Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - Class Preview Guide

We take a look at the fifth and final class offered up during Neverwinter's closed beta: the Great Weapon Fighter

Neverwinter's Great Weapon Fighter Class Preview Guide

closed beta phase is over now, and it has been a fun and informative
experience. During the three beta weekends, I got a chance to try all five
of the character classes and to put some serious time into three of those
for the sake of research. It seems fitting, then, that I ended my closed
beta experience with the class I found the most fun and engaging - the Great
Weapon Fighter

This is not a class that requires a lot of careful, deliberate thought.
Not compared to the other classes, anyway. The Guardian
is required to strike a balance between offense and defense,
and to take measures to keep his teammates protected during group content.
The Devoted
has to divide his attention between smiting the foes of his
god with righteous fury and using his holy purity to heal wounds. The

Rogue has to try to find that most effective path to deliver his
devastating stealth-stab, and the Control
has to "shape" his attacks in a specific way and build stacks
of buffs and debuffs to achieve the desired effect. The Great Weapon
Fighter, now... he pretty much just hits stuff with his giant-ass sword
until it dies. If the situation calls for special tactics, his tactic is
to hit harder and/or faster.

It may sound simplistic - and it is, in a way - but the Great Weapon
Fighter plays a lot more dynamically than it sounds. As with any class,
the incautious and ill-prepared will not fare well, and having a set of
long-term plans will help make the earlier choices seem easier. 

Great Weapon Fighter Class Overview

As a primary dealer of raw melee damage, your main goal is dishing out
the hurt as effectively as possible. That's not all that hard to do,
really. The giant two-hander sword takes care of that fairly well. Some
people refer to the class as a "skinny barbarian," but that label is
inaccurate. The focus of the Great Weapon Fighter is Area of
Effect (AoE)
damage - spreading large amounts of damage over
several adjacent targets - while still retaining the class progression of
the base Fighter class. The Trickster Rogue will deal more damage against
single targets, but in situations with a lot of mobs in a confined space
(such as basically any dungeon ever designed), the Great Weapon Fighter
will come out on top of the Damage Dealt leaderboard.

Defense Shmefense

In the eyes of the Great Weapon Fighter, the best defense is an
overpowering offense. The class has two abilities that can be loosely
described as "defensive," but everything else is geared towards dishing
out big, steaming platefuls of hurt.

Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - Sprint ability

The Great Weapon Fighter's Shift-key ability is Sprint,
which uses Stamina. The Stamina meter is the tiny chevron atop the flaming
d20, top-center of the toolbar. A full Stamina bar gives a good second or
so of full-steam running. This can be used in smaller chunks, similar to
the Trickster Rogue's roll or the Control Wizard's teleport, so you don't
have to burn through all of your Stamina at once and can perform several
micro-Sprints during a long boss fight.

This can be used defensively to avoid damage, but is rarely necessary -
usually the character can just sidestep out of the way at normal speeds.
However, because many attack animations root the character in place for a
time, the occasional burst of speed can save a lot of healing potions.
Sprint can also be used to close in on an enemy quickly before that enemy
has time to take notice and launch a ranged attack. A well-timed Sprint
gets the Great Weapon Fighter right up in his foe's grill to draw first
blood. This was my primary use of Sprint during the beta; I used it only
sparingly during boss fights to avoid taking damage, and even then usually
only to kite until my health potions were cooled down and ready to use
again. Mostly, though, I used it to launch myself at the enemy and get the
first hit in.

Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - nearly-full Determination meter


The other key "defensive" ability is Unstoppable, which
is permanently bound to the Tab skill slot. This skill is gained at level
10, and is fueled by Determination, which is built up by taking damage and
killing enemies. The Determination meter, indicated by a split meter to
the left of the character, must fill up to 50% or more before Unstoppable
can be used - when the sword-axe lights up, you're good to go. This
functions like a "Rage"-type ability - attack speed is much faster (but
does less damage per hit), and the character takes less damage for the
duration of the effect. The amount of damage mitigated by Unstoppable
depends on how full the Determination meter was when the skill is used. At
50% Determination, the mitigation is fairly low, but at 100% it is
significant. It also makes the character immune to controlling effects for
a short time, making it particularly valuable in PvP.

