Neverwinter Beta Preview Part 2

And lo, Pherephassa’s lengthy treatise on Neverwinter continues! I’ve now reached level 18, and moved through several more zones, so I have much more detail to discuss. I am still having a blast, and it is very much an act of will to continue writing this rather than playing more.  :)

Hit the jump to see more about my impressions of the actual gameplay!


It being D&D, gear is of course a major concern and method of character progression. What’s D&D without the unending hunt for new shinies?

Gear is locked to specific classes; rather than a piece of armor that both the fighter and the rogue can use, it’ll be just rogue armor. At first I thought this was absolutely bizarre – there’s been a great deal of emphasis on avoiding cookie cutter builds – so why lock armor to specific classes?  I’ve also not noticed a great deal of difference in the stats on armor pieces for each class – so again, what’s the point in locking armor to specific classes? But it suddenly hit me tonight – games that don’t lock armor to classes wind up with greedy plate wearers able to roll need on everything. Because they can wear everything. Is that the reason Cryptic has designed armor pieces this way? I have no idea, but as I’ve not been seeing any real difference in the secondary stats on different class armors, I’ll take the class locks as they’ll shut down the incredible frustration of being a cloth-wearer who has just lost out on a sweet upgrade to a plate wearing tank who rolls need just to sell it.

But I’ll also admit to the possibility that there is a difference, and I just haven’t noticed it. My rogue has lifestealing gear, and my cleric does not, and I am now completely uncertain as to whether that’s because I haven’t seen any lifesteals on my cleric or if I just haven’t equipped it because it’s pointless when I can heal. But both of them do have gear with +crit, +defense, +hp and +recovery. I have yet to see any gear stats that only apply to one class, so I still remain confident that you can kit out in any way you choose – fighters or clerics can wear +crit stacked gear, it is not solely the province of rogues – the boosts on gear do not seem to be slanted in any one way or another.

One thing that I do find really cool is they have put a great deal of effort into building methods of providing information in ways that work for roleplayers. There are still popups that explain things like movement and how to level up, but there are also NPCs whose sole purpose is to provide information via conversation. Specific to gear, there is an NPC in the marketplace who showcases gear – simply talk to him and he’ll tell you about various pieces of armor or weapons that are upgrades for you and where to look to obtain them. When I spoke with him, he pointed out gear I could find in a nearby dungeon, and two NPCs who would sell gear for various currencies. So if you’re feeling lost and aren’t sure how to upgrade, just go talk to him and he’ll point out some possibilities to look into.


By gameplay, I of course mean combat. Neverwinter is an action game, so it is nothing like the typical MMO – you don’t have a million hotbars filled with abilities, there is no tab targeting, and you don’t simply stand there pushing buttons. Remember back at the beginning of Part 1 I commented that my initial impression was not very good? That was the early game, the first ten minutes of play, where I only had 2 abilities, and the monsters were balanced around my being a newbie in no armor. So I could just stand there and hold down left click, letting my character move me around via autoattack and target switching. I thought it was incredibly boring, and couldn’t see how gaining new abilities would change that dynamic much when I’d only be able to equip a few at a time.

But I have now leveled to 18, and boy, was I wrong.

Combat is easy to pick up and learn. You have at will powers that are bound to the left and right mouse buttons, encounter abilities that have cooldowns averaging around 10 seconds that default bind to q, e and r, and daily powers with longer cooldowns that default bind to 1 and 2. Targeting is done with a reticule, simply look at the monster you want to attack, or the friend you want to heal and they are targeted, then use your ability. But the actual combat experience is so much more than that.

Everyone knows – I hope! – not to stand in the fire. When you see a red splotch on the ground, get out of it! That’s standard MMO fare. What isn’t standard, however, are animations that telegraph the attacks the monsters are using so you can even avoid attacks that don’t have red warnings. Giant ogres have 2 attacks that I’ve identified; one is a wind up swing of their club that circles around them in an arc, the other is a high downward swing in front of them. There are no red circles on the ground telling you where they are aiming – but you can watch what they are doing and move to avoid the hit. If he’s doing the downward swing, running behind him to stab at him in the back will not only avoid the damage but give you a flanking bonus – but if he’s doing his roundabout swing and you run back there you’re still getting hit!

The orc shamans have spells with red area splotch marks on the ground that you can see and avoid, but they also have a forward spear lunge that does not have a displayed red area – and it is avoidable if you notice the half step he takes just before his lunge.

