My colleagues and I had an exciting opportunity to meet with the people at Perfect World while we were at E3. They gave us a brief tutorial and allowed us to plunge into their upcoming game, Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter. Unbelievably, this new MMO will be entirely free to play. Having heard this before about other games, I expected to see something with lackluster graphics and a simpleton storyline. With those expectations in place, I was entirely unprepared for what was placed in front of me for play. I sat down at the computer which was set up to play the rogue character. Ahead of me was a stunning dungeon with incredibly detailed rock walls and a floor strewn with pebbles and dirt. My colleague Andy played the wizard, and Mattplayed the fighter. The wizard was intended for healing purposes and the fighter was mostly a tank, while my rogue was a good damage dealer but not particularly high on hit points.
We began our dungeon crawl and encountered some monsters. There is a hit die situated in the middle of your action bar at the bottom of the screen, and after a string of successful hits, the die slowly fills and charges your two strongest actions. For my rogue, there was a large AoE spell and an “annihilation mode” which boosted attack to insane proportions and as long as I continued hacking I was able to deal some massive damage. This came in handy as we began fighting the boss, who initially seemed somewhat weak, but in the middle of the battle turned into an incredibly powerful werewolf that was difficult to take down. We all charged our special attacks and utilized them, still having to use a couple of resurrection scrolls in the process. I have to admit, I was somewhat disappointed when the demo of the game was over. While I earned a sweet mug in the process, I would have preferred to keep playing a little longer. The visuals are unbelievable for a completely free game. I couldn’t stop thinking “This can’t really be free. There must be some sort of catch.” The people from the studio had to reassure me that yes, it is free. Not only free to play, but free to buy as well. That led me to my next thought; “Well it’s free, so what they give you on release day is going to be it.” I asked and was told that, no, they plan to do at least three major game updates every year to keep the story going and keep players engaged.
Not only will there be game updates, but there is massive possibility for endless play via content creation as well. We weren’t able to try it out in the demo at E3, but players can shape their own adventures and campaigns in content creation via the Foundry. It is a utility that functions similarly to creation tools in Little Big Planet. Once finished creating your own adventure or campaign, you can not only share it with friends but also the Neverwinter community online. Neverwinter will be available to play early 2013.