Neverwinter – Story and Lore

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.

neverwinter demon

Cool. Who are you?

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.

Level 90 – At Last the Beginning!

WoW Vale of Blossoms

So late Friday I hit 90, about 2-3 quests into Townlong Steppes.  Odd name that, for a zone that really has next to relation to actually steppes.  Those are supposed to be large expanses of fields, instead I get giant hills, caves, trees, swamps.  Still, 2 quests in and I had already unlocked the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, which is the final super zone, with the new islands’ capital-ish cities – or as I like to call the zone, daily-quest hub central.

Since in the end, reaching level 90 is really the beginning of the expansion.  I think only 1-2 dailies opened up during my travels but once I hit the magic number, it’s like an explosion of blue quests.  I can raise a dragon, I can maintain a farm, I can fish, I can cook, I can kill insects, I can collect flowers…I can be a professional go-fer.

I took the time to try out the last 2 zones and get a feel for their stories.  So let’s sum up the entire adventure a bit, knowing that I’m missing the final end pieces to two zones.

Jade Forest – A decent introduction to the denizens of Pandaria, with temples and mountains and lakes.  Jinyu (advanced Murlocs) play prominently, as to the actual Pandas.  There’s no real progress in the zone, barring 1 quest that has you destroy a giant statue.  Looks great, plays awkward as it’s the first time you’re using the new questing mechanics.

Four Winds – Basically you’re an animal killer throughout.  The entire zone is one giant farm.  Other than the quests on the west end, bordering Dread Wastes, there’s nothing of note here.  But those quests are amazing.  Also, quite short.

Karasang Wilds – Hello Stranglethorn Vale v. 5!  You finally get to see a town build up in phases, which is cool.  You also free another spirit, the Crane.  That portion is WAY too fast.  Like 5 quests and bam.  I didn’t understand this zone.

Kun Lai Summit – (well, there’s a mini zone with 3 quests before this).  This is the meat and potatoes zone.  You get to meet everyone, help build up a bunch of towns, see temples, explore the lore.  A couple quests in, all of a sudden I’m sent to 7 different hubs to try my luck helping.  The story is great, if disperse.  You really get an understanding of the workings of the population here.  Plus, there’s a Yak Wash.  You unlock the Tiger spirit here (cool in concept, horrible in execution).  You also need to complete this zone to unlock the Vale.

Townlong Steppes – This is a giant battlefield between the Pandas, the Sha and the Mantid insects from the south.  I’m about ¾ of the way through now.  I have a great dislike for everything in this zone, from the story, to the mechanics to the flow.  You’re supposed to unlock the Ox here (I can see him).

Dread Wastes – This is the insect home and you play with a faction that’s trying to restore order to the chaos.  If you’ve seen Starship Troopers, you know what to expect from the bugs.  There’s a central hub for the faction and everything just seems to “gel” throughout.  Seeing the links to the other zones is good too but the best part is the story. There’s a lore reason for everything here, meaning you actually have a purpose for the quests.  Refreshing.

Vale of Eternal Blossoms – Other than a small section in the middle for daily quests, this is a lore and city zone.  The picture above shows me standing in the fields.  Everything looks great.  Sadly, there’s a disconnect between why you’re here and what you’re doing.  What is cool though, is the Lore.  I learned more about Pandaria in 20 minutes than I learned over the 30 hours of leveling.  Who are the Mogu, why there’s a giant turtle, who are the Hozen, the Grummles and all the others.

Here’s my crystal ball though.  The Dread Wastes are going to be the main lore driver for the rest of the expansion.  The Mogu could not be more generic and are massively overused.  The Mantid – just wow.