Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Funny Ha Ha

The third topic I had in mind to post about today involves something that started in Neverwinter last night. I'd been trundling along quite contentedly, playing for an hour or two, taking whatever quests popped up and generally acclimatizing. I wasn't expecting anything out of the ordinary.

At Level 17 my Warlock was still in an extended tutorial. It's rather well handled. She was out doing the usual, killing orcs and wererats, retrieving stolen jewellery and foiling nefarious plots as one does, yet all the time little taking sidetrips to learn about Enchanting or the how to use the cash shop. You know, the important stuff.

Yesterday evening she found herself involved somehow with an organization called Acquisitions Incorporated. She'd picked up a flyer to a recruitment fair and ended up setting some stuff on fire and killing some people. It all seemed to just happen, somehow.

From there things escalated alarmingly. Next thing I she knew she was interviewing for an intern position. The people running the company seemed odd to say the least, particularly the self-descriptively named Jim Darkmagic.

There was a ride on something that looked like a carnival float, a lot of fighting, many dead interns and a great deal of sarcasm and snark, a surprising amount of which was actually funny. The whole thing was voiced, as most things in Neverwinter seem to be, and the voice acting wasn't terrible.

I'm not convinced it was good enough for the main characters to get a cut scene introduction complete with the names of the voice actors, something I have never before seen in any game, ever, not even when the voice actors were a lot more famous than any of these people, but it wasn't terrible. Bits of it were quite good, even.

Some of the visual gags were pretty funny, too. Unfortunately, since I hadn't been expecting anything special, I hadn't fired up FRAPS before I started and Neverwinter's own screenshot function is abominable so I didn't get any pictures.

I ended up back in the AI offices  where my Warlock settled down on a nice sofa next to a roaring fire and logged out. I was under the impression I'd finished but when I logged in again this evening I noticed the quest was still in my Journal and the sparkly trail led back downstairs to the same portal.

It turned out I must have somehow jumped the rails about halfway down the tracks. Metaphorically, I mean, although there literally are rails runing through the instance. When my Warlock got back to where she thought it had all ended, Jim Darkmagic was still standing there, waiting to get on with the next part.

I had FRAPS running this time but photo opportunities failed to arise due to the second part of the adventure mostly involving being attacked by wererats, goblins, kobolds, fire elementals, fire scorpions and overconfident villains keen to monologue their evil plans.

I died once and nearly died several times. My Companion, who I've figured out how to summon, had to go and train twice, which was in fact why I died. Turns out he must have been healing after all.

Eventually I made it to the end, recovered Jim's giant statue, ported topside and camped out on the sofa once again. It was all very enjoyable. I did a bit of googling before starting this post and I'm quite disappointed to learn that the Acquisitions Incorporated Campaign is "the first and only campaign to involve a lot of humor".

Shame. It's quite rare for me to find humor in MMORPGs that I find even slightly funny. Usually it falls flat and at worst it's positively toe-curling. The best I usually hope for is some pleasant whimsy of the kind EverQuest II does very well. This actually made me laugh a couple of times.

On investigation, the reason for that is quite simple. It was written by people who do comedy for a living, namely Penny Arcade. I don't know all that much about Penny Arcade. I don't follow the strip and what I've seen of it hasn't always struck me as particularly amusing. Even so, the step up in comic skill was apparent.

The writing in Neverwinter is generally above par from what I've seen. I'm puzzled as to why I was so down on it when I played around launch. I can't imagine much of the low level text has been re-written. It's a pity there's not more funny stuff if this is the standard we could expect but it's probably just as well the in-house writers didn't go on to try and emulate Penny Arcade. That might have been awkward.

According to the wiki there's a new Acquisitions Incorporated questline every ten levels or so until Level 70. I can't imagine I'll get far enough to see many of them but who knows? I'm having a good time so far - a lot better than any of my previous runs, that's for sure.

Maybe the prospect of a good laugh every few levels will keep me plugging away. I've seen a lot worse incentives offered. I just hope the rest of the instalments are up to the standard set by the introduction. Not that it's a very high bar but still it'd be nice if they didn't trip over it.


  1. Oh no Bhag, don't make me doubt your good taste, haha! This is the one campaign I actively avoided the last time I played because of how cringey it was... ok, so looking back at my own posting about it I guess I found it at least moderately funny the first time around, but I still got sick of it pretty quickly. It just fits into the rest of the game as well as a fish on a bicycle.

    1. I think it's significant that I encountered it very early on, before I've had time to develop a feeling for how seriously the game takes itself. It may well be completely out of keeping with the rest of the game but it appeared so close to the start (I doubt I'd been playing for three hours by the time I was given it) that I'd have no way of knowing that. If I hadn't read the wiki entry I might have thought the whole game was going to be a parody.

      Also, I actually read that post of yours when it was first written. Unsurprisingly I didn't connect it with what I was doing. The opening quest is a moderately retrained parody of some well-known cliches of the genre (One of the things that made me laugh was the first questgiver calling my Warlock a murderer for doing what Adventurers do every day - which is, in fact, murdering people). The stage your post describes sounds a lot less amusing.

    2. Horses for courses and all that. We've actively avoided playing it, I seriously dislike the humour style in the original material (the streamed D&D live-plays with the same name). IMHO it's all cringe-worthy. Neverwinter has a pretty serious tone, though there is a lot of humour. There's some great NPCs in the Undermountain campaign, some are genuinely funny (IMHO), not because they're breaking the 4th wall or taking the mick of the setting or game, but because their situation or backstory is just funny. It's worth sticking to the game for longer to see more of it, I'd say.

  2. Ugh, that's one of the worst campaigns in Neverwinter. Lol :P Maybe your experience with it will be different since you're taking it in slow doses rather than hitting all of it at once - which is what max level players went through.

    1. Well, I don't have much hope now, after reading Shintar's post on where it goes later on. I was hoping for some broad satire rather than toilet humor...

    2. Here's hoping that you persevere! =) At least until you get to Ravenloft which for me is my favourite campaign zone so far. No humor there though. Just horrible things that go bump in the night.

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