New Levelling Experience

Seeing how mod 21 is all about changing the levelling experience, I thought it made sense to create a new alt to check out how that's worked out. Thus Barb the Aasimar bard was born (more on bards another time). It's kind of strange to me to be investigating the tutorial again after I wrote about it being revamped only a little over a year ago.

I only played through that version of the intro once so my memories of it aren't very detailed, but based on what I wrote back then the first part outside the city doesn't seem to have changed much, except maybe that the combat felt a bit less faceroll than I remember. However, the part inside Protector's Enclave is completely different: We're once again back to no signs of fighting inside the city gates, and there's nothing about the Nashers wanting to steal the crown anymore. Instead you get sent to Sergeant Knox in the newly invented "Adventurer's Guild", where you're given a brief combat tutorial in a special training room before being sent straight to Neverdeath Graveyard.

I don't know whether I like or dislike this change, I just know that as a long-time player it feels extremely bizarre. With whole low-level zones and story arcs wiped out, it feels extremely rushed compared to the old experience... yet at the same time I'm not sure that's really a bad thing, considering I've said in the past that - in somewhat of an inversion of most games in the genre - Neverwinter's early levels used to be among the worst, largely because of how samey and front-loaded with system tutorials they were (which was alright the first time but extremely tedious on alts).

I could see it being appealing for new players to "jump into the action" more quickly, but my general experience with MMOs has been that propelling the player forward more quickly isn't necessarily more engaging either.

The lack of any sort of visible character progression with the removal of XP is also extremely strange to me. The new milestone system means that you only gain levels for completing certain quests, but until you are on one of those quests, there's no visual indicator of how close you are to the next milestone/level, so your only real motivation to keep going is sheer momentum or interest in the story, and let's be honest, with the exception of a few clever storylines, narrative has never been Neverwinter's strong suit.

I guess this also means that you will no longer have a choice of alternative levelling paths, which I can see getting rather repetitive on alts, even if the overall length of the journey has been shortened by a lot.


Barren, yet Overloaded

 ... is my briefest of day one impressions of mod 21. Barren, because that's how the Sword Coast map looks to me with seven zones removed - see below for which ones got the axe:

Overloaded, because every character has dozens of new rewards to claim for content they've already completed, and just claiming all the boxes without even opening most of them was enough to give me a slight case of inventory panic. I'll have to take all my alts through this process slowly.

Oh, and I gained a new max-level alt because my previously level 65 cleric alt that I created after Undermountain is now also at the new cap of 20.


Mod 21 Has a Name

I was starting to wonder whether the tradition to give each module a name was simply another thing Cryptic was getting rid of. But no, it's going to be called "Jewel of the North" (which is a "nickname" for the city of Neverwinter) and they uploaded a "features trailer" for it today:

Release is going to be in two weeks. Let's see how that NGE and bard class play out.