Archive for the ‘STO’ Tag
I find myself jumping back into Star Trek Online a lot lately, but it hasn’t entirely been for fun. Maintenance gaming, I guess is the best description I can come up with with how I’ve been playing. Gaming for the future, maybe? Chasing carrots, definitely, but the carrots aren’t really leading to meals.
I love STO. Picked it up at release and have played off and on for the full 5 years it’s been out. When the decision came through that they were going to start making “Featured Episodes” and coming out with episodes on a regular basis, this solidified the game for me. As a Star Trek fan, this was about as close as I’d come to seeing new Trek. That day, about a month before my wedding day, I signed up for the lifetime sub (and if my future wife complained, well… it was before the wedding so it didn’t count. She said yes, she knew what she was getting herself into!).
Over the years, I’ve stuck to one character and only a handful of ships. Only with recent changes to the game have they made switching ships a much less painful task, so I only stuck to the Long Range Science Vessel Retrofit, the Solanae Dyson Science Destroyer, and just recently the Pathfinder Long Range Science Vessel. Remember Voyager? Essentially that. What can I say, the Intrepid-based designs are just really sleek, streamlined, and sexy. So sue me.
The Dyson Science Destroyer, looking rather epic.
The Retrofit and Dyson are considered Tier 5 and are the ships I spent the most time in. The Retrofit was free for me, but after the Free-To-Play conversion it was considered a pay ship. It was an Endgame ship, though, and held it’s own as more and more Tier 5 ships were released, every new ship bearing a pricetag ranging from $10-$30.
This is how Star Trek Online makes it’s money: ship sales. You want to play the endgame content, buy a ship. Or you could grind for it, but really you’re paying to keep your sanity in this case. Ships, then, differed in your preferred playstyle. Science/DPS/Tank and all the mixtures, Tanky DPS, Sciency DPS, Sciency Tank. Each ship also had some hook that differentiated it. For the Retrofit, it was an Ablative Generator, the future-plating seen during the final episode of Voyager. Tier 5 ships are Admiral Tier, and hundreds of thousands of players supported the game in this way. All Tier 5 ships also are relatively equally balanced. This way worked well, from July of 2010 through October 2014, the release of Delta Rising, when it was announced they would be moving forward to Tier 6.
Tier 6 ships bring along with them a host of fun things. More power, more abilities, more customization, more hit points, leveling up your ship, special earned passives, etc. Fantastic. I went ahead and used my stipend points and bought the first ship I’ve ever used zen to purchase, the Pathfinder. All the fun new stuff, along with an upgraded Intrepid? I can dig it.
The equivalence of walking away from a large explosion.
But this is an MMO.
In MMOs, there is the unspoken rule that any improvements below when the improvements start becoming harder and harder to acquire is not important. Leveling gear is only meant to be held onto until you pick up an upgrade 20 minutes later. The new Tier 6 ships are easy to acquire, all you have to do is bust out the credit card or run one of the latest events. The Tier 6 upgrade, though, effectively makes all the Tier 5 ships, all the ships paid for by players, just another piece of leveling gear.
‘Tier 5 ships are just fine!‘ they told us. All the story content in Delta Rising can be completed with a Tier 5 (which it can), and you don’t *have* to upgrade to continue enjoying the game. Well, no, of course we don’t *have* to. But this is an MMO! Acquiring the best gear is a huge part of why we all play! They know this, though. They know the psychology of MMO players just as much as we obey it. If there is a huge upgrade to a key piece of gear, and it is within our reach, we will go after it.
Even throwing on the band-aid of a store token that can upgrade all Tier 5 ships to a Tier 5-Upgraded level is just a cover. The Tier 5U ships do not have the ability to add specializations, they do not offer extra passives, all they offer is just a buff to your ship’s hit points for $10. The token just gives your Tier 5 ships the ability to hold you over until you can get the Tier 6 you want.
All of this obviously did not sit well with a lot of players. Expansions in plenty of other games usually turns all your hard-earned gear into leveling gear again, which is fine, but not when you paid $20 for that gear. And then we were supposed to be fine with a $10 band-aid that still did not put us on par with Tier 6?
The Delta Flyer, flying in a timed race. Original, right?
I’m not going to say that Cryptic dropped the ball on this one, this was obviously a very calculated move for the future of the game. If anything, they’re holding onto the ball real tight. This whole ship upgrade thing, though, put a bad taste in a lot of players mouths. Will Cryptic do this again for the next expansion? If I buy Tier 6, are they just going to make Tier 7 and invalidate another purchase? Hate to say, but I think a lot of trust from a lot of players was lost on this one. Which is a serious shame because the story in Delta Rising is easily some of the best the writers have written yet, a real fine display of Star Trek’s iconic grey storytelling.
