Show of hands, how many of you actually listen to the music in the games you play? Hmmm… wow, that’s more than I was expecting. If you’re not, though, you should really start as video game music is already it’s own artform with known and highly sought after composers like Jeremy Soule, main composer of the Elder Scrolls and Guild Wars series. No longer are we in the age of simple MIDI compositions, but full orchestrations take center stage. This is a good thing. A very good thing.
There is even a new podcast, recently started, called Battle Bards that showcases the music of our favorite MMOs in a roundtable discussion. The podcast is hosted by the quartet of Steph from MMO Gamer Chick, Syl from MMO Gypsy, Dodge from A Casual Stroll to Mordor, and Justin from Massively and Bio Break (and since I’m link-dropping, Tesh from TishToshTesh did the artwork). I listened to the pilot episode, and it is fantastic and I highly recommend it. Especially if you’re a music aficionado like myself.
So, in honor of the Battle Bards newly minted podcast, here are my top five favorite video game musical compositions of all time. In order of simply how awesome they are.
#5 – Guild Wars – Lakeside County – Jeremy Soule
When I first started playing Guild Wars, it was as a quick break from the game I (and everyone and their mother) was addicted to, World of Warcraft. Because of my addiction, I never gave Guild Wars a fair shake and have always been disappointed that I never really played through the storyline. From what I can see of Guild Wars 2, the story from Guild Wars 1 seems superior, so it’s even more of a shame. Anyway, after the introduction and the stroll into town, the first zone you visit is Lakeside County in Ascalon. I could listen to this music over and over again, and frequently did. The beauty of the landscape, the autumn foilage slowly falling off the trees, the picturesque sky and valleys, and then this hauntingly beautiful flowing melody that didn’t quite fill you with hope of a new adventure, but set the tone of “everything is not what it seems”. Perfect foreshadowing for the trials to come.
#4 – Lord of the Rings Online – Shire Hills 03844 – Chance Thomas(?)
When I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy back in 7th grade, it was my first real foray into medieval-style fantasy fiction and the writings of JRR Tolkien was one of the best places to start. The culture presented of the Hobbits was instantly likable as one of curiosity and adventure. Whether that adventure was a full fellowship or just an adventure down the river to visit a neighbor, Hobbits, to me, always represented movement, motion, and progress. Even shoes held them back, they were always on the move. Why do you think they needed so many meals? For being such small creatures, their metabolism was through the roof and adventure was the way to burn off all those calories. They were the beginning of something much larger than themselves (as everything was much larger than they were), and this song with its upbeat guitars, light drum, and clapping gives the feeling of that forward movement. The song revolves around a single theme, but is intertwined periodically with other melodic phrases and joined by many other lines, like all the different sights to see and friends to meet while traveling down the road.
#3 – Skyrim – Main Theme – Jeremy Soule
I won’t lie. I played the EFF out of Skyrim. I didn’t stop playing because I grew tired of the game, I stopped playing because at level 65 I RAN OUT OF STUFF TO DO! I had completed every faction’s quests, the main storyline was done, and aside from grinding every skill up to 100 I was already maxed out in my favorites. Some guard would want to tell me about an old injury or something, but really there was nothing left to do. However, the theme song makes it sound like there’s always something to do. It’s got that grand, majestic feel with the chanting and horns that makes you feel like shouting from the tops of the mountains.
It starts out like a thunderstorm, bass drums and chants, and then slowly gathers steam until you’re in the thick of it. The horns pick up the main theme, and then take it over. The vocals pick up like thrums of lightning, then crescendo like gathering bursts of wind. A slight break, with a falsetto line leads into a joining of the chorus with the horns into the heart of the piece. After a couple more crescendos, the song lightens and ends on a clear and crisp note just like the storm having finally passed. With Skyrim being a land of harsh climate, both politically and physically, creating the music around a coming storm just ties it all together nicely.
#2 – Ultima IX – Stones – David “Iolo” Watson
I know I’ve been posting a lot about Ultima lately, but what can I say, it’s a big part of my own gaming history. And if there’s one song that would represent that history, it’s Stones. Encountered in the game sometimes at random, it was always a song that made me stop in my tracks. Say what you will about Ultima IX (and it’s all justified), but this is hands down my favorite version of Stones yet. Starting with that slow lute and then being picked up by the flute, it presents a haunting melody that feels very melancholy. And then, suddenly, there’s a burst of hope. The song lightens and the skies part. However, just as quick as they part, the melancholy comes back in the final strains of the piece. It’s like saying “yes, there are times when you will be down but remember there is always a ray of hope to lift your spirits”. Even if, in the end, you’re still sad, that ray of hope has a way of melting it away if only for a small time.
