Neverwinter (video game)

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Neverwinter
Neverwinter Video Game.jpg
Developer(s)Cryptic Studios
Publisher(s)Perfect World Entertainment
Producer(s)
  • Craig Zinkievich
  • Gordon Fong
  • Andy Velasquez
Designer(s)
  • Zeke Sparkes
  • Thomas Foss
  • Randy Mosiondz
  • Chris Matz
  • Kevin Stocker
Programmer(s)
  • Robert Marr
  • David Anderson
  • Casey Miller
  • Daniel Hogberg
  • Robert Pasquini
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, Xbox One[1] PlayStation 4[2]
ReleaseMicrosoft Windows
June 20, 2013[3]
Xbox One
March 31, 2015[4]
PlayStation 4
July 19, 2016[5]
Genre(s)MMORPG[6]
Mode(s)Multiplayer

Neverwinter is a free-to-play massively multiplayer online role-playing game developed by Cryptic Studios and released by Perfect World Entertainment for Microsoft Windows in 2013, Xbox One in 2015, and PlayStation 4 in 2016. Based on the fictional Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter from Dungeons & Dragons, Neverwinter is a standalone game and not part of the previous Neverwinter Nights series.[7]

Gameplay[edit]

Players can become one of eight Dungeons & Dragons character classes and form groups of up to five player characters (PCs). Neverwinter was originally based on a modified version of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition rules set. This includes the use of healing powers and action points, the latter of which is implemented through a system referred to as dailies, allowing a player to perform a special ability by accumulating enough action points through combat. A player-created content system codenamed "Foundry" allows players to create their own stories and quests.[8]

It's not an MMO in the sense that there aren't zones with hundreds-and-hundreds of people. You are not fighting for spawns. There's a very strong storyline throughout the game. So it's more of a story-based game closer to things like Dragon Age or Oblivion, which we really try to follow.

On October 5, 2011, it was announced that the gameplay of Neverwinter would be re-structured into a free-to-play MMORPG with extra items and other advantages available for purchase for an as yet unannounced fee.[6][10]

In August 2014, the Tyranny of Dragons module was used to bridge the narrative gap between the game and the recently released 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.[11] Many of the subsequent modules would have ties to 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons storylines, such as Elemental Evil, Storm King's Thunder, Tomb of Annihilation, Ravenloft and Undermountain.[12][13] In April 2019, all eight classes received varying levels of balance and adjustments and each class was renamed to align with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.[14]

Plot[edit]

Characters and setting[edit]

The setting of Neverwinter takes place in a time when the eponymous city is plunged into chaos after the disappearance of the last Lord of Neverwinter. In the aftermath of the Spellplague and a Primordial Fire Elemental's almost destroying Neverwinter, as seen in the novel Gauntlgrym, the remaining citizens form factions and struggle for dominance over the populace as the dead begin to rise and attack "the city they once called home."[15] The player is investigating the Sect Crown of Neverwinter and trying to figure out what the skeletons and another mysterious group are looking for. The included locations are based on the novels Gauntlgrym, Neverwinter, and Charon's Claw. Players are also able to create whole new locations that may or may not conform to the lore on which the rest of the game is based. This content is clearly distinguished so as not to confuse users, and they are informed whether they are playing user-generated or official content.[10]

Story[edit]

Briefly assuming her pre-lich appearance, the Lich Queen Valindra attacks the soldiers of New Neverwinter, as new grounds are being built outside of the original city, which is being repaired. Valindra's actions spark the Battle of the Bridge, in which Barrabus the Gray (formerly known as Artemis Entreri) and Drizzt Do'Urden are rumored to be present by gossipers at a pub in the shattered town of Luskan. Each soldier tells his own story of the battle until one soldier reveals that Valindra's attack was going badly until the blue dragon, Fulminorax, a leader in the country of Thay, helped her escape. The soldier finishes by asking the people where they will be and what they will be doing when the dragon attacks again.[16]

After their ship was sunk by a dracolich, adventurers help a nearby militia of Neverwinter against Valindra. While not confronting her directly on the Sleeping Dragon Bridge, the heroes fight a Harbinger, a huge humanoid undead, then go to Protector's Enclave to tell a Sergeant about what happened. For their valor, the adventurers become the Heroes of the Sleeping Bridge. Learning that the Nashers took advantage of Valindra's attack, the heroes track them to the Blacklake District. There they fight a chosen of Ghaunadaur and Nasher leader Karzov. With the Nasher Rebellion ended, the Heroes head to the Cloak Tower and defeat Vansi Bloodscar, an orcish commander from the Kingdom of Many-Arrows.

