Back in 2015 I wrote about the concept of artifact gear and how its grindiness worried me. Nearly two years later, I finally maxed out my cleric's main hand weapon. By now I honestly wasn't sure it was ever going to happen!

But don't worry about me running out of things to grind for, there's still her off-hand, the belt and four artifacts to go, not to mention that none of my enchantments are above rank 10...


Stag Do

The Sylvan Stag is an old mount, added to the game way back during the Sharandar campaign, but it was the first and only lockbox mount that I recall ever actually wanting. Not enough to actually take part in Neverwinter's lockbox shenanigans, mind you - and the price on the auction house was always prohibitively high for a casual player like me.

The recent appearance of these stags in Nostura's Forest reminded me to have another look to check the current rate they were going for, and lo and behold, they were only a fraction of what they used to be! Still by no means cheap, but affordable even to me, so I finally gave in and purchased one. I decided to give it to my hunter ranger since that seemed most thematically appropriate, and my cleric main has enough other mounts that suit her anyway.

The only thing that remains mysterious to me is why the price has dropped so much. A (very) cursory Google search seemed to indicate that a lot of previously rare mounts and companions have been added as (also rare) reward drops to dungeon and skirmish chests, which would certainly explain it. Good times for me in any case.



Boons in Neverwinter are an interesting concept. Basically they are a way for you to keep gaining power at max level beyond upgrading your gear, by permanently adding to your character's stats and abilities. You usually get to choose from one of several boons upon completing a certain amount of campaign tasks. Some of them are fairly mundane, such as "you gain 2000 extra hitpoints", while others can involve interesting procs along the lines of "every time you get hit in combat, you have a chance of striking your opponent with a bolt of lightning".

One the one hand, this is a neat form of progression beyond merely grinding for gear, but on the other hand it's not very alt-friendly, considering that there are more than half a dozen endgame campaigns in the game by now and each one is supposed to take you about a month to complete. None of my own alts have finished more than a couple of those campaigns for example.

Cryptic does actually offer a way of catching up more quickly... but it's via buying campaign completion from the cash shop. I'm sure that those who are heavily invested in the game and enjoy running endgame on alts are grateful to have an option at all, but it is yet another thing that adds to the game's pay-to-win flavour.


The Cloaked Ascendancy Story (Spoilers)

We finished chapter five of the Cloaked Ascendancy story today, and while there is still the quest to do Spellplague Caverns, I think the main arc is pretty much over. While I consider the River District a great new map, the story accompanying it has struck me as very lacklustre. I don't expect a particularly high standard of storytelling from Cryptic, but I know they can do better than this.

It started off interesting enough: Who is this Gyrion? And Lord Neverember grousing about how ungrateful people were towards him was pretty hilarious. For a moment I wondered whether he was about to go rogue or something, but the actual reveal was fine too.

But the whole thing with Celeste was really badly done. When she "changed sides", she looked like she was being mind-controlled or something and it just felt wrong that nobody seemed in the least concerned by this! When it was revealed that she had only gone undercover I was kind of: "Bwuh?" It just didn't add up. Maybe the bad voice acting and lack of animation on her face were to blame in this case.

Gyrion and his allies didn't really go anywhere either though. There is a hint early on that they might have interesting backgrounds, with Kabal having formerly been a mage for example, but in the end nothing ever came of that either. Honestly a bit of a let-down.


Fun Weeklies

PSA: It seems that in the Cloaked Ascendancy's campaign progression, it's better to immediately follow up "Investigate [Boss X]" with "Confront [Boss X]" instead of investigating the other two bosses first, as this apparently unlocks the weekly quest. My pet tank and I were not aware of this and therefore wasted some valuable progression time during which we could have already had access to the weekly.

I really like what they've done with the weekly mission in this zone. There are three bosses with strongly themed lairs (magic, fire, nature), and each one presents a slightly different challenge in terms of mechanics, not just focusing on combat. In the first you super-jump across floating platforms, in the second you dodge streams of fire and in the third you get to ride fey stags through an obstacle course before confronting the boss. You only actually have to face one of them each week too, so if not all of these mechanics float your boat, you can pick your favourite and just stick to that.