Great Weapon Fighters wear scale armor, which is tougher and more
resilient than the leather armor of Trickster Rogues but less sturdy than
the plate armor of the Guardian Fighter. Theoretically, this means the
Great Weapon Fighter can "off-tank" in a pinch. While they don't have any
specific threat-building attacks, Great Weapon Fighters can build up loads
of threat with AoE attacks. They can't absorb and mitigate long periods of
sustained damage like Guardian Fighters, but they can build up
Determination and pop Unstoppable if given plenty of support by healers.

Raging Offense

Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - AOE attack arc

The Great Weapon Fighter is a balls-to-the-walls melee DPSer with a heavy
focus on area-effect attacks. This guy is not an artful fencer who parries
and ripostes in a duel - he hurls himself at a group of bad guys and
swings for the fences, hitting everything around him with brutal
roundhouse swings of his massive sword. Most of the Great Weapon Fighter's
attacks are multiple-target area attacks, with a few strong single-target
attacks for boss fights and such.

This class is actually somewhat weaker in single-enemy fights than some
other classes - particularly the Trickster Rogue, which deals enormous
damage to single targets. But in fights with lots of enemies, the Great
Weapon Fighter is a friggin' beast. At low levels, he can take out entire
enemy groups with one charged-up swing of a Reaping Strike,
an At-Will skill that requires a second of channeling to charge up and
then unleashes a brutal swing in a full 360-degree arc. Even at later
levels, fights against regular "trash" mobs don't last very long and
seldom require the expenditure of Encounter or Daily attacks. A 3-hit Wicked
combo is usually enough. Of course, the Great Weapon
Fighter can certainly handle his own in a one-on-one fight as well. Sure
has a much narrower arc and slashes quickly, doing
slightly more damage in a more focused zone.

Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - AOE hits

The ultimate cost of all-out offense is a reduced capacity for damage
avoidance. Attacks are slower, and the character is either rooted in place
or forced to follow their momentum while the animation plays.
Consequently, Great Weapon Fighters will want to stock up on as many
health potions as they can afford. In my own personal experience, I found
I had plenty for the first 14 or so levels, but when the difficulty ramped
up in the Tower District, fighting lots of orcs and ogres, I burned
through my reserves very quickly and had to buy a ton of them from the


As of the beta weekend, the only common weapon available to Great Weapon
Fighters was the greatsword. There were a few other weapons available - I
saw one rare-quality greatclub drop in a Cloak Tower run - but these were
the very rare exception, and the big-ass sword was the rule.

Neverwinter Great WEapon Fighter - Equipment

The offhand item is a "sword knot," the icon for which looks like a
tassle. Presumably this is affixed to the pommel of the sword somehow. It
is not shown on the character model and only functions as a bundle of

The Great Weapon Fighter uses scale armor, which is between the Trickster
Rogue's leather armor and the Guardian Fighter's plate armor. It is heavy
enough to allow the character to fight on the frontlines and absorb a bit
of a beating, but not enough to withstand a sustained ass-kicking. The
Great Weapon Fighter has the Hit Dice and physical endurance of the
Fighter base class, but he is not built for a protective, supportive role.
At least, not until the player starts stacking defensive feats and picks
the defensive paragon path.

Strength (STR) is the main stat for this class, contributing
significantly to damage output. Races with an inherent STR bonus
(half-orcs, dwarves and humans) can start out with a superhuman STR score
of 20, which gives them a slight edge in this class. Dexterity (DEX) also
contributes to damage output, and a bit to damage avoidance, and
Constitution (CON) contributes to total Hit Points and some kinds of
damage resistances. These three should be your focus when leveling up.

There are essentially two paths you can take for gearing up: increasing
your damage output or augmenting your mediocre defenses. Power, Critical
Strike and Armor Penetration all make your massive hits even massive-er.
Stacking Recovery, Defense and Deflect will improve your ability to take
hits, but you will still need to pick mainly defensive feats if you plan
on trying to off-tank.

My choice was to crank up the damage, slotting gear and enchantments with
Armor Penetration and Critical Strike bonuses first and foremost. I didn't
stack up on Life Steal this time, having seen less-than-satisfying results
from it on my previous two classes... but the little bit I did have from
one enchantment had a much higher health return due to the much higher
damage output. If I had stacked it beyond that one enchantment, I probably
could have done without my healer companion. 

