Dearth of XP

Since my pet tank has several weeks of holiday right now, he decided to binge on Neverwinter a bit by speed-levelling a paladin alt. I was kind of surprised to hear that he hit a massive wall at level sixty.

All of my own characters have levelled slowly, over a longer period of time and with a lot of experience from invoking and professions contributing to the process. While I was aware that the amount of XP required ramped up considerably from sixty to seventy, I never had difficulties acquiring it.

Apparently things are very different if you are trying to push through that level bracket quickly. My pet tank's pally was only level 63 by the time he finished Reclamation Rock (the second of the four new zones). Even though he tried to pad his experience gains from pretty much every possible source (dailies, dungeons, skirmishes, PvP etc.), he quickly ran out of things to do. Right now he's still only 68, has finished all the new zones and has done about two hundred vigilance tasks in Fiery Pit alone (since he found that one the least painful to keep grinding in). That's a pretty harsh levelling curve.


Free Bags

My new(ish) control wizard alt forced me to remind myself of where I could get some free bags for her. You can get three for each character, and I was surprised that I didn't find a clear guide on how to get them.

The first is the Adventurer's Satchel you start with, which has thirty bag slots.

The second is the Adventurer's Knapsack with eighteen slots, which you get from completing the quest "Close to the Crown" in Blacklake District. I think you also have to complete the quest you get from Sergeant Knox immediately after coming from the tutorial on Sleeping Dragon Bridge first, the one to check on the Crown of Neverwinter. That story then continues via Private Hathidon at the entrance to Blacklake District: "Seeking a Suspect" leads to "Hot on the Trail", which then leads to "Close to the Crown".

The third bag is the Adventurer's Pack with twelve slots, and requires you to complete most - though not all - of the quests in Neverwinter Graveyard. The key quest is called "Wheels Within Wheels" and is given by Harper Windle. To unlock it, you first have to do a bunch of others from the other NPCs. I believe that all of these are required, but it's possible that I did one or two that weren't because many of them were close together and I didn't want to have to run back every time just to test if that one quest alone would unlock more.

From Doomguide Volahk: "The Missing Doomguides" and "The Dead and the Dying". "A Doomguide's Duty" is not required, however it comes immediately after one of the required quests, doesn't take long and rewards a profession back, so it's also worth doing.

From Doomguide Orran: "Rest in Peace", "Thinning the Horde" and "Red Rituals".

From Christopher Chettlebell: "Correcting History", "Dragon Attack", "History Lessons", "Opening the Way" and "Clockwork Guild Tomb".

From Captain Zemmer: "Mercenary Nature"

From Harper Windle: "Enter the Dragons", "Artifact Snatch" and finally "Wheels Within Wheels".


Artifacts From Alts

"Where the hell do I get more artifacts?" is a question that has been on my mind ever since they added all those secondary artifact slots. I've never seen one drop in the world, and I certainly didn't want to start opening lockboxes in hopes of getting one. Eventually I gave in and bought a couple of green ones from another player, because having multiple empty gear slots felt embarrassing.

As it turns out, apparently there's been a quest in the game for a while, given by the rugged drow at the back of the inn in Caer-Konig, which rewards you with an artifact for your class. Unlocking this quest just requires you to get a second alt to Icewind Dale, which I'd never bothered to do despite of having multiple max-level alts. The artifact you get from this quest can then be claimed from a vendor on all of your alts! So if you do it with three alts of different classes, they can all have three different artifacts.

Cryptic added a quest to direct you towards this source of gear only in a recent patch, but I'm really glad they did. Now I just have to get my pet tank to run my alts through it - while my cleric was able to solo it, it took forever and was a serious pain in the arse. (Beating that beholder at the end took me half an hour.)


Well of Dragons

Since my pet tank and I finally managed to unlock the Well of Dragons dailies, we've been doing them whenever we can, in order to work on our campaign progression. I haven't been impressed.

Up until Tyranny of Dragons, I felt that every new campaign was an improvement or at least a fresh new take on the way the game does dailies. But the Well of Dragons... meh.

