Getting Reacquainted

Luckily for me, Cryptic managed to fix the bug with the anniversary quests two days into the event after all. After spending a little time fiddling about with the character panel on my cleric, I jumped into a quick Protector's Speech skirmish to try out some of my new abilities.

I didn't know it was possible to feel this lost in a game that you've played for more than five years and have only been away from for six months. Is this Neverwinter's NGE? I think at this point it doesn't even matter whether the changes are good or bad, there are just too many of them. With my cleric's base functionality completely changed and numerous abilities removed or revamped, it feels like I'm playing a completely different game, one in which I just happen to have characters that look like the ones I used to play.

There has been a token effort to explain the class changes in game, but frankly, a few paragraphs of text can't make up for years of muscle memory. It breaks my heart to think back to a year ago, when I was proud to have hit 70 (then max level) on all eight classes and foresaw myself playing the game for years to come.

As it pains me to just abandon all that even in the face of my current frustration, I resorted to that last bastion of hope for confused returning players: rolling up a new character. I didn't really want a second cleric, but at the moment going down that path seems to be my only chance of figuring out WTF is going on with the class. Let's not even think of alts for now.

At least redoing the newbie experience felt less irksome than usual as it's actually been a while now since I last went through it. One interesting change I noticed is that they got rid of all the level-up prompts telling you what you just earned, I guess at least partially because there is less to earn (e.g. no more power points, you just get certain powers at fixed levels).


Confused Birthday

It's Protector's Jubilee again, and this year I'm not even on holiday. Surely there's no better time to check the game out again than during its sixth birthday celebrations!

Unfortunately Cryptic has delivered a double-whammy in terms of making it hard to get back into the game: Now that I'm finally getting over my disappointment with mod 15, it's hard to pick things up again because they've literally changed everything: classes, powers, companions, boons etc.

After claiming my first freebie today, I thought I'd try to get back into the swing of things by doing something simple on my cleric: the anniversary quests. Turns out that Elminster wouldn't give me any though. I tried logging another character and for her they showed. Bug? I tried to check the forums but they wouldn't even load.

Still business as usual then.

(I'm genuinely sad though; I was really in the mood for those anniversary quests. Knowing how slow Cryptic is with fixing bugs, I don't expect to actually be able to participate in the event on my main now.)


Taking the Temperature

Hm, Undermountain has been live for almost two weeks now; I wonder how people are liking it?

Ah, business as usual then.

(Seriously, I am starting to feel the itch again though...)


Foundry Farewell

It was via The Ancient Gaming Noob of all places that I found out that Cryptic is finally closing down the Foundry for good in both Neverwinter and STO. I say "finally" because it's been down so often by now, I wasn't even sure whether it was still functional to begin with. The official subreddit received the news with a resounding "meh", and few people even considered the announcement worthy of an upvote. I'm clearly not the only one who never really cared about this particular feature.

I only ever made two posts on this blog that carry the Foundry tag. The first one was a brief explanation of what it is, while also mentioning that I didn't use it much, and the second one just mentioned as a brief aside that astral diamond rewards were being removed from Foundry missions.

While I give kudos to players who used it in creative ways and also to Cryptic for how hard they initially tried to integrate it into the game (what with the harpers advertising it in pretty much every zone), I just never developed much of an interest in it. Even back when there were some rewards for running Foundry missions, they seemed like a very time-consuming way of earning them, and the quality of the missions could be hit and miss. Both Telwyn and Roger also talk about just how this sort of player-created content has frequently ended up being abused, which resulted in Cryptic having to add more and more restrictions over time.

I do have some fond memories of a few missions I played. There was the one that Telwyn's partner created, the one with the NPCs that were wannabe Power Rangers (or something?!), or the one where the creator had had a lot of fun with the editor and made the player go through a whole section where everything was upside down. I also remember Wilhelm writing about doing some missions that were basically recreations of popular WoW dungeons.

Ultimately though, even when they were decent, Foundry missions always seemed like a distraction from the "real" game to me. So it's a sad day for those who actually used the Foundry, but I suspect I'm part of the majority when I say that these news don't elicit much more than a shrug for me.


Coming Up

The undisputed meh-ness of Heart of Fire has caused my pet tank and me to give Neverwinter the cold shoulder for the past month, especially as we had much more entertaining alternatives to play, but that doesn't mean that I stopped caring about what Cryptic will bring out next. So I was pleased to find out that they just announced the next module, which will be called Undermountain.

Unfortunately, based on what else they announced, it sounds like this will be another module heavily focused on systems changes, including but not limited to changing the very names of classes, changing how tanking and healing works, removing feats and power points, changing item and level scaling, changing the way stats work - which includes the removal of recovery and lifesteal, which is huge - and the raising of the level cap to 80.

The reason I started the above sentence with "unfortunately" is that while all the explanations given for these in the linked dev blogs sound reasonable enough (Healing is currently pointless? You don't say!), Cryptic has a history of being very bad at getting balancing right, so I expect the launch of an expansion with this many gameplay changes to be an utter disaster. Plus the level cap increase, something that would be a normal and happy event in many other MMOs, brings up memories of Elemental Evil, Neverwinter's worst module ever. (There were many things wrong with Elemental Evil and not all of those had something to do with the level cap increase, but it was certainly a contributing factor.)

