Neverwinter Beta: First Impressions

Oddra Undermoon PicA 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.

Functionality:

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.

Looks:

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).

Animations:

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.

Conclusion:

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.

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About Silverangel

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8 responses to “Neverwinter Beta: First Impressions

  • the truthseker

    Thanks for the info! The only thing I wanted to clarify is the Foundry quests scale with individual/group level. The old Foundry system was supposed to do this but didn’t, thus the “level ranges.” As to how well it does that I shall leave to the players to decide. I’m just the information broker here.

    • Jacquotte

      Oh, ok! The level scaling will be liked by players, but I’m not sure how much I would want this if I were a Foundry creator. (insert puzzled pensiveness at this point) I guess level ranges will work. Thanks so much for the clarification, Truthseeker. Always appreciated. 🙂

  • wumpus

    “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.”

    I would think compared to the traditional “shine Elminster’s shoes for the first few levels” this would be an improvement for Neverwinter (DDO lets “epic” (i.e. levels 21-cap) characters be the big E’s lackey for endgamish quests in Neverwinter).

    ” 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.”

    Back when I was on the DDO forums, I would typically argue Turbine’s policy (no evil alignments) against upset newbies (and other “evil” types). It seemed an easy excuse for griefing, and that proper evil roleplaying will often (or at least sometimes) *require* griefing real humans. Evil characters would also make quest design more of a challenge (although this doesn’t seem to bother most single player games), making things more complicated or discouraging completionists. Personally, I think Turbine’s decision began and ended with the teen-13+ rating they have. Can other characters i.e. “godly” clerics (as opposed to goddess worshipers) and non-clerics and non-paladins be evil?

    “I expected to hate the glowy trail, but it wasn’t all that horrible.”

    I expect (and hope) you simply stop seeing it after awhile. Maybe instead of giving an option to remove it they can at least put its brightness on a slider. LOTRO’s arrow mostly works (all the problems I have with it center on how your 5 on screen quests work, are chosen, and which quest gets the arrow).

    “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.”

    Meh. If the game itself can’t accomplish emotional evocation now, how will it much later in the game? Note: LOTRO’s “drama pauses” annoy me even more, so much that I almost never play “epic content”.

    ” It was difficult to sit in a chair in a tavern, although I could kick the chairs around.”

    Yet another good reason to be glad you escaped from DDO so early. Sitting in a DDO tavern chair involves finding one at just the right angle, putting your feet in just the right place so that when you type “/sit” you not only appear to be on the chair but your legs almost look like they belong in the chair (/sit appears to be meant for the ground.

    • Jacquotte

      Right now, the NPCs you meet in the first ten levels (mostly Neverwinter guard-types) are flat and weakly characterized. I thought all were fairly forgettable for various reasons.

      It’s not a matter of being a lackey. It’s just good characters of any kind. Characters are the heart of fiction. It has been a couple years since I played Age of Conan, but all of the characters in the AoC starting areas are more vivid than any character in Neverwinter in the beginning, from animations to voice over emotion and acting, to writing characters who have their own stories.

  • wumpus

    Just got the client patched and a taste of the game. Some thoughts:

    – Wash up on a beach after a dragon attacks your ship? Starting on a beach is enough of a cliche without copying not only the start of DDO but even the beach scenery looks copied.
    – Character choices seem painful. 5 basic character concepts. Hopefully cryptic will get cracking with the rest for launch.
    – graphics seemed hit and miss. The overall scenery looked great. The models (while static) looked great. The animations and the UI overlays looked like it was trying to be an arcade fighting game. Not what I’m looking for in a RPG. Do they really draw out areas of attack in red past the newb-introductory parts?
    – Hated the UI. Since then I’ve seen hints on how to use the keyboard, not sure if it will work left handed.

    At this point I have to put on my overworn DDO correspondents hat (you say spam, I say correspondent) and post what I posted on their forum. I would stay away from that game until it proves itself for reasons that have nothing to do with pay2win:
    [start pasted text]
    The real question is what happens if you are on some other site and neverwinter pops up. Presumably the thread will constain people looking for a D&D MMO. So you tell them about the recent wonders of DDO:

    – Have your credit card repeatedly billed until it hits credit limit!
    [even worse is for DDO threads where you tell them to make sure they remove their credit card info due to Turbine forum idiocy and bug history. Followed by “I hope you removed your credit card because of the repeat billing bug”. You really don’t want that type of unforgivable failure to be so predictable.][brackets in original text]
    [note for kittykittyboomboom readers, this actually happened on the “order of the stick” forums. Even worse was that it was down after I posted the first message and a week followed until I could mention the billing error.]

    what, people are still reading?

    – Maintenance on weekends. Because Turbine hates their employees as much as they hate their customers.
    – Remind them that marathon “awareness raising” (Turbine is based in Boston) ribbons are available for ~$1 a pop. Proceeds going to Warner corporate income fund. The CEO needs a bigger bonus.
    – Point out that if you follow the paths you will get a complete gimp and need to reroll in a month or two. If you make one on your own you will make a complete gimp and need to reroll in a month or two. By the way, search on “paths revisted” no longer brings a working link [see below for forum notes], so good luck digging for a workable beginner build.

