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Before I get into this, I want to thank the other MMORPG members for doing similar posts when playing Betas that not everyone had access to, so thanks to all of you who have and keep up the good work on your fellow player's behalf.
I've played a guardian to level 27, a rogue to 11 and a cleric to 6.
1. Character Creation:
The good: The character creation is a lot like Age of Conan. You pick a race (for one of the 6 available with the Drow obviously there buy greyed out) and a sex. The race previews show you the bonuses for each class. For each race (besides human which gives you a +2 to any ability score) you get and option of +2 to two different abilities and +2 to a core ability. For example Tieflings are charismatic, so they always get +2 to Charisma, and can choose to add +2 to Constitution or +2 to (Dexterity?). Each race has a couple other bonuses - combat or resistance bonuses. Then you pick your class. Three are currently available, and the Greatweapon Figher is greyed out. The Age of Conan part comes in when you design your look. You choose a face from one of about 12 pre-sets, and can get in there and scale each face and head dimension and scale your torso and limbs. It's not like Champions Online where you can choose to be 3 feet tall or 9 feet tall. You have maybe 1 foot of height range for each race.
The bad: When "roll" your scores it consists of two options - a min/max option or an option where you trade 1 point in your primary ability for 2 points in your secondary and 2 points in one that is not very meaningful.
2. Graphics and Aesthics
The good: Yeah it looks good. They really did a good job of integrating the common TSR/Wizards of the Coast Forgotten Realms look into Neverwinter. I play on a Alienware laptop (Oct 2012) and had have the settings on about 80% max, but the textures, shadows particle effects look nice. The character models all look good, and the animations I think are fluid and natural looking. You can watch a mob start his special ability (attack or spell) and have a pretty good idea of what he's about. The monsters and NPCs look very good. Usually the bigger the badder, which not being exactly in line with AD&D, works well with the pace of combat. The Player characters look distinct, at least as long as they're not the same class/race combonation.
The city of Neverwinter feels bustling. About 80% of the inhabitants are there just for aesthetics (and maybe Foundry quest giving), some of them talk, many of them move about. There aren't any children, but Neverwinter is a fronteir town, so that may be a conscious decision. You'll see birds or occasionally butterflies flying around.
The Bad: In group combat the particle effects go off so often that it's just a sort of constant flashing of light - so much so that it's difficult to see what the hell is going on if you're in the middle of it (and Guardians are). The attacks animations lock you in until the attack is complete, except sometimes you can go from about 70% done and then jump to the next one (usually a block in my case). It's a little jarring but not immersion breaking.
There's big numbers floating in the air during combat. I guess they have a purpose, but it's pretty obvious that they're aiming towards a console/eastern crowd here. Bad for me, probably good for others.
A character at 5% health looks the same as a character at 100% health. There's no bloody stumbling around or being badly burned etc.
Your camera is locked in on an over the shoulder view from about 20 feet back. You can move in up and down, but not forward or back. When a wall obstructs it, it zooms in, but sometimes you get jammed in a corner and can see little or nothing. This is particularly problematic when the monsters are getting ready to launch their specials and you cannot see the "tell" on the ground.
3. Sound: Disclaimer: I am not an audiophile.
The Good: I usually turn the music in games down or off, and I turned it down here. It sounded about right, sort of epic scored, not too modernistic. Combat sounded like it should, pretty much. When you are walking inside on a wooden floor, you hear the reverbaration of your boot heels.
The Voice acting is generally top notch. It Peters our around level 22 or so. The main guy you work with for the first 30 levels doesn't have any voice acting. I assume that there's a reason for this (like a lot of changed dialogue, or they're still working with an actor.
The Bad: You don't always hear the crunch of blade on body like in a game like DDO.
The Good: The combat is basically Diablo III. You have right and left mouse click attacks. And then you get (eventually) 8 more hotkeys to use. 3 are standard MMO fair cooldown special attacks. 2 are "daily" attacks that you can use about every other encounter, and then there are three inventory slots you can put heal potions in. Your character development is again, Diablo III. You choose which specail attacks and in theory which right/left click attacsk (broken for Guardian currently) to use.
The combat is engaging and fun You cannot run and cast/shoot or swing and shoot. The MMORPG guys talked about this in their streamcast. Some people may not like it, but it adds "weight" to the combat as well as a strategic element. The monsters have special attacks which vary pretty widely, both in size, and time you have to react to them. The monsters just like the characters are ranged DPS, Tanks, healers (not as common) and melee DPS. . There is a dodge (cleric and rogue) or block (Guardian) mechanic which helps you to get out of the way, especially for the special attacks, which are telegraphed with big red circles, semi-cirlces, cones or squares on the ground.
The monsters typically come in groups of 3 to 4. Usually if it is 4, there's one Tough in there. Sometimes it's just three trash mobs, and sometimes you windup with 2 toughs, or two groups of 1 Tough and 3 trash each. Boss fights can be solo, but typically there are trash adds, and sometimes whole groups of adds including a tough (so you're fighting 1 boss, 2 toughs and 6 trash).
Every 10 levels you gain 2 ability points to add. For my guardian fighter I have been putting these into DPS abilities (Str and Dex) - trying to give me some more utility and make solo content easier. Mousing over ability scores shows you what they do, and how much a bonus you get.
There are cool AD&D touches, like secret rooms and rooms behind curtains that aren't immediately ovbvious. The Guardian class gets the dungeoneering skill which can be used to open secret areas.
