Neverwinter is gearing up for its third beta weekend starting this Friday, March 22, and will be unveiling a couple of new things: the long-awaited Great Weapon Fighter class and the Player-versus-Player system. At Wednesday's press event, the focus was squarely on the PvP.
Our group, led by Cryptic Art Lead Joe Jing, started off with a skirmish in Helm's Hold. We were all insta-leveled to 31 in preparation for the press event, so this skirmish was a good way to get a feel for shiny new higher-level characters. The group consisted of two Great Weapon Fighters, a Guardian Fighter, a Devoted Cleric and Joe Jing's Trickster Rogue.s
Helm's Hold was a pretty interesting skirmish. A group of Ashmadai cultists are summoning devils for some foul plot. The players are tasked with barging in there and cleaning up the place, culminating in a pitched battle with a giant, nasty Pit Fiend boss. Our tank-heavy group blasted through the skirmish with barely a hitch. Well... okay, I died once or twice due to utter lack of caution and unfamiliarity with a new character class. But other than that.
While we rolled through the skirmish, Joe Jing explained that the developers working on the game - himself included - are proper Dungeons & Dragons fans who are enjoying the hell out of their work, and that they are attempting to remain as faithful to the published 4th Edition material as possible. Obviously, with Neverwinter's game mechanics being as different as they are from the actual tabletop D&D, some liberties have to be taken - monsters have thousands of Hit Points instead of merely hundreds, for example. But if a creature's entry in the Monster Manual mentions a special attack, you can bet that the Neverwinter version has it, too.
Once the skirmish was completed, we queued up for a match of PvP. Neverwinter will be using instanced PvP with a variety of maps. The map we got into was Hotenow Domination, a 5-versus-5 domination map requiring taking and holding three control points.
Gameplay in the Hotenow Domination map was pretty straightforward: stand near the control pylons until they turn the color of your team. Nobody has to stand there channeling them or anything like that, just having the team standing in the circle around the pylon is enough. The bulk of the fighting will take place around the central pylon, but sneaky teams can worm their way around and capture the opposite team's "home" pylon to the north or south.
PvP maps use level scaling. All players will be scaled up to match the highest-level participant. The median level of our group was 31 - except for Joe, we were all running new toons freshly auto-leveled to 31. When we got into the PvP match, we were cranked up to 34
Domination-style maps tend to favor tank-heavy groups, which can soak up more damage and occupy control points for longer. Great Weapon Fighters are not quite as tank-y as Guardian Fighters, having no shields and lighter armor, but they can certainly hold their own in an extended melee, and dish out a world of hurt while doing it.
Our blue team had two Great Weapon Fighters and a Guardian Fighter, with a healer and a sneaky striker for backup. The red team had a nearly identical team to ours, but had another Great Weapon Fighter instead of a Devoted Cleric, and they had two devs. Somehow, we ended up creaming them - our healer got nearly as many kills as their top guy. I placed near the bottom - I'm terrible at PvP and didn't rack up a lot of kills, but I did manage to get the most assists in the match.
At the Q&A session after the festivities, it was revealed that Neverwinter would launch with only Domination-style PvP maps, with other types to come later. Since this style of map tends to favor tank-heavy groups, which have an easier time defending control points, it seems likely that the Fighter classes will have a distinct advantage for the first little while, and will probably rank up faster than the rest.
A few other interesting points were brought up at the Q&A session at the end of the press event. A lot of questions were about the Foundry, which I discussed in an earlier article - how that will work and what will be included with it. While a lot of the details are not yet ready for the public, Cryptic developer "Zinc" was able to share a few tidbits.
For starters, the Foundry will be locked until the player reaches level 15. This is similar to a system in place in Star Trek Online - but not the one for the STO Foundry. The STO Foundry is unlocked by spending 10,000 Dilithium. The Neverwinter Foundry unlock is more like unlocking the Klingon faction. Reach a specific level and it's made available.
From the sounds of it, the Neverwinter Foundry will be somewhat more robust than the toolset in STO, but is otherwise quite similar to it. It will support "limited scripting," allowing module authors to set specific behaviours for select creatures and NPCs.
Beta weekend three will be open to all players with a beta key. Stay tuned here for more info about that, and for our impressions of the newly-revealed Great Weapon Fighter class.