Neverwinter's going both MMORPG and 4th Ed. next year, and I'm realizing just how cuttable my wrists are these days.
Atari and Cryptic Studios recently announced that they are currently working on a new MMORPG called Neverwinter, based on the Dungeons and Dragons based Neverwinter Nights games. However unlike earlier games, this new MMO will be based upon the new Forgotten Realms; the 4th Edition D&D Forgotten Realms. If you are unfamiliar with the 4th edition version of Forgotten Realms, it’s the one that gutted the setting and threw away everything that made it interesting.
(Warning, the following will be me bitching about this and far more D&D info than any sane person really needs to know. Short story, it is due Q4 2011 and no one responsible for making Neverwinter Nights 1 or 2 is even scarcely involved on the development side.)
This version of Neverwinter is based roughly 100 years after the events in earlier games. Basically, Mystra the goddess of magic was assassinated by Cyric the god of murder, and Shar the goddess of night. Mystra’s death resulted in the Spellplague which destroyed all arcane magic, and most of the world. The Mayan-esk continent of Maztica was destroyed, many nations have fallen to ruin, most of the gods were lost, and Elminster, everyone’s favorite red cloaked know-it-all mage, has been reduced to a doddering, insane hermit. The titular city of Neverwinter has been hit hard by the century of magical devastation and is now little more than a ruined shithole. Really, to quote the 4th Ed. Forgotten Realms book “Neverwinter and Luskan are now in utter ruin.”
So why place an MMO in this setting, given that it’s been stripped of everything fans of the earlier games grew to love about it? The answer is: Money. Hasbro put a lot of $$ into buying Wizards of the Coast and they’re doing everything they can to make it back (they’ve published 1 to 2 books every month since the game came out in 2008, with most running between $20 and $30). 4th Edition D&D is the only version supported and is probably the only version they’re licensing out at the moment. Personally I find it strange that we’re seeing a surge in games based on earlier editions of D&D (Pathfinder, OSRIC, and Myth & Magic to name a few) given how popular everyone says 4th Ed. is and all.
Players will be able to choose from one of 5 “classic D&D classes” but since that part of the system really wasn’t gutted, they’ll probably be fighter, cleric, mage, ranger and rogue. There is no word yet on what races will be playable, but if you were hoping to play as a gnome you’ll probably have to wait for an expansion as in 4th Ed. they are no longer considered a core race.
R.A. Salvatore is being brought in to help write the story for Neverwinter, but that could be a mixed blessing. Salvatore’s written more about the Forgotten Realms than even the most rabid of fanboys, and even I have to admit that his stuff is pretty good. He’s largely responsible for fleshing out Drow civilization in his novels about the dark elf Drizzt Do'Urden. However the only other game he’s written for was the PS2/XBOX title, Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone. So, has he ever written for an MMO? Nope. Is his skill as a novelist any indication of his skill as a game writer? As history has proven time and time again, the answer to that one will probably be no as well.
That Cryptic Studios is developing this title is another reason to worry. While their work on City of Heroes was pretty good, and then Champions Online was best described as “Meh”, but their most recent release, Star Trek Online, was bad enough to knock me off the wagon and send me back to World of Warcraft. So that’s the company that’s developing Neverwinter; a group that could best be described as one-hit wonders of the MMO scene.
In fact, the only thing about Neverwinter that is even slightly interesting to me is the user content generation system hinted at in the announcement. Apparently this system, currently called Forge, will allow players to create their own storylines and quests. While the rest of the info in this announcement hasn’t done much to win me over, the idea of user generated material making its way into an MMO is enough to have me keep an eye out for future news about this title. When it comes I’ll post the news here, but until then I wouldn’t advise getting your hopes up.