We’re online again, though we had to wait until payday before we could actually re-enable our account. Blast and damn, not offline long enough for a Scroll of Rez, so no freebies for me or mine.

So what to do in between loads of freight?  Looking around the F2P playground, I remembered that Neverwinter was in motion, so I’ve rolled up as Floramel-like a toon as possible, a control wizard that I hope to bend to warlock-like habits.

Character models

Flora, shortly after startingCharacter creation allows for a lot of individuality. It even allows for chunky body types, adjustment of individual face and body attributes (there are like seven nose adjustments!).  My model is one of the more slender ones, so as you can see, no Barbie dolls here. Overall, very good.

Outfits are somewhat less flamboyant than one is used to in endgame WoW.  However, I would point out that I actually like the models of the lower-level stuff in WoW better, as well, meaning that the higher level stuff in NW might suffer from the same ridiculous effects.  Time will tell.

It’s also possible that the outfit models are limited1 at this time to a select set of looks. Through level 20, all outfits looked pretty much the same.  Mogging2, however, is baked in to the basic interface. 

Armor dye is also supported, though from the looks of it you will have to cough up some cash to get it, since it requires the "Zen" currency, and best I can tell, that’s a cashy money thing.

Some of the NPC character models suffer from what I would call "mannequin syndrome".  So realistic, they look plastic. This is a Cryptic Studios product, so it probably shares a lot of DNA with City of Heroes and Star Trek Online – the former looks very similar to this game from a character and model perspective, including the character model creation process.

Graphics and visuals

Graphical details are sharp and clear, maybe too much so.  WoW catches a lot of crap for its looks, but one thing that it has a lot of practice at is making things stick out in obvious ways.  It’s not too difficult to find a mail box, or a vendor, even in a crowded room.  And while I give Blizz hell for abolishing Night from the worlds, realistic and dark shadowing makes everything kind of bland and difficult to deal with. 

It’s real easy to walk into a mob, too – no little nameplates over their heads!

User Interface

The controls take getting used to. Part of that is just the usual "this is a different game" thing, but there are elements that just stink of "let’s do something different just to be different."   You are seriously constrained on what you can have on your action bar, too  – unlike the ten or so action bars with ten buttons each that you get with WoW, you get one action-bar-like interface in this game, and it’s very small as well.

Aim matters. You don’t click on a mob and then start beating / shooting him, you have to aim and then whatever you are aiming at is hit.  Fortunately, there’s no friendly fire outside of PvP.  Right-click actually defaults to an attack, so for a former WoW player, ‘F’ to interact is a bit awkward.

Tinkle, tinkle, little trailIn combat, activity is pretty lively. I’d love to have some countdown timers visible at eye level, but on the plus side you can move your action bar – which does have countdown timers – to wherever you want.

Similar to CoH, a sparkly trail of lights appears to direct you to the next point of interest in your current quest.  This is highly intelligent and also a rebuttal to the trope that Blizz has nerfed the game too much. Others are way ahead of them in some ways. 

Lootable items are very clearly denoted, including caches you might find in your travels.

Interaction between the map and the world is pretty wretched.  You can’t click a location and see the trail light up for it.  And it’s a highly accurate replica of the real world, meaning it’s gloomy and low-contrast and difficult to read. Again, others win in this area.


Combat

Combat is very like any other game I’ve played – there is a strong emphasis on "don’t stand in fire" and button pushing and stacking debuffs and such. The big bads also have a very in your face element to them, and sometimes the graphics engine can’t keep up (though that may be my system more than the engine).  Good example is the "treasure trapper" creature.

Other than in interaction with my companion, I really didn’t see much in the way of aggro mechanics, but what I saw was unsurprising and familiar.

Crafting

Crafting includes the gathering of resources, and the creation of items from them, much like other games.  Where this differs is interesting.

Gathering is done from caches.  Caches are coded to skills that are native to specific classes; dungeoneering is tied to fighter types, arcane to wizards, religious to clerics, thieving to rogues, and so forth. You can buy kits to enable looting of caches outside of your class, and the kits drop from mobs as well.

Creating items is done by proxy. You hire a craftsman to go do things, and gather the results when they’re done.  This can be administered from the web page for the game as well. 

The gathering game seems to be more in service to itself than anything. "Oh here’s a random cache, oh, it contains a random pile of stuff."

Neither the crafting or gathering experience feel organic. But you could get used to it.

Companions

Flora and JasraOne difference in this game is that of companions. If you’ve played other Sword Coast games in the past, you’re probably familiar with the concept of companions.  You get your first at 16, and it can be from one of the main classes. I chose a cleric because that seemed wise. 3

The best unintended benefit of having a healer companion is that you start learning aggro management right away – or rather, how to keep aggro off of her.  A dead healer heals no damage.

Delving

It appears that in each zone there is an ultimate dungeon / instance activity with five party members, and you don’t get the final lore payoff or zone closure if you don’t do them. Very WoW-like. I would have thought that they’d’ve noticed how many people would be thrilled to see instance scaling so that one to five people could share the experience rather than be stuck at five.

I didn’t participate as such so no further comment would be useful.

"Community"

Well, this is where WoW is falling short, according to what I keep reading in the blogospheric echo chamber.  Our "community" is becoming populated by a bunch of spoiled, lazy, racist, sexist, haters, is what I hear.

I am not going to delve into details, but I will say that until you have seen general chat in Neverwinter, you have no idea how bad it could be.

The community  per se is no better or worse.  What the big difference is that we’ve become pampered by the Blizzard Nanny State; any aberrations tend to stick out.

Sometimes you have to swim in the sewers to remember what shit really smells like.

Overall impression

Flora - Level 22-ishIt really does "feel" like Neverwinter. It also, however, feels a bit chaotic and frenetic.  A lot of this, I’m sure, is due to the beta nature of the game at this time. Heck, I’m not even sure if the appearance of the armor in the game is due to design or because we’re still in beta and they haven’t completed all the models.  I’m leaning towards the former because money.

And that brings me to the elephant in the room for this sort of game – how hard are they pushing to sell you cash shop items.   Right now, for example, it looks like the only way to change your armor color is to buy "Zen" and then spend it on dyes. "Fine," you say, "cosmetic isn’t a big deal."  Problem is, the kind of player that gives a game a soul tends to invest in a character, and care about appearances, and something like this could be discouraging to them.

The other items I saw were such as mounts and companion items, but no game-changing armor or weapons.  So pay-to-win, not so much at the moment.

Overall, I like this game.  It’s not yet complete, so time will tell if it has legs, and endgame content will drive a certain kind of player’s expectations. Disregarding that, the game is solid, and the leveling game thus far has been fun.

My time in Neverwinter is at an end; the WoW account is up and running, and we have some picking up to do.


  1. Due to beta. []
  2. They don’t call it that of course. []
  3. I named her Jasra – don’t tell! []
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