A caveat and apology: I’ve only played about seven hours or so at this point (updated), but I wanted to get my first impressions down while they are in my head. I have other things to do this weekend.
Overall, I’m really impressed by Neverwinter, and I’m having fun. Here are my impressions, which I wrote down as I played through the game with Oddra Undermoon, my freaky Halfling cleric a la Christina Ricci.
I was impressed by the security ID check via email right off the top. It’s good to see Rift’s system becoming a standard. You also get a 5-minute? logout forewarning if you go idle too long while fixing dinner, which I liked. And thanks to Cryptic’s hidden @(handle) way of identifying a character, you don’t have to worry about your name choices being taken.
Rooting during combat is annoying and frustrating at first, and a lot of people have complained about it, but it’s still good. Rooting for skills helps keep the twitchy, red-circle frogging aspect at a manageable level for us old folks.
Healing looks like it will be a game for first-person shooter players. Having to manually aim to target your heals on party members while they are fighting seems really hard. I noticed a call in a forum thread for a “target lock system similar to Tera’s”. I guess it should be appreciated that the game has a real healer class in the first place, but there currently are some concerns.
The player-made dungeons were up and running, but I didn’t try them. I didn’t see how to tell what level something is for. I also wanted a rating system broken down into genre categories like action, story, lore, romance (which is what I’d like to write), and so on, instead of just a star rating. I’m probably missing some things.
The deed/achievement/lore book is really beautiful and intriguing. I noticed a lot of achievements for being a Foundry creator, as well as exploring and supporting Foundry content. Super cool!
I expected to hate the glowy trail, but it wasn’t all that horrible. They say you can turn it off, but you can’t due to the quest writing. It’s the same in LotRO. The writers don’t want to make the players read too much, so they assume you’re using the trail at the expense of realism and developing setting through descriptive writing.
“Where are those bears?” “Oh, they are down the hill next to the old well. My wife used to pick strawberries down there, but the bears are too dangerous these days.”
I do like the halo effect when you have an NPC targeted, because it is very reminiscent of the visual style of the original Neverwinter. In fact, the whole interface and style is sort of old school and appealing, a feature that I’ve commented on in a previous post.
The music was like Champions: a little too much energy non-stop for me. I took my headphones off a half-hour into the character creation. I turned the music off completely after about an hour into the game. Overall the sound effects are excellent.
I really liked how enemies are alerted to your presence when you enter a room, or not, if you they have their backs to you. I didn’t notice a cover effect, however. Enemies would have positions of partial cover, but it didn’t seem to do anything for them. Maybe it’s a feature not yet implemented.
Lore, Story, and Writing:
Not enough of it. If I didn’t know Neverwinter and the story, I’d be a little lost. The dialogues need more “oh, you’re new here aren’t you, well you see…”
I also really hope the game will launch with some real opening cinematics instead of an obtuse slideshow that doesn’t accomplish any emotional evocation.
No “Smiling Jack”. Your character has no friend that lives, and there are no likeable, beloved NPCs at the start to make you feel welcome. This is a writing failure. You do get a party in your honor, but to me the scene was a bit flat and hard to believe. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention to how incredibly heroic I’d just been while soloing the doom of Neverwinter at level two.
Only three of eleven of the selectable divines to worship are goddesses, and none of them are evil. I could not worship Shar or Loviatar, i.e. and therefore play an evil cleric as I mentioned I wanted to do in a previous post. I wanted to side with the rebels to overthrow the Neverwinter rulership, actually. I wanted to negotiate instead of kill them, but the main quest allowed only one path up to the point I played. I liked later that evocation of the gods would play a daily role though, at least for a cleric, as an incentive system to log in. This reward system for logging in at least every 24 hours is interesting.
The character backgrounds are nice. You get a map of Faerun, and you can click a city to hail from, with a story. You can also enter a backstory right at character creation, which is unusual and a thoughtful, welcome addition by Cryptic.
I also noticed the Henchman system in my character progress panel. This system, which I’d forget about, should offer a nice roleplay aspect. A henchman also helps you in some main quests. I’m really hopeful the same quest design can be used via the Foundry, because it would be perfect for the little campaign I wanted to maybe create.
The game environments look beautiful on max settings. The lighting is particularly nice in spots, as in the above screenshot clip. Monster lairs look a bit lived-in with more gritty detail than one would expect from an average MMO.
The player characters are sketchier. The creation is robust at the outset with 7 races supposedly available at launch, and lots of sliders, including fingernail length, breasts, and heels. I would have liked a lot more color tones, which seem unnecessarily limited.
I wanted my Tiefling to have grey-ish skin like my old horned (evil) cleric in Neverwinter Nights. I also wanted more horn and tail options.
The scraggly hair is my biggest complaint. I only found two female hairs across all races that I liked enough to use. I had some trouble making a good-looking elf, then abandoned my elf within ten minutes due to the jerky animations and figure.
I liked my halfling the best for looks and animations, and solely for those things I will likely play one, unless the character creation improves (it never does from beta to launch, in my middling experience).
In addition to stiff animations, another thing I noticed were stiff facial expressions. There were no smiles to be seen in the character creation–all tight-lipped Al Gore situations. I noticed the resting/standing still animations are similarly minimal, compared to LotRO’s more natural-looking, albeit repetitive, resting poses.
I think animations and character creation will be a big ongoing source of complaints and requests for improvement. These things just can’t be shortcut, but still they do it. I also wished my makeup was separate from my tattoos instead of locked as either/or.
Emotes were awkward due to the targeting scheme. I would try to emote to someone, and they would move, and it would screw up. Forget about emoting as you run past someone. Cheer emote didn’t work when I tried to congratulate someone. Dance emotes didn’t seem to be working. It was difficult to sit in a chair in a tavern, although I could kick the chairs around.
This was just a first impression of Neverwinter. I did like it, in general. If it were a subscription game, I’d be planning to buy and play it at launch after only this one night of beta. I’d even be calling this a must-try MMO for any fan of the fantasy MMO genre. I wish it were a subscription game and not F2P. It’s like a paradise veiling a Kafkaesque nightmare.
Yes, it’s a F2P game though with all that entails, including in-game NPCs giving direct access to high-quality gear shops that only use astral currency which are to real-money ZEN transactions in some sort of complex and clever currency scheme. Cryptic does seem to be taking it easy on store buttons and splash advertisements, but this is only the beta and these things can and will change later.