Sent to help Dorothea Linkletter, the spellscarred wife of Josef Linkletter, the Heroes learn the wizard Rhazzad had sacrificed all the spellscarred victims he hid from Helm's Hold. Learning Rhazzad's masters to be in the Chasm, the heroes defeat the wizard when he turns into a plaguechanged monstrosity. Forced to delay going after Rhazzad's masters, the Heroes are put in contact with the Harpers to fight against Malus and Traven Blackdagger. Learning the Blackdagger brothers to have been turned undead by the Thayan necromancer Kallos Tam, the Heroes defeat the pirates and Valindra's agent. Learning the Red Wizard of Thay Xivros plans to raise Arleos the Unforgiven, the Heroes are unable to stop the resurrection but do put down the monster when it rises. The heroes also learn that in another part of Neverdeath Graveyard, Valindra defeated the Cult of the Dragon over the dracolich Azharzel. The Spellplague victims then become a priority again as the Prophet of Helm's Hold has been revealed to be a succubus called Rohini. With the Ashmadai active in Neverwinter, the Heroes raid the fortress, defeat Rohini and slay her green dragon Chartilifax.

When the Barrow Lords and the Netherese necromancer Idris raised the dead of Ebon Downs, the Heroes of the Sleeping Bridge were dispatched and defeated the undead. When the Uthgardt barbarians under the Netherese began to hunt down the Forsworn, the Heroes decided to put an end to the Netherese menace. Stopping Netheril's plans with Xin'Kar, a piece of the Enclave Xinlenal, the Heroes defeated the Uthgardt chieftain and Netherese forces. Joining forces with Company Yargo, the Heroes then took down another Blackdagger Pirate, the undead Bartholomew Blackdagger. Aiding the Icehammer Dwarves, the Heroes proceeded to slay the Frost Giant Hrimnir and destroy the Winterforge. When the Chasm is threatened by the Order of the Blue Fire, the Heroes finally begin to finish off another loose end: Rhazzad's masters. Heading down the Chasm, the Heroes find A'Drx'l, the Aboleth that was guiding Rhazzad, and slay it.

When Drow slavers from House Xorlarrin began appearing and creating a settlement called New Xorlarrin, the Heroes set out to stop them and put an end to their fledgling designs. In doing so, they learned that the Drow Goddess Lolth was trying to take over magic. While the Xorlarrins retreat, the Heroes defeat the Fire Giant Gommoth and red dragon Karrundax. The Xorlarrins retake the abandoned city of Zesraena and fight the Heroes at the Doors of Delzoun in a losing effort. Learning of the Xorlarrin alliance with Illithids, the Heroes fought the Mind Flayers and their Duergar thralls, eventually entering a structure known as the Iron Heart to defeat Yshiggol.

With their strength grown, the Heroes of the Sleeping Bridge decide to end the destructive conflict between Neverwinter and Thay by targeting Valindra Shadowmantle directly. Entering Castle Never, the Heroes fight through hordes of undead and Valindra's most powerful soldiers. Eventually confronting the Lich Queen directly, they defeat her and her dracolich Ahzarzel.

Development and release[edit]

Promotion at E3 2012

Atari bought Cryptic Studios in the fall of 2009.[17] In late August 2010, Atari announced Neverwinter, to be developed by Cryptic Studios, with a release scheduled for late 2011.[18] They revealed that the game would coincide with a multi-media event revolving around the city of Neverwinter, including the release of four books (one already in stores), a co-operative board game and a Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game being released to promote the launch of the MMORPG.[19] In May 2011, Atari announced that it would be selling Cryptic Studios, stating that development of Neverwinter would continue as normal, but only for the time being.[20]

