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I heard about the Founder's program when it came out and I initially thought 'cash grab.' I wasn't interested in the game really until I read Massively's article last week and the livestream/articles here on this site.
Based on the hours long video I watched and the articles I read, I jumped in and bought the Founder's pack of $60.
I have tested and played numerous amounts of games. By default I do not pay to test a game, but I have pre-ordered games to get early access and other perks (vanity items, bags, etc.) I looked at what I was getting for the $60 investment and decided it was a good deal if I saw myself playing the game for a good while. I have wasted plenty of money in the past on crap games, but based on what I saw I had a feeling I would enjoy this game. So I went for it.
Boy am I glad I did.
What I experienced last weekend surprised me. Normally with Betas that I know will have wipes, I don't invest too much time into them - especially if you only have a few weekends access. 24/7 Beta access or Alpha access is another story. That's the real testing if you ask me. Regardless I usually jump in a game, try it out and fill out some bugs. This last weekend I hit level 30 with my Rogue and put in over 19 hours of game time. I didn't even push myself. I wanted to play. Here's the big take-away for me with Neverwinter. THE GAME IS FUN.
Now here's some stuff I noticed:
The game allows keybinding for all abilities.
The game is VERY influenced by 4e. I personally didn't care for 4e in PnP, but for this game it works damn well.
For the Rogue at least positioning means a lot. Like 4e flanking and attacking from behind, along with exploiting attacks from stealth all matter and increase damage.
Mobs will also try to exploit attacks against you. There are numerous ground target options to avoid and enemies that have their own thing.
Game is pretty easy up until around level 25 or so. Trying to solo after that is more challenging, but no way impossible. Grouping up with others make it pretty faceroll however. So scaling is either not in or not optimized yet.
Second dungeon is about as cool as the first. I played two dungeons Cloak and the Craig one. The Craig bugged at the end so I think that one might not be quite ready for prime time. It was cool though and really enjoyed the castle set pieces.
Collision detection is in.
Game is mouse target, but all the keys including left and right click mouse buttons can be remapped.
The Foundry system looks like it will be amazing. You hit L and you basically get this homepage of events/dungeons etc that you can see what's coming up. From here you can queue stuff up and remind yourself of events that are going to happen later in the day. You access Player Created stuff (Foundry System) form here as well.
Quests get more involved as you go. Some of the storyline is really, really well done. I won't discuss what happens, so there's no spoilers; but I enjoyed parts of it a lot. Plague Tower line was one of my favorites.
Talking to a few friends that played clerics, all the classes seem to have completely different playstyles and mechanics.
Astral Diamonds will allow you to buy equipment, horses, rush the training of your companion, etc.
You can set a waypoint on the map.
Rogues and Clerics get double tap dodge ala GW2.
Some clipping issues when you put on capes, but you get capes
Quests are very easy to follow and what I thought would be obtrusive, oddly isn't. There's a gold sparkly line that leads you to your quest destination. You can turn this off by hitting z.
The game draws you in and the hours fly by. But what about lasting appeal? Here's where the potential comes in. Basically the Foundry System with user generated content that seems from what I played, fairly involved. We couldn't create anything ourselves, but we had access to stuff alpha players had already created. The toolset allows players to create fleshed out encounters and scripted storylines that can build into campaigns. You have a peer review system that allows the cream to float to the top. You access this by hitting the L key.
I think that if the player generated stuff is great, which it most certainly could be; along with the numerous more classes and races being available for sale, which it most certainly will be - Neverwinter has the chance to be the League of Legends of the MMO world as far as a business model goes. We'll have to wait to see if my guess of selling classes like they do Champions in LoL pans out. Regardless, the game has an enormous amount of potential and excited to see what more comes from it in the future.