Neverwinter: companion upgrade time

I finally took the plunge and upgraded my great weapon fighter’s companion from blue to purple quality last night. I really like the dread warrior companion, it’s been a great help as I’ve levelled and he has a chance of healing me and increasing my threat generation so he’s a pretty good tanking companion. However at blue quality I was noticing in the new campaign zones that he was getting flattened pretty quickly by larger enemy attacks.

nw_upgTorstThe upgrade from blue to purple costs an eye-watering 750,000 astral diamonds. That’s a lot of dailies for the bonus AD or via the Zen exchange 1500 Zen’s worth of astral diamonds at the current capped exchange rate of 500 to 1. It’s a seller’s market completely at present as soon as I listed the Zen it was instantly snapped up even at that price. I could possibly have scrapped together enough AD to buy the upgrade by robbing all of my characters of their AD but with multiple campaigns active on all my characters there are other uses for their AD such as unlocking the higher campaign tasks or buying much-needed tier gear.

Me and my dread warrior

Me and my dread warrior

I’d contemplated buying another purple companion outright as that would probably be better ‘value’ than upgrading but for this particular character the dread warrior is a perfect fit and I’m very used to playing with him. If I’m going to spend real money on the game I’d rather it was for something I’ll see plenty of use out of – we’re currently doing the dailies for both Sharandar and the Dragon campaign as a duo so having combat companions is still very useful.

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Not much of a fan of ‘rose-tinted glasses’

There’s always been an element of ‘rose-tinted glasses’ to discussions about MMO gaming in my experience. If you never experienced Star Wars Galaxies near launch you simply haven’t played a ‘proper MMO’. If you weren’t in an Everquest 1 mob camp you have no concept of ‘the grind’.

Sometimes as I read through my bloglist I feel as though I’m one of the very few not deeply dissatisfied with the current crop of games, one of the few not fixed on idolising the past. I have no hankering for replaying Morrowind, Final Fantasy VII, Neverwinter Nights or some other classic. I’m happily situated in the now with MMOs and gaming in general.

I admit that the best games in the MMO genre, at least from a breadth and depth of content perspective, are some of the oldest – e.g. EQ2 or LOTRO. But I cannot ignore new entrants such as Guild Wars 2 or Neverwinter (the Cryptic MMO) that show a very different play style and seem to be taking a very different tactic to offering that ‘massively multiplayer’ experience. It’s the newer games that are currently keeping my attention more than the old stalwarts after all.

I guess this is because I like to play MMOs that are well populated and still being updated regularly. It’s much easier to find games in both categories if they’re still relatively popular and relatively new as well.

Are you playing mostly newer games at present, a mix of everything or have you gone back to old classics?

Posted in EQ2, Gaming, Guild Wars, LotRO, Neverwinter | 6 Comments

Neverwinter: Tyranny continued

We’ve made a little more progress in the new Tyranny of Dragons campaign this last week, having repeated the dailies in Neverdeath Graveyard three times and now having unlocked the quests at Ebon Downs. Other than shouting at the screen every time a NPC calls it “eee-bon downs” instead of “eh-bon downs”, it’s been a lot of fun so far.

Cultists and a mass of heroes in the downs

Cultists and a mass of heroes in the downs

The dragon heroic events are still drawing a crowd although perhaps not quite the super zerg of the first weekend. I knew we wouldn’t keep up with the most dedicated players, probably not even the average crowd either – they’re already in the later zones doing the dragons there. Still there are enough players to kill a dragon in the low zones, it does last more than ten seconds now, which is more satisfying than the first dragon fight we experienced.

This is a black dragon believe it or not, under all the spell effects...

This is a black dragon believe it or not, under all the spell effects…

The general cultist opponents and monsters are pretty challenging, some more than others. The White and Blue Dragonwings are particularly nasty.

screenshot_2014-08-24-08-52-12

Since I’m mostly doing this campaign so far as a duo it’s no big problem but I can imagine it would be pretty painful to solo on my wizard (above) or cleric. There’s a significant gearscore difference between more developed characters and newly dinged level 60s now and I guess it’s a tough call for the devs to balance content for both groups.

Tip: use zone chat while in the relevant zone and you’ll see players chatting cross-instance about which instance’s dragon encounters are going to pop first – this can save a lot of waiting if you want to get it done quicker!

We’re also a few days in to the Summer festival in the game, I missed it completely last year as I’d already stopped playing at that point due to the bugs and ‘Caturday’ rollback. I’ve had a quick look at it and it seems like a substantial piece of content, but the main rewards (three different mounts or the pig controller companion) aren’t that exciting for me and it’s a pretty crazy grind to get the pig companion anyway. I’m dabbling in the festival crafting as it’s mostly making food which offers some nice 30 minute stat buffs.

screenshot_2014-08-21-21-51-09

The actual events in the zones are all like the competitions across the zones – players are rated according to contribution. The pig/chicken herding is good fun but lasts a bit too long in my opinion, it gets boring towards the end. The other events like the troll killing is dependent on gear score. Trolls are exploding before you can even get a hit in since some characters have crazy high gearscores (17-20k) compared to my poor casual characters (~10k).

