This past weekend was the first beta event for Cryptic Studios’ upcoming free-to-play MMORPG Neverwinter, and I was fortunate enough to be able to get my hands on a game that I had been watching from a distance for quite some time. I wasn’t really sure if this game would be right for me, but my interest had been piqued based on everything I’d seen, so I was looking forward to trying it out during the Neverwinter beta.

Character Creation

If there was one thing that I just assumed going in would be done well, it was character creation. Cryptic always puts a fair amount of work into the character creation of their games, and there were plenty of options available in the Neverwinter beta. You could choose a preset character from any of the available races, or get down and dirty and create your perfect avatar. Many of the hairstyles appeared to be shared between races, but there was a pretty wide selection to choose from, and along with a nice hair color selection and other customization features, there weren’t too many clones running around the game. You could choose between normal and blind or damaged eyes, as well as give your character facial tattoos that also had a nice large color pallete to choose from. Your character could be anything from youthful with smooth beautiful skin, to elderly and covered in scars. There might more substantial character creation systems in other MMORPG’s, but Neverwinter’s had enough depth to keep me happy as I moved lots of sliders back and forth, going for just the right look.

 neverwinter mmorpg     Neverwinter Beta First Impressions

Tutorial Zone

Neverwinter beta gameplay began with a starter area that ran you through a tutorial of basic gameplay which explained the action-style combat and basic W,A,S,D movement. You start out with one ability tied to your left mouse button which is your spammable basic attack, and from there you pick up new abilities at a decent pace as you level up. The developers did a good job in the first few levels of keeping the action moving. You make your way across a bridge that is besieged by undead and then take out a couple of boss-mobs to end the tutorial. The information they give you comes at a good pace, and new abilities come quick enough to keep it from quickly growing dull, but they don’t overwhelm you with walls of text and tons of information before you ever swing your weapon. There are a lot of games out there that either become dull within minutes, or give you an overwhelming amount of information in the first 30 seconds you’re in the game that you’ll never remember when you need it. Neverwinter has done a good job of finding a nice balance of action and information in the first few minutes of gameplay, and that is very appreciated by this gamer.

neverwinter mmorpg     Neverwinter Beta First Impressions


Combat in the Neverwinter beta was pretty smooth, and had some good weight to it when you were striking your enemies, or getting struck by your enemies as is my case most of the time. The Trickster Rogue in particular felt very agile, and seemed to glide between enemies as she introduced them to their ends. Her dodge felt responsive when rolling out of harms way, and overall the trickster rogue felt like it was in a good place. The Guardian Fighter was my favorite to play during the Neverwinter beta, though he did feel a bit clunkier and not as responsive. I’m sure he’s not supposed to be as quick and agile as the rogue, but there were times where abilities just felt downright unresponsive. It wasn’t anything gamebreaking, just a lot of delay between actions and some abilities occasionally not activating. The Guardian Fighter doesn’t dodge like the rogue, instead he throws up his shield to resist damage, and it was difficult at times to get him back to attacking after a block, or to block at the right time if he was attacking. The combat mechanics of the game also stop character movement when attacking, which seems counterintuitive to an ‘action-comat’ styled game. Despite some minor complaints about mechanics, the ability set for the guardian fighter was pretty awesome. His basic attack is a cleave, the right mouse button attack is a shield bash that weakens foes, and he has a dash and a nice mix of defensive abilities, offensive steroids, and taunts that he can utilize as needed. The third and final class in the Neverwinter beta was the Devoted Cleric, but I did not spend a lot of time with the class. I don’t typically go for casters very often, but from the little bit of time I did spend on the devoted cleric I will have to say that it was quite a bit of fun hurling spears of light at my enemies.

neverwinter mmorpg     Neverwinter Beta First Impressions

Action Bar

One of my favorite trends in MMO’s right now is the minimalist approach to the overall User Interface, and to the action bar especially. Many games now provide a nice set of select abilities to use, with the option to switch between abilities, but never force an overwhelming amount of buttons on you that you only use 10% of the time. During the Neverwinter beta the action bar contained a spammable basic attack tied to the left mouse button, or slightly more specialized ability tied to the right mose button, then a handful of of Encounter abilities which are defaulted to the Q,E,R, and Tab buttons, with two slots available for Daily abilities. The Encounter abilities were typically cooldown based abilities, or abilities with a certain number of charges that had to regenerate if you used them. The Daily ability is an ‘ultimate’ type ability that has to charge up as you attack enemies. Once you’ve filled the d20 shaped action point meter you could unleash the pain on your foes. At certain levels you gain access to either a new level of your abilities, or a new ability altogether that you can substitute in for something else. You also gain feat points to spend as you leveled up that could be spent to specialize your character in different ways. I was actually speccing my Guardian Fighter into increased strength and damage because it was fun to go dashing in all sword & board and then wreck everything in sight. That’s just how I roll.

