Neverwinter review – part one

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Finally the time has come for the heroes of Neverwinter to rise up on Xbox One. Neverwinter is a Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) free-to-play MMORPG or massively multiplayer online role-playing game for those unfamiliar with the term. If you’ve never heard of this, think World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Developed by Cryptic Studios and published by Perfect World, it was released back in June 2013 for Windows PC and March 31st this year for Xbox One. Based in the fictional Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter, Neverwinter is a standalone game and not part of the previous PC series Neverwinter Nights.

Being what I would call a typical MMORPG, there is an awful lot to cover in a review so I’ll be breaking our review down into three parts. The first, the one you are reading, will look at the setting, races, classes and in-game currency model. The second and third parts of the review will look at some of the more in-depth game play mechanics including the detailed profession and crafting system, the economy including the Auction House and various currencies (excluding Zen) and banking. We’ll also take a look at Guilds, Skirmishes, Dungeons and much more. These will all be released over the next few days.

Moving on, let’s start by dealing with the elephant in the room which is the free-to-play model the game has adopted. Being a cynical person, I always cringe when thinking about any MMO that states it will be free-to-play but to be fair, it’s not as bad as I originally thought. The game itself is completely free to download and play (an active Xbox Live subscription is required). You can play for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so on and so forth. Never a charge.

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The game makes profit through the sale of in-game currency called Zen. This is used for purchasing a number of items in-game from booster packs, armour, weapons, companions, mounts and more. What is nice about this system however is everything available through the Zen store is also available to players that don’t want to spend real money, they’ll just need to play through the game and work a little harder for it. If you’ve ever played a Perfect World game before, you’ll be more than familiar with the Zen currency. You can earn Astral Diamonds by completing normal missions and in-game activities. These Astral Diamonds can then be used to purchase items in the game or exchanged for Zen on the Astral Diamond Exchange.

As with most MMORPGs the gameplay revolves around playing as a character you create. This character is leveled up throughout your time playing in a large open world. Neverwinter has a strong storyline, which weaves together different events and happenings in the open world. Most of the action takes place in instanced areas which can be open outdoor locations, dungeons, caves, sewers, crypts etc. There are other large open world locations where players compete with each other for contests and spawning monsters. However, Protector’s Enclave – the starting area where most of the earlier events take place – is a safe area without any enemies. It is here you’ll learn the basics of the game as well as find various vendors and class specific NPC’s who will set your missions and objectives.

There are a total of seven classes to pick from; Control Wizard, Devoted Cleric, Great Weapon Fighter, Guardian Fighter,  Hunter Ranger, Scrouge Warlock and Trickster Rouge. Each class has two Paragon Paths you can progress down once your character has obtained a high enough level. The Control Wizard for example can choose from Master of Flame or Spellstorm Wizard whereas the Trickster Rogue can follow either the Master Infiltrator or Whisperknife path. The progression tree for each class is extremely large and varied meaning other player characters you bump into will be slightly different based on their play style. Each class has a role to play. As with the likes of World of Warcraft, your class will either be suited to a Tank, DPS or Healer. A Tank’s responsibility in dungeons is to control the onscreen enemies and gain their attention to allow the DPS (damage per second) players to deal large amounts of damage. The healers hold back providing not just healing for the Tank and DPS, but also area affect spells which will benefit the players but also hinder the enemies.

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In addition to nine classes there are nine playable races in Neverwinter. You can pick from Human, Half-Orc, Wood Elf, Sun Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Half-Elf, Tiefling, and Drow. Compared to the PC version, the Xbox One release has a couple of races missing from this line up including Dragonborn (playable via purchasing an in-game booster pack using Zen) and Menzoberranzan Renegade. Your class of choice comes with unique traits and abilities. For instance I chose a Half-Elf which gave me two racial abilities including increased stats and ability points. Each race is different so it is well worth spending time reading through each one in turn to find your favourite.

The game’s setting takes place in a time when the city of Neverwinter is plunged into chaos after the disappearance of the last Lord of Neverwinter. In the aftermath of the Spellplague and a Primordial Fire Elemental almost destroying Neverwinter, as seen in the novel Gauntlgrym, the remaining citizens form factions and struggle for dominance over the populace as the dead begin to rise and attack the city they once called home. For those not familiar the Dungeons and Dragons universe, the game’s setting can seem very complex and overbearing, however there are a number of books, scrolls, logs and other items dotted throughout the playable regions to help explain the history and lore.

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Reading these items will help you towards unlocking and achieving the 48 Xbox One Achievements totalling 1,000 gamer score. This is however in addition to the 100’s, yes HUNDREDS, of achievements available in-game for completing a variety of tasks. Again for those of you familiar with World of Warcraft, these achievements are very similar in nature and can be gained from doing things like raising a profession to a certain level, completing a side quest, finishing a dungeon, partaking in an event or killing a set number of enemies. Some of these in-game achievements come with rewards in the form of Rare or Epic items or Titles that your character can proudly display while exploring the open world. Currently my level 23 Trickster Rogue is proudly displaying the ‘Orc Slayer’ title having recently ditched my previous title of ‘Hero of Blacklake’ which was gained during one of the introductory quest lines.

So ends part one of our Neverwinter for Xbox One review. Part Two is coming up in the week and we’ll be taking a look at the various gameplay modes Neverwinter has to offer including questing, campaigns, PVP, dungeons and skirmishes. I’ll be streaming some Neverwinter gameplay throughout the week so make sure you are following me (@KrisWB) for alerts. Thanks for reading and see you in Part Two.

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