Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Neverwinter first impressions

So yesterday I downloaded the 4 GB of Neverwinter and tried it out. I checked the forums of my WoW guild and found on which server they were playing Neverwinter, so I chose that server. Created a cleric, and leveled him up to level 6, which was all that I had time for. Overall the experience was fun enough, but I'm still not sure how long I am going to play this.

One reason that made me try Neverwinter was their claim to be based on 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons. I love D&D 4E. And even the people who hate D&D 4E say they hate it because "it plays like an MMO", so obviously it should work well as an MMO. Only that once you play it, you quickly realize that Neverwinter is very, very, very far from D&D 4E. The names of the cities and the map are from the Forgotten Realms, which is nice; the name of the spells and classes and races are from D&D 4E, but what those spells do is very different, because how the game plays is very different from D&D. You can use an "encounter power" several times in one encounter, for example, and a "daily power" several times a day. Gameplay of Neverwinter is somewhere between WoW and Diablo, and has nothing to do with the tactical turn-based combat of D&D 4E. Neverwinter is a D&D flavored MMORPG. And at the end of the day a steak flavored potato chip is a potato chip, and not a steak.

The cleric turned out to be a good choice, as just like in 4E D&D the cleric in Neverwinter isn't a cloth-wearing sissy. I haven't played the other classes, but the Neverwinter cleric appeared quite powerful to me, as he has at-will attacks that are ranged and both damage the enemy and heal himself at the same time. What more can you want from an attack power? By level 6 I had three encounter powers and discovered that I only had two hotkeys to put them on. Later you get a third hotkey, but as you get even more encounter powers later, it appears that you won't be able to always have all your powers available to you. For the cleric that turned out to be somewhat annoying, as one of the powers is the healing word that can be used to heal himself out of combat. So between fights I need to change the powers in my hotkeys, heal myself, and change the powers back to the attacks.

Other than that I found combat not so much different from other MMORPGs. Yes, you target with the recticle of your mouse that is permanently fixed in the middle of your screen (unless you press ALT to use the mouse to click on stuff on your UI, but I wouldn't recommend trying that in combat). But for the cleric's ranged attacks that is barely different from how a caster plays in WoW. Maybe it makes a bigger difference for rogues, but my cleric just pelts mobs at a distance and then finished them with a point-blank AoE when they get close.

Getting in touch with my guild was more difficult than I would have thought. You need to be level 15 to send a tell. Or, which is what I did, spend some money on the real-money currency "Zen" to be allowed to send tells. No problem, I wanted to buy more inventory space anyway. I also found that I already had 500 Zen before I bought any, and a guild mate told me he had none, so I'm not sure where that came from. If you don't want to spend money, I found there was another way to speak to a friend to get a guild invite: You can search for him with the /who command and then send him a party invite. As Neverwinter uses a CharacterName@AccountName naming convention your friend hopefully recognizes you from one of them, and once you are in a party you can use party chat to speak with him at a distance. The guild was already formed, so I got an invite, and I'm set.

Gameplay up to now is nothing to write home about. There are quests that ask you to kill X mobs or collect Y items or to go to place Z. Every zone is instanced, but some are shared between many players, while others are just for you or your group alone. There is a sparkly path showing the way to your next quest objective. So you go, fight some mobs, get loot from them and treasure chests, and do pretty standard questing stuff like in every other MMORPG. Besides treasure chests there are different nodes which you can open with the right skill, e.g. my cleric can open religion nodes, a rogue would be able to open thievery nodes. These appear to mostly hold crafting stuff, and I'm not high enough in level to be able to craft. You can open nodes that aren't for your class with a consumable kit, but those appear to be not abundant.

That led me to the AH, which was a complicated affair that didn't work all that well. First I had to exchange Zen into Astral Diamonds, which is done on a player-to-player system with fluctuating exchange rates. I exchanged 100 Zen (basically 1€) and then had difficulties to find my Astral Diamonds, until I finally figured out how one of the tabs of the exchange system had a withdraw button. The search function of the AH was somewhat buggy, but I managed to find some kits, and bought out 5 auctions for 1 each. Then I had to find the mailbox (aka postal courier) to get the kits, and there was another bug which resulted in not all of the kits arriving, so I ended up with only 3 of them, although I had paid for all 5. Disappearing items in the AH system is a bad sign, I think I'll stay away from the AH until they fix that.

