15/07/2018

Summer Festival Thoughts

I completely skipped the Summer Festival last year, so I thought it would be fun to revisit it this year. Especially since some of the cosmetic rewards are really nice and actually quite easy to obtain.

Somehow... it all seems somewhat less fun than I remember though. I forgot just how much I dislike the water fight event for example, simply because I'm absolutely terrible at it. My current strategy is to run in and throw balloons until I hit someone, then run out of the area before I can get hit back, as I'll just end up with a score of zero if I stay.

And Sahha! I remembered that being decent fun despite of its slowness, but now it's just driving me nuts. They should just put a fence around most of the playing field, because it's way too easy to knock the ball out of the area, and with every reset creating 15-20 seconds of downtime you spend more time just standing around and twiddling your thumbs than actually chasing the ball, and that for ten whole minutes. It's ironic that the Sahha ball quest giver tells you that gathering the raw materials for your own ball is much more time-consuming than getting one from actually playing the game, when in reality it's the other way round.

11/07/2018

River District Retrospective

While Storm King's Thunder was the last of the "old" campaigns where I still had boons to finish, I had some leftover business in the River District for the last couple of weeks as well. I couldn't help but think about how my opinion of that campaign area has changed.

My initial impressions of it were really positive - and I still think that the map is very nice for example, and that its weekly quests are inventive. However, what I initially considered a nice variety of daily activities unfortunately ended up feeling pretty dull over time. With no particular reason to do one thing over another, it eventually just became a matter of doing whatever's easiest/fastest until you've reached your daily goal. From my recent experience the most popular choice for this seems to be running the small heroic encounters - there are often "trains" going for them that just run in circles doing one after the other, and even a small group is enough to make them go down quite fast.

That's not exactly a bad thing, but after a while I really started to miss the direction provided by quests. Without them your daily goal just feels too much like random mob grinding. Chult had this problem too to some extent, and I'm glad to see that Cryptic seems to have back-pedalled on this, with Barovia once again offering a nice amount of quests to provide structure for your daily adventures.

08/07/2018

Angler of the Northern Sea

At the same time as finishing Storm King's Thunder, I also got the Angler of the Northern Sea achievement (catching/finding one of each type of fish in Sea of Moving Ice). I was inspired to go after it after getting Angler of the Soshenstar, though unlike the latter this one actually required a fair amount of work.

Basically I tried to go to a different fishing spot every time I got the daily fishing mission for several weeks, eventually using this guide by DDM's Realm to keep track of which locations I still had to revisit to get the last couple of fish I was still missing.

It was time-consuming, but I thought the amount of randomness and grind required was just right to not feel annoying. I've been displaying my new title with pride, as it stands for one of the rare accomplishments in this game that can't be bought or fast-tracked with real money (at least as far as I'm aware).

06/07/2018

Buggy Barovia

I'm really enjoying the new content in Ravenloft, but it also seems to be one of the buggier modules.

Some people have been reporting constant crashes, to the point where it made the game unplayable for them, which is fortunately something that hasn't affected me personally. However, I've seen plenty of bugs around the world.

While doing the rounds in Barovia I ran into two quests (out of five or six) that were so bugged that I had to drop them (though oddly, another time I managed to complete them successfully, so these particular bugs might not be entirely straightforward). Many of the new heroic encounters also seem to suffer from issues with spawn timers, so that you get situations such as being asked to "rescue hostages" but there are only a couple of mobs to kill and nobody to rescue... until ten minutes later, when the hostages suddenly spawn in.

It affects older zones as well: While doing the rounds in Omu with my pet tank last weekend, one of the patrol missions bugged out so badly that we were unable to complete it, as several of the mobs we were supposed to kill kept glitching into walls and refused to come out. (This one's supposed to be fixed by now according to the patch notes.)

However, the issue I currently find the most annoying is that when you're in Barovia, most of the time you can't see any of the other map instances except for one or two (while numbers indicate that actually there are more than thirty instances up). This makes it hard to casually hop around different maps to join groups for the big heroic encounter whenever it's up. Even going old school and asking for a group invite might not help, as I've gotten a nonsensical error message every time I tried to use the "transfer to their instance" prompt while grouped. Even leaving the map and coming back in only sometimes works to unite you with your group mates. It speaks for the quality of the module that people are playing enthusiastically despite of all these issues.

02/07/2018

Storm King's Thunder Silenced

At long last, I completed the Storm King's Thunder campaign, the last of the "old" campaigns that were still lingering as incomplete on my main's campaign screen. Even though I already had partial completion when I started on my project to finally finish it up, it still took me three months of near daily play (admittedly not involving maximum effort, but still) to complete all the boons. Seriously, three months! The grind is real.

What's interesting was that the Voninblood, whose number requirements looked the most intimidating initially, didn't turn out to be that much of an issue. As Joseph Skyrim noted in a comment on my original post about the campaign grind, the Ostorian Relics you can collect on all four of the campaign maps and which can be traded for Voninblood largely make that particular currency a non-issue as they can be farmed easily and indefinitely. I just didn't realise this right away, which wasn't helped by me not even having a trowel (required to collect them) for a lot of my early play sessions. Also, duoing with my pet tank initially meant that each of us only got half as many relics as a solo player would have collected.

