PAX East 2012 – Neverwinter Online preview

The future of gaming, and the future of the internet really, is user-generated content.  It is the driving force behind survivability and longevity in modern gaming.  There are thousands of games that inundate the market every year and the shelf-life of games has been shortened to anywhere from days, to weeks, to months. It is a rare occurance to see a game?s playability extend into the span of years. But that?s where custom content and mods come in, like the complete Skyrim Overhaul, the Baldur?s Gate 2 Dragon Age remake, and Neverwinter Online?s user generation tool, the ?Foundry.?

But this is just the start of Neverwinter Online?s promise. Their targeted feature set is expansive and, if executed properly, will be an impressive array of both creation and roleplaying properties. Alongside the commonly seen MMORPG elements, Neverwinter hopes to offer what is void in Western markets: a free-to-play MMO action RPG. Below is a list of some of the ambitious features of this new D&D 4E-inspired title:

  • Action-focused combat; this means you have to actually aim at your targets to hit them. The tab-through, auto-target combat is no more!
  • UI indicators to signify enemy attack patterns, ensuring fluidity of combat and reducing the ?stand and hit it until it dies? mentality. This helps tell players when to move, which encourages point-to-point combat and keeps action high.
  • 4E-inspired play ? though the game is not using the turn-based mechanics of D&D, we do see powers with similar names to smooth the learning curve.
  • The as-killed action point system that builds up the equivalent to a Daily power (from 4E) provides players with a high-powered, specialized attack that fully implements the player?s class and its implicated abilities. In our demo, we saw that the control sorcerer?s power attack ripped the weapons from the hands of her foes; we were told that rogue power attacks might include sneakily bouncing between subjects and backstabbing them.
  • Heavy focus on rewarding players for acting in ways that their class might. A control sorcerer, for example, could gain more action points for performing crowd-control abilities and freezes, while a rogue would gain more points for being, you know, a rogue. Sneaky bastards!
  • Dynamic challenges (who can kill the most orcs in the next hour?) and player-centric world events that bring players together to form groups, delve into dungeons, and otherwise explore the world.
  • A 50/50 mixture of open-world content and instanced areas, both of which are playable in groups or alone, but being D&D, groups are encouraged for maximum fun output.
  • Adventure zones act as an overarching container for centralized exploration, featuring both instanced and open world activities, and ending with a ?final boss? type of dungeon that is spec?d for a 5-man team.
  • Super-defined classes that drill-down to be as specific as, similar to what was earlier mentioned, control wizards. The common archetypes that we?ve seen in other MMOs are all present, but the extremely elaborate NWN class system isn?t quite as powerful as what we?re used to. That said, Neverwinter Online isn?t meant to be an immediate successor to NWN.

You can get more information on Neverwinter.

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