Free-to-play MMO publisher Perfect World had a pair of new titles to show off at PAX last weekend. Both RaiderZ and Neverwinter have forgone some of the traditional trappings of the MMORPG, like targeted ability use and methodical combat, in order to provide a quicker and more action heavy experience. However, each game has a very specific focus in mind, and both are looking to provide an experience that is worth looking into.
First up in the demonstration was RaiderZ, an MMORPG that looks to be heavily influenced by the Monster Hunter series. The focus here isn’t so much in defeating underlings over and over to gradually work your way level by level, eventually earning the right to battle big bad bosses. Instead, you’ll be fighting gigantic baddies all throughout your leveling experience, as hunting bosses is what RaiderZ is all about – within your first hour of play, you’ll have been pitted up against two of the enormous beasts.
You’ll control the game by moving with the keyboard and aiming with your mouse. All your ducking, dodging, and blocking is handled manually, making the game feel a bit more action-heavy then your typical MMORPG. You’ll have to master these controls quickly, as the massive enemies you’ll be tasked with fighting in RaiderZ are designed to be punishing experiences.
In order to help you take down your quarry, you’ll have access to a number of skills. RaiderZ is a mostly classless game, letting you pick and choose your skills from a number of different skill trees. However, the skills you’ll have access to at any given time are determined by whatever weapon you equipped. Tabbing through weapons is a quick process, letting you quickly swap to a different skillset if the situation calls for it.
All of the monsters you’ll battle in RaiderZ have unique mechanics that make each hunt a new experience. For instance, our demonstration centered around an encounter with a gigantic frog. Unwilling to sit still for very long, he would hop around and force the player to give chase. Stand idle for to long in front of his mouth, and his enormous tongue would lash out and attempt to swallow you. It makes for a somewhat more dynamic style of play then your typical “autoattack and trade blows” style of game.
There are some nice touches that mix up the flow of the game, like random enemy drops that can be picked up and used for a brief amount of time. These impromptu weapons have their own unique skill set which helps keep things interesting; it feels a bit like picking up weapons enemies would drop in The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker.
While instanced content exists, most of your combat will take place out in the open world, giving the game a sort of old-school style of play. You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking friends with you on these excursions, as many of these monsters are far too tough to tackle on your own.
While it’s a free to play game, RaiderZ is promising that the vast majority of its content will remain free. Details about specific pricing weren’t made available, but it was revealed that the game will launch without a cash shop at first, letting people experience the game before introducing microtransactions.
The second game Perfect World had to show off was Cryptic Studios’ Neverwinter. This game was announced some time ago and then went dark, leaving many to wonder just exactly was going on with its development. Now that more details have been revealed surrounding the title, this is definitely something you’re going to want to pay attention to.
Set some 100 years after the events of the previous Neverwinter Nights games, Neverwinter is designed to tie into the recently updated Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting, as well as the series of novels written by R. A. Salvatore. Following the chaos that ravaged Faerun during the Spellplague, Neverwinter was practically destroyed in its entirety. The city is beginning to return, and as factions vie for control of the city, your character finds himself caught amidst the chaos.
Neverwinter is notable for being among the first games to take real inspiration from the fourth edition of the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset. However, the game has taken more action-based turn, necessitating a fair bit of adaptation of rules designed for a turn-based affair.
Without any way to target enemies, you’ll be manually aiming your character’s various powers. Your left and right mouse buttons are bound to your character’s “at-will” powers, which are abilities that can be freely used without worrying about them being used up. Your number keys are then bound to your “encounter” powers. These are abilities with short cooldowns in the area of thirty seconds or so, and should be used with care.
As you fight, you’ll fill up a small twenty-sided die shaped bar at the bottom of your screen. This is your “action point,” and fulfilling your class’s role will cause it to fill. For instance, if you’re playing a wizard – a member of the controller role – you’ll fill up by successfully locking your enemies down with powers. Once full, you can spend your action point to unleash an all-powerful “daily” ability, which has the capability of doing massive damage and other impressive effects.
According to Cryptic COO Craig Zinkievich, the idea was to use the tabletop rules as a sort of inspiration, but adapt them for a more action centered approach. As such, many of the terms and concepts of the Dungeons & Dragons game are very much a part of Neverwinter, with modified applications to make it fit a fast-based interpretation of the game. The concept seems to be working out quite well, and it was exciting to watch the demonstrator’s tiefling wizard as she utilized teleporting dodges to avoid attacks while flinging off barrages of magic missiles.
But the aspect of Neverwinter that is perhaps the most intriguing is its implementation of user generated content. Yes, you heard that right – just like the Neverwinter Nights of old, you’ll be able to custom build your own adventures, dungeons, and monsters, and share them with others in order to create a virtually limitless world of content.
Cryptic is hoping to deliver a toolset that is far more potent than NWN’s aurora engine, but still useable enough that anyone with a concept in his or her head can share it with the world. These creations will get uploaded to a service known as The Foundry, where players of Neverwinter the world over can connect and access player-made creations.
The details on how The Foundry will work or how it will be balanced to coincide with official content were slim, unfortunately. However, the main goal here is to make content creation a social endeavor and encourage active participation among players. If it works as advertised, The Foundry could be a huge gamechanger, reintroducing that story-telling element between player and Dungeon Master that is so crucial to the D&D experience but has been sorely lacking in MMORPGs thus far.
With its familiar setting, fun interpretation of the tabletop rules, and ambitious plans for player-generated content, Neverwinter is looking like it could be a real treat for both D&D fans and MMO diehards looking for something fresh. With more details about The Foundry set to come out sometime in the next few months, this is a title you should definitely be looking out for.