I soon found that everything seemed to hinge on Secrets of Ostoria, the currency associated with completing the main daily mission (which in turn required you to do one regular daily quest in each of the first three zones). I eventually realised that I could actually collect all the various dailies to save them up for later, they just wouldn't show up if I didn't also have the main daily in my log. I then settled into a routine of doing a whole batch of dailies in each zone on different days of the week while also saving up the completed missions to hand in one at a time each day for the overarching daily quest. If that sounds a bit convoluted that's because it was.

Sea of Moving Ice was a different matter as there was a limited amount of saving up you could do in that zone, and eventually I had to focus more attention on it as I just needed Runic Fragments (that map's unique campaign currency) to complete the last two boons. The main two lessons I took away from that were that the fishing daily couldn't be "saved up" as it auto-completes as soon as you've gathered the required amount of fish, and that "Recasting Alarm" could be abandoned and re-picked until it gave you the super easy circuit just next to the base.

All said and done, I do have to give credit where credit is due though: The zones themselves were enjoyable, with nice visuals and music, and I still enjoyed questing in them again. I just wish the campaign didn't require you to do it for quite that long.

29/06/2018

More Free-to-Play Maths

Back in June 2015 I did some maths to figure out how much money I had spent on Neverwinter, especially compared to an old-fashioned MMO subscription. I thought it would be interesting to do a follow-up on that three years later, especially since I realised that I haven't spent any money on the game in one and a half years.

Fun fact: They did actually switch to charging me in £ instead of € eventually, which is why the total will be ever so slightly incorrect as I had to do some backwards currency conversion, but the margin of error should be negligible.

So, looking back at my receipts, I spent £247.95 on Zen in the past three years. Based on blog activity, I was only completely inactive in game for about six months during that time, so spread out across the months in which I actually played that comes to only £8.265 per month, a bit less than your average monthly sub. Go me!

What's interesting to note is that my spending wasn't spread out evenly across that time frame at all. At first I spent a small-ish amount on Zen every three to five months, then I made one slightly bigger purchase that lasted me for about half a year, and then I decided to go all in on a charge rewards promotion that really appealed to me, just for Cryptic to mess up the rewards for that big time. They did eventually resolve the issue, but it still left a sour taste in my mouth.

Since then I haven't spent any money on Neverwinter at all, though funnily enough this had less to do with being grumpy with Cryptic about the messed up promotion (though I certainly was, at least at first) and more with not knowing what to do with all the Zen I bought. Oh sure, Cryptic does have ridiculously expensive bundles in their store I could theoretically buy, but those just never struck me as good value for money, so all I've been spending money on for the past one a half years has been a month of VIP here or a few extra bank slots there. From a fairness point of view it really feels like I should give them some money again considering how much I'm enjoying the game, but I still have over 10k Zen in the bank with nothing I particularly want to spend it on, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

26/06/2018

Ravenloft Launch Impressions

- First time I launched the game, it crashed before I even made it to the character selection screen. Happy patch day!


- New character selection screen! This time it's not just a new background, there are also new features such as the option to sort your characters differently.

- It looks like this module brought with it some sort of graphics update. I already noticed it on the character selection screen, but certain spell effects in game also looked a lot crisper than before. I don't like that the shade of green used for green quality items is much darker now than it used to be though.

- I thought I'd read somewhere that astral diamonds would now be account wide, but I could find no evidence of this. Maybe there's an option to put them all in the bank or something, I'll have to look again.

- The intro mission to Ravenloft felt quite lovingly crafted. Neverwinter's storytelling animations have always been on the poor side, but there was one cut scene where someone even moved their mouth while talking (gasp) and I liked what they did with the little silhouettes for when you're being told Strahd's story.


- Holy catch-up, Batman! Just completing the intro quest rewards you with a full set of 460 gear including rank 8 enchantments for every slot. Note to self: bring any and all alts to Barovia soon.

- At first glance the new map seems quite fun and like it iterates nicely on Chult. I was happy to see small heroic encounters make a comeback in particular as I sorely missed them in the jungle.

- I already attracted the night terror twice. Fortunately people were quite happy to pile on it whenever it appeared, but sadly it doesn't appear to drop anything, though my two guildies each got a title for killing it (not surprised the cleric gets left out as usual...)

- In a move that feels like over-conveniencing players, Cryptic made it so that you no longer have to actively roll on loot when you're in a party; the game just assumes that you want everything, rolls for everyone and then distributes the items accordingly. I actually feel kind of robbed. I liked seeing half a dozen items pop up on my screen and actively rolling on each one!

- The new, instanced hunts could grow on me, as the introductory one seemed quite fun. Less focus on randomised material gathering and more active hunting fun I hope?

23/06/2018

All Classes

It took me five years, but I finally have a level 70 character of every class!


