E3 2012: Hands-on with Neverwinter combat

Neverwinter
Neverwinter MMO. Action-oriented combat. Free to play. How perfect does that sound? Pretty perfect, which is probably why Perfect World Entertainment's handling it. In fact, Perfect World and Cryptic Studios are doing such a good job that some of the game's art and lore is being worked in as canon! Go on, you can use that as a talking point to get your friends to read this article at your next pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons game.

Massively's own Eliot Lefebvre took on the game at PAX, so follow on past the break and I'll try to work off of his observations based on my experience at this year's E3.

As Eliot previewed, the game gives you a basic attack, three regular moves, a dodge/block/utility move, and two "daily" moves (no, you can't just use them once a day, and this term may go away). It's not much, but to be honest, I find that, these days, I'd much rather have a few strong, meaningful, basic moves than an eight-button rotation. I could also dodge (in real-time, not because of a lucky dice roll), but the cooldown was at least 10 seconds, meaning it wasn't abusable. This gave the controls a feeling similar to the controls of Guild Wars 2, and probably partially due to the longer dodge timer, I didn't feel as all-powerful. While GW2 does have restrictions on dodging, it still gives melee characters the impression they can get away from most fights. And even though my character in the demo was buffed up a bit (we were doing the dungeon with only three people and no healer), I learned pretty quickly that the monsters in the dungeon hit a lot harder than the ones outside. Even in the alpha, there was a good sense of balance between not only the classes but the mobs versus the players. Nothing just rolled over and died.

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.

The dungeon itself was intense. As you'd expect, there were traps (like saws coming of the the floors) and a secret passageway that I may or may not have gotten so excited about that I hit the lever to reveal it well before the presenter was ready to show us (sorry!). We had a good mix of mini-bosses and AoE swarms, which allowed our rather cocky Mage to shine. Loot's handled as in most MMOs coming out these days: Money is shared, greys tend to go to the physical looter (especially with chests, which I sadly never got to open due to constantly being in awe of my own shadows), and anything of value is rolled on. Still, it was nice to see money bags fly out of monsters and chests and disappear when I walked on them.

Speaking of nice touches, I did ask about a few things that sadly couldn't be answered quite yet. One is character customization. While you gain certain bonuses as you level up, the method of choosing these bonuses, activating them, and switching them around hasn't been finalized. I was told this is all still being worked out. I asked about non-combat entertainment, too, but was met with a knowing smile. I can't be alone in having a brother who played a gnome with a funny voice and penchant for getting into trouble before the group had set out for the real adventure, and I very much hope Cryptic realizes that those experiences are hard to replace in a non-pen-and-paper version of Dungeons and Dragons. Moreover, nothing new was said about The Foundry, Cryptic's game-spanning content-generation system that will allow players to create and share their own campaigns.

I also asked about PvP, and the simple answer was that it's still not planned for launch. Perfect World and Cryptic know that PvP players are picky, that there's a huge community for competitive combat and that it can be a lot of fun, but it's also a lot of work. A lot of thought is going into the PvP system, but it will have to wait for the completion of the PvE portion.

Finally, the cash shop. I was told it's being taken very seriously at the moment, but there are no details available on how it will work; the team aims to share more on the business model when it's ready for the public (and after checking with marketing, no doubt).

All in all, I enjoyed my time with the game and am looking forward to the next demo already!

Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 4-7, bringing you all the best news from E3 2012. We're covering everything from PlanetSide 2 and SWTOR and ArcheAge to RIFT's and LotRO's upcoming expansions, so stay tuned!
This article was originally published on Massively.