neverwinter mmorpg     Neverwinter Beta First Impressions

Visuals – World/Character Models

This game is never going to be mistaken for a cutting edge visual masterpiece, but it is still pretty nice graphically. The only character model issue I really had in the Neverwinter beta was a clipping issue with my dwarf’s beard and his armor that drove me absolutely crazy, but other than that the character models look fine, and will do well enough for themselves up against the majority of newer games out there. The world itself is actually quite beautiful, and probably one of the better looking environments of any non-Asian free-to-play MMORPG I’ve seen recently. Theneverwinter mmorpg     Neverwinter Beta First Impressions city was quite stunning, with a gorgeous sky overhead, and tall buildings in the background that rendered nicely from max distance. The dev team have done a really nice job with the shading and textures on everything, and it really does look quite nice. Think of the art style as what WoW would look like with a modern graphics overhaul. Cryptic’s done a really good job of bringing the world to life too. There were lots of players of course in the Neverwinter beta because we were all starting out in the same area, but there were plenty NPC’s going about their daily routines as well, which made it feel like a bustling city even in the corners where players didn’t congregate. I’d say visually there’s no reason anyone would be disappointed in Neverwinter.

Overall Impressions

To be honest, Neverwinter really surprised me. I didn’t necessarily expect it to be completely terrible, but from what I had seen of it I was interested, but just didn’t think it would end up being my kind of game. Action-combat can be a bit of a gimmick sometimes that games use to cover-up boring, repetitive gameplay, but that hasn’t been the case with Neverwinter so far. This is a game that I simply do not want to log out of, and that’s probably the highest compliment I can pay an MMORPG. Combat felt good, the visuals were nice, and while the questing was pretty standard MMO stuff, the setting and mechanics of the game really made it feel fresh and unique to me. The client ran well on my machine and the only time I had to turn down the settings a little was when I was frapsing footage, which of course isn’t the game’s fault. But there were no major crashes at anytime I was playing, and everything seemed to be running fine.

Cryptic’s reputation took a bit of a hit with the launch of Star Trek Online a few years back because the game was rushed to launch, and although they’ve come a long way in improving STO over the years, it was pretty obvious at the time of launch that we were being given an incomplete game. Neverwinter might just be the game that proves to Cryptic’s critics that they are a top-notch game developer. If they can pull off a smooth launch for what is shaping up to be a fantastic game, Cryptic will find themselves back in the good graces of a lot of gamers.

For more Neverwinter beta coverage be sure to check out Mr. Jason Winter’s article about the Neverwinter dungeon experience.

Troy spends his days playing, writing, streaming, and making videos about MMOs and PC games. And yes, it's as awesome as it sounds. Follow on Twitter @Noobfridge
  • Janne Sanis Prokkola

    That ui looks weird

  • 7BitBrian

     This sounds a lot like my experiences this Beta weekend. I cannot wait to sink my teeth even further into this game and hopefully even get my hands on the Foundry soon too!

  • Zedris

    the ui looks like its from a 90’s game…. aswell the fact that its an instance’d MMO just turns me off. instanced mmo’s belong in the past i believe. if i want dungeon crawling i can play poe/diablo/torchlight

    • Jim Bergevin Jr

      Really? The only instanced MMO from the past that I recall was Guild Wars 1, so it’s actually a pretty recent MMO convention, not to mention that fact that dungeons were the only instanced areas in the game – the rest was open world.

      Where do you think dungeon crawling came from? Why do you think it’s called “Dungeons” and Dragons. If you really want dungeon crawling you go to the place that invented it.

    • Stradus Woods

      Probably not for you then I am exited for this game.  Player content can bring some of the coolest stuff into games. All the games coming out this mmorpg has my highest hopes.  Still waiting for an mmorpg to do true action combat. By this I mean amp up the freaking speed the action combat.

      True action combat:
      1. Super fast combat that is most the time is limited by player reaction time other then game it self.
      2. All attacks on the move make me stop to attack you fail.
      3. Unlimited dodges you cooldown my dodges, blocks, or what ever is used for avoidance you ruined true and became action combat.

      (We will never have a mmorpg with this). /sadface    : (

      • Jim Bergevin Jr

        You might be disappointed then:
        1) it is fast combat, but all you need to do as melee is hold down the auto attack
        2) all attacks root you in place – you cannot attack on the move
        3) the block and dodge attacks use stamina which must be recharged (after a few uses) before you can clock/dodge again.

      • Dularr

        This is game clearly doesn’t meet your criteria.  From what I understand, they are going for a weighted feel behind the combat, so expect rooted combat and full animations before you can attack again. 

