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Review: “Neverwinter” a near-perfect delve in fantasy

Given that there is a fairly large amount of people on campus and in the Berkshires in general who are either in to A). Dungeons and Dragons, the popular tabletop roleplaying fantasy game, B). Video Games or C). Both, I figured I’d shift gears away from Smash 4 for awhile into a game I’ve become acquainted with for a few good months now in “Neverwinter.”

“Neverwinter” has been out for a few years. In that time, it has seen eleven, soon to be twelve updates total. The community stretches to about fifteen million people, giving the game a healthy amount of people, enough to call itself a true MMORPG. The game is thankfully available for free for the PS4 and PC, and it is also available for the Xbox One as well. It is about what it would seem to be; Dungeons and Dragons in video game form. Everything in the game is based off of the DnD world: although numbers and stats are inflated heavily in order to support its more fast paced nature, the game retains a great number of its core values and designations from the tabletop classic. I want to take some time to review the game.

What’s good about “Neverwinter:”

If you’re experienced with DnD or even “Pathfinder,” you will fit right in to this game. As previously mentioned, this is DnD on the big screen; as such, experience you have playing the tabletop will carry over to this game seamlessly. Classes, races and stats, a trio of things which are often difficult to navigate to someone without prior experience, are mere child’s play for those into the tabletop version.

The game is very immersive and has a lot of depth to it, especially for a free one. There are many, many campaigns to complete over a span of 70 levels and many thousands of “item level”, or the metric used to determine how strong one’s character is. There are multiple epic dungeons, no one any objectively more fun than the other (although some carry varying difficulty levels!) There are also skirmishes, for those who would rather go straight to the fighting rather than have to spend time here and there traveling and advancing a story. For those who don’t want to deal with computers, and would like to assert their dominance over real people, there’s also the tried and true Player-vs-Player mode. Given how many billions of ways one could build their character, there is also a real sense of identity here; you are astronomically unlikely to ever come upon two players who have built their character the exact same way as one another. Simply put, you should not expect what you might get from your typical free game, because this game is deep, very user friendly and unique.

In the higher level stages of the game, particularly in epic dungeons, the player will be challenged to work with others, as a team. While this could potentially be viewed as a drawback, it also means everyone has a role that the rest of the party is reliant upon. The Damage-Per-Second loadouts, such as Great Weapon Fighters or Hunter Rangers, are relied upon to, as the name would suggest, be the team’s primary source of offense. However, they would be slaughtered by epic dungeon enemies in mere seconds were it not for the Tanks, the Guardian Fighters, to distract the enemies and use their amazing bulk to keep the DPS characters safe, while the Guardian Fighter’s passivity is covered up by these DPS characters in return. However, Guardian Fighters would be susceptible to being overwhelmed tasked with handling so much aggro were it not for the well known Devoted Clerics keeping the Guardian Fighter’s health as high as can be. The trio of these jobs must be filled very carefully, and everyone relies on one another to do their job. This means that there truly is no superior member of a well built team, everyone has a niche, and this feeling of contribution and importance to completing end-game dungeons will leave the player with a sense of accomplishment and pride upon completing them, provided that they did their job effectively.

A few short things that aren’t so great about “Neverwinter:”

The most glaringly obvious one would have to be that the game heavily encourages you to purchase in-game content with real world money; the classic “Pay 2 Win” and “Freemium Gaming” terms come to mind. While it is feasible to advance very far in the game and succeed at high levels without paying for anything, the game’s depth is a bit of a fault here because there are various mandatory aspects of the game that can become quite cumbersome. The Maze Engine and Storm King’s Thunder campaigns, combined, will take any non-paying player a minimum of 79 days combined to complete. The Elemental Evil campaign is an extremely tedious grind in itself. Cryptic Studios attempts to take advantage of these three campaigns by selling “coins” which enable a player to immediately complete this campaigns, at a cost of course.

Going off the last point, the game itself can get to be very tedious. An extremely large portion of it is grinding; you are often tasked to run the same daily quests over and over again to accumulate Campaign Currency used to complete various campaigns. Oftentimes this will be for the player to obtain Boons, rewards for completing varying points of a campaign that will grant the player a new power or boost to their stats. Unfortunately, to have any chance of surviving in higher level epic dungeons, a lot of these boons are necessary, and as mentioned earlier, can actually take weeks or even months to obtain. This is not a problem for players with extra free time, but in order to truly succeed in this game, a serious time commitment will become necessary.

Finally, the last minor criticism I have for this game is that teamwork in epic dungeons is pushed towards players, possibly at a fault. Certain dungeons, such as Tomb of the Nine Gods or Fangbreaker Island, have such intense requirements of the cohesion of a given team that these can very easily fail to be met. This is not a problem if a player is a part of a Guild, and has developed chemistry and understanding of their guild mates, but if a player is not particularly involved with their guild and has to “pug” or, find a Pick-Up-Group on the game’s public queue, this can become problematic. There is no “I” in “team”, and this rings true here; the world’s four most experienced players can easily fail on a run down Fangbreaker Island or Tomb of the Nine Gods if they get paired with a fifth player who is totally new or has no idea what they’re doing. It scales, too, and can become a problem on any dungeon, the aforementioned two in particular.

In conclusion, I have heavily enjoyed “Neverwinter” even in recognizing its objective flaws. I would give the game a 9/10. I would recommend that anyone into the Fantasy genre, especially anyone who has ever played DnD or “Pathfinder” before, give it a try.

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