Weekly Foundry Reviews — February 5, 2015

Well, this week the Foundry wasn’t being kind to us. First I, and later Kasul, couldn’t open the final chest for two of the foundries, so we couldn’t both leave reviews. And one of those foundries refused to finish at all! And another foundry, previously featured — twice! — had clearly been broken by some foundry change and couldn’t be finished.

Still, we did what we could.

Part 1: Silver Thieves by @waldo79 (***)

There were so many versions of this quest. If you just search for “Silver Thieves”, you’ll get two featured versions. If you search for “Part 1: Silver Thieves”, one of the featured ones will drop off, and you’ll get the original, unfeatured version. That unfeatured one is the one that works. However, that’s not the one we played.

A wererat has stolen a serving girl’s prized silver mirror. She needs heroes to help recover it for her, though I just have to imagine hiring heroes to get her mirror back would cost her more than the mirror itself. How she might pay us — we never really got into that. Our only reward: a trip into the sewers.

Where is the Sewer Cleric around to show this serving girl how to do it?!

Journals with meticulous descriptions of their owners recent actions right up to the point they were killed were legion. Again, it’s nice of people to be so diligent. “With the monster’s breath filling my lungs, and its teeth on my neck, I write these final words to you, who find these few sentences next to my corpse and wonder how I came to this end. Funny that, this wasn’t the first time I found myself in this situation. Twenty years ago….” and the words end there, punctuated with splattered blood. Maybe if these NPCs spent less time writing, and more time escaping, they’d still be living.

After a few runs through long corridors filled with static encounters, we noticed things were starting to go a little weird. Traps floating in the air. Teleporters that didn’t really go anywhere. There was a boss of sorts, and then an inaccessible interactable. Couldn’t get to it. We were forced to abandon the quest.

Note to self: Never play previously featured quests. Always look for the original, the one the author can keep updated when the foundry breaks it.

We would have rated this quest three stars if we’d been able to finish it.

Pros: Difficulty slider adds more trash mobs if you like that sort of thing.
Cons: Lots of boring static encounters. Featured versions are broken.

The castle gates by @reiwulf (****)

The ominously named town of Duskshore (or Duskshire, depending who’s doing the telling) has been having a bit of trouble lately with mysterious disappearances. Could it have something to do with the local lord’s dabbles with dark arts? Or the dank Cathedral of Silence? Or the wolves which threaten to tear apart anyone who dares leave the thin safety of the village?

The guard who cheerily greeted us as we arrived didn’t think so! Was he the killer? Talking to the villagers gave us a better picture of what went on. Didn’t need a journal to tell us the backstory! When vampires attack and burn the town down, though, it’s clear that things have taken a turn for the occult. This is a job for heroes! And could there be twists in this plot? There could be! If you find the right items while exploring, you can change the rather dreary outcome.

The maps in this quest were entirely custom, with multiple houses you could enter, unique terrain. It reminded me very much of those old Castlevania foundries, which is high praise. Since we knew we were supposed to explore for extras, we were able to get to places (with a lot of trying) that we weren’t supposed to get to. Not sure if that screwed up anything — after the big battle, I couldn’t loot the chest, so I couldn’t leave my review.

Kasul and I both loved the custom village map, the evil lord’s castle, and the intricate boss fight at the end. If it hadn’t been for the inconsistent spelling and capitalization, this would have been a five star quest. Still well worth playing.

I felt the second map, headed to the castle, was a little too complicated for its own good. It’s supposed to be railroading you through set encounters, but it wasn’t hard at all to get up on one of the walls and go pretty much everywhere from the moment I entered the map. I thought that’s what I was supposed to do, actually.

Second quest in as many weeks that has lycanthropy as a contagious condition, when it isn’t in Forgotten Realms. Also: Vampires turning people into Werewolves? Years of Twilight and Underworld make me skeptical :)

Kasul gave this quest four stars, and I would have done the same, if I could have left a review.

Pros: Amazing village map. Great plot. Well-made NPCs.
Cons: Just minor issues.

Act 1: Wounded Tiger by @prettycelt (***)

One of our favorite authors, Kasul was interested in trying the very first quest by this award-winning map maker. (@prettycelt won a dev’s choice award in the Cult of the Dragon foundry contest for “Turtle Soup”).

