I spent about half an hour swording my way through a dungeon in Neverwinter at E3. I'm not a MMO player by trade, but I was mostly happy with how it looked and felt; the nearest comparison might be Dragon Age 2, but with fewer over-the-top particle effects and animations.
Neverwinter's style of combat falls somewhere between active and cooldown-based: it's not as acrobatic as TERA or DCUO, but it also isn't rigid or driven by cooldown-spamming and lock-on targeting. My character only had three active abilities (bound to Q, E, and R). Most bipedal enemies that I fought had ragdoll. At one point, my sorcerer teammate shoved a werewolf archer into a pit with a gust spell.
I also had a “daily” power that I used five or six times in the 30-minute demo. Two of them, actually. Combat fills a D20 symbol centered on the hotbar; hitting the 1 or 2 key spent the charge with either a high-damage, linear seismic attack or an AOE attack that also granted a temporary damage buff. It's a little ridiculous that these are called “dailies;” I wonder if players that don't have a background for D&D won't be confused by Cryptic shoehorning terms like this into the game.
Another example: “utility powers” are actually a class-specific block/dodge maneuver bound to Shift. Holding the button down with my Guardian Fighter raises her shield. But because there's no automatic lock-on, when I use it and instinctively walk away from the enemy, I notice I'm raising my shield in front of me while exposing my back to their attack.
I ask Andy Velasquez, Lead Producer at Cryptic, if the defensive buff granted by the utility power still applies with my back turned. He says it's funny I asked, because this specific animation/mechanic is a big debate within Cryptic right now. So while it appears strange to me, I'm glad to hear Cryptic is thinking about game elements like this that sit on the fence between active and older, MMO-style combat.
PC Gamer: A big part of Neverwinter's heritage is player-created content. But UGC and free-to-play don't often get along. How is your system going to facilitate content creation without competing with your own paid content?
Andy Velasquez, Lead Producer: The Foundry, or rather user-generated content tools, in the previous Neverwinter games were super robust. They're still thriving communities now, they're still makign content for those games that are 10 years old. But my problem with those tools was that the barrier to entry was so high.
PCG: Right, I think a lot of PC gamers in that era have kind of a...nostalgic discomfort about hopping through forum threads and community sites to find custom content.
AV: Exactly. Like, how did you find out not only how to make content, but how to play it? You have to go to a forum and download the stuff and then put it in the right folder, you have to follow specific instructions or you might have a version mismatch. Our main agenda with the Foundry is to make is accessible and easy to get to. But there's still a lot of robustness there. To get in and play, as well as to create content, it's not a separate executeable. In the main, central city, you can go up to the UGC job board and browse content that's been made, browse the top-rated content. We're really just trying to pull it in so the really talented modders aren't creating competition with us, they're helping to expand the mythos of Neverwinter the city all within the same world. That's probably what I'm most excited about with the Foundry. But again, we'll be talking way way more in depth about it in terms of what DM tools you'll have, what creation tools you'll have later on.
PCG: I guess I'm curious, I look at Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2, and how Valve is finding a way to sell that content, to give players a share of the money and not just have UGC be this vibrant content ghetto lurking on a community site. Is that something you guys are curious about, finding a way to sell player-created content?
AV: Absolutely. We're looking into things like that. In what exact way it manifests itself we'll talk about later, but those people to us as developers are invaluable. It's in our best interest to do what we can to make them want to continue making content that kicks ass for us. We're absolutely looking at ways even beyond just monetizing...promotion and getting their name out there. There's ways that we can really, you know, make them feel appreciated in our community.