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.


Lazy Citadel Redemption

The Redeemed Citadel event continues, and both the second and third milestones have come and gone. After how much grinding I did during the first one, my motivation has dropped off sharply. Me and all my guildies have bought the Zen market item to unlock the event permanently, so there's no rush to complete it in time - and since you gain credit for gaining Zariel's favour towards multiple milestones at once, the "optimal" thing in terms of effort vs. reward at this point is to wait for the fourth milestone to begin and then work on progressing them all in one go.

That said, I think we're also getting a bit tired of the Avernus Wastes in general. Usually we'd only spend a month or two in a new module, but due to this event we've been grinding mobs on the same map for more than four months now. At this point we only tend to meet up once a week to do a couple of the weekly dungeons but by now even that is getting quite tiresome to be honest.


Good Refund Experience

I've done a fair amount of complaining about Cryptic on this blog, so I think it's only fair to also give them credit for doing things right when it happens.

Last week I meant to buy a bundle of Zen, but after the transaction had seemingly gone through, I received an error message saying that it couldn't be processed and when I checked my balance, no new Zen had been added. This led to me trying two more times, just to run into the same error again and again. Ten minutes later I suddenly received three email notifications at once, showing that all three purchase attempts had in fact been successful after all and I'd just spent more than £100 on Zen. Aieee!

I wasn't sure whether this sort of virtual currency was refundable at all, but still decided to open a ticket to explain my problem. Working in e-commerce myself, I'm actually quite understanding of this kind of glitch; the question is how the company deals with customer contacts about it afterwards.

And what do you know, I had a response within a few hours and they happily refunded the duplicate transactions without any fuss. So thanks, Cryptic!


Legacy Campaigned Out

Working on various (legacy) campaigns on my alts is one of my favourite things to do in Neverwinter. So I was pleased that Cryptic ran a lot of double campaign currency events over the past couple of months - in fact they covered all the legacy campaigns during that time: first a week of Sharandar, then Dread Ring, then Icewind Dale and so on.

However, this proved once again that you can have too much of a good thing: After eight weeks or so of grinding campaigns like a maniac on multiple alts, I'm just terribly burnt out. (Even with double currency and a signet of patronage, nobody should try to complete the entirety of the Chult campaign several times in a single week. Just saying.)

And thus, I once again find myself drifting away from Neverwinter for a bit to recover. Somehow, that's how it always goes.


BHE Etiquette

Having spent a lot of time questing in older campaign zones in the last few weeks, I've had plenty of opportunity to refine my BHE calling etiquette.

  • When you see a big heroic encounter spawn in your instance, check your instance number on the map and call it out in zone chat, even if you yourself aren't interested in doing the encounter.
  • If people whisper you, invite them to the group for an easy map transfer. Often they will leave as soon as they've moved without any further prompting. Everyone understands the purpose of these grouping requests and no further niceties are required.
  • Don't bother calling repeatedly if the map already shows as full (greyed out in the selection).
  • Don't bother calling if the encounter's already in progress and less than a minute from finishing - it sucks to put your map transfer on cooldown for nothing because it's over before you've even loaded in.


First Milestone Complete

The server completed the first milestone on the way to restoring the Citadel last week. I'm not sure if it's been officially stated, but I think the grind for the second milestone won't actually start until the 15th of September.

Somewhat to my own surprise, I've already nearly completed my first personal milestone on my main as well. The weekly objectives have helped a lot with that. Still, I bought the "Reforger's Blessing" to remove the timer anyway, as I also wanted to unlock the whole thing permanently for all my alts.

In terms of progressing the event for everyone, completion of the first milestone dramatically increased the number of angels in the Citadel and unlocked hunts in Avernus, a feature we haven't seen since Ravenloft, though this implementation is more of a throwback to Chult with its multiple layers of randomness stacked on top of each other. We'd already wondered about all those named mobs with special markers next to their names that didn't seem to serve any purpose, but now they finally drop rare items to buy lures. It does spice up the zone a bit, though so far the reward for getting the lures and killing a hunt target doesn't really seem to be worth the effort.


Wrath of Acererak

Any quest that asks you to do heroics in Omu is a bit annoying because there is only one, The Tyrant, and it only pops about once an hour. Doing the other quests in the area only takes so much time and if you're unlucky, you can be in for quite a wait.

There is another option though - if you empower all nine shrines on the map, another large heroic encounter called "Wrath of Acererak" is triggered. For a long time, I never saw this even once, as shrines only stay empowered for about five minutes, which means that you need at least three people to work in tandem to trigger the event. While Omu was current content, I did this with my guildies out of sheer curiosity once, but that was it.

However, in the past week I did this heroic about five times and often did my part to empower the shrines too: It was Chult bonus week, and people get bored waiting for the Tyrant to pop. It was actually quite satisfying to see that strangers can work together to launch the event as well - all it takes is a little bit of co-ordination in zone chat. Plus I love the evil cackling sound that plays whenever you succeed in launching it.


Mount Changes

It's been more than three years since I got my legendary mount on my main. Unfortunately it was only afterwards that Cryptic changed legendary mounts to be account-wide unlocks, so all my alts have been slow whenever I've done group content with my guildies. I've been saving up AD for months and keeping an eye on the auction house, hoping to buy another legendary at some point once I spotted a good deal.

For once however, my hesitancy has paid off, as Cryptic announced the other day that they'll be revamping the mount system and orange mounts will cease to give you a speed advantage the way they do now. In general it sounds like the devs are planning to make the stable more similar to the current companion system, with more variety resulting in more benefits and a range of new gear slots to be filled.

I'm grateful for the speed normalisation, but to be honest the new gear thing doesn't really sound appealing to me at all. Character power is already too complex a construct as it is.


Hardcore Mode

There are some weekly objectives meant to slightly alleviate the grind for Zariel's favour, one of which is to complete selected dungeons in "hardcore mode". Before seeing this requirement, I had never heard of this feature.

We learned that it's a setting you can only turn on when queuing with a pre-made group, and when enabled it requires you to complete the whole run without anyone dying/getting downed. This is pretty sucky.

On our first run of hardcore Malabog's Castle, we breezed through most of it with ease, but then I lagged out on the last boss and got one-shot by the dragon's flyby, forcing us to start over. Fortunately we then got it on the second try.

After the weekly reset we did the whole thing again, and again we failed on the first run, this time due to someone else not dodging the flyby and getting one-shot by the last boss.

