The 1st Beta Weekend is behind us and so much information floating all over the internet about the game in all kind of forms; text and videos. Personally, I didn’t have the chance to participate in this beta weekend, but I spend some time watching some gameplay footage from the guys who played the game.
The first and most important thing that I noticed in Neverwinter gameplay is the development level which invested for a Free-to-Play (F2P) game. It is so incredible that a free game has so detailed development in terms of gameplay. This bring us full – circled on an article I published 2 week ago about the payment models in MMOs; Goblin’s Corner: P2P vs F2P.
The graphics in Neverwinter aren’t something special. They aren’t the best graphics but also they aren’t the worst. For a F2P game, they are quite pretty and I believe most players will talk positively about it. Also, players who played on beta said that FPS was quite smooth for the most part of their game session.
- Ability Scores Screen
Abilities are determined by your class, but also by a roll dice at Ability Scores Screen. Cryptic wanted the DnD element to be strong in Neverwinter and such a feature is a must to have. Players also have the chance to re-roll the dice on this screen if they aren’t happy with their stats. Finally, at the bottom of the attribute screen players have to make a choice between 2 racial skills which give certain bonuses to the character’s attributes.
- Appearance Pre-sets Screen
In this screen the player can chose from a variety of pre-set looks before he goes into more in depth customization.
- Customise Appearance
After the choice of pre-set look is made, we go into more detailed customisation. In this screen the changes that can be made to the character are countless, from body shaping to face scaling. The customisation options Neverwinter offers to the player are so rich and detailed and in some cases even overpass GW2 in this regard.
- Character Origins & Deity Affiliation
On the next screen, the player has to choose a place of birth, which at the current state of the game will provide additional background info about the character’s lore. He also needs to choose a god. The game doesn’t have the option of the traditional DnD alignment (Lawful – Neutral – Chaotic). Instead, it gives this feeling through the choice of a god who is linked to such alignments.
On the last screen, when the player needs to pick a name for his character, he also has the option to add personality to his character by filling up his character’s biography. That’s another DnD element into the game.
Character Creation is an important part for a DnD game and Cryptic made sure that this element is strong into player’s eyes just from the beginning. Some hardcore DnD fans may claim that Character Creation is poor compare to other traditional DnD games. I will partly agree. Bear in mind that Neverwinter isn’t meant to be a pure DnD game. It’s more MMO with DnD elements on it. They cover the basics of DnD, but not all the detailed features that a DnD game has. On top of that, for a F2P game, they did pretty good job. Let not forget that the game will be available for download and play absolutely free. Besides, the Character Origins may have more details once the game goes live. With all these points in mind, this section of the game is well polished.
USER INTERFACE & UTILITY
- User Interface
UI is completely customisable. Every single window can be re-arranged to player’s needs.
- Audio – iTunes
In audio options, there is a special feature which allows players to play their iTunes or winamp songs directly from the game.
The game is also compatible with additional accessories beside mouse & keyboard, such as joysticks and controllers. So if a player wishes to play the game through his controller or joystick, he will be able to do it.
- Build In Voice Chat
There is also the option of Voice Chat Communication directly from the game. Something like PlanetSide 2, Lord of The Rings and Dungeon and Dragons. This is a nice feature for small groups to communicate without using applications outside the game.
- Quest Guide
Another cool feature which enhances gameplay in a fun way is the Quest Guide. It’s something similar that EverQuest 2 has; a yellow line guides the player to the destination of a certain quest. This feature is also active through dungeon and shows the way to the end. Although in the dungeon will be additional routes with secret doors and traps, this option helps for a fast progress through the instance.
Pets are additional companions and they can fight along the player to help him. They have levels and progress with the character. They also have some slots to equip them some kind of gear and become even stronger.
Mounts exist in Neverwinter as in most other MMOs out there. Although there isn’t enough info about them yet, there are mount vendors across the Neverwinter world which can sell a variety of mounts. Besides the plain and simply mounts, I suppose will be additional mounts to get acquired through the shop as I think this feature of an MMO can sell pretty nice to players.
- Shrine Stones
Shrine Stones are objects around the Neverwinter world and they are pretty much alike the Vistas in GW2 to give a panoramic view. They use the same mechanic but I am not sure if they require the same effort to get them such as climbing and jumping above rocks and nasty places.
- 60 Levels Max
There are 60 levels of PvE progress into the game, mirroring the traditional 20 levels in DnD environment. Personally, this part annoys me a bit. I know that 20 levels aren’t enough for an MMO, but they could have mini dings in those 20 levels. Although that mechanic won’t be appealed to most MMO players, the 20 levels cap (visually and practically) is very important into DnD universe.
COMBAT & THE HOTBAR
The combat is quite fluid in Neverwinter. It doesn’t offer anything new to an MMO player, but in the same time, it doesn’t turn the player off. To put it simply; the combat meets the MMO criteria of 2013. It combines elements from TERA Online, such as the targeting mechanic and GW2 such as dodging and red circles on the ground indicating powerful incoming attacks. It gives a lot of movement around and moves away from the stereotype stabled combat we used in older MMOs like WoW and SWTOR.