From left to right, top to bottom:

Phaelia, tiefling trickster rogue
Shintar, half elf devoted cleric
Ekaterina, human great weapon fighter
Daerys, drow control wizard
Puck, halfling hunter ranger
Ophelie, sun elf oathbound paladin
Shintank, dwarf guardian fighter
Shareen, half orc scourge warlock

I have a few more character slots available, but to be honest I can't see myself creating any more alts right now until they release another class, especially as Neverwinter is one of the few MMOs where (in my opinion), levelling another alt just for the sake of starting over isn't actually all that fun..

That said, there's still plenty of max-level stuff to do on all of my existing characters to potentially keep me busy for years to come.

14/06/2018

Happy Fifth!

Yes, it really has been five years! I honestly continue to be impressed by how well this plucky little MMO has continued to do (based on realistic measurements of success, not WoW killer standards). I don't see a lot of talk about it in my little corner of the MMO blogosphere, but based on what limited player numbers we have to try to gauge its success, such as Steamcharts, it actually seems to be one of the more popular "second tier" MMOs, seemingly outperforming some competitors that seem to get a lot more buzz (again, in my little corner of the blogosphere), such as EVE, Rift or Secret World Legends.


In unhappier news, I managed to time my summer holiday in such a way that it will prevent me from actually participating in the Protector's Jubilee event (except for a quick check-in today) for the second year in a row. I'll never feel bad about going on holiday of course, but I do feel kind of bad about missing out all this free stuff and fun activities. I should really be better at this by now, considering I know exactly when this particular event will occur every year...

09/06/2018

Alliance Life

Being in an alliance is quite similar to being in a clique inside a larger guild, except that it feels more "legitimate" in a way since there is a dedicated structure for it, and in terms of gameplay benefits, the guild/clique is actually more important to you than the alliance.

Like with everything else in Neverwinter, I'm more casual about socialising in it than I am in my main MMO, where I've always been super involved with any guild that I've been in. In Neverwinter on the other hand, I don't even read chat most of the time, including the green guild/alliance chat. On the rare occasions when I do look at it I notice that the people who are talking are way more into the game than I am, though I also see the occasional newbie question which serves to reassure me that I'm not completely clueless.

One thing that's interesting is that there are a couple of names that pop up in alliance chat all the time, to the point that I feel I "know" them. There is X-tremoz, the alliance leader, as well as some players called Bron, Bob and Bab who just seem to be online a lot. They don't know me at all of course, but just seeing the same names in chat over and over again gives the alliance a sense of stability even for casual players like me. It makes me appreciate that even guildies that never or rarely talk might be quietly benefitting from reading guild chat, and that in my SWTOR guild for example, someone might well be looking at me as one of those always-around public faces of the guild that hold things together.

05/06/2018

Alliance Update

Talking about stronghold sieges made me realise that I never talked about the alliance we're in beyond my initial post about "GOD". At one point some drama occurred between GOD and one of its subordinate guilds, Will of Oblivion (WoO for short). I wasn't really involved in this; all I know is that WoO eventually left, and our mini guild - being one of WoO's direct subordinates - decided to go with them.

We helped them found their own alliance, and were given a higher position in that than we'd previously held, but to be honest it was kind of undeserved based how small we are. Then one day I found that we'd been kicked for inactivity, but since I was actually active enough to notice right away, pet tank immediately went to WoO's leadership and asked for us to be let back in. They obliged, though we ended up at the lowest rank again, which was actually fine.

And that's where we've been since then, now subordinate to a guild called "ASH-2-ASH". I'll write another post about what it's like to be in an alliance at some point.

28/05/2018

A Touch Of Madness

Another long-neglected goal achieved: Underdark campaign completion.

The reason I had stayed away from this one for so long was that I perceived it as extremely grindy, and looking at the raw numbers, having to acquire 7000 Faerzress at 18-50 units a pop certainly does add up to quite a slog. Thankfully I got a lot of mileage out of a recent double Underdark currency event.

I did realise though that all things considered, the grind wasn't really that much worse than for most campaigns; what made the difference for me were the heroic encounters. I liked them well enough as something sprinkled in among the regular quests like in Icewind Dale, but a whole campaign of nothing but grinding heroic encounters (or skirmishes I guess) was just super boring to me. I like the classic questing model. I don't think I would have much fun in Guild Wars 2.

24/05/2018

Dragon Mastery

So, another thing that I never thought would happen... happened: I completed the last boon from the Well of Dragons campaign. Once I realised how easy Linu's Favor was to gain through doing Temple of Tiamat, it was only a matter of time. I wasn't joking when I said I only needed to do it fifteen more times: That's exactly what I did, one day at a time.

Mind you, most of my runs weren't quite as fast and smooth as that first one, with most of them needing two or three "head phases" to get Tiamat down. One time it even took a full five rounds; I was very surprised that we didn't hit some sort of enrage or fail state considering for how long that fight had been dragging on by that point.

It also took me an embarrassing number of deaths to I figure out how the dragon souls and the five heads' various breath weapons work. On top of that, it wasn't until I did these runs that I realised that the hoard in the Well of Dragons actually has a purpose in the form of buffing the combatants and increasing your chances of good loot! I'd always thought that it was just some leftover from the old days required to originally "unlock" the Temple of Tiamat.

