by Stefanie Fogel
previewed on PC
A Whole New Neverwinter
One hundred years have passed since a band of adventures defeated the King of Shadows. The Spellplague has forever altered the pantheon and landscape of the Forgotten Realms, and a cataclysmic volcanic eruption has buried the city-state of Neverwinter. Now, as people try to rebuild, new threats emerge. Various factions battle for control of the struggling city, the dead are rising from their graves to march upon the place they once called home, and a mysterious sect is searching for the fabled Crown of Neverwinter. It will be your job to get to the bottom of it all.
One of the more interesting aspects of Atari and Cryptic Studios’ upcoming role-playing game Neverwinter is its tie-in with a book trilogy of the same name by New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore. The first novel, Gauntlgrym, came out in October 2010 and lays the groundwork for the video game’s storyline. It details the city’s destruction and subsequent rebirth, and some of the characters in the novels may make appearances in the game as well, although Cryptic is not yet ready to reveal who might turn up. Producer Andy Velasquez says that they are working closely with publisher Wizards of the Coast, however, to make sure that their storyline parallels that found in Salvatore’s novels.
“We got an early manuscript of Gauntlgrym and we have outlines of what books two and three are doing so that we don’t kill off certain characters that we need to not kill off,” he said.
If You Build It...
While Cryptic Studios’ first foray into the long-running Neverwinter Nights franchise will no doubt feature a meaty main campaign, it is after you have defeated that final boss that the game really promises to take off. User-created content has always been a major feature of the franchise, and Neverwinter is no exception. The title will launch with a toolset called The Foundry that will allow players to create and share adventures, and Velasquez says it will be accessible to as many people as possible, while still offering the depth and customization that hardcore users expect. “Coming into it, you can just click on the map tab and we’re doing a very simple drag and drop system in terms of how to place rooms and objects. It’s a very intuitive interface for people who want to just get in and start using it.”
Not only will creating modules be easier using The Foundry, uploading and sharing them will be as well. A quick button press will upload your mod to Cryptic’s server, which will host all of the game’s content, and finding it will involve simply browsing for it through a built-in search feature. Velasquez promises that when the game launches there will be enough assets available (monster packs, environment packs, exteriors, interiors, etc.) to create a whole bunch of adventures. The developers also plan on supporting the game post-launch with even more tile sets, monster packs and player classes, although there is no word yet on whether these things will be available through free updates or paid DLC.
One to Keep an Eye On?
Right now, Cryptic Studios is pretty tight-lipped about what character classes will be available in the game at launch, although it’s safe to assume that the usual vanilla classes (fighter, mage, rogue and priest) will be included. Neverwinter features the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition ruleset, and Velasquez says the team is working hard to ensure that the classes are true to the roles and spirit of that edition. Many of the game’s abilities will be instantly recognizable to pen and paper veterans, although the developer is ditching the pause-and-play mechanics of previous Neverwinter titles in favor of real-time, but still tactical, combat.
It is too soon to tell how the game will play, but if Neverwinter manages to foster the same sense of community and creativity its predecessors did, it could keep RPG fans happy for quite some time. The game is scheduled to be released sometime in Q4 of 2011.