And lo, Pherephassa’s lengthy treatise on Neverwinter continues! I’ve now reached level 18, and moved through several more zones, so I have much more detail to discuss. I am still having a blast, and it is very much an act of will to continue writing this rather than playing more. :)
Hit the jump to see more about my impressions of the actual gameplay!
It being D&D, gear is of course a major concern and method of character progression. What’s D&D without the unending hunt for new shinies?
Gear is locked to specific classes; rather than a piece of armor that both the fighter and the rogue can use, it’ll be just rogue armor. At first I thought this was absolutely bizarre – there’s been a great deal of emphasis on avoiding cookie cutter builds – so why lock armor to specific classes? I’ve also not noticed a great deal of difference in the stats on armor pieces for each class – so again, what’s the point in locking armor to specific classes? But it suddenly hit me tonight – games that don’t lock armor to classes wind up with greedy plate wearers able to roll need on everything. Because they can wear everything. Is that the reason Cryptic has designed armor pieces this way? I have no idea, but as I’ve not been seeing any real difference in the secondary stats on different class armors, I’ll take the class locks as they’ll shut down the incredible frustration of being a cloth-wearer who has just lost out on a sweet upgrade to a plate wearing tank who rolls need just to sell it.
But I’ll also admit to the possibility that there is a difference, and I just haven’t noticed it. My rogue has lifestealing gear, and my cleric does not, and I am now completely uncertain as to whether that’s because I haven’t seen any lifesteals on my cleric or if I just haven’t equipped it because it’s pointless when I can heal. But both of them do have gear with +crit, +defense, +hp and +recovery. I have yet to see any gear stats that only apply to one class, so I still remain confident that you can kit out in any way you choose – fighters or clerics can wear +crit stacked gear, it is not solely the province of rogues – the boosts on gear do not seem to be slanted in any one way or another.
One thing that I do find really cool is they have put a great deal of effort into building methods of providing information in ways that work for roleplayers. There are still popups that explain things like movement and how to level up, but there are also NPCs whose sole purpose is to provide information via conversation. Specific to gear, there is an NPC in the marketplace who showcases gear – simply talk to him and he’ll tell you about various pieces of armor or weapons that are upgrades for you and where to look to obtain them. When I spoke with him, he pointed out gear I could find in a nearby dungeon, and two NPCs who would sell gear for various currencies. So if you’re feeling lost and aren’t sure how to upgrade, just go talk to him and he’ll point out some possibilities to look into.
By gameplay, I of course mean combat. Neverwinter is an action game, so it is nothing like the typical MMO – you don’t have a million hotbars filled with abilities, there is no tab targeting, and you don’t simply stand there pushing buttons. Remember back at the beginning of Part 1 I commented that my initial impression was not very good? That was the early game, the first ten minutes of play, where I only had 2 abilities, and the monsters were balanced around my being a newbie in no armor. So I could just stand there and hold down left click, letting my character move me around via autoattack and target switching. I thought it was incredibly boring, and couldn’t see how gaining new abilities would change that dynamic much when I’d only be able to equip a few at a time.
But I have now leveled to 18, and boy, was I wrong.
Combat is easy to pick up and learn. You have at will powers that are bound to the left and right mouse buttons, encounter abilities that have cooldowns averaging around 10 seconds that default bind to q, e and r, and daily powers with longer cooldowns that default bind to 1 and 2. Targeting is done with a reticule, simply look at the monster you want to attack, or the friend you want to heal and they are targeted, then use your ability. But the actual combat experience is so much more than that.
Everyone knows – I hope! – not to stand in the fire. When you see a red splotch on the ground, get out of it! That’s standard MMO fare. What isn’t standard, however, are animations that telegraph the attacks the monsters are using so you can even avoid attacks that don’t have red warnings. Giant ogres have 2 attacks that I’ve identified; one is a wind up swing of their club that circles around them in an arc, the other is a high downward swing in front of them. There are no red circles on the ground telling you where they are aiming – but you can watch what they are doing and move to avoid the hit. If he’s doing the downward swing, running behind him to stab at him in the back will not only avoid the damage but give you a flanking bonus – but if he’s doing his roundabout swing and you run back there you’re still getting hit!
The orc shamans have spells with red area splotch marks on the ground that you can see and avoid, but they also have a forward spear lunge that does not have a displayed red area – and it is avoidable if you notice the half step he takes just before his lunge.
Cryptic wanted an action MMORPG, and they definitely succeeded. Combat is engaging beyond simply watching for cooldowns, even playing a healer is more than simply watching the lifebars of your teammates. This does have its drawbacks – having a bad lag night will make the game completely unplayable if you can’t accurately avoid enemy attacks – but I have to say I’ll take it even so.
What’s Dungeons and Dragons without adventures?
There are many different things to do in Neverwinter – I’ve only tried a portion of them so far! There are instanced quests, wide open zones for everyone, periodic events, dungeons, and pvp. And lore, although there’s not much to say about hunting for lore, it’s the same as lore hunting is everywhere else. Just look for the glowing clickies, and approach the locations.
When it comes to playing games, I’m a grinder. I really am – I desperately miss the old EQ style of play where you find yourself a nice camp and settle in, killing and killing and killing. Once I have a list in my journal – kill 10 of X monster, or kill Y monster and collect Z parts, or go and hit the clickies – it doesn’t matter what the quest is or why I’m doing it, I just get bored. I don’t care what the story is, I’m no longer there having fun, I’m just grocery shopping, grabbing up the ingredients to make my leveling cake. That said, quests in Neverwinter are … actually fun. I still generally don’t care why I am there, but I’m actually enjoying the quests as much as I am enjoying simply finding a place to grind. I can progress in both ways, so when I want to wander off into my own little instance I can do that. If I want to head out into the open zones and have a kill fest, I can do that too.
There are advantages to both, but have I mentioned that I am actually having fun?
So what is it that makes even me enjoy questing? First, some of the stories are actually pretty interesting. As much as it surprises me to say it, several of the quests have not bored me to tears. And the instances themselves are exquisitely crafted. I raved about the graphics in Part 1 – what I am talking about here is the actual content/dungeon design. If you want to rush through it to achieve the objective as quickly as possible, you can absolutely do that. But if you don’t, if you take your time and actually explore, there are definite rewards.
The quests and dungeons are filled with optional hidden treasures, nodes, and monsters. There are things hidden behind piles of crates, stuck up on rafters, and entire wings are tucked away behind tapestries and secret doors. Neverwinter quests are marvels of creation, with so much attention put into them that they interest even a cranky jaded gamer like me. There is finally a reason to poke around every corner, and look behind every pile of boxes or crates. The open zones have also been crafted with hidden secrets and discoveries in mind!
I’ve only participated in one event so far, a find the clicky event in Blacklake. Relics spawn whenever it happens, if you want to join in, just run around the zone clicking on the ones you find. Once the event finishes, a leaderboard pops up, ranking everyone who joined in. I actually came in in first place when I did it, which amazed me as I was questing at the time and didn’t go out of my way looking, but I walked away with a handful of Astral Diamonds. For those uninterested in joining in, it’s very unobtrusive, so you won’t be interrupted as you run about doing whatever else you’re doing. I’m looking forward to seeing more.
Plus there are mimics. How can you not love a game that has mimics.
And I guess I’m going to have to have a Part 3, as I’ve once again had quite a bit to say. So stay tuned!