On Wednesday afternoon I had a conference call with Rob Overmeyer, Executive Producer for Neverwinter, and Alex Monney, Communications Manager with Perfect World. During that time Rob took me on a guided preview of what players can expect when Neverwinter launches their newest module, Strongholds, later this summer.
Since Crytpic has announced that Strongholds will be Neverwinter’s next expansion I have been a bit skeptical. Fortunately Rob started off explaining how it was that Cryptic decided to start working on strongholds for Neverwinter. As far back as first edition D&D and then later in Advanced D&D the pen and paper game was all about player exploration and treasure. Players were able to be awarded their own stronghold Rob explained. Dungeon Masters could reward their players with castles, huts, towers, really whatever they wanted as a more permanent type of treasure or loot and there were rules to account for this. Considering that there are rules for both large scale combat and player strongholds in D&D adding in a PvP aspect to both for Neverwinter really isn’t a stretch.
In Neverwinter strongholds are something that guilds will have to work together to build, maintain, and protect from threats. When players first reclaim their keep it will be ruined and they will be able to build it back up and recapture it from the wild. There will be 20 different ranks for keeps when the module is released. Each new rank the keep attains the more plots will open up for the guild to place buildings. After reclaiming your keep your guild will focus on collecting resources. The first building you will create on your keep will be the lumbermill. You can also build a barracks, towers, a market place, and several other types of buildings. Each building that you can create will have a corresponding boon associated with it, much like the current boons that are rewards from the current campaigns. The catch is that you have more buildings that you can create than plots of land to put them on. This is by design. Cryptic wants you to work together as a guild and then decided which boons you want to make available. Then based upon the available boons you can select one to have active.
This is Cryptic’s biggest play to support guilds they have made since the game was released. Cryptic wants this module to be an interesting and meaningful experience to guilds. Each guild will be able to have their own Stronghold and it will be on their own unique adventure zone. There is also a PvP aspect to Strongholds as well. You don’t have to worry about staying up to 3am to make sure you aren’t raided by a rival guild however. The PvP portion works on a queue system. Once matched up against another guild your stronghold will be on the same adventure map as another guild’s stronghold. They will mirror each other on and be joined along some natural feature like a river. The combat will be similar to a MOBA in that you will focus on lane control. There will be three lanes and has you met certain win conditions you will be able to create siege engines. Also during the match as you collect treasure you can build an offering to a dragon that can come to your aid and wildly swing the balance of power. Players will be limited to 20 per side during these conflicts. During regular times you can invite other players that are not in your guild into your adventure zone so they can see your stronghold.
Shifting gears back to the PvE focus, guilds of all sizes will be able to participate. Your advance will just probably be a bit slower. Cryptic’s stance is that hopefully this encourages you to recruit and build your guild up. Personally I like small guilds and feel Cryptic is rewarding zerg behavior. On the map, and this is the biggest map that Cryptic has created to date at least 3 times larger than the next biggest zone, there will be critters and bad guys all over the place. These groups enemies will increase in power as you advance through the adventure. In fact the best PvE items in the game will be awarded from an encounter, Greed of the Dragonflight, that has 4 different dragons. These dragons, one each of the red, blue, green, and black variety, will land in different spots all over the stronghold map. You can have up to 40 players engaged in this encounter. You can’t, however, have all 40 players rush one dragon at a time. If you do the dragon will flee and you will not complete the challenge. You will be rewarded items based upon the number of dragons you are able to kill. You’ll have to split up in groups and figure out the correct way to take out the dragons in smaller teams. There is a mechanic that lets guilds trigger the Greed of the Dragonflight event so they can coordinate it. You can also trigger it repeatedly but there is a cost associated with it.
A big part of Strongholds will be resource collection. This will take part all throughout the game, not just on your stronghold map. There are three main categories for resources. There are the base materials which are created from structures or by completing content on the stronghold map. There are stockpiles. This consists of current items that are in the game. For example you can turn in extra gear or low level gear that you might collect from helping someone level up an alt. You can also use treasures from past campaigns for the stockpiles. When you turn in resources to the guild coffers you will received guild marks in return. You can take these marks and spend them at your guild market and purchase powerful gear for your characters. The main goal for the coffers is to let players continue to play the game normally and be able to donate to their guild and help out how they choose.
Strongholds is one of the largest updates to Neverwinter and the one focused the most on guilds. There will be plenty to do and find on your stronghold map. The zone is so large that it even has three distinct areas with their own flora and fauna that feel space out. You should be able to jump in and find out just how large on August 11th.