06/08/2020

Summer Festival Binge

Neverwinter's summer festival is one of my favourite events, and following my recent rabbit-holing I ended up binging hard on it during the last three weeks. My original plan was to just log every alt quickly every day to claim my free Favor of Sune, but then I'd always think something like: "Well, while I'm on this character I might as well pick up the daily stronghold quest, plus it's double Dread Ring/Icewind Dale/Tyranny of Dragons week and I haven't finished that on this char yet, so..."

The result were way too many hours played, to the point where I actually couldn't wait for the event to be over again. It's rare that I end up trapping myself in this sort of "overdoing it to the point that it's not fun anymore" binge but I did fall victim to it good and proper this time.

And what do I have to show for it? I wasn't even really particularly excited to buy any of the event rewards... though I now have the new Sun of Sune companion on every class I guess. Mind you, considering that its abilities seem to make it more of a magical death attractor than a useful asset I'm not entirely sure that's a win either...

04/08/2020

Epic Trial Queue

I braved the trial queue for the first time since hitting level 80, on my warlock no less. Inspiration was a double Tyranny of Dragons currency event and me trying to earn some Linu's Favor for her.

I tried queueing for a random at first, but the randomiser was insistent on throwing me into Assault on Svardborg (repeatedly). I'd never actually completed that one before but apparently it's a lot more doable nowadays. My first run was still a fail, from what I could tell because one or even both of the healers just dropped group mid-fight (even though it was going fine until then), so we wiped, and since we weren't getting any more backfills at that point the group fell apart. I got it two more times though and those other times we completed it successfully. While I didn't have any of the keys for the chests on that character, I was still pleased with the AD payout (I'd forgotten just how much you can earn from doing the random trial queue every day, 40k+ a pop).

I eventually got into some Tiamat runs as well by queuing for that specifically. It felt a bit odd to see it downsized to ten people - to rebalance for the lower numbers they made it so that the middle cleric is permanently under a shield and doesn't need defending anymore. What I did like was that they changed the dragon souls to work with the special ability hotkey they added in Undermountain so that you don't need to worry about manually dragging a soul onto your bar mid-fight anymore. Otherwise the experience was similar to how I remembered it, and we always killed all the heads in one to two phases.

30/07/2020

Mob Signature Abilities

Courtesy of a week of double campaign currency I spent a lot of time in Icewind Dale last week, mostly on alts who still needed to complete the campaign. They weren't very powerful, so many fights still presented some challenge, and it made me realise just how strong a reaction I have towards certain mob types.

For example I loathed doing the quest to kill young remorhazes, as they had loads of health compared to the average mob and their endless fire circles and knockbacks made them extremely annoying to fight on melee classes. Similarly I always have a sort of low-key hatred for fighting wolves of every kind, because while they are generally weak mobs, they have an annoying knockdown that isn't telegraphed clearly and therefore hard to avoid. On the other hand I'm happy to fight corrupted dwarves for days, as their attacks are pretty predictable and easy to counter.

I think this variety in the way enemies fight as well as the fact that the game actually forces you to pay attention to what each ability does is one of the reasons I find Neverwinter's combat enjoyable despite of not being a fan of action combat in general.

27/07/2020

Currencies

Neverwinter has a lot of currencies, and unlike in SWTOR you don't get a warning if you're about to hit a cap on any of them, so I've more than once been in the annoying situation of accidentally having maxed out a useful currency since I wasn't realising just how much of it I had been earning already.

It's really hard to keep track of what to do with each one too. I got a lot of Tarmalune Trade Bars during my lockbox opening spree a few weeks ago, but I'd never actually spent any. This weekend I finally visited the vendor for the first time in ages and was shocked to find that he actually sells rank 15 enchantments directly.

It was also only a couple of weeks ago that I actually spent Alliance Supplies for the first time (after clicking on the vendor more or less by accident), a currency that you earn in the Maze Engine campaign (which came out more than four years ago).

