When Neverwinter‘s tutorial sequence starts, you’re confronted with the old been-shipwrecked got-no-kit dilemma (last seen in TERA and many before it). Things take a turn for the worse when you’re helped to your feet by a nauseatingly naive manchild who is supposedly a young soldier. He’s voice-acted rather than just having a text pop-up, which is a plus, but I find an educated American accent in a faux medieval time period a bit of an immersion breaker (even the British-accented narrator told me to press ‘zee’!)
Personal tastes aside, voice-acted characters are great for immersion and I hope this is a staple throughout the game.
Keep Your Arms Inside the Ride
Further frustration occurs when attempts to wade out to explore the nearby shipwreck are met with an invisible boundary which sees my avatar thigh-deep and jogging on the spot. This is just lazy game design – the original Everquest had better ways of handling the open sea in 1999. Give me an undercurrent, sharks, a drowning warning, anything; but stopping me ‘just because’ is incredibly unimaginative and at this early stage, I take it as a bad sign.
Disappointed, I returned to the shore to follow the tutorial instructions to recover some kit. Despite the obvious presence of what appear to be several serviceable (or sellable) axes, swords and shields amongst the flotsam and jetsam, I could apparently only find a rusty sword, shield and breastplate. Another case of environment and gameplay failing to co-operate.
Beachside options exhausted, heading inland soon finds me at a camp where I meet the the solidly voice-acted Lt. Linkletter who sends me off to kill/heal zombies/soldiers.
Objective accidentally completed (it was impossible to hack up wounded soldiers or provide zombies with medical assistance), the quest objective kept me moving on to a new camp where the Scottish brogue of the Dwarf, Dell McCourt, further emphasised the dire circumstances of the besieged Neverwinter before sending me away to recover arrows from the battlefield.
As I worked my way across another astoundingly safe battlefield, I stumbled across the spiked-faced Tiefling chap from the cinematic who takes some time out from fiddling with a dragon skeleton to provide a bit more exposition.
Before long, we’ve rendezvoused with the irritating Private Wilfred who assists us in storming Dragon Bridge, where we fight through several squads of zombies to catch a brief glimpse of the floating arch nemesis Valindra, who cheerfully chokes the life out of Wilfred. Hurrah, I like her already.
Sadly, she doesn’t wait around to let me thank her and instead leaves me to a do battle with her Harbinger champion. Fighting this big fella provides quite a thrilling crescendo to the instance, only mildly ruined by the discovery that Wilfred isn’t quite dead yet. Fortunately, one hilarious last words death sequence later and he’s finally joined the miscast-actors in the sky.
After a wobbly start, the Neverwinter tutorial experience turned things around to deliver a slick, well-paced opening sequence which wasn’t too long. But rather than being an intriguing story, it was fun because of the combat, which we’ll discuss in the next part.
A Tale of Two Tutors
Both tutorials do a solid job of helping the player get to grips with the basic mechanics and there can be few complaints there. For setting up the narrative motivation for continuing to play, it would be a close call between RIFT‘s Guardian intro and Neverwinter‘s similarly forgettable–and notably singular–opening story, but the point must go to RIFT for The Defiant faction’s last ditch attempt to rewrite the past. It is a great MacGuffin for pushing the story onward and one which I will remember for the right reasons.
RIFT 3 – 1 Neverwinter
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