Proper MMORPG reviews are difficult to do. Except for power levelers, the whole idea of playing a game in that genre is that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. That doesn’t mesh well with the concept of deadlines, which is what editors usually insist upon.
So for the recent release of Neverwinter, we’re doing something a little different. I’ll be spending my (mostly fictional) free time over the next five weeks exploring as much of Perfect World’s free-to-play spin on the beloved D&D setting as possible, doing a sort of diary of what I find every week. Then I’ll wrap it up with a more formal review, hopefully giving you a more complete picture of what to expect.
Week 4: Time to do some building
With our intrepid Aeris Brightleaf north of level 30, I figured it was high time that he contribute something to the world around him. By that I mean actually making things, and that means crafting.
In Neverwinter, crafting is done through the Professions system, which builds upon some positive aspects of other recent MMORPGs. Any character is free to tackle any of the Professions, and it’s possible (and viable) to learn more than one. There are currently six, with more on the way during the game’s upcoming expansion.
Materials don’t have to be mined or farmed, which is also nice. During quests, you’ll come across chests or other items that can yield materials, provided you have the right skill. Each class has one of the skills by default, but the right kits obtained from vendors or drops can give you access to every variety of node. Kits give you a 75 percent chance of gathering materials; if you fail, you get nothing. Simple, right?
Everything else about Professions is more complicated. The first task in any of the crafting trees is to hire a helper to assist with further jobs. That takes only a few seconds, but the rest of your jobs can take considerably longer. At least you can let your hirelings worry about crafting while you run around adventuring. They live to serve, I guess.
Anyway, all you need to make things is the right hireling, the correct ingredients, and some patience. Extra assistants can be added to many jobs to speed things up or give bonuses. Completed tasks pay off in a variety of ways, which can include Profession experience (eventually leveling you up and unlocking more recipes), regular XP, silver, and more crafting materials. You can also have multiple jobs going at once after you’ve progressed far enough.
It’s not a bad system by any means, though it’s overly involved, especially when you see the sheer number of different crafting materials you’ll need. Many can be purchased, but that works against some of the benefit of having the hirelings do the work, since you need to pause from questing to stock up. Maybe I’ll feel differently after having more time to evaluate it, but my initial impression of crafting is that it will only appeal to players who like delving into it in every MMO they play.
There’s another kind of crafting available in Neverwinter though, and that’s using The Foundry to create your own content – quests, for sure, and even entire linked campaigns. The tools at your disposal make the creation process simple, just not necessarily intuitive (if that makes any sense). As I found out the hard way, you can’t just dive into The Foundry and expect to come out with anything cool. Read the tutorial, get familiar with the interface, and walk before you try to run.
And don’t be afraid to ask other players for help. The Foundry has its own chat channel, and I found that other authors were generally pretty willing to answer inquiries. There is a bit of a competitive aspect to user-created content since it gets rated and ranked by the game’s community, but for the most part, everyone is in it together.
It would take way too long to list all of the things that go into making your own quests, but even the barest of bones can give you some insight into The Foundry’s potential. Quests can be linked to begin from any location in the game world, and they’re instanced from there. Maps can be modified versions of any interior or exterior place already in Neverwinter, or you can start from scratch and make your own.
A flowchart helps keep the story in your quest link together in a way that makes sense, and just about every kind of encounter you can think of can be part of the fun: monsters, treasures, traps, NPCs, items with which to interact, the works. Some pretty impressive dialogue trees can be built if you really want to make that a focus of your content, and I talked to some other players who spent hours on that aspect alone.
You can test your mission at any point to make sure it’s coming together well and to ensure you didn’t do something like placing the spawn point 200 feet off the ground (not that I did that or anything). There’s also a 3D editor to modify things during a test run, though it was quite honestly a little over my head.
The bottom line is that The Foundry is a very impressive addition, and something that could easily become an obsession in its own right for many players. I don’t have the time to really delve into it during the course of my review diary, but the good part is that I can still reap the benefits of other, more creative people’s efforts by playing their quests. In fact, the game incentivizes you to do just that, and user-created quests are a good way to gain some extra XP if you feel yourself slipping behind the level curve.
Until next week…