Cryptic wanted an action MMORPG, and they definitely succeeded. Combat is engaging beyond simply watching for cooldowns, even playing a healer is more than simply watching the lifebars of your teammates. This does have its drawbacks – having a bad lag night will make the game completely unplayable if you can’t accurately avoid enemy attacks – but I have to say I’ll take it even so.


What’s Dungeons and Dragons without adventures?

There are many different things to do in Neverwinter – I’ve only tried a portion of them so far! There are instanced quests, wide open zones for everyone, periodic events, dungeons, and pvp. And lore, although there’s not much to say about hunting for lore, it’s the same as lore hunting is everywhere else. Just look for the glowing clickies, and approach the locations.

When it comes to playing games, I’m a grinder. I really am – I desperately miss the old EQ style of play where you find yourself a nice camp and settle in, killing and killing and killing. Once I have a list in my journal – kill 10 of X monster, or kill Y monster and collect Z parts, or go and hit the clickies – it doesn’t matter what the quest is or why I’m doing it, I just get bored. I don’t care what the story is, I’m no longer there having fun, I’m just grocery shopping, grabbing up the ingredients to make my leveling cake. That said, quests in Neverwinter are … actually fun. I still generally don’t care why I am there, but I’m actually enjoying the quests as much as I am enjoying simply finding a place to grind. I can progress in both ways, so when I want to wander off into my own little instance I can do that. If I want to head out into the open zones and have a kill fest, I can do that too.

There are advantages to both, but have I mentioned that I am actually having fun?

So what is it that makes even me enjoy questing? First, some of the stories are actually pretty interesting. As much as it surprises me to say it, several of the quests have not bored me to tears. And the instances themselves are exquisitely crafted. I raved about the graphics in Part 1 – what I am talking about here is the actual content/dungeon design. If you want to rush through it to achieve the objective as quickly as possible, you can absolutely do that. But if you don’t, if you take your time and actually explore, there are definite rewards.

The quests and dungeons are filled with optional hidden treasures, nodes, and monsters. There are things hidden behind piles of crates, stuck up on rafters, and entire wings are tucked away behind tapestries and secret doors. Neverwinter quests are marvels of creation, with so much attention put into them that they interest even a cranky jaded gamer like me. There is finally a reason to poke around every corner, and look behind every pile of boxes or crates. The open zones have also been crafted with hidden secrets and discoveries in mind!

I’ve only participated in one event so far, a find the clicky event in Blacklake. Relics spawn whenever it happens, if you want to join in, just run around the zone clicking on the ones you find. Once the event finishes, a leaderboard pops up, ranking everyone who joined in. I actually came in in first place when I did it, which amazed me as I was questing at the time and didn’t go out of my way looking, but I walked away with a handful of Astral Diamonds. For those uninterested in joining in, it’s very unobtrusive, so you won’t be interrupted as you run about doing whatever else you’re doing. I’m looking forward to seeing more.

Plus there are mimics. How can you not love a game that has mimics.

And I guess I’m going to have to have a Part 3, as I’ve once again had quite a bit to say. So stay tuned!

About Pherephassa 213 Articles
Pherephassa has been creeping around the etherspace long enough to have remorted so often that not even she can recall her original form. She loves sandboxes, challenges, chain mail bikinis and dungeons so large they take weeks, months or even years to fully explore. Currently seeking an MMO home, she can often be found on the side of the road, begging game designers for death penalties and slow leveling curves.


  1. Pherephassa , I’ve held out taking the plunge, but I’m definitely encouraged by what you’ve written in part 2. I see a lot of STO in what you wrote: the informational NPC’s, the heavy instancing, the complex gear and leveling, combat that gets richer and deeper as you level up, and the story-driven quests that are usually good and sometimes great. Also, your screens are absolutely breathtaking! Then again this is Cryptic, so we would expect nothing less.

    I think the main reason I’ve not signed up yet is I’m put off by the beta ‘windows’ of three weekends. Why isn’t the public beta open full time until official release like all other public betas I’ve seen? On the other hand, the weekend is still young, and if you keep writing these very encouraging previews, I may yet cave and get out my credit card. ;)

    BTW, I love being a healer in STO. There aren’t that many of us, especially on the Klingon side, but someone has to keep those tanks healthy. Also, like you, I spent so much time basking in the details of the STO character creation that I timed out. ;)

  2. @NarriWhat kills me is the game is this beautiful, without even my maxing the settings!
    As to the founders packs.. if you don’t want to get into the beta as quickly as possible, or don’t like what’s being offered, there’s no real need to pick them up. You can always support the game later if you want to by buying zen.
    I am really amazed at how much fun I am having! And am glad you are enjoying my preview! Let me know if you end up getting one, we can hang out in game!