#1 – Civilization IV – Baba Yetu – Christopher Tin
Trivia Time! What was the first piece of music made for a video game to ever be nominated for and win a Grammy? You’re looking at it. I can’t say enough good things about Baba Yetu that I’m not even sure where to start. The Civilization series of games is all about building an empire to stand the test of time from humble beginnings and this song shows that by just not letting up on the hope and majesty, constantly building on itself over and over again until your goosebumps find goosebumps of their own. And just when you think it can’t build any more, it smooths out and ends on the main theme that puts that extra faith in humanity’s future. Plus, the fact that the song is the Lord’s Prayer in Swahili just adds that extra spark of faith that wraps the entire thing together into just an amazing piece. Christopher Tin ended up winning a Grammy for this song, and although I don’t agree with those that pick the winners of the Grammys usually, I couldn’t help but applaud their choice here. Simply amazing.
And now, thanks to making this list, I’ll now have these songs stuck in my head for the rest of the week.
PS – There could be a lot worse songs to have stuck there…
PPS – Think I missed any, please post them in the comments!
Blizzard, EA, and apparently now Microsoft, too, have thrown their companies full-ahead into the age of Always-On DRM. In other words, you must always have a stable Internet connection and be communicating with their servers at all times in order to play their games in an effort to crack down on piracy. The issue of always-on DRM is one that has been long in coming with the industry having finally taken the leap and now making the worst fears of gamers a reality. So far we have seen massive server problems, delays, and stoppages preventing players who have purchased games like SimCity and Diablo 3 with their own hard-earned money from accessing these games. Games that could have easily been played without the need to be connected at all!
Murphy’s Law at it’s finest.
However, Shroud of the Avatar, just 35 hours away from finishing up it’s successful Kickstarter venture (for which I am a proud backer) is bucking the new trend. Bucking it, hitting it over the head with a chair, and throwing it completely out the window. The 5th update given during the Kickstarter campaign, only 3 days after it started, came right out and said they were listening to feedback and decided to make the Kickstarter version of the game DRM free and thus could be played completely off-line. 5 days later, the 10th update kicked it into high gear and is making, what I think, one of the greatest methods of handling gameplay I’ve ever heard.
You can play SotA in 4 completely different ways. Single-player Offline (SPOff), Single-Player Online (SPO), Friends-Play Online (FPO), and Open-Play Online (OPO).
Just like pretty much every single-player game ever made since the dawn of gaming, single-player offline is a DRM-free, completely offline version of the game. Your character is stored on your own computer, there are no micro-transactions, and the game is played entirely client-side, no internet connection needed. Any character you create will only be playable offline to prevent hacking or exploits to enter the online play, but you can still experience the full story.
Single-Player Online mode is a version of the game where once more you are the only player in the game. However, you connect to the server, receive content updates, and get to see any long term changes other gamers have made on the world. You play the game still entirely on your own, but it would be like a single-player MMO. This is like the instanced-solo dungeons that you see in games like Neverwinter, the original Guild Wars, or Star Trek Online. You see the effects of a changing game, can participate in the economy, but you don’t have to play along with anyone else.
Friends-Play Online is the multiplayer that we see cropping up in numerous games these days. In effect, it’s the same as SPO, but you see other players that you have already tagged as friends. It works as a limited online experience and is described as “For those who prefer the quieter game with friends or maybe for those who prefer a more focused role playing experience”.
And finally there is the method of playing that is most like the MMOs we have come to know today, Open-Play Online. In OPO, you will not be seeing everybody, but when you enter an area you will see other gamers that the server thinks you should see. Based on your own style of gameplay, you will see strangers, but strangers you might have a connection with. If you enjoy role-playing, you might find yourself surrounded by players who also enjoy role-playing. Or PvP. Or grouping. I take it you would have to fill out a small survey about your gaming style ahead of time, but even the complete strangers you’ll meet in Open-Play you’ll still have some sort of connection to.
Also, not only can you play Shroud of the Avatar in these 4 different ways, but you can switch between SPO, FPO, and OPO almost at-will while playing!
I don’t use this phrase often, but this is Revolutionary. Seriously.
What are Yew looking at?
Just imagine if a game like Diablo 3 had launched with this system in mind. For those without the greatest internet connections in the world, they could enjoy the game off-line, just like they did Diablo 2. Or, they could create an online character and play the game solo with benefits like the auction house, or only seeing other friends they have played with through Battle-Net, or a version of the game that randomly grouped like-minded and skilled gamers together. Then, if the Auction-House was only available to players who played the online versions, that would be reason enough to play online for most people and DRM would’ve just been an afterthought. Under that model, I really could’ve seen Diablo 3 being named game of the decade. As it stands now, I’ll never even touch Diablo 3. See the difference, Blizzard?!