Personally, with my lifetime sub, I wasn’t affected much. I just bought the Pathfinder using stipend points. My two longest running ships, though, the T5 Retrofit and the T5-U Dyson, unless they come up with other uses for old ships they can effectively be mothballed. Using them when I have a Tier 6 is kind of pointless.
Because really, what MMO player is fine with just using leveling gear?
This is why Free-To-Play is my model of choice. It’s not because I can’t afford to pay a subscription, it’s simply because, when not confined by a subscription, the onus of quality and pulling players in falls onto the developers. This leads to events, and lots of them.
For the past month I’ve been ping-ponging between The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, and Star Trek Online because of these events. Guild Wars 2, of course, has it’s content flowing continuously with something new every 2 weeks. However, not being max level, most of the new content is not aimed at me. So Guild Wars 2 has fallen by the wayside to make way for the following:
- The Secret World’s Whispering Tide – The path to Issue #8, The Venetian Agenda, and the prelude to the opening of the new Tokyo region. It looks like Phase 3 is ramping up TODAY as per tweets from Richard Sonnac seem to imply.
- Star Trek Online’s Crystalline Cataclysm Event – Our favorite giant, destructive snowflake is back and asking for a beating. In this 10-man instance, the Tholians have suddenly showed an interest in the Crystalline Entity, possibly being due to their species being of similar composition. The Tholians, though, are bad news, and as such, they all need a good whooping. Until October 21st (according to the game launcher), a daily beating of the entity gives a metric ton of Tholian marks, and a 50,000 dilithium pot.
- StarbaseUGC’s Purity Foundry Series – Part Two of the Purity Series, Purity: Of Thought by Bazag, has already been released, and it adds a decent amount of back-story to the Obani, Federation, and Sajan people.
And then you know what’s coming up, don’t you? The Superbowl of MMO Events: Halloween.
Guild Wars 2 is looking like it’s kicking it’s usual Halloween event up a notch, which seems impossible as it was already at 11. This year, instead of the event simply focused around the Mad King, instead we will be seeing Prince Edrick take center stage in the “Blood and Madness” event. I’m seriously excited to try the Clocktower jumping puzzle, and even if you’re not max level, it sounds like there will still be plenty to do.
The Secret World is also kicking their Halloween celebration up a notch by bringing back the Cat God event from last year, which is going to be new to me, but then adding on something that sounds amazing: Stories from Soloman Island. Soloman Island is one of my favorite MMO locations ever, competing with LotRO’s The Shire for top spot, so I CAN NOT WAIT to check this out.
I like to try new games, but I don’t think I’ll be able to leave the grasp of these events for quite a while.
I spent most of this past week playing Star Trek Online and trying out a couple Foundry missions, notably StarbaseUGC’s first “Featured Episode” weekly series mission, Purity: Of Denial. Star Trek Online is a game I love coming back to for a couple days, grinding a bit, and then going to play something else. Not that STO can’t keep my attention, but at max level, aside from creating new characters on other factions, you primarily just grind and grind and grind.
This is what STO uses as a means of max-level horizontal content, though, so I do find this method more attractive than, say, dungeon raiding. It is quite a grind, but I can still log on, do a few missions, and still advance myself or my fleet. Progress is still made every single time I log into the game, and that’s the best kind of max-level content. One that still rewards you for your efforts, even if it’s not with more levels.
But first, before I go into my review of Purity, I want to talk about the post’s title image. Mark Valentine, aka h2orat, is the talented artist behind the videos Star Trek Online used, most notably the one above. I mean, look at that. How epic is that?! I’ve played STO for years and I never remember it looking and feeling that intense. Maybe just in my mind it feels that intense, but he captures that epic feeling. Mark also is a noted Foundry author, and his mission The Rising Phoenix – Part One, is currently on the list of Featured Foundry Missions, with a very high rating.
Mark Valentine recently passed away after a long battle with cancer, and the above monument is an in-game tribute to his legacy. Cryptic didn’t advertise that it was going to be there, it just silently appeared after a quick patch yesterday. The plaque on the monument reads “To Absent Friends” with the monument itself hosting an eternal flame, looking out over San Francisco Bay. The monument is quite touching and floored me when I first saw it. A great tribute to a great person. Thank you, Cryptic.
Purity: Of Denial
The story of the first featured Foundry episode, and I’m assuming, the series as a whole, starts it’s focus as one that we can fully understand today: Resources. In today’s world, oil prices are through the roof. I remember when I was in high school, the price of gas was under $1.00 per gallon (which makes me sound a lot older than I really am), and I will probably never see prices under $3 again in my lifetime. Oil exports have turned the tiniest of countrys wealthy beyond compare, and wars have been fought over the coveted substance. Well, what do you think? That starships just power themselves? Oh no, that power has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is dilithium.
