Also holding an event last weekend was Neverwinter, with the Coins of Waukeen. All mobs had a chance of dropping a coin purse that could be opened for a variety of shiny baubles or exchanged for larger treasure chests containing even shinier baubles, and if there’s one thing I like more than shiny baubles it’s even shinier baubles, so I thought I’d potter around and try and collect up a few.
I had got quite into Neverwinter, working through the various zones and running all manner of skirmishes and dungeons, but had run out of steam around level 53. As per an old post (Heavens to Murgatroyd, seven years?) I prefer games that are structured but free-form, and Neverwinter is perhaps a touch heavy on the structure. Every zone seemed to be Go To Quest Hub A, Do X Quests (Kill Y Mobs or Collect Z Things), Go To Quest Hub B, Repeat, interspersed with an occasional visit to a solo dungeon to kill a boss-type-thing. Some of the story threads running through zones are quite interesting but they’re very linear and I didn’t really feel terribly personally involved, more like observing a series of vignettes than really participating, Dragon’s Lair with Killing X Mobs instead of pressing a button as the “quick” time events between each scene. The release of the big Curse of Icewind Dale expansion/module wasn’t of immediate interest either, being aimed at characters already well into the end game, so I hadn’t been seriously playing for a while.
In other news, I hit level 60 (the cap) in Neverwinter the other day. Despite not going out questing I still logged in most days to Invoke (an in-game action that earns experience and various currencies) and send off various minions to perform crafting actions, a system with some similarities to duty officers in Star Trek Online. I’m not entirely sure why, apart from that most primal compulsion to Click Things To Make Numbers Go Up, but it became a bit of a habit, and between the Invoking XP and the Leadership profession I gained the final 7-odd levels without leaving town. The Coins of Waukeen event prompted me to actually go off and do some proper Using Abilities To Cause Damage, so first stop was the auction house to replace my obsolete gear. The levelling part of Neverwinter is comparatively brief (as demonstrated by my idle XP gains) and level 60 loot drops plentifully, so a full set of blue weapons and armour were incredibly cheap. Next stop, the level 60 campaigns: Sharandar and The Dread Ring. I gather these were the first two expansions for the game and, again, broadly comprise zones with various quest hubs, but geared towards repeatable content. A “Campaigns” window of the interface gives a flow-chart-esque overview of the progression; do a certain thing three times, unlock another thing, do that seven times, etc. Daily quests at the hubs award the myriad tokens and tchotchkes that contribute to these unlocks: seeds, sparks, scrolls, socks, sandwiches, the currency systems of the Forgotten Realms really are a mess, the sooner everyone starts accepting credit cards the better. Over the weekend I dipped a toe into both the campaigns, earning a couple of boons to boost my character’s stats and a pile of coin purses along the way in which I found a nice pile of Astral Diamonds (yet another currency) and, most importantly, a pair of Gold Pantaloons.
There’s plenty to like in the game; combat is dynamic and fast-paced, and though you can get into a bit of a rut using particular rotations of abilities, positioning and movement is still important so it’s seldom just case of standing around and hitting the number keys. There’s plentiful solo content if you don’t fancy teaming up, and group opportunities if you do. Low level skirmishes and dungeons were quick affairs that didn’t need too much co-ordination, and were quick to get into via the group finder; approaching level 60 they get more challenging, the queues get longer, and the few that I tried with PUGs ranged from painfully lengthy battles of attrition to desperately hanging on to the coat-tails of a massively over-geared player soloing everything in their path. I imagine they offer a reasonable challenge for an organised group, the issue being the more fundamental one of group finding systems and PUGs than the game itself, and if I were really keen to get more involved then finding a like-minded guild would doubtless pay considerable dividends; there’s even an area, Gauntlgrym, only accessible to suitable affiliated guild members. There are PvP options if you’re interested; I fear they suffer from the usual difficulties of balancing stat/gear/build-heavy mechanics, but have only tried a few low-level matches so couldn’t say for sure. If you’re after a wide open world with freedom to roam then it’s certainly not going to be your cup of tea, if the idea of a more distilled Essence of MMO Progression appeals then it’s worth a look. I’m not sure I’ll seriously throw myself into the end-game, but might well chip away at the campaigns now and again and pop in for events.