You see, five classes doesn't seem like enough to me, especially in a D&D MMO. Yes, there's plenty of room for growth here, and I'm sure that Cryptic will be charging for each new class rolled out, but five? That's pretty paltry, especially when you read this prospective list.
But I'm not in charge of development and schedules; I'm just a humble gamer and writer. So I'll lift my chin and get excited for the fact that, hey, we're going to be playing non-wipeable Neverwinter soon! That means that we all have just a couple of weeks to make a crucial decision: What class will we roll first? Let's take a look at the big five and see what the options are.
Sword-and-board is what you're getting with this tank class. I played the Guardian Fighter in beta and found that it was a durable class with plenty of visceral melee moves -- a standard tank, more or less. The shield and heavy armor are definitely important players in keeping your squishy insides intact, but it's even more important that you know when to block and when to strike. You aren't going to dance out of the way of most attacks, so turtling up when you see the incoming hurt is essential. You can only block as long as you have stamina, so it's not like you want to keep the shield up all the time, either.
Offensively, the Guardian Fighter strikes with a one-handed weapon and can often inflict pain on multiple enemies. This is essential in building up threat, although you have taunts at your disposal as well.
While the Guardian Fighter isn't going to be dealing out as much damage as most of the other classes, I don't get the impression that it's a slouch either. Having incredible durability and resilience makes for a straightforward class that doesn't have to worry as much about boss fights, fancy footwork, or falling dead at one hit. Plus, the tanky qualities will make GFs popular in groups (as such classes are in every MMO).
Stealth, dual-wielding, and combo-laden DPS. Does this sound familiar? Really, none of the initial five classes of Neverwinter is going to amaze you with their twists on the standard class roles, no matter how you dress up the titles. That said, it's not a horrible thing to start with the staples; these are the classes that people will be looking for the most and missing the keenest if not there.
Getting in quickly, hitting hard, dashing back out, and looking fabulous is the game plan for the Trickster Rogue. It's a squishier class, so sticking around for heavy blows is not advised. Mastering stealth moves is a must, as pretty much every skill has an additional effect or is modified when used from the shadows. As indicated by the name, there are a few tricks up this class' sleeves, such as being able to drop a decoy or to toss blades from up to 60 feet away.
Unlike the Guardian Fighter, the Trickster Rogue is all about maneuvering and thus is ideal for those who just can't stand still in any given encounter. Also, if you like popping big numbers, messing with the enemies, and having two of any given weapon in your hands, here you go.
I was pretty intrigued by this class when I tried it out in beta. A wizard is "meh" to me these days; it's a boring rehash of fire and ice magic because developers and designers have this secret competition to make the most photo-realistic fireballs and ice shards, and whoever wins gets a Camaro. But toss in control aspects? I'm listening, I'm listening.
I've heard that the control elements have been improved over beta, which is good because they were pretty weak when I tried them out. I did really love how physical the Control Wizard was, kind of like a kung fu mage flinging out magic missiles and teleporting away. It's probably the most visually flashy class, which is really saying something in this game.
On the other hand, you've got a class that's really, really squishy and isn't exactly brimming with healing options. If you can't master beating an enemy at range and coming up with snappy solutions when your control spells fail or fizzle early, then it might not be for you.
The Devoted Cleric is not your standard battle cleric or paladin; he's a long-range spellcaster who does double-duty as a healer. It's really 50-50 from what I saw. Many attacks also generate heals to the group, although when I played one I was a little frustrated with trying to target specific allies in the middle of a shifting melee.
I will say that the spell effects look fantastic and powerful, especially when you make a giant pillar of flame shoot out from the ground to fry everyone around it.
What I really like about this class is that it doesn't require you to stand at the edge of the fight and toss out slow heals while you tend health bars. To be effective, you have to mix it up and lay down some damage as well. Clerics are never going to be shunned from a group and are probably best for folks who like hybrids and can be OK with not being the biggest DPSer on the block. Adding in heals and other group-friendly spells more than makes up for any epeen lost.
Two hands, one weapon. There, that's the Great Weapon Fighter in a nutshell for ya. You're a hard-hitting slaughter machine that's tougher than spellcasters yet a bit more vulnerable than your good friend, the Guardian Fighter.
Attacking early, often, and ferociously is the key to playing this class. Bonuses such as increased damage and criticals come from staying in the fight longer and hitting more bad guys, and you don't care because you look like an action movie star doing it. To make up for slightly weaker defense, GWFs need to buff up their health bars (both temporarily and permanently) as much as possible.
Like the Trickster Rogue, GWFs are going to show up wanting to unload a truck of damage and to see those big fat numbers scroll up. They're just a lot less subtle than Rogues.
So what should I pick?
Sure, you can fiddle around with all five classes when you get into open beta, but I'm willing to bet that after those brief descriptions, you already know which class will be best suited to your playstyle. If not, here's a quick list to help you narrow your choice down:
- Want to tank? Guardian Fighter.
- Want to do lots of melee DPS? Trickster Rogue, Great Weapon Fighter.
- Want to be a spellcaster? Control Wizard, Devoted Cleric.
- Want to be highly welcome in groups? Devoted Cleric, Guardian Fighter.
- Want to mess with your enemies? Trickster Rogue, Control Wizard.
- Want to stealth attack? Trickster Rogue.
- Want pets? Any of the classes.
Chances are that at any hour, Justin Olivetti is prowling the streets of Neverwinter to bring lawful goodness to where it's needed. He chronicles his adventures in his bi-weekly column, Neverwinter Days, and will appreciate any alms or feedback you have to give.