But it wasn’t. Made you look.
Far from being less than it had seemed when I tried out the demos, I quite enjoyed my first week of time spent in Neverwinter. Not that it’s going to tear me away from all other games forever, but it’s a fun experience with plenty of things to hook you into the gameplay quickly without forcing you to dive headfirst into lore in order to find your commitment to the story.
It should be noted, of course, that some of this is due to the fact that Cryptic Studios had two prior games to refine all of the elements around the game itself. The character creator, for example, is very clearly a derived form of the one from Champions Online and Star Trek Online. I like it, since it strikes an overall good balance between power and having certain guidelines for your character, but it does feel like the weak cousin of the batch.
The lack of having posing hurts it a bit, too. You can’t give your character a default stance, and that goes a long way toward defining personality just visually. Minor quibbles, really; “a weaker version of STO’s character creator” is still pretty good.
Once you’ve finished character creation, you’re immediately flung into an attack on Neverwinter by marauding undead. This, to my mind, is a good piece of storytelling. I’ve mentioned in the past that I do not care for this setting, because it’s largely generic fantasy stretched as far as it will go, but this doesn’t require you to dive into lore in order to understand what’s going on. You’re here, there are undead, pick up a weapon and help instead of being a target.
It also paints you not as The Incredible Hero but as one person who contributes to a victory, which is important but not a free pass. In short, it does just what an introduction ought to do, giving you a hook to get into the game and keep going without casting you as a unique one-of-a-kind hero or leaving you as someone without any stake in things.
Yeah, it feels weird that this is really the best intro experience out of the Choose My Adventure games I’ve played so far.
Once you’re inside the city proper, the game establishes its overall flow, which I’m a bit less enthusiastic about. Essentially, it’s the same structure as STO, which itself was mostly a series of City of Horoes-style door missions. You talk to a dude and he sums up the situation, you go to a place to start the little mini-dungeon. Then you accomplish some set of goals within that mini-dungeon, which invariably seem to involve killing everything within the map and looting items off of their corpse.
It’s not a structure I tremendously like, but it has a long pedigree of working just fine. I do hold it against the game a bit, however, because it really emphasizes the idea that every sort of quest you head on is almost entirely a solo experience. Guilt Wars used the same structure, but it also did that a decade ago; I expect more recent games to have found more diverse ways to handle zones.
Still, I can’t complain too much. I like door missions, and at the end of the day I’m having fun. Part of that is down to the Scourge Warlock itself, which is a pet class that more or l0ess isn’t a pet class. Killing enemies with the right abilities summons a temporary Soul Puppet, which will happily attack enemies and deal damage on my behalf without ever really asking for micromanagement. You don’t feel crippled without one, at least not at lower levels, but you’re always happy to have one show up.
I was hoping for a bit more melee gameplay, especially considering the grip on the pact blade, but the Scourge Warlock is very much in the ranged damage mold. THat is, however, just fine. The core of the gameplay is spamming your abilities and then waiting for the bigger ones to come off of cooldown, but even at lower levels there’s some strategy involved. You want to use the right skill as a kill spell, for example, because that summons a Soul Puppet; you want to kill enemies to unleash a big hit when right-clicking things; you want to drain life when you can because that’s your only way of restoring health mid-combat. There’s some actual mechanical heft.
Really, the biggest actual problem I have with the game at this point is the fact the the running animations for lady tieflings look pretty awful. Once I draw my pact blade we’re all good, but until then the running animation is oddly stiff and awkward. That might seem like a fairly minor problem, but considering how much time you spend running from place to place, it comes up.
But when it comes to actually playing the game? Yeah, I’m having fun. Yes, I can see where RNG and cash shop stuff might become beyond annoying, but the actual moment-to-moment gameplay is fun, active without being overwhelming and crisply responsive. Being able to quickly use a spectral float out of the path of danger feels very natural, movement is smooth even when the animations aren’t, and my abilities feel responsive and important right from the start. All of this makes me happy.
For this week’s poll, there’s not much in the way of choices about where to go, but there is an interesting element of the game to consider. Unlike CO and STO, there isn’t really a pure subscription option for Neverwinter… but there also kind of is. You can opt to pay money for a month of benefits, with each subsequent month offering you more benefits until you’ve topped out at Tier XII. It’s an odd system, feeling at a glance more like purchased veteran benefits than anything.
On the one hand, this is clearly meant to be surplus to requirements for the game, and I can see an argument being made that it might paint an inaccurate picture of the game as a whole. On the other hand, it could also be argued that part of this column is the fact that yes, I subscribe when I play something for a month, even when I don’t have to. So rather than making the decision myself, I’m going to turn that question over to you guys.
CMA: Should I buy a VIP month in Neverwinter?
- Yes, it's an important part of the experience. (32%, 57 Votes)
- No, it's not really a subscription. (68%, 121 Votes)
Total Voters: 178
As is the case every week, the polls will close on Friday at 6:00 p.m. EDT, giving you plenty of time to get your responses in. You can also feel free to let me know your thoughts down in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week will also have the benefit of me not having to rush to get in playtme before flying away for a few days, so that’s a good thing.