Your ship is sent to investigate the relationship between the Obani people and the Starfleet personnel in the Megara system, and once you start investigating, the hailed story of First Contact between the Obani and the Federation starts to unravel quickly.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I want to say that I really liked the episode. I have previously posted some criteria of what I believe makes a decent Foundry mission, and this held up to most of these tenets. The story was great, the reason for being there was believable, and the space and ground maps were very detailed and well made.
My only issues with the mission, and this doesn’t just apply to this mission, but a trend in Star Trek Online Foundry missions in general, is one of time and character. First, the mission took me approximately 75 minutes to complete. For a casual gamer like myself, this feels like a marathon. I mean, when an STF mission runs, at most, 15 to 20 minutes, and a Star Trek episode itself is only 45 minutes, 75 minutes might as well be a full-featured movie. Now, true, I read everything, and if I did not, I could probably just fly through this mission, but that’s not cool. The author’s intentions for these missions is story-focused, and so they should be played as such.
The other trend I notice in Foundry missions, including this one, is when these characters I have created, my Captain and the crew, have their personalities hijacked for the use of the author. I get it, one of the greatest parts of Star Trek is the characterization of not just the Captain, but their crew and how they interact. But really, making my bridge officers flip off the handle and act with insubordination is not how I picture them. Many author’s use this method as opposed to putting words directly into your Captain’s mouth, but still, the actions of my crew in reaction to events in the story don’t really match up, and this pulls away from my immersion.
Overall, though, these are only slight issues. The story, though long, is very detailed and communicated well. I gave the mission a full 5 stars and think it is a very good start to StarbaseUGC‘s “Featured Episode” story. The 2880 dilithium reward for doing the mission certainly didn’t hurt, either.
The end of the mission came, in true Star Trek fashion, at the worst possible moment: after the order is given to abandon ship. As the player runs for the shuttlepods, of course it has to end with:
To Be Continued…
P.S. – Also released now is a side-mission to be played alongside (or after) this mission and is called Purity: Of The Day, a shorter mission of escorting freighter groups. I think there’s a trend to these naming patterns, but I’m not sure… :P
Happy October all!
October is a great time of year, one of my favorite months. The leaves are turning colors, pumpkin beers start lining the shelves, and the smell of campfires fill the air. It’s that fantastic time of year where I can have my windows open at home and not need the air conditioning or the heat, and all that is needed to stave off the cold on chilly mornings is a light longsleeve shirt.
It’s a great time of year to be a gamer, too. Game companies start ramping up for the holiday season, and with humanity’s retreat back indoors, content for our games is released like crazy to draw our attention their way. I remember back when I played World of Warcraft I took many breaks from the game, but when I returned, seeing the Halloween event in full-swing was common.
It’s hard to argue that the holiday that really starts the tide of content is Halloween. Lord of the Rings Online’s Haunted Burrow will most like be making a comeback, ArenaNet considers Halloween to be the biggest event of the year and always goes all out with the Mad King, WoW celebrates with candy, costumes, and headless bosses, STO releases the creepy episode Hearts and Minds, and the list goes on.
But this year, starting TODAY, October 1st, there are two big events that I want to make you all aware of and point you towards: The Newbie Blogger Initiative 2, the second coming of the event that launched a thousand blogs, and StarbaseUGC’s Star Trek Online Foundry Featured Episode Series, Purity!
Newbie Blogger Initiative 2
The Newbie Blogger Initiative, or NBI, for short, is something that I hold dear, namely because it was what gave me the boost I needed to get me from being just a casual gamer, to being just a casual blogger. I kid, but as far as new experiences go, this one has been pretty awesome. The NBI opened me up to the larger game blogging community, has improved my writing and communication skills, has opened me up to new experiences, and has given me a new angle to view these games we play from. The prolific Syp gave us 2012 NBI Vets a headstart on blogging, a shot of eyeballs and advice, and now the favor is being passed forward.
A new Newbie Blogger Initiative officially starts today and will last all of October! This time around, Doone from T.R. Red Skies and Roger from Contains Moderate Peril have taken the reins, opened up a set of forums for new bloggers, and already the sponsors are lining up to offer their sage wisdom. At last count, 28 different game blog writers, with experience ranging from game development to professional writing to podcasting to being able to awesomely coordinate outfits and kick ass while doing so, have all thrown their epic head slot armors into the NBI 2013 ring.
So if you are on the fence about possibly starting up your own corner of the Internet, hopefully this endeavor is able to push you to give it a real shot. And really, with such a large, helpful community backing you up, you really don’t have anything to lose and quite a lot to gain.
