News, Views, and Reviews
I have returned! I entered a different realm this weekend, the Forgotten Realm of Neverwinter. I fought orcs and kobolds and legions of the undead. I helped return the King’s stolen crown to its vaults. Lord Neverember may sit on the throne, but he fears that crown. Legends say that only the rightful heir can wear it and live. The new ruler knows he isn’t the true king, but he is bringing order to chaos. The Sword Coast was ravaged by the Spellplague some hundred years ago, and all but the city of Neverwinter was destroyed. Even that great city almost fell to a cataclysm of volcanoes about twenty-five years ago. Now that Lord Neverember has finished rebuilding Neverwinter, he calls out for adventurers to help push back the hordes of monsters that have claimed the nearby lands of Faerun. I answered that call, and now I return to tell the tale!
This is a F2P, action-oriented, Dungeons and Dragons MMO, based on years of adventure modules, novels, and video games set in a specific Forgotten Realm called Neverwinter. A Massive Multi-player Online game like this can’t be summed up in one blog, so I’m going to attempt to break it down into three parts. Part 1 will cover the beginning of the game, choosing races and classes. Part 2 will describe combat and the basic controls. Part 3 will cover the game play, from questing and skirmishes to dungeons and PvP. I’ll also discuss The Foundry: Neverwinter’s adventure creation tool. That’s right! Players can create their own adventures! The Foundry adds a never ending supply of player-created content to a great collection of quests and dungeons already available from the developers. But, I’ll get to that later. First, let’s look at character creation!
Races: I’ve played a LOT of MMOs. It’s a big, competitive market, and I’ve seen a lot of games come and go. It’s not always true, but an early indicator of how well any of them will do seems to be the number of races and classes available at launch. An MMO with only 3-4 races is probably going to fail. As I waited for the weekend beta event to start on Friday afternoon, I poured over the Neverwinter website for information about the races and classes I would have to choose from. The website listed only six: Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Half-Elves, the Drow (Dark Elves), and the devil-like Tieflings. Six isn’t too bad – the World of Warcraft has thirteen in comparison – but I thought Dungeons and Dragons had more races. When I logged in, I was relieved to see eight races. Eight! The two additional races were Half-Orcs and Halflings. The Drow were not available, though a shadowed “coming soon” placeholder suggests they will be eventually. This also makes me wonder, could more races be added later? I’ll have to dig into some Neverwinter lore later, to see if other races are even represented in this specific Forgotten Realm. In the meantime, let’s examine the races available.
Choosing one of the races is partially just for aesthetics, as everyone starts in the same city and every class is available for every race, but there are advantages to consider. Half-orcs and Dwarves, for example, are stronger and sturdier, and make better fighters than the nimble and frail Halflings or Elves. The devil-horned and tailed Tieflings look really cool, but their higher Charisma suits them for wizardry instead of fighting. After choosing a race, you choose a class, and then your stats are rolled for you. Each race has a +2 bonus for one stat, and another +2 bonus for your choice of two different stats. For example, the Tiefling get a +2 for Charisma, and a +2 for either Constitution or Intelligence. If you really want to be a Tiefling Fighter, you should pick the Constitution for more health points. But, if you chose to be a Wizard, you’d benefit from +2 Charisma AND +2 Intelligence, as those are primary stats for a Wizard.
Half-Orc: As the name implies, are half Human, half Orc. They’re not as big or ugly as Orcs, but they are bigger than humans. In fact, they look mostly human except for their pronounced under-bite and exposed teeth. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t be green, as only “human” skin colors were available. Half-Orcs gain +2 to Dexterity, and +2 to either Constitution or Strength, so they make the best Fighters or good Thieves.
Dwarf: Dwarves are pretty self explanatory – except I should mention that both male and female Dwarves are available in this MMO. Dwarves gain +2 to Constitution, and +2 to either Strength or Wisdom, so this suits them for Fighters or Clerics.
