Neverwinter - First Impressions

Games, Gaming and Hardware
So, like many people here and indeed world wide, I got to have a crack at Neverwinter over the past few days. And while this isn't at all World of Warcraft related, I still feel that it's somewhat relevant to the forum seeing as a lot of us that post here are roleplayers and I expect that in a game like Neverwinter, roleplaying will really take off.

Now the game is 'officially' in open-beta but I don't actually consider this to be a beta. I consider this to be a soft-launch. Perfect World and Cryptic have no plans to wipe characters when the game officially 'launches' and while the game is still being worked on, the cash shop is available and working at taking all your money so compared to other games and their beta tests (such as the ones for World of Warcraft, which wipe the slate after the test) it's essentially a different ball-game entirely.

So let's start with the basics..

Options

Going into the options menu on the character select screen certainly gives a lot of detail. Some pieces are missing or broken, such as keybindings (my client only shows 1 option yours may be different) and audio hardware detection but as far as graphics are concerned there are many many options when you check the 'advanced options' button. There are a lot of sliders concerning details, most of them are set at 100% by default, but you can crank them up to 200% in most cases, although personally I prefer the defaults for now. There are no HUD or Chat options available yet, but I expect they'll be added in the future, but otherwise there really aren't that many complaints that I have for the options menu.

Character Creation

Okay so... probably one of the more detailed character creations I've seen in an MMO. By default we have eight races to chose from although one is currently disabled. All races have male and female variants and half-orcs are ugly, but I'm pretty sure that's the basic intent of the race. Now each race has their own little perks, including adjustments to ability scores, which can come in handy if you're wanting to min-max your stats, but there are honestly no real penalties with taking say... a half-orc and turning them into a mage, you can do that. The races are fairly standard dungeons and dragons races, you've got your humans, dwarves, elves etc etc, so there really isn't too much variation. Sadly you can't chose your sub-race like you could in other DnD games, so you can't be a Duregar dwarf, you're just... a dwarf.

Classes are not as varied as in other DnD games, but that's likely to cut down on confusion. You have six classes (only 5 are available so far) and they fill in fairly standard roles. Trickster Rogue is a very mobile, high damage DPS class. Devoted Cleric is your traditional healer. Control Wizards are essentially mages although they can lock down enemies really well with knockbacks and frost magic. Great Weapon fighters are your heavy hitting armored melee class and Guardian Fighters are the traditional tank.

Now each class has a world ability which is fairly useful in the world and in parties. Thievery, Religion, Arcana and Dungeoneering. While you're in the world of Neverwinter you'll find lootable objects which require you to either have a certain skill or a skill kit to access them, the skills are 100% chance, you will never fail to loot where as the kits vary, generally you have a 75% chance to loot the object, although honestly it feels more like 50/50 at times. On top of that certain skills access other objects as well. Thievery allows Trickster Rogues to find and disarm traps (which are amazingly deadly in this game) and Dungeoneering allows Guardian Fighters and Great Weapon Fighters to see traps, but more importantly see secret doors and triggers. Word of warning, not all secret doors are fun to open. I have opened more than enough and been surprised by ogres on the other side. Not fun!

Ability scores are traditional DnD, each class has a primary stat (which is purple) two secondary stats (blue) and the other three stats are grey. You can reroll the values as many times as you like, generally speaking you'll want a high value for your primary stat with 17 being the bare minimum. Now by default you can only get a max of 18 per stat and a minimum of 3, that's in line with the traditional dice rolling for character creation. However each race has a bonus to two stats that you can chose from below your scores which can bump some stats up by 2 points. The only exception to this is humans, who can only bump a single stat by two points, but get the ability to chose which stat.

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Character Creation Continued

Once you've gotten past the scores, you get to how your character looks. Now there are a number of pre-sets which you can chose from, and if you're just interested in getting right into the game you can just pick one of them, but for those of us that want a bit more detail we can click customize which opens up a ton of extra options for us to chose from. There are a varied number of hairstyles, skin tones, eye types (you can make your character blind if you wanted to), tattoos etc etc etc.

The real customization comes from the facial and body scaling menus, which allow you to change eyebrow position, eye width, muscle mass, there are just too many options there to list them all, but you can literally tailor your character to what you want them to look like if you want to.

Following that we have 'background' now this is by far just fluff really. It's not going to impact your gameplay in any way, so if you're not someone who cares about these things you can skip it. However your choices will give you access to two titles within the game that you can give to your character. The two main options here are of course, Character Origins and Diety. You can chose to have your character hail from a number of locations within the world of Faerun including the known cities of Luskan, Neverwinter, Waterdeep, Baldur's Gate and Amn. Once you've chosen a location you can actually chose what you were while you were in that city. So for say Baldur's Gate, you can then decide if you were a 'Malcontent Refugee' a 'Flaming Fist Mercenary' or a 'Worldly Swashbuckler'.

For Dieties, there are a total of twelve. Each have their own purpose and followers and will give you a title, which you will see below the name of the Diety. So if you chose to follow Tymora the Lady of Luck, you will gain the title Tymoran etc etc.