We’ve all spent many hours sharing blood, sweat and tears with our good friend Shard. Well, no — neither Kasul nor I knew who she was. A Google search turned up nothing. When the quest giver asked us if we knew Shard, the choices were “Yes”, “Ha! That bitch?”, and “No”. Both of us chose “No”, and that was it. We eventually guessed we were supposed to pretend we knew her in order to continue along with the quest. Our pretend close relationship with Shard would continue throughout the quest, and it just continually puzzled us. Not apparently famous enough a part of Forgotten Realms lore to make it into any Wiki, and this is the first chapter in a campaign… who was Shard supposed to be?

It was a puzzle we couldn’t solve.

Once we admitted that Shard was a close and personal friend, the quest giver explained that Shard hadn’t picked up her favorite bread this morning. We promised to look into it and… again, we were left hanging. The story goal was “look for Shard”. We eventually went to a gate and looked around until we found an icon for “Serene Lake” up near the corner of the world map that belonged to the quest. Not sure why we decided we needed to look for Shard there. Maybe if we were friends, we would have known this was her vacation home.

I’m replaying the quest right now as I write this, and it does seem we were supposed to know that this is where Shard lives. It seems a longish trip every morning to buy some bread in the Neverwinter market…

Shard had somehow gotten herself mixed in with a feud between the Black Lion ninjas and the White Tiger monks. After we killed a lot of them, we rescued Shard and brought her home, where she put a negligee over her lush curves and went to bed to recover. And the story continues in the next chapter.

This is a tough quest to rate. Not knowing anything about Shard, except that we were supposed to be fantastically wonderful best friends who would go tearing across Faerûn because an old friend had not picked up their bread that morning, kinda put a damper on the quest. A quest centered more on introducing us to Shard would have been welcome. We killed a lot of ninjas. We did note that the Asian-themed NPCs in this quest were not the bright yellow of “Turtle Soup”, but had more normal complexions.

Kasul and I both rated this three stars.

Pros: Unique NPCs, set in a little-used campaign setting.
Cons: Shard is this quest’s Keyser Soze.

Gathering Shadows by @xetmk24 (***)

Gather around as the storyteller tells you a story of old Baldur’s Gate…. (screen goes all wavy).

Yes, this quest uses a framing device to put you in an adventuring party, the first of many (many) map transitions in this quest. But that’s pretty okay, because the maps are just incredible! Authors have really been showcasing their map skills lately.

You play a hero returning to your home in Baldur’s Gate, when a sudden invasion from the Underdark puts Baldur’s Gate on high alert and sends you and your best adventuring friends on a mission to learn more about the reasons behind this sudden, unheralded attack.

As in White Tigers, Black Lions, the adventure will continue as if you knew who these people were and were great friends with a lot of shared memories. Unlike the other quest, the author included a little down time to introduce you to your crew (and, naturally, you’re a character in someone else’s story, so it makes more sense).

Some color coded wizards are riling up the orcs, and there are werewolves.

We were given an adventuring party that followed us throughout, despite our best efforts to get them killed. We would honestly have been more invested in the quest if we hadn’t had to stop all the time to discuss things with the party. I felt like I was inside one of those D&D novels. Which, admittedly, could be a real draw for a lot of people.

English is not the author’s first language. Consequently, the language was pretty hard to read sometimes. But I’m certain they speak English better than I speak their native tongue, so who am I to talk about it? This is precisely where the ability for more than one person to work on a foundry would come in handy — to help with translations. That said, pre-flighting the language in a word processor set to English would have helped quite a lot.

I gave this quest three stars. The quest was very ambitious, with amazing maps and quite a lot of story. However, I didn’t feel connected to the annoying adventuring party I had to drag around, and the poor English made me unsure at times what was happening. Kasul wasn’t able to finish the quest — same bug I had with the first quest.

Pros: You are literally playing within a D&D novel!
Cons: Lots and lots of map transitions, annoying mandatory companions, and a poor English translation.

Neverwinter: First floor of Newfallen to 80%!

First floor of Newfallen to 80%. I deleted the old story and the old maps. Now, the only way to go is full speed ahead. Floor 2 will probably only have two encounters (floor 1 has five, three of which are optional). There is enough room on floor 3 for as many additional encounters as I can think of reasons for. My one rule in foundries is: each encounter must have a reason to exist.

#Neverwinter   #Foundry  

Weekly Foundry Reviews — 1/28/2015

Weekly Foundry Reviews — 1/28/2015

Well, I missed a week, so this week, there’s a double helping of foundry goodness. Blame it on the blizzard. And remember, if I seem harsh, every single one of these quests has gotten more plays than any of mine. So who am I to talk, right?

