If there is one genre of video-game that I never really spent much time playing, it’s the MMORPG. Which is weird, to be honest, because I love the RPG genre – surely it would be a natural progression for me? Well, the main reason that I never get around to playing them is because I’m a console gamer. I never played WoW because I didn’t have a PC good enough to run it, and that has been the case for most of the heavy hitting MMORPGs since. But now, us console gamers have been given an MMORPG with real promise, and I couldn’t be more happy.
Neverwinter is a Dungeon and Dragons MMORPG, which is free to play on Windows PC and the Xbox One. It was in development, by Cryptic Studios, for quite some time, having first been announced back in 2010. It was finally released last week, but it seemed to sweep under the radar of many. The game is based around the city of Neverwinter, which is under siege from a dark army of the undead. Obviously, you’ll be facing other enemies too – from thieves to orcs. It has a very strong story running through it, and I guess it’s best to imagine it as less of an MMORPG along the lines of a game like WoW, and more of a game like Oblivion which has MMO qualities. You can play it with others, or you can lonewolf it and, so far, I’ve not found it punishing enough for me to require playing with others – though I have on occasions.
I say that Neverwinter is the perfect MMORPG for beginners because it gives you a lot of options of how to play it. You can focus on the main story, you can find the small side-quests to complete and earn extra XP, you can play some PVP or some mini wave-based skirmishes, and you can even create your own missions and campaigns. It has lots for the traditional MMORPGer, but at the same time it does a great job of guiding novices through. In a way, you can make of Neverwinter what you will.
The game has everything that a good MMORPG should have, including engaging quests, a gripping story, enticing combat and a wealth of choice for character customisation. So far the quests have been pretty standard; exactly what you’d expect from an MMO. But that’s good, it’s what I look for in an RPG – I don’t mind being a delivery boy, or a sword for hire. The story, for me at least, has just got started, so I’ll need a little longer to sink my teeth into it. I really like the combat, because you have a decent level of control over it – it very much reminds of Dragon Age: Origins, in both look and style. Character customisation wise, there are a number of races and classes to choose from, including half-orcs, humans, elfs and this Hellboy looking dude…
… otherwise known as a Tiefling. The various classes include, but are not limited to, Rogues and Clerics. Personally, I play as a two-handed half-orc. I find the sword classes the easiest ‘entry’ classes in most MMORPGs, because all you have to do is swing your sword to kill the bad guys. The character customisation aspects of Neverwinter is probably my favourite aspect of the game, as you can customise even the tiniest details. For example, you can edit your ‘Character Sheet’ to reflect your character’s background. Obviously, this doesn’t make a difference to the game, but it does help to make your character stand out in the crowd – particularly because other players are able to interact with you, and read your ‘Character Sheet’.
But the most impressive thing about Neverwinter is that it’s free to play. It’s impressive, for me at least, because it has finally turned my opinion on ‘free to play’, and that’s because Neverwinter does it well. I never feel limited in how much I can play, or what I can get out of the game. I’ve not once found an occasion where I felt the need to spend money to keep playing. Obviously, there’s a lot in the game which can’t be bought with in-game money (or would take you a while to save up for, at least), but there’s plenty of gear to be had from regular merchants as well as from completing quests. In the main market area, each vendor type (i.e. weapons, armour, potions, etc) has two sales people. One salesperson is for in-game money and the other is for spending currency gained through micro-transactions.
The stuff that you can buy from the regular vendor is different to the stuff that you can get from the fancy vendor, but that’s fine by me. I’m happy to buy stuff from the regular vendor, but having the micro-transactions vendor there is nice too. Considering that the game is free, I’ll be happy to fork out some real cash for a fancy mount, or a cool suit of armour, as I gain in levels. That’s not only because I’m enjoying the game enough to warrant me doing it, it’s also because I want to give something back to the developers for letting me play such a well made game for free. And that free aspect is a key reason that Neverwinter is the perfect MMORPG for beginners, because you can have a taste of the MMORPG experience without needing to fork out for A) the game and B) a monthly subscription.
In all, Neverwinter probably isn’t the sort of MMORPG that a diehard fan of the genre would get addicted to. But, for me, Neverwinter is the perfect MMORPG for a more casual MMORPGer like myself – and I can’t recommend it any higher than that.