On the Great Weapon Fighter

My current favorite class in Neverwinter is the Great Weapon Fighter (GWF). This came as a huge surprise to me, because when I sampled the five classes, the GWF was absolutely godawful in the first four newbie levels, and for a supposedly DPS class, it had terrible, horrible damage output. Even the Guardian Fighter did better, and tank classes are traditionally pretty terrible at damage.

Perhaps partially because of the challenge of it, I went back to the GWF to see what it could do. I wanted a pure DPS character for dungeon delves and honestly the Trickster Rogue (TR) gets on my nerves. For one thing, everyone plays it, and for another, it is so ridiculously overpowered at first that I found it insulting to my intelligence. Because it does such ridiculously high damage early on, it has to get worse as you level, right? Whereas the GWF does terrible damage at first, so it has to get better toward the endgame. Such was my thinking anyway. Also, the GWF seemed to have more skills for hitting more than one target at once.

The more I play GWF, the more fun it becomes. It’s a great no-brainer kind of class to play when you just want to unwind on weekdays after work. The animations are pretty cool. I like the big jumping-in-the-air "daily" skill even though it’s a terrible waste of DPS. I like how, contrary to typical MMO traditions, you actually *want* to take damage as a GWF, because it builds up your Determination meter, so you can then go into super-charged-damage mode. (Healers take note – it’s probably more useful to heal GWFs than tanks.)

So as it turns out, the GWF is not so much a DPS class as it is a cleric protecting, off-tanking class. At least that is how I’m building mine, and that suits me pretty well. I consider my role in any party to be protecting the cleric, particularly in Lair of the Mad Dragon. It’s apparent that this is a *vitally* important role for party success, and those are the kind of roles I like.

It’s really awesome to feel smug and superior to the trickster rogues, too, because I can stand in the middle of a pack of monsters and swing away without fear of dying. And at the end of the day, it’s all about making top deeps pew-pew scrubs feel inferior.

Why Chartilifax is so Hard

I forgot to mention my theory for why Lair of the Mad Dragon is so difficult. I think it’s to get people to buy resurrection scrolls, plain and simple. When you’re sitting there dead on the floor, there’s a button that says "spend X zen to get life scrolls!" I expect that if everyone could rez after every death, the dragon would be a lot easier to defeat.

That being said, I do expect them to nerf Chortlefax at some point. The difficulty increase from even the previous boss in the Lair to Chortlefax is just ridiculous.

Chortlefax Fail Number 6

Failed again in Lair of the Mad Dragon with a PUG. (I think that was the 6th failure in total.) Group composition was a guardian, cleric, GWF (me), and 2 rogues. No control wizard, but it seemed like a balanced group that should have had the tools to tackle Chortlefax. Unfortunately we struggled through most of the dungeon.

I’ve noticed that the only people who queue for Chortlefax are people who seem like they haven’t done it before. The guardian was only 30, and the rogues were 32ish. Me and the cleric were 35, but the cleric acted like he had never experienced that level of madness and was still under the illusion that he could throw out heals like candy.

I suppose that’s the only kind of MD group you can get through the queue: Rookies who have some hope that they will be that one person who gets through Chortlefax in their first PUG.

I still don’t understand why it takes so long to put together a group from the queue, even if they are all DPS groups. I wonder if it’s only pulling in people from your particular server instance (which typically only has 20 or so people in it). But half the time it seems the people in your group don’t speak English, so surely they must be pulled in from everywhere? Probably a bug somewhere. It takes seconds to queue for the first dungeon, minutes for the second dungeon, and forever to get into MD.

(Incidentally, when I play my guardian, the queues pop almost instantaneously every time, skirmish or dungeon. That’s wasn’t the case for my cleric, though.)

I read on the forums that they are planning to nerf Chortlefax in the next major update so I suppose it will be possible to finish soon. I wanted to get through it before the nerf, though. Oh well. I’ll try again tonight. I can still queue maybe one or two more times before I hit 36.

Lair of the Mad Dragon

I’ve read and heard a lot about how difficult the Lair of the Mad Dragon is (a level 34 5-man dungeon in Neverwinter). I’ve attempted MD five times in PUGs now, twice as a cleric and three times as a GWF (Great Weapon Fighter), so I have some thoughts of my own.

