Guilding It Up (Sort of) in Neverwinter

So I started playing Neverwinter again. I don’t exactly remember why I did this. Perhaps it saw mention on a podcast, or I saw an ad in a particularly weak moment. I’ve circled back to it a few times, though neither for as long nor with as much regularity as Dungeons and Dragons Online.  I also haven’t spent nearly as much money in the game, in part because lockboxes don’t really drive my purchasing decisions. They’re a seductive trap, and I’ve opened my share, but it’s the kind of trap where the teeth are too apparent, the tongue too pulsating, and I know that I’m throwing my limbs away if I hop in.

I have a handful of characters in the game, though I don’t recall whether or not I bought a spare slot (compare this to DDO, where I think I have 14 slots on every server). The last time I’d played for any length of time was when they premiered the Scourge Warlock, a class that was featured in the rather excellent trailer but didn’t actually drop until recently.

The game’s much more action-oriented than the traditional MMO, though you still have hotkey clicks for various powers; I understand it’s ported fairly well to the Xbox, also. It’s heavily rooted in 4e, and I’m a fan of that edition. However, it’s also maintained very close ties with the more recent 5e campaigns, and there’s been an in-game campaign/release/something to coincide with each one so far. Not sure that the dev cycle will keep up with the Rage of Demons one, though.

The game also has some of the Neverwinter Nights DNA, in that there’s a full-on content creation suite (which also crops up in Star Trek Online, and would be familiar in concept to adherents to City of Heroes/Villains). The quality of the user-created levels varies, of course, but some of the quest chains are pretty great. Plus, there are several “Kill all the things in this arena” options available if that’s more your speed, and there’s cathartic peace to be had in those sometimes.

Back when the game was new, I joined the Giant Bomb guild, The Order of the Icewind Dave. It started as a tribute to the (at least then) DnDiest of the Giant Bomb fellows, Dave Snider. Dave went on to fatherly things and other pursuits, and the guild continued, even though most of its members also went on to other pursuits.

I logged in with one of my guilded characters, to see if I was still in the guild (or if it still existed!) and was presented with a big blinking button option to seize guild leadership. I appear to have been about the fifth person to do this in the last couple of years, but I did want to see the new guild content–so seize I did. The guild’s on the Dragon server, which I think used to be the Mindflayer server so I’m not sure how many servers exist anymore.

I now have a stronghold up and running, and I’m trying to complete the necessary quests. With a single person this is roughly impossible, but it’s been fun to see what chinks and cracks I can pull.

The basic structure is that it’s an instance (like every map in the game) that guildies can come to. Each day (gated by level and some other factors) an individual character can get quests from various dudes and ladies around the stronghold. Completing these quests–which range from “Go to the main city hub and click on some people or boxes” to “Run a dungeon”–provides the character with resources that can then be fed into the mimic/treasury in the stronghold. You can also provide donations of just about every other item or currency in the game, each of which has its own currency: so you can donate astral diamonds, unused equipment above lvl 60, profession resources, even the runes you socket into your equipment. That stuff all comes about as part of regular gameplay, but the more critical elements of the stronghold process seem to come only from the stronghold quests.

Right now the ‘hold’s on the first quest, which is to build a lumberyard. Playing solely with my alts, it’ll take me a few more days to get the materials for this quest. Once that’s done, though, if there’s any sort of quest-based combat to raise the lumberyard I’m probably proper boned. That’s because the area around the stronghold sets the PC to level 70 and is populated with a bunch of mobs and minor events, but most of them are balanced for, you know, a guild of people. My early-60’s warlock has been able to clear individual mob patches, mostly because she’s got the tanking summon plus a companion, but the bigger events have thus far thwarted me mostly due to time. It’s a cool system, though, with a lot more to do once you’re at the player housing than something like Rift or Wildstar.

Combined with the campaign stuff, Neverwinter’s been holding my attention for the last week or so. I’ve only dabbled in the Tyranny of Dragons campaign (which coincided with the Tyranny of Dragons campaign that kicked off 5e) and the more recent Elemental Evil campaign, including fan-favorite dude of things, Minsc. Both are fun, though the Dragon campaign wins for spectacle, as it involves traveling to various game areas and killing full-on dragons. I’ve notched my belt several times on every dragon save the red, which I’m not quite high enough level to really tackle yet. The game uses level smoothing in the dragon areas, so you can bring a 60 into the same area as some lvl 28’s and hammer on the same beast. However, the red’s in an area I’m not really equipped to run around in yet, so just reaching him’s a challenge. The dragons are fun, exciting, satisfying fights even if there’s generally not much danger with enough bodies. I’ve never been a raider or someone who runs dungeons in MMO’s, though, so my enjoyment is probably based on almost never fighting proper “boss” type mobs in these games. They’ve done a good job of giving the beasties a mix of frontal and area attacks, but sprinkled in enough rear and incidental shots that even if you’re just flinging curses and hellfire at the thing from 20 years past its left wing, you’ll occasionally have to dodge out of some red.

There’s some cash-grabby stuff, though I don’t find most of it egregious. Getting a decent mount generally costs you money or a lot of time. I have a fancy armored boar that I earned during a summer event by logging in every day and running a number of little tasks…didn’t quite get enough stuff for the blue-ribbon pig mount, alas.

It’s worth noting that my mount is a slow one, despite the effort necessary. Similarly, I have a few companions (characters not unlike Marvel Heroes’ team-ups, or the hirelings in DDO) that I’ve picked up from events or promotions, and one badass that came out of a lockbox. Companions are useful, critical even, and like mounts the game has mechanisms in place to give you one for free and help you access more for mob-dropped currency. There’s also an exchange system (kind of like PLEX, but more granular than game time since it’s f2p) which could theoretically get you any of the fancier stuff with enough grinding–or if a player’s selling it for a non-astronomical price, which they usually aren’t. Even the cheapest game-bought companion has its utility, though they’re capped in terms of increasing their “rank” by their quality. I’m not sure how much a rank cap equates to an actual level cap, though, as I can trot out a lvl 19 companion against a level 30 dragon and he does alright. You do unlock cosmetic options for the companions as they increase in rank, which I find a cool way of charting your character’s overall “story” progress.

I’ve also been pouring my time into Marvel Puzzle Quest, but that’s a thing for another time.

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