Neverwinter Previews

If the favorable theme present in many of the previews below is anything to go by, Cryptic and Perfect World's Neverwinter had a pretty good showing at this year's E3. Let's take a closer look...

Since the tanking position was taken, I played a Rogue character in our demo dungeon crawl, giving me stealth, albeit only for a few seconds. I had a sort of dagger throw, a high-damage melee attack, and a neat little ability by which I cloned myself and left the clone to taunt enemies while I was able to teleport behind them and start stabbing. I've got some action gaming under my belt, so the fights weren't terribly hard, but our experienced tank did die on the final boss as he was out of potions and we had no Cleric. Reading enemies to time dodges was a reasonable challenge, but I was a bit disappointed that I hadn't died. I had to ask the presenter how death worked, and it turns out to be fairly lenient, at least in theory. When you die, much as in GW2, you can call out to friends to help get you back on your feet, though you obviously won't be at full health. Your other option is to use a resurrection scroll on yourself, and yes, if it's in your inventory, you have to use it. The scrolls can resurrect you with varying amounts of health, depending on their power. If you're out of scrolls, though, you have to choose a new spawn location and run back.
We were set into a dungeon experience (one of many that are instanced from the game's larger open-world zones) that was intended for 5 people but tweaked for three especially for E3. One of us was a Guardian Fighter, another a Control Wizard, and me? I was a sexy dual-knife wielding badass who could blink in and out of existence and appear behind her foes so fast that they'd never see the serrated edge of my blade before it opened their throat and let their life leak out. For our demo, the focus wasn't so much on the story, the community, or any of the other aspects that will be present in Neverwinter come launch. Much rather, as Andy Velasquez told us, the demo was about showing us game enthusiast types how fun and varied combat becomes in a group setting.

The Verge:
In Neverwinter, there's no mana to manage when using your limited assortment of assigned powers. Your At-Will abilities - that's D&D 4th Edition vernacular for basic, infinitely useable skills - are bound to left and right click. Your three Encounter powers are a bit stronger, but have cooldowns. To wield your tide-turning Daily powers, though, you'll have to save Ability Points, which you only do by filling your class' obligations. For instance, by "Tide of Iron"-ing foes and timing my blocks perfectly, I stored up enough Ability Points to cleave a shockwave into the earth, taking out a whole line of enemies. When I mindlessly wailed on my adversaries, I didn't accrue Action Points nearly as quickly.

Ten Ton Hammer:
Your medium potency powers are your counters, and are bound to the Q, E, and R keys. These are the most like other MMO powers in that they function on a cooldown, and some of them also have resources or charges associated with activation. For example, on my control wizard I had a pair of awesome crowd control powers. One pushed enemies away from my character which on the surface seems like more of a defensive move. However, during my dungeon run with that character I was able to combine my utility power to shadowstep directly in front of a group of goblin archers standing along the edge of a massive chasm. This skill allowed me to neatly shove them over the edge to their doom with plenty of offensive gusto.

Velocity Gamer:
The gameplay is fast paced and fluid. Each class has a right and left mouse click action ability that has unlimited use. For example, if you are playing as rogue, the left click is your basic knife swipe, while the right click teleports you behind enemies so you can slash them in the back. Having these powers right at your finger tips as much as you want is what makes the gameplay fast paced.

Combat in itself was an enjoyable experience as Neverwinter seems to get the visual effects and graphics done right. The mechanics themselves seem to suggest a real-time active type of combat which means no auto attack. I stated earlier that the status bar seemed to only have a few abilities as well as your normal attack and a super power which can be assumed as a automatic critical. I managed to figure out what seemed be a taunting/area of effect ability which I spammed after figuring out what the three abilities were for. As we proceeded through the instance all the while learning the abilities that we had only a few minutes to learn, we were instantly thrown into the fray. Once I started to nail down some of the abilities which included blocking via Shift button, I instantly dropped into tactical mode, verbally chatting to my two other teammates in the room and started to setup the encounters like if the game was already out. Ironically, I was the one who died multiple times since we really didn't have a healer, but the forgiving aspect of combat was that you were able to be revived by teammates. Sparkes did state that the typical XP penalty would be present but it seemed unlikely that there would be any kind of reviving difficulty mechanic like the D&D tabletop RPG.

The demo we saw was actually just a part of one of the dungeons the game will have. The full world will let players wander and kill and quest to their hearts content, but instances will be for up to five people. There were plenty of enemies to fight and loot to find in the dungeon, along with a miniboss and boss to fight. What was impressive, though, was the graphics. They looked like something you would see in an MMO with a monthly fee, not something that's releasing for free.

Though it's free-to-play, we were told that those who use real money to buy things won't outweigh or outbalance those players who grind for things. The game has much more going for it other than buffing up your character with the most powerful weapons and armor. Your fingers won't tire either; Neverwinter isn't a click-fest. Your sword swings are delivered by holding down your mouse button, but it will be your dodging and special skills which give you those little breathless moments of good action gameplay.

And then there's a "Basic Training" video preview on