Sitting down at my laptop after a long day of work, I went on Facebook for my daily dose of pointless status updating and drama galore. How dull – I’d rather be slaying monsters, dragons, and other mythical enemies. Thankfully, I got access to the closed Beta for Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter. This game is set in the Forgotten Realms universe and runs off of the Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 tabletop engine, as most modern Dungeons and Dragons games do.
Upon start-up, you’re greeted with a very nice character selection screen and four character slots to start. Character creation in Heroes of Neverwinter is fairly deep for a Facebook game. There are four classes and four races to choose from – though if you are new to Dungeons and Dragons, it’s highly recommended that you pick one of the pre-made characters, as they are set up with the most advantageous racial bonuses for each respective class.
Being a little adventurous (or perhaps a little stupid, depending on your viewpoint), I chose to roll out as a Human Wizard. If you don’t choose a premade character, you have the option to fill out your starting stats in any way you wish – meaning that if you’re experienced playing Dungeons and Dragons and prefer to start with near capped out intelligence as a Wizard, you can. However, I can see the inexperienced player that doesn’t read the handy tooltips severely gimping themselves for play later on in the game by putting their points into a stat that’s useless for their class.
So, after customizing my character’s appearance and naming him, I was taken to the game screen itself. The game uses the same screen for traversing the map, which is set up in a very room-like manner with grid-based movement throughout. This will prove to be a very familiar setup to fans of the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop game. The map was very well-drawn and detailed – but not overly so. You could easily tell which characters were where, what archetype each character fulfilled, and what terrain was surrounding your character for purposes of setting up battles in your favor. Also neat was the mini-map in the corner of the screen, useful for navigating dungeons with multiple paths.
Speaking of battles, the game’s second room offers you a brief tutorial, dividing character skills into Free Use, which allows for unlimited usage during an encounter, and more powerful Once per Encounter abilities. Combat progresses in a manner similar to any tactical RPG, such as Disgaea or Final Fantasy Tactics, with grid based movement, attacks, and spells. However, it kind of falls flat here; the movement and combat animations are all extremely stale and has a low framerate if you aren't on a higher-end computer. You'll be fine, most likely, if you have a dedicated graphics card.
As I continue along, the game presented me with traps that my very convenient Rogue NPC was able to disarm. It is useful to have a friend along for the ride if you are not playing a Rogue yourself. Speaking of which, you can play with the many recruitable NPCs (found in the game’s Tavern) that can be controlled either by you or via a toggled AI. This AI seems to have questionable intelligence, however, so it is highly recommended that you control all of your characters at all times, as my Rogue friend I mentioned earlier decided a ranged attack was the best course of action standing at point-blank range. Such facepalm worthy moments continued to ensue, so this is another bug that looks like it may have to be ironed out before release.
At the end of your adventure, you are able to do one of my favorite things in gaming – collect the loot! You are asked to pick from one of 10 random loot cards that contain gold, potions, and gear to help you on your next adventure. After this, the game grades you on your performance using criteria such as how much extraneous damage you took, what skills you used effectively, how many monsters were killed, and so on.
I rolled into Neverwinter after completion of the tutorial mission and was greeted with a city full of ambient sights and sounds – again, well drawn maps being displayed here. This is the main hub for the game, where you can spend the gold that you earn on missions on new gear and potions to help you on your future endeavors. It also has the Adventure Board, where you can pick up said missions.
Any Facebook game would not be complete without some sort of social component – you can check out your friends' houses, where trophies and other such trinkets (that can be purchased in game with gold) are displayed. You can also adventure with your friends, adding them and their NPC companion to your party. There is absolutely no downside to this, as loot is per player and not split between the party.
Also, at level 10, you are able to create dungeons for others to complete via the game's Dungeon Editor – as Facebook games go, this is very customizable with many tilesets and enemy types to choose from, and it also allows for a decent bit of storytelling for would be Dungeon Maters to dabble in.
One other feature that’s included in most Facebook games is an option to pay to do things faster – it appears the game has an energy system that is like many other games on Facebook. You can either spend Diamonds to refill your energy gauge at any time, or you can purchase drinks at the game’s Shop with gold. Diamonds can also be used to purchase things such as additional character slots and recruitable NPCs.
If you are a fan of Dungeons and Dragons, and the Forgotten Realms, this will be like a dream come true to you. Even if you aren’t, the game offers an engaging experience rivaled by very few Facebook titles.
FINAL SCORE: 8.0
Dustin Steiner is GameZone’s eSports Correspondent and Freelance Editorial Writer. Follow him on Twitter @SteinerDustin