Fast-Paced Fantasy MMO Action (E3 2012)
The name Neverwinter brings back a lot of memories. I played plenty of BioWare's Neverwinter Nights back in the day, so when I asked at the Perfect World E3 booth if Neverwinter had anything to do with the old series, they told me straight out "no". Does Neverwinter base itself deeply and richly into the Dungeons & Dragons mythos? Yes. Does it have all those familiar aspects of Dungeons & Dragons fans could hope for? You bet. Is it any thing like an old-school isometric RPG? Not at all.
Neverwinter is a free-to-play action MMO. I was a bit skeptical at first, and I was told that was the basic reaction most gamers had before sitting down to play. However, that's Perfect World's intention: to show the western world that a free-to-play game can be just as good as any major studio game you'd find on the store shelf or for which you'd pay a monthly fee. They want to show this world that free-to-play games can be developed by a major studio and be absolutely stellar. I can tell you right now, after five minutes of gameplay, I was hooked on Neverwinter.
We got our hands on a fighter class, a stealth class, and a magic user. This is not the type of MMO where you'll sit back chowing down on CornNuts while you click a mouse button and hit a few keyboard buttons every now and then. Neverwinter is an intense action RPG. Each character has a slew of abilities, each unique to that class. As the stealth class, I was not only able to sneak attack enemies as expected, but I was also able to slash away, then click the right mouse button and evaporate in a puff of black smoke and appear behind my attacker mid-battle, narrowly dodging their sword swing. What I loved best about Neverwinter was that the action was absolutely tight, and combining this into an MMO so you can play in a huge world with other players is wonderful. There is a huge map with plenty of places to explore, and plenty of variety of play styles with each character. The developers have done a fine job in not weighing the player down with a ton of different attacks or abilities. When you are in the heat of battle, everything you ever need to do is within reach of your fingertips. All of the moves, magics, and items can easily be accessed and are completely refined. Neverwinter is an action game, but the PC keyboard / mouse controls lend themselves to amazing and slick execution.
There was also no skimping on the maps and locations. We walked through an amazing-looking map, attacked by gnolls and wolves. I remember in one instance I looked across the cliffs and saw the shadows of more wolves coming down the mountain; those shadows were projected up on the cliff sides, intimidating all below. Dungeons & Dragons fans will feel right at home here, but even those who have never dipped a single toe into the world of D&D will find the mythos and stories worked into this game will still make sense to them.
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.
Those who are familiar with MMOs will find Neverwinter doesn't do anything too strange or odd, yet it brings something completely new and exciting to the genre. Those fans of long-winded, slow-moving MMOs which turn into grindfests may still enjoy it, but Neverwinter showed me that fast-paced, console-like action can be applied to a PC-based MMO. Missions are quick, and even the longest dungeons shouldn't take more than an hour, so this will be a great game for those trying to hop in and hop out before bedtime, or weekend warriors ready to do battle. We were promised though, that there will be enough to keep you going and exploring for days on end if you choose to go for a gaming marathon.
I have to say, after demoing Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter, I am super excited for it, ready to hop on the beta as soon as it opens. You really do need get past the free-to-play stigma and hop on board, because if Neverwinter catches on, we'll all see the direction free-to-play is headed.
Three things describe Rando: Good beer, good food, and video games. On occasion, Rando flies a zeppelin through time seeking power crystals.
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