Hands-on with Neverwinter's Control Wizard

Handson with Neverwinter's Control Wizard
This past weekend was Neverwinter's second beta event, and with it came a number of new additions. The Foundry was open for business, the tutorial was expanded, the level cap was increased, and new zones were available to explore. Above all that was the availability of a fourth class over the first beta event's three: the Control Wizard.

Along with what seemed like the entire state of New Jersey, I rolled a Control Wizard to give Neverwinter's offensive magic user a test drive. The Wizard is a mixture of familiar fantasy aspects with a dash of unexpectedly awesome differences. So while I was casting the same-old elemental spells (all fantasy magic users seem to know only four elements due to a lack of imagination on behalf of the creators), I was also tossing in spells to mess with enemies and keep them off my back.

Here are my early hands-on impressions of the Control Wizard, a class that I'll definitely be playing at launch.

Handson with Neverwinter's Control Wizard
Meet the wiz

I hope I'm not alone in growing annoyed that any and all magic users in MMOs have to tote around a mostly useless staff as a sort of badge of office. Gandalf kind of screwed the pooch on that for the rest of the genre, which is why my first pleasant surprise at seeing the Control Wizard was that there was nary a staff to be seen.

Instead, the class gets this nifty floating orb that can be grasped and manipulated during combat. It looks like a cross between Star Wars' interrogation droid and Phantasm's death ball, giving off a "don't mess with me, I'm brimming with serious magic" aura. While it was weird to see so many other people with floating orbs running around me, I still loved the new visual approach.

The Control Wizard is all about ranged damage and really throws herself into combat. Instead of meekly waving around her fingers or doing a Street Fighter II shoryuken move, she's practically a martial artist who flings deadly magic with the energy and grace of a black belt. The increased physical activity coupled with the effects gives the magic much more of a visceral "oomph" than I'm used to seeing in such classes.

Of course, not all tropes are to be avoided. The Control Wizard is extremely squishy. I found myself getting into trouble any time a group of mobs ganged up on me at the same time, which was more often than not in dungeons. My character's health bar went down faster than the oil gauge on my leaky Sienna. So the name of the game here is to (a) dish out a lot of damage, quickly, (b) control the battlefield with survival skills, and (c) don't let melee classes get within striking distance.

Handson with Neverwinter's Control Wizard
Your first five spells

It wouldn't be a Dungeons & Dragons game without magic missiles, so it was great to see this staple as the first spell that the Control Wizard gains. Watching my Wizard fling the missiles out in rapid fashion never got old, nor did watching enemies' health go from full to empty within a few hits.

My one big disappointment with magic missiles is that you're rooted to just one spot while using them, which is different from how the class was portrayed in the official trailer. There we saw a much more mobile Control Wizard who was throwing out missiles while advancing or retreating. In reality, you become much more of a stationary turret, sacrificing mobility for firepower.

The second skill is ray of frost, a steady beam that coats your enemies in Michigan's frigid winter weather. The damage from it builds over time, but ray of frost is not as hard-hitting or quick as magic missiles. Instead, its use is to slow down and gradually freeze solid your enemy, giving you a precious second or two to get away or prepare a stronger attack. I didn't end up using ray of frost too much, although I absolutely loved the visual effect of seeing an enemy freeze up (especially the larger bosses!).

An ice spell I did come to love was chill strike, a bowling ball-like attack that has you wind up and launch a nasty chunk of ice across the room. It not only hits hard but flings enemies away from you if they're lightweight enough. This was a good alpha strike to take out a standard henchmen from a group right from the get-go.

The first true "control" skill you'll get is entangling force, which is pretty much the Darth Vader force choke. It lifts an enemy in the air, takes it out of commission, and does a bit of damage. The duration on it is pretty short, however, making it more useful as an interrupt than anything else.

Choosing between the two initial daily powers is tough, let me tell you. Ice storm causes a wide radius of frosty shards to shoot up from the ground and knock everything away from you with big damage. It's an excellent room-clearer, especially when you're fighting a boss with multiple henchmen.

But I much preferred oppressive force because it's like letting loose a powerful electromagnet that sucks everything into the center of the room before exploding outward. Aside from the visuals, the spell causes several crucial seconds of daze on enemies.

Handson with Neverwinter's Control Wizard
You can't touch me, you can't touch me

As I said previously, getting hit as a Control Wizard is a troublesome prospect. It's best to always, always be at range, which means that mastering the class' dodge skill is a must, not a suggestion.

Control Wizards get a Nightcrawler-esque teleport skill that instantly wooshes you forward, backward, or to the side based on your preference. You can use teleport about three times in rapid succession before you'll need to wait for it to recharge. I almost always used it to scoot backward 15 feet or so, fire off a few more spells, and teleport once more. For boss fights, it's essential to always stay out of range.

Final thoughts

While I truly wish I'd had more time with the Control Wizard, five or so hours with the class convinced me that it was an absolute hoot to play. It may be one of the quicker classes to hit the mat and cry uncle, but the trade-off for powerful ranged damage and control abilities make it a formidable pick. In a group where front-line fighters can provide a valuable screen for the ranged folk, I think a Control Wizard would absolutely excel.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?

This article was originally published on Massively.