Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment are ready to unleash the next in an ongoing series of expansions to Neverwinter, this time called The Maze Engine that is set to hit live servers on Tuesday, March 15th. The ninth content expansion is something of which the team behind it is very, very proud as exemplified by Producers Dennis Adams and Ben Bascom. We managed to score a tour of The Maze Engine and to talk to the team about why this one is so important.
The Maze Engine features a solo campaign that allows players enjoy the narrative aspect of the expansion. As players venture through, they will interact with new campaign pop-ups from iconic characters from the Dungeons & Dragons universe including Drizzt Do’Urden and Minsc to name a couple. The idea is to add a sense of urgency to assist them with their requests and to add intensity to the encounter.
In addition, players will find themselves faced with a monumental demonic threat spearheaded by The Horned King Baphomet and Orcus, the Prince of Undeath. The Maze Engine solo campaign with pop ups that are a new feature called the mini-contact system. You get quick messages from characters to have them come help out. It adds intensity.
Dennis explained, “We brought back the solo campaign because we have a cool partnership with Wizards and R.A. Salvatore and a rich background of characters to pull from. When Wizards releases something, we can dovetail off that and give players their own take on the adventure. We will give really cool rewards. Players get a Battle Rager outfit. Drizzt cloak transmute too. It’s all part of the experience.”
But The Maze Engine doesn’t end with the solo campaign, but also features some pretty neat quality of life improvements and a complete overhaul of the mount system.
“We have paid a lot of attention to what players are saying. They wanted more options with the mount system. We’ve decoupled the costume from stats and active/click powers. All legendary mounts have a new click power made from the ground up. Mounts also come with insignias. The better the quality of the mount, the more insignia augments will be available. You will get them from boss drops and can be earned throughout the game. Lastly, ranking up mounts will require less AD. We feel like we’re giving players what they want.”
Players will also be able to take advantage of the new Queue System:
Dennis said, “Players really love Tiamat and large scale content but grouping hasn’t always been as easy as we’d like. With The Maze Engine, you can queue up publicly or privately anywhere in the game. You can queue solo or as a premade group. You can get in and out and play as much as you want.”
Players also wanted the return of leveling dungeons after they were removed a while ago and they have been brought them back. According to Dennis, rendering and lighting have been vastly improved as have systems that are more consistent in length, now averaging between 15-20 minutes though obviously your mileage may vary. Rewards for XP bonuses and seals rewards are now unified as well.
The highlight of the tour, however, was the epic version of Castle Never. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. Demons have returned with a vengeance. Orcus is in Castle Never and players are tasked with laying waste to all the demons. There have been architectural and lighting changes but all monsters and creatures have been changed according to the lore. Undead enemies, lots of rubble, destruction are strewn about the place since it is absolutely designed to like a ruined, battle-scarred castle.
According to Dennis, lots of things are the same -- at first -- but the duration has been shortened since the original version could take as long as an hour to complete.
“We’ve streamlined it to be not as long and grindy. It is to the point throughout the run.”
Orcus is a tough fight with new mechanics but devs don’t expect players to learn it by reaching him. The particular battle mechanics that Orcus will use are gradually introduced throughout earlier sections of the castle.
“We don’t want them to learn the mechanics in this fight. Players will learn the mechanics journeying through the dungeon to get prepared for his fight.”
The rewards aren’t bad either. Players can score an Undead Beholder costume for Castle Never specifically. This dungeon is designed to be a showcase, rewards included. Believe me…you haven’t lived until you’ve clapped eyes on an Undead Beholder!
When asked if the team has other dungeons to redo, Dennis said, “We have plans to redo other dungeons to make them epic versions. We need new assets, mechanics, traps, lighting, and art. We‘re interested in it but will do them one at a time.”
The bottom line is that Neverwinter is getting some very nice, very well-thought out and well-designed new content and that the team is very proud of what it has accomplished and rightly so too. You’ll be able to see for yourself beginning after maintenance on March 15th.
Will you be playing The Maze Engine? What do you look most forward to experiencing? Leave us your thoughts!