I’m someone who tends to find a game to go really deep into, and play it extensively until I get bored. Once I do, I seem to never go back. I’m also someone who really prefers RPG style games rather than fighting or driving games or platforms.
The last couple of games that ate significant chunks of my gaming time were Elder Scrolls Skyrim and the Online release, and Civilization V (none of the non-Civilization Sid Meier games ever caught me for some reason).
I’ve auditioned a few games in 2016, but it wasn’t until I ran into Neverwinter that I settled in and went deep. Why did this game grab me when others like Witcher 3 didn’t?
First, I’m simply a sucker for classic dungeon crawler RPG type games, and especially those built on the classic Dungeons and Dragons content and rules, like Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. I really enjoy games like Skyrim for the technical and graphic sophistication and story, but there’s something fun and brainless about a game like Neverwinter. Oh, and it’s let me run around Icewind Dale and shoot arrows at things.
My gaming style is pretty simple: I play solo, play primarily for relaxation or when I’m chewing on a problem and want to distract the front half of my brain to let the back half work. I’m not a big group play or guild person, which is why I’ve never gotten into Worlds of Warcraft — that game pushes too hard into guild play for my tastes. I did, however, love the Diablo games in the day. I don’t want to schedule my play time, I want to be able to grab the controller and go kill things for a couple of hours at my convenience.
Neverwinter is a good game for this. The group dungeons and group features like Guilds exist, but it doesn’t really force you into them to progress in the game. I am in a guild in Neverwinter because it has advantages to my stats and gear, but it’s a fairly laid back one; I just need to invest some time in returning resources back to it to take advantage of it.
Neverwinter is not as graphically sophisticated as either Skyrim or Witcher 3, who’s graphics and game engines impressed me a lot on a technical basis. But… For me, that’s a bit of the point — this game feels old school, really looking back to some of the more classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate. The graphics aren’t as detailed, the animations aren’t as smooth, but that really adds to the feeling that this is the kind of game I might be able to write if I sat down to do it.
I also really appreciate the story telling, which is, in my view, perfect for this kind of game. The story design is — thirteen. It has the feel of the games I’d have built as a 13 year old, including all of the weird fun names, bizarre evil overlord boastings and general feeling of enthusiasm over sophistication.
It’s pure fun, in a down in the basement with my friends playing D&D on a rainy Saturday kind of way.
So that’s where I head when I want to get away from things, and I’ve been putting a bunch of hours into it over the last few months. Traditionally I play fighters, of the “hmm. it’s still moving, I’ll hit it again” type. For this game I went a different direction and tried being a Ranger, which I’ve really enjoyed, and I’ve built up a character that effectively has a bazooka strapped to his back, but which is still very vulnerable to direct damage if it gets stuck in a group in melee. Forces a much different strategy than “hit it if it moves, or even if it doesn’t”, and I’ve appreciated that. This character is basically caught up with the game and waiting for the next section to open in a week, and I’ve been grinding away at some of the long term campaigns for boons or gear improvements.
I was trying to decide if I wanted to shift to another game for a while, given I’m somewhat blocked, but instead, I started up a new character, this one a Cleric. Also a character I almost never play, but one which I’ve found is in strong demand for the group dungeons and skirmishes. Once I get it up to veteran status and build up its power, it should be a popular friend for those times when I want to dive into some of the multiplayer areas of the game. Getting this one up to speed will keep me busy for a bit…
The game has its flaws and weaknesses. There are UI inconsistencies that occasionally drive me crazy, mostly little things like popping through a travel portal and finding in some areas you stay mounted, and in others that transfer dismounts you. Or in some cases certain quests count against larger daily questions, and the same quests in different areas don’t. These little lapses on attention to detail aren’t a big thing, but when you trip over them, they bug you.
But overall? I’m still having a ball in the game, and I don’t see that changing soon. Having spent a few days with the Cleric revisiting the beginner levels and now starting into some of the intermediate ones, I’m finding it holds up rather nicely to replay, which wasn’t true for my in Skyrim.
So, if you want good, old school, dungeon crawling with lots of killing orcs for gold and glory, you can do a lot worse than Neverwinter. I wouldn’t call it state of the art, but I do say it’s a lot of fairly brainless fun.