Neverwinter – Doing Dungeons and Dragons Right

Posted Wed, May 08, 2013 by Dalmarus

Before you start reaching for pitchforks, torches, and other assorted implements of destruction, take a deep breath and hear me out. Is Neverwinter the end all, be all of Dungeons & Dragons goodness? Does it uphold the sanctity of THAC0 (you know you all loved it)? Can you pick any class ever created? Can you be any race you wish? Does it finally fulfill the ultimate dream of being able to play D&D with all your friends around the world in spectacular fashion? The simple answer is no, but if you let that stop you, you’re going to miss out on something special.


Pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons has been beloved by droves of fans since the 70s. I’ve been playing D&D regularly since 1984, and I’m a tough critic when it comes to my favorite franchise of all time. Cryptic took on a juggernaut franchise license, which is the ultimate show of bravery, stupidity, or just pure audacity. But, after having spent a significant amount of time with the game, I think it’s safe to say Neverwinter’s developers were fanatical D&D fans themselves and have done the legacy justice.

Turbine’s Dungeons & Dragons Online suffered from a number of issues, but its biggest drawback was probably its setting. Of all the D&D settings they could have chosen, the Ebberon campaign setting may have been the least-known and least-favored by D&D players. Rather than tread down the same path as Turbine, the folks at Cryptic brought us a game nestled within the most popular and well known campaign setting of them all, the Forgotten Realms. Not only did they pick the Forgotten Realms, they did so at a point in its history where the world is still trying to recover from a cataclysmic event, The Spellplague, caused by the murder of Mystra, the goddess of magic. Magic ceased to exist for nearly a decade, but now it’s back. Chaos reigns supreme and it’s high time for some heroes to venture forth and battle for honor and glory!

I’m not a huge fan of the 4th edition Dungeon and Dragons rules when it comes to a live roleplaying pen-and-paper game but, with some tweaks, they translated impressively to a video game. Rather than leave all the combat up to the decision of virtual dice, Neverwinter’s combat is much more action-oriented. I know we hear those buzzwords--action combat--with every new game that comes out. They annoy the hell out of me. Fortunately for all of us, Cryptic has used just the right amount of twitch-play in their system. It’s enough to keep an old goat like me constantly engaged when fighting monsters, but is not so difficult as to become frustrating.

When you need to dive out of the way, there are very clear indicators. This keeps combat from feeling the like the game is trying to cheat or just ganking you, as in other games where you need to pay attention to every subtle change in monster positioning to be ready when a huge attack is incoming. Giving a player a clear indication that they need to move, then giving them enough time to do so, followed by punishing them harshly if they don’t, combines to make for the perfect level of combat interactivity. I’ve been having so much fun with the combat system, in fact, that I’ve started calling myself Dr. Death simply because I stop and kill everything in my path. Always. It’s awesome.

A game needs to be about far more than combat, especially one sporting “Dungeons and Dragons” in the title. Some of the most important staples of D&D are cool environments, extraordinary monsters, and epic quests. Neverwinter has all of these in spades. As you gain power, you’re given more important quests and missions to investigate. As you progress through the game, you begin to realize that the last dungeon you claimed was the coolest dungeon you’ve ever seen soloing (I’m looking at you Clocktower) is no longer the coolest...because the dungeon you’re in at that moment is now the coolest.

Neverwinter environment

The further you go, the more monsters you encounter, each with their own special ways of dealing as much damage to your poor character as they can. I find myself regularly trying out different power combinations and methods of dispatching just as much pain and agony back at them. As you delve into Neverwinter dungeons, not only will you discover more methods of death, destruction, and dismemberment, you’ll be greeted by some old D&D classics. The Mimic and the enormous Gelatinous Cube that tried to eat me the other day were both brutal and welcome sights. They’re not overused and provide just enough flair and distraction to be a joy rather than an annoyance.

The team at Cryptic has done their homework. If I had to guess, I’d say some of them may have been playing Dungeons and Dragons even longer than I have. That’s a good thing (and no small feat), because the love they have of the license comes through loud and clear. Neverwinter is as close to the epitome of a Dungeons & Dragons game that we’re likely to see now, or any time soon. It has the familiar feel that D&D players expect combined with a kickass combat system.

