Let me start off saying that these are just my opinions. I represent no one but myself. I dont claim to know everything and i wont be covering everything. For context, i main a paladin tank.
Feel free to comment and share your opinions, whether you agree or disagree. But please dont be toxic and dont fight.
I also want to note that, for everything i say and my opinions, i dont blame the developers. They are doing what they are told to do. If i have to blame anyone, its the people that make the decisions.
Before i start i got to share/disclose something. These are some of the things said by a certain person that came into the company around a year and a half ago and things that he kept saying in streams on Twitch. Regarding mod 19 and the Redeemed Citadel event, he was saying that these were not his work, that these were already being made when he came into the company, he had little say in them, thus cant represent his work or ideas. That mod20 would be the one mod that he it would be his work, how it would be different, how it would be a quality upgrade to the game. Also he shared that the team was working on the "combat rework" for around a year before its release on Preview. These all will be relevant.
For starters, i will go back to the combat changes of mod16. To be honest, i liked some of the changes made back then. I liked that they removed the speed bonus from Dark Enchantments, because it meant people werent able to run extremely fast anymore. I liked the removal of Lifesteal and the paladin perma-bubble, these meant that healers would be relevant again and fighter and barbarian tanks could come into play again. These are some of the changes i liked. But some changes were bad. The changes to boons just made them nearly irrelevant. It also meant that players had no incentive to complete a certain Campaign instead of another one. Unlike before, it made no difference whether you took the boon points from Ravenloft or from Chult. The removal of the feat trees and their replacement with the class features sucked. Old feats, coupled up with old boons, were giving you some sense of being able to build quite differently, giving you more options, while still remaining relevant. Mod 16 class features are just too plain and mundane, and in most cases one of the options is by far better than the other.
The worst change mod 16 brought, though, was tying player stats to Bonding Runestones and the companions, since the vast majority of a toon's stats would come from those. It also meant that gear stats were made less relevant and players focused much more on their bonuses. In this way item level also started meaning less and less, the vast majority of stats were coming from a source with not that much item level, while the gear, which was givign the most amount of item level, was giving low stats, comparatively. It also meant that, virtually, any role could do anything. DPS could tank almost any content, except the bosses in IC and TOMM, tanks could out-dps DPS classes and healers, well healers didnt have much to do. The combat changes brought by mod 16 were overall bad. But, despite that and despite new players needing explanation on the system, they were very simple and straightforward. Get rank 15 Bondings, get an augment companion to max level, get good companion gear and you are fine, everything else is just "upgrades".
And that brings us to the last combat rework. Its very clear that this Combat Rework came on Preview and then on Live far from ready, with the only "fixed" thing being the general idea behind it. And its very clear because those changes got many iterations while on Preview, passed through many different phases and a lot of big changes, with the last big changes being, if i remember correctly, around a week before it came on Live. I cant nearly stress how wrong it is to have players being the play testers, especially without giving them the tools to test everything without having to grind for them. Anything thats not tested by professionals, with the ability and time to test absolutely everything, without any bias or self interest on the changes themselves, and its left on the willingness of players is bound to be flawed. Cryptic has to understand that this is not how things work. Any major changes have to be tested by professionals, people who know how to test them so that the end result is satisfying. Beta servers, the Preview in Neverwinter's case, is for when the changes are for the most part fixed, for testing on a large scale the changes and having players become more easily accustomed to it. Not to pass through many iterations of said changes. Players are, by nature, biased towards their class, role, playstyle etc. Players, with the limited tools they are given on Preview, test only what they are interested in, they wont test everything. Thus the combat rework came into Live incomplete, with many bugs and severe issues.
But there is a fundamental mistake in the "combat rework". Cryptic identified Bonding Runestones as the cause of the problems in the mod16 combat changes and thus decided to remove them. And thats were they are wrong. The biggest flaw, the biggest problem of the previous combat system, was not the Bondings, it was that player stats were coming from sources, namely the companions, and not from the gear. Cryptic ignored that issue and, instead, built on it by tying stats to everything, gear, companions, mounts, item level etc. Instead of making stats simple and easy to understand, they made them extremely complicated, micromanaging everything is a huge issue.