Once you've chosen those options, you get the chance to put in your name and a biography (that's entirely optional) and then you're ready to go, you'll be thrown into a tutorial area which will teach you the basics of the game and give you your first few levels and abilities.
My only complaint about it is that the character models look like they're from Diablo 3.
Graphics

So my first thought for the graphics is that they -could- be a little better, but that's possibly because I am spoiled by games like Crysis 3 and Guild Wars 2. At least they are not as dodgy as DDO or LotRO as those engines are very poor and in a vast need of an upgrade. That said, the game is very beautiful, so I generally allowed the slight issues that I did have to go to the wayside. I haven't really tweaked with the options menus to see what the graphics look like at 200% so maybe that could be a reason? But overall if I had to give the graphics a score I'd rate it at around 7/10. Not the best, but definitely above average.

Character Controls & Combat

Controlling the character is fairly unique in Neverwinter. You don't need to spam hotkeys to be effective, rather it's very fluid and fast-paced. W,S,A,D is the standard controls for your character, your left and right mouse buttons are your primary attacks which has a very 'dungeon crawler' feel to it. As you unlock abilities you'll automatically bind them to 1, 2, Q, E and R. The Tab key is also used (although as I haven't gotten all the way to level 10 on each character I don't know what their individual abilities are. Trickster Rogues gain stealth for that slot) and your 3, 4 and 5 keys slot potions.

Of course this all binds into combat, and when you're going up against enemies you'll find that they use the Champions Online system where there will be your basic minions, which die fairly easily, your tougher bruiser mobs which can take a while burn down depending on the mob in question (ogres are very tough, where as Nasher Enforcers are not as powerful) and then you have your bosses, which usually have a lot of health and can do a lot of damage if you're not able to avoid it easily. Combat, like movement is all very fluid and surprisingly fun even at low levels. Your abilities are always powerful right from the start and you can murder enemies fairly quickly, although there are some classes which waver in their ability strength and that in my opinion needs to be fixed quickly.

Social

Staple MMO chat is available in this game, and there are no major differences from what we're used to in other games. I have no real pros or cons to it as of yet, language filter is on by default which is alright I suppose, there is a zone chat and multiple 'instances' so that zones don't get overcrowded with players. All fairly decent in my opinion.

The only major negative in the Social aspect of this game is in general parties. When you team up with a friend for a dungeon loot from chests is not shared between players (save for rare items which are rolled for) and your other party members cannot loot the chest after you do meaning that you have to divide who gets which chest between the various members of the party. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how many chests there are and how many party members you have...
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Now as I continue to experience the game I'll likely write more. I haven't really gotten into skirmishes or foundry quests yet, but when I do I'll make sure to throw my impressions on here about them too.

Thus far, if I had to rate Neverwinter as a whole, it would get a 8/10. It's fun, unique and pleasing to look at, and it doesn't seem to thrust the cash shop down the throat of the players although that may change when the game goes from soft-release into full-release.
My only complaint about it is that the character models look like they're from Diablo 3.

Something I definitely noticed, but I've seen worse.
I like finding out about a game right as it's somewhat being released. Sounds cool, but the downloader went all funky on me.
The controls and combat feel really similar to Tera.
It IS still in beta. Nothing is entirely concrete yet.
I'm going to have to disagree with "fluid" as it currently stands. I've only tried low level guard and wizard so far, but for a self-described action game there is a disappointing amount of rooting and pausing. I notice especially on the guard that once I have something in the reticule, the game seems to really want to "help" me with automatic adjustments to positioning and facing. For a class so basically dependent on directional facing for cleaves and blocks, rooting too long or otherwise taking control of that out of my hands feels very restrictive.

But I prefer action games and have been spoiled by good ones, so I'm especially nitpicky over things like that. I have friends interested in it so I'll be poking around it now and then.
I'm kinda new to the whole Forgotten Realm lore and shtick...

But I squealed like a girl once I discovered the Uthgardts....
I'm going to have to disagree with "fluid" as it currently stands. I've only tried low level guard and wizard so far, but for a self-described action game there is a disappointing amount of rooting and pausing. I notice especially on the guard that once I have something in the reticule, the game seems to really want to "help" me with automatic adjustments to positioning and facing. For a class so basically dependent on directional facing for cleaves and blocks, rooting too long or otherwise taking control of that out of my hands feels very restrictive.

But I prefer action games and have been spoiled by good ones, so I'm especially nitpicky over things like that. I have friends interested in it so I'll be poking around it now and then.

*nods* I've only played a Trickster Rogue thus far, and combat there is surprisingly fluid.

Of course, given how it's still a beta, it's possible we may see the issues you're having being fixed, but it's certainly more fluid than running up to a mob and standing in front of it while spamming action keys :P
I'm actually in love with the guardian.

I love the shield mechanics, and that while I can't move as fast as other classes, I can stay better defended. It feels "right". You raise a good point though, the fluidity seems to suffer somewhat from the game's aid of trying to face and adjust the character's position.

Combat feels better paced than, say, Tera's, but Tera's felt more fluid. Honestly though, I prefer this one. At least when it comes to playing a tanking class. I tried the great weapon fighter and felt a little too quick for my tastes (then again, my favorite 2Hander class out of the action mmos I've played was the berserker from Tera -- slow and hard, lots of charging).
I really don't like the Guardian "block" animation. That's the only thing holding me back from playing it, honestly.

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