Bonus RP Event

One of the above is currently going on in-game. When the first one came around, I sighed a bit. Wasn't part of the point of the big refinement changes to make sure that people wouldn't feel like they needed to wait until a special refinement weekend anymore to upgrade all their items?

However, in this case I worried for nothing, because Cryptic stayed true to their word. Unlike the previous double refinement events, the new bonus RP changes nothing about the way you actually upgrade your items - it just causes refinement items to drop with higher frequency while you're out questing in the world.

From my limited experience this isn't really something to write home about, but for a casual player like me it can provide that extra push to take an alt out for a spin, knowing that on top of whatever else I'll be doing, I'll also be earning extra RP.

Like previous changes to invocation, this is another step towards encouraging people to actually play instead of simply rewarding them for logging in at the right time. I don't know how well that's working out for Cryptic, but it does seem like a sensible plan.


Chultan Heroics

In what is quite a departure from previous modules, the Chultan jungle only contains two heroic encounters, and they are both of the big kind that requires a decent amount of players. Considering that Chult is a pretty hostile environment to begin with and heroics tend to crank up the hostility levels to eleven, that means that hardly anyone ever does them. Which sucks when you're still relatively new to the zone and just got a weekly quest to complete a heroic encounter.

Not that I can blame anyone. With these types of big bads you can't just make a start and hope that more people will join in as the fight progresses, and nobody wants to be the first person to run in and get annihilated. (Only someone well-geared and somewhat tanky really stands a chance anyway.) The encounter at Camp Vengeance also features the additional hurdle of having a step where you need to carry a certain amount of supplies from A to B but you can only carry one at a time, necessitating a certain minimum number of players to make sufficient progress before the timer runs out. Though I don't know if the encounter fails entirely if you fail that one step.

My pet tank and I did get Camp Vengeance done once by grabbing a guildie who plays dps and simply making a start on the not-too-deadly first step. Once we reached the supply carrying phase and others could see that there were multiple people working on it and actually getting somewhere, they slowly started joining in as well, and by the end we had sufficient numbers to complete the encounter successfully. Nothing attracts additional players like success, but it's hard to get things off the ground.

Selfie with giant dino in the back.

With King of Spines we got lucky as we noticed a player who was in the same instance shouting about wanting more players to take on the heroic. We figured that since we were already in the same instance, we might as well join in, and the group eventually grew large enough to successfully start and also complete the fight.

I'd love to know Crytic's thoughts behind this change though.


Challenge of the Gods

This weekend saw the reappearance of the Challenge of the Gods event. This is one event that I'd only really been peripherally aware of before. I remember accidentally picking up a challenge while in a dungeon with my hunter ranger once and being very confused by what was going on.

This time I actually paid more attention and I now think that it's a pretty neat event. Basically mobs will often drop little items that on looting start a challenge (timed quest) for a certain god. These are always very simple tasks, such as killing five enemies within a minute or killing ten without using a daily power (full list here, though I'm not convinced it's entirely accurate).

I actually found it decent fun. Not all challenges are equally feasible at all times - for example completing a heroic encounter can be trivial on some maps but virtually impossible on others. The ones to do certain things while under half health seem impossible to do if you play a high-level character that never even drops that low or has talents/abilities that cause you to instantly heal up again. But that's okay, as the challenge items are plentiful and you can always ignore any given drop and just wait for the next one.

It's not hugely rewarding (I mostly just kept getting pointless potions), but it's a little thing to mix up your play session, as you find yourself playing just that little bit differently to meet your next challenge.



I usually don't give much thought to whether my virtual fantasy environments make sense, probably because they wouldn't really stand up to closer examination. Could a forest of this size really sustain that many wolves? Etc.

However, the situation in the jungles of Chult is particularly jarring. You can't take two steps without being assaulted by packs of predatory beasts, yet there isn't a single herbivore in sight. Whatever do all those raptors and tigers and tarantulas and giant scorpions even eat? Each other I guess.