StarbaseUGC Presents: Purity
The Foundry in Star Trek Online often feels like the red-headed-stepchild of the game. The toolset enables all players to match wits with the writers of one of the most iconic IP’s in history, and tell their own story using the vast base of canon that has come before. On paper, it is a monument of epic proportions and is the glory of the Star Trek universe. In reality… not so much. Lackluster support from the developers and a playerbase that largely ignores it, it suffers. Without proper direction, finding user-generated missions that are high quality is no easy task. Thankfully, this is where StarbaseUGC steps in.
StarbaseUGC is a site designed for the Star Trek Online Foundry user. The site provides resources for both new authors and veterans alike, and should be the first place you go if you want to start the process.
To show their Star Trek prowess, StarbaseUGC launches today the first episode in a weekly story arc that will run until November 5th, a new episode every Tuesday. The episode “Purity: Of Denial” by Zorbane, will be available for all level 31+ Federation and Federation-Aligned Romulan Captains, and can be found from the Foundry tab of the Mission Journal. Check out the trailer below.
When Star Trek Online announced weekly episode missions, it was the next day that I purchase my Lifetime subscription. 3 years later, and they have come out with, what, four story arcs? I still consider my STO Lifetime a good purchase, as it has more than paid for itself, but their promise of weekly content has fallen by the wayside. Understandable, but still a shame. So I’m excited to see what StarbaseUGC is bringing to the Foundry and I will definitely be playing along (and reporting about it).
So will Zorbane knock the first chapter out of the park? Will Cerberusfilms be lifted to the level of minor celebrity?! Will Syp ever not sing a sea shanty over Teamspeak?!! Will YOU be the next breakout author of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and teach all of us a thing or two?!!! Tune in next time for the answers (maybe) to these thrilling questions!
Same Casual Aggro time! Same Casual Aggro channel!
Okay. I won’t lie. I’m not the most sociable when I play MMOs. I never really adhere to a set gaming schedule because, as summer is fast approaching, my schedule becomes more and more hectic and my gaming time takes a back seat to real life. Then on top of that I like playing the new games, or a sudden craving might hit to play a game I’ve never played before. And I’m not one to let my cravings go unheeded. So, I’m not the most consistent gamer in the world and as such I make an absolutely terrible guild-mate. Recently I found I was even kicked out of my fleet in Star Trek Online for not playing the game on a regular basis. So sue me. I enjoy that I can play with other gamers playing all around me, like going to the movies and experiencing a film as a collective group, but I’m definitely more the solo player.
So, it even shocked me to an extent that last Monday I joined along with the Knights of Mercy gaming crew, who I consider myself a fringe member of, and joined them in their pursuit of the “phat lootz”. I popped my Secret World dungeon cherry, running my very first dungeon ever in the game: Elite Polaris. Yes, my first dungeon was one of the hardest 5-man dungeons in the game and takes experienced and coordinated players to accomplish. I was neither.
This is why I appreciate the Mercy crew. Their gaming perspective is one of pure camaraderie. They didn’t demand to see accomplishments that I had previously run the dungeon. They didn’t demand that I must be fully geared. They didn’t demand that I even remotely know much about the game. They just demanded that I join them and have fun. This… I could do.
Thankfully, I was in one of the easiest positions: a damage dealer. In my old World of Warcraft days, I was the tank for every dungeon I ran, and let me tell you that is some stress right there. Wipe? Tank’s fault. Can’t keep aggro? Tank’s fault. Going too slow? Tank’s fault. So, whenever I run any group content the LAST person I ever blame for anything is the tank. I know what that job is like, and I give tanks out there a lot of credit.
So how did it all end?
WITH THAT BIG OL’ TENTACLED CTHULHU MOFO FACE DOWN IN THE SHALLOW END OF THE POOL!
How did it happen? Really… I have no idea. I give all the credit to my fantastic group-mates, MMO Gamerchick, Husband-to-Gamerchick, TenTentacles, and Pid, as their experience and awesomeness won the day. Since this was my first TSW dungeon ever, I could not judge to what effect my support/damage did. I could’ve been helping a lot or I could’ve been helping very little. No clue.
So, heady from this big win, we delved into the next dungeon, Elite Hell Raised, and…
WIPED THE FLOOR WITH THOSE BOSSES SO HARD THAT THE DEVIL HIMSELF WAS IMPRESSED!
So not only was my first dungeon run a huge success. My second dungeon run, also Elite, was a huge success.
Maybe I’m not as bad a dungeon runner or as anti-social as I think I am…
P.S. – Sadly, my TSW character, Ocholivis, is unguilded (uncabaled?). I joined the Knights of Mercy for the run, but since they are all Templars and I am Illuminati, I can’t join in their guild. How sad is that? Funcom, seriously, work on that.
