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.


Battling Bots

I don't really like Neverwinter's PvP, mostly for balance reasons, but after having a fairly good time in the 10-19 bracket with Traitine the other day, I decided to give it another try on my level 62 pally tonight. Imagine my surprise when I was joined by nothing but bots on both teams...

I had some silly fun with that for a couple of matches, as shown above. (I didn't intend to record my voice actually, but I used it for the video in the end because both the confusion and the insane cackling seem naturally appropriate.) Then I got into a match where there was an actual player on the enemy team, a trickster rogue who kept perma-dazing and two-shotting me. That reminded me of why I don't like Neverwinter's PvP to begin with and I quit.


The One Time I Decide to Give Cryptic Money...

... they have to go and fuck things up.

Lured in by their Black Friday sale for Neverwinter, I decided to buy their biggest Zen bundle for $200/£160. I hadn't given them any money in nearly half a year while having a fair bit of fun with the game, so it seemed only fair that I should buy some Zen again - I had just been holding out for some good charge rewards. Then I saw this page, which included the all-important line: "If you charge in any tier, you’ll receive all items in the tiers below, so charging $20, will grant you both the Zhentarim Warlock and the Neverwintan Noble Title." So I would get $200 worth of Zen, a bunch of bonus Zen, three mounts, a companion and a title? Sweet!

Except, once they had my money I was redirected to a page where I was prompted to spend my "reward points" and lo and behold, there were nowhere near enough of them to buy all the rewards I had supposedly earned. I was relieved to find on the forums that I wasn't the only one who had noticed this.

However, Cryptic's response so far has been less than impressive, as it basically comes down to "oops, we'll look into it after the weekend" while also quickly removing the "you'll receive all the items in the tier below" line from the promotion page. Apparently the promotion was never meant to work as advertised. Can you say "bait and switch"? I really would have expected more professionalism from a company that is happy to take these amounts of money from their customers.


Sea of Moving Ice Impressions

While the transition between water and land is a bit laggy and awkward, I do like that it's seamless and doesn't require any additional action from you (e.g. activating the boat or anything). Also, the khyek's sails are really pretty; I love the way they shimmer. I hate having to spell "khyek" though; I always just want to write kayak.

I do like the fishing mini game. It's nice and relaxing. And I love the idea of having fishing heroic encounters! That giant sea turtle coming out of nowhere to kill you is bullshit though. Also, ultimately I'm not sure what the point of having all these fish is, as there only seem to be a few rare ones that are used for crafting and everything else can only be turned in for elk tribe reputation? I'm kind of missing a reason to keep at it, other than the daily quest.

Not sure what I think of treasure maps. Asking people to identify the correct spot based on an environmental drawing in a zone that consists entirely of samey-looking ice and rocks is a bit of a pain, not to mention that everyone will just look up a guide on the internet anyway. That said, the treasures often seem to be hidden away in such a manner that even if you know the rough coordinates on the map, it's still a challenge to figure out how to get there.