Scenery-wise it feels like a rehashed Dread Ring with dragons instead of zombies, coloured brown instead of grey. The dailies can take freaking forever if you happen to get a bad set, about three or four times as long as a round of Dread Ring, and the heroic encounters don't seem to draw much interest.

I wonder though how much of this is the fault of Elemental Evil's level scaling and increase in difficulty. After all, I used to love Icewind Dale, but since the level increase questing there has been pretty damn tedious as well.


Summer Festival

I was never really playing when the Summer Festival came around before, so I came back from a week-long holiday to be confronted with the start of this (to me) new event. Unlike most events in Neverwinter, it actually has a whole map dedicated to it (even if it's not very large).

The activities on offer there consist of silly fun like throwing water balloons at people, herding chickens or picking flowers. It's quite nice to enjoy more non-violent tasks in an MMO for a change, though there is also the option to kill trolls and kobolds for those who are so inclined.

The only downside in my opinion is that most of the events are tied to one of those 15-minute long "contests", which means that doing the daily quest to participate in three different activities can take up to three quarters of an hour. And while throwing water balloons at people is somewhat fun, it's not necessarily fun for that long.

As I'm not interested in any of the rewards, I don't think that I'll be coming back repeatedly, but it's nice to have seen the thing at least.


Survived the Vigilance Tasks!

Nearly three months after I first complained about the annoying design of Elemental Evil's "Vigilance Tasks", my pet tank and I finally completed the last of the four new zones that feature them. It's not that they take so long that it would really require three months to get through them all, but we found them so tedious that we kept having trouble finding the will to continue.

I still think that the way they intentionally keep sending you back to the same areas to kill the same mobs for a slightly different reason is an example of absolutely terrible design. It's easy to imagine the whole thing feeling very different if it had followed a daily structure similar to the previous campaign updates instead. Also, the rehashed maps were more of a downer than I expected. I'm planning to write a little "mini review" of each zone later.

Many thanks to Joseph Skyrim's Neverwinter Online Vigilance Quest Guide, which we found very helpful. When you're in a group, some of his recommendations don't apply the same way, but for the most part we found it easy to work out the differences. (E.g. a "simple" drop quest could become tedious in a group because the way drops work in groups can make things quite awkward. On the other hand something that was marked as difficult for soloers because of particularly tough mobs was usually comparatively quick and easy for a duo.)


Gameplay Problems with Elemental Evil

I've mostly been complaining about the awkwardness of the level scaling and the tediousness of the quests that came with the Elemental Evil level increase, but this post on Neverwinter Unblogged offers insight into why the community has many more reasons to be displeased with this module. Basically, character power has been decreased, reasons to grind have been increased - all in all it's a very obvious attempt to push people towards the cash shop more forcefully. I'm very much in favour of financially supporting a game I enjoy, but expecting people to spend literally hundreds of dollars if they want to gear up even a single character is not a monetisation model I want to support.


Buying from the Auction House

In any previous MMO I've played, I've generally avoided buying things from the auction house. It tends to be cheaper and more fun to acquire whatever it is I want through gameplay myself. It's also a piece of advice that's frequently given to new MMO players: avoid the auction house, it will just drain you of money.

Recently, I'm starting to think that this piece of advice might not actually apply to Neverwinter. My painful quest for an item required to unlock the next boon from the Tyranny of Dragons campaign ended with me realising that it didn't bind on pick-up and that I could actually find it for a very reasonable price on the auction house.

Likewise, my latest alt is once again gaining levels way too quickly purely from invoking, which means that her gear has fallen far behind every time I want to take her out to quest again. Yet on the auction house you can buy levelling blues for pretty much any class and gear slot for two-digit amounts! (Astral diamonds are precious, but even a low level character will gain three-digit amounts of them purely from invoking every day, so this is incredibly cheap.) It's really a much better use of your time to spend that minuscule amount than to struggle with every combat while you wait for an appropriate drop or quest reward.


Unicorn Butthole

I'm not usually one for crude humour, but let's just say that being stuck in a massive lagspike that lets you inspect your mount mid-leap in ways you usually wouldn't be able to (because the action combat limits your camera options) reveals a surprising amount of detail on the unicorn mount...