The game was first publicly displayed at E3 2011, where many details about the game were revealed.[21] The game was originally scheduled to be released as a cross media event coinciding with the release of a series of four books by fantasy author R.A. Salvatore and a tabletop game from Wizards of the Coast.[22] Laura Tommervik (Wizards of the Coast marketing team) explained the approach: "We use Neverwinter as the connective tissue across multiple product categories. The transmedia campaign is an opportunity for fans to experience the brand however they choose to".[13]

Due to Cryptic's acquisition by Perfect World Entertainment, Neverwinter was delayed to 2012.[23] Perfect World also bought the rights to publish the game from Atari, coinciding with the conclusion of Atari's lawsuit with Wizards of the Coast on the Dungeons & Dragons license.[24] Perfect World announced that Neverwinter had shifted from the co-operative multiplayer game that was announced the previous year into a free-to-play MMORPG on October 5, 2011. This further delayed the game to late 2012.[6] Perfect World would later again delay Neverwinter into early 2013 to better polish the game.[25]

Prior to releasing major details on the game, Perfect World launched a viral marketing campaign called the Siege of Neverwinter, featuring videos from the game's story.[26] The game was at Penny Arcade Expo (Pax) East 2012, where it was awarded Best of Show by MMORPG.com.[27] In the same month of showing at PAX East, it also appeared at gamescom, where it showed off its Events feature, and Gen Con Indy, where it let attendees try out early version drow race characters.[citation needed] It was announced in 2012 that the game's campaign would feature sixty levels.[28] The game ran closed beta testing from February 8, 2013 to April 14, 2013. Open beta began on April 30, 2013.[29]

Shannon Appelcline, author of the Designers & Dragons series, wrote the "Neverwinter Campaign Setting was launched as 4e's first major multimedia release — a marketing approach that Wizards would regularly use in later years. It was closely tied to a series of four novels, a comic book, two different computer games, and even a board game. [...] Two more Neverwinter computer games were appearing thanks to Wizards' 'transmedia' campaign. A new MMORPG simply called "Neverwinter" was to be the center of the Neverwinter rollout. Unfortunately it was delayed for two years due to the resolution of a computer gaming lawsuit and the subsequent sale of the developer, Cryptic Studios. [...] Neverwinter (2013) finally appear only after the rest of the launch. It continues to be supported to this day and has participated in some of D&D 5e's multimedia rollouts".[13]

In June 2018, Cryptic Studios announced that over the course of five years:

  • "The near 18 million players amount to 775 times the population of Neverwinter".
  • "Players have died 202 million times".
  • "The deadliest dungeon is the Temple of Lostmauth".
  • The most popular race is humans followed by Tieflings.
  • The most popular class is Great Weapon Fighter followed by Trickster Rogue and Hunter Ranger.
  • 63 million monsters have been killed including more than 6.5 million dragons.[30]

Modules[edit]

Neverwinter has released multiple updates to the game called modules.[12]

Module Release Date Game Updates
Fury of the Feywild August 22, 2013 A new zone called Sharandar

New professions, loot, dungeons

A new campaign system[31][32]

Shadowmantle December 5, 2013 New Hunter Ranger playable class, new Paragon Paths, and a new dungeon

Added the Dread Ring Campaign

Added an Artifacts System and a Collections System[33]

Curse of Icewind Dale May 13, 2014 Added a PvP Campaign and two-faction open PvP zone

Added a PvE Campaign and two new adventure zones[34][35]

Tyranny of Dragons August 14, 2014 Bridges the narrative gap between the game and 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons[11]

Added Tyranny of Dragons Campaign

Added Scourge Warlock class and Dragonborn playable race[36]

Rise of Tiamat November 18, 2014 Expansion of the Tyranny of Dragons Campaign and added Well of Dragons zone

Added a new Paragon Path, a profession and new artifacts[37][38]

Elemental Evil April 7, 2015 Level Cap increased to 70 (previously capped at 60)

Profession maximum level increased to 25

Added Elemental Evil Campaign[39][40]

Strongholds August 11, 2015 Added Guild Strongholds and Stronghold Siege PvP[41]

Added a dragon flight co-op event[42]

Underdark November 17, 2015 Added Underdark Campaign which included a unique questline written by R.A. Salvatore[43][44]
The Maze Engine March 15, 2016 Added The Maze Engine Campaign and other campaign updates

