Tempted to Return: Neverwinter: Elemental Evil

Recently, I talked about how the announcement of an expansion for Guild Wars 2 has me tempted to give the game another go. But there’s another game I enjoyed in the past and am considering a return to, with a new update coming down the pipe to sweeten the deal.

My ranger exploring the ruins of Sharandar in NeverwinterThat game is Neverwinter, but in this case, things are a bit more complicated than they are with GW2 and Heart of Thorns.

As regular readers know, Neverwinter is a game I find very fun — with great combat and the best ranger class in the industry — but I feel terribly directionless in it. Once you’re at endgame, there’s not much to aim for that doesn’t involve massive grinding or a significant outlay of cash. This even throws a damper on my normally obsessive need to level alts, because once they get to endgame, what am I going to do with them?

As with Guild Wars 2, Neverwinter is also a game that lacks “stickiness.” There’s not a lot that compels me to keep logging in. For example, usually a good story is the best way to do that for me, but while the Foundry scratches my story itch in Neverwinter, the fact that Foundry missions are all standalone means there’s no hook to keep me coming back for more.

I may not be motivated by the traditional gear grind or similar systems, but I remain fairly goal-oriented as a gamer, and Neverwinter and Guild Wars 2 are both games that failed to provide me with goals I find compelling. But while GW2 has a big sexy expansion to call me back, Neverwinter has a harder road to travel.

But first, let’s back up a bit. You see, I’ve already made a return to Neverwinter not too long ago, and it didn’t take very well. I meant to cover on this blog before then, but I became distracted by other things — which is really a beautiful metaphor for my relationship with Neverwinter in general.

My Tiefling warlock in NeverwinterAbortive alts:

A few months back, Neverwinter released its seventh class, the scourge warlock. As I’ve said in the past, a new class is always a good way to get my attention, and I’m fairly fond of the dark arts, so I decided it was time to return to the world of Neverwinter.

I was out of character slots, but I had spent enough time in Neverwinter in the past that I didn’t mind dropping a little extra money for more slots. As it turns out, character slots are surprisingly cheap, and they’d recently begun a program rewarding people who spend on the game with a unique companion, an additional character slot beyond what I paid for, and various other perks — a rare act of generosity for Cryptic. So that was a good experience all around.

I played the warlock (a Tiefling because I apparently lack all creativity) until around level fifteen. I enjoyed it, though it was not quite as fun as my ranger or my warlock in World of Warcraft. But hey, I can rip out people’s souls and enslave them. That’s always fun.

It also interested me that warlocks have the potential to be a healer class akin to atonement priests in WoW or assault rifle healers in The Secret World — that is, they heal through damaging enemies. I haven’t looked into how viable this build is, but it intrigued me greatly, and my tentative plan was to play the warlock as a healer.

I was curious about healing in Neverwinter in general — I had never healed in an action combat game before — and I now had character slots to burn, so I decided to also give a devoted cleric a whirl, making her a Half-Elf.

My devoted cleric in NeverwinterAgain, I enjoyed it. It’s a little tedious to solo with, but not as bad as I expected, and being a healer in Neverwinter turns out to be incredibly fun.

It’s not at all like healing in other MMOs. You’re not a mindless slave to health bars. You’re more of a Swiss army knife, a utility class trying to fulfill whatever need your party has. Sometimes that means pouring heals onto a wounded player, sometimes that means maintaining debuffs to support your party, and sometimes that means going full out on damage if no one needs healing. It’s very versatile.

If more games were like this, I wouldn’t mind the trinity system so much.

Again, I made it to about level fifteen. I wasn’t sure where to go from there, though, since soloing isn’t the most enjoyable option as a cleric, and group content seems to be a very poor way to level in Neverwinter.

While tinkering with my warlock and cleric, I also spent some more time with my max level ranger. They had undergone a major overhaul since last I played, and I was worried they might not be as fun, but if anything it was more frenetic and powerful than ever.

I love that class so much.

My ranger and her sellsword companion in NeverwinterBut yet it wasn’t long before I once again left Neverwinter behind. This wasn’t a conscious decision; nothing made me ragequit. I just lost the motivation to keep logging in.

And that brings us to the now.

Elemental Evil:

Neverwinter has recently announced their next major content patch, Elemental Evil, and that’s got me thinking about the game again. Once again, I’m tempted to give it another go.

There’s another new class in this one, the oathbound paladin. Not a lot of info about the class is available right now, but judging by its giant shield in the preview, I’m guessing it’ll be a tanking class.

I’m not the biggest paladin fan in the world, but it’s an archetype I sometimes enjoy, and tanking in an action combat environment is something else I’d like to try. So that holds a certain appeal.

A preview screenshot of Neverwinter's new oathbound paladin classThere were also reports that Elemental Evil would include the stronghold system, a form of player housing, but now I’m hearing that might be pushed back until later. It’s also unclear whether this is a guild hall system or whether there will be personal player housing as well.

If the former, I don’t care at all. If the latter, it might be worth a try. After playing WildStar, I have begun to see the potential in player housing, but it tends to be pretty uninteresting in most games, and knowing Cryptic, it will probably require many real money purchases, massive grinding, or both in order to get anything from the system.

On the downside, Elemental Evil will also bring a level cap increase and a gear reset. My gear isn’t exactly top of the line, but it’s pretty good, and it took a fair bit of effort to acquire. Invalidating all that effort and making me start over from scratch doesn’t exactly endear me to the game.

Conclusion:

Unlike with Guild Wars 2 and Heart of Thorns, I don’t rate my odds of returning to Neverwinter terribly highly. I’m not ruling it out, certainly, but the chances aren’t great at this point. Even if I do, I’ll probably just level a paladin to fifteen and then lose interest again.

And that saddens me a bit. It’s very strange. Neverwinter is a very fun game I have almost no desire to play. I almost feel the problem lies more with me than with the game. I just can’t seem to find a goal or a hook to keep me coming back. If someone has some suggestions, I wouldn’t mind hearing them.

My cleric battling wererats in NeverwinterAgain, it might help if I had some friends who played and I could adventure with them, but I don’t, and I’m not a particularly outgoing person, so I don’t see myself seeking someone out just to play Neverwinter with them.

So the impasse remains. I am eternally tempted to give Neverwinter another go, but I can never quite get myself fully engrossed in the game. It’s rather vexing.

* * *

By the way, if you’re wondering why every single one of my Neverwinter characters is female, it’s because I find the male character models in that game just don’t look right — some weird uncanny valley thing that creeps me out. The females have it too, but not as badly. That game’s graphics are odd in general.

Well, that plus all the reasons I usually roll female characters. But this is the only game where I exclusively play women.

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