News, Views, and Reviews
Welcome back to Neverwinter! After learning about the races and classes in Part 1, and the controls and combat in Part 2, we turn to the actual Game Play and what to expect while playing Neverwinter. Like other MMOs, players will participate in questing and other activities, gain experience, and level up their characters, currently set to max at 60. During the tutorial, however, players will quickly learn of two unique features: 1. The Quest Trail and 2. Players do not regenerate health.
The Quest Trail can be toggled on or off with the “z” key, but it creates an easy to follow glittering trail that shows you the way to your next objective. If you are tracking multiple quests, it tends to favor whichever objective is closest. You might have 4 quests, for example, but “3 and 4” are in a different zone, and “2” is in a dungeon in your current zone, so the Quest Trail will lead you, by default, to objective “1” nearby. By pressing the “m” key and displaying your map, you’ll also find a handy key to the map on the right side of the screen, and here those numbered objectives are listed, giving reason to the numbering. The only time this is confusing is if you happen to have multiple quests and objectives in the same zone. In that case you might want to refer to that map and key to see what the game has prioritized as “1” at that time. The Quest Trail is also used indoors, which can make navigating a perplexing dungeon a little easier. Naturally, the Trail can be ignored or toggled off completely, but it is pretty handy.
As for non-regenerating health, I feel like I’ve come full circle. When I first started playing the World of Warcraft, some nine years ago, I remember thinking it strange that my character’s health regenerated out of combat. I just assumed it was a game convenience, quicker than making me sit down and bandage my wounds between every battle, but that is what I was used to back then. Now here we are in 2013, and regenerating health is SO common, I have to take the time to point out that this game does NOT do it. No, you have to either take health potions (conveniently slotted to your “Belt” slots, keys “3, 4, and 5”) or rest at a campfire or altar. Campfires are found throughout each zone, and usually also feature merchants and quest giving NPCs. The main center of the Neverwinter city has an altar, but you can carry mini-altars in your inventory. These can be used at any time, last for about a minute, and everyone in your party can rest around it and get their health back. The Devoted Cleric class can heal, and I did encounter gear that had “life steal” or “regen” stats on them. I should point out, though, that the health recovered from those items was very small, so finding campfires or using altars is still necessary. If this dynamic worries anyone, don’t be worried. I felt it added some “Dungeons and Dragons” authenticity to the game, as well as some tension. Should I heal myself now? Or wait for more damage and then heal? Or what if I’m near a campfire, should I go back? As it turned out, I was often carrying well over 30 potions at any given time, so it’s not like I was THAT worried.
Questing: Following the tutorial, players should be in the main center of Neverwinter, and directed to their first quest giver. Following this NPC’s instructions should start the players on a chain of quests that tell the main “story” of the Neverwinter MMO. But, this is a big city, and there are many other things to discover. The World of Neverwinter is divided into zones, and this city is the first zone. Each zone can have many other players in it, NPCs to assist, and except for this main city zone, have many enemies to fight. In addition to regular enemy encounters, you can be sent to specific locations like a basement in the city or a cave in the forest, and those will load player (or party) specific instances. If you’ve played Cryptic’s Champions Online MMO, this is very similar. In this fashion, even the city of Neverwinter can have many quest locations and enemies to fight, they are just contained in those quest and player specific instances. Traveling outside the city is more dangerous, but getting to those other zones is very easy. Arriving at any of the gates in Neverwinter, it doesn’t matter which gate, brings up a world map. That map has quick-travel points that you simply click on and instantly travel to those locations. The quick-travel points that happen to have quest objectives will say so, which makes it even easier to get where you need to go. Walk to a gate, look at the world map, pick the point with your next quest, and click. This quick-travel system from zone to zone may break up the immersion – provided by open-world MMOs like the World of Warcraft – but it allows each zone to be created in stupendous detail.
In addition to the main “story” chain of quests, players can find other NPCs with tasks to complete, or they can find a “rumor” NPC or job-listing board. The job-board will list all the player-created missions made with The Foundry, and lists them by popularity. Completing a player-created mission ends with a brief survey to rate that mission, and the best rated missions make it to the top of the list on the job-board. Pressing the “L” key also brings up this list, but if you want the “authentic” experience, you’ll look at the job-board. Talking to the “rumor” NPCs in each zone is even more helpful, as the NPC will only mention jobs available in that zone. Story quests can not be repeated, for I would think obvious reasons, but the player-created jobs can be – and they will scale to your level. The Foundry is – literally – a game changer, and I feel like I should devote a blog to it. For now, I’ll just say that it compliments the main Story and NPC quests very well.
Skirmishes: Another compliment to questing are the appropriately named Skirmishes. These are group events that you simply que up for, wait to start, and then participate, no matter where you are actually standing. Pressing the “k” key brings up the list of skirmishes you can que for, their estimated level requirement, and how many players are already in the que. Pick one, que up, and play. It’s that simple. The first few skirmishes I joined were very straight forward: survive increasingly difficult waves of enemies and then fight a big boss. Just like questing or clearing a dungeon, the mobs dropped loot, the boss dropped loot, and then there was a “Skirmish Complete” loot chest at the end. The party was also rated by contribution – I believe only based on damage dealt – but I don’t think that had effect on the loot chest. The third skirmish I played in, around level 22, added a little more terrain navigation, almost like a mini-outdoor-dungeon. It also featured THE toughest boss in my experience the entire weekend, though I think that was mostly because we didn’t have a Guardian Fighter in our random party to keep the boss’ attention. This brings up a good point: the Skirmish que is not class specific. I think that party had two Trickster Rogues, two Control Wizards, and a Devoted Cleric. It was tough, but we eventually prevailed.
Dungeons: A game based on Dungeons and Dragons should have Dungeons, and fear not, the Dungeons in Neverwinter are AMAZING! Well, I only played in one dungeon, a few times, but if its quality is any indication, Neverwinter has some amazing dungeons! Like Skirmishes, players can press “k” and que up for specific dungeons, it’s that simple. If you like, you can walk to the dungeons themselves, and the “story” quest paths will eventually lead you to them, but you’ll still want to que up for a party of five before you enter. That first dungeon took about 45 minutes to finish, cleverly weaved from dungeon to cavern, and contained challenging mobs and mini-bosses that all escalated to a very difficult big boss battle. It was all very satisfying. There were hidden pathways with optional rooms and treasure chests to loot, traps for the Rogue class to disarm, and decent loot drops everywhere. The combat and enemy behaviors described in Part 2 were on better display in the dungeon, and really showed off what the different classes contribute to a party. In other words, it’s just as fun as questing because of the brilliant game design, only magnified by a bigger party and tougher enemies. I really can’t overstate how much FUN playing in a dungeon was, and that seems appropriate for a Dungeons and Dragons game.
Unfortunately, PVP was unavailable this weekend. From the menus, it appears to be just as easy to que for PVP as it is to que for Skirmishes or Dungeons, but I don’t know any more beyond that. I was having so much fun questing and playing Skirmishes and Dungeons, I don’t know how much time I would have saved for PVP, anyway. That’s really the best way to sum up my experience this weekend: it was a lot of fun. Cryptic has crafted a wonderful combination of classes, combat controls, and enemy designs, that work really well together. With a healthy selection of developer and player-created content, as well as partying in Skirmishes and Dungeons, Neverwinter seems like it will be Neverboring!