You start the game by selecting a race and a class, the races are the standard fantasy fare of Human, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Halfling, Dwarf, Elf the more exotic Forgotten Realms races of Drow and Dragonborn are open to you as well but there are some restrictions. Drow, Sun Elf and Moon Elf all require the content pack Fury of the Feywild, Menzoberranzan Renegade a rebel Drow with slightly different racial bonuses requires the Hero of the North pack and Dragonborn require the recently released 5th edition themed content Dragonborn Legend Pack which introduces content tied to the new 5th Edition D&D Tyranny of Dragons campaign.
From here you “roll” your stats, you have randomized ability scores with the nice little touch of looking like rolling up your character for a sit down D&D session. Once you’ve agreed on the stats you want you assign your racial modifier (a bonus on a particular stat based on the race you selected restrictions may apply). You also have the opportunity to select a diety, a home town and enter a background, when sitting down to create my characters for role playing sessions I toil over the elaborate history of my character. Cryptic give me the chance to share my tale of orphaned woe and eventual adoption by the clerical fellowship with other players in the game letting me record it and add it to my character sheet.
During creation the visuals are luscious and as is expected of a Cryptic game you can control everything, there are a host of pre-fabricated facial and body types but drilling down you are able to control everything from the thickness of the character’s belly to the width of their feet. Cryptic have always been strong believers in giving people the power to control their avatar and that is present as always here.
This introduction is pretty thorough, movement is your basic WASD and Mouse control common to most Western MMO products, the combat is extremely mobile similar to Wildstar but without the telegraphs and with the strange effect of being forced to stand still while launching your attacks (more on that later). Your primary attack is mapped to your left mouse button, secondary attack to the right and letters and numbers trigger your more powerful encounter and daily attacks. By the time you reach the gates of Neverwinter you will have leveled up at least twice gaining your first daily power. In my case I was playing a Devoted Cleric and had the ability to summon an Angel to kick ass in the name of Torm.
At the end of this introductory scenario you fight your way to the main inner gates of Neverwinter slaying hordes of undead as you go eventually facing off against a powerful boss encounter. Up to this point most of the enemies had been one or two hit monsters and were only a threat based on sheer volume. This giant undead creature had a bar as long as my arm and was far more challenging also he would do ranged and area attacks that are briefly telegraphed in the form of red shading in the area they are going to hit. You can “slide” out of the way using either a double tap or a shift tap of a direction key. You are restricted to two tumbles before your constitution has to recharge.
By the end of this encounter you are let in to Neverwinter to tell the Captain of the Guard of the death of your companion (I told you not to get to friendly with him). He mourns his loss but is quick to send you off first to get a set of “social clothes” from a nearby minion and then on a quest to recover the Crown of Neverwinter. Why he trusts some guy who just wandered in from a battlefield and couldn’t save one of his men with saving the crown jewels is beyond me but hey, there are just some MMO tropes that are here to stay. Also, it would appear that it is important to start the money hooks early as your default social clothes are literally potato sacks.
Unfortunately the crooks got away with the crown but I was able to salvage materials from this dungeon for crafting later on as well as got a snazzy belt and some new boots out of the deal. Also at level 5 a chest that had been sitting in my inventory and unable to be opened was unlocked. In it were a series of dyes, potions and scrolls to entice me to continue playing (all of these items are also available for purchase from the in game store). I returned to the Captain of the Guard and he is quick to point me in the direction that the thieves are suspected to have fled in.
In short, this is for sure one worth trying. It may not be the one for you but as a free to play title available on Steam it’s certainly worth the time to download and take for a spin. If you are a fan of D&D and MMOs at the great big cost of zero dollars how can you say no?