      • DrakeDog

        Have you tried DC Universe Online? Combat resembles what you’re talking about there pretty closely.

        • Richard H. Lucht

          I was just thinking of DCUO while reading this.

  • Ryan Campbell

     for the record it’s Beeta should be BAY-TA

  • Revanhavoc

    Brilliant first impression article and accompanying video.

    This is a prime example of what Gamebreaker can be on the serious journalism side, to balance out the onion style news I could see being hilarious.

    I value the work you all put in.

  • ray reid

    I love the site guys and im here everyday for gaming news. that said Olivias over the top excitement like shes gonna burst any moment is really starting to grate on me. troys kinda the opposite where it sounds like hes reading from his notes but at least hes not bubbling over. I understand shes english but things she says like beeta and day zed that once were kinda cute are starting to get annoying. I meen i get like 30 seconds into these things and i have to turn em off. Now please dont take offense i think olivia is great on legendary, you guys have great chemistry, but these chat bubble things come off like super corny. I really like the way Mike b used to do them, but i think GB needs more Mike b period. Anyway since im the only one thats saying anything its obviously just me who thinks this way so carry on. just my 2 cents. Again thanks for all the hard work guys!

    • Ravenstorm

      hehe, Yeah Olivia’s a bubbly vat of smiles, it’s like opening a magnum bottle of champagne and sticking it in your mouth while frantically jumping up and down. You realise it’s gonna squirt your brains out, but what a way to go eh.

      I love it when she says beeta. I never heard that before Olivia. Beeta. Beeeeta.

      • Gavin Morgan

        In England we pronounce Beta like that.

    • Justin Kennedy

      I would hope that you realize that is actually how she speaks and many people in the EU region speak. She does not use beeta and Day zed, just to use them, it is actually often time used and spoken as such.  Remember that people have different accents, dialects, etc depending on their region.

    • Andrew Rowe

      Yes its disgusting, after all you yanks invented english.

      • Gavin Morgan

        Well said Andrew. Although i doubt whether they will understand your sense of humour, and yes that’s Humour not humor.

      • Jeremy Keat

        It’s a shame such can’t be consistent on their pronunciation of letters, zed, bed, ded, ced, ed, ged, ,ped, ted and ved.

    • Quiet

      I dont agree with you on pronunciation (its just the way they speak), but i FULLY agree on BAD Chat Bubbles. Often times she is trying to look at the camera and “sneak” a look at her notes, or just staring hard at the camera, and both of those are *incredibly* distracting as a viewer. They have gotten better recently by hiding her problem with fullscreen gameplay footage, but thats not really a fix.

      She’s fine on legendary where she sounds comfortable and doesn’t need notes. For chat bubbles, she needs to get to that same point, either knowing the material and not needing the notes, or being comfortable in taking a moment to read them rather than glancing back to them 3 times a sentence. Chat Bubbles should be a conversation, not a presentation. Hopefully I managed to keep my criticism constructive.

  • DerKomp

    Can anyone confirm that characters are able to jump? I didn’t see any jumping in the video. Also, his sword sheathed on the wrong side. Those are just the questions that this video left me with. The game still looks nice. Thank you for covering this cause I’ve heard a lot so far and seen nothing til now. More videos like this will really help me make a decision on this game.

    • Viktor Engholm

       Characters can jump, don’t worry!

    • Patrick Martin Frosz Nielsen

      The game has standard spacebar-jumping.

  • Inkogni Alex

    The game seems to be fun, will watch how it turns out later

  • Deathstar2x

    Just a heads up, the volume difference between Troy and Olivia is out of balance.

    • Karizee

      No kidding!  Olivia Y U SO LOUD?
      (and why does she keep saying beeta?  It’s beyta, say it with me Olivia, B-E-Y-T-A)

  • Azuri

    MMO saturation imo and more on the way. I don’t see how they can make money especially f2p people are going to be jumping around like there’s no tomorrow and committing to none. I expect many of these to backfire for various reasons.

    • Joseph Spears

      you play swtor lol jk

  • Mike Coulombe

    Looks good enough. That last comment though… Nah, man. “Also, it’s free to play so what’s not to like?”. 

    Troy, have you forgotten Perfect World is publishing it? PWE isn’t known for forgiving cash shops. I’ll put my money on 1 or 2 free re-specs throughout the entire game, mainly at class-changing decisions, and then it’s going to be 15$ per. Some games it doesn’t matter as much, some games it’s just too much. This IS a game based on the DnD ruleset. If there’s one ruleset in which you can totally, TOTALLY screw your character up, it’s DnD.

  • DuWolfY

    Hello when u use your defense with sheld u allso can atack so tie it its best combo with Guardian to surive :)