New Skirmish: Shores of Tuern
The storyline of the campaign eventually leads to the first bit Tyranny of Dragons’ instanced content, Shores of Tuern. Rob used his developer powers to give me a speed run of the new zone but shared that a normal run should 15-20 minutes on normal mode, in keeping with the in-and-out nature of Skirmish content. Shores of Tuern also comes with an epic version for players looking for more of a challenge.
The aesthetic of Shores is immediately intriguing. Jagged outcroppings of rock line the horizon like broken teeth. Monuments and dragon-inspired statuary dot the path to the instance’s main encounter. Here you meet a Dragonborn for the first time, an important beat in the larger Tyranny of Dragons story.
New Endgame Dungeon: Lair of Lostmauth
We ended our preview with a tour of the new level 60 dungeon and what I believe to be one of the coolest areas to ever arrive in Neverwinter, the Lair of Lostmauth. Lostmauth takes place almost completely inside of a volcano. After a brief foray outside where you’re treated to an absolutely gorgeous sky, the ground swallows you, sending you tumbling into the superheated darkness below of the inner volcano.
I’ll make no bones about it. My jaw hung as I took it all in. Lostmauth is all rich reds and oranges, bright primary colors in swirls of magic, and everyone honorific stonework and statuary to the lair’s dragon lord. The zone feels huge and wide open even though there is a set path. More importantly, it feels dangerous. A wrong jump could send you plummeting into a river of lava. Watching Rob play through, it didn’t take long before I felt the need to level up and play this.
Lostmauth breaks new ground for Neverwinter’s dungeon design. The first bit of this is in randomization. Shortly after coming to following your fall through the trap door, you’ll be faced with three doors. Each one holds a separate path through the dungeon and they are selected at random, meaning you’ll have to play through multiple times to see all Lostmauth has to offer. You’ll be doing that anyway if you want a shot at some of the best loot in the game.
Lostmauth also introduces hazards. The first example I saw were stalagmites randomly crashing to the ground. You’ll need to pay attention and stay out of the telegraphed circles to stay clear. Later, Rob showed me how hazards are being used to add new challenges to jumping puzzles. A staircase of lava-split shelves came to life with dozens of fireballs that would do damage and provide a knockback. A little further, he took on a second jumping puzzle, this time across a fiery lake with dozens of stone pedestals. And fireballs. Lots of fireballs. Your path across is yours to choose but he warned me, taking the option with fewer fireballs also meant risking a far longer, instant death fall into the river of lava far below. Both of these looked like a blast, no pun intended.
The next thing he showed me how Cryptic is taking chances with their encounter design. One of Lostmauth’s several bosses is a pair of massive, molten scorpions. They share a health pool, so parties will have to split their attention between the two. They also open lava pits and call fire bombs, so melee will be in trouble without an off-tank to pry them apart.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of the dungeon is the chamber of Lostmauth himself. I was immediately reminded of Smaug’s lair from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Like most dragons, Lostmauth covets gold. Coins lay in heaps, literally burying the room in wealth. Rivers of molten gold flow in canals around his stage and spouts pour from the walls. Lostmauth himself is painted in the stuff, coating his clawed feet and horns. I didn’t see a battle but I certainly wanted it to. It was, absolutely, the definitive Dungeons and Dragons encounter.
All of this can be experienced in under 45 minutes with a tight group. Epic mode, a touch longer, but expect wipes. None of this looked easy. It all looked fun.
A Console Future?
Before we wrapped up, I had to ask Rob about the console version. The current plan is for Neverwinter to land on the Xbox One in the first half of 2015 for North America. They are striving for parity between the two versions. Tyranny of the Dragon is currently planned to be included in the game’s Chinese console release.