I know I said I’d get to the Foundry but Tipa’s impression post got me thinking more about the odd feeling I get in Neverwinter.
If you’ve played any recent game, then you’re familiar with the typical storyline. Batman needs to stop the Joker, Jim needs to stop the Zerg, players need to defeat Crucia. From start to end, there’s a cohesive story that you’re a part of, either as the main protagonist or as a side-kick. Games where you’re a side-kick are usually stinkers, since you’re lacking the power to change the game.
MMOs are really similar to this in that they need to provide a Hero’s Journey – from small beginnings come great things. You start off as a plucky hero (willing or not), fight your way through hordes of minions and eventually lay waste to some big bad wolf at the end. Expansion comes out, new story, new path. Somehow my badge of honor that shows I killed Deathwing doesn’t impress the monkeys who are 1 level higher for some reason. I digress.
The thing about this main story is that there are plenty of smaller stories along the path. Each “zone” has a particular flavor and point. Save the trees, keep the boars away and whatnot. Individually they are fine but the stories combined create lore. This is used not only to drive you forward in a game but to frame the world ahead of you. If in one zone I need to skins bears and the next I’m hunting zombies, there’s a distinct lack of cohesiveness and the lore becomes hard to follow. WoW has amazing success because the lore is so consistent. EvE has success since the lore is player created. At any point, you can look back and see “this is what’s happened so far”.
Back to Neverwinter. The game has no lore, it only has a setting. I’m in Faerun, got it. Why am I attacking these skeletons again? Who are they working for? Each zone has an underlying story but with 20+ zones, none of them seem to link to each other at all. This is where I think the D&D license wasn’t truly understood. When I sit down at a tabletop, I am playing my character across multiple sessions and multiple adventures. Sure I might be in the North killing Giants one day and on a boat in the South chasing pirates the next but the cohesion between the settings is player based. I explicitly know this because I chose to go on that boat (or lost a bet). Neverwinter has no such choice. I am going through multiple campaigns with the same player but zero other linkages between them. It also doesn’t help that the writing is atrocious.
It’s too late now to ret-con the story from start to finish but I am hoping that the first module released addresses this issue. Right now, my best bet for a consistent and coherent story is the Foundry. A few of them are series with promise. If you’re playing Neverwinter, give Old Jerry’s Saga a shot to see how the absurd can be a valid critique of the common.