And some of that, I think, is that I’ve played it before.
I’m reluctant to say that every game Cryptic Studios makes is the same because every single one has very clear pieces that stand apart. Star Trek Online’s space combat, Neverwinter’s action combat, and Champions Online’s status as the last relic of a forgotten time. (Probably other things, too.) They’re not the same game. But they do all share the same gameplay loop, which is different… and despite my best efforts, there’s a certain point when all of that just winds up getting a wee bit tedious.
The loop in question arguably got started with City of Heroes, even if it hadn’t yet reached its current form. Get mission, go to area, probably click on a door to go enter a mini-dungeon you smash your way through. Neverwinter has the most refined form of this; while STO frequently finishes missions with some sort of big battle, Neverwinter gives those battles their own mechanics, even if they’re usually far along the simple axis.
And this is a perfectly good gameplay loop. Even a great gameplay loop. The problem – if there has to be a problem – is that these games anchor into this so intensely that there’s no space for anything else. This means that no mater how much the developers try, it’s always going to be story and setting that winds up differentiating one mission from the next; otherwise, it’s all just the same thing on a different day.
In that respect, Neverwinter is a bit crippled right out of the gate for me. It’s locked into the setting and lore of the Forgotten Realms, which is a setting I don’t like due to the whole painfully generic elements I’ve discussed elsewhere. That’s not to say the game doesn’t try its level best to make the setting interesting, give you NPCs to care about, keep you engaged in the world and the lore.
It’s just already walking uphill for me. And once the novelty of the combat wears off, it doesn’t have a whole lot else to hold me in.
There’s also the fact that I can see the same signs of frustration that often creep around the edges of these other games. Those random lockboxes dropping in place of loot? Oh, yeah, that’s going to wear on me right quick. And unlike STO or CO, Neverwinter has no option to subscribe, which is my usual preference for games like this where I feel the free elements are kind of obtrusive.
All of this is not to say that it’s a bad game, or even that it’s a good game which isn’t to my tastes. I enjoyed playing Neverwinter quite a bit, and if I had to list my biggest complaint about something actually wrong with the game, it would be the downright awful running animations for Ceilarene. Most other things come down to little more than differences of opinion and/or focus, which isn’t a black mark on the game.
But it was also something I was perfectly happy to walk away from. And not even with the sort of vague affection and curiosity I had when walking away from other games, but just a sense of “well, that’s my time in.” It never got its hooks in me in any real way.
I think it is, at its core, a good game. I also think your ability to enjoy it is going to generally depend on how much you get ticked by the aforementioned free-to-play nonsense. If that sort of thing doesn’t even ping on your radar as a problem, you’ll probably be able to happily sidle into the game and might even want to drop some cash. If my own rage on lockboxes mirrors your own, you’ll get annoyed, and if you make my issues look downright forgiving, you will be so angry as to never want to shut up about it.
Some people seek stuff out like that, so maybe you’ll be happy about that. (Any of the above. Anger fuels some folks, no judgment here.)
For me, it was fun, but it was something I found easy to walk away from. A good slice of gaming, but not something I would ever make a main game. I think that might be the best way to enjoy it, really; there are certainly options for really diving into the meat if you want to, but not every MMO has to be nothing but main courses. Sometimes it’s nice to have something you can duck into and leave when you’re done.
The next batch!
Yes, it’s time for another round of polling to determine where I’m heading next, and we’re starting with a standby that keeps getting close but not quite making it over the line. A lot of people said last time that they were hoping for DC Universe Online just because it’s not a fantasy title, and despite my usual gaming proclivities I am as tired of fantasy games as anyone. So that’s a mark in its favor.
Also, I hear Wonder Woman is a pretty great movie.
Or maybe I should dive back into Blade & Soul? I played it a bit here and there, and I certainly didn’t dislike it, but much like Neverwinter here, it didn’t get its hooks in me for a variety of reasons. That having been said, it’s launched now, it has new class options, and maybe it’ll perfectly provide the sort of active combat I don’t usually get.
ArcheAge, on the other hand, doesn’t have action combat, but it does have the distinction of being the game on this list I have spent the least time playing. Perhaps it would grab me more now? Or at the very least provide a fresh perspective on the game which was once seen as the Great Import Hope now that we’re a fair bit on in its North American life cycle.
So let’s put this to a vote. Democracy, ho!
CMA: Where will my next destination lie?
- DC Universe Online (49%, 87 Votes)
- Blade & Soul (23%, 41 Votes)
- ArcheAge (28%, 49 Votes)
Total Voters: 177
As usual, voting will be open until 6:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, so you’ve got plenty of time to cast your vote for the next destination. I could try to influence the poll by hoping you vote for something… but where would the fun in that be?
Until next week, feel free to leave your comments down below or mail them along to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’ll excuse me, I hear some self-chosen adventures calling me at the moment.