Neverwinter The Verdict

A good thing, then, that hacking and slashing your way through Neverwinter and its

various environs tends to be fun, even though you’re limited to five classes (and two

of those are just variations on melee warriors). That’s partly because the combat’s

rather simple, relying on clicks of your left and right mouse button for core attacks

and a handful of hotkeys. Indeed, Neverwinter’s action combat and its limit of a mere

eight abilities owes far greater debts to Diablo III than to the rummage piles of
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abilities in  MMORPGs like World of Warcraft or Rift. Playing as a Great Weapon

Fighter, I was impressed by the viscerality and weight of my attacks, and by the fact

each ability has its own animation. By the time I hit level 20, I found myself

believing that the class captured the “Me smash’em” aspect of warrior combat better

than most other MMORPGs I’ve played. With a wide range of area-of-effect abilities,

I’d jump into piles of enemies and laugh as they fell beneath my blade.

Perhaps a little too easily, though. With its heavy emphasis on instanced solo

dungeons, Neverwinter isn’t an actively social game to begin with, and the inclusion

of NPC companions only enhances the drive toward self-reliance. As I hit level 16 on

my Fighter, I thought I’d need to pick up friends to progress further because I’d

taken to chugging health potions with every pull (there’s no passive health

regeneration). But that’s when I picked up my cleric companion. With her steady

stream of heals, I could just spring into a pile of enemies and slash away for the

rest of the journey, and be all but invincible as long as I remembered to keep them

off of her. Oddly enough, you can even take NPC buddies into five-man dungeons with a

full group of other players, allowing a little breathing room for your healers during

enemy swarms since almost everyone else brings along a NPC healer, too.

Indeed, Neverwinter relies excessively on those hordes. Almost every single boss

fight in the dungeons (single or five-man) relies on fighting a big baddie while

staving off waves of his or her cronies. It adheres so strongly to this template

that, as I write this a single day after my last login, I’m having trouble recalling

the specific strategies of any particular fights. That’s a shame, because the

dungeons are filled with stunning vistas and secret passageways that unlock for

class-specific professions like Dungeoneering, but as a result of the over reliance

on similar mechanics, they tend to drag on for far too long.

And that’s why the Foundry missions are so fun. The Foundry allows players to create

their own D&D-inspired content, leading to missions that, in many cases, are far more

enthralling than the ones Cryptic designed for us. Cryptic had already made a name

for itself using the same concept in Star Trek Online and Champions Online, but the

ability to create your own dungeons assumes a new vitality Neverwinter’s Dungeons &

Dragons’ fantasy settings. Some players use it to create episodic “real-life”

versions of pen-and-paper D&D scenarios they first thought up back in the ‘90s,

while others use it to develop memorable storylines or set up barroom brawls.

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