Today I’m kicking off our end-of-year coverage by presenting my personal list of highlights and low points of Neverwinter in 2018. It was truly an eventful year and there’s a lot to go through. We had three modules full of excitement, but also lots of frustration. First Omu concluded the Chult story line before players were dragged into the dark lands of Barovia. The Heart of Fire then took a humorous spin by bringing a light-hearted campaign to the game featuring the D&D brand Acquisitions Incorporated. Cryptic and Wizards of the Coast moved closer together, and the most extensive banwave the game has ever seen happened. So what stood out to me the most? Let’s get to it!
The Good: Growing the Brand
2018 has been a great game in terms of growing or at least stabilizing the Neverwinter brand. Cryptic Studios is a core part of the D&D universe. It was great to see them having fun at the Stream of the Many Eyes, only to name one example. It also felt like the collaborations with other members of the D&D family, like WizKids, were extended. And although I know some of you are worried about splitting resources with the upcoming Magic: The Gathering MMO, I feel it’s a good sign of WotC trusting Cryptic to shoulder yet another game in their universe.
As Omin Dran would say: Always be branding! It’s what Lead Designer Thomas Foss does best. He’s a great salesman and probably single-handedly convinced the people at Penny Arcade to join the game.
The Ugly: Community Management
Which brings us to another personnel department: Community Management. I don’t want to sugarcoat it: It’s a disaster, plain and simple. That’s not Julia’s fault at all by the way. She’s working as hard as anybody, but the way Cryptic and PWE see a “Community Manager” is just… off. She works a wide array of supervising, project management, and secretary tasks and only has so much time to actually interact with the community. On top of that she doesn’t seem to be very comfortable in social interaction like streaming, which obviously doesn’t help. And no matter how often you say that the term doesn’t come with any obligations, it’s clear that this game needs a true link between the devs, content creators, and players and not just someone who gathers weekly forum reports.
Seriously, step up your game and don’t pretend that there’s no alternative.
The Ugly: Huntgate
Oh and while we’re here and raging, screw PWE for how they’ve handled Huntgate. It was a disgrace. And to make matters worse, the crap is still not fixed. Oh and how about us recently learning that support helped players duping items? Seems like PWE has to put its house in order first before pointing fingers back at customers.
The Good: Constant Content
Let’s get back to something more positive. You might not like every content that made the game, but at least Cryptic shows no signs of slowing down. Omu, Ravenloft, and Heart of Fire where solid additions and gave players plenty stuff to enjoy. Especially in a year that saw many once hopeful MMOs getting shut down, I think it’s fair to appreciate that Neverwinter is still here and very much rocking! One of the healthiest titles even according to Massively Overpowered and our readers (insert wicked grin).
The Bad: Heart of Fire Issues
Not all content was flourished however. We’ve covered the struggles of Heart of Fire in recent weeks. The module was truly plagued with little issues that left the impression that the devs would have needed an additional month (or so) to really finish the module. But deadlines are deadlines and with the contractual obligations it’s probably hard to just postpone a release. That doesn’t change the fact that the devs currently have to put in the time anyway. Time that will be missing from what the were supposed to be working on next.
It’s evident that the current staff is heavily undersized and could use another dev or two. No kidding. Which kinda makes the constant updates even more impressive by the way. You have to think everyone is busting their ass off behind the scenes. But the lack of proper management too often leads to unsatisfying results.
The Bad: No Significant Progress in Key Areas
Another bullet is kind of related to the above. While the devs do a decent enough job to keep the game afloat, the resources have not allowed to really take Neverwinter to the next level. We especially need much more competitive content alongside the regular (single player) content updates. At least events, that grew more and more into a boring mess, have gotten a few nice updates lately. But on top of that there wasn’t really that one new aspect that would have been able to separate the title from its competitors.
I think I’ve said this before, but Cryptic also doesn’t seem to be the kind of studio that likes to take risks. They deliver whats needed, not more, not less. So I really have no high hopes that there even will be interest in significantly growing and extending the game by pushing for a niche or generally trying something out of the ordinary. It’s a shame because you certainly feel that a lot of potential goes to waste.
The Good: Boss Mechanics
One positive thing I’d like to point out last however are the boss mechanics. Whenever the devs introduce something new (platforming etc.) they tend to overdo that particular mechanic and use it for way too many bosses, but overall you can’t deny that both the variety and challenge have gone slightly up. I think we’re on a good path there.
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