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Gaming questionnaire

Blaugust, or the general buzz of activity this month has spawned a few questionnaires that are doing the rounds. I’ve seen a few responses to this Gaming Questionnaire by Jasyla of CannotBeTamed so thought I’d give it a whirl as well.

  1. When did you start playing video games?
    My grandad started the whole family off by buying an Sinclair ZX Spectrum way back when. I was probably 6 or 7 at the time.
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?
    Ring of Darkness on the Spectrum. It was a medieval fantasy adventure game that went suddenly sci-fi crossover: towards the end you could buy a spacesuit, lasergun or a hovercraft…
  3. PC or Console?
    I’ve always preferred PCs. I hate playing first person 3D games with dual thumb controls, keyboard + mouse is a million times better.
  4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
    We have a PS/3, and had PS/2 and PS/1 before that. I would never let an X-anything into my house. That said I’ve no interest in the current gen of consoles.
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    Probably Icewind Dale 1 & 2. I loved the old co-op RPGs you could play over a local network.
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    Pools of Radiance, the 3rd edition D&D Baldur’s Gate style game. It was buggy and there was zero plot multiplayer.
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    Mass Effect, I hated the ‘floaty’ feel to aiming.
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    Most MMOs probably fit in that category depending on who you’re talking too…
  9. What are your favourite game genres?
    MMORPGs hands down. RPGs in general too. I used to like strategy games like Command and Conquer but I can’t seem to get into them anymore.
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
    I like to craft my own rather than be given a character or ‘hero’ to play.
  11. Describe your perfect video game.
    I’d like to see Dungeons & Dragons Online remade as an open world MMORPG with the main continent as the focus not Stormreach and definitely not the Forgotten Realms crossover. More content to do not just inside instances. The character creation and combat systems were/are pretty amazing.
  12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
    Can’t say I’ve ever had one.
  13. What game has the best music?
    Lord of the Rings Online I think not only for the official score but also the player created music.
  14. Most memorable moment in a game:
    Too many to mention. Leveling the first pair of character together with my partner through World of Warcraft was pretty amazing – back then it seemed like such an enormous world full of secrets. WoWHead wasn’t really a thing then though!
  15. Scariest moment in a game:
    Playing in Hellfire (WoW) for first time on a very old laptop with super-low view distance. Suddenly the ground started shaking and a giant demonic robot literally appeared on top of my character…
  16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
    Can’t think of anything at the moment.
  17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
    The blogs in my bloglist. Massively.
  18. What’s the last game you finished?
    Part of the reason why I play MMOs is that you never really finish them. We do sometimes play the various Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie mystery games on PC so one of those.
  19. What future releases are you most excited about?
    Nothing specific. Expansions for existing games. 2014 for me has been about returning to games I’ve already played for a new or more extended look.
  20. Do you identify as a gamer?
    Yes.
  21. Why do you play video games?
    A shared hobby with my partner, family and friends.
Posted in Gaming | 3 Comments

Neverwinter: epic dungeons and end bosses

So two nights ago we decided to run an epic dungeon in Neverwinter with a new mix of characters, my partner’s newly dinged guardian fighter as tank and my long-established but somewhat out of practice cleric as healer. Not knowing where to go in particular we chose the Cragmire Crypts dungeon as we’ve done it several times before on normal mode.

Shields up and charge!

Shields up and charge!

It was an enjoyable run overall although the dungeon is pretty long with some necessary backtracking because of a weird portal section and some lever-operated gates. It also has an obligatory spider section as well.

We were running it four-man, which the game doesn’t actually want us to do, you need five to queue for an epic dungeon unless you’re happy to have random PUG people join in. We had the luck of a guildmate being able to log her absent partner’s wizard in just to fill the party to fool the queue system, so that got us in and then the wizard was logged off.

For the most part we didn’t have any major issues. It was probably the most challenging dungeon I’ve healed so far, or at least in a long while. The Competing Adventure Party ‘boss fight’ was the first real difficulty check half way through, and our first downed party member. That caused us to pause and look at ability-sets for a few moments to see if we couldn’t improve survivability and healing.

Same party with improved defenses

Same party with improved defenses

We’d started the run during the Dungeon Delve hour which gives us access to the epic reward chest without needing a dungeon chest key. It was a slow run as we were lacking one of the three dps characters in a normal party of five – it took just over an hour to get to the final boss. That’s where we hit a bit of a brick wall. Despite two good tries with the boss down to 10% or so health we were being swamped by the many, many additional monsters he summons periodically. Our tank was also taking nasty damage from the boss, either due to gear or some attack for which we were unaware of the necessary tactics.

