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Today I’d like to talk about one aspect of the Ravenloft update that I believe is pretty interesting. One of the first things I realized when testing the mod on the preview server for the first time was the incredible amount of gear catch-up mechanics that the devs throw at players. And throwing might not even accurately describe what the mod does. It’s more like burying players under piles of very viable endgame gear.
It already starts with completing the introductory quest line into Barovia, where any level 70 toon is gifted with item level 460 gear (Vistani Rewards) and an Artifact Weapon set of the latest tier (Vistani Dagger). This might not sound like much, but considering that the “budget” gear of Chult was 420, it’s a considerable raise. And again: No grind involved, just complete the first quests in the story line and get the package on any character.
But it doesn’t stop there. Mobs in Barovia drop up to item level 520 when the best endgame gear a mod earlier was 510 (Vivified Primal). Oh and the Seal of the Brave can be acquired left and right now. Just get a SHE train in the River District and buy yourself a set of full Primal gear
within hours (not any longer, cause nerf bat…). The same grind took weeks in Mod 13. It almost feels like the “bis” of last mod turned into the budget version in Ravenloft.
Where’s My Investment?
This obviously already has caused complaints from those that went through the full grind in Chult and now see their time investment diminished. I get what those are saying, but this is the world of an ever-evolving MMO. Stuff gradually gets easier to obtain and what was “bis” yesterday might be trash tomorrow. The endgamers also have new stuff to strive for. So while other are catching up, you can already get the next latest stuff. I’m however still amazed by the jump the devs made here in terms of baseline item levels.
The start of progression in the Lost City of Omu was item level 420 from the seal store. You would then work through Chult and up to item level 510. Now your entry point is 460 and you quickly move up to 490/500, even 520. The higher item levels of Vivified (535), Hunts (540) and Castle Ravenloft (550) are nice and all, but not really required to beat the hardest content. It took from Module 10 to 13 to gradually get levels from 480 to 510. Now we’re doing 510 to 550 in a single update. It’s not only the armor sets by the way. Ravenloft’s campaign store features artifact neck and waist pieces from the latest tier, and as mentioned you get a budget weapon set from the Vistani Rewards. The speed in which players are able to get toons to item levels above 13,000 is insane.
Now Where the Catch?
So where’s the catch? The truth is: Maybe there isn’t one. Ravenloft is a highly popular D&D setting and the devs have to make sure new players can instantly hop into the latest content. Because chance is that they installed the game just for that. They hand out item level 460 so you can do the basic dailies and since the new budget gear is considerably better, the endgame one has to make an equal jump.
Making the latest content, especially this one, available to all players makes sense, but doesn’t come without issues. Old content gets completely irrelevant for one. Chult and Tomb of the Nine Gods? You still want to farm the mod and selected Hunts I guess, but no longer need it for Seal of the Brave and Huntsman gear. By pushing everyone, including new players, towards the latest content, you’re also always forced to release new and better stuff instead of creating a progression line that keeps previous mods relevant.
It’s especially interesting since the game then tries to artificially bring back the content the devs themselves made obsolete. It’s like they shoot themselves in the foot, and then introduce stuff like random queues. New players don’t have a clear progression, resulting in many of those “I’m 70, what now??” threads. And old players who have been here all the time are forced to return to outdated content they are tired of.
Level-Cap Raise Coming?
Making Ravenloft available to everyone (and general MMO progression) is probably the reason for the obvious catch-up mechanics. There is however also a slight possibility that we’re witnessing the last hurrah of the current stat progression. Most endgame toons are capped since Mod 10 or 11. The devs raised the ArPen cap twice to stall the inevitable death, but we’ve long been at a point where only Power and HP really can add to a character’s strength. The last time this was the case? In Module 5, months before the level cap raise to 70.
It’s clear a wipe of some form has to happen, even if it’s not a classic increase of the max level. So maybe the devs figured they might as well let most players enjoy what the game has to offer before pulling the plug. This of course is complete speculation, but it’s interesting to theorize about. I guess we’ll find out soon(tm)!
Anyway, for new players it’s easier than ever to catch-up in Ravenloft, which definitely has advantages and might also be one of the reasons why the mod is so popular. Long-term however it’s not a concept I’d like to see extended simply because it turns old content into dead code too soon. It would be much better to slowly build up a functional progression in which each step remains mandatory or at least viable throughout its tenure.
What’s your theory on the catch-up mechanics of Ravenloft? Share your thoughts and experience on our social channels, in the comments below, or visit the corresponding thread on our message board!
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