New Sharandar Episode 2

This week saw the release of the second sub-zone of New Sharandar. Mostly it's more of the same slightly awkward questing, but they changed the tuning now so that things are actually somewhat hard to kill again.

Also, for some reason it's apparently crash-tastic right now. On our first attempt at the new large heroic encounter as a guild group, the game crashed for four out of five people simultaneously, and we went on to suffer more crashes throughout our play session.


Sewers Most Fowl

I quite enjoyed the new April Fool's event that Cryptic added last year and was happy to see it return, but as my focus is currently on other MMOs I didn't really plan to grind the dailies again, plus at first glance it didn't look like anything had changed about the event. That was until I learned that this year, they also added an event dungeon called Sewers Most Fowl, in which you get to play as chickens in a group PvE context.

I did it with my guildies and it was great fun. If you enjoy this kind of thing, I can only recommend going in blind with friends and allowing yourself to be surprised - the event is on for another three days or so. Otherwise you can just watch me and my guildies bumble through it in this video:


TheLazyPeon Stumped by Neverwinter

TheLazyPeon is a well-known MMO YouTuber. The other day he released a video compilation of snippets from "failed" MMO reviews, as in games he wanted to review but gave up on for one reason or another. Most of them turned out to be indie or early access titles of some kind, so I was very surprised to see Neverwinter in there as well.

Basically Peon got bored during the starter experience on two different characters (which I can't entirely blame him for - I've said before that in an inverse of most MMORPGs, the early levels are some of the worst in Neverwinter) and then decided to try and jump straight into endgame group content by buying a level 70 character boost.

This caused him to run into an interesting problem however: 70 isn't actually the level cap anymore, there's no PvP before the cap, and most of the higher-level dungeons require some kind of unlock through completing quest content, so he still didn't have access to any queues other than the levelling ones, and those didn't seem to want to pop (I'm guessing at least in part because he was queued as dps). He eventually gave up in disgust. I always find it interesting how players manage to navigate themselves into "dead ends" in an MMO, and that was new one to me.


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.