Pack Sale

This week Cryptic had a 25% sale on all its "packs" for Neverwinter, combined with the news that they are now available in the Zen store. (Up until now you could only buy them through the Perfect World website.)

I previously bought the Knight of the Feywild Pack and allowed this sale to tempt me into adding the Guardian of Neverwinter Pack to my collection. I'd already been thinking about getting additional companions and mounts for some of my alts (I love my sparkly unicorn, but it doesn't seem quite right for my great weapon fighter for example...) and this seemed like a good opportunity. The packs aren't cheap, but nothing in this game is cheap - things are pretty much either free or expensive. Getting another rank three mount and purple quality wolf companion for all characters on my account (including future ones) just can't be beaten when mounts and companions of equal quality and which are limited to a single character can come in at 30-40 euros a pop.

Note that the "Medium Adventurer's Horse" from the Guardian pack is a rank 3 mount despite of its blue quality level. (Thanks to Telwyn for pointing this out to me ages ago.)


Neverwinter Unblogged & Gear

Via Joseph Skyrim I found the site Neverwinter Uncensored/Unblogged. It's nice to read a bit about the views of players who are more dedicated to the game.

This article by "j0Shi" really drove home the point of how big a gap there is in this game between hardcore (in terms of investment) and casual players. He mentions going into a skirmish with his 4.5k item level control wizard and having to solo the final boss as the rest of the group was unable to kill anything or even survive, apparently because none of them had more than 75k hitpoints or any purple quality gear.

For comparison, my devoted cleric who's been max level for about a month has an item level of just above 1600 (her gear mostly consists of greens, as I have yet to see a level 70 blue drop out in the world) and just over 40k health. I feel like I'm playing on another planet!


Meta Humour

This past weekend I made it to the Fiery Pit for the first time. This zone actually has a short introductory quest for which you're asked to read some reports to get caught up on the current situation in the area... so of course like any good adventurer, you run around to click on all the sparkly pieces of paper on the tables without actually reading them. Then this happens (click to enlarge):

Made me laugh. I actually do read quest text most of the time, but here I certainly felt caught in the act and had to go back to re-read what I had just skimmed.


Too Hard

One of the complaints that frequently gets levelled against Elemental Evil is that while Cryptic levelled everything up to 70, mobs and content at endgame became too hard for the average player. While I've been struggling horrendously on my own and even had some issues while playing with my pet tank, I didn't want to jump to conclusions. I'm not very good at this game, and while I think that the level scaling mechanic is very wonky, that by itself is not the same as the game being too hard overall.

Now that I've been 70 for a while though, I can't help but feel that the critics are probably right. I find it pretty impossible to complete the (supposed) solo dungeons on my own, and I used to be able to do that at 60. Duoing dailies is doable, but gets tiring fairly quickly because everything has so much health. (Who thought that it was a good idea that it should take ten minutes to kill two simple frost giants?!)

It's obvious that other people are feeling the same. The big heroic encounters in Icewind Dale used to attract people like flies. Nowadays when a Beholder or giant Remorhaz come up, they stay there until the timer runs out. People just ride around them and ignore them, because who wants to attempt an epic heroic encounter when even simple mob groups out in the world are already tough enough to kill you?


More on Strongholds

On Thursday Cryptic posted an update on Strongholds to say that it's "coming summer 2015", plus some incredibly vague PR speak that seems to indicate that it will have both a PvE and a PvP side to it. ("Once the keep has been secured, guilds will have to battle against the environment as well as other players to ensure they maintain control of their lands.") It doesn't seem to feature anything like traditional MMO housing.

They also posted a video which shows people running around and fighting, apparently to save some villagers, and which makes you wonder how exactly the stronghold comes into it except as a background prop.

I like that the currently most upvoted YouTube comment on the video is: "Really? A guy on a 50% mount keeping up with the other guys? Make it realistic!"



- insert your favourite angel-themed song title here -

I can't believe I missed the fact that my rogue (who was my first character) had finally accumulated the 360 ardent coins (the ones you get on your first daily invoke and that stack indefinitely) needed to buy the purple quality angel healer companion! She was already four days past that milestone before I noticed.