Rather than taking my word for it, why don’t you give it a try yourself? It’s free to play and free to download. You’ve got nothing but time to lose. And after you’ve played it for a while, be sure to come back here and let me know what you think. Am I the antichrist come to this world in the flesh for the sole purpose of getting you to waste your time, or the savior who restored your faith in the gaming world? Feel free to call me either.

I am loving the game and plan to work with the Foundry this weekend.

Let me know how that goes, Urden! I keep telling myself I'm going to do just that, but I get so wrapped up in running dungeons and leveling my Control Wizard, that I still haven't taken the time to check out those tools. ^_^

They did screw one thing up, and pretty badly at that. It's going to keep the hard core D&D fans from remaining in the future.

This astral diamond/zen being the only currency worth anything in the game. Gold, Silver, and Copper should just be removed from the game at this point. It's completely useless. It would've made a lot more sense in multiple fashions to do zen/gold exchange instead of astral diamonds.

1) It would have put intrinsic value on gold and the game which would allow them to press charges/sue gold farmers that disrupt their game.

2) It would have followed D&D standards set in the past.

3) It would have still allowed the game to remain free, while sticking to said standards.

This was a major foul up in my opinion, but with that being said. It's my ONLY complaint about the game. The rest of it is amazing, and the type of people who play this game, being old D&D fans have put out some amazing content with the Foundry that they began developing in Star Trek Online and have greatly improved for this game.

Let me clarify why I say it'll ruin the game. I was also a avid Star Trek Online player which was developed by the same company.

They tend to make it in the end, who ever spends the most real life cash has the coolest items. They'll add another type of lock box, with the best items in it, then add another type of lock box. They do different ones for different events which means you need to buy massive amounts of keys to get the rare items. Everyone of their games slips in that direction. TRUE D&D fans will want to earn their cool stuff. Not buy it.

I think I have to agree with wired420. Good game other then the ad / zen problem.

Have to agree with wired420. gold/silver/copper is pretty useless in game. Kind of a game breaker for me. At least energy credits had SOME use in Star Trek Online.

I spent 2 years and far too much money in Star Trek Online. It took me less than 2 weeks to become highly disappointed in Neverwinter. Open beta isnt a month old and it is already clear this will not only be "pay to win" but pay to even have fun. All interesting or even useful gear costs RL money or requires you to invest hundreds of hours in Astral Diamond farming per item you want. Most items are priced incredibly high compared to the stats they give as well. With a 24,000 AD cap per day getting the required 2 million for some high level gear will take considerably more time than they are worth. Converting zen is even more ridiculous, at 400 AD per Zen (current rate) you're looking at $50 PER ITEM. That means in order to fully equip one character at high level will cost $400+

The PvP is gear based so the team that spent the most money is nearly guaranteed to win. This means PvP will quickly bore most players that don't have large amount of money to spend.

The campaign is both linear and repetitive. All characters from the Elven Wizard to the Half-Orc Great Fighter are stuck in the same storyline with no deviation (WoW didn't make you do this). This means using the second character slot will be something only hardcore players will bother with. Seriously how many people will want to play the same story all over again (and spend as much or more RL money equipping).

The only saving throw this game made is in the Foundry where players create quests for other players. Think about that.... The players are responsible for keeping the other players interested (they do this for free) by creating the majority of the quests.

One thing to ask yourself after playing a few days is:
"If this game did not have D&D associated with it, would you still play/spend money on it?"

IMHO this game is a step backwards from games that are several years old. While playing through the campaign is both interesting and fun, once you have done that, move on to another game. It isn't worth any money unless you are a die hard fan of all things D&D.

Everyone has there own playstyle, and preference when it comes to the games they play, it's true. Personally, I've never let what other players have affect my enjoyment of a game. I haven't bought anything off the auction house except for lockbox keys every so often and otherwise only use astral diamonds to buy stacks of Identify scrolls and change the appearance of my character's armor.