So I'll be keeping an eye on what else they announce for Undermountain - I'll definitely want to check it out at some point, but based on past experience probably not at launch.

(As an aside, while reading up on this piece of news I learned that Neverwinter Unblogged is shutting down - that is a great shame and a huge loss, as this site was a big part in keeping me up-to-date with what was going on in the game and often provided very helpful info for a more casual player like me.)


Fishing Farewell

Hey, the winter festival is back! I may be feeling a bit meh about the game in general, but I always enjoy this event.

Unfortunately I immediately ran into another downer when I went to do some ice fishing and found that the ice on the lake had been smashed and you are now supposed to just fish there using the same mechanics as in Sea of Moving Ice and Chult.

Now, I like that fishing mini game, but I kind of liked ice fishing more. More importantly, the latter was just a completely different beast from "regular" fishing, a fairly fast-paced mini game that was more about racing across the ice effectively and beating other people to the good fishing holes than about anything else. Now you just stand around and fish for ten minutes.

Also, they trashed all the fishing poles that I crafted last year and are making us start over with a new and crappy pole, because for some reason these things are never allowed to carry over from one activity to the next. Not happy.


Meh Module

Funnily enough, after I complained about my workshop's unending deliveries, Cryptic went ahead and patched that out this past week, so the goods now arrive instantly and fill up your delivery box the moment you log in. I guess that was a bug instead of a feature?

I was also pleased to see that they finally fixed the Chult Signet of Patronage. I momentarily got really excited when I saw that they had finally added a signet for that campaign with Heart of Fire, but of course it launched in a broken state and couldn't actually be used. Now it can, but my initial excitement has tapered off and I'm busy with other things already.

Unfortunately this whole module feels very "meh" to me so far. The workshop is ultimately not great, and my pet tank and I have even put the new campaign on hold for now because rerunning the same couple of story quests to crawl up a giant's butt week after week got old really, really quickly.

In the community I've seen mutterings about this module being the worst addition since Elemental Evil. It's probably not quite that bad, but I haven't felt this disengaged from the game since early Chult.


Unending Deliveries

One aspect of the new crafting system is that you can tell your crafters to repeat a task "indefinitely", which in practice should simply mean "until your delivery mailbox is full". So if you have ten slots in your inbox and send your artisans out in the evening to craft as much as they can overnight, you should then wake up to ten items in your inbox, right?

Unfortunately in practice the game doesn't do the calculations for this while you're offline, and not even instantly when you log in - instead, every crafted item takes several seconds to be processed and to actually appear in your inbox, and this process doesn't even start until you actually log in.

So what now happens to me every time I log on is that I dash to my delivery box and find it maybe half full (as far as the game managed to calculate its contents in the time it took me to get there). I take everything out, and the game continues to fill it up. Again, and again, and again... until I actually run out of materials or the calculation decides that in the x hours since I last logged in, that's the maximum amount of items my artisan would have been able to craft in terms of time.

I guess I should be glad that the offline crafting is so efficient, but on the other hand it's actually kind of annoying that I now basically spend the first fifteen minutes of any given play session just sitting next to my mailbox and gradually emptying it out over and over again. I guess I could just let it hit the space limit but that would then feel wasteful. It's kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't.


Workshop Woes

My initial enthusiasm for the workshop has definitely come to an end. I climbed the wall of having to earn 500,000 trade credits to upgrade my main's workshop from level 2 to level 3, just to find that the next upgrade required me to do the same thing again, only this time for 5 million credits. Also, where a big part of my initial push had been made possible by the conversion of old crafting materials to new (via a horrible vendor interface that makes you want to bash your head against the wall), I was fresh out of tradable materials by that point. The cherry on top was the realisation that instead of earning 5 million trade credits, you can just pay 5 million AD for the upgrade instead. Neverwinter has a lot of pay-to-win aspects, but they aren't always this blatant.

It also hasn't helped that I without consulting any kind of guide, I went about my business very inefficiently initially. Having opened a workshop on my first alt, I'm now trying not to commit the same mistakes again, but just the thought of having to go through the whole unlocking and upgrading process on seven more characters is somewhat deflating.

It might not be so bad if you're a new player and learning things as you go, but as a more casual player who previously maxed out her professions over several years of casual play, having to start over at this point and being faced with this much grind just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.


Recruitment Drive

I didn't realise it before it released, but Heart of Fire is a levelling campaign, not one for max-level characters, and in line with that Cryptic has been trying to use its celebrity connection to recruit new players from the Penny Arcade fan base. Makes sense, and I certainly don't think it's a bad thing to have more variety in levelling content, even if it makes the new quests a bit trivial and boring to play through at the cap.

Cryptic is also trying to get old players to roll up new alts by currently holding a recruitment event which will earn you some rewards if you level a character during this time, similar to what they've already done in STO a few times. Unfortunately that doesn't really appeal to me either though - I was just glad to finally get all my alts to 70 earlier in the year. As much as I usually love levelling in MMOs, there's something about Neverwinter that makes its levelling game a lot less appealing than in other games.

So I really have no interest in creating another alt of a class I already have. Now if they ever release an actual new class...