Cheap Artifact Gear For Everyone!

I've mentioned before that if you follow an MMO only casually, updates can be full of all kinds of surprises. Both my pet tank and I went all wide-eyed when our Alliance leader told us that there are now craftable artifact weapons and off-hands which are better than the ones that we were using before, even in their most basic green state as they start at item level 415. And the best thing? People are selling them on the auction house for (what feels like) ridiculously little, less than 20k AD a pop!

They probably have some downside to them that makes them less than ideal for min-maxers, but for more casual players like us this is absolutely amazing. I immediately went out and bought a set for every single one of my max-level alts, who were usually still sporting purple versions of their Elemental Evil main and off-hand at item level 390.

New daggers for my rogue.

It's a bit sad to have to start refining from scratch again, but it does feel a lot better with the new refinement system. I'm just not sure what to do with my old weapons now, as they took out the bonus that allowed you to transfer most of your progression from old to new. Another downside is that I'll be losing a lot of nice looks unless I'm willing to completely destroy the old gear to preserve it: For example my great weapon fighter was using a weapon skin from the winter festival, and my control wizard one from the summer festival. Oh well, they will come around again.



When my pet tank and I encountered our first tyrannosaur in the jungle, we initially weren't sure whether we were meant to fight or flee. It hardly seemed to take any damage at first - until we knocked it over, which seemed to temporarily apply a massive damage buff.

"It's Kephess!" I exclaimed.

That probably won't make sense to 99% of my readers, but I wanted to write it down for future reference anyway.

(Boring explanation for anyone who really wants one: In SWTOR there is a reptilian (Trandoshan) raid boss called Kephess, who got revived repeatedly after being beaten several times. Thanks to this, it became a running joke that he's everywhere, secretly responsible for everything etc. In his second incarnation, one of the fight's major mechanics is to knock him down to do increased damage to him. The similarity just struck me as quite amusing.)


Chulty Story

Playing through the introduction to Chult was strangely amusing. My pet tank and I kept shouting at each other throughout. To paraphrase just a few things that were said:

"Oh no, I can see where this is going..."
"There's always a guy like that in your party, isn't there?"
"Oh god, we crashed the ship."
"Ship-wrecked in an RPG - typical!"
"I don't think this one's going to live much longer..."

It's funny to me how enjoyable Neverwinter's story can be in that way. The writing isn't particularly exciting, the voice acting is unprofessional, and the graphics with NPCs who are unable to even move their mouths remind me of the sort of cut scenes that might have featured in an RTS fifteen years ago.

But it's also... so earnest and fun! It reminds me a bit of whenever I visit my Mum and sit down to watch one of her soap operas with her, and even though I never watch them unless I'm on one of those visits, I can always immediately tell what's going on and have a good laugh about how clich├ęd it all is (while secretly also wondering just how the current episode's plot arc is going to resolve itself).


Refinement Revamp

It's been quiet on here because I've been off Neverwinter for the last few months. As usual, I always come back though, which in this case started with trying to make sense of the changes that were made to the refinement system with the Swords of Chult module launched in October.

I had actually already read about both the inventory and the refinement point changes beforehand, but seeing them live was still something else. I can't deny that they look good on paper, and also that it's super convenient to be able to identify all the greens in my bag with one button click and then refine the lot of them with another. However, right now I also can't help feeling like I'm missing something. It all seems a bit too easy. Surely there must still be some trick to deciding what to refine and when? It just seems strange after the previous complexity.

What's also interesting is that it seems that the amount of RP you get from green gear drops has been buffed, relatively speaking. It used to be as much as a white pearl per item, now it's as much as a peridot, which is five times as much! Combined with the new ease of turning these drops into refinement points, this has had the funny side effect of my pet tank going from ridiculing me for picking up all the "junk" to actually wanting said junk for himself. I can't quite decide yet whether I'm happy that he's now helping me hoover up all the shinies after every fight or annoyed that he's suddenly competing for the loot.


