Neverwinter Jewel of the North Preview
Last week I had the opportunity to familiarize myself a bit with Neverwinter’s new Bard class in the next Jewel of the North module. I was joined by Randy Mosiondz, Lead Designer on Never in winter. This update not only sees the first new class added from Paladin in 2016, but will also be crush levels from the current high of 80 to 20. Here’s what I learned while playing Jewel of the North.
I first played through the revamped start for new characters. While they called it a redesign during my gaming session, it mostly stays the same. Minor improvements can be seen if you really seek them out – like the updated sky file to be a real sky instead of dark, smoky clouds, and new arcane symbols glowing beneath the wizard Makos’ feet as the he binds the dracoliche – The world of Never winter a little more depth and immersion at first impression.
At first, players progressed to level 5, learning a new skill after each leveling up to slowly familiarize players with the starting skills. In Jewel of the North, these skills are available from the start. As the levels are reduced, players will also acquire new powers and abilities at a faster rate. The only other change I noticed during this start was in the tutorial where players trained their moves on a training dummy before entering combat. I wish that Never winter I would have a brand new tutorial at some point, because I feel like I played at least two dozen times at the start (I love making new characters, what can I say?)
While this tutorial mission has largely been retained, the town starting missions have been changed significantly. Now instead of talking to Sergeant Knox in town and being sent to fight the Nasher Rebels in Blacklake District, you are now introduced to him in the Adventurers Guild. This new adventurer guild occupies the space of what was once the Blade Trade building. Inside you’ll talk to Knox to go through the rigamarole to acquire your mount, learn combat in the new training room, and start tackling the six leveling zones that make up Neverwinter’s new early level progression.
This new streamlined story arc is where players will experience Levels 1-20 before embarking on the epic adventures. Speaking with Randy, “[Levels] 1-20 takes you through a series of six areas for 1-20 progression, and does not include any campaign areas… We have streamlined the upgrade areas and pushed all campaign content to 20+. Previously, these leveling areas were mixed with campaigns and adventures, but they wanted to tabulate that content and differentiate between simple leveling and actual campaigns and adventures.
Upgrading also works differently: “We’ve gone from ‘you kill a monster and get XP’ to ‘you complete a story arc and you get a level progression boost’.” It feels like it’s more like a D&D campaign than your standard MMORPG leveling progress. This change corresponds Never winter thematically, and overall, it feels like an improvement in how players will experience content, as opposed to grinding through endless crowds just to level up.
While some older adventures have been vaulted, most of the content has been reserved for epic level 20 progression. Getting to 20 will also be faster. Speaking to Randy about how long it takes to hit the new crashed level cap, he said, “We’ve gone from 30 to 40 hours to around 10 to 12 hours of play in order to hit the content of epic level. ” This removes the barrier of entry for new players and hopefully attracts more players who can extend Neverwinter’s life. “We wanted to remove this wall for new players who want to try it out, or even for existing players who just want to try the courses without spending an extra 30-40 hours in order to bring another character to epic level content.” “We wanted to make it easier and more accessible to players”,
I had the chance to try out some of this epic content for myself while playing as a new bard class. I started the quest to explore Valdemar’s lair outside of Wyllowwood as part of the Undermountain campaign. I entered a cave and fought mushrooms, or Myconids, and found a talking magical sword named Tearulai. The Bard build I played looked more like a thug or swashbuckler type class than what I would typically associate with. I was playing as a Songblade paragon class, which specializes more in DPS. The Minstrel is the Bard’s other paragon class and acts more as a ranged healer and support class.
The Songblade Bard has both ranged and melee attacks, although I focused more on the heads-up abilities while playing. The standard Staccato melee attack is a multi-hit attack, while the alternate willpower attack, Con Elemento, deals fire damage to all enemies nearby. Encounter abilities included Duet, which deals area-of-effect damage centered around the player and stuns, Volti Subito, a rushed attack that can reduce distance between enemies, and Ad Libitum, which deals high physical damage to target. unique with a 50% chance of being reused immediately.
These abilities made the bard feel very fast, and I easily maneuvered around the Myconid Mushroom people and Kobold enemies while launching attacks from all sides. But it wouldn’t be a bard without some magical songs to play. The mechanical ability of the bard is Perform, which takes out the lute and allows you to press number keys to play a song for attack or sustain abilities. Playing the lute reminds me Ocarina of time – there is a certain order for playing the notes, but luckily the songs are pinned right next to the strings at the bottom of the screen for easy reference.
Most of the songs seemed to deal damage, whether in an AoE radius or online, but I had an ability that could heal. In addition, a song can be inserted for fast playback, eliminating the need to play the lute. This is great for complex songs that you just don’t want to play, or for your most commonly used ability so you can get by quickly. In my play session, I had the song Ballad of the Hero in the quick slot, causing all abilities to deal bonus damage. Unfortunately, during my time with the bard the numeric keypad didn’t work for playing the lute, so I had a hard time pressing the top row of numbers to get songs quickly. Subsequently, I was able to access the hotkey settings and register the numeric keypad for keys 1-8. Hopefully, this will just be set as default when Bard launches later this month.
My last vestiges of time spent with the bard were in Free Perform mode. This mode, just like it sounds, allows you to freely perform any songs you want on your lute. You can practice playing some attack songs outside of combat, or – if you’re like me – you can start playing the main Star Wars theme. Octaves are handled by holding down the left or right arrow keys while strumming, and accidentals can be played by holding the up arrow for sharps or the down arrow for flats. I imagine there will be quite a few Potato Bands performing in the city shortly after Jewel of the North launches next week. Eventually, maybe you’ll even meet someone who’s good at playing the game?
Neverwinter’s the new Jewel in the North mod will launch on PC next week on July 27, and on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in fall 2021. Recently, Mitch revisited Never winter to be included in MMO ReRoll leaderboards and Sharander Episode 3 launched last month for PC. Will you see you again Never winter also now that the progression has been simplified? Or maybe just to try Bard’s new class? Maybe you’ll see me in town playing ‘Song of Storms’ badly.