P.P.S. – Also, my STO character, @Ambrose99 is also unguilded (unfleeted?). If there are any STO fleets looking for an off-again, on-again member who doesn’t mind donating a great majority of his lifetime-membership resources, hit me up. I’ll definitely be looking for a new fleet once Legacy of Romulus drops in 9 DAYS!
P.P.P.S. – If you’re not hovering your mouse over my images yet, you’re missing out…
Well, folks, in about 16 hours Neverwinter, the latest MMO from Cryptic and Perfect World will be entering it’s open beta phase of development. Past this point there will be no character wipes, though, so for all intents and purposes, consider Neverwinter launched. After all, the difference between a soft open-beta and a full-on launch is just bug fixes and patches, which happen all the time in MMO development anyway.
So once the floodgates open, we can fully start enjoying our time on the Tarnished Coast in all the glory the Dungeons and Dragons setting can muster (without really being very Dungeons and Dragons). But, to be honest, I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve spent a long time playing in Perfect World and Cryptic’s other games, namely Star Trek Online and Rusty Hearts, and the trend I’ve seen is a little scary. Namely, that the psychology behind relieving the player of their money is getting better and better.
Now, I’ve lived around gambling for quite some time. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the great state of New Jersey, so all my life I’ve been less than an hour drive to one of the USA’s great gambling meccas, Atlantic City. And now, Philadelphia itself has started to becoming a gambling destination of its own, sprouting up a few casinos in the past couple years. With my fascination of human behavior, this has led to a keen understanding of how the casinos are able to pull the money out of your pockets so easily.
And with the rise of Free-To-Play MMOs and casual mobile gaming, I’m starting to see the same signs invade our hobby…
Seeing Others Win
Have you ever put money into a slot machine, and even if you’ve won just a few coins the machine started whooping and hollering like a banshee? This is 100% on purpose. The noise and alarms that arise from slot machines is both for your benefit (You won! Woohoo!) but also for the benefit of others around you (Look! That guy won!). The draw of seeing others win with lights and sounds is a signal to others that they can win, too.
In games that use subscription models, this acts more like a Skinner Box, pushing you forward to your next dose of positive reinforcement. In Free-to-Play, though, seeing others win is an impetus to get where they are, and spending money is the easiest way to get there. In Star Trek Online, for example, whenever a lockbox is opened and the top prize is given out, a message goes out to the entire playerbase that you have won. Every… single… online… player. And there is NO OPTION to turn it off!
Giving you the option to do so would seriously hurt their income, too. Seeing others win is the biggest driver of sales of the lockbox keys, which puts money directly into their pockets. With the odds of winning being as low as they are, and the frequency at which people are spending money on keys to open the boxes… they aren’t going anywhere. Lockboxes make them money hand over fist, and despite the loud complaining about them, the players keep buying them, hoping for the big hit.
Playing With Points and Not Real Money
When you want to start gambling at table games, the first thing you do is head to a table and drop some money on the table. These are then replaced with clay chips that are used at the gambling tables. Universal, and nobody thinks twice about it. But really, they should! Why chips? Why have tokens that represent money? Well, for one, the casino finds it easier to transfer money en-mass and little chips are easier than stacks of paper. But the biggest reason is that, in the players mind, those chips stop representing real money. They become a plaything, a toy used in the transaction of gambling. The most I’ve ever dropped on a single hand of blackjack was $60. In chips, that’s two green $25 chips, and two red $5 chips. This was very easy to do at the time. If, in order to play, I had to pull three $20 bills out of my wallet and bet them on ONE HAND of blackjack… the better part of my mind would’ve stopped me. Those three $20s aren’t just bills… that’s food, gas, etc. However, in chip form, there’s a disconnect between the chips and real money.
In MMOs, the same goes with store points. Most games don’t do this, but Perfect World’s Zen has a direct 1:1 correlation with the American dollar. 1 Zen = $.01. So $20 = 2000 Zen and so forth. So that big Andorian Kumari Vessels 3-Pack that’s 5000 Zen literally translates to $50! However, once those bills are transferred into points, they don’t go into the same category as cash in your mind. And with Star Trek Online’s Dilithium or Neverwinter’s Astral Diamonds, even these have a direct correlation with Zen, which has a direct correlation with real cash. They become just another game currency, and as such, they’re easier to spend as your mind treats them differently.
Comfortability and Keeping You Active
In older casinos, finding clocks is relatively tricky. There is, however, a new thought of casino design that since people have easy access to a clock themselves, changing the environment to hide the outside world isn’t the primary thinking anymore. It’s more about being comfortable. If people are comfortable and they enjoy their environment, they will spend more. Roger Thomas, the head of design for Wynn’s Resorts has essentially reinvented the modern casino. Now, instead of a cave setting, Wynn’s casinos feature sunlight, opulence, and artwork. The key here is that a casino is now an adult playground, designed to be so comfortable that you’ll want to spend more time in them seeking whatever pleasures are offered. More time, afterall, equals more money in the casino’s pockets.