  3. Thanks for the preview! I am really looking forward to this game, and I really, really want it to work! Is there any notice as to what its business model will be?

  4. @Jose It’s f2p. They’ve said that no content will be gated, so you can jump in and play it to level cap without spending a dime. I discovered how to open the cash shop in game (I don’t think it’s actually useable, but I did see what’s in it) and though there isn’t much at the moment, it has things like dyes, clothing items – a tricorn pirate hat! I want that!! – companions, extra inventory space, etc. It reminded me a lot of Aion’s free to play model, which I think is fantastic.

  5. Many thanks! I’ve been playing GW2, which of course is an outstanding game, but it lacks the rich lore, background and history behind D&D, and I sorely miss that background. Tyria is a wonderful place, to be sure, but it is no Forgotten Realms!

  6. OK, Pherephassa (what a cool name that is :)

    Sorry to say that I haven’t gotten it yet, and with the weekend over half-gone, guess there’s no point now. If I continue to keep seeing glowing reviews from you and others though, I will definitely be there for the next beta preview weekend in early March. I’ve seen a fair amount of chat about NW while playing STO. The game definitely seems to have generated a lot of buzz.

    BTW, I have a goth Orion in STO named Ymbria, and I think I’ll transport her to NW. ;) Also, would love to have that founder’s mardi gras mask. Will the same founder’s packages be available in March?

    PS…..I totally agree with Jose about a strong backstory. It definitely helps with immersion, and without one a game is just, well, a game.

  7. @Narri Thank you! It is a minor variant of Persephone. I have degrees in ancient/art history and classical studies, so all my names, whether they be character names in games or handles on forums or whatnot for me, are derived from ancient texts. Usually death god related – I spent several years writing a rather lengthy thesis about death and fertility goddesses in the ancient world.
    As can probably be assumed from my preview (all 3 parts of it, hah, and I didn’t even say a fraction of what I’d have liked to), I am having an absolutely fantastic time in Neverwinter. I was looking forward to it, but I am completely amazed at exactly how much I am enjoying it. Even the quests! I am infamous among my friends for hating quests, and just wanting to wander off to camp and kill even if it’s slower leveling. But I am very much enjoying Neverwinter’s.
    I wish I could get Xsplit working so I could stream for everyone! But for some reason my computer does not like Xsplit or fraps, I’ve never been able to get either running without bogging my computer down so much it’s slideshow city.
    Feel free to put up more questions if there’s more you want to know, I will try to answer them as best I can.

  8. OK, if you like NW that much, and I sense I can trust your judgement, I’ll plan on getting the $60 founder package sometime between now and the next Beta weekend (March 1st is it?) Can’t wait to create my goth/vampire life drainer ;) Can you keep your beta character after beta is over?

    Ancient Art/History? Cool. In STO I was using ancient amazons for my Federation ship names: Antiope, Hippolyta, and Penthesthelia. :)

    BTW, a humorous aside: As a woman gamer playing STO, most of the guys I’ve met fall in to two categories. The first type sends you friend requests, then every time you login, before you can even catch your breath they’re pestering you to team up and spend all your time with them. The second type think there are no women gamers, so assume you’re a male ‘role-player’ until you’ve proven otherwise. Sheesh! lol

  9. I have used Penthesileia as a forum name in the past. :)
    I’m pretty sure beta characters will be wiped. If for no other reason than Astral Diamonds. We get our allotment of AD that come with purchases now, and we’ll get them again after launch. Which says to me a wipe.
    I am sad beta weekend will be over in a few hours. :(
    You can also read previews I have written of other games if you want to get a feel for what kind of things I like. I try to state why I like or dislike something, because my tastes are not going to be the same as everyone who may be reading them.
    Though Neverwinter throws many of my usual preferences on their head!
    There are several things I left out! I wonder if I should write a preview addendum. Hah!

  10. I’m blue P. I was wrong about the next beta weekend. It’s not March 1st, but the 8th, which means I have to wait a whole month. :( Oh well.

    I did have one more question. How is the tech/skills tree in NW? I hope it’s better than the one in Star Trek Online. I think Cryptic made the STO skills tree purposely convoluted, complex, and cryptic (pun intended ;) so that players would have to spend zen on a respec. Hope they don’t do this in NW, but fear they will. :(

    Anyways, hopefully you will post one more article on your first beta weekend experiences. :)

  11. Whoah thats a nice deep review so far alot of information.. thanks for showing me this and ill be following you in the future :)

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