I could see myself doing this on some of my alts now... though not immediately; two weeks of slaying a giant five-headed dragon every day are quite enough for now.

18/05/2018

Stronghold Siege

Sticking with the theme of trying new things, I joined members of my guild's alliance for a stronghold siege for the first time the other day. Apparently this is a feature that has been in game for years, since shortly after strongholds were introduced in fact, but I had never actually tried it.

Basically it's 20v20 PvPvE on a modified stronghold map, with the basic premise being that two guilds are trying to take down each other's guild hall. In the vaguest sense it reminded me a bit of WoW's Alterac Valley: a large scale PvP match where you can score points for your side not so much by killing other people but by capturing objectives and completing certain tasks.


It struck me as something that was clearly meant to be quite involved and epic but never really seems to have taken off. The alliance just does it for the rewards from the weekly quest but doesn't take the competition very seriously: one guy just takes on the role of the enemy guild while everyone else smashes his guild hall for an easy win. Seems like a shame really; I could imagine this being pretty epic when played "properly".

15/05/2018

So... Ravenloft

Last week Cryptic announced that Neverwinter's next module is going to be Ravenloft. I'm not going to link the so-called announcement trailer because it's literally nothing but a few seconds of spooky sound before the title card appears - you can do better than that, Cryptic.

That said, most of the reactions I've seen so far have been rather pleased with the news. During my own tabletop roleplaying days my very first adventure was set in Ravenloft, so I have fond memories of the setting too. DDO also had a Ravenloft expansion not long ago, which Syp has been gushing about.

That said, some of the details have dampened my excitement a bit. For example there will be more hunts, which I'm still not fond of, and Castle Ravenloft itself will apparently be an epic dungeon, so my chances of ever seeing it are quite low.

11/05/2018

I Killed Tiamat!

Only took me... three and a half years?


As part of my current project to get my main caught up on unfinished campaigns, I've been adding to the hoard in Well of Dragons to gain Linu's Favor, but it's just ridiculously grindy. Everyone says that doing the epic trial to kill Tiamat is much better for gaining this currency, but I'd never done it.

I wasn't really deterred by my recent terrible experience in Assault on Svardborg, as I knew that my pet tank and at least one other guildie had completed this particular trial successfully many times before, and if they could do it, then so could I! I quizzed my pet tank about tactics and he reckoned that - considering that this was the very first epic trial added to the game and has been around for years, so people mostly know the fight quite well - my chances were probably pretty good.

And indeed, I got lucky. It took a little while for the queue to pop, but once I got in I was just following a raging horde of experienced players around who killed everything in seconds. The top damage dealer finished the instance with nearly 150 million damage done! The tactics didn't even seem to matter much - for example I had often been told about how you need to kill Tiamat's many heads at roughly the same time (within a timed phase) to prevent them from respawning, but in this group they were dying so fast that the whole group just ran from one head to the next, killing them one by one, and then the boss was already dead before the next phase could even start. Meanwhile, I managed to die once by accidentally jumping off a cliff.


But I did get one Linu for my efforts! Now, if I can repeat that about fifteen times, it won't have been too terrible a time investment overall...

08/05/2018

No Life At Sea

The other day I was surprised by this achievement popping up while I was making the rounds in Sea of Moving Ice (click to embiggen):


Seriously, five hours of just cruising around in the damn boat? Just more evidence that this zone is way too large. What am I doing with my life...

05/05/2018

Lurker's Assault on Baphomet

I finished the Maze Engine campaign on my rogue today, yay! Unfortunately I also learned that one of my rogue's daily powers, Lurker's Assault, doesn't play nice with the last fight at all. Part of its effect is that it teleports me towards my current target, but something about Baphomet causes this movement to get messed up.

Once I got stuck in the air and it was kind of funny because I could at least still hit the boss, but when it happened again I somehow got trapped on the outer age of the platform on which the fight takes place instead, unable to move back in or target the boss (though he could still hit me somehow). I tried to commit suicide by jumping down into the lava (and Drizzt dutifully followed me) but it actually ended up doing no damage to me and I just ended up stuck at the bottom of the room instead. The /stuck command didn't help either, and eventually I had to Alt+F4 to get back out.

Then I repeated the fight for the weekly quest, and the exact same thing happened again. I guess I just won't be able to use that particular daily power on this fight, ever.

02/05/2018

I Tried Assault on Svardborg Today

Until a couple of weeks ago I'd never done an "epic trial", which I guess is what passes for a raid in Neverwinter. When I finally overcame my reluctance and queued for (normal) Demogorgon (the epic trial introduced with Maze Engine), I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was and that it didn't even take ten minutes.

So when I recently hit the maximum amount of "potential bonus rewards" for the epic trial Assault on Svardborg, which you accumulate from questing in Sea of Moving Ice, I thought I'd give that one a try too.

