The Realms are a setting very dear to both fans of paper role-playing games, those who at least once rolled a dice on the table playing the part of a character from Dungeons & Dragons, and to gamers who have been able to experience the incredible adventures designed especially by BioWare, Black Isle Studios and Obsidian Entertainment in their Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights. With the latter, the most recent Cryptic Studios effort does not share only part of the title. Strong from the experience gained at the helm of the mediocre Champions Online and Star Trek Online, the Californian developer has taken a new path that combines some of the most "in" features of the moment: microtransactions, to begin with, but also an editor that allows players to generate their own content. Furthermore, Neverwinter is completely free. Just sign up on the official website and download the client to venture into the lands explored by mythical characters such as Drizzt Do'Urden and Bruenor Battlehammer. But is it also a good MMO?
What is beautiful is not beautiful ...
Let's immediately remove this pebble from the shoe: the technical sector. Compared to the competition, Neverwinter comes out with broken bones. It has incredibly evocative locations from it: the ramparts of Neverwinter beyond the introductory areas of the game; the Cloak Tower that stands out above us on a full moon; the peaks of Icespire projected towards the sky. The glance is always over the top, and some dull textures are forgiven here and there when there is an enormous amount of detail, especially indoors, and a minimum of interaction with the environment: a feature quite atypical in the MMO market, this one, and of no practical use, but which increases the sense of immersion and interaction with the surrounding world. Cases and furniture are often swept away by our sword strokes, drapes and sheets bend as we pass. From a purely visual point of view, the Forgotten Realms have been reconstructed with great care, and fans of the universe created by Ed Greenwood will surely appreciate the work done by Cryptic Studios. The problem, more than anything else, is everything else. The character models, to begin with, which despite the variety of races all share a low polygon count and a rough and unpleasant general modeling.
The fair amount of customization options don't simplify the process of creating characters that look like they're straight out of a PlayStation 2; the jerky animations due to stylistic choice do not make their woodiness less evident; the disappointing variety of equipment worn throughout much of the game doesn't give you an incentive to seek out new loot. And despite the sobriety of light and particle effects, with a strong predisposition for lens flare, the fights tend to generate no little confusion. The fault is above all of the high latency generated by the location of the servers outside Europe: if this problem is felt above all in the city during the busiest hours of the day, still allowing you to play without particular problems in dungeons and instantiated areas, the real pains are felt when facing other players in PvP. We will come back later, that of lag is just another of the technical flaws that frame a barely sufficient technical sector, in which the postcard backgrounds and the engaging soundtrack composed by Kevin Manthei that evoke those of the old-fashioned Western RPG stand out.
Who Needs the Nuts?
Since we had played the Guardian Warrior and the Control Wizard in the Beta phase, on the occasion of the release we played as a Heavily Armed Warrior and a Pious Cleric: the Deceiver Rogue is left out of the game, but Neverwinter unfortunately allows you to create a maximum of two characters, unless you start shelling out money for additional slots. The classes are few, it is true, but sufficiently differentiated: We didn't feel, for example, that the Guardian was nothing more than the "tank" counterpart of the Heavily Armed Warrior, but a class of its own, characterized by completely different mechanics.
For those expecting the traditional role of the healer, the Dutiful Cleric class particularly impressed us with the emphasis placed more on attack than on healing, produced through less direct means. It is a shame, therefore, that Cryptic is still on the high seas when it comes to class balancing; some appeared to us much more versatile than the others, with the Devout Cleric in the role of factotum and the Tricky Thief excessively lethal and favored especially in the PvP field. The possibility of acquiring a CPU-controlled companion who accompanies us everywhere, just like in Star Wars: The Old Republic, is certainly appreciable, also because from the twentieth level onwards the game gets much tougher and we find ourselves gulping down potions continuously. ; in this sense, for practically every class the choice of the first companion falls on the cleric, a choice that kills a bit the imagination of the groups but which proves to be very useful. The fully action combat system will make RPG purists set in the Forgotten Realms universe turn up their noses. In this case, Cryptic has worked on the ideas already proposed with its previous MMOs, not too cryptically inspired by what has been seen in recent action titles such as Guild Wars 2 and TERA. From the latter, Neverwinter borrows the "crosshair" control system, which during the first few minutes is a bit inconvenient, mostly because of how it is managed via keyboard and shortcut every other element of the interface. Our character attacks in the direction in which the viewfinder points (and an interesting routine provides to center the aim when he "understands" what our target is) and the player finds himself pressing the keys like a madman: those of the mouse are dedicated to normal attacks, some key of the keyboard governs special attacks, daily skills, those "at will" and a few others. The end result is convincing for an action game, a little less for an MMORPG: the skills that are operated during a fight are objectively few, and the usefulness of many is definitely questionable.
