Neverwinter is a game and the developers fully embrace that fact. Game creators often seem to take the ‘fun’ factor of videogames for granted – after all that is the whole purpose of playing games, right? However with their newest MMO, developer Cryptic have decided to stop trying to recreate a universe and instead focus on the fun parts of the whole MMO experience.
Traveling is kept to a minimum due to the instanced nature of the environment and the straightforward quick travel options. I do not need to look for a mailbox to check the mail. Mail can be read from anywhere – and that means even when out of the game (through the game’s web portal). Ditto for the auction house. Quest givers keep narrating their voice acted quest text despite walking away from them making you much more likely to hear what they have to say while you are on your merry way. For better or worse trade skills are carried out passively (think SWTOR) in and out of game. All in all Cryptic recognizes that you are playing the game to have fun so it does not waste your time. They want you to enjoy everything Neverwinter has to offer all the time.
This ethos is evident in the way the game gently but firmly pushes you forward. You never feel lost in Neverwinter – getting lost would mean wasting time and therefore not having fun. The map is easy to read and properly annotated. A dust trail will lead you directly to the next objective and whenever you level the game does its best to explain to you what you gained for that level and what new activities you can partake in. At all times pressing the L button will bring up a panel outlining interesting things you might like to do. This panel also contains a timetable and calendar to keep you up to date with events occurring within the game. You can also very conveniently queue for relevant instances (including PvP) from here.
Even when the narrator introduces you to PvP he actually uses the terms ‘PvP’ and ‘Player vs Player’. No smoke screens here – This is our PvP and this is how to play. Whenever you complete a skirmish (Think LotRO skirmishes but faster paced) you are presented with combat statistics – who did the most damage, who healed the most, who killed the most enemies etc etc. All pretense that this is not a game but another world to live in is lost with Neverwinter. This may sound like a bad thing if the game failed to achieve its goal of being fun. However first impressions indicate that the game is, indeed, lots of fun. Despite everything I said the game still seeps in D&D lore and atmosphere. It just does not try to create a sense of place at the expense of player enjoyment.
Without a doubt The Foundry is the feather in Neverwinter’s cap. This allows players to create and play adventures created by other players paving the way for an almost limitless stream of new content. Little disclaimer here: I have not tried creating a quest cause it seems quite complex. However I have played a few player made adventures and, while the quality is not the same as the ones Cryptic put out (especially in terms of spelling, grammar and balance), I have come across many interesting stories and situations. An integrated rating system helps separate the good from the bad and the game does its best to promote foundry adventures with good scores. The fact that, so early in the game, there is already much player made content to experience bodes extremely well. Things can only get better – Cryptic will no doubt improve the functionality and ease of use of The Foundry while players will become more accustomed to how it works allowing them to focus on creative content.
Its still early days to decide if I stick around till end game. I just reached level 12 so I have yet to experience most aspects of the game. However this is turning to be one of those games which makes me want to play it whenever I am not. The last MMO to have such a good first impression on me was Guild Wars 2. Cryptic must be doing something right here.