I know some people will say that fixing/balancing your stats are easy, you have the ratings and then the bonus ratings and then you fix this, you get that and BAM, you are fixed. And yeah, for me who have played for some time, invested a lot of time in the game, have sufficient resources, blah blah blah, its easy. For a new player, for a mid-game player, or for the casual player, and most of Neverwinter's playerbase are casuals, its a complete mess. Take for example a new player, starts with 5k item level (lmao), and starts playing, starts getting some gear pieces and reads what they say "50 item level, 50 combined rating, a bit of this stat", item level is pretty much self-explanatory, its how "strong" this gear piece is, he has no idea what "combined rating" is but well, whatever, it must do something. But he see doesnt see anything about HP, which is pretty standard really. Then he starts equipping those pieces and sees how his stats have changed. Probably they have changed? They should have. At least he has more HP now and, by equipping an armor piece, he gets more damage. Where did those two stats come from? There is nowhere in its description that it says that this armor piece gives HP or damage. Well, whatever. Then he gets his first companion and summons it, then he checks his stats. All stats have changed and he has no idea how and why. Now this person manages to get all the way to level80 and joins a guild. He still has no clue how stats work. He has seen that whatever he changes in his build is changing everything, but has no idea about the formula. He asks in his alliance and gets a rough explanation about how stats work and about what some things do. Then he asks a very simple question "What do i focus first? What should i try to buy/upgrade first?", consider that this person starts with absolutely no resources and his ability to buy/upgrade anything is still too limited. Anyone who says that the current system is simple answer this question. Because i cant. What is the one thing a new player with no resources should focus on that will start making him be and feel progressively stronger.
There is a reason why almost every other MMO-RPG, if not all of them, have gear as the primary source of stats and a players strength. Tried and tested method. Simple and straightforward to understand, easy to play around and fix your stats and easy to BALANCE game content. Every roles gets the stats that it needs. Instead, Neverwinter has a system that everything affects everything and everything is tied to item level. Under what logic changing the mount active power you use can affect ALL you stats, if the mount powers come from mounts with different rarity. Under what logic can a player swap his 1300il weapons for level 10 weapons, enter a high level dungeon, do just fine and not see a significant change on his damage. Weapons are, by their nature and by any logic, the primary source of damage. Except in Neverwinter's logic.
I run around with my Paladin tank at around 44.5k il with the ability to reach around 50k and, in all aspects, im significantly stronger at 44.6k than at 50k, not only my stats are better, im just much stronger. Under what logic 44.5k is stronger/better than 50k.
I really cant understand what was in their heads when they were thinking about making this combat rework.
For me, this "combat rework" is bad for the game and a complete mess. Everything is all over the place. Its a system full of flaws and problems and its bound to fail miserably. And the whole stat system is counter-intuitive.
When you make a combat/stat system you have to make it so thats each role (DPS, tank and healer, since we dont have anything else) can do their job well and just their job. And you have to do that for the 3 major categories of players, newer, mid game, late/end game, depending on the level of difficulty of content (talking about dungeons/trials).
A tank, by the very nature of the role, should be able to survive, without any help or support, for a small period of time against both groups of mobs and bosses. If a near end-game tank like me can survive, alone, against either, seemingly forever, and/or can compete in damage with DPS classes, which is what was happening before the combat rework, he doing way more than his job. If he cant survive alone for more than 2-3 seconds or cant take more than 2-3 hits by a boss, the role is severely underperforming. And before anyone jumps his/her guns, if the majority of the tanks can do their job just fine and easily survive for more than a couple seconds and its just a few people who cant do that, then the system is fine and its just those few people who dont know how to build/play. If the majority of tanks die fast and only a handful can survive, then its the system's fault, not the players'. And as a side note, damage resistance that doesnt come from stats, doesnt work.
A healer should be able to heal as needed, both the tank and the DPS, and not suffering, lets say from divinity issues, because everyone drops to 10% by a single hit or shouldnt be able to fully heal a whole party with the press of one button.
