For today’s article I’d like to invite you to travel back to March of 2015. Back then, a certain excitement was surrounding the game. Two years after launch, the 60s era and its stat progression had run its course. Neverwinter’s sixth module, Elemental Evil, was about to press reset and take the game onto its next level. The hype was real! We expected loads of new content and dungeons, and everyone was eager to test their new powers and builds. On top of that, the fan-favorite Paladin class and famous Minsc and Boo characters were great additions to bring new players in.
But then, pretty much everything went downhill. If you’re starting the game today, you won’t notice the former struggles of Elemental Evil. It’s just a campaign to play through while leveling characters from 60 to 70 and not particularly better or worse than others. Those that choose to buy a level 70 boost won’t even experience Mod 6 content at all. As the game developed, it became an afterthought. But Elemental Evil is indeed the worst module to date, and might even go down as the worst ever.
The Bumpy Road of Elemental Evil
The bumpy road of Elemental Evil started early. The module was initially delayed by a couple weeks, which may or may not have been related to severe layoffs at Cryptic Studios. And when they finally pushed it to live, it was evident that the content addition still wasn’t quite ready. The game would lose over one-third of its playerbase in the coming weeks and heavy adjustments were necessary to get it back on track. There’s literally not one area of Elemental Evil that hasn’t been reworked later, which is a testament of how broken everything was.
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It was fundamentally different of what a level cap raise in other MMOs looks like and noticeably confused the community. As a result much of the discussion centered around questioning the devs’ approach. I’m not saying it was a fair assessment, but the damage had already been done. In the public eye, Elemental Evil was a recycling job. It certainly didn’t help that the devs removed all group content and initially only brought a few dungeons back as level 70 epic versions. Some players rightfully joked that Module 6 managed to delete more content than it added. In some cases even lore, achievements and story broke due to dungeons no longer being available.
Talking about story, Elemental Evil featured none. The only highlight was Minsc and Boo, which were admittedly really well done. Other than that, Neverwinter just got attacked by random foes and random mobs. At no point you felt engaged or immersed. This was further highlighted by a completely atrocious campaign design. For whatever reason the devs felt that daily quests weren’t enough to keep everyone busy. So they invented hourly ones!
Today the Elemental Evil campaign is much more generous in that you have to complete the zone quests once to proceed. Back then, each quests only granted a fraction of the XP and would reset hourly. So you literally had to do the same quests on the four Elemental Evil zones over and over and over (and over and over and over) again to get to level 70. It was a horrible clusterfuck of epic proportion.
Weird Pre-Farming and Gear That’s Worse Than Legacy Sets
But hey, why only mess up one area? The grind for some of the brand-new gear was weird as well. You could pre-farm some stuff because it used already existing currency. The whole server had access to some upgrades immediately and cheaply, which isn’t exactly what you want when you introduce new content. On top of that, the new gear didn’t even out-perform some of the older legacy T2 sets. Those features strong set buffs and debuffs that players continued to use. The devs might have hoped that attaching a significant amount of Hit Points to level 70 gear would make the old sets obsolete, but that wasn’t quite the case.
At least you could test your newly acquired gear in revamped dungeons, right? Well, sort of. The devs did bring selected dungeons back, but the balancing was shaky. In an attempt to make content more challenging the devs pushed too hard and frustrated players. There were basically two issues. First of all, dungeon difficulty created a classic catch-22. To beat them, you needed the new gear. But to get the new gear, you needed to beat the dungeon.
And even for endgame teams the content was no walkover either. The bosses weren’t actually the issue. Their mechanics were well done and challenging, and could be beaten with an experienced team. But pretty much any trash mob could one-shot players even through BiS gear, which led to body counts higher than Hot Shots! I’m still not sure it was actually an issue of overdone difficulty or players struggling to adjust, but in the end the devs reacted, toned down the mobs damage, and gave them more HP instead.
Paladin Balance and Bugs
If players were struggling with the new epic content, they could at least rely on the heavily overpowered Paladin class that came with the extension. I’m not exactly sure when we realized that immortal “Bubbledins” could carry teams through PVE and PVP, but when it became the meta the game went to shit. Parties literally couldn’t die and Paladins pretty much became mandatory in any runs, and were the motor that drove guilds to success in Dragonflights a module later.
It Took the Devs Two Mods to Correct Course
All these issues contributed to the fact that Elemental Evil turned out to be a disaster. There was no great story, no new content, an insanely boring campaign design, broken balancing, broken progression, and broken dungeons. Not sure how, but the devs indeed managed to mess up all possible areas of the extension.
Overall it took them two modules to get the game back on track. After a bad reception and hiatus of players, they toned down dungeons, fixed Paladin issues, reworked the Elemental Evil campaign, added more ways of earning gear to fix progression and made some serious strides in story telling. While this pretty much confirms that they were acknowledging and tackling issues internally, they never admitted mistakes nor apologized for a lackluster module appropriately. In the contrary, former producer Rob Overmeyer wrote an overly stupid “state of the game” post praising the game and its team for the tremendous job they had done throughout 2015. It was a PR disaster, and rightfully so.
So if you’re new to the game and never witnessed Elemental Evil in its original form, be glad. It was truly the worst module in Nevewinter’s history to date.
What are your memories of Elemental Evil? Did you mostly enjoy it or had a similarly bad experience? Share your thoughts on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit the corresponding thread on our message board!
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