Jewel of the North Cinematic

The other day I was surprised on logging in to find that Cryptic had added a cinematic trailer for Jewel of the North, which plays the first time you log in after the most recent patch.

The only other module I remember having a cinematic trailer was Ravenloft, and that's one of D&D's most well-known IPs. I'm not sure what exactly qualified this mod for the extra marketing budget.

The trailer isn't the greatest thing ever, but I do kind of like it. It's just sad that the way it wants to evoke the connection to the tabletop game and going on badass adventures with a party of friends doesn't really map to anything you can actually do in the game.



Not only did Cryptic remove a bunch of zones with Jewel of the North, but there are other ways in which it feels like the game has oddly regressed.

For example the Ebon Downs storyline is back to concluding with the Throne of Idris dungeon - an instance that was in the game at launch, got removed with Elemental Evil, and then just became accessible again occasionally during the Tales of Old event. It feels pretty retro to just get sent back in there at the end of the zone for a quest... with the main difference that it can now be soloed.

Also, I remember I used to think it was pretty neat how Tyranny of Dragons expanded various levelling zones, added dragon heroics to them, and introduced players to the concept of progressing a campaign while levelling. This first half of the campaign has now been removed, and the zones that remain and that used to have dragon encounters in them have been shrunk back to their previous size.

This is such a strange module.


Things to Do in Mod 21

I was wondering what there was going to be to do for existing players in Jewel of the North if it was all focused on revamping the way levelling works. The answer is: not much. As mentioned in my previous post, if you never completed the levelling zones that remain in the game, now is a good time to go back and do them. Even if you already did them, there are a couple of new tutorial quests that you'll have to go through to earn the new rewards, but that's it.

That said, I reckon this is a great time to give the game another shot if you haven't played in a while. Just do whatever new quests Sergeant Knox has for you and the rewards will start rolling in in no time. The new catch-up gear will bring you close to on par with what used to be top level gear only a module or two ago. It's kind of impressive how far the game has come in terms of generosity there, because I still remember how stingy it used to be with simple quality-of-life things like mounts and bags. Now you have a blue quality mount and companion before hitting level ten and get a 42-slot bag just for completing Vellosk.


Campaigns and Adventures

A few years ago I gently poked fun at Cryptic for wanting to fit all the game's zone quests into their "campaign" endgame model. Considering what an awkward fit that was, I like how they've split content into campaigns and "adventures" with mod 21. A campaign is still what it always was: a grind to repeat content like dailies or heroic encounters in order to fill a bar and earn things like boons and access to higher-level group content.

An adventure on the other hand is simply a series of story quests - whether inside a single zone or delivered via loosely connected solo instances - that you're only expected to complete once, and at the end you get some more mundane (but in the new system also quite high-level) rewards such as increasing amounts of AD, gear, plus conveniences like mounts or bags.

All the old levelling zones that were kept are now adventures, as is Acquisitions Incorporated, which was always terrible as a campaign, seeing how it was basically a collection of story quests that the campaign framework required you to grind over and over again. The Underdark story (which was always completely disconnected from the campaign with the same name) has also been reclassified as an adventure, and the associated campaign to grind heroic encounters has been completely removed. This does make things more consistent.

The only downside from my point of view is that since they upped the rewards for adventures so drastically, they kind of feel mandatory to do on all characters now. I used to skip a lot of the old zones while levelling up my alts just to keep things varied, meaning that I'm now looking at potentially re-running zones like Neverdeath Graveyard, Vellosk etc. on half a dozen max-level alts just because the new rewards are too good to pass up.


Housekeeping Required

It's commonly agreed that one of the biggest challenges for players returning to an MMO they haven't visited in a while is remembering how to play their character, figuring out what to do next, and what all the stuff in their bags is. A big patch that makes major systems changes can be similarly confusing for existing players. But seriously, no game I've played is as bad at this as Neverwinter.

I'm still trying to sort out all my characters post-mod 21 launch. Quests reset, stats reset, new stuff to claim and use or stow away (unless you want those flashing notifications to bother you forever), old stuff made redundant and requiring trading in somewhere (why can't they just auto-convert obsolete currencies like most other games?)... just the amount of housekeeping required to keep playing the characters I was happy and comfortable with the day before the patch is insane. And it feels like they do this about once a year. Just why, Cryptic?