If you’ve been a fan of D&D Neverwinter for any length of time, or if you’re just getting into it, there is a good chance that you’ve heard about ‘The Maze Engine’ – the latest expansion coming from Perfect World. A quick look at various forums across the internet shows that players are anxious to know what it is, and most importantly, whether the term ‘engine’ refers to a graphical overhaul for the game. We’re not going to spoil that for you, but we will tell you a bit about the game as we were able to get a sneak preview of the expansion content and a few minutes alone with the developers. Neverwinter fans have a lot to look forward to as the story of Underdark is continued in the Maze Engine.
If you’ve been there for the fight all along, then you’re probably wondering where it’s going next and what you’re going to be facing. Well, we won’t spoil everything, and if you came here to find out what the Maze Engine is, you’ve definitely come to the wrong place. We’re not going to spoil anything! You can find out yourself, however, by playing the game when it’s finally released. Now, let’s move on to some of the things that we CAN tell you. We were fortunate enough to receive a guided tour through the expansion content by Mike Apolis, Neverwinter Art Lead, and Ben Bascom, Neverwinter producer. They’ve done a stellar job of not only adding new content to the world we already know and love (if you haven’t love it since the beta then you’re wrong), they’ve also updated the graphics and put them on par with what Neverwinter is today.
Into the Underdark
The majority of The Maze Engine will be played out of Mantol-Derith, the hub for all of the Underdark content in the expansion. This is where you’re going to find all of your vendors and critical NPC’s, giving you a nice base to work out of as you fight demons alongside NPC’s you met in the previous expansion. Key characters will drop whatever it was they were doing just to fight alongside you and make sure you don’t meet your demise in the Underdark as you battle the demons near Gauntlgrym.
The first thing we noticed in the walkthrough was that demons now melt into a sort of black ooze instead of simply disappearing or falling over dead. We asked the developers about this, and they explained that in the D&D lore, the demons of the Underdark do not simply die, they are sent back to the abyss. It’s definitely nice to see them sticking to the lore, and it’ll be a pleasure for all of the lore buffs playing D&D Neverwinter this year.
As we trounce through the Underdark during this expansion we run into a lot of demon princes including Orcus and even Baphomet, the horned king. As it turns out, you and Baphomet have a similar goal, but can either one of you actually achieve it? Probably not, but it’s a lot of fun trying!
If you’re a fan of mounts then boy do we have good news for you! With the new mount power system you have the ability to quite literally transmute your mount. This means you can the attributes of one mount and apply it to another, which is a definite improvement. But wait! Aren’t the mounts just for decoration? In The Maze Engine, mounts are now primed and ready to give you far more than just that nice decorative look. In fact, they can provide stat boosts that might prove to be useful in your battle against the demon hordes. In addition to that, if you were a serious mount collector before the expansion hit, then you might just be set for life. Definitely something to think about as you prepare to continue your crusade against the undead.
Form your Party
Dungeons and Dragons, and D&D Neverwinter has always been about forming up and heading out. There are lots of things you can do solo but let’s face it, the game is better when it’s experienced with friends, and it IS an MMO after all. That being said, PWE and the Neverwinter Dev Team have made the entire process a little bit easier by changing the grouping system so that you can create custom groups without role restrictions. If you want to create a group with nothing but healers, there’s nothing stopping you! If you want to head in with all warrior, make sure you pack an extra large sword. The power to do anything you want has been granted, and you don’t even need the holy trinity to do it. Of course, whether or not you can survive in this world without the holy trinity is another matter entirely. For more information on that, don’t forget to check out the two articles we’ve written on the holy trinity and what it means to MMO gaming.
The grouping fun doesn’t have to end there! One of the other features (which is just one among many, we assure you) is the ability to simply queue for dungeons and join the instance without actually walking to it. Okay, we know this is going to annoy a lot of people. There are a lot of purists out there who like the idea of getting up and walking to the dungeon each and every time, but you know what? Some people have lives, and it’s nice to be able to just log on, jump in, and then go right back to what you were doing afterward. We still remember the epic walk to the Cloak Tower during the beta, and while it was cool, we’d rather not doing every single time. Of course there are those who are going to compare this to WoW, to which we say, get over it. Last time I wanted to go to the supermarket in real life, I just queued up and zoned in, didn’t even have to leave my house, so it’s not like the system isn’t being utilized everywhere.
On the Subject of Dungeons
The game is all about dungeons, and there are a few new ones in the expansion. What we’re going to focus on here, however, is the old ones. The Caverns of Karrundax are back in all their former glory with upgraded graphics, new enemies, and of course, the upgraded graphics that we talked about in previous sections. Whether you’ve been through them before or not, they’re definitely worth visiting, and if not for the new content, then we hear they’re an outstanding vacation spot.
Now, finally, we come to the real meat of this preview: Castle Never. If you’ve played since the beginning, then you already know that Castle Never was the endgame dungeon for the initial release of the game. In the words of the developers it was the ‘closest thing we had to an epic dungeon at the time’. Well, ever since the first adventurers made their way through those hallowed halls, the castle has sat empty, just waiting for someone to move in. The rent is pretty low, after all, and let’s face it, there’s plenty of room in there if someone wants to add a rec room or a hobby garage for their dragons. In this case, Orcus the Demon Prince has moved into Castle Never and is currently hatching all manner of evil plots, which should be enough to rouse any adventurer and send them racing to the gates of Castle Never.
Navigating the castle will not be easy, as you travel through interdimensional rifts, dodge hazards in the hallways, and even stick to the shadows to avoid waking zombies here and there. On the subject of zombies, you’re going to have quite a surprise there, as many of the undead are actually players from previous expansions. That’s right, all of the adventurers who died in Castle Never are coming back to haunt you, and it’s going to be up to you to fight through them. Now just imagine if every other game out there did the exact same thing, can you imagine how many players you’d have to go through in Molten Core if they ever revived it in World of Warcraft?
Neverwinter is a constantly changing game, and we’re glad to see that for the most part, they have stuck with the lore and classes from Neverwinter. Sure they might not have a bard (hint hint, if you’re reading this, Perfect World), and the game might be more about action that it is RPG elements, but you can’t argue that it isn’t fun, and now, with the introduction of these new features, dungeons, and of course, the demon princes, you’re going to have plenty to look forward to, plenty to kill, and probably a ton of new mounts to collect. Additionally, you have all the new gear to look forward to, which we weren’t privy to in this preview, but we’re sure it’s going to be amazing.Related: Developer, Expansion, Neverwinter, Preview, The Maze Engine, Update