After the successful release and overall response from fans, both within the Dungeons & Dragons franchise and those simply looking for a new game, the popular free-to-play MMO Neverwinter has launched on Xbox One. Nearly a week since being made available, the community is bustling, guilds have formed, and players have killed enough goblins to label it a genocide, yet as each day wears on, more and more players are flocking to the title. With no cost associated with downloading and playing, there’s only one risk, leading to the question, “Will it waste your time?”
Many of the initial points in the original PC review still remain, with much of the additions coming in the form of additional content and class balancing. The initial 2-character limit still applies, but there are ways to gather more slots, though at a cost. Because it’s free-to-play, Neverwinter hides a lot of content behind a paywall, but it’s content that’s not necessary to enjoy the game nor will you miss out on any large portions of your adventure.
Most of the “pay to play,” type additions are simply things that make your life easier. When advancing your enchantments, items used to increase the ability of a weapon or piece of armor, there’s a chance that the advancement will fail, resulting in a loss of all the materials you used, some extremely rare. Opting to purchase “wards” will result in a 100% success rate, removing a lot of stress and potential searching for the materials, a quest that can take hours.
Your companions also fall into this amalgam, with your basic ones able to be leveled to 15 before they stop gaining experience. You’ll have to spend a monstrous amount of “Astral Diamonds,” one of the game’s currencies aside from gold and purchasable Zen, in order to get their maximum level to 20, more to get them to 25, then even more to get them to the cap of 30. If you purchase a companion with your Zen, depending on the cost, you’ll see a starting cap of level 20, 25, or 30, though you’ll probably still be met with astronomical expenses in order to get your companion to be the best she can be.
There are “value packages” to be purchased, to Neverwinter’s credit. These give a combination of high-level enchantments, companions, mounts, additional character slots, or other goodies that will help throughout your adventures. There are often sales on packages or on Zen altogether as well, though there’s no indication when they will hit console nor how often players will be able to take advantage.
Perhaps the most annoying part of Neverwinter is a tactic used to lead players along. Throughout the world, as you dispatch foes, there’s a chance that they may drop lockboxes. These lockboxes can only be opened with a key that’s bought with Zen. For $5.00 (plus tax), you’ll be able to open four lockboxes, each one containing special items with the chance for some ultra-rare mounts or artifacts. Every time someone in the game receives one of these rare items, every chat box sees “So-and-so has received ... “ To make it worse, the message also flashes in the middle of your screen. The tactic is understandable, a carrot-on-a-stick to get players to purchase more keys to open more boxes, but with no option to hide the message, it becomes problematic, particularly because of the game’s biggest flaw...the framerate.
To be fair, since Neverwinter’s beta period earlier this year, a lot of the major stuttering has been removed, though is still prevalent during some of the more insane combat sequences featuring many enemies or lots of animations, spell flashes, explosions, and the like. Instead of slowed FPS, occasionally the game comes to a halt altogether, which can last up to 15 seconds in some instances. In an MMO, particularly during some of the more dangerous encounters, 15 seconds can cost you your life, resulting in the enemy resetting and the battles starting anew.
Other issues, like the game crashing altogether or disconnecting players for simply changing from one zone to another, occur far too often, though they’re being investigated and hopefully will be addressed in an upcoming patch. The frustration stems from the fact that these issues existed in the beta period, though don’t seem to have been fixed.
Not releasing Neverwinter in this state would have been a bad business practice, as the amount of money spent in just six days must be staggering. I reached out to Perfect World, the company behind Neverwinter, to get an indication of how much was spent on day one, for Xbox One only, but did not get a response.
I held my own poll with random adventurers on the first day though, and the results were staggering. Players level 20 or higher were questioned about whether they had spent money in game and of the 54 people I had spoken to, 49 of them had spent at least $5.00. The most spent was more than $600.00, but the player didn’t have an exact figure, while the average money spent of those 54 players was around $72.00. Each. On the first day.
Expectations are that most money was spent on special mounts and combination packs, but 100% of the people polled who had purchased Zen bought lockbox keys to try their luck. Four of them had found a rare or legendary item. Personally, I opened 35 lockboxes and found very little of note, which tells me that the lockboxes, while fun to open, are perhaps the lowest value on the marketplace.
Still, with the technical issues, the inability to change the interface -- which includes the lack of a minimap to view -- and the constant reminders of people opening lockboxes, the game is still fun. The free-to-play wave is hitting consoles and Neverwinter is the first true fantasy MMO available and is poised to make a lot of money because of that fact. The game is fun, it’s balanced, and allows console gamers to experience a world they’ve, until now, been excluded from. Bluntly, Neverwinter on PC is light years ahead of what you’ll see on Xbox One, but if you’re looking for a fun community, an enjoyable world, and a game where you’re not required to pay money to play (though you probably will), Neverwinter is it.