The last few days, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been “cheating” on DDO.
Not in the sense that I’ve been duping, or taking part in any number of exploits – personally, I despise them – but because I’ve simply not been on. To that, I blame my personal lack of +5 Greater Hearts of Wisdom Tooth Reincarnation, since one of mine decided to (quite agonizingy) make itself known Friday. After several days of high doses of over-the-counter pain meds – which are woefully inappropriate for the content at hand (if you’ve had wisdom tooth issues, you’ve felt my pain, quite literally) – I am happily on antibiotics and codeine and awaiting the day next week when a part of my skull shall be ripped out with pliers. Literally.
In that timeframe, I’ve been playing some Neverwinter. Partly because I don’t feel like the “stresses” of DDO – character planning, play time investments, et cetera. I’ve already had an account on Neverwinter before, with several characters started, mostly for “patch times” or server downtimes or whenever some drama reared its ugly head. But I’ve never given it a proper write-up on my own personal opinions. So, without further ado..
I started Neverwinter with the same basic goal I had in DDO: take three completely different playstyles and see what happens. You might recognize a few of the names.. since I seem to use them in almost every D&D instance:
Tholgrin Stoneforge, level 37 Great Weapon Fighter
It was the closest thing they had to a paladin. He’s darn near indestructible, to the point I don’t even look at his HP bar any longer; once I discovered you can “stack” any effect, unlike in DDO, I cranked his passive regeneration and hp-recovery-on-strike to absurd levels. He has solo-ed “dungeons” (Neverwinter’s version of raids) on three separate occasions. Not bad for a less-than part-time investment in effort. Seen with him is Fluffykins the Cave Bear. (Edit: In a strange way, this makes me actually dislike this character. Stand and hack, successful, yes, but somewhat boring.)
Kiljoen Lorebringer, level 24 Control Wizard
Looking properly creepy, Kiljoen was my second character. Boy, is there a squishy factor here! However, unlike DDO, there’s no mana bar (I can hear it now, “what?!”), but what it makes up for in that is that every spell is on a cooldown timer. So if you don’t keep everything under control, things get hairy real fast. In the background is Poopy Ears, his cleric.
Felldar Bloodbeard, level 22 Trickster Rogue
My most recent project, Felldar has been a bit of fun to play – after all, who doesn’t love teleporting around like Nightcrawler? Far more tactical combat than any form of “stealth” gameplay – even though there is a stealth mode (sort of) – he’s still a blast. Disarming traps is still around.. but as far as I can tell, it’s an auto-succeed. Where’s the fun in that?
And now, without further ado… the pros and cons.
- There’s no complex character builds – you pick a class and go.*
- No more getting lost! A giant sparkly line tells you exactly where to go next.*
- All of your “hirelings” are permanent and grow with you. (There is so much win here, get on this, Turbine! Please!!)
- OFFLINE CHARACTER AND INVENTORY MANAGEMENT!!! (Yes, I said it! Turbine, plz? PLZ????)
- Offline adventure games with your hirelings to gain stuff and experience for them – this is so much fun, I’ve been playing it at night after I log off of DDO before bed for months. Just requires a browser! Yay, hireling growth even when I’m offline!
- Offline auction management! ….of course, the auction house in Neverwinter is so hopelessly far beyond the bloating that occurs in DDO, this is really just a wash.
- Okay, I’ll admit it, it’s pretty. The graphics engine is far beyond that supported by DDO currently.
And now the Cons (I’ll try to be gentle)
- * No complex character builds. You are what you are and that’s that. There is zero multiclassing, whatsoever. Zero “feats” in the traditional P&P sense that allow you to “bend” traditional class restrictions. No “uber” builds. No wizards on the front line or group-healing tanks. No “I wonder how he pulled that off?”
