And here I am again, moping around because the servers have once again gone down, and the second beta weekend is over. This time I’ve had a lot of time to put more thought into my reactions to the game, so I’ve got a lot more details to go into. Plus there were a bunch of changes with this version, so I have a slew of new reactions to examine as well.
I still enjoyed the hell out of Neverwinter, and am definitely looking forward to the game going live so I can play it whenever I want to. But this time around, I’m not sure whether it’s because the game changed a bit or because I’ve had more time with it, but I do have more quibbles. So my Second Beta Previews will still be overwhelmingly positive, but if you’ve been wanting more details and less glow, these second run impressions may be of more interest than the first.
Hit the jump and read on to find out more!
Let me start off with an awesome thing I noticed midway through the weekend – when you use the ingame voice chat, your character’s lips move while you talk. That is just so totally awesome. I mean, you hardly notice it, but if you’re RPing, that is just incredibly immersing. It’s a little bit laggy, but that level of attention to detail just makes me squee with delight. I think I raved about it to everyone I chatted with this weekend, and when I first noticed it, despite being sick and having a sore throat, I spent a good 20 minutes just singing random snatches of song and going LaLaLa to make my lips move. I probably annoyed my poor groupmates to no end. :)
If you recall from my last preview, I suspected that as I played the game more the UI would begun to really annoy me – and lo, no surprises, it did. The chat and inventory have especially really begun to bug me. I made a few friends in the first beta weekend, and I made a few more this weekend, so this time around I was trying to chat more – and finding it all but impossible. If my inventory was open – I couldn’t chat. In a game as gear heavy and loot-filled as a D&D-themed MMO, not being able to chat while I’m looking at my inventory is a major flaw. And it happened to me a lot. I’d be in my inventory looking for something, and hear the ping of a private message, but be completely unable to respond until I closed my bags.
The UI itself, appearance-wise, is still absolutely amazing. I had no problems cropping up there. Just as in the first weekend, everything I need is right there, easy to see, easy to read, it’s all just as streamlined and functional as it had seemed last time. I wouldn’t change a thing about it – except inventory. Oh, inventory. Why do so very many games get you so very wrong. Inventory seems pretty cool when you first begin the game. Plenty of space in your bags, the sort button lines it all up when it gets messy, everything seems fine and dandy.
Then you hit level 10. Or maybe it’s 20. Whatever level it is – you hit a point where you start getting runes and seals, and that’s when your inventory really goes to pot. Pets and gear are upgraded using runestones – and much like in many other games, you can upgrade the runestone tiers by combining lower tiers. So if you get, say, an Experience Rune, you can slot it immediately, or you can hold onto it for upgrading. Combining 4 of any one tier will upgrade it the next – and this is the case with both the runes that you use to upgrade your companion as well as the runes you use to upgrade your own gear.
And although I’m calling them both runes because I can’t remember the actual term for the gear stones, they are different. So once they start dropping, you suddenly have a bazillion inventory slots taken up with different levels of each. And that’s when you really start noticing that the inventory sorting button really doesn’t sort inventory very well at all. One of the cool things about leveling is upgrading your gear – yay! Now I’m a level higher and I can use better gear! But every time I leveled after a certain point, I really would have to go into my inventory and mouse over every single piece of gear in there, because it seemed to just throw gear around randomly in my bags. I’d have an entire line of gear at the top, of varying levels and armor slots in no particular order, then some skill items, then some potions, then some more gear, then some more skill items, my horse was in there somewhere randomly – it’s just a mess. Especially when you combine that with the poor drop tables that cause you to be getting gear that’s up to 4 and more levels higher than you are, and it really is just frustrating.
I remember it bugging me a little bit last time, but this time I really noticed it because this time I knew what I was doing. When I leveled I wanted my spiffy upgrades, and my spiffy runes to put in my spiffy upgrades, but it was always a real hassle finding any of it. And when you combine that with being unable to answer private messages while my inventory is open – yeah. It really annoyed me quite a bit. There are few things I miss about World of Warcraft – but let me tell you how badly I long for my beautiful, lovely inventory addons!
Dungeons. Dungeons, dungeons. I have always loved dungeon crawling in MMOs, but I am really enjoying them a great deal in Neverwinter. I am definitely enjoying the dungeons in Neverwinter more than I’ve enjoyed them in any game in the past several years. What may make that even more grand a statement is that the dungeons I did enjoy more were in old school type games that leveled you from grinding monster kills rather than quests – so I enjoyed them because they fit my cranky grindy masochistic MMO self, but they really were completely different games and experiences so aren’t entirely applicable for comparisons.