I got a pop after about fifteen minutes. Everybody seemed kind of hesitant to run in and start the fight, until one guy finally took the lead. I followed him and immediately got turned into a block of ice. I stayed that way for about ten seconds, then died. This repeated a couple of times (me running in, turning into an ice block and then dying a few seconds later), with other people also dying left and right; then everybody abandoned the instance.

I looked up the basic strategy for the fight to better understand what had happened and to be honest it sounds way too complicated for a pug even on normal. For example when people get turned into blocks of ice, others are supposed to break them out within seconds or the frozen person dies (like I did). As if that's going to happen with a bunch of randoms!

I guess those bonus rewards will remain unclaimed.

28/04/2018

Favourite Classes: Oathbound Paladin (3/3)

When my pet tank changed his main from Guardian Fighter to Oathbound Paladin I scoffed a little at this turn towards the "flavour of the month". In no other game had I ever seen a class that was this overpowered. Nothing ever seemed to be able to hurt him, yet at the same time he still did way more damage as a tank than I ever managed to do on my healer. I also remember watching a video of two OPs in an epic dungeon whose defensive abilities were caught in some sort of recursive loop so that the boss basically killed itself just by trying to hit them (though in fairness, I think this has been fixed since then). Still, how is that good game balance?

What eventually prompted me to roll a pally of my own was actually a desire to try out a different healing style, since I generally love healing in MMOs but had found the cleric sorely lacking. Fun fact: I actually still don't know whether pally healing is any good, because I have yet to take her into any content where healing would really be required.

But I can't deny it: just levelling as a hugely overpowered class was a lot of fun. I was kind of slow at killing things, sure, but the sheer level of indestructibleness was amazing. I could actually do quests that would (badly) sync me up to 70 because my character was so robust that it didn't matter that the level sync was poor. When I ran into a heroic encounter, I could just run in and start it regardless of other people in the area - lack of dps would potentially make it a struggle to complete it on my own, but I never had to worry about dying to elite mobs, even in crappy levelling gear (and once someone starts, other people are often all too happy to join in). In Icewind Dale I even soloed heroic encounters (albeit very slowly) that none of my other characters could take on solo to this day.

Yeah, sometimes the lack of dps feels tiresome, but I've always been a fan of slow and steady, and no other class in the game holds as steady as the Oathbound Paladin.

23/04/2018

Favourite Classes: Control Wizard (2/3)

Unlike the Great Weapon Fighter, it wasn't love at first sight with the Control Wizard and me. In fact, I originally thought that their movement animation with their weapon (orb) out looked really weird and off-putting!

However, seeing other players play this class changed my mind about it. Their range of AoE abilities in particular was awe-inspiring both in terms of their animations and their effectiveness, ranging from the summoning of chaotic maelstroms to lightning and blizzards, with enemies getting knocked every which way with every cast.

Like with the GWF, I was pleased to find the class easy to get into as well. The tab ability simply offering a fourth encounter slot (with a modifier) was as straightforward as it gets, and the clearly themed abilities were easy enough to figure out for me to create a serviceable build even without a guide. I did occasionally find myself struggling with survivability, but simply trading one damaged-focused encounter power for a more control-focused one usually did the trick.

I can't imagine that running around on my Control Wizard and AoEing down enemies would ever get old. I still love Shard of the Endless Avalanche for example, aka "the purple ball", even though it's a pain to handle and I had to unslot it ages ago, but the concept of literally bowling my enemies over is just too much fun. Even without it, it's a great feeling to watch whole packs of mobs alternately get stunned and damaged to the point where this character was my first damage dealer that could run without a healing companion because the mobs could barely touch her anyway. Large single enemies with a lot of hit points or control immunities remain a bit of a pain though.

21/04/2018

Favourite Classes: Great Weapon Fighter (1/3)

Now that I have a character of every class (though my Scourge Warlock isn't 70 yet), it's clear that I like some of them a lot more than others. I can identify three favourites who clearly stand apart from the rest - though I'm not sure how I would rank them against each other, which is why I'll simply talk about them in the order in which I "discovered" them.

The Great Weapon Fighter first caught my eye for its aesthetics. While the spell effects in Neverwinter are as flashy as in other fantasy MMOs, most of its combat animations still struck me as relatively down to earth. Not so with the GWF: they swing their two-handed weapons with ridiculous speed considering that those swords are as tall as their wielders, and the class's idle pose with weapon drawn has them balance the giant two-hander casually on their shoulder while only supporting it with one hand. There's something... anime about it, and it appealed to me even though I'm not usually a big fan of fighter-type classes.

While playing, I soon discovered that the GWF's tab ability also followed a delightfully simple to learn pattern of building and spending, and even better: every time you become "Unstoppable" by spending (which is often!), you also become immune to control effects for the duration, relieving you of the need to dodge annoying knockdowns and the like.

Finally, they are just easy to play regardless. I don't think I've ever looked up a guide for the class, and yet despite of this my own GWF has always done decent enough damage in any content I've taken her to. I'm sure she's far from optimised, but there seems to be no real way to go entirely wrong with the class - unlike with my rogue for example, who was a real pain to play for a long time until I looked up a guide and learned about various ability synergies that had definitely not been obvious to me before then.