A Missing Man – CotW:1 by @redneckrobin

A man mysteriously disappears on the night of a full moon. Perhaps this had something to do with a mysterious wound he got long ago during his days as a caravan guard? You’ll never believe what happened!

Well, you MIGHT.

Even though in Neverwinter, lycanthropy is hereditary and not passed on via a bite from a lycanthrope, who doesn’t like a good werewolf story? A series of notes, journals and other items explains the entire backstory in exhaustive detail. Makes me feel kinda bad that I don’t keep an extensive personal diary on my person so that, if I come to harm, I can toss it away, opened to the exact page that explains what brought me to this end for others to find. Because that’s a thing that happens all the time in Neverwinter.

Journals are kinda like Neverwinter Instagram in that way. You never really enjoy your life because you’re always trying to document it. Journaling is the ultimate selfie.

Anyway, the missing man is Sarek, whom Kasul and I remembered from Star Trek. His mind meld and death grip were no match for the crushing weight of his backstory. Once the backstory is learned… the adventure comes to a quick end. This is just the first chapter of a three chapter campaign that continues with “A Hidden Valley”.

“A Missing Man” was a perfectly serviceable quest. Some of the characterizations were off, the encounters (aside from named encounters) were vanilla, and the maps were premades. Still, it did tell a story. Kasul and I both gave it three stars.

Pros: Star Trek and Game of Thrones references. Many, many words.
Cons: Would have been better to integrate the backstory better into the adventure. Falls easily into the trap of putting vanilla stock encounters in stock dungeons.

Part 3: Idol Hearts by @Kithlis
Part 4: Fallen Idols by @Kithlis

Kasul and I played the first to chapters of Kithlis’ “The Bone Idol” campaign in previous weeks. To sum up, in the first chapter, you investigate the theft of 2/3rds of a bone idol from a museum. In the second, you track the last third to a village that is suffering under a terrible curse.

Part 1 was great. Part 2 blew us away.

“Idol Hearts” spends a bit of time figuring out what sidequests you completed in the first two parts so that it can complete them in the third. If you tried to save the village in the second part, you can finish the job here. If you befriended a certain NPC, then you learn a small amount more about her fate here. But, the most important task is to return the third piece of the idol to the museum so that it can be put back together… and used for terrible purpose. Huh. So THAT’S who’s gonna betray me?

Kasul and I both thought the third chapter did not work well as a standalone quest. If you hadn’t done the second one, Part 3 wouldn’t make much sense.

Part 4 redeems this campaign by tying up ALL the lose ends, putting in more enjoyable sidequests, and ends in one of the more epic final battles that I’ve played. Very scripted, very pro. This campaign was falling toward four stars for us, but Part 4 redeemed it and ended with five stars from both of us.

Pros: Great characters, original plot and settings, good lore, extremely cinematic
Cons: Sidequests should be integrated into the plot — there’s no reason to hide so much story away like that.

The Flame Keeper – Act 1 by @Locksheon

I’m almost certain Kasul and I played this quest before. But, our previous reviews didn’t pop up when we finished, so who knows? “The Flame Keeper” is the first quest in the author’s “The Final Prophecy” campaign. 

In this quest, the village of Darrow is celebrating the birthday of their lord, a drow who has forsaken the underground life and the worship of Lloth for the cultured refinement of the surface hinterlands. In the first part of this first quest, you spend a considerable amount of time helping the villagers prepare their celebration for some reason, eventually getting drunk and falling asleep in a pile of pigshit. Not really any choice there. You will get drunk and embarrass yourself in front of strangers.

Way to go, big damn hero.

Once you’ve managed to prove you can’t hold your ale, the second portion of the adventure begins. You may or may not have discovered a mysterious girl asleep in one of the houses; that house is now on fire, and the girl is gone. Following her trail starts an adventure of someone favored — or cursed — by the gods.

This first adventure doesn’t really explain how the girl’s story connects with the village’s. Or at least, I missed any explanation. After some dialog and some boring encounters, the story peters out and just ends, to leave a starting point for the next quest in the campaign, “From a Distance”.

Kasul and I both gave this one four stars. The story was pretty engrossing. The combat wasn’t particularly interesting, but this is by no means a combat-heavy map. Again, you’re set up to be a clumsy, drunken idiot in the first portion of the quest, whether or not you believe that accurately describes your character. Still, both this quest and its sequel were featured, so…

Pros: Nice connection to lore, lots of freestyle dialog and exploration in the village, the girl and her golem friend are classic characters.
Cons: You’re a drunken fool who sleeps in a sty. Sorry. That’s what you are. Not really explained to my satisfaction who gave a drow a lordship over surface dwellers.

