While there have been rumors for some time circulating about the Neverwinter franchise—including links to Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition—we’re getting a clear picture for the first time with yesterday’s announcement of a new game, Neverwinter. Courtesy of GameSpot, who scored an exclusive Q&A session with Jack Emmert, chief operating office of Cryptic–the company behind the project–here’s some more details.
A few things to know right off the bat: the game is going to be both multiplayer and solo playable, however the emphasis is toward the group aspect, echoing the collaborative play of D&D itself. The game itself is tied to upcoming books by fantasy heavyweight R.A. Salvatore, so you can see they’re clearly trying to blur the lines between games and books—which certainly Dragon Age attempted to do in a way, too. Narrative is becoming more and more important, it seems, in these fantasy RPGs.
But wait, I shouldn’t call it that, because as Emmert says, they’re coining a new phrase: OMG. Yes, OMG. It stands for “online multiplayer game”—a cooperative RPG, in other words. Yes, it’s Forgotten Realms. Yes, it’s D&D. But the idea isn’t to queue in line for an hour to do a raid; it’s to get together in a group and do some serious damage.
From a D&D standpoint, the developers are currently working to combine 4E into the game system. Explains Emmert:
I think there are two very unique gameplay elements in 4th Edition that we’ve done something interesting with: action points and healing surges. In the tabletop game, an action point lets a player perform a reroll or add an additional die to a roll. In our game, action points are earned through combat and spent to power special abilities called “boons.” These boons give players special boosts, but only in certain circumstances. Healing surges represent the amount of times a player can heal himself before resting.
From the interview, Emmert indicates that the initial classes will be Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Ranger, and Cleric, and playable races include humans, elves, and dwarves, with a few currently undisclosed options as well. Additionally, gameplay will first center around the city of Neverwinter, but with hopeful expansions reach out across the landscape.
To add to the fray, there is also a project in the works called Forge (which is a code-name), which will allow for world and adventure customization and building. Familiar Neverwinter Nights players will recognize this approach from previous incarnations, but this could be promising if done right. Especially good, I’d imagine, for long-distance D&D sessions.
I’m hopeful, in this case. As someone who loved the original games and certainly adores D&D (and 4th Edition), this holds a great deal of promise. But, as the adage goes, the proof is in the potion. If Neverwinter combines what I loved best about the franchise with D&D, it could be awesome; however, if it goes off too far on a tangent, trying too hard, it could fall flat.