I find it kind of interesting how aggro works in Neverwinter. Basically, when you pass a group of mobs at some distance, there are two stages of aggro. Stage one is the mobs turning to stare at you, which is pretty much a warning that you've come too close and that they've noticed you. If you stay in the same place, they will advance to stage two after a couple of seconds, which means actually going into combat.

When you travel around in a group this can be tricky, as the first person that runs past will make the mobs turn, and then the second person immediately gets aggro because the mobs are already alert. Yet of course it's the second person who gets the full blame for aggroing "unnecessary" mobs. It's been fun to observe this when my guildies, who are newer to the game than me and my pet tank, fall behind and end up pulling. (Usually it's me who does that.)


Artifact Gear Scares Me

A couple of weeks ago I finally got artifact weapons for my max-level alts.

Artifact gear was apparently introduced during Tyranny of Dragons (when I wasn't actively playing). It's a simple concept: Instead of continuously replacing your gear, you keep the same item but upgrade it by pouring resources of some kind into it. Many other MMOs have similar systems, and even Blizzard is planning to introduce its own version in the upcoming Legion expansion for WoW.

It sounds cool in theory, but I've not been particularly enamoured with Neverwinter's implementation. The problem is that it's just another grind in an already very grindy game. Now you don't just have to upgrade your artifacts and enchantments, but also your weapon, your off-hand, your cloak, your belt... or you can pay your way to better gear by buying lots of refinement points of course!

People like to rail against the RNG of getting upgrades from boss or chest drops, but a predictable but endless grind is not really my cup of tea either.


You've Got Mail

My pet tank signed up for the new VIP status, and one of its perks is that you can summon a mailbox any time you need it, anywhere you want. Nothing revolutionary there... however, said mailbox has a unique look and is damned cute! It looks like a mini-stronghold and the opening is a little drawbridge. D'awww!



In the Well of Dragons there is an area called the cult prison camp. There are two dailies that require you to go to this area, one to kill hostile NPCs and one to free prisoners. However as far as I can tell, these are never given on the same day.

On a day like today, where the only available daily quest is to kill enemies in the camp, this means that one arrives to the bizarre sight of the area being pretty much devoid of cultists, while sad prisoners are standing around all over the place, still shackled and with their heads bowed, looking lost. Nobody's got a quest to save them!

A guildie and I started running around and releasing them anyway. (You do not have to be on the associated quest to be able to do this.) My pet tank yelled at us for wasting time when we should have helped him hunt down the few remaining cultists instead.


Lazy Peons

As far as I can tell this doesn't serve any gameplay purpose, but I like that I can poke the guards when they are lazy.


So... Strongholds

My pet tank has been excited about this module for months, since he loves building up bases. I warned him that it probably wouldn't be all that, especially for a mini guild like ours, with only 2-4 active players.

Now it's out, and it seems that I was right. Similar to a fleet starbase in STO, a guild stronghold requires the guild members to submit various currencies and resources to upgrade it. While the basic stronghold is free and the first building can be put up pretty much immediately, the second one already looks like it would take us about a hundred days or more to build, based on the limited amount of currency you can earn per character per day.

On the plus side, it's a new and pretty sizeable adventure map, and the smaller heroic encounters on it can be completed even by our tiny group. It does make me wonder how busy this map could potentially get in a large guild.


Happy Patch Day

The new Strongholds module officially launched yesterday. Cryptic has a very old-school approach to patch days, which is to say that the game never comes back up in time or actually works when it's supposed to. First they had to keep extending the scheduled maintenance, and then when the servers finally came back up, they immediately crashed again.

The game also has this weird thing going on where the launcher doesn't actually seem to do nearly as much patching as it should. Which is to say that the game told me it was fully patched up and ready to play, I logged in, and the first loading screen took ten minutes while the game was telling me that it was patching another 1100 files... better not be in a hurry to invoke!


Levelling Leadership by Recruiting

If you don't buy any green or better quality profession assets from the auction house or random packs, levelling up the people to actually run your profession missions is pretty time consuming. My characters generally have six of the nine available profession slots unlocked, so if I want to run six high-level leadership missions, I need six rank three minions. Since each of them requires four guards to be trained, and each guard requires four mercenaries, that adds up to a whopping 96 mercenaries that need to be recruited.

With my control wizard, I decided to plan ahead for once and initially dedicated all her time and resources to recruiting. It's not like the low level missions give great rewards anyway. By the time I'd recruited all 96 of my mercenaries and converted them into 24 guards, she was up to leadership level ten from doing that alone. Sadly that's not high enough yet to actually train rank threes, but at least there are already some decent missions at level ten that give astral diamonds and which I can keep re-running to level up further.


Neverwinter gets a Subscription

It was already rumoured a couple of months ago, but now it's official: Neverwinter gets a subscription option. It's not officially called a sub (instead they call it the "VIP Program"), and you can buy it from the Zen store, so you don't necessarily have to shell out real money yourself if someone else is willing to trade you the Zen.

It offers the kind of perks you would expect from a good subscription option, such as XP bonuses, faster travel, discounts at vendors and a small Zen store perk in the form of a free enchanted lockbox key every day. It's pretty good value for money actually.

Usually I'd be all over that kind of thing, but something has been holding me back in this case and I finally figured out what it is. When a game offers me the option to play for free and be nagged about microtransactions or to pay a subscription, I expect the sub to make the microtransactions go away or make them irrelevant, to let me "play in peace". However, with Neverwinter's highly pay-to-win nature that doesn't work - you still have to grind astral diamonds until you're blue in the face or pay real money to get ahead. So this sub isn't really an alternative to playing for free... it's just one more service that the already paying players can shell out money for (even if it's not a bad service).


Class and Race Quests

One of Neverwinter's lesser advertised features is that it has distinct quest lines for different classes and races. They are nothing amazing and you only get one about once every ten levels, but they still add some nice flavour and provide you with some new content every time you roll an alt of a different class or race. That's why I made my control wizard a drow, so I would get both a new class and a new race in one go.

When you're high enough level for a new one of these quests, you get a letter from the quest giver in the mail and have to go find them. Since this isn't an actual quest by itself, it's kind of refreshing to have to go and look for the right NPC without having a sparkly path to follow. Even though my control wizard has mostly been levelling through invoking (once again), I've made an effort to at least go out and do each new race and class quest as I get it.

Sadly Cryptic doesn't seem to have much interest in adding to or even maintaining this feature. My pet tank explained to me that there was neither a race nor a class quest waiting for his dragonborn paladin (the newest class and race in the game). And on my wizard I ran into a dead end in Rothé Valley, where my race quest told me to go into a farmhouse, but the entrance is currently bugged so you can't enter. Apparently this was reported on the forums two months ago already, but nothing has been done to fix it.