|A new MMORPG from Cryptic and Wizards Of The Coast|
Dungeons & Dragons. The Forgotten Realms. Neverwinter. Unless you are another unfortunate group-less gamer like myself these names mean something to you. One is the undisputed measuring stick for most tabletop roleplaying games, likely the first experience for countless gamers across the globe. The other is a setting within that universe and perhaps the most popular one of all time, made famous by both campaign modules and the novels of R.A. Salvatore. And the final is both the namesake of the first ever graphical MMORPG on the internet in addition to the successful video game series for the PC utilizing a wicked Creator Tool kit for customizing your own campaigns. So, when I ran across a game trailer on YouTube for the upcoming MMO by Cryptic Studios and Wizards Of The Coast using this moniker, it sparked my interest.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS : NEVERWINTER is the latest video game offering to use the ever popular WotC tabletop game, though one trying to establish itself as a fresh, new approach to both the MMORPG and the Free-to-Play system. When it goes live it will be, from the start, an entirely free-to-play game from the downloadable client to the in-game content. Sure, various perks will be available for purchase once the game launches, some even before like the three Founder's Pack choices, but if you don't feel like paying for the game - Don't. Unlike some MMOs which cap free players or limit their abilities, D&DN will toss that business out the window and let you have at it.
And if that isn't enough to tighten your gamer pants, the game will also have a CONTENT CREATOR built into it much like Neverwinter Nights. It is called The Foundry and if successfully pulled off could, in this MMO Veteran's opinion, change the game. Ever played through an instance in your favorite MMO and thought, "I could do this better." Well, now you'll have your chance, and Cryptic is putting a system in place for players to rate and even tip campaign creators with in-game currency. Again, possible game changer.
My impressions of this game isn't entirely based on MMO-bias, my love of D&D, or my hope of someone knocking the wonky World Of Warcraft from its stolen perch. In fact, the moment we heard of this and explored further, my beloved wife and I purchased the Guardian's Pack (of the aforementioned Founder's Pack options) in order to experience the OPEN BETA this weekend. We ran around last night getting to level 18 or so before bed, and we had a blast. It's fun, it's a beloved world, and I love the mechanics, but I'll explain in better detail.
Also, I really wanted to get the Hero Of The North pack which comes with all sorts of neat items for game launch and stabs you right in the Drizzt fandom, but the $200 pricetag is too steep for a game still in beta. Maybe if they included access to all Cryptic games or copies of Salvatore books or mailed you a hooded cloak or something I might act on my inner Geek's desires. It's just I can't see paying that much for a free-to-play game still months away from launch. In a market where games flounder before they get out of the gate, it's just too risky. I'd hate to spend the money and see the developers back away from it in a year. Again, I think this game has the potential to be HUGE, but it's a tough in a market with FPS, tons of other free options, idiot gamers, and ELDER SCROLLS ONLINE on the horizon.
But I still weep on the inside... (sighs)
Anyway, gameplay. And first and foremost I must mention the CHARACTER ROLL during Character Creation. Much like rolling your character for tabletop, you will click the button and be assigned starting attributes. There is a Re-Roll option, but I think the number of times you can do this is limited before you are stuck with choosing between the prior rolls. Very nice touch, even if it is (mostly) for nostalgic purposes.
Getting any of the Founder's Packs grants the user access to the Beta Weekends Cryptic is doing to bug test the game before they finalize things and launch. Those not wanting to pay for a pack can still get in on the beta, but it's the usual signup and wait process. When looking things over and realizing we were going to play this game, it just made more sense to buy a pack. Basically, it's the cost of purchasing a game anyway and the money will go into the coffers to help further things along. Well, and we didn't want to miss out on this weekend's events.
Being an uber-gamer veteran of many a D&D campaign, Julie chose her favored CLERIC class. Unlike World Of Warcraft, which stupidly reduced healers to a physically weak, cloth-wearing class, D&D remains true the spirit of the armored devotee. Clerics are not pushovers here. They can call upon the divine to heal your battle wounds and leap into the fray to help with the fight. Granted, they will never possess the hitpoints and strength of a Fighter, but it's nice to see someone besides EVERQUEST do the class somewhat correctly. Also, she chose half-elf because half-elves are cool.