Maybe having a powerful healer by her side will actually make her more interesting to play - at the moment she's definitely my weakest and least played character.


Underdark and Strongholds

A bit over a week ago, Cryptic announced that they are already working on Neverwinter's next module, called Underdark. All those Drizzt clones will finally be able to meet their long lost twin brother!

I can't blame Cryptic for wanting to look forward after how badly Elemental Evil seems to have fallen on its face (though they also emphasised that they are still working on fixing that). What I found funny was that they added - almost as a footnote! - that before Underdark, they were also going to release a module called Strongholds, which is supposed to introduce guild housing.

I mean: housing, pfft... who cares about that? Also, the name "Strongholds" amuses me greatly. Who would have thought that SWTOR would become a trendsetter?


Welcome to the New Endgame, Same as the Old Endgame

With Elemental Evil's level cap increase, Cryptic decided to boost all the old level sixty endgame areas up to seventy. I had to think about this for a while, because I'm not against repurposing old content in principle. I do however think that in Neverwinter's case this has not worked out very well for a couple of reasons:

1) Considering that the quests for places like Sharandar still pop up at level sixty and that the game offers (somewhat ineffective) level scaling, casual and returning players get suckered into thinking that they can level up in those old zones and get trounced as a result, which causes them to leave in frustration. (I actually had this problem myself to a degree.)

2) With effectively no old content left at sixty, the only way to level up by questing is by doing the new Elemental Evil zones. This means that players are funnelled into what's currently probably the worst content in the game, and may - again - cause them to leave in frustation.

3) Even for those who can cope with the new level 70 versions of the old campaigns, playing through nothing but the exact same content that they've done before just to get a couple of new rewards is bound to get boring quickly.

Also, it simply feels tedious when mobs that you used to be able to beat quite easily are now so much stronger - especially when your character is the one who's supposed to have gained power. My pet tank and I did two rounds of Icewind Dale this weekend and what used to be a fun little romp left me feeling tired and exhausted. While we never died, it took ages to kill anything, and since the mobs were so deadly, complete focus and constant dodging were required at all times.


Fighting Dragons

I've been enjoying the heroic encounters with dragons that were originally added in the Tyranny of Dragons campaign. Unlike the ones in Icewind Dale and the new Elemental Evil zones, they are not random, but on a steady, visible timer. While this could theoretically make them less interesting, it makes sense from a practical point of view since there is only one dragon per zone, and since these are not endgame areas, nobody has any reason to hang out there for long periods of time just to wait for random encounters to spawn. The dragon fights also require a healthy number of participants to go down smoothly, and the timers help to get everyone in place at the right time.

Since I'm terrible at action combat, I've been dying a lot, but it's no big deal as people are generally pretty helpful and try to revive fallen allies. And even if I get downed for good, the nearest respawn point usually isn't too far away.

The thing that fascinates me is how different the synergies of each dragon zerg are. As a very casual player I have little to no idea of what other classes and specs can do, but at times I've been on the receiving end of some absolutely incredible buffs. There was one encounter where instead of my usual frequent deaths, nothing seemed to be able to move my hitpoints at all, and another where my action points kept refilling so rapidly that I could spam my daily power pretty much non-stop. That was pretty crazy. I just wish I knew which class caused what so that I can follow them around in the future!


How to Get Your Artifact Off-Hand

I had read that you get an artifact off-hand for free when you hit level 70, but by the time I actually hit level 70 I had kind of forgotten about it again. Tonight I hit 70 on my great weapon fighter and suddenly remembered.

Several sources said that you simply get it from a quest from Sergeant Knox. Very straightforward, right? It really should be... unfortunately my great weapon fighter had hardly done any quests on her journey to 60, so talking to Sergeant Knox presented me with a list of about a dozen quests, most of them telling me to go to different low-level zones. Which one's the right one?

The answer is: the one called "Protector's Emissary". You're welcome.