Playing Neverwinter, and specifically the new(ish) Module 14 (Ravenloft), I’ve been given a different perspective on catchup mechanisms both within this game and beyond. A previous attempt to return to Neverwinter for solo play before Module 14 was launched saw me frustrated at how far behind my character was despite being the right level for content.
Back then I was attempting to start the jungle-themed Chult campaign (Modules 12+13), but my freshly dinged level 70 Hunter Ranger was weaker than wet paper when confronted with the encounters in the introductory instance off the coast of Chult. I returned earlier content but didn’t see much progress and was distracted by other/easier gaming.
Ravenloft brings with it a major catchup mechanism in terms of the intro quest chain that takes you into the mists of Barovia – you receive a full set of item level 460 gear as a reward for this relatively easy chain (a massive upgrade from the ~318 blues he had). This reminded me of more recent expansions in Everquest 2 that simply give a character, of high-enough level, gear appropriate to start the new content at the outset.
It contrasts with my experiences recently in Lord of the Rings Online where Mordor remains a no-go zone for my Champion as yet. I can comprehend complaints over making things too easy for returning or sporadic players of a game, given that the majority have gone through whatever trials and gear-grinds to make the progress.
However, I imagine it is a real problem for MMORPG devs that players may try to come back and hit such a wall of missed progression that they simply give up and walk away again; I know I have in the past a few times in different games. So having this new catch-up mechanism in Neverwinter is very welcome indeed – it is a game that has a pretty deep and complex gearing mechanism. This has not only unlocked the new Ravenloft content for us to play, which by the way seems excellent, but it will also mean we are geared to go back at some point and play through Modules 12+13. I’ll be getting my Hunter Ranger geared for some sweet revenge on those dinosaurs in the intro for sure!