15/04/2018

Cleric Life

I didn't used to pay that much attention to him because I rarely did his quests, but lately I've been doing so more often and I've got to say: the cleric NPC in the stronghold is hilarious. As a cleric main I can really relate to his jadedness! "I wish he'd just give me tasks I can do by myself" indeed. "I'd be... grateful?" That question mark at the end just kills it. In an unusual twist for Neverwinter, the voice actor does a really great job as well. (Though actually, all the stronghold NPCs are pretty well done.)

13/04/2018

Cyclical

I'm starting to see a pattern in the way I play Neverwinter:

I come back after a bit of a break, usually to check out some new content, but maybe just to continue working on an existing campaign that I haven't finished yet.

I enjoy myself, and since there is usually a limit to how much you can do to progress a single character in a single day, I find myself thinking: "Hm, might as well spend some time on working on this other thing on my alt as well!"

The next day is similar, and before I know it I'm back to logging and playing multiple alts each day.

I get so caught up in progressing all of them at the same time that every play session takes longer and longer until things start to feel like a chore; eventually I burn out and need a break.

I'm never lacking for things to do in Neverwinter - if anything it sometimes feels like there's too much to do to keep up with casually!

08/04/2018

Lockbox Tutorial

Last night I played a lowbie character for the first time in months. Now, the game's always had this box of goodies that you get for free and that levels up with you for a while, while spitting out some simple items such as scrolls of identification and injury kits every couple of levels to help the new player along. That's not new.

What was new to me however, was that upon hitting level 20 I suddenly received three "Shimmering Lockboxes", highlighted by a voiced tutorial that told me to buy keys for them! I did check the Zen store and the keys were actually free; clearly the idea is just to make people use the interface. Then you open them, and what do you know, they contain a few things that are actually very useful to a new player, such as a free stone of health and a green quality mount.

That means lockboxes are good and well worth your time, right? Hrm.

I'm usually not someone who minds lockboxes very much, provided they are optional and don't award anything too powerful, but even I have to say that trying to lure new players into buying keys by making them open a bunch of rigged "trial lockboxes" that are guaranteed to award something nice is a whole new level of skeevy.

06/04/2018

Finding My Confidence

Neverwinter's gear progression just to keep up with every new story module is pretty unforgiving. I never have whatever's considered "the good stuff" at any given time and always just wear whatever gear Cryptic has decided to make accessible through a vendor most recently in order to help people get caught up. Combine that with my main being a cleric (never the most fun class to solo), and I have reason to want to go into every new module with my pet tank by my side (never mind the incentive of simply wanting to play with him). Whenever we get separated while playing new content - even if it's only briefly - I soon end up calling for help, because while I can just about stay alive I'm finding it very hard and tedious to kill anything on my own.

In addition, I have many bad memories of running into gear walls on my alts. I still remember being unable to finish the lair in the witches' area in Sharandar on my rogue a long time ago - there was this one group of six mobs or so next to a cauldron that I just couldn't kill, eventually forcing me to give up and come back another day. On my hunter ranger I remember idling next to the demon spawn spots for the Maze Engine daily, waiting for someone else to come by and start it, because on my own it was a fifty-fifty chance of me just dying instead of successfully fending off the demons. It wasn't that long ago either that I had to re-think my control wizard's build because she kept dying while trying to start the dailies in Icewind Dale.

Now admittedly I overcame those challenges eventually, but I realised that fear of the fights being too tough has certainly been holding me back when it comes to newer content. Not only have none of my alts completed any of the campaigns past Underdark, but my main also still has lots of them unfinished, from times when my pet tank's interest had waned and I was too afraid to go back and try tackling anything on my own. It was only this week that I pulled myself together and decided to visit Bryn Shander again for the first time in one and a half years to progress that Storm King's Thunder campaign that I had abandoned not even halfway through. And what do you know... it went OK. Things died reasonably quickly and I found myself thinking that probably even some of my alts would do alright versus these dailies nowadays. It's just like the saying goes: once bitten, twice shy.

04/04/2018

Angler of the Soshenstar

I don't know what possessed me this weekend, but for some reason I decided to go to Soshenstar River and do some fishing, something I still hadn't even tried in Chult before then. I didn't know what purpose it was going to serve, I just wanted to do it.

It didn't turn out to be very useful (the fish can be traded for Chultan riches, but over an hour spent fishing didn't really make me particularly wealthy), but by the time I had used up all the lures that I had accumulated while questing, I had managed to catch one of every fish available, which earned me a new achievement and title. I call that a win I guess?

02/04/2018

Elemental Not-So-Evil

I haven't done much in any of the Elemental Evil zones in a long while, mostly because I never liked them, but I actually liked them even less after the revamp that was supposed to make them more fun. At one point I ran most of my alts through Spinward Rise for the artifact weapon awarded at the end of that, but with better gear cheaply available on the auction house now, even that has become redundant.

