There Be Dragons In Them Hills!
Last week Cryptic released the fourth module for Neverwinter, Tyranny of Dragons. If you are a follower of all things D&D, not just the MMORPGs, you are probably aware that this is tied in with a larger global branding initiative by Wizards of the Coast. If you have fallen behind on your D&D information, however, let me quickly bring you up to speed.
In 2008 Wizards of the Coast released the 4th edition rules for D&D. To make a long story short, some people loved it, some people hated it. From the outside looking in it was very polarizing. Some of the recent criticism I’ve read about 4th edition expressed concern that D&D was turning into a table top miniatures game and leaving its role playing roots in the past. WotC took a different tactic while creating D&D Next aka 5th edition. While developing the game they spent almost 2 years with the system in open playtests and pouring over player feedback while hammering down the rules. This crowdsourcing of the development has resulted in a game that is supposed to put a renewed emphasis on roleplaying and less about the rules. It should also serve to focus on edition unification. Only time will tell if it achieves its goals but the starter set shipped last month and the player’s handbook shipped earlier this week along with the first adventure module Horde of the Dragon Queen. The Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s guide are due up later this year along with a second adventure module The Rise of Tiamat.
In the Forgotten Realms we are now post Sundering. The planes of Abeir and Toril have separated and Shar’s attempt at taking over the Weave has failed. It now appears that Dragons are going to have their way with Faerun. Enter our beloved heroes. Alerted to the presence of abnormal dragon cultists activity in Neverdeath Graveyard your ragtag group of adventures will be tasked to assist in determining the cultist’s intentions by the always inquisitive Harpers.
Unlike previous modules, you will not be required to already have obtained level 60 to partake in the content. You will gain access to the Tyranny of Dragons campaign at level 26. This is a welcome change from previous modules. My chief complaint with The Curse of Icewind Dale is the restrictions Cryptic set in place in order to participate. Not only do characters have to be level 60 they also had to meet a certain gear score AND have boons from previous campaigns. It was such a deal breaker for what could have been a huge draw to an iconic locale in the Realms. Tyranny of Dragons adds to the game new midlevel content with add ins to already existing zones as well as new personal instances for players that are already at level 60.
Players are also introduced to new epic encounters with dragons. Right away you are thrown up against Charthraxis the green dragon and there are more as the story progresses. These encounters are designed for 6 to 10 players and are easy to find on the map because they are marked and have a timer. They also spawn every 20 minutes so it is easy to find a group of players farming the dragons for the campaign currency. You also don’t have to worry about everyone being in the same group. As long as you contribute to the fight you will get credit for the challenge.
In addition to the content updates, which are free like all the previous modules, Tyranny of Dragons adds the Scourge Warlock class and the Dragonborn race. If you want to play as a Dragonborn and you did not preorder the pack it will cost you $100 to unlock the race. That’s a very excessive fee for a race unlock. Granted it does come with some very nice items as well but let’s be honest, players aren’t buying this for the 30 slot bag and the artifact. The Scourge Warlock is free for everyone but Cryptic does have a Scourge Warlock Booster pack that includes some powerful gear to start your Warlock out with and an epic quality companion, the Erinyes of Belial. This booster weighs in at $34.99 and is more in line with the pricing that Cryptic has for their high end mounts and companions. Granted this is a microtransaction based game and you can participate in all the content for free it just seems the prices are a little over the top when you can buy a lot of great games that are the full game for under $35 on steam these days.
My son and I both rolled new scourge warlocks over the weekend to get a taste of how they handle in combat. For a more in depth impression of the Scourge Warlock you can look at our preview we posted with Rob Overmeyer last week. I found the soul puppet mechanic an interesting twist on having a pet but the AI is seriously lacking. In fact I find the AI subpar on most companions in Neverwinter when you are playing as a ranged class. They do not seem to get into combat quick enough to have any real impact on the encounter.
While the story of Tyranny of Dragons is pulling me in and making me want to log in to see where this campaign goes I wish Cryptic could find another way to piecemeal out their story rather than gating advancement behind daily quests. While I understand Cryptic wants to prevent the content locusts from doing everything in a day and never logging in again, the current system feels outdated. I can’t be alone in believing daily quests are a remnant from MMOs I’d like to see left in the past. Hopefully they can find a way to at least hide their existence better and they are no longer as obvious as, “Complete X quest 3 times before you can go onto step two. X quest can only be completed once every 24 hours.” That said: are you having fun with Tyranny of Dragons? Are you excited for 5th edition D&D? Do you think Cryptic is over the top or right on spot with their pricing? Do you enjoy daily quests? Let me know in the comments below.