric is available.
Arcane Classes are adept at using arcane power drawn from the Weave of Magic. At the moment only the Control Wizard is available, though I am looking forward to seeing a Bard or Swordmage in the future.
Being a big fan of ranged spell casters I made a Control Wizard Tiefling to shoot magic bolts and BAMF around. With my second character, a Devoted Cleric Half-Elf I focused more on healing party members because no one else at Non-Fiction Gaming wanted to play a healer. From your class choice you’re pretty locked in to what your role will be currently. So you may wish to create your character with your friends in mind, what class do they need the most.
In game combat is fun so far with staple Dungeons & Dragons moves like Magic Missile and Lance of Faith. There’s no mana to manage when using your powers. The mechanics of each ability type will be familiar to those who have played DnD 4th Edition before.
‘At Will’ abilities will be your bread and butter. Using the mouse buttons as a kind of auto attack, the combat felt slightly like Star Wars the Old Republic where you have to remain active for even your most basic attacks. The only mechanic that let me down was that I couldn’t move while performing these attacks.
‘Encounter Powers’ pack a little more punch but are on a cooldown. These can vary from single target nukes, area of effect spells and healing powers. You get three of these and it is more important to time these correctly than just using them as they come off cooldown.
‘Daily Powers’ are the show stoppers. Able to turn the tide of battle. Daily powers are only available by filling your reserve of Ability Points. By performing the function of you class’ role you’ll build up power to unleash you Daily Powers with regularity. So while you may like to dish out damage, be sure to keep doing some healing as the Cleric or reacting in time to block abilities as the Guardian.
Between combat, like most MMOs you’ll be collecting quests from NPCs telling you to go here and there. I found it a bit odd that in the first area mobs didn’t reward experience. Once you’ve learnt the basics and make your way to the city you’ll have a little more opportunity to branch out and get Dungeoneering.
In the dungeons themselves your Rogue may spot traps to disarm, there may be altars only your party Cleric can pass a religion check for or arcane doodads the Wizard can discern.
The number of dungeons could potentially be infinite as the game is supported by the Foundry, a set of user-generated content tools which allow players to build their own dungeons and adventures. When these can be linked to the game world itself this becomes huge. Modders and player-created content has seen games become huge and fits in very well with all those Dungeon Masters out there that want to share a story.
I’m still getting my teeth stuck into this grand adventure and at the very least it has wet my appetite for some actual DnD tabletop action. Unless you can find some people online who are willing to group up and work together this game could be a bit of a chore levelling up.
If you’ve got a few mates and Skype or Teamspeak, then it’s worth a try working together and having some great times as a team in Neverwinter. Like Dungeons and Dragons in real life I feel this game emphasizes teamwork and the party/group is king.
Just make sure you don’t split the party.
Below are some promotional screenshots of Neverwinter in action.
Think it looks good? Visit the Neverwinter Beta page to register and try to get access.