Neverwinter Beta Preview Part 1

Posted by on February 7, 2013 - 8 Comments »

Now that I have glutted myself on Neverwinter, it’s time to more thoroughly share my impressions. Although it’s difficult to not share more thoroughly than my earlier quickie glimpse. Even if I just wrote “this game is awesome because I can be a tiefling” I’d have more detail than what I wrote previously.

My very first impression of Neverwinter was one of disappointment. The game looked drab and dark, and when I started the little mini-tutorial all I did was stand there pressing left click. My character not only kept attacking but auto-switched targets when the one I was killing died.

But I had agreed to write about it, and let’s face it – ALL games suck at the beginning – so I kept going. And I am glad I did. Hit the jump to see why, and be warned that I had a lot to say. :)

Installation

As far as the very basics go, downloading and installation was a breeze. I had the game fully downloaded and patched in about an hour. My Cryptic folder is 3.71gigs, and that includes the massive glut of screenshots I took while playing, so anyone with a decent connection speed should have the game downloaded and patched pretty quickly even if your connection isn’t as good as mine.

Installation was also super easy. I clicked, selected my folder, and it installed smoothly. I have played many a beta that took me hours just to get installed and working, so anything that is as simple as it should be – clicking and telling it where to go – is worthy of note. Once installed, I opened the patcher and signed in and it opened right up for playing.

Character Generation

Is there anyone familiar with Cryptic who isn’t expecting this category to come out with glowing marks?

Even for an appearance whore like me, character creation is just as amazing as I was hoping it would be. For people who like it simple, there are a bunch of presets to choose from. For people like me who enjoy making characters, there are enough sliders to keep you happily tweaking to your hearts content. And tiefling horns are on a different slider than their hairstyles, which is a definite plus.

I tried to take screenshots of the character generation screen to display the choices, but unfortunately the game shuts off the UI automatically for screenshots. And my computer does not like fraps for some reason I’ve never been able to figure out, so my descriptions will have to do.

In true Cryptic style there are sliders for everything – even boob size! For further customizing there are also plenty of hairstyles and tattoos, and you can choose the colors for tattoos, hair, skin and eyes. I do have to note that it just looks very pretty. Lots of choices matter very little if the overall picture looks awful, but that’s not the case with Neverwinter. I only spent a few minutes playing around because I wanted to get into the game as quickly as possible, but even so I came out of it with a character I liked. I’ve been known to spend so long tweaking my character appearances that games log me out due to inactivity, so I’m very surprised that I was able to come up with something I liked in just a few minutes. But I did.

Beyond appearances, roleplayers will be happy. There are backgrounds you can choose from, cities of origin and deities, and there’s a section where you can write a biography. They don’t actually have any effect in game, they’re just there for character building and roleplay purposes. I chose to have only one name, but it does allow spaces. I didn’t check to see if it would take 3 names, but at the very least, taking a name and surname is possible.

I spend hours crafting my characters. It’s one of the driving forces behind what I choose to do in game as well, I hunt down every single outfit and clothing option I can find. If crafters can make clothing dyes, I go with the profession that creates them so I can always have what I want in the quantity I want. I am never satisfied. But characters look so beautiful I was able to pick a preset, fiddle with a few sliders, and come out with a character I liked well enough in just a few minutes.

Cryptic does character generation very, very well, and this game does not disappoint.

UI

I tried taking screenshots of the UI, but just wound up with lots of random pictures because the game shuts it down automatically so once again my descriptions will have to do.

But I don’t have a whole lot to say about the UI – I actually find it that good. Which amazes me, sitting here saying that, as I am a horrible UI tweaker. It’s likely as I play more, I will eventually really want to do something with it, but I’ve now played the game for many hours and have yet to find anything I don’t like. I can’t even come up with a complaint specifically trying to nitpick.

It’s streamlined, compact, provides the information you want at an easy glance, and it isn’t overly complicated with the swirling patterns and designs that I hate so very much and are so very common in many MMORPGs.

Oh wait – I just came up with a nitpick complaint – it took me forever to find the stamina bar. You can dodge out of the way of attacks, which uses stamina. I kept running out while fighting and just could not find where it was displayed. I finally just stood out of combat and dodged over and over, looking for something that changed. It’s a little yellow bar above the ability hotbar that I had mistaken for decoration.

But that’s it. That’s my only complaint. Which I’d have to say it pretty impressive. Just to give a little context – I played WoW for just a few months. I think I lasted a little over 3 months before I quit out of boredom, but within the first week of playing I had 26 UI-customizing mods. By the time I quit, I had 57 UI-altering mods that were active at all times, and 103 total when you take class specific ones into account.

