Neverwinter – Enormous Red Tape in the Bush

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.

Surprised that names was available

Surprised that names was available

He is based somewhat on Sean Connery of the Zardoz / Man Who Would Be King era for no good reason.  A balding guy with distinctive facial hair.

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.

Camp fire stop

Camp fire stop

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!

Room at the inn?

Room at the inn?

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.

One word: Foliage!

One word: Foliage!

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.

Uh, guys...

Uh, guys…

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.

Oh, look, a light!

Oh, look, a light!

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.

Sludgeward ho!

Sludgeward ho!

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.

10 thoughts on “Neverwinter – Enormous Red Tape in the Bush

  1. HarbingerZero

    My problem has been the classes. Not that they are bad or anything, but I haven’t found one that “fits” yet. On the bright side they did send me a survey asking me what would get me back, and one of the options was “more character classes” – so I must not be the only one and they must be looking into the possibility.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Pia – Indeed. Enormous flies flapping slowly away into the sunset. Small brown babies clutched in their beaks. And there is very little you can do. They’re protected against pilferage under the provisions of the Guacamole Act of 1937.

    I am not sure why I do not own that movie.

    And damn, it should have been “tremendous red tape” not “enormous.” The memory goes with age.


  3. pkudude99

    From level 1-16 you’re expected to be completely solo — not even an NPC companion, and the mobs are scaled for that. As a result, going in a trio completely trivializes it.

    My own experience with low-level trio-ing was with me as a CW while my friends were a GF and a TR — both melees. I could almost always kill any mob we looked at before they could get into range to even swing at them. Add in that I already had a couple of level 60’s and could “twink” us with companions as soon as we exited the tutorial and it was that much worse. . . . .

    That said, we did play a night or 2 a week up into the 30’s and it was fun until summer began and IRL kinda broke it up. We may pick it up again next month too. Time will tell.


  4. Mekhios

    The game gets tough in latter levels. To the point where you really need to be in a group.

    I enjoyed Neverwinter but there was always that feeling in the back of my mind of eating a McDonalds meal. No matter how much you eat it never really satisfies.

    The questing areas are also left wanting as they all seem to comprise of a bunch of cleverly disguised corridors. Playing Neverwinter I never had the feeling of being in a vast open world like that in GW2 or LOTRO.

    Once I hit 60 and maxxed out all my gear on my trickster rogue I was pretty much done with the game. I may return to it one day but at this stage there are far better games I can devote my time to.


  5. bhagpuss

    The Neverwinter icon is still sitting on my desktop but it’s a few weeks behind on the patching and likely to stay that way. It falls into the category of “MMOs I’d be happy to play if there wasn’t much of a choice”, which is a pretty big category.

    The category of “MMOs I’d be happy to play given there are far more half-way decent ones than I’ll ever have time for” is a lot smaller.


  6. Vatec

    Pretty much with bhagpuss on this one: I really only have time to play two games “seriously” simultaneously. I have a small stable I rotate through, but generally only two of them are “active” at a time. At the moment those are Rift and World of Tanks. At any moment one of those might move to the bottom of the list and be replaced by Skyrim. Waiting in the wings are Star Trek Online, The Secret World, Age of Conan, Civ 5, and XCOM. Plenty of games out there, many of them MMO’s. No reason to play the ones that don’t grab me, except for the novelty value.


  7. Joseph Skyrim

    Don’t worry, the monsters get a lot more dangerous as you level up which makes foundry quests (the ones that work anyway) and event quests where they scale to you a tricky thing to handle.

    For example those silly rebel dudes who you are just slaying left and right? Later they start drinking heal potions and using scrolls that can stun lock you. Not too bad yet if you have a party.

    Another nice example: Level 1 guardian fighter against 30 zombies, no problem. Level 60 guardian fighter against same 30 zombies, guardian becomes zombie snack.

    Dungeons are fun tests of skill too. Especially the boss fights where if you die (and your allies can’t get you back up) you sit the rest of it out until a) your buddies win or b) your buddies die.

    In the (b) scenario expect the boss to be back at full health and fully reset.


  8. jokeefe

    Still playing and still enjoying. I agree that it does not have the expansive feel of LOTRO, or even WoW, but they’ve done an extremely nice job with the environmentals and music for the areas so that they all feel distinct.

    I do think the trees are sufficiently varied that my Control Wizard is not the same as, for example, my daughters and so that they can even group together and be complementary.

    As @joseph mentioned it’s definitely tougher going as you get higher and while there are boss fights you can solo you really need to pay attention. I nearly died a few times before I realized one of the boss abilities involved draining my health and replenishing his.

    I have given them some money (more characters slots and a faster mount) and probably will give some more, at least on behalf of my kids as a minimum, since I do think the game is worth it.

    I’m playing just about every night (more on weekends) so I’m doing about 15 to 20 hours a week which was give or take my WoW habit.


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