I HONESTLY don't know why fans of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) still bother playing the computerised variants of their beloved games.
The whole point of pen-and-paper games, especially D&D, was that you had an open world where you could be almost anyone you wanted to be.
The new D&D MMO Neverwinter, released as an open beta, isn't the worst at stripping players of this joy, but it's certainly part of the gang.
The limit of five woefully specific classes is the first sin.
Railroading players into superficially customisable roles just isn't D&D. Worse, the Fourth Edition ruleset that Neverwinter uses was already useless at forcing players to rely on each other. The main races are present and accounted for, and while this adds to the customisation available, the stripped-down skill mechanics mean that most of the flavour is lost.
Character creation is satisfying despite all of this.
There are plenty of options for physical customisation but the inclusion of a map from the Forgotten Realms lore from which you can choose your character's hometown might mislead long-time players that there's more to this game than there really is. Most depressing is the on-rails linearity of the quests. The areas feel claustrophobic and you're never given the chance to feel like there's this great big world out there ready for you to explore.
On the positive side Neverwinter's execution is smooth, especially for a Perfect World title.
The visual feedback from your character's actions do make you feel altogether mighty, if you can forget that you're only cosmetically different to every other player around you.
The free-to-play model isn't game-breaking, the graphics are sufficient and the learning curve isn't particularly steep.
And with all this being said, I love it. I'm still playing it and I intend to hit the level cap.
It's a solid game. There's very little wrong with it from a conventional perspective if you're judging it alongside the current, admittedly lacking, lineup of MMOs.
The professions are handled with a level of care that I haven't seen in a while and include the ability to log-in to your character via a browser and handle your crafting outside of the game.
Character progression might be trite, but the characters are still undeniably cool. I'm playing as a devoted cleric and if I fire up the stereo during a fight I feel like an action hero.
Combat follows the 'nothing left to remove' approach to design, which means newbies can access it more readily than in other games and that veterans can focus more on the important skills like timing, placement and sledging.
If you're looking for something to tide you over before The Elder Scrolls Online and you don't have an addiction to Eve, Neverwinter is a snug and tidy inn on the wintery road to the next big thing.
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