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Neverwinter might be the best free-to-play MMORPG yet

Neverwinter Screenshot - 1102820

Neverwinter -- the free-to-play Dungeons & Dragons MMORPG from Cryptic and Perfect World -- has entered its open beta. While players that bought the ‘Hero of the North’ or ‘Guardian of Neverwinter’ starter packs were able to enter the game as early as April 25, all players are able to play the game starting today. And you get to keep your characters and their progress! Don’t let the beta title fool you; this is very much a release.

I’ve been dabbling in the closed betas, and since April 27, I’ve been playing in the open beta quite a bit -- all as a human Cleric. Even though I've only spent a limited amount of time with the game, I’m confident that this might be the best free-to-play MMORPG yet, and for multiple reasons. Here’s what I love about Neverwinter so far...

Voice chat

Neverwinter isn’t the first game to have voice chat as a feature in-game, but it’s a great feature to have. As expected, dungeons are a big part of a Dungeons & Dragons game. As groups of adventurers team up to take on tough bosses and encounters, communication is key. It’s completely doable without voice chat, but being able to talk to random people you get grouped with in queue is a lot easier.

I’ve run a few different dungeons. Some players have chosen to speak, giving advice or answering questions about the game. Others have stuck to just typing. No matter which method you choose, it’s nice to have options.

Custom storytelling

Neverwinter Creating custom maps

With the Foundry, players have the ability to create their own quests and dungeons to tell stories that they want to tell. Whether it’s a quest based on Spartacus: Blood and Sand or something completely original from someone’s imagination, you can create it. You can set everything from enemy pathing to quest dialogue.

And let me tell you, I’ve played some pretty great ones. The Foundry has a rating and review system where players can write comments and let others know if it was good or not. It’s very easy to find the top user-created content with the review system, and Cryptic does a good job of promoting players to play them. Not only are there constant bonuses scheduled for playing Foundry content, but you get experience and items from these. Cryptic is really pushing the top Foundry dungeons. I can follow my favorite custom storylines and quests, so when a new part to a quest I played gets released, I can easily find it and play it.

Fostering a great community

Neverwinter Foundry Quests

I know Neverwinter is still young, so the community hasn’t had a chance to become toxic. Right now, everyone is really helpful and happy to be playing. What’s going to make a huge difference in keeping a healthy, close-knit community are the safeguards that Cryptic has put in place.

With the Foundry, there’s going to be constant feedback and dialogue between the players that create content and the ones playing that content. Players in the community will become well-known for the great stories and quests that they provide adventurers with. In essence, it’s creating a relationship that’s as close as real-life DMing.

You’re always going to come across players in any game that try to ruin the experiences of others. But since there’s constant feedback between players, I get the sense that the community will come together into groups that have mutual interests in what they want Neverwinter to be for them. Like I said, everyone is really positive and helpful right now, but I actually think it might stay that way.

Craft when you’re not playing

Even when I’m not playing the game, I’m playing it. Through Gateway.playneverwinter.com, you can use your web browser to access:

  • Your character - check out your items and stats

  • Professions - send forth your hirelings and manage your tasks

  • Tarmalune Auction House - Buy and sell items on the auction house

  • Mail - send and receive in-game email

  • Guild news, calendar and roster

I’ve never been huge on crafting in other games, but in Neverwinter, it’s something I assign to a worker while I keep playing. Professions’ tasks range from 10 minutes to 18 hours to complete. The fact that I can go in during the day and either collect the results from a task or start a new task keeps the ball rolling. I am progressing my character even when I’m not playing.

The combat makes you want to fight mobs

Neverwinter Combat Wizard

Neverwinter is based on a modified version of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition rule set. There are healing powers, action points with Dailies, and encounter abilities. Basically, the 4th edition translates well to an MMORPG. The combat is action-oriented, fast-paced, and requires you to pay attention.

Simply put, the combat requires constant involvement and is a lot of fun. Usually in MMORPGs, if I have to collect an item around a certain area, I try to avoid enemies. In Neverwinter, I want to fight them. When you defeat enemies, it feels rewarding because you work at it. Dungeons can feel like organized chaos, and PvP has subtle nuances to it.

Neverwinter is off to a promising start. It’s the most fun I’ve had with an MMORPG since vanilla WoW. But if Cryptic and the community keep building on this foundation, this might be the best free-to-play MMORPG yet.

 

You can follow Senior Editor Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ. He likes talking sports, video games, movies, and the stupidity of celebrities. Email at LLiebl@GameZone.com

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Lance Liebl Gamer, Disney enthusiast, opinionated sports fan, movie buff, and a father of two. You can follow Lance on Twitter @Lance_GZ.
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