Log Logic

One change I already love about this latest module is what they did to the quest log. As far as I'm aware Neverwinter has never had a limit on how many quests you can pick up, so it hasn't been uncommon for any of my max-level characters to have dozens of them in their log at any time.

The problem was that they weren't sorted in any way that made sense. Quests from the same area were generally grouped together, but newer quests could be listed before older quests for example, and it was all in a single, long list. Every time I did dailies with any of my guildies, it was a nightmare to figure out who was on which quest and what still needed completing. I eventually pretty much gave up on even trying to consult the quest log at all and mostly tried to rely on the quest-associated map markers.

Finally having things sorted into categories is therefore, while it might seem small overall, a huge QoL improvement for me.



You can tell that the devs were excited about Tomb of Annihilation because they changed the character selection screen again! I do like the different lighting it provides now, even if it isn't very flattering for all of my characters... but at least they don't have to be cold anymore.

Also: I created three new characters in less than a year? Dang.


Nine Slots

Even though I have several alts that have nearly all professions maxed out, I never unlocked all nine profession slots on any character. The reason? Because the 8th and 9th slot cannot be unlocked through normal gameplay and require you to acquire higher quality profession assets which only come from the various random packs from the cash shop. This has always annoyed me and I refused to support it out of principle.

However, other day I decided to finally give in after all, specifically because I felt that I was wasting resources by only ever getting rank 1 results from a specific mission, and the assets I needed were actually going for fairly cheap on the auction house.

Looking at it now, I almost feel a bit silly for handicapping myself for this long when I could have simply bought the things I needed from another player all along. Even better, since they don't bind on use, I can now send them around to all my alts and use them to fully unlock the profession window on all of them.


Loading In, Part 2

I've previously mocked the strange way in which Neverwinter loads its graphics assets on the character selection screen, but lately it's started to affect my in-game experience as well. I'm wondering if I cranked up the graphics settings a bit too high when I got my new PC?

It's at its most annoying when it comes to the user interface, as certain windows will load as transparent initially, making it really hard to find the right icons and buttons until the background loads about a minute later. But it's even more noticeable in my surroundings with things like trees, which will initially appear as bizarre polygonal crystal formations until their actual "tree skin" appears.

If anyone's got any suggestions as for what causes this, I'd be happy to hear them. It's actually gotten a lot better again as of late, so maybe it was a temporary server-side issue more than anything related to my PC or game settings, but I still wanted to get this out there anyway.


Friendly P2W Disappointment

My guild was working on yet another building for our stronghold, this time being held back by adventurer's shards of power, which are also limited per character per day, but unlike influence, they are rewarded for something I like doing anyway, so I was slowly increasing our total day by day.

I enjoyed slowly chipping away at our common goal and feeling like I was contributing to something big. In my head, I kept calculating how many more quests I'd have to complete to hit the target.

Then, one day, the building was suddenly set up already, the coffer nearly emptied of shards. I was baffled and asked where we had suddenly got so many shards in such a short time. Had people from our alliance donated or something?

Pet tank: "No, I just bought some Zen..."
Me: :(


Happy Fourth!

Protector's Jubilee a.k.a. Neverwinter's anniversary has once again come and nearly gone, but I missed most of it this time around because I was away on holiday last week. Bad timining on my part to book a trip during Neverwinter's birthday week, I know!

Still, I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate the game on yet another successful year. People like to moan about the business model used for Cryptic's MMOs (myself included!), but it's clearly working for them - so much so that they recently managed to talk Wizards of the Coast into letting them make a Magic: the Gathering MMO too.

Considering that I'm always happy to keep coming back to my Neverwinter characters - even though I take breaks from the game too - the company is clearly doing something right.


Orcus Down!

I don't have a video or a screenshot showing the UI and achievement of it because my Nvidia share feature decided to act up again, but this past week, my guild cleared Castle Never in a full guild run for the first time! Unfortunately all I got is this screenshot of Orcus quickly disintegrating as Neverwinter mobs and bosses are wont to do.

