With the launch of alliances the focus of Neverwinter has switched to guilds again, so it’s time to look back and deliver a judgment about the Maze Engine solo campaign. It’s spoilerish and in case you haven’t played it yourself, you might not know what I’m taking about in some sections.
1. Story (Rating: A-)
I’m a fan. I already fully played through the story on preview and just like the storytelling. It’s a nice spin-off and I was eager to unfold the whole story, although you could see Vizeran’s betrayal from miles away. I personally was a little bit disappointed you don’t meet Baphomet until the last fight. Of course everything is designed to lead to that one last duel, but I think it wouldn’t have hurt to introduce the big baddie a little bit earlier in a cutscene or something. It would have added to the anticipation to finally fight him at the end. Other than that it’s well done and the celebration a fitting end.
2. Campaign and Quest Design (Rating: C)
This one is a truly mixed bag because the story quest design is great, but the campaign design just horrible. I think if fights are trivial anyway (see 4.) there’s no reason to mindlessly throw mobs in front of players as quest objectives. Although most story quests are still “kill X, reach or speak with Y”, with the introduction “In Defense of Gauntlgrym” unfortunately being the prime example, there are true gems like Chapter 4: Adventurers of the Lost Artifact, where you fight little and have tons of fun. Another example is Chapter 9: A View of Menzoberranzan, where you have enough time to explore and enjoy a new map.
On the contrary the daily quests are dull as hell. It’s like the devs don’t even tried to hide they want to artificially stretch a great story to a campaign size of 30 days. The story just stops at random points where NPCs need time to investigate or research stuff. In the meantime players are kept busy by completing boring to annoying daily quests. All are bad, but some are worse. In Nature’s Defense still has too many waves and the travel times for Howling Demons impertinent. The Maze Engine dailies have truly introduced a new tier of boredom.
It doesn’t help that some of them are located in lower level adventure maps. Granted, it’s a minor thing and I didn’t actually experience a lot of lowbies dying, but it’s obviously not ideal. You can only reuse these maps so often until it gets really frustrating for players trying to level up.
3. Scenery and Map Design (Rating: B+)
As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, new maps and scenery really play a big role for the campaign’s atmosphere. In Underdark you started off at the Chandler Farm, but your brain screamed “no that’s Rothe Valley!”, which took away a lot of excitement from the quest itself and, because it was the introduction, also from the whole quest line.
The devs have learned and in the Maze Engine you actually start your journey on a new location. Through the campaign a lot of Elemental Evil zones are re-used, but that’s acceptable because in each of the story sections you at least come across one brand new map, which is appropriate for a brand-new campaign.
My favorites of course are Chapter 4 and Chapter 9 once again. The view of Menzoberranzan is just awesome, albeit just a skybox, and the dragon’s lair equally amazing. The Underdark maps like Araj Tower were a tad too similar for my taste though.
4. Challenge (Rating: B-)
I think it’s hard to judge challenge without factoring in other stuff. In story focused content challenge takes a backseat and shouldn’t be rated at all. But Maze Engine offers enough mobs to be a factor and unfortunately those are more annoying than interesting. Throughout the campaign you don’t meet new mechanics or challenges until Baphomet. The end fight itself is a bit spoiled because some of the powers have a greater range than displayed through red areas.
It’s another story for all those that try to complete the campaign before 70. In the first days I did notice a lot of people requesting groups for the normal Chapters, so it at least seems to be convenient to group up. And the fight against Baphomet on the lower levels is at least tricky and can become very hard if not appropriately geared.
5. Rewards (Rating: A)
Massive XP, Gold, Resonance Stones and even some AD? That’s exactly the type of rewards you should get! The dailies might be annoying, but they are at least rewarding. The boons don’t stand out, but are useful through all tiers. I also like the Battlerager Armor and the Gauntlgrym Bounty offers a way to get Conqueror’s Shards for those that absolutely don’t want to PVP. Throw in a companion and you can’t ask for much more out of a single campaign.
6. Overall Rating: B
The campaign is well done and only has one real weakness with its dailies. Of course it would be desirable if the grind would be a little bit more interesting, but stalling techniques are nothing new and in some ways a necessary evil.
Maybe these great quest lines are just not made to be forced into a campaign setting, but I think if the devs continue the storytelling, they are on a good way to deliver quality content going forward.
What’s your take on the campaign? Share it in the comments below or visit the corresponding thread in our forum!