For comparison, MD is the third dungeon as you’re leveling. The first is the level 16 Cloak Tower, which is simple enough that anyone can do anything and still get through it. The second is the level 24 Cragmire Crypts, which is noticeably harder but still requires little strategy.

MD is substantially more difficult than Cragmire Crypts, that’s for sure. The imps – the accursed, maddening imps – are everywhere. The very first encounter will let you know that you’re in for a big challenge. However, even average PUGs can brute force it through the first two bosses to the end. Unfortunately, the final boss – Chartilifax, or as I call her, Chortlefax, the mad green dragon herself – is a nightmare for PUGs.

It starts out fine. Dodge the dragon’s breath and don’t stand in her giant red AoEs. The first wave of adds? No problem. The second wave of adds? Troublesome, but can be overcome. The third wave? Orders of magnitude more difficult, usually wipes the party because they can’t be killed fast enough.

Fail #1. I first entered MD with my cleric right after I dinged 30. I queued for the dungeon literally within 30 seconds of leveling thinking it would be hours before I got in, and then to my shock, I was in a party inside a few minutes. So here’s my first tip: Don’t do that. Do not enter MD right after you hit 30. I didn’t even have the right Injury Kits (because you can’t use your existing supply after you level from 29 to 30). And of course there is no vendor at the start of MD, like there is in the previous two dungeons. Basically, I spent a lot of time running from aggro’d mobs and got killed like 5 times and by the end I was massively injured. It was a good group, though. Everyone was cool about it – the tank was very realistic about our chances at the end. We tried twice and only got Chortlefax to about 75% – as it turns out, that was a pretty solid effort.

Fail #2. I tried again with my DC at level 34. The general dungeon experience and the first two bosses went much smoother – I didn’t die until Chortlefax. I’m pretty sure there was no tank on that run. One guy had the nerve to say, “well if the cleric would heal us instead of running from all the adds maybe we could do better.” (After I ignored him, someone else stuck up for me, so thanks to whoever that guy was). We tried again with similar results. That was the best I’ve done in a PUG, though – in two attempts I think we got Chortlefax close to 50%.

After that, I vowed not to attempt MD again as a DC without a more focused party or guild. I’m sure I’m not the only DC to say that. My cleric now sits at level 35 waiting. Which is a shame, because the cleric is kind of fun to play.

So I broke out my GWF (great weapon fighter) and started leveling in earnest. I decided that I would take on the responsibility of protecting the cleric in MD, and that would ensure success. Easy, peasy, right?

Fail #3. I didn’t bother trying MD with my GWF until I hit level 32. I did an awesome job protecting the cleric all the way through until we got to Chortlefax, at which point I was able to off-tank a lot of adds, but without focused DPS to kill the adds, it was kind of pointless. I was one of the last people standing, but I don’t think we even got to 75% that time.

Fail #4. I actually thought we might have a shot in this all DPS, 4 TR + 1 GWF run. At first I thought no way, I might as well drop out before we take two steps, but we burned down the first two bosses surprisingly fast. But alas, Chortlefax ate us up in the end because we lost one party member along the way, and we weren’t able to focus the adds. We got to around 75% again.

Fail #5. At this point my GWF was 35, and in this party we had a tank but no cleric. (Not a problem, clerics are nice-to-have, but not always essential as most of your direct healing comes from drinking potions.) Unfortunately this party struggled the whole time, even through the first two bosses. We ended up having to focus the bosses down and ignore the adds to get through them, a strategy that I’ve come to believe is a winner for most PUGs as it’s easy to coordinate. I had little hope that we’d beat Chortlefax, though, and we didn’t. Even focusing on the dragon, I don’t even think we made it to 75%. You just can’t ignore that third wave of adds.

Side note: Why isn’t there any way to mark targets in Neverwinter? That would be super helpful for these PUGs. (Not “mark” in the GF threat-building sense, I mean marking as in putting a big “1” or “2” over monsters’ heads like in other MMOs. Anything to say, “focus on this target.”)