We had tried Castle Never only once before and made it up to the last boss back then, but he just one-shot our tank at the start of the fight, every time, so that we could not get any further. This time things went much better, apparently due to the boss's damage having received a heavy nerf in the meantime.

I was my usual useless self and died a lot (if I did any buffing, there are no numbers to prove it), but even I managed to survive the final attempt, which was at least something.


6 Down, 2 To Go

My oathbound paladin hit level 70, hurrah! That brings my total of character classes at the level cap up to six. Now I'm only missing a guardian fighter (I have one, but she's only in her forties right now), and a scourge warlock, which I'm planning to create soon!


Too Much Info

One of the things I don't like about Neverwinter is that a character's power level is an extremely complex construct and made up of way too many different parts. My character sheet lists more than forty different stats, and even though not all of them can be found on gear, that is only the beginning.

There are also your basic D&D attributes (strength, wisdom etc.), paragon paths, feats (talents), powers, boons, on-use powers on artifacts, not to be confused with artifact powers on your main- and off-hand, enchantments, overload enchantments (totally different), armour kits, active and passive bonuses bestowed by certain companions, active and passive abilities granted by certain mounts, insignia bonuses from mounts (even though the stable system has been in game for over a year, I literally only learned how these work the other day), and I wouldn't be surprised if there was more that I'm forgetting right now.

I pretty much ignore half of this stuff to be honest and it hasn't really hindered my ability to complete basic quest content. But there is huge potential for min-maxing here, creating a wide gulf between those who can be bothered to figure it all out and those who don't. Plus every time Cryptic adds a new system to the mix, I can't help but suspect that it's mostly meant to give them yet another thing to sell in the store or to put into lockboxes. People are less likely to cry about pay-to-win if they can't even keep track of all the different ways in which you can increase your power.


Injuries And Mending

If you die or step into a trap in Neverwinter, unlike in many other MMOs, you don't accrue repair bills on your gear. Instead you suffer a growing amount of injuries, which - depending on the exact type - can have effects such as slowing your run speed or reducing your maximum hit points. If you are past a certain rank of VIP, you become immune to injuries. Otherwise, the only way to heal is to use an injury kit from a vendor or to stand next to a campfire for a certain amount of time.

This relatively minor setback can still be amazingly annoying to the casual player, as you may forget to buy kits from the vendor and find yourself unable to treat an injury out in the field, or - despite of gold being virtually useless as a currency for anything else - you might balk at the expense for the kits and waste a lot of time standing around near campfires to save money.

Recently however, I was pleased to find that the amount of time required to heal an injury "naturally" by the fire was radically slashed from 3 minutes to 30 seconds. This is a great quality of life improvement for non-VIPs. Where 3 minutes pretty much meant an AFK break, 30 seconds are as good as over by the time you've even had time to get your bearings after resurrecting at the campfire, meaning that you can get right back into the action.


Dino Time!

As a commenter on the YouTube video so aptly put it: "That was extremely informative. Thank you, Mr. Dinosaur."

Whatever else you want to say about Neverwinter, there is no such thing as content droughts in this game. Even four years later, they just keep on churning out those modules at an impressive pace.



I've written before about how I used to be sceptical of the VIP program, but I think the benefit that might have sold me on it and which I unlocked only relatively recently is the travel signpost. While Neverwinter's world as a whole is fairly fragmented, with lots of instances and loading screens between zones, some of the outdoor maps are pretty sizeable and more importantly, they tend to only have one or two points where you can enter or exit, so you always need to start from there and usually go on a pretty long ride back after you finished your questing.

The travel signpost on the other hand is a perk that allows you to basically summon a "map exit" anywhere with no cooldown, and that just feels so convenient when you're zooming around the world and changing maps a lot. I really miss it when I don't have VIP now.


Neverwinter on MassivelyOP

MassivelyOP has a series called Choose My Adventure, where the author is sent to play an MMO that they haven't played (much) and then writes a series of posts about their experiences as a (relative) newbie. Along the way, there are a couple of polls in which readers can vote to steer the author on a certain path in-game, usually by way of choosing what area to level in and things like that.