Elf: Elves are also pretty common to the fantasy genre. They gain +2 to Dexterity and +2 to either Intelligence or Wisdom, which makes them suitable for Clerics, Wizards, or Thieves.
Half-Elf: It seems like the Humans like to mingle! Half-Elves are shorter than Elves, but still thinner and fairer than humans. Half-Elves gain +2 to Constitution, and +2 to either Charisma or Wisdom, which makes them the best Clerics, and good Wizards or Fighters.
Halfling: The world knows them as Hobbits, I suppose, but they are called Halflings. They gain +2 to Dexterity, and +2 to either Charisma or Constitution, so they can be great Thieves or Fighters.
Humans: I hope you know what a Human is. They are jacks of all trades and masters of none, so players can add +2 to just one of their stats. They get other bonuses as they level, though.
Tiefling: These devilish looking people have chosen to abandon their demonic cousins and have exiled themselves to Neverwinter. Tiefling gain +2 to Charisma, and a +2 to either Constitution or Intelligence, and make the best Wizards.
Drow: Their dark skin has earned them the nickname “Dark Elves.” (COMING SOON!)
Classes: If I was worried by the number of races available, I’m very optimistic about the number of classes to choose from. My optimism is based on some speculation. Instead of general classes, the choices this weekend seemed very specific. Instead of just “Rogue” and “Fighter” for example, they were “Trickster Rogue” and “Guardian Fighter” implying that there could be other types of Rogues and Fighters. There is a placeholder for a “Great Weapon Fighter” class, does that mean there will be other versions of the other classes? Perhaps examining the classes will give us more clues.
Trickster Rogue: Dual-dagger-wielding, leather armor wearing, and ambushing from stealth, the acrobatic rogue is a fast-paced damage dealing class. I have to admit, I almost NEVER play rogue-type characters in MMOs, but it turned out to be my favorite this weekend. Their acrobatic play style was a lot of fun, and I found I took far less damage by avoiding it, than I could ever hope to absorb or block with my Guardian Fighter character. I could also do more damage, do damage at a distance if I needed, and use stealth abilities. Rogues can also detect traps. Primary stat is Dexterity, secondary stats are Strength and Charisma.
Devoted Cleric: Channeling radiant energy, Clerics can burn enemies and heal allies. I was amused when I learned that Clerics don’t carry weapons or shields, merely artifacts and relics that they use to focus their energies at their targets. Devoted Clerics can heal themselves and others, and can even cast a spell on an enemy that, when hit by the Cleric or other players, heal that player as well. This isn’t just a boring healer class, though, they can put out decent damage. Primary stat is Wisdom, secondary stats are Strength and Charisma.
Control Wizard: As the name implies, this class isn’t just a damage dealer, they can control groups of enemies with their magic. Wizards also don’t carry any weapons, instead, they levitate a control ball. The longer they focus on a single target, the more damage – or control – they stack on that target. Their damage/control abilities are fun to quest with, but really come into their own when you’re playing with a group against massive waves of enemies. Primary stat is Intelligence, secondary stats are Wisdom and Charisma.
Guardian Fighter: Carrying a sword and shield and wearing heavy armor, the Guardian Fighter taunts enemies away from other players. This is the “tank” class, and they bear the burden of blocking instead of avoiding damage. Some MMOs make the tank boring to play, but Neverwinter’s action-based controls makes the Guardian Fighter fun to play, even if it is more challenging. Using a combination of yelling taunts, and crippling blows with their sword and shield, Guardian Fighters can quickly dispatch weak enemies and debilitate stronger foes. Primary stat is Constitution, secondary stats are Strength and Dexterity.
After picking a race and class, players can customize their appearance from presets, or use specific sliders to change head and body shapes, and skin and hair colors. But I couldn’t be a green Half-Orc. Scars and tattoos are also available. Next, players can choose a little background info like where they came from, and what Diety they are affiliated with. Finally, you can name (first or first and last names) and even write a short bio if you want to. Now it’s time to play!