Updated Tue, Jun 12, 2012 by Sardu
I enjoyed my time with Neverwinter on the second day of E3 so much that I knew I’d want to go back for more as time allowed. So on the following day I went back for another full run through the closed room demo which neatly allowed me to experience the game with two of the currently available classes.
The trickster rogue is very agile, with an at-will attack that will cause you to shadowstep behind your target. Double tapping the directional movement keys allows you to dodge, or you can alternatively hit the Shift key while pressing any of the movement keys to dodge in that direction. There’s a very brief cooldown for each of the classes unique dodge skills, but I found I used it fairly frequently.
Combat with the trickster rogue was very fast paced, and it showcased the action combat Cryptic is aiming for perfectly. This isn't your standard MMO rogue that stuns, moves behind the target, backstabs, stuns, rinse, repeat. While you do have the ability to use stealth for short periods, the class offers some of the most active combat I've seen in the genre. You get to spend less time worrying about positioning or running around mobs in circles, and more time being a raw damage dealer which, to be honest, is quite refreshing for the archetype.
I tend to favor casters in most RPGs for various reasons, yet still ended up enjoying the control wizard perhaps even more than I expected to. The gameplay felt like a cross between more of an archetypical elemental magic user combined with some interesting crowd control components. If you’re getting a mental picture here of a WoW frost mage, you can erase that image immediately. While there may technically be some overlap in the usage of cold-based attacks to slow or stop enemies in their tracks, that’s only one part of the ‘control’ aspect of the class.
Instead, think of an elemental mage tossed in a blender with a classic EverQuest enchanter, add a dash of magic missiles, a pinch of SWTOR force choke, and a dab of Rock-em Sock-em Robots, and you’re getting much warmer. The control wizard offers each of these things in varying doses, and allows you to weave them together for some interesting effects.
While solo, both classes had plenty of tools to take down smaller groups of weak enemies with ease, and offered a fun challenge while squared off against a solo dungeon boss at the end of the show demo quest. Perhaps my favorite aspect of combat, and something I immediately picked up on even before our group went into the dungeon, is that Neverwinter never devolves into "playing the UI".
What that means is once you have a solid grasp on your classes core abilities, you don't get bogged down by trying to make split-second decisions about which of 50+ on-screen skills you should be using. Likewise, I'm really loving the default keymapping for combat abilities for perhaps the first time since... ever? In most games I remap at least half of the hotbar skills to my mouse buttons (I use a Razer Naga) but honestly feel that the default key mapping in Neverwinter is one of Cryptic's many crowning achievements with the game so far.
The beta for Neverwinter is expected to hit sometime around early September, and Cryptic still plans to launch before the end of the year. In between now and then, new classes will be revealed. And while I couldn't get any specific confirmation about what they might be, I was given enough of a hint that I think fans will be very pleased indeed.
A recurring theme amongst just about everyone I spoke to during E3 is that Cryptic is excited to finally be working with a publishing partner that is giving them enough time to do the game justice rather than meet an arbitrary deadline that might mean the game launches before its ready. Neverwinter was the best thing at E3 this year, and I'm comforted by the fact that the game is getting the development time it needs before launching.