Overall I was having fun. I appreciated the D&D flavor. The combat system wasn't too twitchy for me. And while gameplay was up to now pretty standard, it wasn't worse than elsewhere. I'm looking forward to trying out the Foundry (once you don't get banned for using it any more) and crafting later.

From what I've read on the web it seems the game forces you to spnd money, later on. It's free and all for a while, then you get stuck unless you grind forever. Let us know.
Pretty much my experience. Neverwinter is fun but whether it's enough fun to play often I rather doubt.

I'm curious why you felt you needed extra bag space at level 6, though. I'm level 12 and I've not run into any storage issues yet. You do get a free bag in a quest at some point and that's left me with more than enough bag space for now.
I'm having a fine time in it. You're right, though, that it's a D&D flavored MMO rather than a serious attempt to adapt D&D into an MMO.

Crafting is a kind of weird combo between SWTOR and STO Duty Officer missions. It's different, but I'm not sure yet if that's a good different or bad different.
You can simply purchase other class' node kits from NPC vendors; no need to go to the auction house for them.

I haven't needed to use the auction house for anything yet, at level 24.
Inventory gets to be an issue later due to the augment system. These are gems you can insert into gear and companions (pet NPCs for combat). IIRC there are 10 types and 7 ranks of each. It's not uncommon for a 30 minute session to give you a dozen or more of them.
The foundry looks like it'll be the saving grace of this. Check out some of the highest-rated solo foundry maps. I quite enjoyed A Hidden Blade and The Lanaar Legacy, two which are part of an overarching campaign. Cleric was definitely the right choice. I copy-paste my first-impressions review from elsewhere:


I was not initially very impressed with Neverwinter. But I've since discovered that's probably because I initially rolled a Great Weapon Fighter. If you're not already a fan and just curious about trying it out, by all means, roll a GWF. It's like training weights - only instead of weight, you're training with tolerance for awfulness.

When chugging potions like an addict, and stopping for a breather every few seconds, all of the game's flaws were highlighted in stark relief. Writing from a 12yr old who just discovered fantasy novels, voice-acted by his mum and dad's 'improv group', who are only capable of doing campy (and awful) caricatures. The amateur hour casino floor show impression is reinforced by the continuous spam of messages telling you that some lucky punter just gambled their way to epic toys, and wouldn't it be great if you spent some money on gambling too?

There's a skill/talent/power tree of sorts. I say 'of sorts' because any semblance of freedom of choice is a heavily-locked-down illusion, with the game staunchly refusing to let you have any actual agency in your build because it's worried you'll break something. "Here. Here! Point goes here, thickhead! What's wrong with you? OK. No more points for you until you put that point there. NO. It's a USEFUL skill and you WILL use it, dammit!"
No I fucking won't.

However. Once you get past all of that and threaten to uninstall out of frustration (whether that takes you five levels or ten), go re-roll a cleric. All the tedium of the quests will be shortened partly by your advance knowledge but mostly by the fact that as a cleric, you can now see the Matrix and fly like Neo, and the Gods themselves will literally shower you in buffs and money.

With all that spare time you have from effortlessly brushing aside the bosses that turned your GWF into meat-paste, you'll be able to try the Foundry, where you can indulge your schadenfreude in watching people who DO actually know how to write wrestling with the fisher-price toolset they've been given to try and craft something at least vaguely D&Dish out of what is essentially 'DDO Lite - Combat Edition'.
@Cam boy I'd love to know where you write regularly, that was great.

It's especially interesting because I started with GWF, being that I always start every MMO with the fighter type, and grew increasingly frustrated with it, so I switched to the sword-and-board guardian instead. He's been more fun to play....yet my sense of enjoyment has not to date rivalled my wife's, who's got an army of clerics going now. I think, from your post, I know understand why her experience and mine seem to be so different.
@Tori - Thanks. I don't really write anywhere regularly, I just lurk on blogs. :)
For the cleric, I suggest using the Healing encounter power and one damage power, rather than two damage powers.