Last night I decided to finally give Drowned Shore another go on my rogue, if only for the associated boons, and was pleasantly surprised! First off, doing these zones at 70 eliminates most of the annoyances caused by the dense mob packs, as you can (near) one-shot everything anyway. More interestingly though, it appears that Cryptic gave the quests another makeover at some point that I previously missed, so all those annoying quests that made you re-run the same lair two or three times are gone. I think the entire zone didn't require me to do more than fifteen quests or so now.

Easiest boons ever? (Though still a bit boring.)

28/03/2018

7 of 8!

That's my guardian figher at 70, which only leaves the scourge warlock!


I originally created this character to play on stream with my friend Traitine, but then we ended up only playing a single session together before he was like: "Yeaaah, this game is not for me." So eventually I just levelled her up on my own.

She'd been lingering in the low sixties for ages, but with the recent smoothing out of the 60-70 curve I thought I'd play around a bit to see how much of  a difference it made and she flew right through those last few levels.

Unfortunately I can't claim to have found the class very fun, and I can't blame my pet tank for rerolling to paladin now. Presumably guardian fighters have their role to play at endgame, but while levelling - especially after having levelled a paladin first - the experience just kept making me think of a paladin with many of the fun features removed. Sorry, GF fans!

26/03/2018

19/03/2018

Experience Overflow

Overflow experience is a feature that I've liked from the start, however at level 70 it used to take quite long to level up. At 1,785,000 XP a pop, it took me quite a few play sessions to level up even once, and for that much effort the rewards often felt lacklustre.

Since Lost City of Omu was released, I noticed that I was suddenly levelling up much more quickly. At one point I managed to get three level-up rewards in a single play session! A quick Google search revealed that as part of this latest update, Crypic smoothed out the XP curve from 60-70, which apparently also reduced the XP requirement to level up at 70 to a measly 100,000 XP. That's less than 6% of the old requirement!

And I'm absolutely loving it. It makes playing at max level feel so much more rewarding, even more so as you have a chance of getting the 30,000 rough astral diamonds reward multiple times a day if you're lucky. For me that's a considerable cash flow addition!

Of course, knowing Cryptic's modus operandi whenever it has been too easy to earn AD in the past, I expect that this will be nerfed again soon, but I'll definitely enjoy it while it lasts.

17/03/2018

Iteration

One thing I've found fascinating over time is watching the way Cryptic iterates on its modules. If you look at the first three "expansions" for example, you can clearly see them refining the daily area concept with each release - Icewind Dale remains one of my favourite maps to play around on to this day.

However, every time they tried something very different, it didn't go down too well. I mean, I liked Tyranny of Dragons and the idea of a campaign that you can do while levelling (even if the associated level scaling was screwy), but based on them never repeating the experiment, I suspect it wasn't too well received. Elemental Evil with its level cap increase was a disaster for all kinds of reasons, and Underdark deciding to completely decouple the game's grind from its story... let's just say I probably wasn't the only one who noped right out of that one after playing through the whole story in a single evening.

Lately we've returned to a more traditional "daily area" model, however with the exception of Chult's "six times weekly" patrol missions, there's been a general move away from traditional daily quests coupled with a strong push towards forcing players to log in and play every single day by making it impossible to pick up several days worth of dailies just to "binge complete" them all at once on the weekend. This is a shame because that's exactly how I like to play through the old areas. It's no coincidence that I have yet to complete any campaign after Elemental Evil on any of my alts.

12/03/2018

The Merchant Prince's Folly

This skirmish that came with the Swords of Chult module is possibly the best one Cryptic has created so far. My pet tank and I have been running it a lot to gain the associated campaign currency (called totems) and it's always good fun.

It lives up to the format's promise of short and fast action, but manages to not completely limit itself to combat. I'm always keen to be the first one to rouse the guards or repair the weapons in the courtyard, or to raise barricades outside, because it makes me feel so much more useful than my piddly cleric dps.

The only thing I'm ambivalent about is the giant T-Rex outside. Since it would take most groups a while to kill it, the common tactic seems to be for one person to lure the big dino away into a corner while the rest of the party completes the escort, thereby increasing the group's chances of finishing with a gold medal. The only problem with this is that if the T-Rex isn't far enough away, it likes to keep people in combat, and while in combat you can't click the portal to exit. I've previously gotten stuck inside with the dino blocking the portal to the point where I had to hit Alt+F4 to get out. If there is a better way of escaping, I don't know what it is.

08/03/2018

Fashion Bag!

I'm making a serious habit out of getting super excited about user interface changes and quality of life features while totally missing the actual content of a new module, or at least not getting to the latter until much later. So of course, upon logging in after the release of Lost City of Omu, I got super excited about the new fashion bag!

I'm still not sure there is even much of a point to fashion these days when you can just make your normal gear look any way you want, but fact is that it's still a system that exists. Sometimes I still get fashion items for free or as rewards, and unlike my pet tank I hate destroying or leaving things, so I've always dutifully stashed them away in my bank while simultaneously feeling bad about the space they were taking up, because I didn't really care about them that much.

Finally this is no longer going to be a problem, as we now have a separate inventory tab to put a whole bunch of fashion items away for free. Despite of me not using them much, the freed up bank space alone really excited me, and to be honest, not having to worry about where to store new fashion in the future might even encourage me to pick up a few more such items and maybe even use them on occasion. Like with the introduction of the stable, the secret to making people want more of something that they can only use one at a time is to not make it a chore to have more than one.

