Neverwinter: Lots Of Fun, Despite The CPU Bottleneck
In my opinion, Neverwinter is an enjoyable action-MMORPG, set in the most popular Dungeons And Dragons locale: the Forgotten Realms. The game has a lot of potential, so what do you need to run it?
When it comes to graphics horsepower, not much, actually. At the minimum graphics details and 100% render scale settings, a GeForce GT 630 GDDR5 or Radeon HD 6670 DDR3 generates about 40 FPS, at least. Increase details to the medium level with 2x AA, 8x AF, and character detail distance dialed down 50%, and a Radeon HD 7750 or GeForce GTX 650 gives you more than 30 FPS, minimum. Even with the details maxed out at 1920x1080, a Radeon HD 7790 or GeForce GTX 650 Ti kicks out at least 40 FPS when the going gets tough.
If gaming across three monitors is your thing, medium-level details are playable at more than 30 FPS on a Radeon HD 7950 Boost, GeForce GTX 690, or GeForce GTX Titan.
But the real limitation of those configurations isn't graphics performance; its the platform itself. Neverwinter likes fast CPUs, and to achieve a minimum of 40 FPS using medium-class details, you need a Core i5-3550, at least. A Phenom II X4 965, FX-4170, Core i3-3220, and FX-8350 give you a minimum frame rate around 30 FPS. But don't bother with a dual-core CPU that isn't Hyper-Threaded. This game doesn't like Athlon II X2s or Pentiums.
These frame rates are reasonable for standard MMOs. Having said that, we'd prefer to see minimums above 40 FPS in a twitchier title like Neverwinter. When your survival depends on reflexes, maintaining 60 FPS is ideal, so it's probably going to concern some folks that an Ivy Bridge-based Core i5 is necessary for greater-than 40 FPS at the game's higher-end quality settings.
To be fair, the game is in what the developers call "open beta," so performance issues might be addressed over time. We've mentioned our concerns and we're waiting for feedback; it'd be nice to know if the platform bottleneck is addressable. But when a game opens up to the public, it accepts real-world currency, and the developer makes it clear that characters are not going to be wiped, we aren't going to let it off the hook because of a beta label slapped on. It's too easy for that to become an excuse when things aren't quite right.
Lower-than-expected frame rates aside, the game plays smooth enough to enjoy with a decent CPU and graphics card. It's also quite a bit of fun, offering a lot of content for such a new MMO. If you're curious about Neverwinter, I'd recommend giving it a shot, which is easy since it doesn't cost anything, and no content is gated from players who choose not to pay.