Neverwinter (Xbox One) Review

Ever since Phantasy Star Universe‘s servers on the Xbox 360 shut down, there had been a gaping hole left in my heart. Phantasy Star Universe (PSU) was the best MMO I had played and there are many fond memories of playing it. To this day, I still remember giving out Raffon Passes for Meseta (currency) in the Xbox 360 demo, seeing the 4th floor of the Guardians Colony littered with players advertising “nude pictures” for Meseta and, last but not least, small human girls sitting on big bulky beasts pretending to be their online girlfriends even though the player was actually a guy. Don’t ask me how I know this, okay? I might have been the victim of the last scam. So, when a new MMO like Neverwinter piques my interest, it will automatically have to contend against PSU.

Neverwinter is a free-to-play MMORPG based in the fictional Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter from the Dungeons & Dragons universe. The story of Neverwinter takes place after the disappearance of the last Lord of Neverwinter when the eponymous city is catapulted into pandemonium and mayhem. There has also been a lot of new content that’s been released including the latest “The Cloaked Ascendency”, only adding even more content this already huge title. Does this high fantasy MMORPG stand on its own or does it fall short like most MMO’s tend to do?

Many Races, Classes and Other Customization: Neverwinter would not be an MMORPG if it did not have a vast myriad of races, classes and other customization options. It boasts 12 different races (Dragonborn, Drow, Dwarf, Halfling,  Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Human, Menzoberranzan Renegade, Moon Elf, Sun Elf, Tiefling, and Wood Elf) and 8 different classes each with their own distinct play-styles (Control Wizard, Devoted Cleric, Great Weapon Fight, Guardian Fighter, Hunter Ranger, Oathbound Paladin, Scourge Warlock and Trickster Rogue). The impressive aspect about having a plethora of races and classes to choose from is that none of them play the same. Every single one of them looks and plays differently from the other such as the Dragonborn race, for example; as the name suggests it’s an anthropomorphic dragon that looks bad-ass and is considered the best race as you can pick any two abilities to upgrade. Another example would be the Tiefling race which has red skin and horns protruding from its head. In addition to the Races and Classes, Neverwinter also features an appreciable character creation. There are plenty of choices for every part of the body from the head all the way to the feet. Cryptic Studios has done a fantastic job at creating a game that would give you an unique playing experience compared to another player.

Constantly Evolving Economy: As with any MMORPG, there is bound to be loot, lots and lots of loot with different rarities. Although Neverwinter features a lot of different types of currencies, the important three are: Zen, Astral Diamonds and Gold. Gold is your standard form of currency, Zen is typically for micro-transactions and Astral Diamonds is from the auction house. Neverwinter has an auction house where players are able to post any unbound items to it for Astral Diamonds and this is the meat of the economy. Prices will fluctuate based on events like 2x Astral Diamonds, Professions Resources, and even 2x Enchantments and Runestones. In addition to auctioning, there is also a Zen-Diamonds Exchange which allows players to exchange Zen to Diamonds and/or vice versa. The greatest part of all this is that the smarter players will be able to understand how these systems work and eventually make millions of Diamonds from them. Buying low and selling high, sniping items on bid and even converting diamonds to Zen at low then back again at a higher price are a few of these methods. Additionally, you may have noticed that you can convert Astral Diamonds into Zen (Micro-transaction currency) and this is a appreciable feature. Zen isn’t exclusive to real life money and I truly believe this is a splendid mechanic to include. Although you still have micro-transactions it’s still more accessible now. Kudos to a logical idea, Cryptic Studios!

Constant Support: As what was already stated above, Neverwinter has weekly events starting Thursdays that last until Monday. In addition to the above events, there are also 2x Exp, Glory and Guild Marks. All of these weekly events are beneficial to both newcomers looking to level up and veterans who want to farm. Every year, Neverwinter also receives other events like Easter, Halloween and during the summer with new and old loot. The constant support for the game is a nice break from the daily grinding and farming as it keeps the game fresh and enjoyable. This is most likely a contributing factor to why Neverwinter just recently hit 15 million players.