This month, it's Neverwinter's turn, and the first three posts have been surprisingly positive, especially considering that this particular author has recently made a name for himself by coming up with headlines along the lines of all MMOs are dying and both developers and players are dumb.

Unfortunately it's unlikely that the series will end up being very insightful by its end, considering that it took three weeks for the author's character to even get to the Blacklake District and I've never seen it cover a single MMO for longer than six installments. But hey, it's more detailed coverage than the game usually gets.


Lucky, Part 2

I've been buying VIP time for the past three months and have been saving the daily lockbox keys I got from it, with the plan of opening a whole bunch of lockboxes at once eventually. I read somewhere that this increases your chances of getting something good, as Cryptic wants to reward big spenders that way - I'm not sure if that's true, but it certainly sounds plausible. Either way, I got what I wanted: a Celestial Stag, the current "top prize" from the most recent set of lockboxes.

This is a win for me in more than one way, because not only do I like the stag model in general, but this is also my first mount of legendary quality, granting me a special combat power and maximum mount speed at last. On the auction house the cheapest one goes for about nine million AD! Now my pet tank finally won't be able to outrun me all the time anymore. (He got a legendary mount some time ago.)



My stable of alts keeps growing; the only class I don't have yet is the scourge warlock and I'm planning to create one soon. It's funny to me that I sufficiently enjoy creating alts in this game to do this even though it's not very alt-friendly if you think about it.

Sure, having a lot of alts can be beneficial when it comes to farming certain currencies that are capped per character per day, but getting an alt up to a useful level requires a serious investment of time or money, considering the grind required to get all your boons alone.

Also, the levelling process is highly repetitive: I think the game does a good job at easing new players into new features and mechanics, but when you're on your 7th alt it gets very old to have to go through all the various tutorials about companions, invoking and what not. I wonder if the tomes of experience enable you to just skip some of that stuff? Might have to try that next time.

But while you can do some AFK-levelling via invoking for example to skip zones you are tired of, there aren't really any "active" alternatives to levelling via questing, as activities like dungeons or skirmishes only grant piddly amounts of XP. So where in other MMOs, rolling an alt is an opportunity to see a different starting zone and try a different levelling path, in Neverwinter it's pretty much always the same old.


PvP Sucks

I don't know why I keep trying my hand at Neverwinter's PvP even though I know I don't like it. I think it's because I really enjoy PvP in other MMOs and keep hoping that maybe Neverwinter's will grow on me if I just give it another chance. Note to my future self whenever I may harbour similar thoughts again: No! It sucks; get over it.

My pally found herself in the 60-69 bracket again this week, but this time, instead of bots, she ran into what looked like a premade or at least some very seriously geared up alts. Even if I managed to land my most powerful offensive daily on one of their heads, it barely moved anyone's health bar. The only times I lived for more than a few seconds after exiting the spawn point was when they stopped hitting us altogether, to observe us with the detached sort of amusement with which one might watch a kitten attacking their shoe. I desperately wanted to quit before the match was over but decided to stick it out for the reward at the end... just to not get any. I guess only winners get AD now?

Another scene from Icewind Dale this week: My great weapon fighter joining in at the end of a Black Ice Domination. My team had comfortably won the main fight and I joined in to mine the black ice. Suddenly I'm dead, and I barely have time to make out what I think was a rogue before I respawn at the nearest campfire. Gear differences or not, no max-level character should ever be able to simply one-shot another max-level character; that's just terrible balance. And to think that people complain about the time-to-kill in SWTOR. Seriously.



My mini-guild has been stuck at guild level 5 for a while. We were aiming to upgrade our guild hall to level 6, but the requirement to hand in 150k+ influence presented a bit of a brick wall. It's a currency that can only be earned by running heroic encounters in the stronghold, at a maximum rate of 400 per character per day. I think it's obvious why this presented a problem for a guild that rarely even has three people online.