20/01/2018

Hunts

I've been holding off on writing about hunts because I didn't even understand how they work for ages. Unfortunately the system is unusually poorly explained in-game. Fortunately Neverwinter Unblogged's guide came to the rescue.

The basic idea of a hunt is that you spawn a mini-boss with a lure and this boss then has a chance of dropping some nice loot.

However, to trade for a lure you need both a trophy and a T-Rex fang. Trophies have a chance of dropping from rare mobs, which in turn have a chance of spawning in various spots on the map where the regular version of that mob usually spawns. So you could find a sabertooth in a tiger spawn point for example. A T-Rex is the rare version of a regular Tyrannosaur, of which there are only ever a couple on the map. Both the regular version and the rare T-Rex are incredibly tedious to kill if you don't have high dps.

So the result is that if you want to participate in hunting, you need to run around the map killing mobs for a chance of getting a rare spawn, kill that for a chance of getting a trophy, and use that for the chance of getting a drop from the summoned mini-boss.

Unfortunately the jungle is an aggravating place to be and the whole system is just one layer of randomness after another. As a more casual player I can only give it a thumbs-down.

13/01/2018

Carry On

I've mentioned before that the huge number of attributes that a character can have in Neverwinter creates huge min-maxing potential. I haven't played another MMO where there is such a massive difference between characters not just based on class and skill but also based on gear.

A good example was when my pet tank and I queued for the Merchant's Prince's Folly skirmish today (small group PvE content). We could immediately tell that someone in the group was doing massive dps based on how quickly we were carving through the instance, and indeed, at the end the statistics screen revealed that our great weapon fighter (for some reason it's almost always a great weapon fighter) had done more than 38 million damage compared to my less than two. That means that he did more than 1800% of my own damage! And it's not as if I was just standing around and not trying.

It can be a bit discouraging sometimes to see these huge performance gaps, but at the same time I have to hand it to the community that at least in the sort of PvE content that I tend to do, nobody ever bothers you about bad performance. More often than not I tend to just be grateful to those players for carrying people like me to victory without complaint.

06/01/2018

Simril Success

Despite of my earlier complaints, I finished this year's Winter Festival on a positive note, by achieving both of the goals that I had set myself initially, which were to earn the seasonal weapon skins for both my great weapon fighter and my paladin.

Funny thing is, I haven't even used the one for my fighter yet, because the one I used to "temporarily" turn her new artifact weapon back into a sword is actually quite nice, so I decided to just save the new skin for whenever I need to change weapons again. (ETA about two years?)

I do love my pally's new look though; I find that the sparkly theme fits the class particularly well. The only thing that disappointed me a little is how small the new appearance makes the shield look, as I always found it quite humorous to see my petite elf disappear behind a ginormous shield wall that she'd probably never even be able to carry.

03/01/2018

Fishing for Treasure

Early on while participating in this season's Winter Festival, I noticed that I would occasionally fish up "treasures" during the fishing contest. As treasures are usually what Neverwinter calls vendor trash, I didn't think too much of it.

They weren't marked as vendor trash however, so I eventually looked them up and learned that there is a vendor who trades these for various campaign currencies. He's located on a pedestal behind the daily quest giver in Twilight Tor and has a somewhat unusual-looking face, which immediately made me wonder whether he was modelled after a real person... But I still shrugged it all off - I'm generally fine just playing through the campaigns the normal way.

Then, two days before the end of the event, I learned that ten fished-up Treasures of Tiamat can be traded for one Linu's Favor, the annoying-to-come-by campaign currency that has stopped me from officially completing the Tyranny of Dragons campaign to this day. And this option has been in game since 2016???

I went on an emergency fishing spree on my main, but even with the top fishing pole it took forever to get enough of the right treasures, so I eventually gave up on it again. I briefly considered buying a few sabiki rigs from the Zen store (special lures that increase your chance of getting a good catch), but then told myself that this wasn't much less "paying to win" than just buying full campaign completion.

Maybe I'll remember to start fishing on my main in time next winter...

01/01/2018

Twilight Rage

I've been spending some time at the Winter Festival this season after giving it a pass last year and it's still surprising amounts of fun! But the sheer bugginess of the Twilight Run has sent me into a rage more than once.

Okay, level sync getting removed when you collect one of the bonus baggies is just funny and doesn't affect the run itself.

Lag and rubberbanding making you miss objectives is super annoying but hardly new.

However, what's with the gates and the quest bugging out all the time and not giving proper credit? I once managed a run where I only got 10 points for the slalom gates, and no, I had not managed to miss every single one of them bar one.

The quest getting stuck entirely is even worse - most often I had it suddenly stop at one of the rally gates and then just complete after the run is finished, but twice it also managed to bug out at the very end, saying I had failed to reach the finish line and staying that way until I did another full run for zero points (at that stage, even running over a bonus bag would give me nothing) to run over the finish line a second time.