For DPS, this is where things get interesting. The 3 DPS of the party, in many cases even just 1 DPS, shouldnt be able to wipe a whole group of mobs within 2-3 seconds, they shouldnt be able to run ahead alone and kill everything without as much as a scratch. And they shouldnt be able to tank either mobs or bosses. On the other hand, they shouldnt struggle to kill a group of mobs, seemingly scratching them. Both were happening with mod 16 system and are happening with the current system. Its just that, before, there were way more people that could solo wipe mobs pretty fast compared to now. Though, still, a decent group needs just a couple of seconds to kill a group of mobs.
As an example of how bad this system is and how bad the balancing is. Around 2 weeks ago i got FBI in REDQ. At one of the points where you are fighting the trolls, me against 2 of them and i was getting hit quite hard constantly, needed the healer to help me. On the other side, halfway through the last boss my party got wiped and i was the only one left. I killed Drufi from around 50% HP, alone, without using any consumables, potions or health stone, with barely receiving as much as a scratch. And if anyone has noticed, before the last boss, while you are searching for the Ring, the "trash mobs" are beating the hell out of the giants, really, the trash mobs can melt a giant is seconds. Just to show how "balanced" the game is, since the biggest point of the combat rework is to make the game "more balanced".
Many more to be said, but enough for them time. I will just mention the gear pieces and their bonuses, that are jut boring and mundane.
Mod 20: New Sharandar
Its anything but new, really. All the things that were said, how mod 20 will be different, how it will be a quality upgrade to the game. Its BORING. Its the same formula as Avernus and Path of the Fallen (Avernus #2). It has a weekly cap on its currency that can be completed within a few hours, depending it can be 1 hour for good DPS or 2-3 hours for tanks and healers. And once you get the weekly cap you are done. For the whole week. Unless you want to endlessly farm the HE and BHE. I logged in the game around 1-2 hours after mod20 came out and the first thing i see when i get into "New Sharandar" is people already spamming the zone chat with "+BHE" or "inv BHE". Do those remind anyone else something?
This is not "New Sharandar". This is Avernus painted green. This is the same formula.
So much about how "different", how "awesome" mod 20 would be. How it would be a "quality upgrade to the game". Things i have seen and heard so many times. And how disappointing and unsatisfactory mod 20 is.
But, to be fair, the Art on the new map is awesome.
As for the new dungeon, i got in once, before the second boss. I wasnt really excited with my experience. The second boss wasnt really that bad, somewhat a decent fight, nothing exciting or that difficult, probably somewhat of a boring fight once you figure out the very simple mechanics. After that it was just madness. Trying to figure out where to go and what to do. Trying to figure out how someone ended up somewhere else when you all passed through the same gate. Trying to figure out why, when the rest of the party has passed through the gate and is already fighting, you are stuck in combat unable to get through. Trying to understand what the HAMSTER are those cluster HAMSTER type battles when mobs appear from all over the place and beat you to death with ease. And then there is the final boss. To be fair, the mechanics are interesting and something new. BUT, and i say this from personal experience, its not fun when you are the tank, get the living HAMSTER beat out of you, but the healer cant come close enough to heal you because of the mechanics. Interesting experience overall. But the stress that i experienced in there as a tank makes me want to never get in there again.
As for the people who might ask why i didnt watch any guides and stuff, there is a very simple answer. The fun that i get out of a new dungeon is that its new and i dont know what to expect. And finding them out on my own, through trial and error, is part of the fun. This is also how my friends are, we want to discover the new dungeon on our own. Even if it means spending hours in the dungeon and wiping multiple times on each boss. Its how i got to do LOMM and IC when they each came out. And its one of the very few things that is fun for me in the game.
For me, this mod takes a generous 2/10. And mostly because of the art.
Tbh, the last time i leveled up a toon was with the mod 16 combat system. From what i have heard, leveling up, if you are a completely new player, is a hell. But i cant really say since i havent experienced it. I only have 2 things to say.
First is, as i already stated, there is no way for a completely new player to understand the combat system and the stats without any help. There is no way for a new player to also know from where to start building his toon. Seemingly, you have to start from building everything at the same time, companions, mounts etc, if that makes sense. Except from enchantments, runestones, collars and insignias, because their cost against their efficiency seems pretty low and they are kid of a "luxury purchase".