However, the latest patch brought with it a welcome innovation in the form of temporary buildings, specifically one that generates about 2400 influence a day for a week, assuming you tend to it regularly. Erecting this structure also costs resources of course, but they are resources we actually have and can now convert into something we need. Maybe we'll eventually get that level 6 guild hall after all.



I've been levelling my oathbound paladin again lately. I don't think I've talked about her much on here other than mentioning her creation. She's level 65 now and I forgot just how fun she is to play.

It seems appropriate that oathbound paladin gets shortened to "OP", which also tends to stand for "overpowered" in general gaming circles, as the class is virtually indestructible in PvE content, even with a mix of hodgepodge levelling gear with no enchantments in it such as my character is wearing. The last time I died with her was when I tried to duo the big heroic encounter with the crabs in Drowned Shore with a rogue and even there it took a while until a dozen gold crabs could get me down. I've written about how bad the upwards level scaling for certain quests is, but my pally was actually my first character who was able to cope with it and successfully completed quests that way solo (though there was still a risk of death and enemies went down very slowly).

It's kind of bizarre how out of whack the tuning for this class is compared to any others I've played, but I've also got to admit that it's pretty fun. Neverwinter's action combat can be a bit tiring at times with all the dodging you have to do to survive, but my paladin is one character I can play even when I'm tired or not very focused, as she's nearly invincible and occasionally raising my shield in tougher encounters is more than enough to keep me alive.



Via Neverwinter's official Twitter account, I was made aware of a survey they are running to get player opinions on their various events. I immediately noticed that the summer festival was missing from their list, and others pointed out that double campaign currencies weren't listed either. I suppose it wouldn't surprise me if Cryptic struggled to keep track of all of their own events, considering how many of them there are!

I gave most of them good ratings actually, I just don't care for things like double glory for example because I pretty much never PvP. Still, when they asked me which events I liked the least, I actually had a hard time choosing and simply picked a couple where based on the name alone I couldn't even remember what they were about and explained this in the comment box: If I can't even remember what it was, it can't have impressed me that much.

I bet everyone's going to vote for more double AD and double refinement weekends! I know I did.


Shroud of Souls

I expected Shroud of Souls to be a "mini module" in the vein of Sea of Moving Ice, and as such was very surprised today when I realised that a single quest chain was all there was to its story - no new campaign tasks or repeatable missions, nothing.

I can't exactly complain, because I'm still busy with the River District and I did enjoy the Shroud of Souls quest chain very much for what it was - I loved how it took you across various different zones and re-used existing characters.

I'm just not sure how to manage my expectations in regards to these releases halfway through a campaign now.


Gear Deluge

Two problems I have while playing Neverwinter as a casual player are that 1) my gear is never all that great (I'm still not even allowed to set foot into the dungeon that was added in the last module because my gear score isn't high enough) and 2) I'm not always up to date with what's new.

Both of these reared their heads yesterday when I took a look at the gear vendor in our guild stronghold and was pleasantly surprised to find that he suddenly (?) sold gear that was better than almost everything any of my characters were wearing, for the low price of a few thousand guild marks per piece.

Fortunately I had a whole bunch of said marks saved up, meaning that I could kit out my cleric, my rogue, my great weapon fighter and my wizard in new armour all at once. I'm excited to try out their new gear sets to see how much of a difference the power increase will make.

Admittedly I was less excited by the new looks - I think wizard gear for example looks terribly gaudy most of the time, but fortunately it's easy enough to just paste the look of the old set onto the new one. Some of the new stuff doesn't look bad though, just different. For example my fighter's new winged helmet makes her look a bit like Lans from the Maze Engine in my opinion.


Campaigns = Quests

Remember last year, when I wrote about a change to the campaign window I didn't like very much? They actually managed to make it worse!