Post-Game Content: Once you have finished the story and reached level 70, the brunt of the game opens up to you. There are loads of dungeons, skirmishes, and quests that will keep you busy until you get bored or achieve max build. Most dungeons require five people and are basically entail getting to the end to defeat the boss. However, there are 10-player (Demogorgon/Demogorgon Master/Assault on Svardborg/Assault on Svardborg Master) and 25-player dungeons (Rise of Tiamat). A good, balanced group will be able to knock these out with ease. These large volume dungeons are refreshing and can be tedious depending on what level you are. It’s a nice break from typical ventures and often contain rarer loot. The Skirmishes are smaller and quicker than dungeons and are aimed at those who want to do quick runs. Luck also has a deciding factor in the type of items and loot you acquire, which gives Neverwinter even more replay value than it already did.

Combat and Game-play: The combat of Neverwinter is very user friendly and easy to grasp, albeit very repetitive. For those who are uninitiated with MMORPGs, the game will put you into a tutorial for you to complete. The combat involves moving around with the left stick and attacking with the triggers. Every few seconds  your special powers will recharge allowing you to use the face buttons. Although the combat is easy to grasp, the controls of the game are somewhat tedious. All of the buttons have two different layers. One where you normally use each button and the other is a combination of LB+’X’, ‘X’ being any other button. These dual layers will often  lead to new players being confused. The confusing control scheme coupled with the mundane combat will quickly take it’s toll on the player. Fights against enemies and bosses at the end of a dungeon will not require much change in tactics. One battle formula can be applied to every encounter.

Graphics and Sound: Although most dialogue is voice acted, the sound and visual design is nothing spectacular. Not a single piece of music stands out to the gamer as they sound bland and mundane. The art lacks flavor and panache as every area seems similar to the other. Notably, there is a remarkable environment dubbed the Sea of Moving Ice (SoMI) which, as the name suggests, is a ginormous area of sea with small islands made of ice that requires the use of a kayak to traverse. This is the only map in the title that utilizes a unique mechanic compared to their other regions. The SoMI is unlocked later as it was introduced recently in newer updates, forcing beginner players to trek through similar looking regions until they get to it. Comparing this sector to others makes it stand out but it is still boring and will want to make you rip your hair out. Moreover, when too many players are on the screen all at once the game seems to lag exponentially until the cluster of players moves away or you from them. This is horrible when you’re fighting a group of enemies and are close to death.

Grind, Grind and Grind: If you’ve made it this far, I know you will be wondering what I’m thinking complaining about an MMORPG being “grindy”. Every MMORPG takes an enormous amount of time to complete; however, the developers just recently made most items bind to characters which means that you cannot sell or trade them with others. Many of these that usually came from chests at the end of dungeons were trade-able — meaning you could either buy or farm them before — but now Neverwinter has changed players’ approach. If you want to obtain a certain item and it is not available at the auction house, you will have to grind dungeons until you get it. What’s worse is that they also changed the key mechanic to where it is consumed when used to open chests. Previously, you were able to open the chest and if what was inside wasn’t good, you could leave the chest and the key wouldn’t be consumed. The combination of spending money for keys now that are automatically consumed makes it worse as there’s no clue to what is inside these randomly-generated chests, equating to even more grinding than ever before. In Neverwinter’s defence, Cryptic Studios have increased the drop rate of most items, albeit just by a few points.

Ultimately, the choice of playing the seemingly forever-growing Neverwinter falls down to the type of player you are. It’s highly recommended for fans of RPGs and MMOs, alike, as it encompasses everything we love about those genres and then some. Although there are glaring issues from a technical standpoint, along with the visuals being somewhat underwhelming, Neverwinter still offers a rich fantasy-tale based in the Dungeon & Dragons universe with plenty of story. The option of acquiring micro-transaction currency in multiple ways is a welcome change that I believe is the future of massive online games; gone are the times of spending real life money. Neverwinter will be the popular “go to” MMORPG until the foreseeable future.

Neverwinter was developed by Cryptic Studios and published by Perfect World Entertainment. It was released for the Microsoft Windows on June 20th, 2013, Xbox One [reviewed] on March 31st, 2015, and PlayStation 4 on July 19th, 2016. The title is free-to-play. Many studios submit copies for site review but this is in no way factored into our review scores. Games are scored on their individual merits and our rating system is explained here.

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