Neverwinter Preview: Redesigning The Forgotten Realms
Cryptic Studios has a long history of creating MMOs, and Perfect World Entertainment has a ton of experience in the free-to-play market. Put these two companies together, and what do you get? Well, today at PAX East you get Neverwinter, the newest game in the classic Wizards of the Coast campaign setting. Before you get confused, you should know that this is not Neverwinter Nights 3. It’s a whole new game, set in a wholly different version of the Forgotten Realms.
Fans of Forgotten Realms will find things have changed a bit in the world of Neverwinter. We’re now 100 years in the future, and the Spellplague has decimated the lands. These are the same changes that WotC introduced in the 4th Edition version of their venerable campaign setting. You will recognize the classes, as they’re staples of the Dungeons & Dragons world. You’ll be able to choose from a Fighter, Wizard, or Rogue, with more classes slated to be revealed. You’ll also feel right at home with the races – human, half-elf, elf, drow, dwarf and tiefling – as they represent those races that have been present in D&D for years.
Players will be dropped into a persistent, open world, but Neverwinter is not your traditional MMO. Instead of a traditional locking target, button-pressing combat system, Neverwinter embraces the recent trend towards action-based MMOs. Utilizing a combat control scheme similar to that of The Witcher 2, Neverwinter binds at-will actions to the left and right mouse buttons. More powerful powers are activated using key bindings, and all your attacks are targeted at the on-screen crosshair. The camera system can be a little disorienting at first, but once you get the hang of it, the pace of combat is actually quite good. Performing actions that are core to your characters (for example, a rogue dodging attacks) will fill a meter shaped like a twenty-sided die. Once it’s full, you can unleash your most powerful attacks. The control wizard we played would pull all the weapons from nearby enemies and then unleash a wave of damaging magic. All the attacks are seamless, and can easily be executed with just one hand.
So, if you’re executing these powers, where do they come from? While the details weren’t explicit, we did learn that as you level, you’ll earn more powers than you can actually equip. Choosing which ones to slot before going adventuring will be a big part of playing your character. The developers weren’t sure how the system to reslot would work just yet, but they did say that it would be easier than going all the way back to town (Like Guild Wars), but not as easy as Rift’s switch-on-the-fly system. Neverwinter will also have a feat system that will work much like the talent trees in other MMOs. We didn’t get much information on it, but more info should be forthcoming soon.
To help support the social aspect of Neverwinter, Cryptic plans to include a very interesting feature that they call the Landing Page. This is an in-game panel that will show you recommended quests for your character, upcoming events and more. You can queue for the events from here, try to find a group for a dungeon, or just see what’s going on. Using the calendar option, you can see events scheduled for the future, making it easy to plan your adventures to accommodate them. All of these features are things that you’d expect from just about any MMO hitting the market these days, but the next one is something that you won’t see in most any MMO.
Although Neverwinter is not Neverwinter Nights 3, it is faithful to the name in one very important way: The Foundry. What’s the Foundry? Quite simply, it’s a toolset that lets users generate their own content for Neverwinter. whether you want to build out a single quest or an entire series, you’ll be able to write the quest, choose the NPC that offers it, and then sit back and watch other players try it out. Details on the Foundry were scarce, so all we can say for now is that it does exist, and it does sound awesome.
Neverwinter will be free-to-play, but just like everyone seems to be saying lately, Cryptic stressed that it would not be pay-to-win. They didn’t provide a lot of detail on the business model other than that except to say that they would ‘probably’ sell things like cosmetics and boosters. I think you can expect a similar business model to other Cryptic F2P titles, but we’ll have to wait and see on the specifics. The lanch date is still up in the air, but we were told today that it would be out this year.
All in all, Neverwinter is best described as a fantasy MMORPG, with some action RPG elements mixed in. The hands on time we got with it today was good, but we’ll have to see a lot more content before we can render a final judgment. Still, the idea of being able to create our own content is awfully compelling. I just hope Cryptic can make it as fulfilling as Neverwinter Nights’ user-generated content was. If they can, they may find themselves the subject of much interest.