I’m pretty sure most players will breathe a sigh of relief after reading the most recent announcement about the devs backpedaling on their difficulty and experience changes Mod 6: Elemental Evil brought.
- The 50% HP buff that had been added to level 61-70 critters has been removed.
- Enemies in the endgame campaign zones (Icewind Dale, Sharandar, etc.) have had most of their HP buff removed.
- We still wanted a slight difficulty increase in these endgame zones, but the numbers we were using previously were definitely too high.
- The bosses and mini-bosses were never given an HP boost, and that still remains true.
- The amount of damage enemies do has been further reduced from critters level 61+.
- We reduced the damage critters dish out a number of weeks ago, but we went ahead and dropped their damage down even further.
- We’ve increased the amount of XP given by missions in the Elemental Evil zones.
- This will make your trip from 60 to 70 noticeably faster.
- We’ve cut in half the number of vigilance quests needed to complete the wrappers.
- Wrappers that were looking for 16 quests to be completed are now only looking for 8.
This is pretty much a full revert of both the XP changes as well as the difficulty changes they made during the course of Elemental Evil. And it’s the right move. This might come as a surprise, because one of the major requests of high-end PVE players was to get more challenging content, but the approach they took was not the the proper one. Difficulty should be adjusted by raising the needed skill-level in a dungeon, but the devs chose to tweak the Hit Points and damage output, creating unavoidable, lethal attacks in the process that could one-shot even BiS tanks. This is not enhancing difficulty, it’s creating frustration for everyone. I myself run a GF and can tell first-hand that even if I did play flawlessly there were still these spikes out of nowhere that would blow me out of my armor. And considering my Fenja is 3.5k+, you can imagine how it must have been for the casuals out there. The only thing I hope is that T2 boss fights will remain challenging, because they actually were mostly skill-based and well-balanced. Probably ToS could need a slight upgrade and CC a slight downgrade, but that’s it. You also want tanks and healers to remain viable, because in addition with some of the SH boons we could be heading back to Mod 5 party compositions and that’s not desirable as well.
Another big area of impact are the campaign zones, which effectively turned into group content for players in Module 6. I’m all for a slight increase in the zones, but they should remain solo content for everyone so that players can complete their boons and don’t have to rely on teaming up. Yes, this is an MMO and we know what the M’s stand for, but just like dungeons this was mainly just creating frustration and not gently guiding players to how the devs think the game should be played. Some part of the issue admittedly was the enormous change that came with the raise of the level cap. Even if you think the challenge was appropriate, it was just too much for the type of playerbase Neverwinter has. This has always been a casual-friendly if not casual-first game and folks appreciated that. Raising content to impossible for most was not a good design decision after all, because if you create a game for casuals for more than two years, you shouldn’t be surprised that your playerbase vanishes in case you suddenly decide to create content only doable by or close to BiS.
The same applies to the XP. The route to 70 is shorter than in other games, but this fits the casual appraoch we have. This however wasn’t even the main issue. Starting with 61+ there simply isn’t enought content to justify the time you need to get to the level cap. Doing repeatable quests isn’t going to cut it, it’s just stalling progress. If there was a solid storyline, I think players wouldn’t be opposed to extendeing their leveling life, but not doing the same Vigilance quests each and every day. I gladly haven’t had the chance to test the new XP curve, because I leveled my chars prior to the nerf or through invoking. So I can’t finally judge the change now, on paper however it looks solid.
This should also serve as warning for the devs, because it shows that mistakes in the game design can’t be corrected in a timely manner with the resources they have. It took a full mod to grab the data and feedback they needed and we know Elemental Evil was not a success partly because of these changes. You can’t really say they reacted particularly slow, more that the game can’t afford many of those design mistakes. Anyway, I’m glad this farce is now over.