- The Hotbar
The Hotbar is also quite unique and easy to understand. At the top center there is a big dice which once fill up, the player can use his/her daily powers. These powers take 2 slots in Hotbar located right and left from the big dice. Directly below the dice, there are 3 more slots which are available for Encounter Powers. From the right side of Encounter Powers there are 2 more additional slots for the right and left mouse button. These slots are used for At Will Powers. At the left side of Encounter Powers there is the Tab ability. This is the special ability for each class and its mechanic varies from class to class.
POWERS & FEATS
Powers represent skills in Neverwinter; active and passive. There are 5 panels of powers into the game:
- At Will Powers
These skills are for right & left mouse buttons. They don’t require any resources to be used and can be used constantly. Basically, they are the common skills which used most of the time.
- Class Powers
These are specific skills to each class. Most of them are passive, but also include the special TAB skill which is set by default in the hotbar.
- General Skills
These are utility skills like trap and secret doors detection, disarming traps etc.
- Encounter Powers
These are medium power skills which are used in the 3 slots in the hotbar directly below the big dice. These skills have a cooldown so they can’t be spammed like the At-Will Powers.
- Daily Powers
These skills are the most powerful in the game. They require the dice to be full to be able to use and can only be equipped 2 at a time.
Feats are pretty much the traditional specialisation for every character. Feats are split into 2 major categories; Heroics & Paragons. Heroics are the starter feats and Paragons are more advanced feats. Every category have 3 lines of specialisation. To be able to move into a specific Paragon line, a player need to spent a certain amount of points into the corresponding Heroic line.
Every class has its own mechanic which enhances the combat periodically. Because in beta were only 3 classes available to play, we can’t comment for the other 2 class mechanics. This special mechanic – ability for each class is accessible through the TAB button in some cases. There is also an indication of the resource in a graphical arch bar which appears on the left side of the character.
- Guardian Fighter – Block
Guardian’s block mitigates all incoming damage until the arch bar is empty. Guardians have to careful not use block to often into powerful attacks because their block bar will drain fast and won’t be able to block soon enough. Of course there are skills which help the bar to regen fast and such, but especially in boss fights, it’s wise to avoid the fatality attacks instead of blocking them.
- Devoted Cleric – Channel Divinty (accessed by TAB button)
While the cleric is on this mode:
- The normal At-Will powers are being replaced by Punishing Light and Soothing Light.
- Encounter Powers become more powerful and gain enhanced effects.
- When Encounter Powers used on this mode, they require 1 divine symbol
The arch bar on the left side of the Cleric it fills up with divine power everytime the cleric uses a skill in the normal mode. Every time the bar is full, 1 divine symbol will be appearing just next to the arc bar. 3 divine symbols are the max amount that can be acquired at any given time, at the current state of the game.
- Trickster Rogue – Stealth (accessed by TAB button)
Trickster Rogue in Stealth mode has combat advantage over his enemies, which means his abilities hit harder. His arch bar on left side of Trickster Rogue regens when the rogue is in normal mode. Once the bar is full, the Trickster Rogue can go into stealth mode. While in this mode, the arch bar drains out and once it’s empty, the Trickster Rogue is out of stealth. It’s pretty simple mechanic.
There is a variety of Dungeons in Neverwinter; solo and grouped dungeons but also special dungeons called “Dungeon Delvs”.
The Dungeon Delvs are dungeons designed for the highest level of a current zone. For example, in a zone of 1-16 levels, it will be a Dungeon Delv for level 16 players. Each zone has 1 of such dungeon. They designed to be a 20-40 mins run based on group and level. According on what developers said, the challenges and the rewards are the greatest in those dungeons. From what we saw through the beta, this first Dungeon Delv called “The Cloak Tower” was quite ok, but I couldn’t say it was “challenging”. There were interesting paths with overlapping walls and narrow corridors which made the trip through the dungeon fun. Although, the boss encounters didn’t offer anything special. All bosses beside the last boss had a poor movement around the space and the tough part from all of them was the adds instead of bosses themselves.
Of course was only a beta weekend and of course was only the 1st dungeon which labelled as tough. Maybe later on will see some real challenges through those dungeons or maybe when the game is live the encounters would be more polished.
The Foundry Content feature is another cool element that Neverwinter supports. Although this feature isn’t new to MMO community, we already see it on EQ2 and in some other MMOs, is a good addition to the game; especially to a F2P MMO.
The Foundry Content includes a variety of special events which happens randomly across the Neverwinter world. These events could be PvE or PvP. There are some bars on the mini map which indicates what type of event is going to be live and how long from the current time. When these events are completed in a certain time frame, they can give extra rewards to the players along with the usual xp and loot rewards for completion.
Those events will be designed by players and everyone will have the option to rate any of these events. There is also the option to “donate” the creator for his/her time to create those contents for the community. For more info about the Foundry Content, you can follow the link here.
Overall, Neverwinter is a nice polished F2P MMO. The main elements of MMO work pretty well and some additions like Foundry Content looks great on paper. The game doesn’t offer anything revolutionary to MMO community but it delivers an ordinary MMO by meeting at least the standard requirements from what an MMO gamer expects in 2013. Unfortunately, PvP wasn’t ready to be tested in that Beta Weekend so we can’t comment on this. Nonetheless, without knowing what kind of impact the shop will have into the game later on, I can say, Neverwinter is quite promising for a completely F2P game.