Take a closer look into what makes Neverwinter great, from its storytelling to its highly customizable class structure.
As I wrote in my last review, Neverwinter hosted its fourth and final closed beta weekend for its founders April 12-14th, giving just a taste of the game to their paying fans before releasing it to the public on the 30th of this month. During the fourth beta weekend, Cryptic was primarily interested in testing their new systems, which included its crafting system and a brand new power customization system. In addition to testing the new systems, I had the chance to level a Trickster Rogue up to level 30, as well as take part in several dungeons, and getting familiar with the more nuanced storytelling and gameplay mechanics. I was also able to unlock a Paragon Path, and spent some time looking into the end game material that Cryptic has in store for Neverwinter.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Neverwinter's release model, I am going to quickly run through what's happening and the implications. If you're uninterested in the economics of games, skip this paragraph and rejoin me below, where I will be exploring some of my favorite parts of Neverwinter. Cryptic announced a few weeks ago that Neverwinter would be having an open beta period beginning April 30th (or slightly earlier, for founders), and that character wipes would not occur between open beta and the live version of the game. Many players and commentators have referred to this structure as a 'soft launch', which means that the game is already going to be underway when the official launch comes about. There is still no official release date announced. During the open beta, players will still be able to log in, experience the game, and begin their adventures without fear of a reset. Because Neverwinter is free to download and play, the official launch will be just that: a major update for the game with the seal of official approval. To everyone besides Cryptic and its critics, the game is coming out on the 30th. The reason Cryptic is doing the soft launch is because making an MMO is no easy task, and the budget required is enormous. To give some insight, many companies won't even consider making an MMO unless it has at least several million dollars to get started. Cryptic is going to use the beta period to test the free-to-play model with Neverwinter, and get a feel for the kind of income they'll have to work with. Players can expect Cryptic to make continuous tweaks to the Zen Market, and for there to be a number of early additions to the store pre and post-launch.
It's been over century since the Spellplague forever changed The Forgotten Realms. Now, explore the city that's been at the center of a thousand adventures: Neverwinter. Adapted from the real Dungeons and Dragon's ruleset, Neverwinter will feature action-oriented combat and storytelling unlike any other MMO. Take the world in your hands with the Foundry toolset and make your own tales. Make your mark in this legendary world.
The first thing that I explored during the beta weekend was the new skill choice system. During beta weekend three, skills were unlocked by leveling up, meaning that players could choose what skills were on their bar, but didn't have any actual say in what skills they had access to. For beta weekend four, the system was changed to a tiered skill-purchase system. For each level up, players were given a point that could be invested in either unlocking a new skill, or leveling up a new skill, with more and more skills becoming accessible based on level. The system was very flexible, and I really enjoyed grouping with players who had completely different skill sets than I did, seeing how they had used the same resources in a completely different way. My only complaint is that this didn't happen until about level 30, where there were enough different skills that players could actually have diverse builds. This seems like a pretty fatal shortcoming, as the skill buy system was meant to offset the feeling that players were locked into a small set of choices. I also felt uncompelled to level up each of my skills, as adding another rank to each ability would only up its damage by 10%. While damage is always good, including benefits such as reduced cooldown, increased ability duration, or other changes specifically related to the abilities would greatly increase the importance of choosing where a skill goes every level, rather than just leveling up skills to reach the next tier of abilities. My advice to Cryptic is to expand the pool of skills accessible to players at the lower levels, and to reduce the number of higher tiered abilities, while increasing the impact of each ability. This would make each decision feel important, rather than just offering us the illusion of choice. I am certain that Cryptic is going to continue to tweak their skill system, and I have complete faith in their ability to make it into the engaging, choice-driven system that they want it to be.