My month in Neverwinter has ended, but I have a lot to cover before getting to my final impressions, so let's get to it!
Misplaced NostalgiaThe last week or so of my journey had me explore Mount Hotenow and Gauntlgrym, which frankly felt very impressive compared to most of the zones encountered in weeks past. By the end of week two I could clearly see the repetitive formula used for zone quests, and it had me jaded regardless of the beauty of a particular zone. Mount Hotenow and Gauntlgrym gave me a rush of nostalgia - not for D&D, but for classic World of Warcraft of all things - and in a weird way inspired me to continue on.
Mount Hotenow and Gauntlgrym have other redeeming qualities, though. The final quest at Hotenow that takes you inside the mountain was quite good, with a long and winding story instance on par with many of the game's dungeons. The Gauntlgrym content had even more incredible events and was a breath of fresh air due to how quests and story were delivered.
There are several other quest chains handed out similarly to Gauntlgrym's (it may not in fact have been even the first one created for the game, just the first one I played through), but I didn't mind that so much as it was at least different from what I experienced through every zone until roughly level 60.
Leveling and Daily InstancesSpeaking of levels, the act of leveling up was mostly disappointing. Most of your power points go into raising skills you never use to meet the requirements for the skills you actually want. At one point I was 20 or more levels away from the next power I wanted, making all those power points gained via leveling in between fairly meaningless.
Random daily dungeons continued as they had the previous weeks, with max-level characters zipping ahead while the others ran behind through empty rooms. In one particular instance, the max-level ended up being a Grade A(sshole) rogue that found it clever to sneak past enemies and leave the rest of us to deal with the trash while they soloed bosses. It wasn't until my next-to-last day playing had I gotten the pleasure of being grouped with someone who legitimately wanted to be a team player. The experience ended up being really gratifying; it's a shame that's the exception instead of the rule.
While I mostly loathed queuing up for random daily dungeons, I often looked forward to daily skirmishes. The encounters are designed for larger player groups with enemies often appearing in waves, meaning everyone actually gets to participate in the content. It was here that my paladin really shined, taunting enemies while providing a combination of buffs, debuffs and heals during the battles. I often placed high (if not first) in several categories at the end of each skirmish, which was unexpected but very satisfying!
Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?Having grouped up with viewers off and on throughout the month, we sometimes tackled the daily instances together... when I could remember to add them to the queue! You see, Neverwinter has some unusual features for instance queues - you join them independently, even if you're currently in a group unless the leader sends an invite to each member individually before joining. This is in sharp contrast to the norm (seen in almost every game I can recall), which gives the leader sole ability to queue the entire group as one.
It was explained to me that Neverwinter designed the system so that individual players could group up for zone content while still being queued for a random instance. I can see the appeal of that, as you're not standing around town bored until your instance pops. However, it also means fostering the individual experience to the detriment of the group. Imagine teaming up with other players to go tackle some group content, only to have half (or more) of them disappear partway through.
Where's the PvP?You can be reasonably certain those players didn't leave you to go join a PvP event though, as those queues seem pretty well dead (especially during the week). Having attempted joining for PvP occasionally throughout the month, I never had a queue pop. That leads me to believe that either PvP is terrible here and nobody does it, or that the overall population is so low that there's simply not enough people (that are also willing to participate) for it.
Using my google-fu (be sure to read all the comments here), it seems that the problem mostly hinges on terrible matchmaking, allowing brand new players to square off against hardened veterans. Considering my above complaint with matching players for random dungeons, it all starts to makes a lot more sense. It's obvious the game has a rudimentary (or mostly broken) matchmaking system and just groups players up entirely at random.
More of This!While the matchmaking system is complete garbage, Neverwinter does have some other nifty community features, such as the Foundry. This system allows players to create their own instances (with quests) and let others play through them. At the end of the instance, you can rate the mission and even tip the author some Astral Diamonds for their effort. This is a great feature that frankly more MMOs (in general, not just MMORPGs) should really implement. We all know it takes way more time to create game content than it does to consume it. Giving the community some creative tools (if handled properly) expands the total content for a game exponentially while the actual development team(s) can focus on entirely new additions and balancing the current game... at least in theory.
But Less of This!Much like PvP, it feels like crafting in this game is almost non-existant. Professions are there in the technical sense, but they seem to have no impact whatsoever until they're near max level. While that's sadly true of several MMORPGs, it feels even worse here because the system includes timers and psuedo-NPCs (that are really more akin to inventory items than characters) to perform the tasks.
I hate to pile on, but I must mention that grouping up for quests in Neverwinter can also be a bit dodgy. Sometimes the actions of party members count toward your completion and sometimes they don't, but it's not clear as to which system each quest is using until you go out and do them. Even worse, some campaign tasks are essentially impossible to complete in a group (which I presume is a bug), as the items refuse to drop for some players while in a party. I had this exact problem happen in Neverdeath Graveyard trying to collect documents from cultists for "Cult Communications".
Additionally, some quests would not complete for party members until they left group, though the exact same quests were completed successfully by other party members. In one particular case, both I and a friend were trapped in a crypt that wouldn't allow us to pick up the quest item nor let us to go back through the exit normally. We had to disband the group and let it kick us out of the crypt, then complete it solo (though it is not marked as a solo quest in any way and let us enter as a group).
My ProgressWhile I did get to max level (which at the time of writing this is 70), I barely scratched the surface of endgame content. However, it mostly looked to be more of the same except for the large scale raids (10 and 25 man content).
SUMMARYSo, how does Neverwinter fare after a month of play?
- The iconic setting, characters and monsters of D&D's Forgotten Realms are a welcome sight
- Combat is on par with a lot of other reticle-based MMORPGs
- Skirmishes are fun daily content (if a bit long sometimes)
- The Foundry is a great feature to let players generate content
- Basic matchmaking system that sours both daily dungeons and PvP
- Formulaic questing through zones feel uninspired
- Lots of point-dumping in unused skills when leveling
- Bugs from grouping up can ruin the fun of playing alongside friends
- Timers are way overused
- No crossplay, despite being on PC, Xbox One and PS4
- Endgame is grindy (which is either a pro or con, depending on personal taste)
Overall Impression - The Luster Fades FastMy first couple of weeks with Neverwinter were fairly positive, minus the daily dungeons. Seeing and fighting some of my favorite entries from the Monster Manual had me downright giddy with nerd joy! However, my enjoyment of the game dropped significantly once the novelty wore off.
The cons ended up outweighing the pros for me, putting a damper on my whole opinion of Neverwinter. A lot of the game's systems (matchmaking, skill trees and professions to name a few) would need an entire overhaul for me to even think of returning.
Thus wraps up my month in Neverwinter. The rest of April, I'll be playing through the Portal series and MMOMG will return in May. I stream six nights a week on Twitch, YouTube, Mixer and Smashcast (all links to my channels and media can be found in the sidebar).
Feel free to share this post with friends! Follow me on Twitter or join my Discord server to stay updated on streams, videos, articles, giveaways and more! If you'd like to support my work, check out my Etsy shop or Patreon for cool rewards and merchandise. Thanks so much for reading, and as always, take care guys!