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Neverwinter Column: What It Is...and Isn't

By Suzie Ford on April 08, 2013

Now that Neverwinter’s ‘soft launch’ date of April 30th has been announced, more and more people are beginning to think about Cryptic’s creation. While thousands have been involved in beta testing, there are legions of others who have not and who are fond members of the “I <3 D&D” crowd. It is to these folks that today’s column is largely directed to since it can be a daunting process to determine exactly what a game is or is not. This is particularly true with Neverwinter, a game that seems to defy the single descriptor.

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So, without further ado, here are some of the things that would-be players need to know about Neverwinter:

Neverwinter IS an MMO

This is probably the most controversial of all the points being made in this column. But Neverwinter is definitely an MMO by the very definition of the word. Before anyone starts jumping up and down, wait and breathe deeply.

According to the Wiktionary, MMOs are defined as “massively multiplayer online games. A computer game in which a large number of players can simultaneously interact in a persistent world.”

There is no question that Neverwinter fits every part of that definition. Are there instances? Are there a LOT of instances? You better believe it. But in between all of those instances, there are large areas to explore and to interact with other players in. There are gathering spots, places to cooperatively quest and much more, all while thousands of players are simultaneously connected to the game. If that’s not an MMO, what is?

Neverwinter IS Dungeons & Dragons

There has been a lot of discussion on our forums about whether or not Cryptic’s vision of Neverwinter, the Jewel of the North in the Forgotten Realms, is truly Dungeons & Dragons. Well, folks, the long and short of it is that Neverwinter is 100% Dungeons & Dragons. This is a plain fact as evidenced by any reading you care to make of the D&D 4th Edition ruleset.  The character classes fit. The skills (at will, daily, etc.) fit. The party “roles” fit. Just a cursory reading of the 4th Edition reveals that Cryptic has literally “toed the line” on this one, probably under the watchful eye of Wizards of the Coast.

Now, there’s no question that this incarnation of the D&D ruleset is vastly different than previous versions, iterations that many call “real” D&D. There is no argument there. But to say that Neverwinter isn’t D&D is disingenuous given its current status as the official ruleset for any D&D creations now and in the future (or until a new ruleset is issued).

Neverwinter ISN’T a Sandbox

It seems any more that the only thing many MMO players are looking for is a sandbox experience. Players don’t want to feel shunted down a pre-ordained path from start to finish. Well, people, Neverwinter is not a sandbox (shocking, right?). It is a game about story and moving the story from one end to the other with hundreds of stops in between. It’s about scripted content and about the reward at the end of the quest.

That said, there is some liberality from the Foundry. The creations from players in the modding community will still be about story and scripted events and getting the reward, however, even if there will be different ways to tell stories and a variety of ways to get there. So in a sense, it's like allowing players to make castles and forts in the sandbox, eh?

Players looking for 100% freedom of exploration and rewards for so doing will be disappointed by Neverwinter. That’s not to say it’s not a great game. But Neverwinter is 100% themepark.

Neverwinter ISN’T Neverwinter Nights

There have been a ton of posts all over the ‘Net with people using Neverwinter and Neverwinter Nights interchangeably. It’s a facepalming experience every time it surfaces. Granted, there is similarity in the name and there will of course be similarities in the setting and there is some similarity seen due to the nature of the Foundry and NWN’s Aurora Engine. But that is it.

Neverwinter Nights takes place about ninety years before the events of Neverwinter and unless some iconic characters in the form of certain famous Dwarves and Drow show up, most people from NWN are dead and buried...or at least old and institutionalized.

Additionally, the Aurora Engine was utterly in the hands of the modding community. If it could be imagined, it could be done with no developers looking over a shoulder. With Cryptic’s Foundry, there will be a lot of flexibility in the stories that are told but there will be oversight by the developers to keep mods from allowing exploits. For instance, if a dungeon is created to be for level one players, Cryptic will ensure that the rewards at the end are level appropriate. That simply didn’t happen with NWN. Remember persistent worlds? How about that Star Wars mod created using NWN’s tools? Those sorts of things will not happen in Neverwinter.

So there you have it. These are just a few things that Neverwinter is and isn’t. If you have friends thinking about picking up Neverwinter on release day, show them this article before they start asking questions. It might save you a lot of headaches.

Have some thoughts to share? Leave them in the comments!

Suzie Ford is the associate editor and news manager at MMORPG.com. You can follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom.


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