    [note for kittykittyboomboom readers: this is a fairly serious charge. D&D 3.x practically enforces minmaxing due to the way the d20 mechanic works (if a roll of 20 won’t hit the number you need, there is no reason to advance that skill at all. If a roll of 1 won’t miss the number you need, same deal). Power creep makes this very, very common and the game is balanced around the idea that you will do everything you can to maximize your specialty. Don’t expect to get away with an unminmaxed character in DDO.]

    – Forum destruction removes an important way to learn the game. Expect to be a newb for an extended period of time. Go even longer before you learn just how bad your build is and you have to reroll.
    – Is the enhancement system going anywhere? Last I heard you might be able to take *something* on another tree if you had a top tier enhancement in one tree, but don’t count on taking much. Lamania chatter [test server] has been dead for weeks, and my client just doesn’t want to download.
    – The OP seems to think the expansion is a death knell for the game. Looks likely, the last expansion gave carte blanch to change everything under the sun and employeed temps for a deathmarch. The code base barely survived that and it isn’t going to survive another. Turbine has a tendancy to put things on firesale in the store before making them free, so I’m expecting them to try to grab as many pre-release purchases as possible than produce a minimally functional expansion for as short as they can before turning off the servers.

    Yes, I know there have been DooOOOoooOOOooom threads consistantly on the forum since beta. The impressive bit is that they managed to inflict so many disasters so close to Neverwinter giving them all the free advertising they could want, and all we can say is “runaway! runaway fast! If you don’t like Neverwinter you can forget about a good D&D MMO”.

    • Jackie

      It’s nice to hear from you, Wumpus. 🙂 Thanks for the comments. Would you have any interest in writing this up as a Neverwinter launch review and guest posting on this blog?

      If you want to write up your reactions into something solid, I would put it up as a contributing post crediting you. If you took a screenshot for a picture, so much the better. I have 100-150 people coming here per day, and nothing new for them to read. It just needs to be somewhat informative and balanced between positive and negative. Any interest?

      The red area of attack in DDO is there through the whole game, I think. You might be able to turn it off. I haven’t logged in there yet. I agree about the shipwreck on the beach. And moreover, having only one start area, with the barest bikini of a reason for being there.

      What do you mean about DDO forum destruction? You mean the culling they do, or are they shutting down the DDO forums? I never really thought Neverwinter was going to kill DDO, but from what you’re saying, maybe it’s possible.

      • wumpus

        Well I ran a cleric up to I think 10th level (4e and neverwinter break everything with D&D, so its hard to tell what level I am and what it means. I’m still looking for my mace.) I am rather underwhelmed, but I went a lot longer with LOTRO and finally found a way to love it (for a few months, anyway). I can’t leave without learning the foundry, it seems most of the point of neverwinter.

        If I wind up with any material I’ll certainly write it up. I am just hoping that the “5 things I need to know about an MMO” isn’t quite right about learning enough about combat in a minute or less. I was so underwhelmed with my cleric that I doubt I’ll log back in with him (and that’s the closest thing to DPS casting Neverwinter has so far). I’m not sure I will even get as far as you got with Neverwinter before running screaming back to LOTRO. I do mean to give the foundry a try, that seems to be the most important part of Neverwinter.

        The DDO forum had the software replaced. The new system requires your game account and game password (the inevitable billing disaster was only part of the story). Search is unlikely to find anything (searching on my username returns nothing), but I have since managed to find the “newbie builds” by specifying *both* the author and keywords of the title in the thread (just the title will find other threads but not the right one, just the author returns nothing). I *think* you can now post to the forum without being logged out every 5 minutes, but really am not interested in logging in to find out.

        “Destruction” may be too harsh. For anybody without a subscription and who has removed their credit card (too dangerous to login any other way), they can still login and post to this now truncated forum. Anybody can read it, and you can even post to “general discussion” from a mule account (unlike LOTRO, DDO mules don’t have to worry about the introductory jail. Just rush through the tutorial and over to Stormreach. I’ve lost track of much of my mule accounts). Much of the functionality is missing: if I can’t access ‘new posts’ I see no reason to drop by (DDO earlier deliberately made the subforums useless due to “insufficient traffic” now they are cluttered with everything you don’t care about). “dev posts” also doesn’t work, which would be important if they wanted to mention what is going on with the major surgery to the character classes, but since they aren’t talking this isn’t as important as it should be.

        From the looks of things the politics of either Warner or LOTRO wants to kill off DDO and is being pretty effective in doing so. Maybe they just have a bungee boss from Warner that is completely clueless – the “producer” job titles changed around early this year. It could just be poor timing to get so many things wrong near a competitor’s launch, but they can’t seem to get anything right.

  • Jackie

    It’s good to hear someone else was underwhelmed by the cleric, or bad, depending on how you look at it. I think I also got to level 10. It sounds like the DDO forums are worse off than the LotRO forums. I didn’t think that was possible. Still looking for your mace-haha. Too funny. Have you tried GW2? The elementalist seems like a really good magic caster class. I haven’t played that class yet.

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