Mostly, as the levels pass, those learned at the beginning are replaced, in order to practically never use them again. A minimum of RPG component is perceived with the distribution of some bonus points between the statistics and the choice of a specialization that emphasizes our style of play, but otherwise Neverwinter is a real third-person action game where you press furiously the mouse keys and you dodge the attacks of the enemies, anticipating them based on their animations or the danger signals projected on the ground. Funny, but definitely repetitive in the long run, also because the enemies tend to follow all the same attack patterns, divided by category or species, including bosses: the latter turn out to be absolutely disappointing, not too different from any more harmful enemy and tough, defended by waves of henchmen. Few truly original or complex mechanics in these patience exercises; the dynamics of the World of Warcraft, Rift or Star Wars: The Old Republic encounters are definitely on another planet.
Users to the rescue
And that is precisely the biggest weakness of Neverwinter, an endgame consisting practically only of the continuous repetition of the various dungeons in search of new equipment to keep for oneself or to sell at auction.
The PvP alternative is out of the question until Cryptic has done painstaking work of balancing the classes: if the first matches may seem even funny, deepening the question you realize the poverty of the maps in which you fight and above all the imbalance of forces that is created on the field due to classes with builds that offer too many advantages in terms of damage and crowd control, also due to a superficial management of both the interactions between the negative effects of skills, and the equipment dedicated specifically to PvP. The absence of a real purpose relegates Neverwinter's PvP to the corner of simple pastimes, along with an interesting crafting system in management not unlike what is seen in Star Wars: The Old Republic (invisible NPCs working on behalf of the player, who simply chooses the desired product and waits for the minutes necessary to produce it) but not particularly useful or captivating in the results and in the quality and quantity of objects that can be manufactured, almost always lower than what can be obtained through dungeons. Dungeon farming is pretty much all a player can do to complete character growth; a rather tedious process, especially because the dungeons, however evocative they may be from the graphic point of view, are long labyrinths punctuated by repetitive and unsurprising combats. It's a stark contrast to the leveling experience, which we found much more rewarding. While not telling a particularly original or cinematic story, Neverwinter takes the player by the hand and leads him through a series of areas where the missions proposed by the NPCs in their small quest-hubs don't seem like the usual quests of any MMO theme-park, but part of a larger design that often leads us into instantiated mini-dungeons, skirmishes and areas full of monsters to complete small objectives that repeatedly recall the atmosphere of Dungeons & Dragons. In this sense, the areas divided by uploads (the world of Neverwinter is not seamless) and not exactly generous in size tend to make the experience linear, but no less fun and carefree, characterized by small details such as cutscenes, dubbed texts and allies well-characterized temps who do their best to immerse us in the world of the Forgotten Realms before the wall of banal endgame and microtransactions rises in front of us. It is at that point that the community intervenes, thanks to the feature of the package that we found most interesting: the Foundry mode.
