Hands On: Neverwinter's Strongholds Update
For you Neverwinter fans out there on the PC, the latest Strongholds update has set the stage for the free to play title's foray into Guild versus Guild competition. While currently the update has only opened up the zone to PvE content and Strongholds construction, soon the area will become a battleground for Guilds to show off their PvP prowess.
Today I got a chance to sit down with Lindsay Haven, Producer of Neverwinter and check out how Strongholds is evolving currently and what the future has in store for the PvP end of things.
Right off the bat I had to admit that I haven't really explored the Strongholds content at all in Neverwinter since I am not currently in a Neverwinter guild and I'm not much of a PvP-er which seems to be the main point of the content. Haven assured me that there was plenty of PvE to soak up, including some rather intense "open world" style encounters and that Strongholds is actually seeing a lot of players that were previously not in a guild WANT to join a guild just for the content.
Our time in the new zone starts with facts we've already reported on here at MMOBomb. The Strongholds map is by far the largest map introduced into the MMORPG. It also hearkens back to some pretty iconic settings introduced early in the life span of the Dungeons & Dragons IP. The zone itself is totally instanced. Your guild owns the entire place...well, maybe not right away, but as far as other players go you won't be seeing outsiders here. Those players around you are all in your guild, whether you know them or not.
The main draw of Strongholds is, of course, the Guild Stronghold. Don't expect to walk in and just start building though. This is no building simulator, this zone is constantly in a state of flux with waves of monsters that need to be cast out before you can even think about building. Even as you're building, expect the monsters in the area to be rather unhappy with your Guild Hall ranking up. Savvy players will notice that "neighborhoods" of certain monster types will start cropping up and these monsters will get stronger and stronger as your Stronghold does the same.
Alright, so you and your guild have cleared out a few areas, where do you start? Well, Strongholds are made up of multiple structure types. You probably expected this. You can have farms, a marketplace, a Guild Hall, a barracks and a myriad of other building types. As you build, local NPCs may join your fold providing additional rewards or quests to your guild. Each structure requires resources to build. These resources can be gained through certain building types (i.e. you need a farm to supply items for a Marketplace...which you should build as as soon as you can since it offers a ton of benefits) and these resources also come from guild mates. Got gear you never want to see again? Donate it to the Guild's Coffers. Have some spare gold or Astral Diamonds? Throw those in there two. Coffers store items in three categories, Resources, Treasures, and a Stockpile. Players get rewards of their own for donating but be careful...no take backs! Once you donate something it's gone!
While all players can donate, guild members with higher permissions are the ones that set the mark and start construction. A Guild Leader, for example, can establish that the guild is currently looking to rank up the Guild Hall. All members can then see the resources needed and donate accordingly. Once the guild has all of the needed supplies, the leader visits the guild hall (you have to travel to whatever structure you're building or upgrading, you're not just menu playing here) and starts the upgrade. While the upgrade itself will take time to complete, the leader can set the next task right away and start the donation/gathering process all over again without waiting for the current construction to complete.
What's in it for individual players? Quite a bit actually. Upgrading the Marketplace unlocks high end items and equipment for sale that cannot be obtained elsewhere. Certain structures even supply boons to players. Boons come in 4 categories (Offense, Defense, Utility, and PvP) and players have access to these personal boons wherever they are in the world. You can only have 1 boon for each type active at once, but feel free to swap as the situation requires. Leave the guild though and you lose access to those boons.
So you're all big and strong now, huh? Care to take on some of the higher end PvE content? How about a 4 dragon fight out in the zone? Get 40 guild members together and try to coordinate the take down of 4 dragons of varying degrees of power on the map. The catch? Kill one dragon and you'll only have a few seconds to kill the rest before they fly away. Think of it as an open world raid boss that's only made for your guild. Taking down a single dragon has its own rewards so smaller guilds can still make progress and earn rewards. Currently, Haven advises that they have seen videos of guild taking on all 4 dragons, but only the very elite guilds have actually accomplished the feat.
All of this work is building to the September 15th release of the Strongholds PvP update where Guilds can compete with each other in PvP combat. Take two Strongholds, connect them with 3 lanes a la a MOBA, and team up in 20v20 battles to take down the opposing keep. All of those towers, barracks, and other structures come into play here. While the map and the objectives may be reminiscent of MOBA games, don't expect to be playing LoL inside your Neverwinter. In GvG play, guilds do try to push lanes and capture points, but the idea behind it is to own the lane. When you do, you can then send in catapults to shoot at the opposing guilds structures. Unlike most MOBAs though, the defending team can work to recapture a lane and send your catapults packing. Periodically, a dragon may appear on the map. If your guild can woo this dragon faster than your rival, you can even send a dragon in to do some attacking for you.
Having been out for a few weeks, I asked Haven what the player feedback has been like on Strongholds so far. She stated that the feedback has been very positive and that players maybe even had their expectations for some of the features of Strongholds surpassed. Haven says many players were surprised by the customization level and the sheer size of the Strongholds content and that the development team was very happy with the end result of all of their hard work.
It's easy to see that feedback would be like that after getting to see Strongholds in action. If the PvP end of business holds up they way players want it to, Neverwinter may have created one truly engaging piece of long lasting content in Strongholds. Hell, it crushed WoW Garrisons in my book!
If you want to check out Strongholds head on over the the official Neverwinter site and, of course, our thanks to Lindsay and the Neverwinter team for giving us some time to ask about the latest update!
About the Author
Mike “Magicman” Byrne has been a part of the MMOBomb family for years and serves as the site’s current Editor-in-Chief. His love for MMOs and gaming in general has led him to covering games for numerous websites including Gamebreaker TV and XIV Nation where he proudly displays his fanboy flag for FFXIV:ARR.
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