Playing on Portalarium’s servers is now a choice that is in the gamers hands. A choice that discourages piracy, not through brute-force like EA does, but by giving tangible benefits to those that don’t pirate, playing with others and seeing the game change over time.
Instead of being treated like a criminal, SotA is going to treat gamers like guests into their world. When you empower the gamer and give us a voice, it’s not surprising at all to see the pledge number edging ever closer to $1,500,000. Through this simple action, Portalarium, and Garriott himself, has shown that he wants to work with us gamers, not against us, to make the best gaming experience possible for everyone.
Think you have what it takes to beat the puzzles in The Secret World?
Currently, I’m back into playing The Secret World and the game once more reminded me why it’s hands-down awesome. The way it mixes gameplay styles going from pure combat to defense, to mind-bending puzzles to platforming and stealth and then has a gripping setting and compelling storyline backing it up, I wonder sometimes why I ever leave the game.
And then I remember.
In The Secret World, it is entirely possible to spend an entire gaming session bashing your head up against one of their devious puzzles and not make any progress. It’s frustrating, as you know when you finally have time again and you decide to go back into the game, that puzzle will still be there taunting you.
Signal Effect seems like a good litmus test to show their deviousness. So here I will present to you the research part of the puzzle Signal Effect (without giving the answer away, of course). See if you can figure it out.
Down the rabbit hole…
An odd transmission has been picked up. However, it’s not that strong. You are sent to find satellite dishes around the town and alter them so that they all point to the source of this transmission. You platform jump to find all 4 satellite dishes and point them in the right direction. However, each dish tells you different things when you search for the signal…
Satellite Dish #1:
29 21 68 6f 24 28 23 23 2c 20 63 28 23 20 5f bf
23 20 68 24 21 29 20 24 23 3f 20 43 26 3d 2a 28
25 20 40 2b 72 20 29 5e 78 20 24 21 79 24 20 40
28 21 20 23 24 2a 25 6e 20 21 2a 67 23 29 23 2e
20 21 63 21 28 23 73 20 74 26 24 20 25 5e 26 40
20 6f 2a 20 24 69 2b 40 2e 20 46 5f 24 2a 21 79
2d 28 5e 75 29 20 21 65 61 23 2b 23 20 5e 26 5e
76 21 20 21 68 5f 25 20 2a 20 21 28 40 23 79 2c
20 62 40 25 20 2a 20 63 24 69 29 40 20 28 2b 20
69 40 20 5e 2a 20 23 28 65 20 5e 2a 26 21 65 20
2b 7e 20 21 65 21 5f 24 21 20 48 25 2a 40 20 6d
2a 20 5f 6f 3d 24 40 21
Satellite Dish #2:
83 33 61 42 108 97 35 35 44 32 33 40 110 32 95
61 35 32 64 101 33 41 32 109 35 63 32 64 104 61
42 40 100 32 102 43 37 32 41 94 40 32 100 33 42
36 32 97 40 33 32 115 101 42 37 35 32 110 105 36
35 41 35 46 32 65 41 33 40 35 61 32 64 104 36 32
37 94 38 115 32 33 42 32 36 94 114 64 46 32 64
45 117 114 33 42 45 40 94 40 114 32 98 38 42 35
43 35 32 94 38 94 64 101 32 33 64 97 37 32 42 32
99 40 64 114 94 44 32 42 117 37 32 42 32 33 36
37 110 64 32 40 111 32 36 64 32 94 110 32 35 40
36 32 104 42 38 33 42 32 43 102 32 33 42 97 95
36 33 32 40 37 42 100 32 36 42 32 119 33 61 36
Satellite Dish #3:
Satellite Dish #4:
00101001 00100001 00111101 00101010 01101100
00101000 00100011 01110011 00101100 00100000
00100001 00101000 00100011 00100000 01111001
00111101 00100011 00100000 01000000 00100100
01100001 00101001 00100000 00100100 01100101
00111111 00100000 01000000 00101011 00111101
01110011 01100101 00100101 00100000 01000000
01101111 00100101 00100000 00101001 01101001
00101000 00100000 00100100 01100001 00101010
00100100 00100000 01000000 00101000 01100100
00100000 00100011 00100100 00101010 01100101
00100011 00100000 00100001 00101010 00100100
00100011 01110100 01110011 00101110 00100000
00100001 00101001 01110010 01101111 00100011
00111101 00100000 01000000 00101011 00100100
00100000 01110000 01101001 00100110 01000000
00100000 00100001 00101010 00100000 01100110
01011110 00101011 01000000 00101110 00100000
01000000 01011111 00100100 00101010 01110100
00101010 00101101 00100001 01101111 00101000
00101001 00100000 00100001
00100110 00101010 01110011 00101011 00100011
00100000 01100011 01110010 01011110 01000000
00100001 00100000 00100001 01000000 01011111
01110100 00100000 00101010 00100000 00101100
00100000 00101010 01000000 00100101 00100000
01001001 00100000 00100001 00100100 00100101
00101001 01000000 00100000 01110100 00101011
00100000 00100100 01110100 00100000 01011110
00101010 00100000 00100011 01101000 00100100
00100000 01011110 00101010 00100110 01110011
00101010 00100000 01101111 01111110 00100000
00100001 00101010 00100001 01011111 01101000
00100001 00100000 00101000 01100101 00101010
01000000 00100000 00100100 00101010 00100000
01011111 00100001 00111101 01100100 01000000
Got it? Okay. All the quest log states now is that in these transmissions is the answer on where to go next. So, let’s say you find the answer and head to the location given. There you find a box. This box needs a 4-digit code to open.
