At one time, I really had ridiculous amount of hype built up for Neverwinter. At PAX East, I had a chance to play it along side The Elder Scrolls Online, and I personally enjoyed Neverwinter far more despite being two different games in completely different points in development. After PAX East, I spent quite a bit more time with Neverwinter while it was still in beta. I wrote quite a lengthy preview, describing a whole of different things you could do, encounters to expect, and things I really loved about the game. Now that Neverwinter is officially live, I went back into Neverwinter for some extended time adventuring and leveling. Does Neverwinter still stand as one of the best Free-to-Play MMOs on the market?
I eagerly hopped back into Neverwinter, opting to build a Drow Rogue because the option was finally available to me since the Drow race wasn’t available during beta. I never found much of a reason to care which race or deity you chose, because there’s not really anything that impacts your decisions. The races all have some general stat bonuses, but you can typically choose one that’s favorable to your chosen class. Again, I don’t think your choice in Deity matters at all, as I had the same outcome regardless of choice across numerous characters. Classes really don’t have much of a unique feel to them either, as you’re either doing melee damage with a warrior or rogue type, or you’re basically doing ranged arcane damage with a cleric or wizard. This pretty much means play whatever you want, because in the end it won’t really matter anyway, though I can tell you that the Rogue will have an easier time leveling solo – but you’ll read more about that shortly.
Blowing through the tutorial again, now slightly more streamlined, I made my way back into the city. I decided I’d work on making this character a tradeskiller instead of going straight into adventuring, in an attempt to experience the game from a completely different perspective than I had originally approached it during the closed beta. I really like how crafting is done, giving you the option to log into a web portal to manage your crafting, so you can continually improve your skills without really ever needing to be at your computer. Because crafting is essentially clicking a recipe and waiting the time limit for it to finish building, having it available on a web portal is really a genius idea. You can also buy components for recipes from the marketplace with astral diamonds, but the biggest problem is the inability to purchase common items (like thread) without being logged into the game and purchasing more essential components from an in-game vendor. Hopefully that’ll be expanded on and improved as Neverwinter gains more active players.
Going into adventuring, the Rogue plays considerably different than the Cleric did. The Cleric worked better as a Paladin type, being able to throw heals on himself while tanking mobs and doing AoE damage. The Rogue does a ton of damage and can easily blow through a group of enemies, but he’s fragile; so unless you’re sure you can blow through the entire pack, you’re dead. This results in the Rogue being able to solo most quests far faster and far more efficiently than almost any other class. The Wizard does fine until around level 26, and then he can’t do enough AoE damage to survive encounters. The Cleric does fine until he also slows down on AoE, and the poor Warrior classes don’t ever have much of a chance to do much of anything without a group or a partner. What this means is there’s basically no class worth playing solo except the Rogue, which is completely broken from a balance perspective. Hopefully solo content will be addressed in future patches.
While I praised Neverwinter highly at PAX East, diving back into Neverwinter was sadly alarming to find out how much my initial adoration had already faded. The leveling grind is essentially the same thing from start to finish. You’ll go through one area, level up, and then do it again once you get to the next area. Repetition is fine, but when the quests barely change and the dungeon crawls are mediocre at best, it’s very hard to stay interested in the level grind. Once the game went live, the game became considerably more populated – which was great for social aspects and marketplace availablity. Unfortunately, that also opened the flood gates to spammers, astral diamond farmers, and of course the typical grievers who like to sit in town or in public channels and spam stupid comments. It was essentially “Barrens Chat” from World of Warcraft, which sadly just about ever public channel in every MMO ever inevitably devolves into. Does that ruin the experience? No, not really because you can always leave the city or turn off (or ignore) public chat channels.
You can somewhat customize Neverwinter to be whatever type of experience you want it to be, but it comes with a price. You’ll get all sorts of little Nightmare boxes to open up, which drop far more often than anything you’ll really be able to use. These boxes offer a chance to get some rare loot or something really great like an epic flaming mount. Unfortunately, it costs nearly a dollar per key to open these boxes, and because these boxes are not only fairly common but their contents are completely left up to chance from the good ol’ RNG (Random Number Generator), you could spend one dollar to get something useful, or you may spend over $100 and never get anything worth a dime of in or out of game currency. Because of these things, Neverwinter has had absolutely zero staying power for me. I quickly fell out of love for it, opting to choose scratch my for an MMO by playing something more traditional because all Neverwinter made me do was wish it were better. Unfortunately, without some major changes, it’s stuck in the same boring rut that other titles have been stuck in since the launch of World of Warcraft, and that’s not only sad for Neverwinter, but for the MMORPG genre itself.
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Neverwinter is available to play free of charge, however we were provided with a content code which allowed us to access some locked items such as the Drow race.