With the latest patch, campaigns are now just another tab in your quest log, which means the campaign window is still as cluttered as ever, but even less informative now. I immediately got confused when I wanted to progress the Tyranny of Dragons campaign on an alt, and it suddenly showed as "0% progress" and with a padlock on it even though I was a fair bit into it already. Just no.

It also kind of makes you think about what actually makes different types of content stand out. I mean, what's the real difference between a quest to kill ten rats and a basic rat killer achievement other than presentation? Treating the campaigns as just another bunch of quests somehow makes the game feel poorer in my eyes.



Back in 2015 I wrote about the concept of artifact gear and how its grindiness worried me. Nearly two years later, I finally maxed out my cleric's main hand weapon. By now I honestly wasn't sure it was ever going to happen!

But don't worry about me running out of things to grind for, there's still her off-hand, the belt and four artifacts to go, not to mention that none of my enchantments are above rank 10...


Stag Do

The Sylvan Stag is an old mount, added to the game way back during the Sharandar campaign, but it was the first and only lockbox mount that I recall ever actually wanting. Not enough to actually take part in Neverwinter's lockbox shenanigans, mind you - and the price on the auction house was always prohibitively high for a casual player like me.

The recent appearance of these stags in Nostura's Forest reminded me to have another look to check the current rate they were going for, and lo and behold, they were only a fraction of what they used to be! Still by no means cheap, but affordable even to me, so I finally gave in and purchased one. I decided to give it to my hunter ranger since that seemed most thematically appropriate, and my cleric main has enough other mounts that suit her anyway.

The only thing that remains mysterious to me is why the price has dropped so much. A (very) cursory Google search seemed to indicate that a lot of previously rare mounts and companions have been added as (also rare) reward drops to dungeon and skirmish chests, which would certainly explain it. Good times for me in any case.



Boons in Neverwinter are an interesting concept. Basically they are a way for you to keep gaining power at max level beyond upgrading your gear, by permanently adding to your character's stats and abilities. You usually get to choose from one of several boons upon completing a certain amount of campaign tasks. Some of them are fairly mundane, such as "you gain 2000 extra hitpoints", while others can involve interesting procs along the lines of "every time you get hit in combat, you have a chance of striking your opponent with a bolt of lightning".

One the one hand, this is a neat form of progression beyond merely grinding for gear, but on the other hand it's not very alt-friendly, considering that there are more than half a dozen endgame campaigns in the game by now and each one is supposed to take you about a month to complete. None of my own alts have finished more than a couple of those campaigns for example.

Cryptic does actually offer a way of catching up more quickly... but it's via buying campaign completion from the cash shop. I'm sure that those who are heavily invested in the game and enjoy running endgame on alts are grateful to have an option at all, but it is yet another thing that adds to the game's pay-to-win flavour.


The Cloaked Ascendancy Story (Spoilers)

We finished chapter five of the Cloaked Ascendancy story today, and while there is still the quest to do Spellplague Caverns, I think the main arc is pretty much over. While I consider the River District a great new map, the story accompanying it has struck me as very lacklustre. I don't expect a particularly high standard of storytelling from Cryptic, but I know they can do better than this.

It started off interesting enough: Who is this Gyrion? And Lord Neverember grousing about how ungrateful people were towards him was pretty hilarious. For a moment I wondered whether he was about to go rogue or something, but the actual reveal was fine too.

But the whole thing with Celeste was really badly done. When she "changed sides", she looked like she was being mind-controlled or something and it just felt wrong that nobody seemed in the least concerned by this! When it was revealed that she had only gone undercover I was kind of: "Bwuh?" It just didn't add up. Maybe the bad voice acting and lack of animation on her face were to blame in this case.

Gyrion and his allies didn't really go anywhere either though. There is a hint early on that they might have interesting backgrounds, with Kabal having formerly been a mage for example, but in the end nothing ever came of that either. Honestly a bit of a let-down.


