Travels in Neverwinter: Why won't these things stop trying to eat my horse?

I'm now the proud owner of a gigantic, armored worg. It's pretty great. I named him Larry.
Pictured: Not actually Nipah

So with that investment out of the way, I was able to go about my business at blazing fast speeds (woo, so fast... now I get to wait on the rest of my group instead of... uh... going along with them...), I got my Warlock up to level 70. Huzzah. I also managed to scrounge up another 1000 Zen to drop on their VIP status, which so far has been... interesting.

So to lay it straight, the VIP status in most F2P games tends to be the "This is what the game would be like if you subscribed like a normal person, but oh no, spending money monthly is soooo terrible." approach to games, and it kind of hits the same points in Neverwinter... sort of.

It unlocks across all your characters, and you get a slightly fancier icon next to your character's status bar for your efforts... which is nice, I guess. You get an account wide package which contains a key for the locked chests (finally, I can open one of the 200~ locked boxes I've picked up on my Warlock!), as well as a package for each character which contains scrolls of identification and an epic dungeon key, which I'll probably never use... But they stack and can be traded, so I guess I can maybe build a house out of them or something.

You also get a boost to XP gain and diamond gain, which means I'm now getting slightly more cash store money as I go along... Soon I'll have enough to buy a few bags (I might have mentioned previously that you're saddled with a severe lack of baggage in this game... its pretty stark in terms of pocket space in Neverwinter, it seems) or maybe a less fancy mount for my other characters.

But back to my mount, Larry. He's pretty spiffy, I will admit. The great thing about buying him from the Zen store (as opposed to picking up a mount via the in-game auction house from another player for Diamonds) is that he's account bound, so all my other characters can snag him as well. The even nicer thing (for someone like me who has specific stories/backgrounds for MMO characters in my twisted brain) is that the speed/stat perks you get from faster mounts is usable by any mount... So my Fighter can still use his fancy, fancy horse without being stuck going at slow, slow mount speed (and he also garners the 1000 crit/armor pen buff that the Worg mount comes with).

Sooooo fancy.

But I digress... I hit level 70 last night, and the game did a pretty nice job of overwhelming me with stuff it wants me to do now. When I hit level 60, I got to talk to the ruler of Neverwinter (the current ruler is some dude named Neverember), who gave me a dapper cloak and a pat on my little Halfling head for my efforts in killing all of his enemies and their encroaching armies. The rewards for adventuring seem to have dropped off in Neverwinter...

Come level 70, I was allowed to talk to Neverember again, and he again thanked me for my momentous efforts on behalf of his mostly destroyed city, and I was given a slightly different looking cloak (with higher stats, so on it went). I was then inundated with quests for various new areas that I needed to unlock... From the dauntingly named Underdark (which I pronounce like √únderbheit from the Venture Bros) to the most elf-y looking place I've seen since I first stepped foot into WoW named Sharandar), as well as the "I've heard of this one!" Icewind Dale area, and probably some other places that I haven't actually ventured into yet (I read that a fresh 70 is essentially fresh meat in most of these new zones).

I didn't get much of a chance to actually wander around any of these areas, as I was more concerned with getting all of these breadcrumb quests out of my quest log... But they did give me a lot of daily quests (go gather flowers and/or smite the local fauna, most likely) that rewarded all kinds of weird new currency that I'll most likely never get enough to use... They also unlocked a few of the new campaigns, which are something that seem both interesting and extremely tedious in my adventures so far.

Campaigns are story arcs that require you to grind out currency, from what I've managed to gather in my time from level bullshit towards level awesome. In the beginning, you get access to one called Tyranny of Dragons, which boils down to visiting a leveling zone, killing some cultists, a dragon, and maybe fixing some grave markers (that you personally messed up in your travels through there, ironically enough) repeatedly for some faction currency to unlock boons for your character.

Ah, boons. These make me wonder how they ever manage to balance this game's character classes... I generally tend to feel like a small god while I play this game, wandering around with a benevolent look on my little Halfling's face, handing out justice or death with a wave of my fancy little ceremonial dagger (and helped along by my wraith-like soul puppet and my tiny, spiky, armored dwarf minion). As you level, you unlock powers and feats to customize your character, as well as stat points to raise your base stats. You also gain access to stronger gear, which augment those base stats with secondary stats, giving you a dearth of choices in how you want to build your character (until you read anything on the internet and get suckered into the standard cookie cutter build that works with your current patch of the game).

Boons are another layer on top of all of those, but with extra hoops to jump through. Where as you get the rest by simply leveling, boons require an investment of time in specific areas of the game. Tyranny of the Dragons is mainly in the Neverwinter Graveyard initially, but as you progress you get shunted off to other zones to help address these tyrannical dragons (I'm guessing, I've killed quite a few of them but only one so far is required by this faction). Where powers are new abilities, and feats augment those abilities, boons are giant chunks of secondary stats to boost your character's overall ability to reign death on anything that has a red name.

My first boon was 400 power (damage!) or 1600 hit points (health), and the required me to do 3 daily quests for a specific NPC, which boiled down to doing 3 other daily quests for another NPC... so 3 quests a day for 3 days and I was the proud owner of 400 more power.

I was told there would be unlimited power, but so far mine seems to be limited...