It kind of reminds me of the old Undying achievement in WoW, only worse in that you can't even get the normal dungeon rewards after failing, you just get ported out immediately and receive nothing. To be honest I'm neither sure why this mode is in the game nor why Cryptic felt the need to promote it with this event.


Ascension Redux

Remember when I was complaining that nobody wanted to do the big heroic encounter in Avernus? In a prime example of how quickly the tides of content popularity can turn depending on its rewards, it has suddenly become the content du jour to farm Zariel's favour for the new event.

Now zone chat is an endless stream of people asking to be invited to groups for the heroic, so the moment it pops in your map instance, you just throw some invites to the first few names that scroll past and you'll immediately be surrounded by a bunch of uber-geared people that basically kill everything for you. I just find this highly amusing.


Redeemed Citadel Event

Cryptic decided to take event gaming to a new level with a special one-time campaign to restore the redeemed citadel in Avernus. It's pitched as "the entire server working together" to progress through four different phases, however on closer inspection that seems to be nothing but a cosmetic veneer, as the news item also states that "if a milestone is completed by the server early, there will be some time—a few days or weeks—before the next milestone begins". After less than two days we've already progressed more than 20% towards the first milestone, but looking at the pitched event duration on the calendar, I'm guessing that each phase is going to last 28 days regardless.

In a savvy monetisation move, you earn some pretty good rewards for grinding the event - but you can earn double the rewards (including some unique additions) and a new race by also paying. On one level I find this kind of monetisation quite annoying, but I can't deny that I'm tempted. If you're already doing the grind, why deny yourself some of the potential rewards?

Paying also removes the timer for earning the rewards - otherwise you have to complete each grind during its dedicated time slot, which works out to earning about 1000 of Zariel's favour a day - for nearly four months. Based on our efforts the first two nights, this isn't completely unreasonable if Neverwinter is your only MMO and you play every day, but for a more casual player it's quite a big ask.


All Alts on Deck

I'm proud to say that I finally got one character of every class to 80. Since I already had all of them at 70 and levelling is quite quick these days, it didn't technically require much effort to gain those extra ten levels on each alt, however I intentionally took it slowly to give myself a chance to re-familiarise myself with each class after the complete havoc that Undermountain wreaked on class design.

I do like how the new appearance system makes it much easier to give each character a decent look, even if you don't have the perfect item for every slot (yet). Just being able to easily apply basic dyes to resolve colour clashes already helps a lot.


Profession Project

I've never quite made my peace with the workshop that replaced the old profession system, but I do have functional (if not maxed-out) workshops on three characters and do try to level up my skills and artisans occasionally when I have some gold to spare.

One thing I noticed recently was that a lot of the crafted gear actually has some pretty nice looks, so now part of the project has become to craft each available look for every class so they can add them to their appearance libraries for mixing and matching.

I've never been the type who considers fashion the real endgame, but so far it's been a surprisingly entertaining project.


Dragon Run

Every hour at fifteen minutes to the hour, five giant dragons appear in the Well of Dragons. I somehow managed to be completely oblivious to this for a long time, though I did eventually catch on when people were constantly talking about "dragon runs" in chat. Groups assemble at or just before the start of the event and then try to kill all the dragons before they have time to leave again, either starting at green and going clockwise or starting at black and going counter-clockwise. I've sometimes seen arguments about which way is the right way, though most people seem to lean towards starting at green these days.

I often like to join for a dragon run if I arrive at the right time, as they are easy enough to zerg down (except for the blue dragon - I hate the blue dragon) and it basically counts as completing five epic heroic encounters with decent rewards. Completing at least one epic heroic encounter in Well of Dragons is also one of the objectives of one of the legacy campaign quests, and the dragons are the only encounters that qualify.

One thing that has confused me lately is that I sometimes see people going straight for the white dragon at the start of the event, which is kind of in the middle and just splits people up. I have yet to figure out what the logic behind that is (but there is pretty much always some kind of logic behind whatever people do in this game).


Summer Festival Binge

Neverwinter's summer festival is one of my favourite events, and following my recent rabbit-holing I ended up binging hard on it during the last three weeks. My original plan was to just log every alt quickly every day to claim my free Favor of Sune, but then I'd always think something like: "Well, while I'm on this character I might as well pick up the daily stronghold quest, plus it's double Dread Ring/Icewind Dale/Tyranny of Dragons week and I haven't finished that on this char yet, so..."

The result were way too many hours played, to the point where I actually couldn't wait for the event to be over again. It's rare that I end up trapping myself in this sort of "overdoing it to the point that it's not fun anymore" binge but I did fall victim to it good and proper this time.

And what do I have to show for it? I wasn't even really particularly excited to buy any of the event rewards... though I now have the new Sun of Sune companion on every class I guess. Mind you, considering that its abilities seem to make it more of a magical death attractor than a useful asset I'm not entirely sure that's a win either...


Epic Trial Queue

I braved the trial queue for the first time since hitting level 80, on my warlock no less. Inspiration was a double Tyranny of Dragons currency event and me trying to earn some Linu's Favor for her.

I tried queueing for a random at first, but the randomiser was insistent on throwing me into Assault on Svardborg (repeatedly). I'd never actually completed that one before but apparently it's a lot more doable nowadays. My first run was still a fail, from what I could tell because one or even both of the healers just dropped group mid-fight (even though it was going fine until then), so we wiped, and since we weren't getting any more backfills at that point the group fell apart. I got it two more times though and those other times we completed it successfully. While I didn't have any of the keys for the chests on that character, I was still pleased with the AD payout (I'd forgotten just how much you can earn from doing the random trial queue every day, 40k+ a pop).

I eventually got into some Tiamat runs as well by queuing for that specifically. It felt a bit odd to see it downsized to ten people - to rebalance for the lower numbers they made it so that the middle cleric is permanently under a shield and doesn't need defending anymore. What I did like was that they changed the dragon souls to work with the special ability hotkey they added in Undermountain so that you don't need to worry about manually dragging a soul onto your bar mid-fight anymore. Otherwise the experience was similar to how I remembered it, and we always killed all the heads in one to two phases.


Mob Signature Abilities

Courtesy of a week of double campaign currency I spent a lot of time in Icewind Dale last week, mostly on alts who still needed to complete the campaign. They weren't very powerful, so many fights still presented some challenge, and it made me realise just how strong a reaction I have towards certain mob types.

For example I loathed doing the quest to kill young remorhazes, as they had loads of health compared to the average mob and their endless fire circles and knockbacks made them extremely annoying to fight on melee classes. Similarly I always have a sort of low-key hatred for fighting wolves of every kind, because while they are generally weak mobs, they have an annoying knockdown that isn't telegraphed clearly and therefore hard to avoid. On the other hand I'm happy to fight corrupted dwarves for days, as their attacks are pretty predictable and easy to counter.

I think this variety in the way enemies fight as well as the fact that the game actually forces you to pay attention to what each ability does is one of the reasons I find Neverwinter's combat enjoyable despite of not being a fan of action combat in general.



Neverwinter has a lot of currencies, and unlike in SWTOR you don't get a warning if you're about to hit a cap on any of them, so I've more than once been in the annoying situation of accidentally having maxed out a useful currency since I wasn't realising just how much of it I had been earning already.

It's really hard to keep track of what to do with each one too. I got a lot of Tarmalune Trade Bars during my lockbox opening spree a few weeks ago, but I'd never actually spent any. This weekend I finally visited the vendor for the first time in ages and was shocked to find that he actually sells rank 15 enchantments directly.

It was also only a couple of weeks ago that I actually spent Alliance Supplies for the first time (after clicking on the vendor more or less by accident), a currency that you earn in the Maze Engine campaign (which came out more than four years ago).

This inspired me to take a closer look at my currency tab, and I realised that aside from gold, Zen and astral diamonds (both refined and unrefined), I have 114 (!) other currencies on there. I think if Cryptic wants to flag anything else for a revamp some time soon, the sheer amount of currencies might be a good candidate.



Neverwinter isn't the greatest MMO for story, both because of the quality of the writing and the way it is delivered. That said, I just want to give them credit for continuously trying to improve. I won't deny it, the ending of the Path of the Fallen campaign was neither particularly surprising nor original, but it sure managed to give me the feels. Well done, Cryptic.


My 5 Worst Neverwinter Modules

As a counterpoint to the last post, these were my personal least favourite additions to Neverwinter over the years:

5. Mod 12: Tomb of Annihilation & Swords of Chult (July 2017)

The jungle theme never resonated with me (awkwardly stereotyped NPCs didn't help), and personally I found the focus on pure mob grinding over doing anything vaguely resembling actual content pretty off-putting. It was also quite hard on release and being unable to ride anywhere without getting knocked off your mount by jumpy dinos every couple of steps was super annoying. It took me a long time to work up the energy to complete this campaign.

4. Mod 17: Uprising (August 2019)

I wasn't actively playing when this came out, but after finally completing this mod's content earlier in the year, I'm still baffled how they ever managed to sell this to the player base as a full module.

3. Mod 6: Elemental Evil (April 2015)

The first time Cryptic decided to raise the level cap, they did seemingly everything wrong: The XP curve was terrible, tuning was out of whack, and the new content felt cheap, grindy and recycled - to name but a few of the problems. Looking back at my blog posts from that time, I somehow managed to at least somewhat enjoy myself despite of all this, but it was still bad.

2. Mod 16: Undermountain (April 2019)

I was a bit hesitant to rank this one this high (or low as it were) since I actually think the Undermountain campaign is pretty fun, but everything else that went along with Cryptic raising the level cap for the second time was pretty awful in my opinion. (They just don't know how to do this, do they?) You can argue that some of the changes they made were good and maybe even needed, but drastically revamping all the classes plus the way powers, boons and companions work - all at the same time - was a huge mistake in my opinion, as it made it an absolute nightmare to find my footing in the game again as a casual player with many alts. Also, the story may have been fun to go through once, but redoing a long and completely linear quest chain on every alt is rather tedious.

1. Mod 15: The Heart of Fire (November 2018)

The Penny Arcade style humour of these quests fits into the rest of the game about as well as a fish on a bicycle, and while this might have been fine in an optional one-time quest, the fact that you're supposed to re-do the same small handful of story quests stuffed with bad jokes over and over for all your boons is just awful. While I did finish the base story once, I still haven't earned the boons from this even on my main as the mere thought of having to re-do those quests yet again makes me want to throw up. As the cherry on top, this was also the module that did away with the old professions system and replaced it with the workshop, which I still don't quite get along with to this day. Let's not do anything like that ever again please.


My Top 5 Neverwinter Modules

Ever since Neverwinter Unblogged wrote a great article ranking the game's many modules by quality, I've been meaning to write my own (shorter) version of this. (I'm not going to link the original article because sadly the dead site's domain trips security warnings in all my browsers nowadays.) Without further ado, my five favourite modules and the reasons why I love them:

5. Mod 18: Infernal Descent (January 2020)

Yes, I'm putting the most recently completed mod on this list because while it wasn't particularly innovative, it managed to get me back into the game after a very long absence (by my standards) and after having been majorly put off by the previous releases. It returned to using systems that I'd enjoyed before, and the devil theme kept things sufficiently fresh as they aren't really an enemy we've had to fight in great numbers before.

4. Mod 1: Fury of the Feywild (August 2013)

I wasn't actually playing when this was released, but when I came back to the game for the first time it was still very relevant content. In terms of theme, in a fantasy setting you can't really go wrong by having elves and a magical forest, and while somewhat grindy in its initial iteration, I enjoyed the content from the beginning. I believe my initial assessment was "similar to New Romulus in STO, but better". While much faster and easier these days, I still always enjoy coming back to this campaign on alts too.

3. Mod 14: Ravenloft (June 2018)

Based on an iconic property that immediately sparked interest, this mod managed to do the land of Barovia and its ruler justice by representing them through gameplay elements that managed to be a refinement of things that had worked well before and making them even better and more fun. Another map that I'm very happy to come back to.

2. Mod 3: Curse of Icewind Dale (May 2014)

This was the current mod when I first returned to the game after having drifted away not long after launch, and I loved it enough that it got me to stay semi-permanently. I loved the whole setup of Caer-Konig with the two competing factions, the snowy environments and the music; and new features like the heroic encounters dotted around the map and the optional open world PvP were appealing. While the difficulty felt kind of brutal for a solo player at the time, there was also something satisfying about playing an MMO again where "everything goes much more smoothly in a group" made for an incentive to group up with friends even for simple tasks like doing dailies.

1. Mod 7: Strongholds (August 2015)

It may seem odd to give the top spot to a module that didn't feature a campaign and didn't have much of a story attached to it, but I've really come to adore my little guild's stronghold. I'm not really a huge fan of housing in general, but the stronghold map is more like a privately shared adventure zone, and I enjoyed seeing our mini guild slowly improve ours as time went on. To be honest I think this is one of the main reasons I've stayed so attached to Neverwinter over the years: Our stronghold offers a virtual home, and even after periods of absence I never have to wonder what to do upon returning - checking on the stronghold is always the first order of business, and everything else can be figured out later.


Down The Rabbit Hole

As I'm finding myself spending more time in Neverwinter again, I have to acknowledge that the game is really good at making itself feel "more-ish". There are lots of little tasks that literally only take a couple of minutes but are very rewarding - to prevent this from being exploited they are usually limited to once a day or once a week per character, but to a casual player that's not a problem.

So I end up doing one thing, knowing it will only take five minutes, but then I think: "Oh, I might as well do this other thing that also takes only five minutes" and more time goes by. Eventually I go: "Oh, I might as well do all that stuff on my alt too while I'm at it" and there goes my afternoon.

I think this is one reason I've had such an on-and-off relationship with the game in the past, because it's easy to get sucked in and play a lot, but in the same vein it's quite easy to burn yourself out, at which point I usually need a break to recharge my batteries.


Rage of Bel

I somehow managed to miss that a new quest and event were added to Vallenhas about two months ago - while guildies were actually talking about it back then, I conflated the activity with a different, temporary event that I wasn't interested in at the time.

Keen to catch up, I got started on the quest last week, which mostly involves doing so-called insurgencies, which seem to basically be a big mob farm for pick-up groups. After enough insurgencies have been completed, the instanced Rage of Bel fight unlocks for an hour, though you'll have to manually join/form a group for it as it can't be queued for.

I joined a pug as healer after getting a quick rundown from my husband about how the fight worked and it went surprisingly well! The group I was in had really good dps and burned through the whole encounter with no problems, so we ended up farming it half a dozen times. I just caused one wipe (which was very much to my shame) when I first got the blue catapult mark and couldn't quite figure out what to do (I had been told the theory but the practice confused me). I was surprised nobody shouted at me or kicked me from the group, but I don't want to imagine what some of them must have been yelling behind their screens while I was running all over the place in confusion...



I've mentioned previously that a map's big heroic encounters play an important part in defining a zone's flavour. The Avernus Wastes have only one such BHE, and unfortunately it's not in a good place right now, as it's both hard and doesn't seem to reward anything particularly worthwhile (that you can't also get from easier content).

Our little three-man group really wanted to get it done this week simply because completing it once is a requirement for one of the weekly quests, but it was a real struggle and took us three attempts. Lack of dps seems to be the main issue, as the event has a ten minute timer and the mobs just take ages to kill. We failed twice on the last stage because we ran out of time, and even when we finally succeeded we had less than a minute left on the timer. It's apparently very important to get a large group of people to join in as soon as you start, as losing too much time without maximum dps seems to be something you simply can't afford right now.


Path of the Fallen Impressions

Because the new module didn't quite offer enough naming confusion yet, the new campaign coming with Avernus is called "Path of the Fallen". We finally started it this afternoon.

Having just spent days swoop racing in SWTOR, I was amused to be confronted with another racing mechanic, as characters are given an "infernal machine" to race across the wastelands of Avernus.

One of the machine's abilities is to "listen to the radio" (or whatever it's called in D&D terms). My husband told me that hearing devils talk about politics was vaguely amusing, but for me even trying to use that ability managed to crash the entire game every single time (because Cryptic), so I've missed out so far.

The mobs are pretty tough. The recommended item level is another 1k higher than the (already high) recommendation to start Infernal Descent, and it was very noticeable. Even though we were doing the quests with a group of three who all had higher than the recommended item level, we were downed a few times (though this mostly happened when we foolishly allowed ourselves to be split up).


More Generosity

I only logged in briefly after yesterday's Avernus launch and haven't looked at any of the new content yet, but in that time I was pleased to find - besides another extremely generous package on the claims vendor that includes a free rank 15 enchantment and more, in honour of Cryptic's 20th birthday - that my character's default bag had been increased by 12 slots.

I have to say the game has clearly come a long way since the days when they made a point of patching in more vendor trash to fill up your bags more quickly.


Lockbox Opening Experience

Having accumulated 177 lockbox keys from several months of VIP, I thought I'd go and open some lockboxes for a change. Not having done so in ages, the biggest surprise to me was that Cryptic implemented a special UI for this at some point, making sure that the items from your box are represented by larger images and unveiled with as much fanfare as possible (similar to how other games with lootboxes handle this already). When you get a particularly rare item, there's even an angelic choir-like "ooh" sound effect.

Unfortunately this UI change was already the most exciting thing about the whole experience. I complained about Neverwinter's lockbox contents being largely useless in the past, but I vaguely recall that they were at least a little more varied back then, including items like gear pieces, fashion etc. This time around I found that the drops were brutally utilitarian - which is the opposite of useless I guess, but boring. Aside from a single companion, everything else in those 177 boxes was either a refinement stone or an enchantment. For a system that's supposed to entice people with "surprise mechanics", I've got to say that's remarkably uninspired.



I remembered the Protector's Speech skirmish as this quick piece of content that you could get in and out of within minutes, so I was very surprised when this year, I found myself faced with queues of ten minutes or more on some characters. On checking I realised that at some point Cryptic added role requirements for this skirmish, meaning that as someone with a dps spec you need to wait for enough tanks and healers to queue up. This strikes me as annoying simply because I don't think a full trinity group is really needed for this content.

However, if this was all just a ploy by Cryptic to make more people try tanking or healing, it's certainly worked on me. As the skirmish doesn't really require much tanking or healing, I'm not worried about my performance at all and will do anything to make the queue pop faster - there's pretty much always some overgeared damage dealer in the group that two-shots everything anyway. So I've now added dual specs for my warlock and great weapon fighter barbarian (the newest of my characters that I've decided to revive) to queue up as healer and tank respectively, even though I don't really know how to do either. I can only suggest that everyone who plays a class that can be more than a damage dealer does the same, simply to keep those pops rolling.


Happy Seventh!

Last year my enthusiasm for Protector's Jubilee was slightly subdued, due to a mix of bugs and feeling like the game changes made in Undermountain had really pushed me away. Fortunately I'm in a much better place this year, as my casual play over the last three months has managed to rekindle my affection for the game (even if I've only fully "revived" three of my old characters so far).

I noted with some amusement that Cryptic gave up on adding more numbers to the floor in the Protector's Garden (you can see them in the bottom screenshot in this post). It seems they ran out of space and therefore decided to simply start over with the number seven.

My husband also noted that they forgot to update the banners in the Protector's Speech skirmish as they still show the number six instead of seven at the time of writing. Never change, Cryptic.

As usual for Neverwinter's birthday celebrations, there are lots of freebies to be had - just remember to claim them from the claims vendor every day (which can be accessed from anywhere by pressing L and then the big claim button). They seem to have gotten rid of the "free" section on the Zen market at some point where gifts were handed out in past years.



Xuna is one of Neverwinter's main NPCs - the scantily clad rogue that features heavily in the game's original trailer. For Neverwinter's fifth birthday, you could get her as a companion for free (or rather it was a choice between her and Makos). I claimed my freebie and put it in the bank but never used it.

Since I came back though, Xuna has apparently been ridiculously OP. I don't know if the worst of it has been nerfed already, but I still find her performance most impressive. Companions in Neverwinter have never been renowned for their combat performance and were primarily used to boost your stats, so Xuna chopping things to bits within seconds really stands out.

Having raised her to max level at this point, it's quite fun to run around and watch her kill low-level mobs before I can even touch them... though admittedly she can be a bit of a liability in dungeons and busy areas, as she has a habit of jumping into nearby groups that you weren't even planning on attacking.



Bhagpuss drew my attention to what seems like an insanely generous offer going on in Lord of the Rings Online right now... basically free players can log in and get all the quest content from the base game for free, to keep forever, when previously it all had to be paid for. Even though I only played that game for a month, I'm almost tempted to re-download it just for that. (The "almost" is mostly due to me remembering that the installation process was a major pain the last time around.)

I've noticed that quite a few free-to-play MMORPGs seem to have become a lot more generous all of a sudden. Is it because they are flying high on all those profits from people staying home and playing video games more than usual, or are they just trying to lure in as many players as possible so that they'll give their game another chance while the going is good?

It feels like Neverwinter, too, has been giving out new free goodies pretty much every other week recently, and they also had a charity deal on last month that allowed players to buy the Dragonborn race pack (which usually costs something ridiculous like sixty dollars) for only ten bucks, and with 100% of the money going to charity (plus a similar deal for STO). They ended up raising more than 130,000 dollars, which seems pretty sweet.

Initially they said they were only giving out a limited number of keys and I missed out as the PC ones were gone very quickly, but later they "restocked" and I got to grab one myself too. It's not even like I was planning to make another alt or anything, but it was just too sweet an offer to pass up.



Last week Cryptic announced that the next module will be called Avernus. They haven't really said much more about it other than that it will come out "soon" (™) and that we'll continue our adventures in the first circle of hell under the guidance of Makos.

All I keep thinking is that "Avernus" seems like a very confusing name for a module that is the second one to take place there. That's kind of as if Underdark had been called "Going down" and then Maze Engine had been called "Underdark", when in fact both of them (mostly) took place in the Underdark.


Healing Sucks

I've had some time to get used to the Undermountain class changes at least on my cleric and my rogue by now, and playing dps cleric isn't all that bad. I use the Arbiter dps specialisation most of the time, and once you figure out the rhythm it relies on, it actually plays pretty smoothly and might even be considered fun!

Unfortunately there has been no such redemption for the healing spec. I even looked up a guide and everything, to make sure I wasn't just doing it wrong, but even the guide writer admitted that the healing gameplay is pretty dull. Most of the time your rotation is basically ABABAB, with A being an AoE heal (so there isn't even any prioritising of targets going on) and B coming down to standing still to pray and regenerate your divinity resource. There is enough synergy there that you "only" have to spend about as much time praying as you spend casting, but that is frankly still too much. Plus the combination of just using a single heal most of the time that isn't even targeted is just boring as hell.

I always found the way Neverwinter didn't used to have any "real" healers a bit odd, but if you accepted that system for what it was it was fun. I'm not against the idea of having the classes play like a "proper" trinity now either, considering that this is what I enjoy in my other MMOs, but then Cryptic really needs to step it up and make the healing gameplay more interesting than alternating between quick bursts of spamming one ability and standing around praying. I hear that the next module is supposed to bring changes to the system, but I'll reserve judgement until I actually see how they play out.



Devil Siege or Siege for short is one of the large heroic encounters in Avernus, and it's an odd one. The objective is to damage a massive siege engine until a boss appears, then kill the boss.

To achieve this, people first have to operate some catapults. How to do this is not terribly intuitive - for example they cannot be interacted with while any combat is going on too close to them, meaning that someone other than the catapult operator needs to make sure to drag any mobs away first.

What's really flummoxing though is that none of the actual objectives are displayed on the encounter tracker. It just tells you to kill devils - no mention of the siege engine at all - even though this appears to only be a bonus objective, and one I've never seen come even close to completion due to the insane number of kills it requires. I'm sure everyone new to the zone spends at least their first few runs of this heroic just killing devils in the middle, confused about what's going on and having to rely on one or two veterans who know what to do to actually progress the encounter.

More recently, the siege engine's health bar that can be seen in the above screenshot disappeared too, so now you don't even have an indicator of how well the fight is progressing. It's just confusing to me how anyone at Cryptic could have thought that this was a good idea.


Legacy Campaigns

When the level cap was raised to 80 with Undermountain, most old campaigns were awarded "legacy" status and not updated. I'm not sure what the selection criteria were, considering that the old Elemental Evil is still considered "current" while the much more recent Ravenloft has been designated a legacy campaign, but I'm guessing it might have simply come down to avoiding the hassle of re-scaling content where it would have been required.

With those old campaigns stuck at level 70, quests there can be completed with much more ease than previously now. To what end though? Cryptic were clearly asking themselves the same question and decided to add new weekly "legacy campaign quests" that ask you to either do quests, kill mobs or run heroic encounters on those old maps and that reward a special currency that can be used to purchase certain desirable items which were previously very hard to come by, such as companion upgrade tokens and high level enchanting stones.

This is one new feature I really love, as I'm both a fan of giving old content a new purpose and I really benefit from this new, more casual avenue to accessing those rare items.

All legacy campaign quests also reward currency for the campaign they are related to, plus bonus currency for a campaign of your choice (e.g. you could complete a quest to do Icewind Dale heroics and get both Icewind Dale currency as well as Chult tokens). This is useful to help get alts through campaigns you don't like as much and to get extra tokens that are required for stronghold upgrades.

I think this is really great design as it has also worked to greatly reinvigorate some of the old maps and especially the larger heroic encounters on them, which many people had previously lost interest in due to lack of rewards.


Tales of Old

My husband and a guildie have spent the last week going on about this event that's going on right now called "Tales of Old" and yesterday I finally gave in and agreed to take part. Apparently it centres on a selection of old dungeons that were previously removed and are selectively being returned for this event in a sort of challenge mode.

The framing for the event is that your party is working with a bard called Nipsy to spin an epic tale of how you supposedly once conquered a particular old dungeon, and you re-tell/re-run it several times to embellish your exploits. The first time you just do/did it without using any consumables, the second your artifacts didn't work either, the third time around you were hurting yourselves with every at-will power you cast, the fourth time all the enemies were doing poison damage on top of their normal abilities, and the final time you also had most/all(?) of your stats halved and are shrunk in size.

There are limitations both in the form of a timer (though it's not too tight and can be extended) and a death counter, which work together quite nicely to keep you going at a decent pace but without getting careless, as running out of "lives" ends the adventure just as prematurely as letting the timer run out.

We only did the first three difficulties in our run of Lair of the Mad Dragon as it was coming up to the event's reset time and my husband found out first hand that being in the instance when it resets leads to nothing but a very bad time. These were all fairly chill, though I'm told that the difficulty ramps up considerably at stages four and five.

As someone who's generally not super keen on Neverwinter's dungeons I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun this was, though I can imagine the required repetition becoming quite tedious in the long run. Still, now I want to try some of the other dungeons in the rotation before the event ends in a few days.


Chicken Farm

During one of our first visits to Avernus I saw a player talk in general chat about soon being able to open a chicken farm, and I remember wondering what that was all about.

As it turns out, one of the reward mechanisms in Infernal Descent is that you can use the currency acquired from repeatable quests and heroic encounters to buy "surprise bags", which have a chance of containing good gear, astral diamonds, or a random companion, vanity pet or mount. As it happens, by far the most common drop from them is the "infernal chick" vanity pet, and after a few weeks of buying these bags I, too, am up to owning 24 of the little things.

Unfortunately you can neither trade nor sell them, not even to a vendor, so they've just been accumulating in my vanity pet inventory. As of now there's still plenty of space in there, but I do wish Cryptic would let me do something with them other than delete them. As I generally hate deleting things in MMOs, I'll stick to the chicken farm in my bags for now.



In-game shorthand can tell you a lot about new content even when you don't quite know yet what all the acronyms stand for.

For example, when we first started questing in Avernus, we quickly noticed that chat was full of "+siege" and "+ape". This indicated that there were at least two big heroic encounters (BHEs, or "beehees" as my husband likes to call them) on the map that people liked to run for the rewards.

"Ape" seemed like a bit of an odd name, mind you, but we soon found out that this was because while the encounter was technically called "Demonic Summoning", it involved killing a giant Barlgura, a type of demon that looks like - you guessed it - some kind of ape. Why waste precious syllables when a simple "ape" will do it?


In Hell

Infernal Descent takes place in Avernus, the first circle of hell according to D&D lore. Players are provided with a safe haven there in the form of your base of operations, a stronghold that was pulled down into hell due to a curse or something, but otherwise the environment is (understandably) very hostile.

I think it's always challenging to make players spend extended amounts of time in zones that are by their very nature extremely hostile and unpleasant, because if the environment truly lives up to its reputation, no amount of rewards will make people want to hang around.

Avernus, too, largely manages to deliver on what you'd expect from a circle of hell, with a slightly grating soundtrack and everything being tinted in unpleasant shades of red. Even the mobs contribute, as the Erinyes' screeching for example is a proper pain in the rear. It's bearable for the duration it takes to get your weeklies done and the gameplay is fun, but unsurprisingly the first circle of hell is not a place where I'd like to spend more time in the long run.


April Fowls

In the past, Cryptic impressed players on April Fools' Day by creating a whole new, lovingly crafted joke campaign for the event, which became so popular that they just turned it into a generally recurring event after a while.

Since then I don't recall seeing anything new for April Fools, so I was pleasantly surprised to see them come up with something new this year: "April Fowls".

This silly event is chiock-full of bad chicken puns and mostly consists of a few daily quests that involve you turning into a chicken and using unique combat abilities. The currency you earn from them can be used to buy a giant chicken mount or a couple of vanity pets.

There is also a chicken themed PvP brawl that involves you taking on the same chicken forms and abilities as in the daily quests while pecking enemy players to death. I've only done it once so far but couldn't stop laughing pretty much through the entire thing.

It's not the most sophisticated event ever, but the light-hearted silliness of it all is just right for the current climate in my eyes, and for a limited-time event it's been great fun. It's on for a few more days if you haven't had a chance to give it a go.

Also amusing: guards continue to salute me while in chicken form.


Infernal Descent

As much as Uprising was a letdown, fortunately the newest module seems to be a good one again. In fact, my immediate impression was that after something like three lacklustre modules in a row, someone at Cryptic must have sat down to check which one was the last module that players really liked (Ravenloft) and decided to simply copy that.

Infernal Descent doesn't feature as iconic a setting, but it also has an introduction with some neat-ish cut scenes, interesting NPCs, and the way the overall campaign works is almost a straight copy and paste from Ravenloft: a map with a mix of big and small heroic encounters, endlessly repeatable quests on a randomised rotation and some very rewarding weeklies.


Uprising Letdown

Having just completed Uprising at the time of writing this post, I have to say that it has to be the laziest campaign that Cryptic has ever released, and lazy is not a word I use lightly in a context like this. It literally adds nothing but a tiny new quest hub where an NPC gives you a mission to fetch four whatsits.

To get a whatsit, you first need to gather thingamabobs. To get thingamabobs, you need to run more of the same expeditions that you've been running for all of Undermountain, only without the relics and with some different boss mobs at the end.

To get access to those ever so slightly different expeditions, you first have to get doodads. To get a doodad, you have to do a daily quest to kill mobs in the exact same zones that you used to level through Undermountain, only now they have some different mobs in them.

So basically, aside from the quest hub and a couple of new boss mobs, there were no new zones, story or content in Uprising. Worse, what I explained above isn't even properly conveyed in game either - you're just given the quest for the four whatsits and then two daily quests to get doodads, with no indication of how the two are connected. For some reason Cryptic couldn't even be bothered to create an actual campaign screen for this one to track your progress. You'll just have to google it to figure it out.

It's not that I hated the content (mob grinding is a big part of Neverwinter and doesn't need to be particularly inspired as far as I'm concerned), but I'm stunned that they officially labelled this as module 17 considering that there've been sub-modules in the past that had more than this to offer.


Neverwinter vs. STO

There is a little chart called "weekly top games" on the Arc launcher, and for as long as I can remember, Neverwinter has held the number one spot on it, followed by Star Trek Online in second. Ever since I came back though, I've noticed that STO has been in first place some weeks. Has Neverwinter really decreased in popularity that much?

I consulted the Steam Charts once again, just to get a gauge on the relative popularity of the two games, and they do indeed show more people having played STO than Neverwinter for most of 2020. The last time that happened was back in 2016! Then I realised that STO recently celebrated its 10th anniversary though, which I'm sure helped it garner some extra attention, and activity does appear to have been dropping off again since that event ended on PC.

That said, the Neverwinter chart has definitely seen better days too. The game's last major peak appears to have been in July 2018 with the release of Ravenloft (understandably), and after the release of Undermountain in particular you can see a noticeable decline in interest (also understandably if you ask me - people don't like having to relearn the entire game!). We'll see if the current climate encourages more players to give the game another chance, like I have.


Keeping Up Appearances

At launch, Neverwinter had no real cosmetic system at all, only the option to display a "fashion set" instead of your regular gear, which was extremely limited. Later on they added dyes and the ability to "overwrite" an item's appearance with that of another item, but doing so destroyed the latter, which was annoying e.g. when you got a new weapon and had to choose between either salvaging the old one for currency or destroying it to preserve the appearance. It could also get quite expensive if you replaced your gear frequently but wanted to keep the same look.

I was pleased to see that with Uprising the devs decided to make an attempt at getting Neverwinter caught up with more modern MMOs in regards to cosmetics. There is now a dedicated appearance tab where you can set a look you want and it stays on even if you swap gear around. You still need to destroy gear that you want to "add to your appearance library" once, but after that you can re-use the look forever. Likewise dyes only need to be unlocked once and are re-usable after that.

I felt vindicated for actually having kept some old gear pieces that I liked the look of in the bank for a rainy day - now I just needed to convert them to appearance library items and they were ready to be worn again!

The system's still far from perfect, mind you - for example there is currently no way to save multiple outfits for easy swapping. Also, the old fashion system still exists and now just feels weird and confusing in the way these things tend to go in older MMOs when a newer system effectively replaces an older one but the old one doesn't get removed. Still, it's a step in the right direction.


Life Steal

The life steal stat in Neverwinter has long been my go-to example of why allowing too much self-healing is bad, at least in a game that's supposed to have a trinity system. People were healing themselves so much that dedicated healers quickly became redundant, and since it scaled with damage output, characters also became increasingly unkillable the more damage they did.

It received a big nerf at least once (possibly more often than that) but it was only with Undermountain that Cryptic decided to remove the stat altogether, while also all but eliminating abilities that used to do both damage and healing simultaneously.

And I've got to say, even though I agree that it was bad... suddenly being without it after years of playing a certain way sucks too, as my characters now have to consume potions/health stones like nobody's business. Considering that regular potions barely heal you at all and the actually useful health stones are sold in the cash shop, it's also hard not to suspect Cryptic of having made this move to encourage cash shop purchases rather than out of any actual gameplay concerns.



One thing I like about Neverwinter is that it rarely tries to reinvent the wheel in terms of gameplay, usually "just" reiterating from one module to the next to make certain pieces of content more fun or at least fun in a different way.

In Undermountain they did this in the form of expeditions, which appear to be that module's solo to small group endgame content. At its core they are lairs (soloable mini dungeons), with the fiction being that you venture forth into the depths of Undermoutain to explore and discover treasure.

Each lair consists of three sections randomly drawn from a limited selection of caves and populated with random sets of mobs to create variety.

A mechanic ported over from Ravenloft's hunts is that you can add a handicap to increase your rewards, though the effects aren't as interesting as they were in Barovia: mobs merely get stronger and some traps appear that can debuff you.

The (to me) most interesting twist is that you are encouraged to find three relics in each section to boost your rewards, which tend to be hidden away in corners and nooks. I would expect this to somewhat discourage speed-running, as rushing through makes it easier to miss them. Rather on the contrary, this particular content feels quite well-tailored towards people like me who prefer to amble along at a more stately pace while taking in the sights. (Typically though, I then found out that the other expedition "types" that Cryptic added later contain no such relics, presumably because the mechanic wasn't popular.)

Unfortunately the lack of variety in terms of the dungeon building blocks and mob mechanics causes the whole thing to get old pretty quickly.


Class Confusion, Part 2

I made an effort to at least log into all my characters of the other four classes and have a bit of a play around.

Wizard: This one probably felt the least changed so far, with all of my favourite abilities seemingly still present, but similar to the rogue it still didn't feel quite right. The control aspect just wasn't entirely there and using the same rotation I used to use, instead of enemies getting locked down I just got punted around a lot and my damage output generally felt weak. It's possible that I missed something when setting up the feats; will have to investigate.

Ranger: Similar to the wizard, this one doesn't feel like it's changed a lot; it was just so much weaker in terms of damage output. Maybe it's a gear scaling thing and they'll all feel stronger again once at the new level cap.

Paladin: No more healing and doing damage (even a little) at the same time, bah! And they gave them a similar divinity mechanic to the cleric's, which I'm not a huge fan of. I may have to play a bit more to be able to make a definitive judgement, but my first impression is that like with the barbarian, they ruined another of my favourite classes.

Fighter: Like with the warlock, I don't actually have very detailed memories of playing this one, but I certainly wasn't a fan of the class's gameplay in the past. That said, the new seethe mechanic for the dps spec actually feels like it could be fun, setting up combos of first blocking damage and then hitting all the harder for it.

So far, it seems that the classes that I liked have mostly been made less fun, while a couple of the ones I didn't like have been improved a little. Homogenisation achieved?


Unscaled Stronghold

Ever since their introduction, guild strongholds have featured level scaling. Since level scaling in Neverwinter isn't very good, this was of limited usefulness - you couldn't realistically go around as an upscaled level 15 and do content in the stronghold on your own - but if you found a guildie or friend to team up with, you did actually stand a chance at killing things together.

For some reason Cryptic opted to remove level scaling when they levelled everything in the stronghold up to 80 with Undermountain. This has the annoying consequence that you are completely useless as a lower-level character now. When I used a level 70 alt to tag along with my husband's paladin as he did some heroic encounters, I was nothing but a squishy liability, with some of my attacks hitting for only 1 damage.

It's an odd choice to make and I hope Cryptic still rethinks it. Levelling in Neverwinter may not be hard, but I don't really see any benefit in making the stronghold content less inclusive.


Class Confusion

I'm slowly getting used to the new cleric mechanics. I still haven't figured out divinity management in my healing spec, but hopefully I'll get there.

The real problem is that I have seven more characters that I don't have a clue how to play now. Levelling them over the course of several years, I had plenty of time to get acquainted with how each one worked at least on a casual level. Now they've all had their mechanics changed, powers and boons reset, and I'm basically lost.

I have tentatively started logging into a few of them to get an idea of where things stand with other classes, and my first impressions can mostly be summed up as "uncomfortable":

Rogue: The basic mechanics (stealth etc.) of this one don't seem to have changed - thank god - however unfortunately the build I used to run with no longer exists. I used to rely on certain abilities having synergies (use A to trigger B and reset the cooldown on C) that are no longer in the game, so I did a lot of flailing about wondering why things weren't coming off cooldown as expected. Will need to look up a new build at some point.

Barbarian: I was crushed to find that Battlerage (formerly Unstoppable) no longer grants temporary hitpoints. It was a key part of the ability that it combined an incentive to not bother with dodging out of the red circles (the control immunity) with the ability to survive standing in them for a few seconds. The new version grants a slight damage reduction instead but that's not nearly as good. Not sure where to go with this one.

Warlock: This was the class I knew the least about since it was the last one I levelled, which has the advantage that I'm feeling less pain from my previous knowledge being made redundant now. I never really "got" warlocks, and the new and improved version is even more confusing to me. They have a new resource bar that doesn't seem all that great and depletes so rapidly that I feel like I should constantly hurry from combat to combat to avoid "wasting" the resource, which I don't like at all. But hey, I never liked the class much to begin with, so I guess this one's no big loss.


Talking Swords

(Minor Undermountain quest spoiler to follow.)

I don't remember where and when I first heard or read it, but I distinctly remember someone once telling me that talking magical weapons in a D&D setting were pretty much always bad news. This memory keeps coming back to me every time I encounter one, but Neverwinter seems to be set on defying my expectations.

First there was the Sunsword in Ravenloft, whose pride and OP-ness made for - in its own words - "a superlative experience".

Now, in Undermountain you find another talking sword in a green dragon's lair. After you beat the dragon, it urges you to use its blade for the finishing blow. So you stick it into the dragon's head... and the creature rises again, with the magical sword now effectively controlling the dragon's mind and body.

Then you spend the rest of the zone with a dragon buddy helping you fight the baddies.

Not what I expected.

(Also, obligatory Bloglovin link so I can add the blog to my list there!)


Delving Into Undermountain

Remembering that most of my best times in Neverwinter involved playing the game with my husband, I convinced him to reinstall it as well and dust off his oathbound paladin. At first he was very reluctant, but already a few hours in he didn't want to stop playing again because he was really enjoying himself and wanted to see how the storyline we were playing through was going to end.

In fact, his enthusiasm was so overwhelming that we ended up playing through almost the entirety of the Undermountain campaign in a single Sunday afternoon session. This was made possible by it being the first campaign that didn't feature any time gating for story progression or boon acquisition. I don't know if it was like that at launch or if this is something Cryptic implemented later, but it made for a pleasant discovery either way.

The gameplay was a mix of the usual "kill x things over there and click y things while you're at it", but that's what we we're here for, isn't it? I did notice that some missions involved the use of some newfangled temporary abilities, but they were integrated into the UI in an unobtrusive way and not annoying.

The story was also enjoyable, in usual D&D fashion involving a mix of the slightly tragic but often silly. We were curious to see where plot developments would go throughout the whole thing and kept chatting about it while doing the quests. "I really want to know who that mysterious woman is!" Or: "I wonder what we're going to do with this guy; I mean we're working with him right now but he's evil, right?"

I may have been very annoyed with his module for all its system changes, but in terms of story they certainly did a very good job.


New Tutorial

One of the things that intrigued me enough to get back into Neverwinter was mention of a revamped early levelling experience. In hindsight I had already read about plans for that back in July last year; I'd just forgotten about it again after more or less moving on from the game.

So I went ahead and created a new great weapon fighter barbarian of the one free-to-play race I didn't have yet - wood elf, apparently (this game has too many sub-species of elves) - and levelled her from one to ten.

And... I quite liked it! In terms of functionality and major plot points, the tutorial is largely unchanged, but it now makes for a much smoother continuation from the intro cinematic. I always thought it was a bit odd that after you witness the city under attack, the game then introduced your character as a shipwreck survivor (?!), with the only vague connection to the cinematic being a flash of memory indicating that your ship was sunk by the same dracolich that's also attacking the city. Then you fight your way into Neverwinter itself and... everything is peachy keen inside.

In the new version, you willingly join the battle to defend the city and even assist Makos with bringing down the dracolich. You also meet Celeste early on. When you get into the city, there is still fighting going on, with the Nashers having used the distraction to steal the crown, and only after you re-emerge from the vaults do you see that things have calmed down.

What does intrigue me is the fate of Private Wilfred though, who used to be the friendly NPC guiding you through the tutorial instead of Makos, just to die by Valindra's hand five minutes later. In the new version he's inside the city and lends you a horse at Sergeant Knox' command but doesn't speak. Has the timeline been altered to result in his survival? Or is he just doomed to die at a later point now, like the protagonist's fiancée in the 2002 version of The Time Machine? I kind of want to find out.


Feeling The Pull

After seeing first Telwyn, then Syp, and finally even Bhagpuss talk about Neverwinter in the past month, I finally reinstalled it. (I never uninstalled it actually; I just got a new PC and never bothered to install it there.) I haven't played it yet, but I'm guessing that will be the next step.

I thought I was done with the game after how they followed up a disappointing mod 15 with a seemingly even worse mod 16 that left me feeling completely detached from all my characters. But it seems that I can't quite let go. While it's never been my primary MMO, I guess it's hard not to feel somewhat attached after so many years of playing and getting eight characters to max level at one point.

When I quit retail World of Warcraft I was quite sure that it was over because the devs had made it pretty explicit that they thought the sort of things I enjoyed were not fun in their book and their design wasn't going to support them any longer. Cryptic on the other hand is just terribly incompetent at times from what I can tell, so one can always hope that things get better again I guess? There are three whole campaigns that I haven't played through at this point.

(By the way, what's up with the weird new music on the login screen? If you let it run for a bit it turns oddly metal. Is Infernal Descent a metal module?)