A reworked Castle Never

Updated content and visuals to four returning regular dungeons and one returning epic[45][46]

Storm King's Thunder August 16, 2016 Added Storm King's Thunder Campaign[47]

Added a new dungeon and three new zones: Bryn Shander, Lonelywood, and Cold Run

Class Balance updates for three classes: Hunter Ranger, Guardian Fighter, and Scourge Warlock[48]

Sea of Moving Ice November 8, 2016 Added expansion to Storm King's Thunder Campaign

Introduced a new zone, travel options (like a kayak), artifact weapons, treasure hunt, a 10-player battle, and a fishing minigame[49]

The Cloaked Ascendancy February 21, 2017 Added The Cloaked Ascendancy Campaign

New adventure zone (The River District), new skirmish (The Illusionist's Gambit) and new artifact weapons

Return and redesign of Spellplague Caverns Dungeon[50]

Shroud of Souls May 2, 2017 Added expansion to The Cloaked Ascendancy Campaign

Added new Guild content and Stronghold structures[51]

Tomb of Annihilation July 25, 2017 Added Jungles of Chult Campaign

Added two new adventure zones: Port Nyanzaru and Soshenstar River

Added new end-game Dungeon: Tomb of the Nine Gods[52][53]

Swords of Chult October 24, 2017 Expansion to Tomb of Annihilation module

Added new five-player skirmish and a major update to the PVP system

Updated inventory management and refinement systems[54][55]

Lost City of Omu February 27, 2018 Expansion to Tomb of Annihilation module

Adds new zones and more endgame content[56][57]

Ravenloft June 26, 2018 Added Ravenloft Campaign

New adventure zone (Barovia) and a new endgame dungeon (Castle Ravenloft)

Added a day-night cycle[58][59]

The Heart of Fire November 6, 2018 Added Acquisitions Incorporated Campaign

Class balance updates and an overhaul to the profession system[60][61]

Undermountain April 23, 2019 Level Cap increased to 80 (previously capped at 70)

Added Undermountain Campaign

Added five adventure zones: Yawning Portal, Catacombs, Twisted Caverns, Wyllowwood, Terminus and Vanrakdoom

All eight classes received varying levels of balance and adjustments.

Each class was renamed to align with 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.

Redesigned Companions System and rewards overhaul[62][14]

Uprising August 13, 2019 New gith playable race

A new PvP map and a new 10-player end game Trial against Halaster Blackcloak in his Undermountain lair

Fashion system overhaul[63][64]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
AggregatorScore
GameRankings(PC) 74%[65]
(XONE) 67%[66]
Metacritic(PC) 74/100[67]
(XONE) 66/100[68]
(PS4) 74/100[69]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Eurogamer6/10[70]
GameSpot6.0/10[72]
GamesRadar+4/5[71]
IGN6.8/10[73]

Neverwinter has attained scores of 74/100 and 74% from aggregate review websites Metacritic and GameRankings respectively.[65][67]

Microsoft Windows[edit]

In 2013, Daniel Tack of Forbes wrote: "Neverwinter offers experiences for players that normally wouldn't play MMORPGs, and also provides a framework for core genre players. Looking for action and adventure in the world of Forgotten Realms? Neverwinter delivers."[74]

Stephanie Carmichael, for VentureBeat in 2013, wrote "Adventuring solo is easy, and you can almost ignore all the MMO elements going on in the background. [...] To speak to the MMO side of Neverwinter, adventurers always have plenty to do. You can waste a whole day just completing enough daily quests to earn Astral Diamonds (ADs), one of the main forms of in-game currency. [...] While you won’t have trouble acquiring most types of currencies, the value of Zen (the money you need to purchase all those fancy extras) is extraordinarily high. And you have no easy way to earn it. You either pay real money (about $1 per 100 Zen) or exchange ridiculous amounts of ADs for them. You can’t simply buy it with ADs, either. Players must offer them up for trade on the Astral Diamond Exchange, choosing how many ADs they’re willing to give for however much Zen. Then the players with the Zen decide whether that trade is worthwhile. [...] When it comes to balancing, Neverwinter suffers in two areas: companion level and PvP. [...] It may have its flaws, but Neverwinter is highly enjoyable and accessible to veteran, beginner, and casual players alike".[75]