Already experienced by Cryptic in its previous MMOs, the Foundry returns in a revised, corrected, expanded and enhanced version to provide players with all the means necessary to design a mission on their own. You have to waste some time to learn how to use it, but the results are guaranteed and with a few hours of practice you can design real dynamic missions divided into multiple phases with a lot of bosses and final reward. Once the work is complete, you load everything and wait for the judgment of the players, who through a convenient interface can scroll at any time the list of published Foundry missions and participate in one of them, perhaps commenting and evaluating it as well once finished . The imagination of the players, in this case, is boundless: it goes from epic missions that far exceed those proposed by Cryptic itself to funny antics full of quotes and pop culture. There is no shortage of room for improvement, of course, but the Foundry system is definitely the beating heart of the game, full of potential especially for lovers of videogame role-playing who will really find in it the possibility of role-playing in the face of dedicated servers in other MMORPGs.
Neverwinter has a lot of good ideas, but you will have to work hard to improve the PvE and PvP endgame
Pay to win?
To conclude, it is appropriate to say a few words on the microtransaction model adopted by Perfect World. With a first expansion coming in August, Neverwinter is already trying to dispel the myth that free-to-play games are qualitatively inferior to those with a monthly subscription; the game developed by Cryptic Studios is free, as we said, but it is obvious that somehow the staff have to earn.
Hence, the choice of offering an e-shop accessible at any time from the game interface, just like it happens in many other MMOs such as Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World. The solutions adopted by Cryptic, however, have left us rather perplexed. We would like to emphasize that throughout the leveling phase we have never felt the need, not once, to put our wallet in hand: the game offers all the means necessary to reach the highest level without spending a penny, while perhaps tempting the player with some payment facilities which can still be dispensed with. On the other hand, the management of the multiple currencies necessary to buy this or that is confusing: there are silver and gold coins with which basic necessities such as potions and basic items are bought; there are various types of coin with which to buy special items, mostly aesthetic, including a slightly demented one that resets if you don't connect once every twenty-four hours; there are Zen, the currency in which real money is translated, which can be spent both to buy objects of convenience and to transform them into astral diamonds. The latter are the main currency of the game, which often supplants minting and which can be earned in many different ways: by completing daily missions, dungeons, etc.
Almost everything "cool" costs astral diamonds, but the real problem is that it costs a lot and the most harmless bonus can take hours and hours of farming. The horrific conversion rate between Zen and astral diamonds doesn't help: There is still no competitive scene in either PvP or PvE in Neverwinter, and it's the market that suffers the consequences. Scattered here and there, then, there are small traps designed to appeal to the most reckless player: you should pay to successfully execute a spell at maximum power, otherwise the process will fail; you would have to pay to instantly complete a crafting that would take hours; you would have to pay to maximize the speed of the mount or call your companion from a training phase that would take a little too long; we got the idea. The ball is now in the hands of Cryptic Studios and the balance of future content, provided that when competitive content (for example, PvP tournaments) enters the scene, the transition from currently harmless transactions to real pay-to -win would be almost instant.
PC System Requirements
- The editorial team uses the ASUS CG8250 Personal Computer
- Processor: Intel Core i7 860 at 2.8 GHz
- Memory: 8 GB of RAM
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670
- Operating system: Windows 7 64-bit
- Processore Dual-core 2.0GHz CPU
- RAM 1GB
- Scheda video GeForce 6800 o ATI Radeon X850
- Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz processor
- 2GB RAM or more
- Scheda video GeForce 8800 o ATI Radeon HD 2900GT
Even with its technical flaws and a somewhat bland combat system, the leveling phase in Neverwinter was just a great adventure, which brought us back for a while to the Forgotten Realms universe and to the fantasy atmospheres without too many frills of Dungeons & Dragons. Once you reach the end of that path, however, you find yourself dealing with a trivial and repetitive endgame, in which there is no real alternative to the predominant PvE component. The Foundry, on the other hand, represents a tool with great potential that could hold many surprises in the future. Lovers of the old-school setting and role-playing games should definitely try it: it can certainly improve, but Cryptic will have to move carefully on the difficult field of microtransactions and balancing, the only way to captivate a community to which it is closely linked. development of future content.
- Great fun main campaign and leveling
- You breathe the air of D&D with every step
- Free and full of content right from the start
- Graphically it could have been done better
- Endgame PvE too repetitive, PvP to review
- Prices for microtransactions too high