Neverwinter PC players are able to take part in The Cloaked Ascendancy with console players will be able to play in April. We had the opportunity to chat with Lead Designer Thomas Foss to learn more about the new content and a bit of a hint about what's coming next for Neverwinter.
MMORPG: Tell us a bit more about the River District? Has this zone always been part of Neverwinter City?
Thomas Foss: The River District was a part of old Neverwinter city prior for a very long time. It was an area known for its rich merchants, nobles and wizards. The district survived the Spellplague relatively intact, but was largely destroyed in the cataclysm caused by the eruption of Mount Hotenow. After that, it became a haven for monsters and brave explorers attempting to recover its riches. When Lord Dagult Neverember came along to restore Neverwinter, the area was largely walled off until they had the time and resources to deal with it. Now that work on Protector’s Enclave is largely done and many of the major threats to the city dealt with, Neverember wants to turn his efforts to restoring the River District and reclaiming its lost wealth.
MMORPG: How big is the River District compared to other zones?
Thomas Foss: The River District is in line with some of our medium-to-large-sized zones. It’s on the same scale as Blackdagger Ruins or the Tower District. In fact, it is just opposite the river from the Tower District on the map.
MMORPG: How much of The Cloaked Ascendancy takes place outside that zone?
Thomas Foss: A good part of the story behind The Cloaked Ascendancy is hunting down clues on who these mages were and where they came from. This sleuth work has you talking with many folks around the city, from sages and oracles in Protector’s Enclave to rebel Nashers in Blacklake District. Eventually you’ll find yourself at the very place where you began your journey into Neverwinter!
MMORPG: Will this expansion wrap up their presence in Neverwinter or will they be likely to come back at some point?
Thomas Foss: It’s always hard to tell with mages; they’re famously hard to get rid of. Just when you think they are dead, they “lich” up on you, or jump through a portal to a different plane. If you count on your fingers, you’ll see that not all of them are accounted for fully in The Cloaked Ascendancy arc.
MMORPG: Tell us about the overhaul of the Spellplague Caverns dungeon? How did you come up with the changes you've implemented?
Thomas Foss: There are two main versions of the Spellplague Caverns: the Dungeon and the Master Dungeon.
The regular dungeon version wraps up the storyline of the Chasm Adventure Zone in Neverwinter. It has been modified from its original version at launch, bringing it more in line with the rest of the pre-end game dungeons, which allow players to queue for it with a three-person team. Throughout the dungeon you’re mainly facing the forces of the Far Realm, aberrations and members of the Cult of Blue Fire. In the depths of the caverns you’ll find the creatures responsible for it all: a monstrous Aboleth known as A’drx’l the Overseer.
The Master Dungeon advances the timeline. With the Aboleth gone, the Cloaked Ascendancy wants to use the Spellplague energies in Lake of Blue Fire at the bottom of the caverns to create a Key of Stars. With the Key of Stars, the mages plan to open a portal to the Far Realm above the city of Neverwinter. To thwart them, you must re-enter the Spellplague Caverns and face not only the same aberrations now controlled by Gyrion, but Kabal’s Eldritch Knights and elementals, as well as Nostura’s Fey creatures and magical beasts.
MMORPG: What's the difference between the leveling and epic versions?
Thomas Foss: It’s mostly the Cloaked Ascendancy mages and their entourage. The levelling dungeon has been cleaned up, relit and the encounters (monsters) tuned up and repositioned for better flow and fighting. In the epic version, all of this has also happened and the bosses are all replaced with the Wizards or their big “pets.” The story of the dungeon falls in line with the entire expansion. It is, true to its name, “Epic!” Oh, and of course, the loot.
MMORPG: What's the new Skirmish all about and how toes it fit into The Cloaked Ascendancy update?
Thomas Foss: One of the four mages that survived the Spellplague is a mad illusionist named “Lukan of the Mystic Veil.” Lukan has been driven quite mad by his exposure to the Far Realm, with the end result in him being more crazy than dangerous. The other mages are protective of Lukan and his frail mind.
He’s really not a bad guy, but feels he needs to do his part for the Acendency, so went down into the sewers and created a lair of illusions, a skirmish challenge known as “The Illusionist’s Gambit.” Adventurers who reach his magnificent "sewer lair" will undergo a series of tests where he conjures up fantastical illusions around them, making it appear they're in the highest peaks of Icespire mountain, down to the mazes that lurk beneath the Underdark. The wizard will create illusions of foes that exist throughout the Sword Coast, along with his own twist on them, to assault the players and see how long they can last in his illusory trial. But, not to worry! No lasting harm (he insists) shall come to anyone.
MMORPG: Give us the thumbnail sketch of Artifact Weapons.
Thomas Foss: Artifact weapons are weapons that your character can upgrade through refinement to make them deal more damage and unlock more slots for various types of enchantment gems. They also come with various types of set bonuses when paired with their off-hand counterparts. For example, one of the weapons you can obtain in The Cloaked Ascendancy will sometimes create three illusions of yourself that temporarily fight by your side! Artifact weapons are the most powerful types of weapons players can acquire in Neverwinter, so it’s definitely a worthwhile investment to upgrade them.
MMORPG: What's new in The Cloaked Ascendancy with regard to AWs?
Thomas Foss: We have not one, not two, not three, but four artifact weapons that players can earn by venturing through the campaign. We call them the Ascended sets. Our main goal with these was to cater to class roles, and give the players sets that focus on their class builds. They are the Fey Set, Lifeforged Set, Aboleth Set and Illusionist Set, themed around our four mages. These weapons, although easier to acquire, are not quite as powerful as the relic weapons currently in game. The idea behind these was that we wanted players to really have choices based upon their classes and roles.
MMORPG: Please add anything else you would like our readers to know.
Thomas Foss: The Cloaked Ascendancy is not only a turning point in the story of Neverwinter and our players’ hero roles within the world, but a turn in design. Something that has been missing of late in the game has been that feeling of really being an adventurer and making choices – having agency in what you do. This expansion (and to some extent we started this in The Sea of Moving Ice) was specifically designed to give players choices on how they wanted to play the story and in which order. Instead of a linear campaign, players choose which mage they want to go after first. In order to access crypts and story in the River District, players have to help secure areas and build up guard posts. It has been wonderful seeing players team up to take on a neighborhood and secure it so they can delve into crypts and loot.
Another key thing is replayabilty. “The Illusionists Gambit” is the perfect example. It’s a different experience each time you play it. In the tombs and crypts the critters you meet up with will change out, making the adventures feel fresh. Treasure hunting is back, as well. When you find a map that only has an image of a location in a zone, you have to explore to find the area. When you find it, you are rewarded with treasure. Lastly, as I have mentioned, is the rewards. Lots of choices. This is not only great for your main character but for your alts.
Player feedback to all the changes has been really positive, and we’ll will see more of these changes and features in upcoming adventures!
MMORPG: So where are we going next in Neverwinter? HINTS!
Thomas Foss: As we move forward, we’ll be focusing on giving strongholds, our player guilds, a lot of love. We are also working on a new loadouts feature, which will be a huge time saver for all types of players, whether they enjoy playing solo, with a group or even in PvP.
Looking farther into the crystal ball, I can say that our adventures will have us travelling with old friends, teaming up with famous characters, and heading to adventures in an exotic, ice-free location.