I have an interesting relationship with Neverwinter. I used to host a live stream series on our Twitch Channel called the Foundry Focus. Some of you may remember it. Most of you probably not. One of my fellow writers on this site, Som Pourfarzaneh, used to join me when he was still a community manager for Neverwinter. Neverwinter is a game that I really want to love, much like DDO, because of my fondness for the IP and the wealth of source material. In a number of ways I like what Nevewinter has accomplished but in others… not so much.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Right after publication, Cryptic's Shicoff took to the Arc site to offer an apology for the overall quality of Module 6.
It was with low expectations that I dove back into Neverwinter to check out what they had done for the new Elemental Evil storyline. If you read my column last week you already know that Neverwinter has been aligned with Wizards of the Coast for a grand marketing plan involving all of the D&D products around 5e that has been immensely successful.
When I first jumped back into to take part in the new expansion I was meet at Protector’s Enclave by a fan favorite Boo, (and Minsc too). This lead on an adventure that introduced the new elemental cults and their leaders. While these early adventures were fun and quickly ramped up the story, by the time you reach level 61 you will find yourself on the Drowned Shore doing repeatable quests a certain number of times to unlock the story further. It was at this point my nostalgia for Neverwinter started to wane and I realized what had driven me away to begin with. The grind was slowly starting to show its ugly mug. It was essentially a one-two punch when I found out that you could upgrade your companions from level 35 to level 40 for the low price of 1 million astral diamonds.
In addition to jumping back into game I was able to ask a few questions of the team over at Cryptic about this recent expansion. Read on to see what Randy Mosiondz, Senior Game Designer had to say.
MMORPG: Why did you decide to increase the level cap with Elemental Evil?
Randy: Neverwinter has been out for a while now and a lot of the end-game players had been clamoring for new content. We wanted to provide players with a new end game experience that was both challenging and rewarding. Especially as players approach the new level cap, they’ll need to use all their skills and keep their gear upgraded in order to handle the new threats.
MMORPG: What new mechanics have been added to existing classes to account for their new powers gained through these additional 10 levels?
Randy: The main additions are new Encounter and Class Features to each of the Classes that fill in the final choices for each their class “kits”. This allows players a bit more customization on how they want to configure their characters. We also added in a Rank 4 to each of the powers of the games, allowing a further escalation of player abilities.
MMORPG: How does the paladin fit into group play? Is it a tank, is it a healer?
Randy: The new Oathbound Paladin is a bit of both. The class uses heavy armor and shield, and has taunting abilities similar to the Guardian Fighter. However, it also has some healing (“Lay on Hands”) and buff abilities to aid himself and his allies, similar to the Devoted Cleric.
At one point you choose an Oath of Devotion or Oath of Protection that alters your class play in certain ways, either in the focus of healing or tanking respectively.
The Oathbound Paladin’s main class ability is Divine Call. It’s an energy that builds over time passively, as well as when you use certain Encounter powers. The oath you select alters the way your Divine Call works when the ability is triggered, but it is mainly focused on taunting, healing, and buffing.
MMORPG: Is Elemental Evil content just at higher levels like we saw in the first few modules or will it take place across all levels similar to Tyranny of Dragons?
Randy: The Elemental Evil storyline is focused on the 60-70 level range.
MMORPG: What new zones have opened up to players with Elemental Evil?
Randy: We have four new Aventure Zones for players in Elemental Evil. The first three zones are end game versions of existing Adventure Zones, and tell the story of the Cults of Elemental Evil spreading their influence. The last zone is brand-new area featuring a stronghold of one of the Elemental Evil cults.
The first zone is Drowned Shore, based on the old Blackdagger Ruins. The Cult of the Crushing Wave has just hit the area with a massive tidal wave and storms unleashed by a water-based devastation orb. It has sea hags and sea trolls, giant crabs, sea elves, water archons, and the water cultists.
The second zone is Reclamation Rock, based on Helm’s Hold. The monastery-town has been trying to rebuild and hired on a crew of builders to help them, only to discover they were in the in fact cultists of Cult of the Black Earth attempting to take over the area. Reclamation Rock houses bulettes, gorgons, earth archons, and the earth cultists.
The third zone is the Fiery Pit, set in the depths of Gauntlgrym. The Cult of the Eternal Flame is attempting to tap into the power of the slumbering fire primordial trapped there. Expect to find fire giants, duergar, fire archons, and the fire cultists.
The fourth and final zone is Spinward Rise, a series of islands raised in the skies above Neverwinter Wood by cloud giant magic. The Cult of the Howling Hatred has taken this area for its stronghold, with designs to rain destruction on the Sword Coast from on high. Here you’ll find cloud giants, kenku, aarakocra, slaad, air archons and air cultists.
MMORPG: In addition to the PvE updates have there been any changes or additions to PvP?
Randy: The main change we’ve done was the way the old Gauntlgrym PvE/PvP area worked. We removed the PvE portion of the conflict, changing into an Adventure Zone known as the Fiery Pit. The PvP portion we changed into a queued 10 versus 10 queued PvP map.
Expect some new additions to PvP coming soon!
MMORPG: What can you tell us about the changes to Gauntlgrym? In the books it is apparent that the descendants of the Delzoun dwarves are going to recapture this city from the drow. Will we see this reflected in the game?
Randy: We have different sections of Gauntlgrym reflected in the game. The Iron Tabernacle is the main PvP area of Gauntlgrym, as mentioned earlier, now changed to a 10 versus 10 queued map. The Fiery Pit section of Gauntlgrym is another area located above the sleeping primordial Maegra. We’re looking at other locations at Gauntlgrym to reflect other stories from the books, but that will be in a future module.
MMORPG: What can you tell us about some of the new PvE dungeons added with this module?
Randy: We did a revamp of the way we do dungeons in Neverwinter. There are two main types of dungeons in Neverwinter: the leveling dungeons and the epic dungeons.
The leveling dungeons are part of the 1-70 progression, and were re-designed to be much faster and easier to play, allowing three-person teams to take them on instead of five-person teams. We also applied our new level-scaling tech that allows you to re-visit unlocked lower-level dungeons and still get a relative challenge and commensurate rewards.
Epic dungeons are end-game level 70 dungeons, and require a full five-person team to take them on. They are designed to be much more challenging and appropriately rewarding.
In both cases we did a re-vamp of the bosses, giving them new mechanics for players to figure out.
MMORPG: Any chance we can see the Genasi, Aarakocra, Sverfneblin, or Goliath as playable races in the future?
Randy: New races are always a possibility if there is enough interest from the players! We have some genasi showing up in the Cults of Elemental Evil, and aarakocra are NPCs in the Spinward Rise Adventure Zone. We don’t have sverfneblin or goliath models in the game yet, but you may see them in the future if we introduce new modules where they would be appropriate. You may even see one of those races show up as a companion in the near future!