Neverwinter's Great Weapon Fighter Class Preview Guide


Tips & Tricks

Overall, it's kind of tough to play this class wrong, but there are some
subtleties to master. Solo play is very similar to group play and
shouldn't require a specialized toobar setup, but you may want to tailor
your skill set to match the type of fights you are expecting.

Street Sweeper

This setup works best for general questing and running group content,
where you will be expected to fight a lot of weaker mobs at once. Speed is
not a big issue here, since you can take a bit of a beating before you run
into any real danger.

Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - sweeping AOE attack, 4 hits

Try Wicked Strike and Reaping Strike as your At-Will skills. Wicked
Strike works for everything, but Reaping Strike is kind of an odd duck and
is best reserved for use against groups of standard landscape mobs.
Reaping Strike takes a bit to charge up, but when it is released it
strikes everything all the way around the character, and will one-shot
weak mobs. 

For Encounter skills, try Not So Fast, Roar
and Daring Shout. Not So Fast is a fairly powerful
360-degree swing that debuffs the targets' run speed, and is strong enough
to one-shot weak mobs if it crits. Roar is a frontal cone attack that
sounds like the lion roar at the end of those Harlem Shake videos, and
pushes away any enemies caught in its cone. Daring Shout is an AoE debuff.

For Daily skills, there are no poor choices. Most of them are strong AoE
attacks. The ones I used most often for group battles were Spinning
- not because it does stellar damage, but because I was
a huge Tasmanian Devil fan when I was a kid - and Slam,
which creates a hefty damage-over-time zone centered on the character
while still allowing me to beat the crap out of stuff. 

Boss Battler

Speed and focused attacks are the key for solo boss battles. Channeled
attacks like Reaping Strike are less effective against enemies with a lot
of knockbacks and such, and wide-arc AoEs tend to do less damage to single

Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - big crit

I ended up using Sure Strike much more often against elites and bosses.
This At-Will skill blasts two quick upward slashes at the target and
follows up with a massive downward slam. The first two strikes are fast
and deadly, and give me time to move out of the way of the enemy's next
attack without sacrificing too much of my own damage output.

For Encounter powers, I found Restoring Strike to be
outstanding. This is a nice ability to use right after you've ducked out
of the path of an enemy's big channeled attack and can hit him from the
flanks before it goes off. It gives a small self-heal, but more
importantly, it does a truckload of damage and seems to have a high crit
rate for big hits. Takedown is another good boss
Encounter power, but moreso for landscape elites and other tough mobs that
are not immune to knockdowns and CC. Mighty Leap
and Punishing Charge are also decent for boss fights,
allowing the Great Weapon Fighter to throw himself back into the thick of
the fight after a knockback.

Later Game

Because of my experience in the Tower District, chugging healing potions
one after another like a raver guzzling Red Bull, I went with a Cleric
Disciple as my first companion. I noticed the difference right away, and
basically stopped using potions except during particularly challenging
fights. The other pets are probably fine also if you don't mind supporting
your nasty potion habit, but the healer pet is the only one I would

Neverwinter Great Weapon Fighter - Feats & Paragon Paths


The three paragon paths show a kind of playstyle split in the class. I
went with the Destroyer path since it enhances damage output, but I could
foresee buying feats in one of the other paths as well to augment my
abilities. The Sentinel path bolsters the Great Weapon Fighter's defensive
abilities, making him more capable of tanking, and affects how Unstoppable
works as well.

For PvP matches, the ideal build will focus on tweaking Unstoppable -
feats that increase Determination gain, for example - and on focused
attacks rather than broad AOEs. PvP players don't tend to gang up in
convenient clusters like enemy NPCs do, so strong single-target attacks
are much more valuable. Mobility is also a chief factor, so the
anti-controlling aspects of Unstoppable, combined with the Sprint ability
and the effects of skills like Punishing Charge and Mighty Leap, make the
Great Weapon Fighter a force to be reckoned with in Domination matches.

Did you figure out any cool tricks for the Great Weapon Fighter? Share
them in our comments!

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