The same goes with MMOs. The more time you spend in them, the more money you will spend in a Free-To-Play game. And so, the key is to make the players as comfortable and as busy as possible, with reasons to keep coming back. Comfortability is easy. Players like the familiar, and are too thrown off by the different. If they see mechanics that they’ve seen in other games, they’ll find it all very comfortable. My recent review of the game posited that Neverwinter is really just a blend of other games, not doing everything the same, but not really adding to it, either.
And then keeping players active is Perfect World’s modus operandi, something they have perfected. How many times have I logged into Star Trek Online to stay for a few minutes, only to end up staying for an hour or more? From Forbe’s exultation of the game’s Landing Page and timed events to STO’s real-time Doff system or Neverwinter’s timed crafting system (like Zynga’s multi-billion dollar strategy), giving you stuff to do and giving you reasons to come back is paramount, and they do it well.
So What is The Future?
Really, it’s not going to stop. With Zynga opening up real online casinos, and Perfect World using casino strategies in their games, it will just lead to a bigger and bigger industry. Casino psychology has been around for ages and is only going to get stronger. Although Neverwinter is taking the chance by not offering a subscription at all, they know the psych game well and so it’s not really a huge risk for them.
You will find me periodically heading into Neverwinter, and I will most likely periodically be spending money there, too. If the game is fun, I don’t mind it at all… but always in the back of my mind is that itch. That little voice that says “The House Always Wins”. So, I don’t see myself spending tons of time in Neverwinter, maybe just a weekend trip here and there.
Just like a vacation to the casinos.
This past weekend, because of my lifetime membership to Star Trek Online, I was thrown a Beta invite for Neverwinter and I took full advantage of it to answer all the questions I had about the latest Cryptic/Perfect World title. Is it more D&D or MMO? Is it just another fantasy WoW clone?! Can it hold on it’s own in this day of MMO proliferation?!! Why can’t it be Winter?!!! Are there way too many kobolds?!!!! <Ahem> Excuse me. Got carried away there. Anyway, what I found is that Neverwinter appears to be a true blend of the MMO landscape. There wasn’t a lot that screamed new and revolutionary, but then they also aren’t claiming anything of the sort.
Of course I have to add in a little disclaimer of my review: WHAT I SAW IS STILL IN BETA! You know what that means. It’s all subject to change. What I say might end up being completely different by the end. Also, this is, by far, my longest post. I wanted to give a complete picture of Neverwinter, though, and I couldn’t seem to do that succinctly.
So What Is the Game’s Overall Style?
Have you played Dungeons and Dragons Online? How about Star Trek Online? Rusty Hearts? Then you’re mostly familiar with how this game rolls. After the tutorial, you start out in the communal area of the city of Neverwinter known as The Protector’s Enclave. Here you meet up with quest givers, visit the marketplace and auction houses and do all your big city tasks, similar to DDO’s Stormreach. Important quests in the questline are done through individual instances with doors to these instances off the main city. Once you finish with the the starting questline, you move to other areas. However, these other areas, like the Blacklake District, contain both wandering mobs AND doorways to instances. These areas felt a little more like the formula we’re use to seeing in WoW or LotRO or the like, with quest-hubs and quests of mainly the “Kill 10 Rats” variety, but then interspersed with the instances and once completed led right back to The Protector’s Enclave.
Gear is acquired by completing quests, token exchanges, loot drops, and by spending Diamonds, similar to any game I can think of.
Story is Very Important to Me. Does Neverwinter Have Any?
In my short time playing, I was able to complete three campaigns: Recovering a stolen crown, snapping the power of a bandit group, and breaking the power of an orc group. The storylines themselves so far are pretty weak. Coming from Star Trek Online, this is surprising, as the stories told in STO are fantastic and a huge draw to the game. The stories so far in Neverwinter have been pretty much “Hey! Go kill this bandit leader!” then once you slay him “Thanks! That’s awesome! Now go kill this other bandit leader!” I can see how these bandits are posing a problem, as they are next door neighbors to the safe Protector’s Enclave, but the “story” so far just feels like a murderous to-do list.