I’ve only witnessed one successful clearing of MD, which was in a YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSl1QIj59as). In that video, the tank essentially shadowed the cleric to gather all of the adds, and the cleric did a lot of soothing light heals on the tank so I’m sure he got tons of aggro. I’m not sure who actually killed the adds and the dragon, because the tank barely ever swung his sword for all the guarding and taunting he did – he did like zero DPS. Even that seemingly coordinated party struggled toward the end.

So now my cleric and GWF are both 35 and will soon out-level the queue for MD, so I only have a few more chances to get that silly Chortlefax. It’s not important for my cleric except just to say I’ve done it, but supposedly Chortlefax drops a nice GWF sword. Probably everyone will Need on it, though, so I doubt I’d get it anyway.

Anticlimatic Nevewinter Feats

About those Neverwinter Feats. Is it just me, or is it really hard to get excited about spending points that only increase your damage/whatever by 1%/2%/3%? I mean, statistically speaking, there isn’t much difference between a 3% increase and a 0% increase, right? It seems very … anticlimatic. Two clerics side-by-side, one with 3% increase, and one without – you won’t be able to tell the difference. "Woohoo, I leveled up after all that work, now I get to increase my damage from 500 to 505 points! That’ll make all the difference in future combat!"

Just sayin’ I wish there were more Feats with 10%/20%/30% benefits, or better yet, 20%/40%/60% benefits. Maybe that’s too much. But still, it’s not like you’ll be one-shotting things. Maybe it should be 15%/30%/50%. Anyway, it just feels like you should get a bigger measurable effect from a Feat when you level up instead of a largely psychological benefit.

Neverwinter Forums

When I read the Neverwinter forums, I get the feeling that the only people posting have either a) never played anything but PnP D&D, or b) never played any other MMO, or c) have never played in PUGs before. I can understand some people fitting those criteria, but *everyone*? It’s like nobody has ever seen a "need or greed" loot system before, and they think they are the first people to notice it’s not a very good system. Yeah, no kidding. It’s been terrible ever since it was invented. But it sure beats the first come, first served loot system. And people have survived all the other MMOs that have implemented it. I ran dungeons a lot in Rift and got all the loot I needed without any fuss. Doing the same in NW. It’s easier in NW actually, because each boss only drops like 2 possible things.

On the Devoted Cleric

I’d been hearing a lot about how threat is "broken" in NW (Neverwinter) and that cleric healing generates too much aggro. I’d also been hearing that DCs (Devoted Clerics) need to be more versatile than simply healing. I’d also heard that DCs get into dungeons a lot faster, since nobody plays them (because of the first two items). Well, I wanted to see all of that for myself, so I started a Devoted Cleric.

I think DCs are kind of fun. They are kind of badasses in fact, initially doing quite a lot of damage. Unlike with my CW (Control Wizard), with whom I gave up on dungeons after two because the queues didn’t work at the time, I’m spending a lot of time in dungeons with my DC and not leveling very fast. (You don’t get much experience from dungeons, only loot and seals.) As of this writing, my DC is 30.

I’ll work backwards through the points above. Do clerics get into queues really fast? In my experience, not hardly. It takes just as long to get into a party as any other class. I’ve only done the first three dungeons though. Each successive dungeon takes longer to get into for some reason. (Probably because each one is markedly more difficult than the last, so casual players probably give up on them, so there are less people queueing. Also more people are probably in guilds which don’t go into the queues.)

About the lack of the traditional healing role, I find this to be pretty true. As a cleric, you won’t be standing around healing people. Basically you top people off, give people a little boost now and then, occasionally help a player in trouble, rez people who fall (I just assume that’s a cleric’s job, but anyone can do it), and the rest of the time, you’re contributing to DPS (damage-per-second). In a traditional MMO sense, you’re more of an off-healer or support, to be honest. Nobody should ever expect the cleric to heal them so much they don’t need to use potions.

Personally, I like it. It’s challenging. But people who are used to the traditional healer role, where you stand in the back and pull the puppet health strings that determine whether the party succeeds or fails, tend to hate it. If people get in real trouble, they have to use potions, plain and simple. You can drink a potion every 10 seconds in NW, so everyone can be responsible for their own healing. It has to be that way, because my DC is only level 30, but so far I don’t have anything resembling an emergency heal. Honestly you don’t even need a cleric to do dungeons. They are just nice to have.