I found that makes battles much easier, if a bit longer.
My 1st impressions are here

The TL;DR from the end of it:

Overall, I’m rather impressed so far, even without the ability to cast instant spells on the run. Enough so that I’m thinking of dropping $10 to buy 2 more character slots for a Trickster Rogue and 1 of the fighters… probably a Guardian Fighter. The Great Weapon Fighter is said to be kind of a grind until level 35 and then suddenly be wicked OP, so that sounds kinda meh to me. Apparently there are in-game ways to earn their “zen” for the cash shop too, so I’ll look into that as well. Not a bad 2-hour run, I didn’t think. Got a feel for 2 different characters and enjoyed them both. Score a win for Neverwinter!


I've been home sick the past couple of days so I've had a chance to put in a bit more time. My Control Wizard is level 32 now. Single mobs (even elites) aren't any problem at all, but swarms of weaker mobs will snow me under in a hurry, even with having a tank pet -- it doesn't keep aggro well on more than 1 mob.

My Devoted Cleric is 24. It can handle elite mobs just fine also, though with a lot more dodging than the CW. The AE you get at level 2 or 3 becomes a knockback if you use it with "Divinity" so it's a good control power to have. Also does just fine vs mob swarms due to having surprisingly enough) more AE than the CW does. So far healing isn't actually a big deal. Healing Word is a small HOT, is all. Even using Divinity to boost it a bit it's still not really a huge heal. At 20 you can pick a new at-will that incorporates small AE heals around the mobs you're hitting, so that helps a bit, but for the most part in dungeon runs I'm seeing clerics tossing a few top-offs after the fights and everyone is more or less responsible for their own health with potions and/or a cleric companion. Plus possibly regen or life-steal gear.

I dropped 500 zen to buy 2 more slots. I've got a rogue at level 23 now also and it's awesome as dps. Again... elites aren't a problem. I have to dodge a bit, but I've got stuns and movement powers, so it's easy to avoid most incoming damage. Mob swarms can be a pain, but they tend to die in 2-3 hits, so they go down fast.

I started a GWF, but deleted it at level 2. . . . I also started a GF and it's at level 5 now. Still not very impressed, but it's better than the GWF, IMO.

Overall, I'm having a blast with it. It also helps that some of the Foundry missions I've found have been VERY well done. I've stopped trying to do the in-game story content and have been leveling by doing foundry missions instead. They're more fun and always level-appropriate, after all.
Thanks for your past and hopefully future impresssions.

A lot of commenter/reviewers seem to think the Foundry may be the Big Idea here. Most will be rubbish of course but the hope is for some very good ones. And it is credible that a game that attracts a lot of DMs could satisfy the content-locus better than what the publisher can afford to. I wondered if there is anything inspired by Selune was possible.

@Rugus I sure hope that they force people to spend money eventually. I'd hate to get hooked on a game and discover that it gets closed down in six months because the developers didn't realize that you have to make money to run a business.
@Hagu I think the beauty of the system is that any DMs of pen and paper games who have written and kept their own campaigns already worked out will be able to go convert it to the game, cutting down on creativity time. I strongly suspect this has been the case for some of the better quests/campaigns already showing in there.
Having levelled a cleric to the late 20s, let me say this now:

Killing things will take twice as long as any damage dealing class. This is not an exaggeration. You might not need to use many potions, but the time-to-kill is so abyssmaly low that many people will quit when mobs start having more health.

Also, at level 16 you get your first companion, one of which is a personal healer, so even if you play a squishy class, you'll eventually have your own personal healer. Plus, potions are always available and very very efficient.

My recommendation: level a rogue.
I really wanted to get into this game, but for some reason it's just not clicking for me. Maybe I'm just spoiled from GW2's tumbling about, but every time my cleric does that flashy slidy dodge thing I just cringe.

But yeah, it's just not catching me. I play for an hour and then find myself wondering how Rift is doing these days. I see some painfully boring quest dialogue and wish I was playing something like TSW. I look around the world and it just seems kinda flimsy compared to something like Lotro.

Shrug, ima go play Rift for a bit, then come back and give neverwinter another try, but yeah, not so promising.
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