Second is something that hasnt changed from the previous combat system. Leveling up is unsatisfactory. Before mod 16, you had something to wait for at every level you would gain, new powers, a point to upgrade one of your powers, a feat point to use. It wasnt really that much, but, as i remember from me, i couldnt wait to get just 1 new level to ever so slightly upgrade my character. And that made it fun, i had something to expect at each level, something that made me look forward to it and pushed me to farm more for that 1 level that would give me 1 power point (dont remember the exact name) and 1 feat point. Since mod 16 changes, this was lost. Most levels mean nothing. Now its like you are level 10 and just unlocked 1 new encounter, get excited about it, and then you check whats next "eeem, i get a new feat at level 14, but its kinda meh, then i get a new encounter at lvl 16, well, whatever". And then levels 11, 12 and 13 mean absolutely nothing, you could as well be level 10 and it wouldnt make any difference, then you get lvl 14 and it feels like "meh". The leveling experience is just boring, simply because most levels give you absolutely nothing that can have even a slight impact on how strong you are or feel.
Implementing the collars into the game was something interesting. They have something to offer, even though they are mostly a "luxury" item. The main issue is that unless you check up guides and spreadsheets, its a real pain. Collars belong to 5 different categories and you can only equip 1 of each category. Now try, without checking anything on the internet, asking anyone, taking notes and making calculations, without any prior knowledge, to understand what are the collar bonuses and which category each one belongs to, without missing anything. A real pain to figure out.
And now for the mounts. First its dumb that your mounts have anything to do with your item level and your stats, aside from getting one bonus to something, the mount's passive power. Otherwise, the changes are bad. Its all nice and exciting that we all get to get legendary and mythic mounts relatively easy. Until you realize thats easy enough that now they are not so exciting. before these changes, getting a legendary mount was expensive and an end-game luxury. But getting one gave a sense of accomplishment, like you have reached the end of a very long and hard road and now you are getting a "reward" for it. And while i do agree that getting legendary mounts more accessible to players, making legendary and mythic mounts feel like "just another upgrade" sucks all the fun and excitement from having one.
One other thing, with which i know a lot, if not most, of the people agree, is that the stables are a complete mess. You dont know which mount gives which active power, unless its a very specific active, so if you want to upgrade that power, thus having to upgrade the mount, you have to start searching in the collections or in the AH for each mount you own for which you dont know already their active power. Same goes for a lot, if not most, of the passive powers. You have to start searching what mount gives what. And if 2 mounts have the same active but different passive, you then again have to check their passives to see which might be more worth upgrading. This gets even more complicated if you have more than 2 mounts with the same active or the same passive. And even more complicated and a huge pain if you are like me and have some 70+ mounts in your stables.
And this is were ill leave it. There are so many more things to say, but this is already a massive text wall.
A lot of areas there was a clear starting point but no clearly defined ending just repetitive grinding until the player gathered or refined the gear they needed but the zone completion storyline was fuzzy at best. I used to buy AD's periodically because it would give me a faster opportunity to complete a given zone, but then something changed and there was no completion to a zone's storyline just the repetitive sameness until the player gathered the needed stuff available in that zone then abandoning it to do the same thing in a different area.
Now with all the changes to mechanics, strategies, and scaling, trying to figure out how to best apply this to that without going over on one skill but it's OK to go above the level in another, how to best assign mounts, companions and their accouterments - like the collars - with the chance of wasting effort or points, having to do it over again with different combinations, all without any kind of tutorial, turned the game I used to play for fun into a bit of a chore kind of like a crappy never ending second job that tends to offer more repetitively frustration than any sense of actual accomplishment through a defined storyline.
I find myself mostly, mechanically going through the motions but with no real urgency or desire to try to accomplish much because chances are even if I do build a character up to where I can successfully thrive in one zone chances are I'll just have to start all over and do it all over again when the next game change or Mod is introduced I feel like an animal chasing it's own tail...
Chances are I'll never catch it but even if I do about the only thing to do then is let it go, and begin the process all over again.