There are traps which usually I find by walking onto. Because you don't always run around at 100% health, they can kill you! Rogues can see and disarm them. It may have something to do with their wisdom ability score (speculation based on ability description, DDO experience and a little game play).
There's basically three levels of monsters. Trash, Tough and Boss. Trash usually takes about 1 special to kill, or 3 left clicks. Tough takes about 20 seconds, and Bosses take a minute or two. At level 27 I've probably died 5 times, once due to my daily power not going off (drained but didn't do anything - specifically heal me).
Your character has no hit point regeneration, unless he's at a camp fire, which are parsed occasionally throughout adventuring areas. There are some regeneration items, but they work so slowly that they're a non-factor. There are at this time lots of heal potions - more than I use that drop form monsters and chests.
You get a mount at level 20. You cannot fight on it. It helps you move faster. You summon it from hotkey 6. Standard fare.
I got my pet at level 17. I chose a healer cleric as my pet. They're not very powerful, acting almost more like a buff than a true companion. You can play without one if you like.
The Bad: The combat is basically Diablo III. If you don't like that, and don't like the character progression system, you won't like this. There are a lot more tells and special attacks by the beasties, but that's about the only difference that comes to mind. You are locked into your attack animation until the animation is complete or nearly complete. You cannot run and cast or throw knives at the same time.
You have quest hubs. Or something close to it. I don't mind this. It feels like AD&D when you finish an adventure you go back to town, sell your stuff and get another one. It's a hub and spoke system, similar to CoH or Champions online. You can also teleport to a dungeon using the dungeon finder tool. Convenient, but lame.
You have to set your pets off for traning every time they level up. Since I played so much of the game without a pet, maybe more than I needed to, it didn't bother me much, but it is a weird mechanic. Each time they run off to level up, they run off for a longer and longer time. I think to get level 13 she was gone for 30 minutes. There's no trade-off for not having one. I think personally there should be, so that they're more optional for a power gamer.
You don't seem to get exp for grinding mobs. I am not sure if I understand the exp mechanic. Sometimes you get a lot of exp for finishing a quest, sometimes you don't. I gained 2 levels by turning in one quest. It could be that your monster killing is all added up and given to you at the end, but I think not. It's an AD&D mechanic to give you the exp at the end of an adventure, but you should get more for killing more monsters. It's not a typical MMO mechanic. DDO behaves similiarily.
The areas are pretty closed in. There are shared outdoor zones, but you don't share the indoor zones unless you are in a party. There is no Eastern Karanas here, and you won't really walk up to someone and invite them to join a party because there's no need. There are some tougher mobs, and sometimes other players will jump in while fighting a tough ogre and you get adds, but there's no need to group, except in the dungeons where you cannot get in until you have a full group.
5. Crafting: I do not believe it is implemented yet. If it is, they haven't lead me by the nose to it like they did with other game aspects. The monsters and chests (more frequently) drop normal and rare crafting loots. It goes into your special crafting bag. And there it sits.
6. Itemization, Money, and the Cash Shop.
The Good: Right now, you don't need to spend any money to enjoy the game. RIGHT NOW. I am skeptical that they don't balance it down so that you're tempted at least to buy healing potions, which you do need to ge through combat currently. For free you get, all the adventures, the 3 classes, the races, the ability to buy a horse at level 20 and enough money to buy it. You can buy rare (blue) armor with gold dropped from the monsters. You earn some Astral Diamonds adventuring. I think I got about 1800 so far.
The Bad: The gear is all class specific, which means that currently 4 in 5 armor/weapon drops are vendor or maybe AH items. If this trend continues it will get worse and worse as more classes are added. You have to use identify scrolls to identify about 2/3 of these drops if you want to sell them for more than 1 copper, or if you want to find out if they're an upgrade for you. I know Identify is a AD&D/Wizardy tennant but, this feels a little bit like a money grab, since you have to buy these scrolls and it tends to take up more bag space (and eventually bag space will probably cost money, based on the Founders Packs). There's some horse that costs like 4 million astral diamonds, that's 2000 days of free game play.
They did give me some tokens when I finished the first dungeon with my party. I have two of them. I wasn't able to find a vendor, but I did find a level thirty vendor who would sell me blue items for 5 tokens.
7. The Foundry
The Good: I did two of these quests and they worked. The writing wasn't very good (one 4 stars and one three), but except for some stationary spider issues, there wasn't any problems. I got exp and treasure.
The Bad: Not accessible to me at this point, and it's my main interest in the game.
8. PVP: Don't do it, not sure if it's in yet. It's got some sort of instant join battleground system. It's certainly not integral and not open world.
The Good: I like the free chat in party. I cannot believe more MMO's don't have this.
The Bad: It's a solo centric game, so not a lot of communication going on. You have to put forth all the effort.
10. Stability and Bugs
The Good: I'm on patched Windows 7 64 bit and I haven't crashed. It's not bug free but it's damned close.
The Bad: I mentioned earlier, that guardians could not equip different L/R mouse button attacks. There's a bug that makes dungeons not re-set properly. There are occasional LOS issues with clickies... once I died because my daily either got debuffed or just didn't work. I reported a couple other niggling ones (a wererat got under a grate at one point). Edit* As I log on this morning, I cannot play my guardian because the zone he is in keep dropping him.
In Summary: I liked it. I will play it at least through all the PVE content I think. I want to get my hands on the foundry, because that's the main appeal from an old school dungeon master.
Let me know if you have any questions. I'll be happy to try to answer them.