This inspired me to take a closer look at my currency tab, and I realised that aside from gold, Zen and astral diamonds (both refined and unrefined), I have 114 (!) other currencies on there. I think if Cryptic wants to flag anything else for a revamp some time soon, the sheer amount of currencies might be a good candidate.

24/07/2020

Finale

Neverwinter isn't the greatest MMO for story, both because of the quality of the writing and the way it is delivered. That said, I just want to give them credit for continuously trying to improve. I won't deny it, the ending of the Path of the Fallen campaign was neither particularly surprising nor original, but it sure managed to give me the feels. Well done, Cryptic.

21/07/2020

My 5 Worst Neverwinter Modules

As a counterpoint to the last post, these were my personal least favourite additions to Neverwinter over the years:

5. Mod 12: Tomb of Annihilation & Swords of Chult (July 2017)

The jungle theme never resonated with me (awkwardly stereotyped NPCs didn't help), and personally I found the focus on pure mob grinding over doing anything vaguely resembling actual content pretty off-putting. It was also quite hard on release and being unable to ride anywhere without getting knocked off your mount by jumpy dinos every couple of steps was super annoying. It took me a long time to work up the energy to complete this campaign.

4. Mod 17: Uprising (August 2019)

I wasn't actively playing when this came out, but after finally completing this mod's content earlier in the year, I'm still baffled how they ever managed to sell this to the player base as a full module.

3. Mod 6: Elemental Evil (April 2015)

The first time Cryptic decided to raise the level cap, they did seemingly everything wrong: The XP curve was terrible, tuning was out of whack, and the new content felt cheap, grindy and recycled - to name but a few of the problems. Looking back at my blog posts from that time, I somehow managed to at least somewhat enjoy myself despite of all this, but it was still bad.

2. Mod 16: Undermountain (April 2019)

I was a bit hesitant to rank this one this high (or low as it were) since I actually think the Undermountain campaign is pretty fun, but everything else that went along with Cryptic raising the level cap for the second time was pretty awful in my opinion. (They just don't know how to do this, do they?) You can argue that some of the changes they made were good and maybe even needed, but drastically revamping all the classes plus the way powers, boons and companions work - all at the same time - was a huge mistake in my opinion, as it made it an absolute nightmare to find my footing in the game again as a casual player with many alts. Also, the story may have been fun to go through once, but redoing a long and completely linear quest chain on every alt is rather tedious.

1. Mod 15: The Heart of Fire (November 2018)

The Penny Arcade style humour of these quests fits into the rest of the game about as well as a fish on a bicycle, and while this might have been fine in an optional one-time quest, the fact that you're supposed to re-do the same small handful of story quests stuffed with bad jokes over and over for all your boons is just awful. While I did finish the base story once, I still haven't earned the boons from this even on my main as the mere thought of having to re-do those quests yet again makes me want to throw up. As the cherry on top, this was also the module that did away with the old professions system and replaced it with the workshop, which I still don't quite get along with to this day. Let's not do anything like that ever again please.

18/07/2020

My Top 5 Neverwinter Modules

Ever since Neverwinter Unblogged wrote a great article ranking the game's many modules by quality, I've been meaning to write my own (shorter) version of this. (I'm not going to link the original article because sadly the dead site's domain trips security warnings in all my browsers nowadays.) Without further ado, my five favourite modules and the reasons why I love them:

5. Mod 18: Infernal Descent (January 2020)

Yes, I'm putting the most recently completed mod on this list because while it wasn't particularly innovative, it managed to get me back into the game after a very long absence (by my standards) and after having been majorly put off by the previous releases. It returned to using systems that I'd enjoyed before, and the devil theme kept things sufficiently fresh as they aren't really an enemy we've had to fight in great numbers before.

4. Mod 1: Fury of the Feywild (August 2013)

I wasn't actually playing when this was released, but when I came back to the game for the first time it was still very relevant content. In terms of theme, in a fantasy setting you can't really go wrong by having elves and a magical forest, and while somewhat grindy in its initial iteration, I enjoyed the content from the beginning. I believe my initial assessment was "similar to New Romulus in STO, but better". While much faster and easier these days, I still always enjoy coming back to this campaign on alts too.

