20/01/2018

Hunts

I've been holding off on writing about hunts because I didn't even understand how they work for ages. Unfortunately the system is unusually poorly explained in-game. Fortunately Neverwinter Unblogged's guide came to the rescue.

The basic idea of a hunt is that you spawn a mini-boss with a lure and this boss then has a chance of dropping some nice loot.

However, to trade for a lure you need both a trophy and a T-Rex fang. Trophies have a chance of dropping from rare mobs, which in turn have a chance of spawning in various spots on the map where the regular version of that mob usually spawns. So you could find a sabertooth in a tiger spawn point for example. A T-Rex is the rare version of a regular Tyrannosaur, of which there are only ever a couple on the map. Both the regular version and the rare T-Rex are incredibly tedious to kill if you don't have high dps.

So the result is that if you want to participate in hunting, you need to run around the map killing mobs for a chance of getting a rare spawn, kill that for a chance of getting a trophy, and use that for the chance of getting a drop from the summoned mini-boss.

Unfortunately the jungle is an aggravating place to be and the whole system is just one layer of randomness after another. As a more casual player I can only give it a thumbs-down.

13/01/2018

Carry On

I've mentioned before that the huge number of attributes that a character can have in Neverwinter creates huge min-maxing potential. I haven't played another MMO where there is such a massive difference between characters not just based on class and skill but also based on gear.

A good example was when my pet tank and I queued for the Merchant's Prince's Folly skirmish today (small group PvE content). We could immediately tell that someone in the group was doing massive dps based on how quickly we were carving through the instance, and indeed, at the end the statistics screen revealed that our great weapon fighter (for some reason it's almost always a great weapon fighter) had done more than 38 million damage compared to my less than two. That means that he did more than 1800% of my own damage! And it's not as if I was just standing around and not trying.

It can be a bit discouraging sometimes to see these huge performance gaps, but at the same time I have to hand it to the community that at least in the sort of PvE content that I tend to do, nobody ever bothers you about bad performance. More often than not I tend to just be grateful to those players for carrying people like me to victory without complaint.

06/01/2018

Simril Success

Despite of my earlier complaints, I finished this year's Winter Festival on a positive note, by achieving both of the goals that I had set myself initially, which were to earn the seasonal weapon skins for both my great weapon fighter and my paladin.

Funny thing is, I haven't even used the one for my fighter yet, because the one I used to "temporarily" turn her new artifact weapon back into a sword is actually quite nice, so I decided to just save the new skin for whenever I need to change weapons again. (ETA about two years?)

I do love my pally's new look though; I find that the sparkly theme fits the class particularly well. The only thing that disappointed me a little is how small the new appearance makes the shield look, as I always found it quite humorous to see my petite elf disappear behind a ginormous shield wall that she'd probably never even be able to carry.

03/01/2018

Fishing for Treasure

Early on while participating in this season's Winter Festival, I noticed that I would occasionally fish up "treasures" during the fishing contest. As treasures are usually what Neverwinter calls vendor trash, I didn't think too much of it.

They weren't marked as vendor trash however, so I eventually looked them up and learned that there is a vendor who trades these for various campaign currencies. He's located on a pedestal behind the daily quest giver in Twilight Tor and has a somewhat unusual-looking face, which immediately made me wonder whether he was modelled after a real person... But I still shrugged it all off - I'm generally fine just playing through the campaigns the normal way.

Then, two days before the end of the event, I learned that ten fished-up Treasures of Tiamat can be traded for one Linu's Favor, the annoying-to-come-by campaign currency that has stopped me from officially completing the Tyranny of Dragons campaign to this day. And this option has been in game since 2016???

I went on an emergency fishing spree on my main, but even with the top fishing pole it took forever to get enough of the right treasures, so I eventually gave up on it again. I briefly considered buying a few sabiki rigs from the Zen store (special lures that increase your chance of getting a good catch), but then told myself that this wasn't much less "paying to win" than just buying full campaign completion.

Maybe I'll remember to start fishing on my main in time next winter...

01/01/2018

Twilight Rage

I've been spending some time at the Winter Festival this season after giving it a pass last year and it's still surprising amounts of fun! But the sheer bugginess of the Twilight Run has sent me into a rage more than once.

Okay, level sync getting removed when you collect one of the bonus baggies is just funny and doesn't affect the run itself.

Lag and rubberbanding making you miss objectives is super annoying but hardly new.

However, what's with the gates and the quest bugging out all the time and not giving proper credit? I once managed a run where I only got 10 points for the slalom gates, and no, I had not managed to miss every single one of them bar one.

The quest getting stuck entirely is even worse - most often I had it suddenly stop at one of the rally gates and then just complete after the run is finished, but twice it also managed to bug out at the very end, saying I had failed to reach the finish line and staying that way until I did another full run for zero points (at that stage, even running over a bonus bag would give me nothing) to run over the finish line a second time.

31/12/2017

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.

16/12/2017

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.

10/12/2017

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.

02/12/2017

Ecosystem

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.

25/11/2017

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.