To finish the mission, what is this 4-digit code?
Space. The final frontier.
If you’ve solved it without looking up the answer (here), Congratulations! You’re a better person than I.
But… a SIDE-MISSION?! Really?! Compared to the big investigative missions that have multiple steps, this one is relatively short, but I still wouldn’t have called it a side-mission.
Up until this point I’ve enjoyed and have taken pride of the fact that I have not cheated or looked up any solution on any of the investigative missions so far, and the rush you get when you solve one is wicked and makes you crave more. I’ve even gone so far as when I’m researching to use the ‘-”secret world”‘ command in search engines to keep any spoilers from showing up.
But then I hit “Signal Effect”. In other missions, I’ve researched Bible translations going back to the 16th century, read full websites dedicated to fake authors, translated latin, used ISBN numbers as passcodes, and used children’s nursery rhymes to summon dark spirits. And the Morse code. Oh god the Morse code! The mission Signal Effect finally stumped me, though, and I had to look up the answer. It could be that the mission was misclassified, and was listed in-game as just a “side mission”, meant to only take up a few minutes, and so when I hit it near the tail end of the night I didn’t have the fortitude to solve it and, in a moment of weakness, looked up the solution.
So sue me.
The wheel of online Player vs Player gaming started turning when dedicated online connections started to become mainstream. Instead of huddling around your friends old basement CRT, eyes focused on your quarter of Goldeneye’s screen, you could finally start competing against random strangers without leaving your house or making sure you had enough Cheetos and Jolt to share.
Player vs Player has quickly evolved since then. Starting with quarter-screen, then to LAN connected tournaments, to college shooter-game networks, to full internet shooters. Shooter titles like the Call of Duty and Halo franchises became synonymous with Multiplayer PvP. I’m sure those games have a storyline in them somewhere… but who the heck cares about it?
I read an article not long ago (I’m sorry it’s not linked. I can’t find it again. If I do, I’ll re-link.) all about how shooters in the past were competitive because everyone started on the exact same footing. You could find weapons on the map levels, but everyone already knew those map levels, and so even the weapon spawns were all about resource control. Through this, you could know and track your enemy. And then shooters changed.
Now, I’m not a fan of playing shooters against others, with the headset and smacktalk and what-have-you, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I hear it’s not like that anymore. Now there’s character progression. Random weapon spawns. Starting on an equal footing wasn’t rewarding to those who played more than others. They wanted tangible rewards and a system to progress through. I don’t blame them, as that’s what I go for, that sense of permanence in the games that I play, but I don’t play player vs player titles. However, if making a true competitive game is your focus, starting players at different power levels ruins the entire effect.
The wheel of online Player vs Player has stopped turning and has landed on the iteration that, I believe, will become the true standard of competitive team online player vs player: The MOBA. The popularity of League of Legends initially blew me away. How could a game, that was essentially a copy of the gameplay of Warcraft’s RTS games, become this wildly successful?
Strategy and equal footing.
Online shooters are losing these traits to the monetization of the genre, but that leaves a whole subset of gamers without a home, and MOBAs have picked up the slack. A MOBA is a “Massively Online Battle Arena”, a real-time strategy game with competitive elements, designed specifically for player vs player gaming. Just to solidify the fact that the MOBA is here to stay, two more have entered the fray today: Magicka: Wizard Wars by Paradox and Infinite Crisis by, of all companies, Turbine.
