Hands-on: Neverwinter post-Uprising is a mixed bag for newbies and vets

    
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A long time ago, for a few months after it launched, I was an avid Neverwinter player. I loved its visceral combat, and to this day I’d rate its take on the Ranger as perhaps my favorite class in any video game. I made it to the original level cap and got fairly well-geared.

But in the end I drifted away. The overbearing monetization and lack of a strong narrative keeping me invested caused me to slowly lose interest, and other games began to dominate my attention. The temptation of returning to Neverwinter was always there, but I never really got around to it.

However, with the big updates being made with the new Uprising module this month, it felt like a good time to give Cryptic Studios‘ Dungeons and Dragons inspired MMO another shot. A revamped leveling experience seemed like it could be the breath of fresh air the game needed. I rolled up a new character, a Paladin, and set forth on my adventures.

However, my high hopes for a fresh experience quickly came crashing down. The new tutorial is barely changed from the original. Honestly I’m not sure why PWE bothered to change anything; there’s no substantive difference. I guess getting rid of the “amnesiac shipwreck survivor” bit makes the experience slightly less cliche, but otherwise it’s just the same stuff about fighting Valindra’s minions.

Perhaps I simply misunderstood the marketing materials, but I had been of the impression there were significant changes after the tutorial, too. This is not the case. Once you’re past the opening quests — 20 minutes of content or so — it’s straight back to the Blacklake District, same as always. Protector’s Enclave was said to have received a facelift as well, but honestly, I can’t tell the difference.

There are some changes compared to what I remember, but they are small. There’s a short new quest chain woven through the low-level content to introduce players to the mechanics of Campaigns. Campaigns were just beginning to be implemented when I left, so while they’re now the bread and butter of Neverwinter‘s endgame (from what I understand), I don’t have a lot of firsthand experience with them. If the new introduction quests are any indication, I’m not sure I want to play more of them. It’s just a lot of collection quests and AFK tasks. That’s about as dull as MMO content gets.

The other change I noticed is that Neverwinter‘s early levels are now much, much easier. It was never an exceptionally hard game, but I remember that in the past it took at least some effort to down enemies. Now nothing puts up a fight at all. This is a real shame because combat is by far Neverwinter‘s greatest strength, but there’s no joy to be found in it when even group dungeon bosses go down in about 10 seconds.

With the starting experience proving to have little new to offer and none of it good, I started revisiting my old characters and exploring how the game’s systems had changed more generally since I last played.

I jumped on my Cleric to heal a dungeon and found the character almost unrecognizable. The unique mechanics that allowed Clerics to shift between healing and damage have — at least at the lower level she’s at — been replaced by a very bland selection of standard heal and damage spells. It feels like any other MMO support class now, and the character feels gutted.

On a brighter note, I also ran a quest on my Ranger main, and she plays just as I remember. Her hybrid melee/ranged build is intact, and it’s still an absolute blast to play.

I also found the challenge that was missing at low levels is there for level 60 characters. In fact, if anything, it was perhaps a little too challenging. I suspect some kind of scaling issues introduced by game balance changes over the years. It would have been fine except that my healing potions — which were ostensibly level appropriate — were healing for only a tiny fraction of my health.

Back when I used to play, I was a big fan of the PvP. In fact, Neverwinter is the only MMO where I made PvP a regular part of my play. It even became my main source of high-level gear. I liked how the action combat leveled the playing field between newer players and those with better gear, and the balance of the Domination mode made matches very volatile, with little potential for snowballing.

I wanted to see if Neverwinter‘s PvP is still that fun, but after hours spent in queue on multiple characters, I never got a single match to pop. It seems the game’s PvP community has died, at least below the new level cap.

The other thing I used to spend my time on in Neverwinter was the Foundry. Popular legend says that letting players design their own content leads to nothing but endless reams of broken and poorly designed quests, but I found that wasn’t the case at all. The Foundry overflowed with content that was far better than anything made by the developers. Sure, there were lots of crap quests, but it was easy to avoid them by reading reviews before you played. The overwhelming majority of Foundry quests I played were fun and engaging, with clever game mechanics and well-written stories.

It is, then, very disappointing that the Foundry has been removed from the game entirely. This seems to be because it was too much of a challenge to maintain technically, which to me seems a pretty damning statement on what kind of company is running the game now. If you can’t find the resources to maintain the most unique selling feature you have, why are you making games in the first place?

Beyond that, Neverwinter has received a mixed bag of systems changes since I last played.

There’s a new wardrobe system that lets you save gear appearances and dyes to a library and then apply them as you please. This seems like a huge improvement. I remember having to constantly stock up on dyes being quite a pain back in the day.

Crafting has been redesigned and is now accessed through a physical workshop building in Protector’s Enclave. It’s a cool idea in theory, but it feels like an unnecessary complication in practice. Also, the Leadership profession has been removed for some reason. It had been my focus, so this pleases me not at all.

