Neverwinter (PC,PS4,Xbox One)

As a “free to play” online game, Neverwinter provides an enjoyable action-oriented solo role-playing game that can expand into 3-5 player quests offering deeper player vs environment play. The game’s strength lies in its close ties to Dungeons and Dragons including expansions and events built to incorporate the ongoing D&D storylines. Players willing to cough up some money will find their lives a bit easier through faster leveling or extra loot. The initial focus on a single city helps to tie together the stories told at lower levels of the game, helping to keep things interesting until players reach the endgame of high level raids.

Note: I’ve been playing with the PS4 version, but aside from any PC vs console control schemes, the game experience is fairly consistent but not interlinked across platforms.

For those unfamiliar with the genre, Neverwinter is a MMORPG – a “massively multiplayer online role playing game.” This means the game is based on an online experience played by many, many players on an online, hosted server. Games of this sort have a bit of a sandbox feel (you can explore how you like) and highly encourage multiplayer grouping. Neverwinter has a nice sandbox type feel and is one of the better MMORPGs for players who want or need to try solo gameplay.

Neverwinter starts with the standard character creation. Choose your race and class and then you can slightly modify your stats to benefit your personal style of play. The race and class selections are somewhat limited compared to other games (or especially the general D&D classes and races from the books) but most of the main options are there (fighter, rogue, cleric, sorceror along with elf,human,dwarf, halfling.)

Once your character (and look) is created your character the story begins with your him or her washed ashore near the large city of Neverwinter. Progress through some basic tasks and a trip across a combat ridden bridge that is half cutscene and half training ground and you’ll arrive in Neverwinter proper. Talk to a few “quest givers” and you’ll be guided around the city to your starting area. Here’s where the best feature in the game comes into play. Whenever you are working on a quest, there is a little sparkly line floating in the air that guides you to your next location. If you are on multiple quests, the quest window will let you choose which one is your “active” one and the sparkles will lead you to that one.

As with most games nowadays, quests are where it’s at. You do gain experience and progress your character by defeating bad guys, but you will increase in level and “loot” much faster if you are also trying to accomplish quests at the same time. Quests may lead you a general, shared “zone” but many also have you enter in your own private (or shared if you have a group) instance of that area. These typically are ones found at the end of a “chain” of quests and have a featured “big boss” fight at the end. One feature I found particularly cool are the “campaigns.” Several quest lines follow your character throughout its life (from low levels to high ones) in a linked series that tell an overarching story. This story is then written up in a narrative that can be accessed via the respective menu. Completing such a story typically involves a climactic battle and suitable rewards.

In addition to the solo/small group quests, there are also larger instances suitable for 3 to 5 players once characters hit level 16 or so. These comprise much of the gameplay once a character reaches the highest levels of the game. Players can participate in player vs player combat in special areas even at lower levels, but I find the game balance is not perfect, particularly at lower levels.

Neverwinter is arranged so that players have a shot at completing most of the content by themselves (and an npc helper) and only the raids (which are not technically “necessary”) need multiple players. Of course, everything is a bit easier and more fun with multiple players. As a dad, I sometimes need to be able to quickly hop in and out of the game so I appreciate the opportunities to play the game solo if needed.

The free-to-play model is always a scary one, as it can go wrong in so many ways. However, its main advantage is the try-before-you-buy (no initial investment) opportunity. This also lets avid players easily recruit friends to play with in the game. A paying (“VIP”) player can even share some of their benefits with friends, if they so choose. There a few other benefits available for cash purchases such as additional storage bags, magic items that grow with you as you level, better mounts, and even new race options (Drow and Dragonborn.) Each month of “VIP” purchases increases the benefit of the program such that players who have subscribed for an entire year will have unlocked benefits to themselves as well as additional boosts to other players with whom they are grouped.


I have not yet reached very high level play, but have enjoyed my time in the game. I have only played with “pickup” groups so far, but have been encouraged by the reasonable and friendly attitude of other players in the game. I must admit I am even enjoying the solo parts of the game, since it is well balanced for players who want to solo and there are often little bits and places to explore (such as hidden books of story-lore) that help flesh out the Neverwinter world. In terms of story, character progression, and ease of play Neverwinter currently ranks with the best of the free-to-play MMORPGs available.


Kid Factor:
This is an online game. The game emphasizes interaction with other players. While there are some chat filters and options to turn off chat channels, the game assumes players will be able to communicate (in group chat if nothing else.) All standard disclaimers apply about allowing children access to unknown people on the internet. Blood and violence are present but not celebrated or emphasized. Some of the enemy NPCs (particularly undead and/or boss monsters) can have a frightening appearance. Regarding reading requirements, most of the main story and quest bits are narrated but some of the additional background information can be found in books and tabs in the game. The free-to-play model makes is easy for parents and kids to play together on Windows computers since there are no additional purchases. However, console players do have the problem of needing multiple consoles to pull this off (presumably multiple Windows machines are easier to acquire than multiple PS4s or Xbox Ones…)

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