ZAM goes dungeon delving through Cryptic's Forgotten Realms based MMO
As part of the press beta event to showcase Neverwinter, I had the good fortune to go running through the first of the D&D based MMO's dungeons yesterday.
After meeting up at the Hall of Justice in the Protector's Enclave (which you can see in the screenshots included), we prepared for our five person adventure.
Playing a Guardian Fighter, I was boosted up to level 16 by one of the very accomodating Cryptic devs such as Zeke Sparks. Then, along with some other games journalists, including Bill Murphy and Garrett Fuller of MMORPG, we hacked, slashed and romped our way through a variety of enemies including some fun boss encounters.
The Guardian played very nicely, a true tank class (which is close to my meatshield heart) with a variety of abilities to mitigate damage, cause threat on multiple targets and dish out a pretty substantial amount of DPS.
Although you don't have to be a full on lump of rock as a Guardian, you can choose to customize your character to be more damage focused through the ability trees, which I will go into more detail on in a later article.
For evidence of that, check out the very cool leaderboard overview that is presented at the end of each dungeon to evaluate who you did in contributing to the group. Including damage taken, damage caused, healing done and more.
Neverwinter's mouse click combat (left click for main hand attack, right click for a shield attack for the Guardian, which weakens foes) was very fluid and easy to use. As I comment in the video at one point, I had to remind myself that I had abilities on the Q, E and R buttons because mouse attacks feel so natural.
The keyboard activated abilities are cool though, the Q charge attack got me into combat quick and also had a very satisfying knockback component when used as a finisher -- you can see me putting some NPCs into nearby walls at times.
The dungeon itself felt very Dungeons and Dragons, in a good way. Staying aware had its benefits beyond just spotting crowds of mobs early. For example, one of my fellow dungeoneers, a Trickster Rogue, was able to pick locks on some of the chests scattered around the dungeon. I spotted a sneaky alcove hiding treasure at one point, called him back and he got a nice piece of loot for his trouble.
That might not seem like a big deal, but making the contents of the dungeon not entirely obvious adds depth and a sense that you're not fighting throughh an open plan IKEA store.
The Cryptic devs repeatedly talked about the importance of D&D authenticity and I think they've done a good job in that direction.
Combat could do with some further polish, this is early beta after all. There are some moments of animation lock where the last swing of a sword impairs the ability to move out of the way of an AOE attack, for example, but the NPC abilities are telegraphed excellently and combat on the whole works well, both solo and in group dynamics.
Having played so much Guild Wars 2 lately, going back to the Holy Trinity felt like putting on a pair of old slippers, in that it was very familiar and comfortable. I have to say getting to be a tank again felt good.
Having a dedicated healer was certainly needed as though you can use potions, they will not keep you alive indfinitely, their cooldowns being enough to make their emergency usage vital but avoiding the danger of some F2P MMOs where they become a constant crutch.
Speaking of healers, it's safe to say the the Devoted Cleric is the previously unreleased fifth class for launch seeing one of them was keeping me upright on a regular basis through the run.
Balance also seems to be going well, if the first dungeon run was anything to go by, as the trash mobs increased in difficulty as we went along and we barely managed to take down the final boss, with strategic and well timed use of my abilities making a genuine difference in turning the tide of battle, which is as it should be.
The majority of my play time yesterday was focused on the dungeon run and it left me with positive thoughts on the game as a whole.
I'll bring you further impressions on Neverwinter over the next few days as I look at the rest of the game.