Personally, I love Magicka. It’s an action title using the top-down approach already found in MOBAs, but also uses an ingenious magic system. Spells in the game are cast using rapid-succession typing. For example: Thunderbolt: QFASA ; Tornado: DQFQQF ; Conflagrate: FQFFQFFQ ; Thunderstorm: QFQFASA where Q, F, A, S, and D all represent different elements with the spells a mixture of those elements. Magicka as a MOBA is a no-brainer and I’m glad to see Paradox make the move.
Turbine making Infinite Crisis is a little more confusing. Yes, Turbine is a subsidiary of Warner Bros and Warner owns the rights to the DC Universe. Having superheroes fight each other is also pretty standard and yet… I wonder what new things they might bring to the table. It feels like they’re jumping in while the water is still profitable, but the pool is getting really crowded.
You probably won’t be seeing me try either title anytime soon. Beating on other gamers and getting beat myself is just not how I roll. However, competitive strategy on equal footing is very respectable and I can appreciate gamers who are into that.
The smacktalk I can still do without, though.
A screenshot of The Secret World’s villainous Beaumont. Taken at a *ahem* very poor moment.
At that moment, Beaumont was plunging his sword into… you know what, nevermind. That just makes it worse.
I’m not sure how to follow this up.
Not all the screenshots I take make the characters look their part, like Beaumont as TSW’s first big villain, but I take an extreme amount of screenshots for any one gamer. In fact, when Massively was still doing a daily “One Shots”, I was a big contributor and still have two tags in my name at their site.
Oh! I know how to follow that up. Here’s another bad one. An odd shot from Skyrim…
If you were ever curious as to how to take down a Dwemer Centurion this is certainly one way to do it.
Yup. That’s my character… killing the Dwemer Centurion. By doing that. In a slow motion kill cam.
… I still feel bad for the Centurion.
The Ultima cup runneth over.
As of this writing, Shroud of the Avatar, is currently in a fully backed KickStarter phase with 16 days to go. Launched by Portalarium and fronted by the inimitable Richard Garriott, Shroud of the Avatar is shaping up to be an unofficial successor to the Ultima games of old. But… what the heck is it?
At this point, it sounds a lot like an infomercial. It’s an MMO! It’s an offline DRM-free single-player game! New York Times best-selling author, Tracy Hickman! A dynamic world! It makes julienne fries! Okay, maybe not that last one… but it almost seems like it could at this point.
Despite my mentioning Britannia and LB giving his Twitter seal of approval, SOTA will not be taking place in Britannia. Copyrights and trademarks and whatnot.
To say the least, I’m excited. The first RPG I played way back on my parents old IBM back in 1990 was Ultima VI and I was hooked. I loved it. Having played all my gaming on an Atari 7800 up until that point, Ultima VI was a totally mind-blowing experience. Instead of sending planes through barns, inadvertently squishing captives with a helicopter, and jumping over an alligator’s head for the umpteenth time, here was a full fantasy world to explore! A fleshed out world, too. Stores were only open during certain times of the day, the inhabitants of the world all had daily schedules to keep. Can’t find that one guy you needed to talk to? If it’s around dinner time, check the tavern or try to head to his house. Ultima VII came out and playing it was a no-brainer. However, it strained my parents old system to it’s limits. Aside from the stuttering vocalizations of the Guardian from those damn Soundblaster settings, I remember it taking about 10 minutes to save a game to the hard drive, which was already filled to the brim with the game! 20 Megabytes! Compared to today, that’s like a game taking up about 450 GB. But my parents, being the saints they are, let me enjoy it.
What followed was a love of the Ultima series. To this day I’ve played Ultima IV, VI, VII, VIII, and IX to full completion. In fact, in order to make Ultima IX play I bought my first real computer upgrade, a new video card that I had to install myself. So, in effect, the Ultima series is even to blame for starting my love of modifying and building PCs!
Anyway, the Shroud of the Avatar site has a multitude of videos to watch about the future game including Garriott interviewing Greg “Dupre” Dykes and David “Iolo” Watson, which for any Ultima fan are definitely a must watch.
Ultima: Savage Empire part of the Worlds of Ultima series using the Ultima VI engine.
But what of EA and Mythic’s forthcoming Ultima Forever? When I first heard of the title, I was definitely intrigued, but the gameplay trailer stopped me in it’s first couple of seconds…
You catch that? “Coming soon to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch”… did I mention my love of modifying and building PCs and playing those previous Ultima titles on PCs? I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that if you’re an Ultima fan, you’re most likely pretty knowledgeable of your PCs… so what are they thinking? The iPhone is popular here in the US, but I wouldn’t quite call iOS the most widely used system. For that I’d use Android. I’m sure there are a few techies out there who love their iPhone and got in on the ground floor when it was brand new, but they are far from the majority of current iPhone users. At where I work the tech department are all rocking Android. Android has that versatility and customizability that techs crave, and a recent article even posits that Android has a 70% market share! So initially snubbing the Android and PC crowd? When being an Ultima fan essentially EQUALED you being a whiz with your PC? Okay. We’ll see how that goes. Shroud of the Avatar, by the way, is primarily being developed for PC first and foremost with possible stretch goals to mobile.