Me, being always at my love's side, decided upon a FIGHTER to pair better with her healing abilities. Normally I choose ROGUES when given the option because I like doing it from behind... Fighting, I mean, but again I expected to tank with her healing me up. It's a perfect combination. And I chose a dwarf because D&D dwarves are fucking brilliant and the idea of a smaller badass beating the crap out of things entertains me.
The tutorial is brief and tips popup whenever something new happens. It's fairly easy to figure your way about, though I assume those wishing for less assistance can turn these off in the settings. I left them on because it's a new game.
Your Powers open up for you the further along you get in levels. Unlike a lot of other games with far too many options or hot buttons forcing you to whip your cursor across the screen like a mad person, D&DN simplifies this with a smaller hot bar. To enable a certain Power, simply drag the icon from your Powers window (located in a tab from your Character Sheet) to one of the available slots in your hot bar. Certain Powers work in certain slots like so:
- The LEFT and RIGHT MOUSE BUTTONS are your At-Will powers available at the start of the game.
- Q works your Encounter power available at level 3. E grants a second at level 5 and R grants a third at level 7. And those improve as you level up granting you the ability to switch them out with other available Encounter powers.
- The 1 and 2 TOP NUMBER keys work your Daily powers, the first available at level 4 with the other opening up at a later level.
- TAB works your Class powers available at level 10.
Also, I should point out Auto-Attack does not exist. In other games a player can mindlessly click a button and do other things while their onscreen equivalent wails away on their target. This does not exist in D&DN, at least not at this point. Players must actively attack their targets in order to swing their weapons, block oncoming attacks, or cast spells and you must be facing them. This means you are an active part of the battle rather than sitting numb and dumb at your screen. In order to land a blow, you must face your opponent and aim. Additionally, it means you can move to dodge out of the way of attacks, and this combat style allows the option to block attacks. This is unlike anything I've played in an MMO before and I love it.
Playing my Fighter last night, I ran into the fray swinging against multiple opponents, dodging, and blocking, and switching to whittle down lifebars on all sides while keeping myself virtually breathing. This is infinitely superior to standing in one spot for the majority of a fight spamming buttons. While I may click buttons to activate actions, I am moving and engaged fully in the battle. It feels like I am there much more than any other MMO combat I've experienced.
Once I have played Player-Versus-Player, I'll post an entry about it. Mainly I'm a PvE player, but I might as well give it all a go.
Another thing I like about the game is the focus on the keyboard/buttons to interact with your environment and activate actions. The mouse is there mainly to steer and you don't have a cursor whipping around the screen. If you want to pick something up, you simply aim at it and press the F key. You interact with others this way as well, pressing F and then selecting from various choices. Those missing the cursor need not fret though, since pressing ALT will darken your screen and allow you to move it freely about selection buttons on the screen - this does not pause you, however. If you remain like this in an aggressive area or do this during battle, you will get your ass handed to you. Actively attacking, remember? Check your bags and makeup after the fight.
Questing exists in the game too with various NPCs located about to give all manner of quests. Additionally, one place we went had a Harper NPC with a player-made quest. I assume this NPC acts as a conduit for player-made campaigns for those who might otherwise ignore the Job Boards in town where these are mainly located. Still foggy on that, but he did offer us a player-made quest.
So far we enjoy the game, and I think Julie is already sold on it. It'll be a shame having to wait for the next Beta Weekend, but if it further polishes what appears to be a really good MMO so be it. In time I'll post other bits and bobs about it, possibly even a final thoughts about this initial Beta outing once the weekend's over. Hopefully I do the game justice and give any toying with trying it useful information. I suggest watching the videos online of gameplay (I can send links to a few good ones if pressed), researching for yourself, and putting aside any preconceived notions or comparisons to other games. This is worth a try, even if you wait until launch and just play for free. For me it's probably the closest thing I'll get to a real D&D session unless I run one myself for me, my two dogs, and our pet rat, and it's a good MMO to boot.
First Impression - Impressed and satisfied so far. Once it launches I may even try my hand at the Foundry and put a campaign of my own out there.