It’s always a fruitful experience to spend time on any game’s official forums as it is the place that the most dedicated fans will discuss nearly every topic under the sun. Granted, official forums can also be cause for the donning of flameproof skivvies but that happens everywhere to one degree or another. The best part of official forums is, however, the passionate, intelligent discussions that arise between players.
Spending even a brief amount of time on the Neverwinter forum yields some fascinating topics including whether or not people are sorry they purchased a Founders’ Pack and an “old timer” asking for assistance comparing D&D First Edition Rules to the new Fourth Edition Rules and so on. As interesting as those were to read, I was particularly drawn to a topic posted by a forum user named Ulfghuld and entitled “Missing Overall Story?” Here’s what was posted:
I searched through the forums to find what I could, but no luck. I have read several of the previews from the Beta and watched quite a few beta videos and a common topic is the lack of story. Everyone seems to build a character and just get thrown into the game and there appears to be a missing story element to progress through.
I have yet to play, but will be in the Beta in March. My hope is that this part of the game is just being hidden and will not be available until the game launches.
To me this makes sense, cause the last thing I want to do in Beta is already find out all the story elements and not have anything to look forward to once the game launches. Forgotten Realms has always been my favorite D&D campaign setting thanks to R.A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, and Douglass Niles to name but a few.
Please alleviate my fears and tell me we will have an amazing storyline to follow in the game!
Commentary that followed Ulfghuld’s original post sport a wide variety of thoughts about an overarching storyline and it’s worth heading to the Neverwinter forums to read and participate.
After spending time mulling over the post and the subsequent answers, I thought about the many MMOs I’ve played over the years and how fascinating story has been during each journey through a developer’s game world. There is, however, a fundamental difference between, for instance, Rift and Neverwinter. Let me explain.
When playing Rift, the first decision a player is asked to make is which faction best represents his/her views as far as the story goes. Are you a techno-Defiant or a traditional-Guardian? The choice of faction is clear cut and, generally speaking, easy to make. The game is built around the two faction system which is an integral part of the entire story behind the game. Defiants and Guardians are battling one another to determine the best way to overcome the forces of evil. Each group has its own idea of the right tactics. Roles, in essence, are very well-defined in Rift.
Enter Neverwinter, a game that is based on D&D rules. The roles from which players will choose are not delineated in as simplistic a form as World of Warcraft, Rift or any other game with multiple factions that battle one another as well as growing darkness. D&D does not seem to, by its very nature, force players to choose one group or side over another. There are good and evil character choices to be made within any given race rather than choosing a representative faction that embodies a multiplicity of different races, all racing to the same goal. In many ways, this type of character differentiation is more “realistic” if such a thing can be said about a game that features elves and orcs. In real life, each of us represents a country, a race, a religion, and yet we are all human. Within each race, however, there are good folk, neutral ones and the embodiment of all evil. We are not defined as much by our larger “factions” but by our individual actions.
Because of the way D&D lays out the way a character is defined, and because of the instanced and quest hub nature of Neverwinter as a game, an overarching story becomes less important in the overall scheme of things. Adventurers have arrived in the Jewel of the North to assist in rebuilding the city and to help locals with that task by beating back the tide of evil. It’s less about our story than it is about my story. When the story belongs to only one, the collective story about all of us becomes less important. Within our own stories, however, we will make choices that will define who our characters become and the way they interact with others and with the residents of Neverwinter.
The notion of individual stories is also enhanced by The Foundry, a way for builders to create individual and small group adventurers that are only tangentially related to the basic plot of Neverwinter itself. Again, adventurers have come to the city seeking fame, fortune, notoriety, or any one of a hundred other reasons, most of which have little to do with “working together for the common good”, though that might influence some players’ decisions.
There will be, of course, a basic Cryptic-made story that will probably be quite good as far as it goes. But that story will come with the knowledge that there is no one single end to the game, no single massively evil entity which must be defeated to sum it all up. There will be no single purpose to the adventure, but a thousand different ones defined by a thousand different characters needing assistance in a city the size of Neverwinter.
The answer, at least in my mind, to Ulfghuld is that no, there is not going to be a predetermined storyline to follow in the game but, rather, one of our own making, tailored to our character and the way he/she chooses to interact with Neverwinter.
What do you think? How important is an overarching story to Neverwinter? Let us know in the comments!
Suzie Ford is the Associate Editor at MMORPG.com.