Now, to be fair, when I asked them and on their Facebook page, they do state that they plan on releasing the title for other platforms as well, like PC and Android, but they plan on releasing those in their own dear sweet time.
So, essentially, it doesn’t appear that EA is really targeting previous Ultima players as its demographic. Huh. Well, that’s fine. The industry today is far different than the industry of the 1990′s. It’s more action oriented, it’s more social, it’s more about skipping fluff quest text and getting to the meat of the game. But, for me, that’s not really what I want from an Ultima game.
Ultima Forever certainly looks nice (the huge hulking Warrior is an… odd choice), you do get to party in the old Britannia, and I’m sure playing from your tablet will be awesome. But when it comes down to what is the heart and soul of what the Ultima titles were, what was behind the graphics, it was about the story, about the choices you make and understanding your choices have consequence. From the racial issues in Ultima VI to the yin and yang of good and evil in Ultima IX, the Ultima series is ultimately about striving to be a better person.
Truth, Love, Courage. Garriott has already proven himself worthy in this department. EA, and some of their recent decisions… well, we’ll see.
P.S. – Good Old Games is giving away Ultima IV for free and has every single Ultima game, putting them on sale often. Graphically dated, but still classics. Especially Ultima VII.
P.P.S. – For the Ultima fans out there, just because you really shouldn’t miss this, David “Iolo” Watson playing Stones on his lute (queued up to the right time):
This past weekend, because of my lifetime membership to Star Trek Online, I was thrown a Beta invite for Neverwinter and I took full advantage of it to answer all the questions I had about the latest Cryptic/Perfect World title. Is it more D&D or MMO? Is it just another fantasy WoW clone?! Can it hold on it’s own in this day of MMO proliferation?!! Why can’t it be Winter?!!! Are there way too many kobolds?!!!! <Ahem> Excuse me. Got carried away there. Anyway, what I found is that Neverwinter appears to be a true blend of the MMO landscape. There wasn’t a lot that screamed new and revolutionary, but then they also aren’t claiming anything of the sort.
Of course I have to add in a little disclaimer of my review: WHAT I SAW IS STILL IN BETA! You know what that means. It’s all subject to change. What I say might end up being completely different by the end. Also, this is, by far, my longest post. I wanted to give a complete picture of Neverwinter, though, and I couldn’t seem to do that succinctly.
So What Is the Game’s Overall Style?
Have you played Dungeons and Dragons Online? How about Star Trek Online? Rusty Hearts? Then you’re mostly familiar with how this game rolls. After the tutorial, you start out in the communal area of the city of Neverwinter known as The Protector’s Enclave. Here you meet up with quest givers, visit the marketplace and auction houses and do all your big city tasks, similar to DDO’s Stormreach. Important quests in the questline are done through individual instances with doors to these instances off the main city. Once you finish with the the starting questline, you move to other areas. However, these other areas, like the Blacklake District, contain both wandering mobs AND doorways to instances. These areas felt a little more like the formula we’re use to seeing in WoW or LotRO or the like, with quest-hubs and quests of mainly the “Kill 10 Rats” variety, but then interspersed with the instances and once completed led right back to The Protector’s Enclave.
Gear is acquired by completing quests, token exchanges, loot drops, and by spending Diamonds, similar to any game I can think of.
Story is Very Important to Me. Does Neverwinter Have Any?
In my short time playing, I was able to complete three campaigns: Recovering a stolen crown, snapping the power of a bandit group, and breaking the power of an orc group. The storylines themselves so far are pretty weak. Coming from Star Trek Online, this is surprising, as the stories told in STO are fantastic and a huge draw to the game. The stories so far in Neverwinter have been pretty much “Hey! Go kill this bandit leader!” then once you slay him “Thanks! That’s awesome! Now go kill this other bandit leader!” I can see how these bandits are posing a problem, as they are next door neighbors to the safe Protector’s Enclave, but the “story” so far just feels like a murderous to-do list.
