Why the Bonding Runestone Nerf Makes Sense, Yet is Still Infuriating

To start off our week on Unblogged, I’d like to discuss an interesting topic related to the Bonding Runestone nerf. As a player, you can’t really say you never saw this coming. Bondings being overpowered was common sense, the devs said multiple times that they are not happy with them. So why is there still a massive outcry now that the anticipated nerf finally arrived?

The History of Bondings

To understand what is going on here we need to dive into the history of Bondings a bit. They were introduced in Module 3: Curse of Icewind Dale to make all companions viable. Back then Augments were the meta. Those were the only ones able to transfer stats and no ability of any companion was so strong to overcome that huge deficit. Bondings were meant to close this gap, except they initially didn’t.

We were still in the 60s era, so enchantments and runestones could only be leveled to rank 10. While Bondings were already able to theoretically outperform Augments at a max rank, they had a pretty hefty flaw. All slotted Bondings only had a chance to proc on a companion’s attack, and did so individually. That made them unreliable and most of the time still worse than Augments. In an ideal scenario, players were able to get 195% stats, but that was really rare. Bondings pretty much offered a burst type of boost, yet players like reliability when it comes to building their characters.

Breakthrough in Elemental Evil

Neverwinter Elemental EvilBondings remained in the doghouse for almost a year. It must have been in Elemental Evil that players discovered an overstacking issue with the runestones. Fast-attacking companions, and ideally ones with a dot attack, not only could suddenly reliably activate all three Bondings at once, but apply more than one stack for each of them. It didn’t take long for them to become the new meta. It took roughly another year to correct the overstacking with “Maze Engine: Alliances” and get things to where they are now. This means they will probably have remained in their overpowered state for 16 months before getting nerfed in Module 12b.

Bondings Reigned Way Too Long

Now why is the past important here? Because it illustrates what players are really angry about! The changes make sense, no doubt about that, but look at those time frames. Bondings are best-in-slot since over two years, would probably even be longer if anybody had figured them out earlier. And at least since Storm Kings Thunder, well over a year ago, we all knew that they were over the top.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: By letting Bondings reign for so long, the devs effectively are complicit in the whole mess. I mean what are players supposed to do? Yeah, so there’s this obviously overpowered system that may or may not get changed? Too bad you can’t build your characters around hypothetical nerfs in the future, right? And then nothing happens for over a year, for over two years, everybody else uses them. Of course you are going to upgrade and utilize your Bondings as well…!

Unreliable Again?

I think this explains why players are upset although the change is technically the right thing to do. You just can’t let an issue linger for so long and then expect to correct course without resistance. Especially since the devs even had the chance to tackle Bondings way earlier when they fixed overstacking in Maze Engine. By waiting for such a long time you’re at least making yourself vulnerable to accusations that this was done intentionally to let money sink into the system and then nerf it.

It surely didn’t help that initially the announced nerf was so excessive that it didn’t even make sense. Bondings were supposed to grant 195% stats at max level at a 50% uptime, making them considerably worse than Augments and unreliable again. This has since been upgraded to a 100% uptime, which sound much more reasonable. A lot of the complaints can probably be credited to that misjudgment alone. How players can appropriately measure a change within hours only from the patch notes while the devs do not seem to register the impact during design and QA is beyond me. But that’s a story for another article I guess…

What’s your opinion on the Bonding situation? Are you also more upset that they let this one linger for so long or do you have issues with the nerf itself? Share your thoughts in the comments below and visit the corresponding thread on our message board!

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7 thoughts on “Why the Bonding Runestone Nerf Makes Sense, Yet is Still Infuriating

  • September 4, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    BONDINGS AIN’T THE PROBLEM! it’s the buffs from pallys and clerics that make everything over powered with power share, put it this way I’m a bis gwf and with all my buffs and 3x rank 12 bondings my ibs hits for about 1.5 mill but with a full buff team in fbi my ibs can hit for 35/40 mill so you tell me whats op and needs to be fixed? it sure as hell isnt bondings. do you realize how much money REAL money people have put into there builds and how much its going to cost to fix there builds once you do this NERF? this will kill the game people are getting sick to death of your bait and switch tactics cryptic this is nothing more than a cash grab, once we get our enchants and bondings up to level 14 we will be back to where are now, so if we are over powered now won’t we be over powered then? they are just lazy and trying to sell us back what we already have now

    • September 4, 2017 at 11:33 pm

      totally agree @ryan wakefield. buffs are out of control. they should be additive and declining like debuffs. and if bondings wouldn’t share buffed stats then there wouldn’t be any need to nerf them

  • September 4, 2017 at 11:27 pm

    i couldn’t careless about the bondings. but the loss of artifact feeding bothers me so much. they stated that they want to streamline the refining process for new players and take away a mayor source to make them push their IL.

    • September 5, 2017 at 1:42 am

      Artifacts are not a big problem IMHO. Note, that you could now focus all RP on artifacts or artifact equipment. Including green trash loot and other stones. Previously, only enchants or matching stones used for artifacts. My artifact equipment is fully upgraded. And enchants lack wards or second enchant to progress further.

      New system is better that it allows to focus resources where it is needed. The current system makes some stones useless when corresponding equipment is fully upgraded or blocked by other resources (this is particularly bad for BtC resources).

  • September 4, 2017 at 11:34 pm

    One of the issues in see is that people seem to forget they are playing An mmo. Part of the mmo deal is to get new and better Gear over time. Anyone who thought the current bondings would Stay like this for eternity are mistaken. Its very common to see better Gear every few months.

    What makes this annoying is the huge nerf as nobody likes nerfs. However when you compare bondings to augments there was a huge gap. Next to this bondings are giving do many extra stats its bestond silly.

    The last version of 100% stats might fix something but it doesnt really change that bondings are to strong as a rank 14 essentially works in the same way.
    Just buffing everthing up to how Good bondings are is NOT the solution. Sadly cryptic made a kneefall.

    Next to this i agree with Ryan that current buffing has gone way to far. Buffing should ofc increase damage by a Good amount but this is overdone.
    Just let healers health and tanks tank. In a healthy balance there is No reason for them to bring these huge buffs

  • January 22, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    Yep, Agree 100% It’s a bit ridiculous how much buffs can stack and affect everything, it really trivializes the content and makes it not as fun 🙁 Bondings are not the issue, although this post is long after the fact, and bondings are still best in slot.

  • March 3, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    I’ve been looking for something-anything-that suggests using augments again, even post nerf, and I haven’t found anything. The general consensus still seems to be Bondings or GTFO. As someone who has used an augment companion for the entire lifespan of hte game (since open beta), it’s amusing to see people complaining about Bonding Runestone nerfs, while they still dominate every single build design I’ve seen or heard of.

    I mean, it would have been fine to just boost augments instead of nerfing Bondings, sure, but arguments along the line of “well, Cryptic is complicit” feels like post-hoc reasoning to me. The solution to a problem you’ve gone on not solving for too long isn’t to just never fix the problem, it’s to fix the problem and apologize for it taking so long to begin with.

    I suppose they could have done a trade-in program where bondings could be traded for other runestones of equivalent rank.

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