Fun Weeklies

PSA: It seems that in the Cloaked Ascendancy's campaign progression, it's better to immediately follow up "Investigate [Boss X]" with "Confront [Boss X]" instead of investigating the other two bosses first, as this apparently unlocks the weekly quest. My pet tank and I were not aware of this and therefore wasted some valuable progression time during which we could have already had access to the weekly.

I really like what they've done with the weekly mission in this zone. There are three bosses with strongly themed lairs (magic, fire, nature), and each one presents a slightly different challenge in terms of mechanics, not just focusing on combat. In the first you super-jump across floating platforms, in the second you dodge streams of fire and in the third you get to ride fey stags through an obstacle course before confronting the boss. You only actually have to face one of them each week too, so if not all of these mechanics float your boat, you can pick your favourite and just stick to that.

Even though we initially died many times before we got it right the first time, I think the stag ride in Nostura's realm is my personal favourite so far. The slight trippiness of it all somehow reminded me of Robot Attack Unicorn - thus I chose Erasure as my soundtrack when I recorded it:


Devs Are People Too

After Thursday's patch, my pet tank and I logged into the River District to be greeted by massive lag and rubberbanding. I quickly noticed that the instance cap appeared to have been raised from its usual 15-20(?) to 50, which the engine couldn't handle at all. Checking the forums, this was unintentional and had apparently happened before. I was surprised though to see a dev chime in directly:

There's a new system we're using to adjust the instance cap easily. Each week, we're finding slightly new problems with it where it's reverting last week's change. Each time, for different reasons, even if it looks the same to players. I appreciate your patience after each maintenance morning while I'm mid-commute before I can fix it. Today took a little longer since my root canal took longer than expected, so the caps were wrong until around 11. Next week's maintenance will integrate the actual map sizes into the build, so no more overrides to get lost.

So, there you have it: we can blame his root canal. It was funny to see a dev put such a personal note on a bug report. Kind of reminded me of how things go at my place of work sometimes when my employer's website has issues.


Inv Ship Pls

The heroic encounters in the River District are a funny thing. There are four large ones in total - three that share a spawn timer and appear in one of three corners of the map (I don't know if their order is fixed or randomised), and one that can be triggered by player hand-ins and is located almost right next to the zone's base.

As a result, everyone runs the latter all the time and general chat is flooded with invite requests so that people can chain-run the encounter by quickly hopping from one instance to the next. Meanwhile, the other three events largely go ignored. (The fact that the teleporting mobs that are part of Gyrion's forces are super annoying doesn't help.)

MMO min-maxing at its finest.


River District

Like most of Neverwinter's campaigns, the River District can be summed up as "more of the same, but a bit different". Here's what I like and don't like about it so far:


+ The environment. While one could argue that a slightly twisted cityscape doesn't make for the most exciting adventuring zone, I like being back in the game's eponymous capital.

+ Zone size. Sea of Moving Ice taught me that bigger isn't necessarily better, especially when a single round of dailies takes ages simply because you spend ten minutes travelling to where you need to be. I like how the River District feels much more compact.

+ Variety of activities. Instead of being asked to do x number of daily quests every day, you're only given a single quest that basically asks you to "do stuff" and you can pick your own activity mix to complete it. This allows you to change things up at any time.

+ Better treasure maps. The treasure maps from Sea of Moving Ice have made a return here, but since the environment contains a lot more notable points of interest, you actually stand a reasonable chance of finding the treasure even without a guide.


- Mob density. This might be a side effect of the small zone size, but mob packs are plentiful and hard to avoid. Additionally they seem to be tuned to hit in such a way that a purple quality mount isn't enough to not get knocked off anymore, so I'm getting dismounted pretty much any time I aggro anything at all.

Overall, the good seems to outweigh the bad so far.


Still Around

I just haven't been playing Neverwinter lately because the launch of the latest SWTOR expansion drew both me and all my guildies back to that. The greatly reduced log-in rewards also didn't give me any reason to keep logging in at least once a day anymore.

However, my pet tank and I are now back to check out the River District. I loved the giant O-face my character made in chapter four of the story. More thoughts may follow as and when.