Sit right down and let me tell you a tale. This is a tale of prophecy, destiny, and fate. One week before our horrendously awful drive down to E3, which is a story for another time, we recorded a pre-E3 podcast with our good friends Chris and Kelly. Rather than making standard E3 predictions, however, we decided (at my prompting, I believe) to make wild predictions that had just the smallest chance of coming to pass. My wild prediction was that Neverwinter Nights, one of my favorite games OF ALL TIME, would be re-made and given an improved dungeon master module. Who’s Chris? My name is Nostradamus.
I went in to E3 fully expecting to be let down by the absence of my wild prediction. It wasn’t until our fourth day down in the City of Angels, at the very tail end of Day 2 of E3, that lightning struck me from the heavens. It was then, with one game left to see during my Atari appointment and less than 30 minutes left before the floor closed for the day, that I saw the sign. It opened up my eyes…I saw the sign for Neverwinter. Let me go about 50 minutes back in time. I arrive at the Atari press desk and check-in. First stop, Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter. While not exactly what I was hoping for, it represented one of the best Facebook games I have ever seen, and even beat out certain XBLA games in terms of true Dungeons & Dragons quality. I found out that in Heroes of Neverwinter you can create your own dungeons for friends to fight through, and immediately told every Atari employee within shouting distance about my pre-E3 prophecy. Nobody said a god damn word to me about what was yet to come. I finished up Heroes of Neverwinter, then moved on to Warlords and Centipede: Infestation. It was just as I arrived at the final title of the day, Gamma World: Alpha Mutation, that I saw the aforementioned sign.
The sign simply said…”Neverwinter.”
I immediately stopped and pulled Courtney (my Atari guide) aside. “What’s that? That’s not Heroes of Neverwinter. That just says Neverwinter. Is that something other than Heroes of Neverwinter? What’s it doing there? Is that…Neverwinter Nights is one of my favorite games OF ALL TIME. WHAT IS THAT AND HOW DO I GET IT.”
I was speaking quickly, and gesturing very animatedly, but she got the picture and told me that it was a new Neverwinter title, that the guys from Cryptic had just finished up a behind-closed-doors appointment, and that they had the last half hour of the day open, if I’d like to see it. I hastily, and somewhat sincerely, apologized to the Gamma World guys before running gleefully into the Neverwinter room.
Now, my prediction indicated a straight Neverwinter Nights remake, including the expansions and an improved dungeon master module, for consoles. This is a new Neverwinter game, and it’s PC only, but it has a massively improved dungeon master module called the Foundry, and a brand new campaign that takes place in 1479 DR (Dale Reckoning), approximately 100 years after the events of Neverwinter Nights. Within this 100 year gap, Neverwinter has been destroyed (by a volcano), and the Spellplague has changed the landscape of the Sword Coast on which it lies. With the detailed character creation and progression that you would expect from a real Dungeons & Dragons game, even if it is based on 4th Edition, Neverwinter promises to provide an excellent, and long campaign. Know how to get me to say that something’s going to be the best RPG of the year without even seeing any campaign gameplay? Put the word “Neverwinter” in it.
I’ll make my way around to the out-of-the-box campaign, which can be played online with your friends, again. What I want to talk about now is the real bread and butter of the Neverwinter franchise: dungeon mastering. The Foundry is Cryptic’s campaign creation tool, and it is the best user-content-creation tool I have seen (take into account that I, obviously, have not seen EVERY user-content creator out there). Anybody can pick this up and start creating anything. Using the Foundry, you can even go so far as to insert custom made side-quests into the out-of-the-box campaign for you and your friends to play. A side-quest can be built in less than 15 minutes using the massive library of pre-fabricated assets, with a creator wizard (software, not magical) to help make sure you get every necessary piece completed and connected properly. Want to go more in depth? Modify the pre-fabricated assets to create your own versions and start building from there. Still not enough? Do the whole damn thing from scratch, using the spectacularly large asset library! Build an entire campaign from the ground up, if you feel like it!
See, I’m worried that you don’t quite understand how much depth the Foundry provides. With the Foundry’s advanced features, you can build complex dialogue trees for NPCs, design NPC appearance, select camera angles for conversations (as well as attitudes, animations, and more), set event and dialogue triggers, and so much more. On top of all that, Cryptic will be supporting the game with new environment packs after release, further expanding the already impressively sized asset library! From the ground up, you can build your own campaign with as much detail as you can imagine. Have friends who want to play Dungeons & Dragons with you, but live too far away? Never fear, Neverwinter is here! Build your campaign and be the ruthless Dungeon Master you know you are! Make them pay for daring to enter your world!
Did I mention that Neverwinter is gorgeous?
I’m paraphrasing myself, but I believe I said something along the lines of, “Neverwinter is my favorite game from E3 2011. Nothing that has come in 2011, or will come in 2011, can hope to dethrone it.” Neverwinter comes to PC later in 2011, and I am beside myself with anticipation. I may have to quit my job so that I can play more Neverwinter.