Neverwinter Beta Weekend 1 Impressions: Fast, Fun & Addictive
Zones Are Well Designed
Questing itself took me through a lot of solo instances around the city from sewers to homes to orc-infested barracks. I enjoyed the many solo instances and soon learned to avoid the traps, look for the hidden rooms, and plan my attacks from afar. All the things that got thrown out the window during my first group instance. Sigh, it seems like it doesn’t matter what game you play, throw five random players in a dungeon and the unspoken goal is to rush to the end as soon as possible. No heading down side corridors for extra loot or exploring tucked away rooms for hidden creatures.
Still, the instanced zones as well as the outdoor larger zones are well designed with an eye towards flow, exploration, and progression. Instanced zones have such features as queuing for groups, scoreboards of player contributions at the end, and consolation rewards in the form of currency that can be used to buy upgrades if you don’t win the roll on the boss loot. Outdoor zones had plenty of vendor NPCs, quest NPCs, safe spots and dangerous roads. Which leads me to…
Transportation Is Lacking
There is a great deal of running about in this game. Mostly between quest givers and quest locations. And there are no shortcuts. No teleports back to the main city. No inner city transportation. No remote quest granting. Just lots of running back and forth. Yes, you get a mount at 16 (and faster ones later on), but it doesn’t solve the time sink of constantly running between objectives.
The Foundry Can Be Amazing
Back to questing. Want a break from the main storyline quests? Try a player-created quest from the Foundry system. I played two of them. The first was dull and uninspired. The second was as good as anything I’ve played in the game so far. Better in some aspects. There is a rating system that will push the highly rated player-created missions to the top, so it won’t be long before the standouts get the attention they deserve. There’s also the ability to tip the mission creator with in-game currency, which is a nice way to compensate them for their time.
The devs were also smart about getting the word out about the player-created missions. They are not only listed prominently on the Welcome screen (see below), but there are job boards around the zones listing them and NPCs in the taverns that will recommend missions. This is not an afterthought and its great to see the devs support this feature.
Currency Is Confusing
Uh, wow, this one is a bit boggling. There’s the gold/silver/copper coins we all expect from fantasy RPGs and these are gained from looting creatures and selling unwanted equipment. With it you can buy things from the in game vendors like consumables, mounts, armor, etc. On the other end of the spectrum is Zen. Zen is the microtransaction currency that is used in all Perfect World free-to-play games. You buy Zen with your real cash, then can use it to buy whatever they are offering in the cash shop (which hasn’t been revealed yet for Neverwinter, but the devs insist it contains nothing that is necessary to get through the game.)
Then there is this thing in between called Astral Diamonds. This is an in-game currency that is gained from completing harder activities such as running group instances. Astral Diamonds are used to buy more powerful items than the coin system. And it can also be sold to other players for Zen. So if another player wants your Astral Diamonds that you earned through playing the harder aspects of the game, you can receive Perfect World’s microtransaction currency in exchange. Apparently this is the same method used in Perfect World’s Star Trek: Online. Jack Emmert explains it further in a recent interview.