I know this reads as a very harsh impressions piece, and I suppose it is. However, my opinion of Neverwinter is not really that much lower than it was before. The loss of the Foundry is a huge blow, but otherwise the game hasn’t really changed that much for veteran players. It still has amazing combat, and if all you want is a place for low stress grinding — which is what the game was always best for — it’s still a solid choice. I can’t say this visit has inspired me to return to playing regularly, though.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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Neurotic

You know, the sequencing of the zones hasn’t changed; you’re still going to go to Blacklake and the Tower District early on, but your paths through the zones has changed a bit (along with some of the reasoning for it, reflected in dialogue etc).

Protector’s Enclave isn’t that different, although the new, higher-res textures are a huge improvement. But the location of key points within it has changed, i.e. Knox and the events platform switched places (Sybella now stands where Knox used to be), and the mount vendor has moved to where the town notice boards used to be. It’s a subtle change, but makes much more sense now that Knox is more in the middle, closer to most of the entrances, and the mounts and companions are next to each other.

I’ve been playing off-and-on (mostly ‘on’) since open beta, and the game has gone through some pretty big evolutions. Undermountain was a real game-changer, whereas now we’re sort of following up on that, smoothing and spreading the changes throughout other areas too. I think you’re right about the challenge having tipped more to 60+; although that has always been the case to some extent, it’s much more so now, probably as a result of the balancing changes. Again, I expect some of this to be levelled-out (ha) in the coming year as the dust settles on the more recent, mechanics-heavy modules.

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teppic

I used to play the game a lot. It’s by far the most pay to win game I’ve ever played, and I’m extremely glad I stopped. They used every trick to get cash out of people, and the game was so overwhelmingly grindy at “end game” you just wanted to spend cash to hit the next upgrade target because the prospect of days of grind to get 0.5% nearer where you wanted to be just wasn’t worth it.

And the thing was, to what end? There was no real end game. It’d been designed so that everybody could pretty much do everything, and you were just refining gear for the sake of hitting the next target, getting the higher number, and to start the whole process off again. It was pure Skinner Box in action. Of course, because you could skip all grind entirely with cash without any limits, to get into some content groups you wouldn’t have any chance unless you spent a lot, and often. I regularly heard of PvP guilds requiring all members to spend hundreds of dollars per month or they would not be allowed in, because there was absolutely no way to be competitive without doing this.

Everything about the game is about extracting as much money as they can using every psychological trick, every gambling hook, everything that’s used in pay to win games is used in this. They present a fairly fun game to get you into it, they give you bits here and there to make you think you’re doing well and making good progress, until you feel you’ve put so much into the game that quitting would make all your effort (or money spent) pointless.

I used to say the game was good if you just wanted to play extremely casually, to level up, spend an hour here and there on the new content and then move on. But that’s exactly how they want people to play it, because that’s how people get hooked. Nobody would go near the game if it was like end-game from the start.

I’m sad to see it’s so often promoted on this site (though obviously this review is not glowing), as it’s one of the most unethical games, along with PWE’s other games, that exist outside of mobile games.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I once had a character that went to the mid-levels, on the launch year. I had fun, though I also had issues with the game.

In the years since, update news interested me (like more expansive Campaigns), but also dismayed me (like removal of Foundry). But overall, the game looked more uninteresting than interesting. Such a cash shoppy focus was much a turnoff, and it didn’t even have the storytelling that Secret World helped me with. So yeah, agreed there. But even smaller stuff like the UI design and limited scope of what the D&D IP offered bothered me. Where’s the classes, the variety of adventures, etc.

I had made 1-2 characters since but barely past the tutorial.

I’ll maybe download and try the game next week for free Gith and an attempt at a new main. But like, this is the week of WoW Classic so I probably won’t proceed further ;).

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Mallus

This > “The overbearing monetization and lack of a strong narrative keeping me invested caused me to slowly lose interest”

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Castagere Shaikura

Like I said in another post. Great game while leveling from 1 to 60/65. After that, it becomes gear chasing just to be able to kill mobs without dying over and over. It’s your typical whales game from PWE. It’s all about getting you to spend a lot of money to do the zen to astral diamonds market exchange. This is why a have a bad feeling for Torchlight Frontiers. The leveling from 1 to 60 is to suck you in.

cdnbison
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cdnbison

A lot to go over here, so bear with me….

Player since open beta here, so let’s look at a few things:
1. The tutorial – no, the general layout hasn’t changed. Given that it’s been 6 years since you’ve run through it, though, a great deal *has* changed, and it’s been streamlined to be a much smoother experience.

2. Campagin quests vary, depending on the campaign (think of each campaign as a separate D&D module). Sometimes, you’re running a mix of daily quests, sometimes you’re got a variety of quests and a limit on how much campaign currency you can pull in /week (much better for players who can’t play daily)… They all involve some sort of grind, some more than others.

3. PvP hasn’t been a major part or focus of the game in … well, since about the time you first left. Apparently changes are coming in the near future, but it’s always been heavily tilted to those with most/best gear.

4. I didn’t do a lot in the Foundry, but there were some gems there, and yes, I miss it.

5. You don’t have to visit the workshop to craft once you get to a higher level with it (2, I think – of a possible 4). Leadership was removed because it was being botted so heavily, it was becoming a problem for the economy. You can also use professions for steady income, and there are actaully some userful items to be made in professions now.