The second set of boons (for just the first of 8 campaigns) requires just a bit more work... I haven't actually unlocked it just yet, because I need 40 of these Page of Arcane Lore (and some amount of Dragon Hoard Coins that I have a bunch of) that I get from doing dailies for this faction, and I get maybe 1-2 a day (because there is a daily quest called Ghost Stories that I solo'd once and refuse to do again until my brother and his friends get up to the point where they can do it, because it is not the kind of thing I want to do with a random group of jerks), so its taking a bit longer than the previous one... But it will give me either 400 deflect (defense stat) or 400 crit (come on now, of course I'm getting this one!), which is pretty nice.

Before I had hit 70, but after 60, I unlocked the second campaign called The Maze Engine, which was a lot more interesting, but also a lot more gated in terms of my progress. It had a proper story, involving characters from the books (some dark elf guy named Drizzle or whatever, I dunno... I just played the old Bioware games, man) and a pretty solid trog through some fun little missions to help a dwarf get a hat back. It was all very memorable and epic, I assure you.

After getting this hat and killing a bunch of things that got between me and it, I was given the honor of doing 5 daily quests for the king of the dwarves (or maybe just the king of these dwarves, I was kind of on auto pilot by this point), which meant that I wasn't going to unlock chapter four of this engrossing story until I did a quest a day for this hairy little git. Fast forward 5 days later and I had access to my first boon: 500 life steal severity (yay, I stack life steal!) or 400 incoming heal bonus (yay, I don't really care about this one!), and I was allowed to progress through step four of the quest chain: Adventurers of the Lost Artifact (cues the Indiana Jones music).

But it wasn't gonna happen, apparently (cues the sound file of a needle scraping across a record). See, you need to go into this gigantic hole in the ground and fall for a really, really long time, and then land and almost die, rest up, and then wander around this dragon's lair (did I not mention the dragon? The game is Dungeons and Dragons based, so they apparently took that to heart) looking for... some artifact. The quest title tells me this.

So I fall. I land. I heal. I wander. I slaughter some smaller dragons. I slaughter some larger dragons. I look up and see a rather large one doing laps through the air, seemingly unfazed by my murder of their brood. Good parenting, that. I get to a point and a cutscene triggers. Uh oh. It seems parent dragon is hungry, and my little dude is fresh meat. The guy who was wandering around with me (and being absolutely critical in keeping the dragons from noticing the small mohawked dude funneling their health away with demonic powers) tells me to run, and boosts my speed to absurd levels! AND SO I RAN, I RAN SO FAR~

... I died. Apparently there are these gigantic rocks falling from the top of this cavern as the dragon lumbers behind me, but the game decided that showing the red splash area would be too easy, and instead decided to engage hard mode where I get insta-killed by randomly falling rocks I can't see until they hit me. Fancy.

So I ran again... this time, I stuck to the edge of the little pathway, avoiding the lava but hoping to avoid most of the gigantic rocks (and the dragon breathing down my neck behind me). But no. If I hug the edge, I can't seem to get enough speed to keep my distance from the dragon, and I die. Also, I think a rock hit me again at least once on the edge.

Sigh. I tried this about 6 times, only once managing to get to "phase 2" of the chase, which involved the dragon somehow magically appearing in front of me and blowing fire in a long red spot (why the hell is that one showing up but not the rocks?!), which I proceeded to run across because I was still hugging the edge of the path and had no were else to go.

So I shelved that one, because even I'm not stubborn enough to burn through all my healing kits for that nonsense... Oh, I didn't mention the healing kits yet. See, there are traps and stuff in this game which cause debilitating injuries, ranging from crippled feet to concussions to chest wounds (oh my). These range from minor to severe, and impede you in various ways (you run slower, cast slower, have less HP). You also get injured when you die and resurrect, so my poor little Halfling was having to burn a healing kit after each pass through the gauntlet. This wouldn't be a huge problem if the healing kits didn't cost me 20 silver a pop, and if the more severe injuries didn't need multiple kits to remedy. So after spending a couple gold to get my kits back up to stock, I walked away until they patch in the gigantic red circles that the falling rocks are supposed to project as their landing points... No 400 combat advantage for me I guess.

I've watched a few videos of it (PC players) and it looks pretty straight forward... hell, they appear to have all the time in the world to pop up their map, have a small nap, turn around and look at the gigantic dragon chasing them, while the red circles show up nicely to show them where not to stand. There appears to be a similar bug in a lot of the epic dungeon boss battles, so I'm guessing this one is either console or PS4 specific... though I may still try it again once I get my gear up to level 70 standards (as the circles seem to be a bit crazier at the end but also seem to only drop the rocks after you've passed them if you're going fast enough).

I'm not looking forward to the end game grind that looks to be looming up on the horizon for my little Halfling, but I managed to skip at least 50% of the leveling zones on my main three characters thanks to the ridiculous amount of XP you get for praying/daily dungeon quest from the guild cleric, so my little Rogue will at least have some interesting new areas to delve through once I get her up to level 30 or so... my other guys are now relegated to 2x dungeons and 2x skirmishes for my diamonds per day, plus whatever professions they're working on.

Oh, and in case you were curious as to what I got from my first locked box: I got a professions pack that contained a few crafting materials and a blue-quality Leadership guy that I mailed off to my brother because he got shafted on his professions pack that you get when you're leveling. Nothing remarkable, but they can't all be legendary-quality mounts I suppose. Now we'll see how the other 29 pan out...