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Eat my arcane bolts, vile beast!Neverwinter does one thing particularly well: combat. This Dungeons & Dragons-themed online game wants you to feel the clash of steel on steel, and the impact of magic missiles on Orcish flesh. Forget the tab-targeting so common (but increasingly less common) to games of this type: hover your targeting reticle over your foe and then swing that sword or fire that arcane spell. Like Tera and other action-focused MMOGs before it, Neverwinter wants to feel like an action game, and while you need to consider role-playing tropes like skill cooldowns, it succeeds at making your key presses and mouse clicks translate immediately into sword swings and healing magic. In Neverwinter, it's fun to go to battle.

If only Neverwinter had applied a similar amount of cleverness to its other features. From a structural standpoint, this is as shallow as MMOGs come, leading you from one waypoint to the next with as little fanfare as possible, and showering you with so much experience that you could blow through the main quests and hit maximum level in a matter of days. There is a bare minimum of developer-provided content, layered into a network of overworld areas and winding dungeons that never coalesce into an enticing world. If you have played Cryptic's previous games, such as Star Trek Online or Champions Online, then you will recognize Neverwinter's segmented design.

It's not that a highly directed theme park-style MMOG is inherently bad-it's that Neverwinter's quests don't benefit from diversity of action, great writing, or any element of surprise. You do all or many of the quests in a zone, get your rewards, and then move on to the next area to do the same basic things all over again. This is a familiar trope, of course, but most similar games make valiant efforts to overcome it, mixing up the rhythm with interactive weaponry, puzzle elements, explorable landscapes, and so forth. In Neverwinter, there is no disguising the monotony: you are just killing wolves, collecting objects, and flipping switches, with no greater sense of purpose, and with too little diversity to goose the proceedings.

Eat my arcane bolts, vile beast!

Neverwinter has some tales to tell, and most quest-givers are fully voiced. But few of those tales are compelling on their own, and most of the voice acting is mediocre at best, so you'll probably find yourself taking the quest and trotting off without reading the lore-heavy text or hearing the NPC finish his or her verbose tale of misery. The good news is that other players are there to take up the slack, thanks to Neverwinter's foundry, which allows amateur designers to create their own quests and send you towards adventures unknown.

The game makes it easy to discover the best of these adventures, or to find ones with local entrances, and while there are some clunkers, many of them are a cut above Neverwinter's official quests. One user-created gem has you investigating the theft of some foul-smelling cheese, and dealing with the unhealthy repercussions of finding it. Another features a role-playing game within a role-playing game within a role-playing game. Still another has you traveling through time to participate in sepia-toned memories. It isn't impossibly difficult to create a quest yourself, and finding great ones is a delight. It's too bad that the game's own creators couldn't infuse the main quests with similar amounts of wit.

A cool and mysterious quest? Must be a player-crafted one.


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