Neverwinter in 2020

Well, it seems it doesn’t take much to get me to go back to a MMORPG that I enjoy playing. Especially if my husband or friends are interested in playing it. So I mentioned Neverwinter recently, and one thing led to another.

Sadly the game we were looking forward to most from Cryptic was the newly (re)surfaced Magic: Legends, but a coop action rpg (a la Diablo) is the last thing I want to add to my gaming stable at the moment. Despite this it was actually a relatively smooth return to this game, one that we haven’t played regularly together since October 2018. We started out back in Barovia wanting to test out our wildly changed class abilities and builds on some familiar content. That went ok, though the zone is one of the tougher ones, apparently requiring 14,000 gear score – my cleric’s score was sitting at 11,000 – lower than I remembered it being but then a lot has changed.

Looking for an easier contract

We managed a few quests but it was very dicey at first as our characters playstyles were radically different and seemed a lot less effective (again the change in gear score probably explains this in part). Then, as a change of pace I decided we should head into the Undermountain expansion (Module 16). The intro quests to this netted us some instant gear upgrades, although we’d done enough of the Ravenloft campaign that not all slots were better. It also took us to the Catacombs zone within Undermountain, which is noticeably easier content I feel.

I went Healer naturally

Since playing a few sessions in the Undermountain starter zone, I feel I’ve gotten a grasp of the changes to Cleric (just Cleric now, all the class names were simplified/made more like 5E D&D). My character feels more spammy with his abilities, some encounters have no cooldown for instance. He actually has more direct healing than in the old system, before healing always felt like something you did as part of damage dealing (Rift Chloromancer-style almost): from first impressions it seems more possible to be a more dedicated healer. I’d noted the changes to Cleric gameplay according to Shintar’s blog post before going back to the game, maybe things have been re-balanced since July last year as I’m not feeling particularly limited on my divinity resource at the moment.

The campaign seems interesting enough, hunting for rare-spawn monsters was a fun side-activity after we’d done a round of quests and wanted a change of pace. This infamous mega-dungeon seems like a pretty clever background for MMORPG zones as it makes perfect sense for the content to be weaved in and out of them, with follow up quests taking you back through the same areas. It fits the idea of repeated expeditions down into the depths rather well.

A rare spawn. BURN IT WITH FIRE!

The changes to companions are radical if you’ve not been following the game’s development more recently, but so far they seem positive enough. Divorcing benefits from the active companion is a great design decision as it means I can have whichever companion I wish actively helping me, while still benefiting from the “must have” benefits of certain very popular companions. I imagine this has freed up many players to experiment more with which companions they use. The companion collection mini-game was always a strong draw for both of us and it remains a compelling aspect to the game.

My Alchemist Experimenter companion (right)

The last two times I’ve come back to the game, it has been to face under-geared characters and a potentially steep gear grind. I managed, somehow, to get my Ranger to Chult but found it tough going to make any progress. As a duo we faired better in Ravenloft but still found the going tough, especially during the zone’s night phases. This time around, in Undermountain, the devs seem to have gotten the catch-up mechanisms better tuned. It’s been the easiest return to the game in some time, despite the volume of system change that came with this module. Now if only I can get my characters bags sorted, I might feel settled in for a stint of dungeon-delving!

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