Now let’s move on to threat. I’m not prepared to say threat is "broken" in NW, but let’s just say that if you’re used to WoW (World of Warcraft), I can understand why you would *think* it’s broken. It’s very different. As of now, healing people generates a *lot* of threat. That is another reason why you can’t be a traditional healer. If you stand around healing people all the time, you’re going to have every mob chasing you and that will be the end of helping anyone else because you’ll be spending the rest of the encounter running around trying to stay alive. Especially with adds and minions. (I mentioned in a previous post about the minions right? There’s a lot of them in NW. A constant stream of minions popping up all over the place. It’s hardly ever a plain single target fight.) So you have to be very judicious with your heals. If anyone but the tank is dropping rapidly, you have to count on them to use a potion to save themself. Even if the tank is dropping rapidly, there isn’t much you can do about it. There aren’t many direct heals; your powers are mainly indirect heals (meaning players receive heals when they damage a monster) or HoT (heal-over-time) skills. Possibly you can keep someone from dying in the next 2 seconds, but that’s about it. Sometimes the best thing you can do for people is draw the mobs away until they get themselves healed. Usually unintentionally.

The bottom line is that a cleric won’t be able to "carry" a bad group through a dungeon. You know how sometimes a healer can heal everyone through all the damage they’re taking so the group succeeds anyway? You won’t be doing that in NW.

One thing I’ve been struggling with is targeting as a DC. NW doesn’t do traditional MMO tab-style targeting, it’s pretty much all mouselook-style FPS targeting. You can’t click on someone’s portrait and heal them, for instance. You have to locate that person on the screen, point at them, then press the heal power key. You’ll find it very difficult to target people you want to heal, especially melee players that are constantly on the move. They bunch up together with monsters and all those health bars sit on top of each other. The best HUD settings I’ve found is to set it so that player damage meters always display, and enemy damage meters never display. Then all you ever see are the players. It’s great for healing, but it has a major drawback because you won’t be able to see most monsters. I’m not sure if the benefit outweights the drawbacks yet. I’m still working on it.

On the Control Wizard

I got my Control Wizard to 60. It’s really easy to level in Neverwinter, by far the easiest game to level in I’ve seen (after WoW, of course). I think it literally took two weeks (maybe it was three). Admittedly I played a lot in that time, but still, pretty fast.

Side note: What is the deal with the class names? Why is it "Control Wizard" instead of just "Wizard?" Why "Trickster Rogue" instead of "Rogue?" What other kind of rogues are there? None, that’s what. At least not yet.

I picked the CW to run with first mainly because of one feature: It’s the only class with any AOE damage, and NW has tons and tons of AOE encounters. I mean tons. Did I mention there are tons of AOE encounters? Pretty much every encounter from start to finish in the game has minions to deal with. There’s a ton. Don’t even get me started on dungeons.

Overall I like the CW, and their CC skills are pretty invaluable in group situations, but toward the very end of leveling, I found it inadequate for soloing. The last two zones, Mount Hotenow and Whispering Caverns, were difficult. Especially the ones where you had to go into a solo dungeon and defeat a boss – a lot of times it took multiple tries to kill that last boss. You have to drink like 50 potions to get through them. In fact I haven’t been able to finish off the quests in Whispering Caverns. I just got hammered, so I basically gave up on the class in disgust and started again with a Devoted Cleric. (Not a Regular Cleric, mind you, a Devoted Cleric.)

Now admittedly, a lot of it could be because I don’t have a proper tanking companion. I haven’t bought a blue or purple tank, so I had to make do with the Rank 15 guardian, who tends to die in roughly 2 seconds toward the end of the game. I’ve already spent too much on this game for horses and bags so I decided to skip the companion. In retrospect, I should have bought a companion instead of a bag. You really are going to need a tank greater than Rank 15 in the last 10 levels.

P.S. I tried to do the Tailoring profession and in the entire time of leveling from 1-60, I never once was able to craft anything useful for my character. (Not counting a shirt and pants.) Admittedly I only got to Rank 10, though, since I didn’t spending any AD. My conclusion: Professions are worthless time sinks in this game.