Even though we initially died many times before we got it right the first time, I think the stag ride in Nostura's realm is my personal favourite so far. The slight trippiness of it all somehow reminded me of Robot Attack Unicorn - thus I chose Erasure as my soundtrack when I recorded it:


Devs Are People Too

After Thursday's patch, my pet tank and I logged into the River District to be greeted by massive lag and rubberbanding. I quickly noticed that the instance cap appeared to have been raised from its usual 15-20(?) to 50, which the engine couldn't handle at all. Checking the forums, this was unintentional and had apparently happened before. I was surprised though to see a dev chime in directly:

There's a new system we're using to adjust the instance cap easily. Each week, we're finding slightly new problems with it where it's reverting last week's change. Each time, for different reasons, even if it looks the same to players. I appreciate your patience after each maintenance morning while I'm mid-commute before I can fix it. Today took a little longer since my root canal took longer than expected, so the caps were wrong until around 11. Next week's maintenance will integrate the actual map sizes into the build, so no more overrides to get lost.

So, there you have it: we can blame his root canal. It was funny to see a dev put such a personal note on a bug report. Kind of reminded me of how things go at my place of work sometimes when my employer's website has issues.


Inv Ship Pls

The heroic encounters in the River District are a funny thing. There are four large ones in total - three that share a spawn timer and appear in one of three corners of the map (I don't know if their order is fixed or randomised), and one that can be triggered by player hand-ins and is located almost right next to the zone's base.

As a result, everyone runs the latter all the time and general chat is flooded with invite requests so that people can chain-run the encounter by quickly hopping from one instance to the next. Meanwhile, the other three events largely go ignored. (The fact that the teleporting mobs that are part of Gyrion's forces are super annoying doesn't help.)

MMO min-maxing at its finest.


River District

Like most of Neverwinter's campaigns, the River District can be summed up as "more of the same, but a bit different". Here's what I like and don't like about it so far:


+ The environment. While one could argue that a slightly twisted cityscape doesn't make for the most exciting adventuring zone, I like being back in the game's eponymous capital.

+ Zone size. Sea of Moving Ice taught me that bigger isn't necessarily better, especially when a single round of dailies takes ages simply because you spend ten minutes travelling to where you need to be. I like how the River District feels much more compact.

+ Variety of activities. Instead of being asked to do x number of daily quests every day, you're only given a single quest that basically asks you to "do stuff" and you can pick your own activity mix to complete it. This allows you to change things up at any time.

+ Better treasure maps. The treasure maps from Sea of Moving Ice have made a return here, but since the environment contains a lot more notable points of interest, you actually stand a reasonable chance of finding the treasure even without a guide.


- Mob density. This might be a side effect of the small zone size, but mob packs are plentiful and hard to avoid. Additionally they seem to be tuned to hit in such a way that a purple quality mount isn't enough to not get knocked off anymore, so I'm getting dismounted pretty much any time I aggro anything at all.

Overall, the good seems to outweigh the bad so far.


Still Around

I just haven't been playing Neverwinter lately because the launch of the latest SWTOR expansion drew both me and all my guildies back to that. The greatly reduced log-in rewards also didn't give me any reason to keep logging in at least once a day anymore.

However, my pet tank and I are now back to check out the River District. I loved the giant O-face my character made in chapter four of the story. More thoughts may follow as and when.


Charge Rewards Resolved

I got an e-mail from Cryptic last night that they resolved the Black Friday charge rewards issue. They did what I suspected would be the easiest way of dealing with the matter, which was to give everyone affected free extra "reward points" so that they'd be able to actually buy all the rewards they had been promised (shock, horror).

In fact, I suddenly had enough points to hit "claim" on the owlbear a second time! Not that this actually resulted in a second owlbear in game, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try. I can't really complain about not getting a second owlbear as that certainly wasn't what had been promised.

I am mollified for now, but I'll certainly approach any future promotions like this with a lot more scepticism.