However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel: The Foundry. The Foundry is, I believe, where Neverwinter will truly shine. Keeping in line with the Neverwinter series of games, the User-generated missions, so far, are where I found the most story. Neverwinter’s first Foundry Spotlight is Zebular‘s ‘The Dweomerkeepers, Act 1‘, and was EXACTLY what I was expecting from Neverwinter’s community. Being part 1 of an 8 part series, you were sent to investigate why the Drow had taken up residence at an abandoned inn. You found statues to old gods, parchment that turned to dust in the sunlight, bookshelves filled with old tomes, relics to investigate, and a lot of Drow elves that had a problem with you being there. Well done. If there had been a Part 2 ready, I would’ve jumped into it. If you play it, leave a tip as well. Tips are a lot more important in Neverwinter as opposed to Star Trek Online as I’ll explain shortly.
Although FINDING the Foundry missions in the first place took a little time, not being able to be started from anywhere like in STO, there is already plenty of missions available to try. In a big step, Neverwinter will be working in the missions organically into the gameplay. You can find a whole slew of Foundry missions on the cities Help Wanted boards, or periodically you can run across “well-informed” individuals who will point you to nearby user-made missions. Finding Foundry missions in the wilds, making them easier to find, grouping them into campaigns, and not just randomly choosing from a list of 1000 missions will make the Foundry a much more useful storytelling tool for many.
Is it Truly D&D?
Uhhh… no. It’s not. Not truly, anyway. Now, although I own a set of dice (they’re around here somewhere) I haven’t played a round of tabletop D&D in ages. But I do know how D&D generally functions with the d20 being the crux of the game. Do I know 4th Edition well, the edition Neverwinter is supposed to be based off of? No. But I’m positive this can’t be it.
According to the last Beta Weekend details, the level cap was raised to 40 for the beta, but the overall level cap will be 60. 60! In D&D terms, where around level 30 starts to be considered god-like, level 60 is unheard of! At-will powers start out as incredible, like my level 1 cleric being able to create spears of damaging light as his normal attack, Encounter powers calling devastating light from the heavens, and Daily powers that aren’t… well… daily. They’re huge abilities that you charge up by being in combat, but far from being usable “daily”.
Then, of course, there are the classes. So far, they are the Guardian Fighter, Devoted Cleric, Great Weapon Fighter, Trickster Rogue, and Control Wizard. So a tank, healer, and 3 types of DPS. Okay. However, one of the hallmarks of D&D are the multitude and customizability of classes. Hell, having classes in D&D is the basis of why we have classes in every other MMO to begin with! Not to mention being able to multi-class. So where DDO has 13 classes now, and a plethora of ways to customize them, Neverwinter will start with just a handful of kinda-customizable classes. Is this a bad thing? No, it’s just not the openness of D&D. Most likely, as a means of making money, new classes will be added and sold in the store as time goes on.
What’s the Main Currency?
Neverwinter, like any other MMO, has a number of currencies already in place. Gold, from loot and quest rewards to spend on consumables, supplies, etc. Astral Diamonds, rewards from daily activities, and then your standard Tokens for dungeon loot, etc. The part that surprised me, though, is that unlike Star Trek Online where the primary currency is Energy Credits (gold) that is traded back and forth by the players, the primary currency is Astral Diamonds. That means buying and selling things on the Auction House is all in Diamonds. The currency that is more restricted, the currency that is directly purchasable with Zen store points, is the primary currency. What does this mean? Well, in STO where you get EC from selling items and standard loot, you could make enough EC to trade for a huge item on the Exchange, like a new ship. Then, the player getting the EC could also trade it for ships, or use it to buy lockbox keys also on the exchange. In other words, anything that can be sold on the exchange is all in EC but acquiring EC is extremely simple, so the prices are wildly inflated. There is no way you can turn EC directly into Zen Points, though, only Dilithium, the Astral Diamonds equivalent.
Not Neverwinter. In Neverwinter, acquiring Diamonds will be a little more rare. However, say you find a +15 Sword of Cute Bunny Slaughtering. You could sell it to a vendor for gold or you could sell it on the Auction to another player for Diamonds. These Diamonds can then be traded directly for Zen Points! And then what do you buy with Zen points? Any big items. Companions, Mounts, Dyes, Classes, Races. Sure, in STO, some ships are purchasable with Dilithium, but the majority of ships you really want to fly are bought with Zen points.
From this I could see the items in the Auction staying a little more reasonable as players will be less-willing to let go of them. It’ll all depend how many they make available to the average player and where they can sink them to see if it turns into a stable economy.
Will I have a Lot of Weapons to Choose From?
No. The time I was playing the Devoted Cleric, I only saw 1 weapon type, a symbol. Down the line we’ll probably get fancier and fancier symbols, but as far as I can tell we only get symbols. Great Weapon Fighters get two-hand swords, Guardian Fighters get a sword and shield, Control Wizards get… that little ball over their shoulder? Something having to do with their two fingers that they keep staring at? No idea. But you get my point, weapon selection seems to be non-existent. If you’ve ever played Rusty Hearts, this is the same style. Natasha uses dual pistols, Angela uses a magic scythe. However, even they get to pick other weapons during the course of the game, so this may (and probably will) change.