However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel: The Foundry. The Foundry is, I believe, where Neverwinter will truly shine. Keeping in line with the Neverwinter series of games, the User-generated missions, so far, are where I found the most story. Neverwinter’s first Foundry Spotlight is Zebular‘s ‘The Dweomerkeepers, Act 1‘, and was EXACTLY what I was expecting from Neverwinter’s community. Being part 1 of an 8 part series, you were sent to investigate why the Drow had taken up residence at an abandoned inn. You found statues to old gods, parchment that turned to dust in the sunlight, bookshelves filled with old tomes, relics to investigate, and a lot of Drow elves that had a problem with you being there. Well done. If there had been a Part 2 ready, I would’ve jumped into it. If you play it, leave a tip as well. Tips are a lot more important in Neverwinter as opposed to Star Trek Online as I’ll explain shortly.
Although FINDING the Foundry missions in the first place took a little time, not being able to be started from anywhere like in STO, there is already plenty of missions available to try. In a big step, Neverwinter will be working in the missions organically into the gameplay. You can find a whole slew of Foundry missions on the cities Help Wanted boards, or periodically you can run across “well-informed” individuals who will point you to nearby user-made missions. Finding Foundry missions in the wilds, making them easier to find, grouping them into campaigns, and not just randomly choosing from a list of 1000 missions will make the Foundry a much more useful storytelling tool for many.
Is it Truly D&D?
Uhhh… no. It’s not. Not truly, anyway. Now, although I own a set of dice (they’re around here somewhere) I haven’t played a round of tabletop D&D in ages. But I do know how D&D generally functions with the d20 being the crux of the game. Do I know 4th Edition well, the edition Neverwinter is supposed to be based off of? No. But I’m positive this can’t be it.
According to the last Beta Weekend details, the level cap was raised to 40 for the beta, but the overall level cap will be 60. 60! In D&D terms, where around level 30 starts to be considered god-like, level 60 is unheard of! At-will powers start out as incredible, like my level 1 cleric being able to create spears of damaging light as his normal attack, Encounter powers calling devastating light from the heavens, and Daily powers that aren’t… well… daily. They’re huge abilities that you charge up by being in combat, but far from being usable “daily”.
Then, of course, there are the classes. So far, they are the Guardian Fighter, Devoted Cleric, Great Weapon Fighter, Trickster Rogue, and Control Wizard. So a tank, healer, and 3 types of DPS. Okay. However, one of the hallmarks of D&D are the multitude and customizability of classes. Hell, having classes in D&D is the basis of why we have classes in every other MMO to begin with! Not to mention being able to multi-class. So where DDO has 13 classes now, and a plethora of ways to customize them, Neverwinter will start with just a handful of kinda-customizable classes. Is this a bad thing? No, it’s just not the openness of D&D. Most likely, as a means of making money, new classes will be added and sold in the store as time goes on.
What’s the Main Currency?
Neverwinter, like any other MMO, has a number of currencies already in place. Gold, from loot and quest rewards to spend on consumables, supplies, etc. Astral Diamonds, rewards from daily activities, and then your standard Tokens for dungeon loot, etc. The part that surprised me, though, is that unlike Star Trek Online where the primary currency is Energy Credits (gold) that is traded back and forth by the players, the primary currency is Astral Diamonds. That means buying and selling things on the Auction House is all in Diamonds. The currency that is more restricted, the currency that is directly purchasable with Zen store points, is the primary currency. What does this mean? Well, in STO where you get EC from selling items and standard loot, you could make enough EC to trade for a huge item on the Exchange, like a new ship. Then, the player getting the EC could also trade it for ships, or use it to buy lockbox keys also on the exchange. In other words, anything that can be sold on the exchange is all in EC but acquiring EC is extremely simple, so the prices are wildly inflated. There is no way you can turn EC directly into Zen Points, though, only Dilithium, the Astral Diamonds equivalent.
Not Neverwinter. In Neverwinter, acquiring Diamonds will be a little more rare. However, say you find a +15 Sword of Cute Bunny Slaughtering. You could sell it to a vendor for gold or you could sell it on the Auction to another player for Diamonds. These Diamonds can then be traded directly for Zen Points! And then what do you buy with Zen points? Any big items. Companions, Mounts, Dyes, Classes, Races. Sure, in STO, some ships are purchasable with Dilithium, but the majority of ships you really want to fly are bought with Zen points.
From this I could see the items in the Auction staying a little more reasonable as players will be less-willing to let go of them. It’ll all depend how many they make available to the average player and where they can sink them to see if it turns into a stable economy.
Will I have a Lot of Weapons to Choose From?
No. The time I was playing the Devoted Cleric, I only saw 1 weapon type, a symbol. Down the line we’ll probably get fancier and fancier symbols, but as far as I can tell we only get symbols. Great Weapon Fighters get two-hand swords, Guardian Fighters get a sword and shield, Control Wizards get… that little ball over their shoulder? Something having to do with their two fingers that they keep staring at? No idea. But you get my point, weapon selection seems to be non-existent. If you’ve ever played Rusty Hearts, this is the same style. Natasha uses dual pistols, Angela uses a magic scythe. However, even they get to pick other weapons during the course of the game, so this may (and probably will) change.