- * No sense of exploration. That sparkly line tells you exactly where to go next – even between quests. As far as I’ve gone (mind, their end-game cap is 60 vs. “our” 28, so level 37 is approximately “our” level 17 rank 1), it’s been just one plot line at a time. There has yet to be a “should I do Necro I or Tangleroot?” question, ever. Even running two additional characters through the same paces to see if I missed anything… nope. Same story. Same quests. Same arcs. (Outside one or two miniature “collection”-style race/class quests, which are largely jokes.)
- No sense of accomplishment. With the exception of the “dungeons” – their version of raids that a whopping five people (!!) can join in – each quest is done in a few minutes. This was clearly aimed at the gamer who only has a few hours a week to play. While it serves its purpose there, I want what I find in DDO: I want those hour-long endurance runs.
- Everything stacks?? Apparently, I’ve been playing DDO for so long that this concept didn’t even occur to me, until I went to do some gear fine-tuning. Yes, everything stacks on everything. So your Dagger of +20 Ouch will stack with the Cloak of +20 Ouch and the Ring of +20 Ouch and the Augment of +20 Ouch for a total of +80 Ouch. Two of the same named item stack, too. Suddenly, all of the art in managing the perfect gear lineup just went out the window.. and with that, my interest in min/maxing here did, too.
- What immersion? There are banners literally everywhere that you cannot turn off (at least, not that I’ve figured out how to do in 73 character levels). Sure, you can minimize some of them – completely useful notices such as “there’s a way-above-level dungeon you can’t queue up for starting in 5 minutes” – but as soon as you zone, they’re right back on the screen again. Aggravation central.. until you learn to just tune them out. But I shouldn’t have to “tune out” things in a game; this, amongst other things, totally shatters the sense of immersion. Add to that the HUD is just woefully overcluttered and there are no options to just remove things from your interface, as there is in DDO. I can haz main menu bar off-screen, please? I can haz the worldwide trade channel muted, please? (Okay, you can do this one, once you figure out how.) How about I can haz less than 30% of my screen dedicated to HUD?
- “It’s Free to Play!” If you thought Turbine was bad about touting this mechanic, log on to Neverwinter once. You’ll never complain again. At least Turbine gives you plenty of opportunities to earn the “premium” currency (Turbine Points) in-game. Neverwinter just shoves all the awesome stuff you could be having (“Flaming Nightmare Heavy Armor Mounts! Only $14!”) every twenty seconds alongside the free-to-play variants (“Brown Palomino Horse”). Sure, Turbine may be guilty of some of the same tactics, but by comparison, Turbine’s is tasteful and reserved compared to Neverwinter’s Las-Vegas-like “Sure, You Can Play If You’re Poor, But Look How Cool We Are!” attitude.
And a Neutral
Considering the reason I logged on to Neverwinter as opposed to DDO in the first place was to have some game play with no time commitments or personal interaction, this kind of felt like it didn’t belong in a “con” pile, per se. The game mostly feels as though it’s a single-player game that just so happens to take place with a whole slew of other gamers that are running through the same single-player content simultaneously. The whole “queuing up” for a dungeon instance – where you cannot see how many people are already waiting or how close it is to full until it just thrusts you into the instance – is a train wreck. But, for some idle gaming while hyped up on narcotic painkillers where you didn’t really want to talk to anybody, anyway, this is a good thing. So this factor may lean severely in either direction, depending on the individual reader.
The Final Verdict
Is it fun? Somewhat, yes. I find it entertaining, if mostly mindless, fun. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – remember the glory days of the D&D themed hack’n’slash arcade style button mashers that coexisted harmoniously with the brain-intensive RPG stylizations? I think of Neverwinter as the new generation of the MMO hack ‘n slash. No, it will never take over DDO in my book. Not ever. But if the servers are down, or I’m having an “off” day, or just feel like watching my four-foot-tall, four-hundred pound Dwarf of Steel plow through hordes of undead until I get sleepy.. it’s got it’s place. And because of that, I don’t consider Neverwinter a “failure..” but it’s certainly not a threat, either.