E3 2012: We take a fantasy-laden gander at Cryptic Studio’s take on the D&D universe, which should not be confused with Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights.
Sometimes it takes a certain something to stand out in a puddle of free-to-play mass multiplayer games. Whether it’s taking cues from Borderland’s art style like Firefall or just being a sequel to a classic like Tribes, developers just need that edge to get people’s heads turning and forget about the supposed bad reputation the F2P model is. Cryptic Studio, the same company who did the Star Trek and City of Heroes MMO, definitely has that something: the Dungeons & Dragons license to play around with.
Based on what we’ve experienced in Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter, it’s definitely being faithful to the tabletop RPG’s ethos of enforcing players to stick together towards completing a campaign. Most MMOs do that, we concede, but the way it’s done here is not only in real time and fast-paced, but also action-heavy and tactical at the same time. Lead producer Andy Velasquez said that future open-air dungeons and instances will require one or two groups of five classes banding together since they will be impossible to conquer in a group consisting of just two classes.
The build we checked out had the guardian fighter, the control wizard and trickster rogue up for playtesting. All three were self-explanatory: the fighter acts as the tank and up-close damage dealer, the wizard pelts enemies with spells from afar and gives buffs, and the rogue sneaks around and deal maximum damage from the shadows while not getting hurt themselves. We used the rogue because stabbing people in the back is fun. In addition to our standard melee attack comprising of five hits, the rogue can also teleport behind someone instantly and slash him or her from behind.
The rogue can also turn invisible (not within the line of enemy sight), throw daggers at mid-range, and launch a decoy to distract enemies. While we had no trouble tackling the current quest by ourselves, we were told that having more players inside will boost up the rewards as well as scale enemy levels accordingly.
For our playthrough in a ruined temple located within an unnamed mountain area, we had to collect two amulets to open up a door to a crypt. Our sole adversaries were wolves, archers and warriors dressed up as wolves, and shamans who can summon wolves to do their bidding (pretty obvious pattern, yes?). Powerful enemy spells will have red lines and shapes on the ground showing where they’ll hit. Velasquez said that this is to ensure that enemies don’t come off as cheap; the grids will usually show if the spell packs a deadly wallop. He compared this to the telegraphed attacks from bosses in Devil May Cry and Bayonetta.
As short as our playthrough was, we came off pretty impressed with its presentation and core mechanics. While we couldn’t ask in time on why Cryptic Studios went for the free-to-play mode, it really didn’t matter in the long run. It feels polished and easy to get into within a few minutes thanks to its reaction-heavy action, provided you understand the basis of the role you pick. The game will obviously thrive from its brand alone (and possibly from people mistaking it for the next iteration of Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights’ series), but it’s nice to know that the actual gameplay isn’t something whipped up at the last minute.
D&D: Neverwinter will be out this year and will be free to play. A closed beta session will be happening in the coming months.
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