Neverwinter is another one of those MMORPGs that I just put on the shelf and walked away from after being generally bored by it. I don’t remember the combat being that great. I don’t remember the setting being compelling. And I definitely don’t remember the classes that I experienced being too dynamic or interesting. All told, I went into this column’s project with not a whole lot of enthusiasm, especially since the last game beat me down, and the Drow-centric Menzoberranzan – which launches today – isn’t really my vibe.
Happily, I can say that most of my prejudices about this game appear to be proven incorrect. I am having an absolute blast, and a lot of that can be probably attributed to the Tiefling Bard I’ve made.
The Bard archetype has always been one of those kinds of tropes that always has the most interesting variance among other titles, but for the most part this is generally the class that buffs friends and harms enemies with musical power. Neverwinter’s Bard certainly doesn’t break that mold (nor should it since this is based off of D&D), but it also has a few interesting little gimmicks I was not anticipating.
For one thing, I wasn’t expecting it to be a fancy sort of swordfighter. I suppose there are classes that use swordplay better, but the way melee combat for this class works for me so far involves using a flourish maneuver and then following it up with a righteous fencing stab. It’s a neat little modifier that makes those single target hits oh-so-satisfying. Otherwise, melee combat is just me smashing the main mouse button and swinging in wide arcs at my foes.
That would probably be routine and even boring were it not for the stock in the Bard trade: buffing songs. Well, I guess in my case it’s more like “buffing song” singular because the only one I’ve got right now ramps up my attacks and does a bit of PBAoE damage. But then that’s more than enough for me because jamming out a tune to peel of a fat chunk of HP from foes that surround me and then finishing them up with sweeping swipes or boosted stabs feels great.
On the subject of songs, I genuinely love manually playing them. I did read that they can be set to a hotbar, and perhaps down the line I will need to do that in order to remember the buttons to hit to get a song buff out, but I actually like the busywork of having to hit numpad keys for a few moments before going on the offensive again. It reminds me a lot of my Dancer job in Final Fantasy XIV, where attacking has to stop in order for me to hit a series of button combinations to put out a damage dealing buff. I really love that busywork.
When I combine these fun tricks with the right click button having some nasty ranged damage, with the flourish move ramping up the hurt for another ranged skill, and with an ultimate power that often gets me out of trouble, I’m finding the Bard class to be the single most fun thing I’ve ever experienced in Neverwinter. I feel like a daring adventurer, just barely keeping things together while nuking enemies with style. It’s a spectacular-feeling and -playing class. It looks good, it feels good, it is good.
But the Bard isn’t the only thing that’s making this return to Neverwinter fun. I also don’t remember the opening segments being quite this well done. Sure, I was still dealing with Valindra things, but somehow the game’s opening portion seemed different. Also the quests that followed have been a lot more enjoyable overall, especially since I don’t remember them being lined out like this.
I also appreciate some of the other touches that I don’t recall being in the game, such as bonuses for positioning attacks, the way the game looks now, the mouselook “soft lock” targeting system feeling this nice, or the fact that the game gives milestone levels instead of making me fill an XP bar; that one’s a nice touch since that’s how I dish out XP when I run my own D&D games.
As for the story, it’s generally a take-it-or-leave-it affair. Neverwinter never really grabbed me with its narrative, and the whole thing still seems to drop the adventuring tabletop spirit that a game like Dungeons and Dragons Online carries. I’ve seen some unique encounters at this point, however – enough that it made me stand up and take notice, at any rate. It’s hard to ignore fighting a big spider or the lich why just wanted his phylactery to be placed somewhere quiet because he was tired of unlife.
But then the story took a moment to teach me how to open lockboxes, and I suddenly stopped paying attention again.
Luckily, there are a few things that I do remember that I think helped me better temper my expectations. For example, the fact that a lot of the boss fights involved constantly spawning adds as a difficulty mechanic was expected, and being able to mostly swap between laying some ranged hurt at the boss and dealing with the adds with steel and song made these fights feel a whole lot less annoying than they ever have before.
So far there have been enough bad experiences that were thrown away and replaced with great times that have gotten me digging on Neverwinter a lot more than I expected to. I suppose you could attribute my overall sunny disposition being to a less “hardcore” title as well as my own failing memory, but I have got to say that coming back has felt excellent.
And it’s all thanks to my lute-strumming, rapier-swinging, dashing little Tiefling Bard. And perhaps enough time passing where Neverwinter has evolved into a game I can enjoy again.
On the subject of coming back to the game, I now have this lovely Bard to experience the game with, or I still have my old Paladin, who has been grandfathered into the the new maximum level 20, though that number is arbitrary since item level is what matters most. Even so, it has gotten me curious to learn what may have changed at the top end since I’ve been away, assuming I’m near anything like a top end.
But then, I really like this Bard…
You know what? How about a poll!
Which Neverwinter class should I roll this week?
- Bard. Choose joy. (80%, 84 Votes)
- Paladin. Choose curiosity. (20%, 21 Votes)
Total Voters: 105
Polling will close at the usual time of 1:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, March 31st. In the meantime, I’m just glad that I’m having such a good time. It’s good to be wrong sometimes.