Hands-On with Neverwinter: Tyranny of Dragons
Neverwinter's new expansion module comes with loads of content and a big fat pay wall.
Neverwinter's newest expansion, Module 4: Tyranny of Dragons, has a pretty obvious focus. Much of the new content revolves around dragons, from a new campaign to new mounts and items. They've also added the Dragonborn player race.
I've gone on record as saying I'm not a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition rules, and one of the reasons for that is the Dragonborn race. Along with the Eladrin and Warforged and about a hundred other silly races and classes. Basically, if you fill the world with powerful Kryptonians, then Superman becomes just another boring dude, and regular-ass humans seem pretty much pointless. 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is book after book of increasingly silly races and classes, with the apparent philosophy of, "if a little is good, more must be better!"
Essentially, 4e is all frosting and practically no cake.
The 4e ruleset of Neverwinter, however, just seems to work. The system, as it was written for the tabletop pen-and-paper game, seems like it was purpose-built for MMOs, even going so far as to borrow aspects of the MMO "trinity" for tabletop rules. So it seemed like Neverwinter, which makes me not hate 4e so much, would be an ideal setting for me to overcome my loathing of the Dragonborn race.
Unfortunately, that's not going to happen any time soon. In order to play Dragonborn characters, players will need to shell out 75 bucks for the Dragonborn Legend pack, which includes the playable race, Dragonborn-themed cosmetic outfits, a bunch of dragon-themed gear upgrades, and a race-swap token so you can turn one of your high-level characters into Dragonborn instead of some boring old elf (because suck it, roleplaying!). You can also buy this pack with Zen, so technically it's possible to get it for free, but I reckon it'll take a good long time to rack up 7500 Zen by buying it with Astral Diamonds. You'll have to be really dedicated to the game to get $75 worth of free stuff. Particularly when the Zen market is as dry as it is - no one appears to be selling at the moment.
I've seen plenty of players who have bought the Dragonborn Legend pack. I would consider it if I played the game regularly, and if I hadn't already bought one of the Founder packs plus a boatload of Zen when the game came out a year ago. Right now, $75 is more money than I want to sink into any game, let alone one that I only play occasionally.
Fortunately for me - since my Drow Trickster Rogue has yet to reach level 60 and endgame status - the new module has stuff I can take part in. For mid-level dudes like my Drow, there's the new campaign helping the Harpers hunt down dragons and deal with the cult that worships them.
And if that's not enough, there's another reason to re-roll a fresh new toon. Along with a new playable race, Neverwinter has introduced a new playable class: the Scourge Warlock. The Scourge Warlock is a Reuben-friendly caster class that can take on DPS or healing roles, depending on the build. They do necrotic damage, manipulating the life force of their enemies and occasionally ripping out their souls to create Soul Puppets, which are powerful but temporary battle pets. Not quite a proper Necromancer surrounding himself with an army of skeletons and zombies, but close.
The brain is a funny old thing. I see the word "Warlock," I think "Hellfire Warlock," which comes from 3.5 Edition D&D. And when I think "Hellfire," I think of the God of Hellfire:
Therefore, it seemed appropriate to give my Scourge Warlock the name Arthur Brown. And because there are no in-game helmets with flaming horns made of pipes filled with lighter fluid, I decided to make him a Tiefling. And I went with the face tattoos that best match Arthur Brown's 60's-era stage makeup.
Aside from the 1970's KISS outfits, there are a few things that make the Scourge Warlock a little different from the other classes. The hybrid group role is certainly a big one, although healing powers don't come into play until late into the game. For about the first half, the Scourge Warlock is a damage-dealer with some pretty good self-healing.
The temporary combat pet is neat. Every class can use hirelings for combat by buying them from vendors or finding them in loot. The Warlock Scourge, though, makes his own out of the very souls of his victims. The Soul Puppet is created by the Killing Flames spell (the first Encounter Power the character learns; other skills learned later on also summon Soul Puppets), which rips the soul out of the victim's body and turns it into a subservient ghost if the victim dies from the damage of the spell. The Soul Puppet dissipates after 5 hits or 2 minutes, unless the character follows a specific build, which makes the Soul Puppet permanent.
There's a lot of fine machinery at work, also - the Scourge Warlock afflicts his targets with Warlock's Curses, which cause damage skills to do more damage, and various other effects. There's an entire spec built around the curse mechanic, so it's a mechanic definitely worth perfecting.
I particularly enjoy the Scourge Wizard's Shift-key movement skill. While the other classes tend to somersault or dodge or teleport around with their Shift-key/double-tap movement abilities, the Scourge Wizard zips along in shadowy flight a few inches above the ground. It does pretty much the same job but looks way cooler than the Great Weapon Fighter's battle-charge.
I was also able to join a repeatable dragon-hunt on my level 46 Trickster Rogue. Charthraxis is a new Heroic Encounter in the Neverdeath Graveyard area, and he's a big nasty green dragon with a bajillion hit points and brutal acid attacks. I picked up a repeatable quest from the Harper agent in the cemetery's quest hub area, slashed my way through several very tough cultists, and fought alongside a big group to take out the scaly green menace. I probably would have died less often during the battle if I had actually joined the group, but it wasn't necessary. When the dragon went down, I got my loot and completed the quest objective. There was another dragon in Icespire Peak - Merothrax, a gnarly white - and I died a bunch fighting that one, too.
The dragon-hunts were interesting. When fighting the green dragon in the Neverdeath Graveyard, I saw characters from a giant range of levels, from mid-20s up to level 60. The areas where the dragons spawn in are populated by groups of lesser "Dragon Cult" mobs, and those mobs alone are pretty tough. They often respawn during the dragon battle and rip around causing chaos and death. Lower-level characters are going to have a hell of a time with these mobs, but they're having a hell of a time with the dragons anyway. The dragons respawn fairly often, and players get a reward each time for fighting them, even if they don't have one of the repeatable quests.
Overall, Tyranny of Dragons is a solid addition to Neverwinter, even though one of the star features of the module is locked away behind a steep pay-wall. While I'm not terribly keen on shelling out 75 bucks to play a race I don't even like, there's enough other good stuff going on with the module that I don't really have to.