From all of the features in Neverwinter Strongholds, the boon system is the most intriguing one for me. The rest of the mechanics are pretty common and more of the same: You grind dailies, get currency of some sort and buy gear. Just on a bigger guild-sized scale. The boon system is unique however, because you will not be able to get all boons and every guild has to make choices depending on their game style and members.
There are seven boon structures that grant access to three boons from an offensive, defensive and utility category each, but there are only four crops available to build those structures on. On top of that PVP focused guilds can build the offensive Siege Workshop, which boosts the new Enhancement Overload Slayer and Drain Enchantments, and/or the Siege Smithy, which likewise boosts the defensive Ward counterparts.
Let’s review em:
- Barracks: Adds XP, Power and Healing Bonus and should be a standard pick for almost every guild. 8,000 Power is a straight 20% damage increase and ranking up toons any member can profit from the XP bonus universally as well.
- Explorers’ Guild: The structure is centered around the Group Stat Bonus, which will give a full party a sizeable, mainly offensive, buff. Since this requires you to run with guildies or other players that have this boon, it could divide PVE into haves and have-nots. I already touched on that talking about the coming VIP system and how it’s “Power of VIP” gameplay buff could create VIP runs in /lfg. The Group Stat Bonus falls into the same category.
- Mercenary Outpost: Not a fan. Companion gear will contain Overload Slots in Module 7 and companions can benefit from the new Slayer Enchantments as well, but I’m not sure I’d boost my companion over other choices. Same for Crit Resist and Crit Severity Bonus.
- Stable: I don’t like Defense and ArPen as straight up rating boosts for PVE, because classes that need it can already stack them pretty easy, but especially in combination with Mount Speed Bonus this will become mandatory in PVP.
- Temple: There seems to have been a last-minute change, because the Injury Resist boon (yay!) suddenly transformed into a Revive Sickness boon (nah!). That’s a downgrade and makes this building less attractive. Nobody uses potions in group content, at least not until they give a more substantial amount of healing, but 20% LS is nothing to sniff at, also in PVP, and could boost the survivability to Mod 5 levels again as toons will be able to hit 35% easily.
- Training Yard: I would skip this one. Glory and AoE Resistance is nothing I’d pick over other stuff and the Enhance Overload is inferior to the straight power buff. Assuming that we’ll still have access to two Overload slots you can get up to 20% damage more damage against a certain PVE enemy type while 8,000 power gives you 20% against everything. Of course guilds could go Barracks and this one, but other options are simply more appealing.
- Wizard’s Workshop: 32,000 Hit Points. What?! Mandatory for everyone.
- Siege Workshop and Smithy: The usefulness of these two will show over time. If the new Overload Enchantments will become the next big thing in PVP, then guilds will go for it. The way PVP works I think most guilds will build the Workshop and take the +20% damage against classes. The Smithy is less useful as there are really only two defensive classes (DC and OP) and has to compete against the Explorer’s Guild, Barracks and the Temple.
For PVE I’d go Barracks, Explorers’ Guild, Temple and Wizard’s Workshop. It’s hard to ditch the Stable and the Mount Speed Bonus, but it’s nothing you really need and unless mobs suddenly feature 120% DR you don’t need the ArPen as well. For PVP you need the stable and I’d add it over the Temple or Explorers’ Guild.
Anyway this is a tough choice for members and guild leaders alike, because building or skipping certain structures greatly sets the direction of one guild and if members feel their playstyle isn’t properly represented, they might have to look elsewhere. We might see a lot of players moving around in case they feel their guild isn’t building what they need. While I personally like the customization, being in a guild suddenly became a gameplay feature over a social one. Leaving fellas you like and have played and stayed together for some time might actually become a reality and driving away peers from each other is not exactly a solid idea.
The system however is here to stay and on the bright side represents something I really like about the Module: It’s highly expandable. In the future the devs can add more buildings, crops, ranks and boons and complement gameplay of upcoming Modules. But that also comes with a certain responsibility, because looking at the long-term investment guilds have to make for their Stronghold, it’s something that not only could but should be a steady factor. They already said they are not planning to introduce better gear in the next Module, but even beyond that I wouldn’t be so thrilled if the Stronghold became obsolete at a certain point.