It's true, I have the Hero of the North founder pack, but I also run one of my characters without having claimed any of those items on.

I don't think the game is pay to win at all. No one has triple XP potions or the like. And I have yet to have any trouble getting through dungeons with just the equipment I've found on my own, or purchased with Lion seals, Manticore seals, etc.

In the end, it's important to remember that companies have to make a profit as well. Despite what people would like to think, nobody is making any of this content available just out of the goodness of their heart and unless this current model of Zen/Astral Diamonds proves unprofitable, I wouldn't expect to see it change. It's true the conversion rate is high right now, but once Founder packs are no longer being sold, this will even out quickly.

All that said, I realize not everyone is going to share my opinion and I do appreciate the comments. ^_^

I would be perfectly fine with it if they had made their profit off zen to gold. Just seems silly to even have it in the game in its current state. I still to this day play thac0 based text based muds. Either way. I'll keep playing. Absolutely love playing my rogue.

Love the game and the graphics!

I played the game for about 30 minutes and deleted it.

Let's take a look at character creation..... which in D&D is quite detailed.

Here there are no real details. And the character classes are a complete joke. Seriously where do they get this stuff....

Great weapon fighter or Guardian Fighter..... is this for real? ? ? ? When I played D&D you rolled a FIGHTER and then whether they went tank or DPS depended on how you specced them and geared them. But not here..

The game has a strong arcade feel to it. I feel like that I need to put quarters in it. And since it is pay to win, the devs apparently support this view.

I have no problem with people not enjoying Cryptic's vision of the D&D system or its implementation, but you can't make a statement like saying it's "pay to win" without some kind of further statement to support it. I've been playing steadily for weeks and haven't seen anything that tells me I need to pay money to have a good time with the game.

They are using the new D&D 4th edition rules. Which dummy down the older D20 Faerun games. Having been a four year DM veteran if the Living Faerun. I'm impressed with the details, but a bit lost as to where the areas connect up other then through Knox sending you out to help with whatever area. The quest details are long winded and most times don't have much in the way of getting to the point of them needing help. Infact I have typed incharacter :what's stopping you from taking on the Rebels or minor cultists and leaving the harder things out there.

The gold/silver/copper is a joke like said before. Astral Diamonds aren't even a part of the Faerun world. They were used in the Planes to deal with the deities and creatures of the various dimensions. So, what use are they to us in Faerun when dealing with other natives of Faerun? Ad to Zen is getting better, but will take a bit longer to get to a stable point. The seals for items per level are a joke. You have to farm dungeons to get enough for items, and usually by the time you get enough, you have leveled to the next type of seal items. Only the Drake, Unicorn, and Pegasus seals are worth anything near end game. Again, where have these come from? As for hotenow, there is a huge Fire elemental in the heart of the volcano, which should be soken about by the NPC's there. That is canon lore.

Technically, the game is not pay to win. It does take time to get the pay for items through in game effort and time. Since you can trade AD for zen, just need people to sell the zen on the market at more reasonable prices compared to the amount of AD you get through the game. Which means the AD/zen market needs to stabilize at a range that makes sense for the in game mechanics.

By the way, WotC is not happy with the direction NW went with Cryptic. It will be interesting if Wizards does something about it before actual Launch. Living Faerun GMs are on hold for their P&P canon games, until NW and the new books start up for the Lore and canon games to start up again.

Neverwinter Logo

MMOG developers love infographics. They love blowing our minds with statistics such as "2 billion characters made! That's as many McDonald's have been eaten in the last 5 minutes!. Sure enough, Neverwinter now has one.

Wed, Mar 26, 2014
Lewis B

Fresh details of Neverwinter's new expansion area, Icewind Dale has hit the official website.

Tue, Mar 11, 2014
Lewis B
An icy blast from the past comes blowing through Neverwinter this spring.
Fri, Mar 07, 2014
Upcoming content adds new PvP gear, penalties for ditching early and a new stat.
Thu, Feb 27, 2014

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