Thursday, April 20, 2017

Neverwinter - 20/20 hours

Neverwinter does one really annoying thing that I'm sure I could forgive it for were I playing it over the course of months, but which is an unbearable roadblock when you're trying to play as much as possible over the course of two weeks - it makes you wait for stuff to happen. Like, there's a crafting system, and one part of that system is that you recruit these various non-adventuring experts to help you out. But once you press the recruit button, it makes you wait 18 real-world hours before that expert is successfully recruited.

I'm sure there's some sophisticated marketing/psychological reasoning behind this. Maybe the knowledge that there's a ticking clock they have to wait out will cause players to come back for session after session, just to collect the rewards that have been delayed. I, personally, have put off removing Neverwinter from my hard drive (and I really do need the space) because I want to finish a quest I started about six hours ago. I know I'm being played, but it's going to bug me otherwise.

Anyway, aside from that, and those damned treasure chests I kept picking up, I enjoyed Neverwinter a lot. I think I may have chosen the wrong class (I managed to be fairly self-sufficient as a character by recruiting a healer as an NPC companion, but every time the healer levels up, he leaves your service for a half-hour, and during one of those half-hours, I decided to try playing a Ranger, and I actually found that class to be more engaging than the great weapon fighter), but it was a minor issue at most.

Ironically, the thing that held me back most from enjoying this game is also its greatest draw - it's an MMO. I'm not super familiar with the genre, but after having played Neverwinter, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Warframe, Guild Wars 2, and EVE Online, I think I have a handle on its basic tropes and from what I've gathered, for a hermit like myself, there are much better options than playing solo content. However, there's always the promise of the MMO that I sometimes convince myself I'm going to realize - grouping together with friends, and making new ones through groups. Handling the hard content together and using your combined resources to make yourselves much richer and more powerful than you could ever be on your own.

The notion of this sort of MMO camaraderie really appeals to me, but for all that I've played these games, I've never actually been able to tap into their distinct cultures (except, perhaps, for EVE Online, if "tapping into its culture" means "accidentally wandering into PvP and having the other players make me cry.") Maybe it's something that takes more than 20 hours, or maybe it's that the quality of character that makes me well-suited to working a night-shift job where I can easily go four to six hours without even seeing another human being is one that also makes me reluctant to connect with my fellow gamers.

It's probably best not to get too into self-reflection here. Let's just say that MMOs aren't a perfect fit for everyone, and I'm probably never going to get very deep into them. That's all right. Not everyone likes tedious strategy games either, but that didn't stop me from playing 75+ hours of Stellaris over the course of blogging about Neverwinter (not to say that Stellaris is tedious, just that some might fin my pacifist way of playing it so).

So, thank you, Neverwinter. By requiring a reliable internet connection and not allowing me to pause, you enabled me to finally get a chance to dig deep into one of my new favorite strategy games without having to simultaneously blog about it. Sure, that's a back-handed compliment, but my sincere praise would also be somewhat tepid. Your gameplay is more exciting than a point-and-click rpg, but not quite smooth enough to match a top-shelf action game and you kept putting the breaks on me for economic, rather than legitimate gameplay, reasons. I'd rate you "good, but not great" - a decent way to waste some time, if, for some reason, wasting time became difficult all of a sudden.

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