It was getting a bit too frantic for my tastes especially as it was late and I needed to head to bed yet we were right at the very end after a long slog and to not get the boss kill and the dungeon chest would have been really annoying. We’d been in a similar situation a few months ago in the epic version of the Wolf Den dungeon, we just didn’t have the damage or good enough gear to take that boss down despite having checked out tactics and we had to call that earlier run with no end reward.

In the end for a last attempt we kicked the absent wizard from the party and the game duly filled his slot with a random player’s ranger. In we charged and after a tense but much faster battle the boss was finally defeated and all that effort and time was at least rewarded by some new gear for our tank. Typically my cleric rolled badly on the random-loot generator and got a measly blue-quality necklace. Still going in he was in full epic gear, a mix of stuff from the auction house and the Dread Ring and Icewind Dale campaigns, so it’s not likely anything from a tier 1 epic dungeon would be of any use to him. Taking pictures during a boss fight is never a priority so I’ve nothing to show for all those tries but at least I feel like I’ve had some good practice at epic mode healing in the game!

The one aspect to this that I find annoying is how the difficulty between fights in the same dungeon can vary so greatly. Clearly trash mobs shouldn’t be as much of a challenge as a boss fight. But the difficulty increase between the earlier bosses and the end boss in both Wolf Den and Cragmire Crypt is so steep. That can easily lead to a very frustrating experience if there’s no warning you’ll hit a progression block right at the very end, that’s not good dungeon design in my mind.

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Neverwinter: Tyranny of Dragons campaign

Module 4: Tyranny of Dragons is live as of last Thursday. So far I’ve only had one days go of the quests and like the campaigns before it this latest campaign has time locked progression to prevent players grinding the whole thing out in one frenzy of questing.

So far the campaign follows the standard model of dailies, quests, lairs (solo dungeons) and a mess of new currencies. However it does differ from the formula in a couple of ways. Firstly it makes use of the leveling zones rather than being a separate new set of areas. Secondly the campaign is open for characters of levels 25 upwards meaning you can play the campaign as leveling content not just endgame. That’s a potentially huge benefit for this expansion – I’ll certainly try this with my warlock alt that I’ve just created when he gets high enough level.

Go see the harper, they said...

Go see the harper, they said…

I’ve only played warlock to 4th level so far so I’ll leave a proper review of that class till a future post when I’ve unlocked more class features. The campaign quests are mostly standard fare albeit with some nice lore and writing. The new heroic encounters added to each zone are the dragon fights as advertised in the marketing build-up for the module. I’ve seen the first one in Neverdeath so far and was suitably impressed with the dramatic entrance animation and the right overall. It’s comparable with the dragon fights in the dungeons and skirmishes already in-game. Naturally since it’s brand new content and open world so the poor dragon was zerged to death very quickly by a horde of heroes – this may well be a lot tougher as the campaign matures. If dragon kills are mandatory to advance each stage then that could be a real design flaw for the campaign’s usefulness as leveling content when it’s no longer the current content – time will tell.

Not solo-friendly

Not solo-friendly

There’s way more than I can talk about in one post as I’ve barely scratched the surface; this seems like one very substantial update to the game. The new blue-quality barbarian shaman leader companion (i.e. a healer) is a welcome addition as healer’s are relatively rare. There are also two new packs that are both out of my price range – the Dragonborn pack currently on sale at $75 and the scourge warlock pack at $35. There are more artifacts to find and a new type of item – artifact equipment. This is armour or weapons that you have to rank up just like an artifact.

nw_dc_artfweapon

There are class-specific weapons that boost one particular class ability and there are attribute-boosting belts (e.g. +Wisdom). It’s an interesting concept (similar to Legendary Items in LoTRO) but may well be rather grindy.

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Too many games?

Stargrace asked on her post yesterday if you can have too many games to play at once. It certainly feels like there are too many options for me at present. I have the as yet untouched new content of Module 4 in Neverwinter to dig into hopefully this weekend (I was out Thursday and Friday evenings so haven’t seen anything yet!).

I have still a vast amount of unseen content in FFXIV to play through and with a expansion in the works which will add “the [same] amount of content released with the relaunch” so I’d like to get to the cap and start seeing some of the deeper content before that arrives.

However Everquest 2 is in the spotlight again due to SoE Live this weekend and there’s some interesting stuff coming by the sounds of it (EQ2 Wire has the full coverage). I do miss the housing in EQ2 when I’m not playing it, there’s just something unique about the character of that game. As commenter eLdritchZ on Massively’s article wrote:

You have done it. You have convinced me. A mouse riding a bunny is just too good to pass up. Here, have all these shiney coins.

Only in EQ2 would you have a ratonga riding a giant bunny mount…

Posted in EQ2, FFXIV, Gaming, Neverwinter | 1 Comment