New Sharandar Impressions

Not a huge fan of the new campaign progression UI looking like the Redeemed Citadel one.

While the graphical fidelity in New Sharandar seems to be improved, it actually looks somewhat duller to me visually, as the increased "realism" has resulted in more muted colours for example. I liked how the older, brighter palette gave the forest a more magical feel.

More randomised quests of which you can only pick up and do two at a time = slightly meh for group play as you rarely end up with the same ones.

I guess it's intentional that this content is a bit easier again after Avernus, but at least the heroic encounters feel slightly ridiculous at the moment. The small ones finish so quickly that it's almost impossible to participate if you aren't already on top of one when it spawns, and even the zone's BHE gets obliterated in less than five minutes.


Farewell to Old Sharandar

One thing I didn't immediately realise when the new Sharandar module was announced was that this also meant that the old Sharandar was going away: currency obsolete, zones and quests gone, campaign removed. I still don't know why Cryptic felt the need to do this to be honest, as there are precedents for having more than one version of the same zone in the game, e.g. Helm's Hold the levelling zone and Reclamation Rock the Elemental Evil zone, which are both the same place but at different points in time.

I'm not too torn up about it right now, seeing how I completed the old Sharandar campaign on eight different characters and have plenty of memories of the place. But I'm not generally a fan of removing content from MMOs, and occasionally I do get all sentimental and experience cravings to revisit.

For example one of the new Sharandar quests mentions that Kehl Skywatcher now has a plaza named after her and is missed by everyone or something like that. This then made me go "oh no, did she die" and suddenly I wanted to do nothing more than be back in the Witch Fen and be asked to disperse magical fog or torch giant toadstools.


Combat Change Mayhem

As mentioned previously, mod 20 was supposed to bring about some major gameplay changes (once again), but in a somewhat surprising move, Cryptic decided to just drop those on us early last week and without warning, with the actual new content being scheduled to come out later.

As is definitely a pattern whenever Cryptic changes the combat and/or stats, everything's kind of screwed up for the moment. My guildies and I did a Castle Never for the weekly challenge and suffered so many deaths, it was funny. You could argue that it's not a bad thing to tune the content up so that people can't just ignore or skip mechanics quite so easily anymore, but our group was between 30 and 40k item level, while the recommended minimum for that dungeon is 20k. No idea how a party with that would get through any of those fights.

Also, while my dps as a healer was never the greatest it's even worse now. I'll concede that healing itself felt better though, as damage was taken more consistently so that I could get into more of a rhythm healing it up.

On the plus side, Avernus appears to have been nerfed into the ground and we had a good time doing some hunts there. Just gotta sit tight and wait for Cryptic to rebalance things within the next couple of weeks/months - as usual.


Aasimar Unlocked

This week I finally unlocked the last of the Redeemed Citadel rewards on my main, which means that I now have access to the Aasimar race. Too bad I like all my existing characters as they are and see little incentive to roll yet another alt until they release another class.

Some of the gear rewards from the milestones were also pretty good - for example I hadn't upgraded my neck and belt since Ravenloft. Sadly the main and off-hand remain un-upgradeable for me though as doing so requires drops from the higher-level Avernus hunts, something I just can't be bothered with at this point.


Return to Sharandar

Only a few days after I complained about the lack of information about the upcoming module 20, I logged in after maintenance to find it being advertised on the launcher.

"Sharandar" continues the theme of naming confusion started with Avernus, as it's the name of the zone where Neverwinter's very first mod, Fury of the Feywild, took place.

My first reaction was actually to chuckle and think to myself that they must be running out of ideas to start revisiting older zones like that, but then I realised: Who cares? Fury of the Feywild was one of my favourite modules and I'll be quite happy to revisit the elves, so bring it on.


Content Drought?

Today it hit me that it's now been more than six months since the release of the Avernus module. This is unprecedented, as until now Cryptic has always been very good about releasing new content every four months or so. I always considered the sheer amount of free content one of the game's strengths, even if there are other parts of its business model I don't like.

Looking back at their 2020 road map posted last year, we should have heard more about module 20 by now. Instead, the Redeemed Citadel event appears to have been extended indefinitely and as far as mod 20 goes, all the talk has only been about upcoming gameplay changes, with nothing about actual new content. Wonder what's going on there?


Castle Ravenloft Conquered

It's pretty traditional for Cryptic to include a new dungeon and/or trial (raid) with each new module. From what I can tell these are actually always pretty inventive and well done, but since the difficulty is tuned for players at the very top-end, I tend to not see them until a few years later, once several new tiers of gear allow you to overpower the fights a bit.

I've been pretty stern with my guildies about not even wanting to bother while a dungeon is still hard (too many bad experiences), but today I allowed them talk me into running Tomb of the Nine Gods (released in 2017) and Castle Ravenloft (released in 2018). Tomb was actually pretty fun and not too tough anymore except for the last boss being somewhat manic. Castle Ravenloft was still tricky though, especially the last boss. We persevered though and eventually downed him after a number of tries. By that point, everyone apart from the tank had died 20+ times. Still, it was an adventure with friends and we enjoyed figuring out the tactics together, so it was ultimately fun. I uploaded our final fight against Strahd to YouTube:

I wouldn't want to go again any time soon though.


Lazy Citadel Redemption

The Redeemed Citadel event continues, and both the second and third milestones have come and gone. After how much grinding I did during the first one, my motivation has dropped off sharply. Me and all my guildies have bought the Zen market item to unlock the event permanently, so there's no rush to complete it in time - and since you gain credit for gaining Zariel's favour towards multiple milestones at once, the "optimal" thing in terms of effort vs. reward at this point is to wait for the fourth milestone to begin and then work on progressing them all in one go.

That said, I think we're also getting a bit tired of the Avernus Wastes in general. Usually we'd only spend a month or two in a new module, but due to this event we've been grinding mobs on the same map for more than four months now. At this point we only tend to meet up once a week to do a couple of the weekly dungeons but by now even that is getting quite tiresome to be honest.


Good Refund Experience

I've done a fair amount of complaining about Cryptic on this blog, so I think it's only fair to also give them credit for doing things right when it happens.

Last week I meant to buy a bundle of Zen, but after the transaction had seemingly gone through, I received an error message saying that it couldn't be processed and when I checked my balance, no new Zen had been added. This led to me trying two more times, just to run into the same error again and again. Ten minutes later I suddenly received three email notifications at once, showing that all three purchase attempts had in fact been successful after all and I'd just spent more than £100 on Zen. Aieee!

I wasn't sure whether this sort of virtual currency was refundable at all, but still decided to open a ticket to explain my problem. Working in e-commerce myself, I'm actually quite understanding of this kind of glitch; the question is how the company deals with customer contacts about it afterwards.

And what do you know, I had a response within a few hours and they happily refunded the duplicate transactions without any fuss. So thanks, Cryptic!


Legacy Campaigned Out

Working on various (legacy) campaigns on my alts is one of my favourite things to do in Neverwinter. So I was pleased that Cryptic ran a lot of double campaign currency events over the past couple of months - in fact they covered all the legacy campaigns during that time: first a week of Sharandar, then Dread Ring, then Icewind Dale and so on.

However, this proved once again that you can have too much of a good thing: After eight weeks or so of grinding campaigns like a maniac on multiple alts, I'm just terribly burnt out. (Even with double currency and a signet of patronage, nobody should try to complete the entirety of the Chult campaign several times in a single week. Just saying.)

And thus, I once again find myself drifting away from Neverwinter for a bit to recover. Somehow, that's how it always goes.