I will have ALL THE CHEESE!! MUAHAHAHAHA!
What Features Are the Most Noticeable From Other Games?
The instanced quests, aside from being non-repeatable (yet), are very similar in style to Rusty Hearts. You enter the instance, start fighting mobs, get to the end, there’s a quick cutscene of the boss, you fight the boss, and then get a chest of loot. The instances are relatively quick, too, taking about 10 minutes. However, it’s not like Rusty Hearts in that you don’t have to repeat the same instance over and over and over again. It’s a once and done thing, which still feels a little quick. But there are Foundry missions, non-instanced camps of mobs, and Skirmishes if you need to grind a bit, so all is not lost, though instanced quests do seem to be the best source of crafting materials.
The combat is most similar to Guild Wars 2, but expect to not move around so much. This is both good and bad. Bad because I’m now so USE to running and gunning at the same time, and evading is a piece of cake, but Good because it involves a little more strategy. If you see a red circle around you, you have to stop attacking immediately and run, else you get hit. So if you move more, you attack less. You could attack more, but be prepared to be hit more, too. It plays to more of a balance.
Every hour you can call upon your gods to grant you loot and buffs. This is taken from another Perfect World title, PWI. There is smaller group content, aside from the 5-man dungeons found in every game, called Skirmishes, which are quick. These are similar to LotRO’s Skirmishes, but can’t be done solo. And finally, you can gain companions, similar to Bridge Officers from Star Trek Online to help you solo.
So How Was the Devoted Cleric?
I found the Devoted Cleric a powerhouse. After dungeons and skirmishes, I usually found myself at the top or near the top in both damage output and healing output, so I may keep using him into the Third Beta Weekend coming up March 22nd. Being the only healing class, and since health doesn’t regenerate naturally (at least at the low levels), the Cleric is a straight-up necessity. I don’t usually play healing classes because the high demand puts a lot of pressure on playing well, but I may give the Devoted Cleric a shot. I ran the one dungeon I could at level 16, the Cloak Tower, and we sprinted through it without too much trouble. Healing is sometimes difficult, but mouse-look targeting to heal?! It was a little more frantic than I had anticipated. I heard that further down the line, you can pick up a lot more AoE heals, but the mouse targeting of party members to heal was tricky to pick up, but still doable. I think I did admirably given my noobishness.
I Care About Looks! How Are the Graphics?
The graphics are a lot better than I was ever expecting. It’s an MMO with collision physics! Even among other players, you can’t stand in exactly the same spot as anyone else, you would collide with them. When you kill a mob on a sloped surface, they slide down the surface. Think Skyrim and ragdolls. Basically, way cooler than I was expecting. Mixed with the nice lighting and shading effects, I was more impressed than I thought I’d be and think this is easily one of the nicest-on-the-eyes MMO’s I’ve played yet.
How Is Neverwinter Compared to Turbine’s DDO?
Another D&D MMO on the market, and both entering into the Forgotten Realms. It’s tricky, to say the least, and it really depends on what you’re looking for in a game. If you’re a big fan of D&D, DDO is much better as it sticks to the true D&D better. I would even still give the better storytelling to Turbine’s DDO. However, if you’re not as big a fan of D&D, more into action-style combat, and more a fan of the “standard” style of MMO, you would appreciate Neverwinter more. Essentially, I don’t think Neverwinter will be usurping the D&D MMO crown but sharing it, especially with all the strides that DDO has made recently.
Feel the wrath of Four Leaf Clovers! (Not Red Balloons)
You Can’t Seem to Shut Up in This Post. Just Give Me the Rundown, Already. How Was It Overall?
I might come off as a little critical in this post, especially since it’s still in Beta, but I truly did like it. I don’t think it’ll become more like D&D, and will stay more like an MMO, which I like. The story will most likely improve as the game progresses and the Foundry will grow along side it, becoming a huge reason, if not THE reason, to play it. The graphics will still be really nice, especially for an MMO. Weapon and armor selection will most likely stay limited and might expand to a secondary weapon, but I wouldn’t expect a whole bunch more.
Overall, and most importantly, it was a lot of fun to play! Will it be the be-all-end-all MMO? No. Certainly not. Not in this day of an over-saturated MMO market. However, I can see it easily finding a place in the market and being fully free-to-play (and I mean FULLY, can’t subscribe to it if you wanted to), will most likely keep the servers nice and full.
I don’t see this becoming my “Home” MMO, as that currently belongs to STO, but I can definitely see adding this to my repertoire.