Isle of the Nine Maidens by @wildgeas

The seven elven maidens — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet — who form the rainbow have been somehow kidnapped by kobolds and stashed away in various places. The remaining sisters — the colors of white and black — desire the return of their sisters so that they can form a rainbow, and need you to recover them from the goblins.

And so that’s what you do. Kill kobolds and rescue sisters. At the end, maybe they’ll form a rainbow for you.

Kasul wondered why every one of the elves were female — and that’s when he spotted the “Male Breeder”. See, you only need one male! He doesn’t even get a name! Silly breeder. Names are for girls!

I gave this three stars. The conception was decent, but mostly it was just killing groups of boring static weak encounters. Kasul only gave it two stars. I think he wants more rights for male elves. He IS one, after all. I may have to start calling him “breeder”, now.

Pros: Form of… A RAINBOW!
Cons: Lots of weak static encounters in linear dungeons.

Nim’sha’s Storm by @DoctorBadger

We recently played DoctorBadger’s “Return to the Clock Makers’ Tomb”, which should be working again after recent foundry updates. This week, Kasul and I played the latest in the (Un)Academic Field Work campaign which includes that earlier quest, “Nim’sha’s Storm”… and we nearly drowned.

A storm has prevented ships from using Neverwinter’s recently re-opened Northern Docks. The storm doesn’t seem at all natural, and the Sword Coast Academicals have called upon us to discover the origin of the clearly unnatural storm, and to stop it, if possible. They have some furniture on the way and the current benches are giving them butt-splinters.

I’m a guardian fighter. If hitting the storm with a sword will do any good, I’m there.

You know that crafting in Neverwinter is pointless, by the way, when we can’t even make a comfortable chair for our fearless academicians. 

A few dead halflings later, we learn that the storm’s onset coincided suspiciously with the disappearance of Waveservant Nim’sha, a cleric of the evil sea god Umberlee, into her undersea temple. She’s not been heard from since… and neither have the adventuring party who were planning to loot some random undersea temple. An adventuring party we, unfortunately, know all too well. Maybe this is the time to bury the hatchet with them… or IN them. You choose.

The undersea map was extremely innovative, using a slow zone effect and mist to make a very convincing underwater experience — albeit one that trapped Kasul inside a sunken ship. He’s a rogue, and was able to target me and pop out…  the other two maps — the docks and the temple itself — were decent, but that underwater map just made me want to head right into the foundry and make my own undersea adventure. Kasul and I both gave it four stars.

Pros: nice lore, exposes halflings for the kneebiters they are, stunning undersea map
Cons: Undersea encounters, however, were vanilla.

The Dwarves of Crystal Pass by @sylvialynn

An old dwarven mining colony, Crystal Pass, has gone silent, and you run off to investigate. Turns out a group of black ice-maddened barbarians have invaded the city and… well, that’s what we need to find out. The quest has Crystal Pass as a colony on the decline since the discovery of black ice in Icewind Dale, so not sure why the crazed barbarians decided to head there. But nonetheless.

A lot of work went into the custom maps, but the adventure itself is just mowing down endless static encounters. There’s a difficulty slider that lets you decide how many trash mobs you want.

Kasul and I wanted to give this more stars because it was clear a lot of time had gone into the maps, but it was just a boring grind quest, and two stars is all we felt we could give it. Perhaps the next chapter, Reconvene to Crystal Pass, would pick up the plot a bit. Plus, it would be exciting to explore new uses for words like “reconvene”.

Pros: Handcrafted maps. No actual dwarves in the dwarf city
Cons: No real plot, lots of trash

The Tale of Adlershire by @bublex123

The village of Adlershire has gone silent, and you run off to investigate. Turns out it’s just you, Farmer Mike, and a bunch of incredibly strange villagers who stopped living and became mixed-up zombies. If I remember right, we kill Farmer Mike’s undead daughter for him so that he can loot all the houses in the village and burn them. And you’re a retard if you see anything wrong with this.

Yes, this is the sort of language you can expect.

There’s no reason to play this. Kasul and I both gave it one star.

Pros: Calibrates you on the Gamergater/SJW scale, I guess.
Cons: Incredibly offensive. Spelling is terrible. Colloquial slang destroys immersion because… what immersion?

#Neverwinter   #Foundry