3. Mod 14: Ravenloft (June 2018)

Based on an iconic property that immediately sparked interest, this mod managed to do the land of Barovia and its ruler justice by representing them through gameplay elements that managed to be a refinement of things that had worked well before and making them even better and more fun. Another map that I'm very happy to come back to.

2. Mod 3: Curse of Icewind Dale (May 2014)

This was the current mod when I first returned to the game after having drifted away not long after launch, and I loved it enough that it got me to stay semi-permanently. I loved the whole setup of Caer-Konig with the two competing factions, the snowy environments and the music; and new features like the heroic encounters dotted around the map and the optional open world PvP were appealing. While the difficulty felt kind of brutal for a solo player at the time, there was also something satisfying about playing an MMO again where "everything goes much more smoothly in a group" made for an incentive to group up with friends even for simple tasks like doing dailies.

1. Mod 7: Strongholds (August 2015)

It may seem odd to give the top spot to a module that didn't feature a campaign and didn't have much of a story attached to it, but I've really come to adore my little guild's stronghold. I'm not really a huge fan of housing in general, but the stronghold map is more like a privately shared adventure zone, and I enjoyed seeing our mini guild slowly improve ours as time went on. To be honest I think this is one of the main reasons I've stayed so attached to Neverwinter over the years: Our stronghold offers a virtual home, and even after periods of absence I never have to wonder what to do upon returning - checking on the stronghold is always the first order of business, and everything else can be figured out later.

15/07/2020

Down The Rabbit Hole

As I'm finding myself spending more time in Neverwinter again, I have to acknowledge that the game is really good at making itself feel "more-ish". There are lots of little tasks that literally only take a couple of minutes but are very rewarding - to prevent this from being exploited they are usually limited to once a day or once a week per character, but to a casual player that's not a problem.

So I end up doing one thing, knowing it will only take five minutes, but then I think: "Oh, I might as well do this other thing that also takes only five minutes" and more time goes by. Eventually I go: "Oh, I might as well do all that stuff on my alt too while I'm at it" and there goes my afternoon.

I think this is one reason I've had such an on-and-off relationship with the game in the past, because it's easy to get sucked in and play a lot, but in the same vein it's quite easy to burn yourself out, at which point I usually need a break to recharge my batteries.

13/07/2020

Rage of Bel

I somehow managed to miss that a new quest and event were added to Vallenhas about two months ago - while guildies were actually talking about it back then, I conflated the activity with a different, temporary event that I wasn't interested in at the time.

Keen to catch up, I got started on the quest last week, which mostly involves doing so-called insurgencies, which seem to basically be a big mob farm for pick-up groups. After enough insurgencies have been completed, the instanced Rage of Bel fight unlocks for an hour, though you'll have to manually join/form a group for it as it can't be queued for.


I joined a pug as healer after getting a quick rundown from my husband about how the fight worked and it went surprisingly well! The group I was in had really good dps and burned through the whole encounter with no problems, so we ended up farming it half a dozen times. I just caused one wipe (which was very much to my shame) when I first got the blue catapult mark and couldn't quite figure out what to do (I had been told the theory but the practice confused me). I was surprised nobody shouted at me or kicked me from the group, but I don't want to imagine what some of them must have been yelling behind their screens while I was running all over the place in confusion...

11/07/2020

Ascension

I've mentioned previously that a map's big heroic encounters play an important part in defining a zone's flavour. The Avernus Wastes have only one such BHE, and unfortunately it's not in a good place right now, as it's both hard and doesn't seem to reward anything particularly worthwhile (that you can't also get from easier content).


Our little three-man group really wanted to get it done this week simply because completing it once is a requirement for one of the weekly quests, but it was a real struggle and took us three attempts. Lack of dps seems to be the main issue, as the event has a ten minute timer and the mobs just take ages to kill. We failed twice on the last stage because we ran out of time, and even when we finally succeeded we had less than a minute left on the timer. It's apparently very important to get a large group of people to join in as soon as you start, as losing too much time without maximum dps seems to be something you simply can't afford right now.