If you really want to tweak, it’s easy to go into HUD customization mode and just drag the bars around. So Neverwinter wins generally across the board on UI. It’s hands down one of the best I’ve ever seen. I was able to just jump into the game and go, and that’s what a UI should be.

Graphics

This game is just a pleasure to look at.

If you watched the livestream, you heard me saying that over and over, but it’s just so true. The attention to detail simply cannot be beat. Even the frames on the pictures that line the walls is detailed, you can see the fiber weave in the carpets and tapestries, it is absolutely stunning. And I didn’t even have the video settings turned all the way up!

For people who like bloom, you’ll find the game looks even better than my screenshots display. I can’t stand it so turned it off. But I didn’t touch any other video settings, so what you see are the default settings that the game installed and chose for performance rather than image quality.

And thus far, everywhere I have seen has this same attention to detail. TERA used to be the standard visual ideal, now for me, the ideal to beat is Neverwinter. It’s just that good, and there’s really not much more to say than that.

Character Progression

And now we’re getting to the meat of the game. But honestly, I’m not sure quite sure where to start. I can’t decide whether I think there’s quite a variety of ways to progress, or if it’s streamlined such that every level 50 cleric will look like every other level 60 cleric. Which is an odd puzzle I’ve been trying to figure out since I first started playing. Usually I can look at the character sheet and gear and determine whether it’s cookie cutter builds or more freeform. But in the case of Neverwinter, I’m really having trouble deciding.

I’ve been playing a cleric, I’ve actually got two now, a tiefling that was level jumped by the devs for a dungeon raid, and a half elf that I’ve leveled to 16 on my own, and while this is a bit of a distraction form progression – the cleric is a lot of fun to play. I’ve played healers in every MMO I’ve played, and the Neverwinter cleric is easily one of the most fun healing classes out of all of them. Only the Vanguard disciple has them beat, but Vanguard is an entirely different beast (admittedly less so now than it was when I was seriously playing it) so it’s not entirely a level playing field in terms of fun factor.

But to get back to character progression – as it is a Dungeons and Dragons based game, the core of the character are your six ability stats: strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence and charisma. Every class has 1 stat that is their main, in the case of the cleric it’s wisdom, and I feel fairly certain that everyone is going to max out their primary stat. But even doing that – there is a cap in place. So when I got 2 ability points to spend, I pumped 1 into wisdom and maxed it out, and then had 1 left to spend. Now to decide where that point goes.

The game recommended either Strength or Charisma. I would also throw Constitution up there for consideration as well. But all 3 of these choices seem equally viable to me. Strength would make a more combat-oriented type cleric, increasing critical hit chance, DoT resists and stamina for the essential dodges to get out of harm’s way. Charisma makes for a more casty type cleric, as it reduces cooldown times and increases condition durations. Constitution of course adds more hit points, allowing you to survive longer when you do take hits. A cleric who can’t survive a few hits is a pretty useless in a tough fight.

Amusingly, charisma and strength were the two secondary abilities for the rogue as well.

Then you come to feats. I suspect the feat system is where a lot of D&D fans are going to end up disappointed.  I don’t mind it so much, myself. But I’m an old school D&D player – I am still playing 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons, and I haven’t touched anything after 2nd edition AD&D. So while I have read the third edition books, my familiarity with D&D feats comes almost entirely from Neverwinter Nights. I didn’t like the feat system in 3rd edition, I didn’t like it in Neverwinter Nights, so I don’t mind its alteration in Neverwinter. But I know that many people will disagree.

The Neverwinter feat system bears almost no resemblance to pen and paper D&D feats. Rather than a bunch of individual abilities that you pick, Neverwinter‘s feat system is closer to a talent tree. When you first gain feat points, you have a choice of putting them into 3 different feats; extra hit points, extra action points, or extended condition durations. The paragon paths look to be the same way. This is as a cleric, the other classes probably have different feat trees, but I do’t know what they are.

I’m sure the number crunchers and min maxers will calculate out the best way to stat the points, but I’ve never been very good at that sort of thing so I’m left staring at the feats and wondering if everyone is going to pick the same ones, or if there is enough variance that people will actually play differently. The virtuous cleric is a combat cleric focusing on increasing damage – but is it effective enough that the damage boosts will make it as viable and desirable to end game groups as the faithful cleric whose heals are boosted?

I guess the key there is desirable to groups – I have always found that classes that buff damage tend to be overlooked by many players, because if I’m buffing Joe’s damage when I attack instead of casting improved heals, dps and healing measurements neither show me as dealing more damage nor healing. Joe shows up as improved, but I do not. I’ve never liked dps meters for this very reason, but there’s no denying that there’s a very large group of players who use them as the sole means of determining party effectiveness.

I’ll have part 2 up soon!