In terms of action games, so far as I am concerned, Neverwinter has the best dungeons, bar none. It’s possible there’s an action game out there with dungeons that I would like more – but if so, I haven’t played it. Neverwinter’s dungeons are visually stunning, are generally laid out in interesting ways, and have side pockets and hidden areas – so you can run right through them for the quest objectives if that’s your thing, or take your time to explore if you prefer and discover the hidden goodies. I’ve played with both kinds of groups already and they both work fine (although I enjoy the time-taking/exploring groups more).
Here is something that is particularly awesome – I ran a dungeon as a cleric in an otherwise all dps team. Yup – no fighter no tank – just one cleric, three mages and a rogue. And I’ve heard of people running dungeons with no clerics, and with no clerics or fighters, and a few did it with all clerics and all wizards. A dungeon run consisting of all damage dealers! Not only is it an incredibly fun experience, but think of how amazing that is in terms of building groups! No more huge queues if you like dpsing it up. Just take along a few more potions, watch your footwork and the enemy patterns and blast or stab away. I’m sure there will be the morons who’ll sit spamming that they need a healer and/or a tank – there always are – but having done it, I can assure you with 100% confidence that it is entirely possible to just go into a dungeon with a group consisting of anything and be fine.
Sure, it’s easier if you have the whole tank-cleric-dps thing going on, and you’ll probably miss some content if you don’t have at least 1 of every class present in the group. There are hidden treasure chests, and if I’m recalling correctly even some minibosses, that require a particular class to access, but that’s hardly dungeon breaking. I would say that’s easily worth the price of being able to run a dungeon with anybody. There’s incentive to make a balanced group, but the fact that you can finish the dungeon without having to is really just amazing. I really hope that it continues like this, and the queue will still throw random groups together once the game goes live and continue being possible at the end game because that’s such a great thing for accessibility and general fun.
And I will say this – you can get away with spamming potions. I honestly can’t decide whether that’s a cool thing or not. But for the people who want to really learn how to play – skill will save you a ton of money. Most damage is completely avoidable, so if you learn your class, and you learn the game, you will definitely reap the rewards of doing so. It’s especially noticeable when you’re PUGging it. That group of all dps that I mentioned? I remember the good ones. And I remember the bad ones. There was one guy who very clearly expected me the cleric to keep him on his feet; he never bothered to avoid the big hits, and was always running around with less than half health, usually far away from the group – I think he thought he was a cloth wearing tank. And guess who I let die when we hit a particularly challenging point during the final boss fight? He was too far away for my AOEs, and targeting him would have caused me to not be able to heal everyone else who had actually stuck together. It was him or the team, so down he went.
Yup. Have no worries – while you can make a group of anything, skill is definitely noticed. A tank who thinks he can just stand there without making an effort to avoid damage will find himself sucking potions or dying a lot, because while he definitely makes things easier, the group can kill the boss without him. I will definitely be playing a damage dealing alt once the game goes live, and putting together an all dps team for dungeon running, because I think that just sounds incredibly fun – and I’m certain it can be done in Neverwinter. And that is infinitely cool in my book.
Second Beta Weekend Preview Part 2 :)
Yes, for my first NW weekend it was overwhelming positive for me too. So your lips move when you voice chat? How cool is that? Speaking of voice, I think I got mine working late Sunday, but never got a chance to test it out. Maybe on the next beta weekend. BTW, I get so tired of the tank, dps, healer paradigm. Oh well, guess you can’t escape it in MMO’s. ;) FYI, I tried a second character, a Paladin, and in some ways enjoyed it even more than the wizard. The only problem was, I named her Mjoll the Lioness, and suffered more than a few jibs from people who recognized her from Skyrim. lol I think on the next beta weekend I’m going to try a rogue and name her Lilliana. Can you say Dragon Age: Origins??? ;) BTW, I agree with you all the way about the kind of game you try to play in Secret World. When I first started I wanted to be a great healer for team play, but the more I play the less a priority this has become, and the more I try to create a balanced character that can survive more or less on her own. In any case one of my mmo pet peeves are the hardcore gamers you usually find doing the ‘dungeons’. ;) See you on the next NW beta weekend. :)
btw, has an official release date been announced yet? Doing a quick search hasn’t revealed anything.
All I’ve seen is “early 2013.” I’m hoping for April personally. It’d be a nice birthday present. :)
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