by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Return to Neverwinter
To those of us who started to play role-playing games “back in the day”, Dungeons & Dragons is a name that sticks, both in good and in bad. The good has to do with the birth of a completely new type of games allowing us to use our imagination to the fullest and explore worlds and places hindered only by our imaginations – or that of the game master. The bad includes some of the worst stereotypes that the genre has never been able to completely shed, such as the character classes: in short, if you choose your character to be a thief, he will be a thief for all eternity – thieving is not just something you do, it is what you are. You can read more of my complaints of the legacy of D&D elsewhere, so I’ll not go into that here.
Despite its weaknesses, D&D has created a whole new industry, the most obvious side of which – to PC gamers – are the uncountable computer RPGs (cRPG). And amongst these Neverwinter Nights, a BioWare title from 2002, is by no means the least known. Neverwinter Nights stood out from the flock because of its unique approach: the carrying concept was to enable the traditional type of role-playing where the game master creates the setting and plot and manages the realisation of the story. With this goal in mind, the game came with a toolset, allowing you to create new adventures in the city of Neverwinter.
Now, many years later, the city of Neverwinter is coming back to the computer screens. Atari and Cryptic, the creator of Champions Online and Star Trek Online, have picked up the glove and decided to show us what they can do with the setting in an all new game that goes, for now, by the title Neverwinter and is not quite a MMO, but is really not a traditional RPG either – rather, the developers call it a cooperative RPG.
The original Neverwinter Nights was set in the land of Faerun in the high-fantasy campaign world of Forgotten Realms, which offers a rich setting for the city and the adventures, not least because of a truckload of novels written by one of the masters of the fantasy genre, R.A. Salvatore. The upcoming Neverwinter will likewise be set in Faerun, but about a hundred years into the future, where cataclysmic changes (cataclysms are something that seem happen pretty often in D&D worlds) have more or less destroyed the city of Neverwinter.
The cataclysm is not just something that was invented as a background for the game, however: it is also the setting of the 4th Edition of D&D and a new trilogy of books from R.A. Salvatore, which will relate the story of how Neverwinter fell. For those interested, the novel trilogy started with Gauntlgrym, which was released in early October.
Co-op action RPG
In interviews, the developers are eager to point out that even though the game will have to be played while online, it is by no means a MMO. They would rather have it compared to other traditional RPGs such as Neverwinter Nights and Oblivion. In their words, there are some locations in the world that will be public, but some are just for team-mates.
In short, the player can play the game in solo mode, if he or she so wishes, though it may be harder than with NPC or life friend help, which are the two other options. The developers wish that Neverwinter will be a game that a group of friends can play every weekend, as they would a traditional RPG, and have fun together exploring the city and history of Neverwinter. But if friends are unavailable, the player can always opt to hire a few NPCs to help out during adventures.