Xbox One[edit]

In 2015, the Polygon review reported that "Neverwinter on Xbox One manages to map your heroes' abilities effortlessly across the controller, in a scheme that feels great both in and out of combat. Unfortunately, other aspects of the port totally miss the mark; in terms of performance, Neverwinter on Xbox One can really take a dive".[76]

In 2015, Boston Blake, for GameRant, wrote "Neverwinter is the first true MMO for Xbox One, and it delivers well on that premise. [...] While the lag spikes and framerate issues aren't frequent enough to stop players from enjoying the game, they are definitely annoying. Thankfully, Cryptic is aware of the issue and is working to correct this soon. [...] The Tyranny of Dragons is where Neverwinter really comes alive, as players work together with friends in epic battles against dragons and other massive foes. If players can hold on until they reach level 26, they will be greatly rewarded for their dedication and patience. It's important to remember that Neverwinter on Xbox One is completely free to download and play, so the whole game, including Tyranny of Dragons, can be completed without ever spending a penny. In fact, players do not need to purchase any materials or items through microtransactions in order to do well in the game. [...] Despite its PvP shortcomings and current framrate issues, Neverwinter proves to be a solid MMO for Xbox One owners. Although it's certainly not a hardcore MMORPG, it's a fantastic starting point for console gamers or those who have little experience in the genre. Those who venture through the game will discover an enjoyable and challenging adventure that keeps their attention, provides plenty of unique experiences, and keeps them coming back for more".[77]

PlayStation 4[edit]

In 2016, Ryan Winslett, for CinemaBlend, wrote "Five minutes into Neverwinter on the PlayStation 4, I found myself talking to elves, slaying orcs with my arcane powers, strolling past a downed Dracolich and coming face to face with the Lich Queen Valindra. [...] For starters, Neverwinter is a free-to-play MMO in the purest sense of the term. [...] Unfortunately, heavily populated areas like Protector's Enclave take a noticeable hit in the framerate department. [...] Otherwise, the various regions of the city and the surrounding areas are nicely detailed and offer a lot of variety, and the looting, treasure hunting and occasional mini-games give you plenty of reason to explore off the beaten path along the way. [...] There's loads of content here, but a lot of the fat has been cut from the typical MMO experience to make for a more focused romp through a beloved fantasy world. [...] As is customary with free-to-play games, there are certainly things you can drop a few dollars on along the way. Convenience items, cosmetic items, flashy mounts and the like are up for grabs, as well as expansions to your inventory, bank holdings and character slots. There's even a subscription service for those who want to be a VIP, gaining access to regular rewards and additional perks like a private room at the fanciest tavern in Neverwinter. But like I noted earlier, all of the actual game content is gratis and, since Neverwinter has proven to be a solid action MMO, you really have nothing to lose by giving it a shot".[78]

In 2016, Jason Bohn, for Hardcore Gamer, wrote "Taking on a review of a title the size and scope of Cryptic Studio’s Neverwinter is a daunting process, to put it mildly. The thing is just gigantic. [...] The mission structure is reasonably varied. Being an MMORPG, there are plenty of fetch and kill quests to undertake and raids to conduct. There are other unique tasks that rear their head, but this makes up the bulk of the experience. Where this can get rote and dull in a lesser designed genre entry, Cryptic Studios worked hard to keep the encounters interesting. [...] Part of what makes the design work is the combat system. A mixture of classic MMO structure, with cool down meters and what not, and a faster action focused pace makes this so much more tenable to both genre die-hards and action fans trying the genre for the first time. [...] each class does feel different. [...] As great as this game is, there are a couple of issues that should be addressed. First, meeting up with a friend is a pain in the neck. By design, these meetings usually occur in the Protector’s Enclave early on. Each instance can only hold forty-five people. and they fill up quick. [...] The second niggling issue would be the multitudes of currency. [...] There are so many different events and shops where players can earn and spend various currencies. [...] For no cost (not even a PlayStation Plus subscription is required), players can jump in and play one of the best MMORPGs available on the market at any price point today".[79]

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