In theory Neverwinter ought to be a slam dunk winner for me.
It is based on Forgotten Realms, my favorite D&D campaign setting. It has beautiful scenery. Classes are distinct and have a limited number of skills available at any given time. The UI is responsive. While being free to play, it does not remind me every minute of the day that I should visit the cash shop. And the game includes a good deal of instanced, small group content so our regular group can go off and do a dungeon crawl whenever we get together.
And yet this past weekend I spent nearly every available gaming moment playing Lord of the Rings Online. While LOTRO does have perhaps the one setting that trumps Forgotten Realms in my book… Middle-earth… and the scenery is good, objectively you could conclude that Neverwinter is a better game for me. If nothing else, LOTRO seems absolutely determined to remind me that it has a cash shop at every possible moment. It is like a small child with a new toy, every conversation must be turned to discuss it. I am sure Neverwinter will get there as well… it seems to be the way of things… but for the moment I can play for long stretches of time without being asked for a buck.
But I have kept Neverwinter patched up all the same. It is part of the matrix of possible games for Saturday night, the choice of which is driven by who happens to be online and available to play. And I have put my nose into the game a few times since I was last there with the group.
One of the first things I did was trade in my great weapon fighter, Sven Sverdsk for a trickster rogue. I named him Sans Serif.
I rolled him up, got him through the tutorial and well into level 4 before leaving him be for a while. But last Saturday when the “who’s online” came up with me, Potshot, and Mike (the guy in our group without a consistent character naming pattern who is not me), Neverwinter was the pick.
They had both been playing a bit more than I had and were up to level 8, though that did not seem to be an impediment really. We first ran through a couple of quests that Mike had, and I had no problem keeping up, doing damage, or surviving any hostile intent from mobs. He was able to share them and we all go credit. Then we turned towards the quests I had, which I was able to share with everybody and which we blazed through. That the whole thing was designed to be soloable no doubt helped speed our progress.
After basically blitzing through four different quests, we decided to roll the dice with some user created content. Last time around this worked out well for us. We ended up with a connected series of a few adventures that at least showed off the potential for the foundry tool. This time around we were less fortunate.
The first choice sent us off to an inn because… well… D&D!
And a fine looking inn it was. However, from there the adventure seemed to be broken. Our first attempt to advance beyond the “hanging about” stage of things dropped us from the game. And upon returning, things did not recover well. I was still at the inn but Mike was not and couldn’t get back. We all dropped the quest, went back to where we started, and tried again. This time we all got to the inn, but then could not activate whatever was required to move things forward. After a bit more poking around we gave up.
The second one we tried was created by somebody who clearly felt that actually getting to your destination in these adventures was far too easy. And, admittedly, things are often on a pretty clear
set of rails path. This person had a solution though.
This was an outdoor instance where the author went nuts with nature in an attempt to simulate crossing a dense forest. At night. I had to lighten these screen shots up a bit so you could see what we were facing. Then imagine that you couldn’t really see it because it was dark and there was no path, and you immediately got separated from the rest of your group.
And it was just “okay, we’ll hide the trail underneath bushes.” There were some serious log jams where it took a lot of jumping and turning and trying to find the right perch to get through. I fell into a pit and one point and spent several minutes trying to get myself unstuck. And I don’t mean that in the “GuildWars 2 jumping puzzle” way, where you know you have to hit the space bar at just the right moment to get to that next ledge. This was “it’s dark, I can’t see shit, so I am just spamming the space bar and turning in hopes that I will land on something that will help me move forward.”
We would occasionally reach a quest objective, or fight a couple of mobs.
But for the most part the whole thing seemed be designed around the premise, “Make movement difficult.” After what seemed like a long time of fighting foliage… but which was probably only about 20 minutes… a motion was made and seconded to “fuck this shit” and we left.
We decided to move back to the quests that were part of the game, which lead us to chasing a series of glowy lined in search of sludge samples.
That moved us back into a path of very little resistance as the three of us jumped on and destroyed anything that happened to cross our path with very few mouse clicks. More satisfying that being stuck in a bush, granted, but still not quite as fulfilling as one might hope. After a bit of that, which wasn’t all that engaging, I declared myself the party pooper and called it a night. It was past 11pm, so I wasn’t parking the bus too early, but I was clearly the first one who wanted out.
So another night in Neverwinter and I remain unconvinced.
Now clearly part of the problem is I have not invested all that much in the game. Expecting to find great challenges in a group with a level 5 and two level 8 characters in a game where the level cap is 60 is probably asking a bit much. Judgement should probably be withheld until we get further along.
Still, everything killed was very very fast. Fast enough to make Diablo III battles seem like protracted combat. My rogue was clearly Mister Click-Click, Kill-Kill. Nothing offered anything like a fight, even what I was levels down.
Except, of course, all of that foliage. Defeated by plants.