Almost a year ago the devs released Strongholds and effectively switched the guild system from a strictly social into a gameplay related one. Players heavily discussed and some even feared it. In this post I want to look back and evaluate how Strongholds has altered the landscape for players and guild leaders.
Guild are more relevant
The first thing that comes to mind is the added power to guilds. Before Strongholds guilds were a social thing. The biggest gameplay related effect were personal guilds for alternative character to enhance storage space. Before the account shared bank these guilds were also used to transfer goods between characters.
Strongholds instantly changed that. Not only became guilds more relevant, they became a necessity for everyone who wanted to stay competitive. As always boons only add convenience to PVE, but can be decisive in PVP. Masterwork professions add best-in-slot gear as well as economic benefits.
New guilds are hard to establish
With the new power of established guilds, new ones are hard to bring up. Active players with a decent gear score can easily get into a guild level of 16 to 18, if not higher. Once at 3,000 item level, the highest tier of guilds open their doors. That’s why fresh guilds have to settle for newcomers and hope they become active and solid contributors over time.
Additionally it doesn’t help that Neverwinter has a very unsteady player base. High level guilds are constantly looking to refill their ranks, snacking the best donators from lower ones. So even if you manage to build up a solid core as newcomers, you better bond before your members realize they can get more elsewhere.
It has become increasingly hard to establish a new guild and this deficit is likely to grow over time. I witnessed this first hand with my lowbie account. A fresh guild that invested quite a lot of time and assets into the recruitment process fell short and decided to abandon it after a few weeks of trying. Guild leaders were even willing to hand out Transcendent Enchantments in a recruitment challenge. That’s a crazy prize, but shows what you might need to invest to get more members.
The choice between sociality and progression
Another issue guild leaders are facing is the choice between sociality and progression. You can’t have both in the new system. Either all of your members work to upgrade your Stronghold or they don’t. Otherwise the few players doing the heavy lifting can get frustrated, again looking elsewhere for a like-minded attitude. In terms of guilds it’s unfortunate players can no longer freely choose with whom to ally. Instead it’s more a choice of achieving goals. Ironically this fits other areas in the game, where players often face the challenge to skip things they like to do for things they have to do.
Although a few guilds are advertising to be casual yet determined, I don’t think it’s really working. Those guilds are progressive no matter what they say. I think the main difference between casually progressive and strictly progressive is that there is no required minimum contribution. Since those guilds tend to filter inactive players and recruit at a certain item level though, they still get players that fit their approach.
Another dividing factor are boon structures. Today guilds more or less build the same, but there are still some decisions to make that can drive away players. There is an upside though. Once players have found a fitting home, they are more likely to find players in guild chat that meet their own requests and playstyle.
Talking about things you have to do: Stronghold adds a whole new layer of tasks that players need to do on a daily basis. For players with limited time it adds the decision of playing for guild or personal progression. Running Heroic Encounters in the Stronghold adds little beyond getting your Utility Enchantments to proc. It’s really annoying that each system of the game comes with a more or less independent grind.
Adding daily activity to the list of wanted characteristics was a clever move by the devs. 4k players are an asset to any guild in PVP or PVE whenever they are online. But just like lowbies they suddenly become a liability if they can’t do daily Influence runs. This slightly devalues item level and upgrades overall activity. The system also adds to the incentive to play multiple alternative characters.
Guilds have more drama?
A lot of players feared Strongholds would add to the ingame drama, but a big public bang has yet to come. This doesn’t mean however that the system hasn’t created problems behind the scenes. I was able to talk to quite a few players that lost guilds after investing a substantial amount of time and, in some cases, even money.
The main issue is that guilds now also hold a certain ingame value, and can be sold. The perspective changes based on who you talk with. Guild leaders quitting the game are looking to get something out of their guilds. Members of course are turning to the devs to protect them from arbitrary leaders. There are some concerning examples from Xbox, but overall I don’t think the system has been sufficiently challenged yet. The potential of a disaster is still there, but all doubters can be slightly more optimistic at this point.
I do think the system works quite well. Of course guilds and players needed to make a transition. Guilds are not exclusively social any longer, but more a collection of players that strive for similar goals. Mostly it’s just a redistribution of the player base, it gets complicated however if guilds are caught between a casual approach and progression.
Having a good time in the game and gathering with your folks doesn’t necessarily transfer to Stronghold structures. Especially small guilds are having a hard time getting their boons. That’s where most of the frustration comes from and I certainly hoped alliances would help those lost in the system much better.
What are your impressions and experiences with alliances? Share it in the comments below or visit the corresponding thread on our message board!