No Dungeons and Dragons game is complete without a good “dungeon delve”, and Cryptic’s Neverwinter promises to have a whole host of 5-man dungeon content to make sure the game has that D&D group-focused experience. Don’t get me wrong, there is also plenty of solo-able content in the game as well, but Neverwinter’s bread and butter group content will be in its dungeon delves, and we yesterday we got to sit in with Cryptic’s own Zeke Sparks and Scott Hawkes from ZAM to partake in one of the five-man dungeon experiences: The Cloak Tower. If this level 16 dungeon is a sign of things to come, group-loving MMORPG fans are in for a treat, as Cloak Tower sets the stage for a great batch of party-based content in the game.
Some background on the Cloak Tower’s lore, as a part of the city of Neverwinter:
“The Cloak Tower takes its name from a guild of mages called the Many-Starred Cloaks, who lived and gathered there. They were well known for their arcane skill and the whimsical, colorful cloaks they wore. During the Spellplague, the tower and its occupants vanished. A year later, the tower reappeared on a different patch of ground in the city. When thieves broke into the tower months after, they found no bodies, only the guild member's many-starred cloaks hanging from pegs on the wall. The lone survivor amongst the group told a horrific tale of the cloaks coming to life and enveloping the other bandits. The tower had been shunned since by the people of Neverwinter. When the Many-Arrows Orcs occupied the River District, they managed to move into the Cloak Tower without any resistance. They now use the tower as their base of operations.”
Orcs! The only downside of this dungeon is that we had to kill the race that I’d want to be playing. Maybe Cryptic will add in Half-Orcs one day, but for now I’ll live vicariously through beating the tar out of them. As you can see in the video above, the system for queuing and joining dungeons is pretty simple. Zeke, our full party formed, merely opened his “Home Page” UI (accessed by pressing L) and signed us up to join the dungeon. Like the dungeon finder in WoW before it, the dungeon system in NW will find a group for you if you don’t have one, and you will be able to access any dungeons right from the UI (though traveling to them is also an option as well). Once your party all accepts and says they’re ready, it’s in you go.
We did have some early technical difficulties, it is beta after all, as a few of us crashed during the beginning and even Zeke in the middle. Plus we couldn’t quite seem to get Suzie’s voice chat working. Oh, and that’s one of the beauties of group content in NW: voice chat is built into the game, and it’s pretty high quality as you can tell from the video. Once the kinks are worked out, it’s going to be an absolute godsend since the game’s action doesn’t leave time for typing.
Once inside, the dungeon experience plays out like any MMO you’re likely familiar with. You work your way through mobs, sub-bosses, adds, and then the big bad at the end. Along the way, there are loot rolls, gear’s color coded as you might expect (green, blue, etc.) with red items meaning you can’t yet use it. Party leaders can set loot rules, but they default to rolling for need, greed, and passing on every item greater than green superior items. The setup is familiar. The class roles are as well. After all, this is a D&D-based game. The trinity is in full effect here, and your Guardian Fighters will need to tank, your Rogue needs to position himself, and the Cleric needs to stay out of harm’s way and keep himself and others alive. After so many months spent in GW2, it was actually nice to have defined class roles again. A welcome change of pace that signals to me that the trinity shouldn’t and couldn’t go anywhere if it wanted to.
Aside from the usual gear drops, you’ll also occasionally get seals on mobs and after tough fights. These are a different kind of currency that can be used to get items outside of the dungeon. Even if you don’t win loot rules, you’ll still wind up getting these, as everyone gets some just for partaking in the dungeon. Once you have enough, you can buy potions, gear, and other items from the Vault of Piety menu you can see below.
One thing that this dungeon didn’t have too much of that depressed me a bit? Traps! There was an early level quest that sent you into a kobold-infested sewer which had plenty of them, so I know they’re in-game. But The Cloak Tower certainly didn’t have them. Here’s hoping other places do, as it gives a little more of that D&D feeling, and helps the Rogue feel needed outside of damage dealing too. There are plenty of little doodads though that can only be accessed or opened by certain classes. For instance, there were chests of Arcana scattered throughout the dungeon that would have been opened by a Wizard if we’d had one in our party. Zeke also told us that there are certain things you might do in a dungeon, perhaps only discovered over multiple visits, that open something special at the end of the area. There may not be puzzles in every dungeon, but there will be several scattered throughout the content of the game which can reward players that are intrepid enough to solve them.
Overall, the first dungeon experience in Neverwinter felt very solid. The bosses were appropriately difficult, and the final Orc Mistress Vansi Bloodscar was particularly brutal in her attacks. The sheer number of adds we encountered in that fight alone was enough to kill poor Suzie several times. And for a level 16 (of 60) dungeon, the fights weren’t plainly predictable. Vansi had several attacks, moved from target to target, and really kept us on our toes. No simple tank and spank here. If this is the first of many dungeons, I’m anxious to see the rest of what Cryptic has in store.
The highlight of Neverwinter so far has been the combat and sheer amount of content available to players right from the start. The quests, dungeons and adventuring may be somewhat traditional, but the action and polish of the interface make for a very enjoyable time. I’ll personally be very interested to see how well the rest of you take to the game. It’s both “new” and familiar due to its D&D trappings. When combined with the versatility of the Foundry, I expect one could get lost in Neverwinter for a good while and enjoy every minute of it.
Check out more of our Neverwinter coverage: