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.