I will have ALL THE CHEESE!! MUAHAHAHAHA!
What Features Are the Most Noticeable From Other Games?
The instanced quests, aside from being non-repeatable (yet), are very similar in style to Rusty Hearts. You enter the instance, start fighting mobs, get to the end, there’s a quick cutscene of the boss, you fight the boss, and then get a chest of loot. The instances are relatively quick, too, taking about 10 minutes. However, it’s not like Rusty Hearts in that you don’t have to repeat the same instance over and over and over again. It’s a once and done thing, which still feels a little quick. But there are Foundry missions, non-instanced camps of mobs, and Skirmishes if you need to grind a bit, so all is not lost, though instanced quests do seem to be the best source of crafting materials.
The combat is most similar to Guild Wars 2, but expect to not move around so much. This is both good and bad. Bad because I’m now so USE to running and gunning at the same time, and evading is a piece of cake, but Good because it involves a little more strategy. If you see a red circle around you, you have to stop attacking immediately and run, else you get hit. So if you move more, you attack less. You could attack more, but be prepared to be hit more, too. It plays to more of a balance.
Every hour you can call upon your gods to grant you loot and buffs. This is taken from another Perfect World title, PWI. There is smaller group content, aside from the 5-man dungeons found in every game, called Skirmishes, which are quick. These are similar to LotRO’s Skirmishes, but can’t be done solo. And finally, you can gain companions, similar to Bridge Officers from Star Trek Online to help you solo.
So How Was the Devoted Cleric?
I found the Devoted Cleric a powerhouse. After dungeons and skirmishes, I usually found myself at the top or near the top in both damage output and healing output, so I may keep using him into the Third Beta Weekend coming up March 22nd. Being the only healing class, and since health doesn’t regenerate naturally (at least at the low levels), the Cleric is a straight-up necessity. I don’t usually play healing classes because the high demand puts a lot of pressure on playing well, but I may give the Devoted Cleric a shot. I ran the one dungeon I could at level 16, the Cloak Tower, and we sprinted through it without too much trouble. Healing is sometimes difficult, but mouse-look targeting to heal?! It was a little more frantic than I had anticipated. I heard that further down the line, you can pick up a lot more AoE heals, but the mouse targeting of party members to heal was tricky to pick up, but still doable. I think I did admirably given my noobishness.
I Care About Looks! How Are the Graphics?
The graphics are a lot better than I was ever expecting. It’s an MMO with collision physics! Even among other players, you can’t stand in exactly the same spot as anyone else, you would collide with them. When you kill a mob on a sloped surface, they slide down the surface. Think Skyrim and ragdolls. Basically, way cooler than I was expecting. Mixed with the nice lighting and shading effects, I was more impressed than I thought I’d be and think this is easily one of the nicest-on-the-eyes MMO’s I’ve played yet.
How Is Neverwinter Compared to Turbine’s DDO?
Another D&D MMO on the market, and both entering into the Forgotten Realms. It’s tricky, to say the least, and it really depends on what you’re looking for in a game. If you’re a big fan of D&D, DDO is much better as it sticks to the true D&D better. I would even still give the better storytelling to Turbine’s DDO. However, if you’re not as big a fan of D&D, more into action-style combat, and more a fan of the “standard” style of MMO, you would appreciate Neverwinter more. Essentially, I don’t think Neverwinter will be usurping the D&D MMO crown but sharing it, especially with all the strides that DDO has made recently.
Feel the wrath of Four Leaf Clovers! (Not Red Balloons)
You Can’t Seem to Shut Up in This Post. Just Give Me the Rundown, Already. How Was It Overall?
I might come off as a little critical in this post, especially since it’s still in Beta, but I truly did like it. I don’t think it’ll become more like D&D, and will stay more like an MMO, which I like. The story will most likely improve as the game progresses and the Foundry will grow along side it, becoming a huge reason, if not THE reason, to play it. The graphics will still be really nice, especially for an MMO. Weapon and armor selection will most likely stay limited and might expand to a secondary weapon, but I wouldn’t expect a whole bunch more.
Overall, and most importantly, it was a lot of fun to play! Will it be the be-all-end-all MMO? No. Certainly not. Not in this day of an over-saturated MMO market. However, I can see it easily finding a place in the market and being fully free-to-play (and I mean FULLY, can’t subscribe to it if you wanted to), will most likely keep the servers nice and full.
I don’t see this becoming my “Home” MMO, as that currently belongs to STO, but I can definitely see adding this to my repertoire.