World of DorkCraft.
I picked up the original Neverwinter Nights for possibly the geekiest reason ever. You see, I used to play pen-and-paper Dungeons & Dragons back in High School. My friends and I used to gather round someone’s dining table with our bags of dice, break out the Mountain Dew, and roll for initiative.
That was years ago, but a few months after Neverwinter Nights was released, an old friend of mine rallied a bunch of us scattered around the country to buy the game. It seemed our old dungeon master had put up a dedicated server along with some other folks with a world he had partially designed, and so we briefly got the old party out questing again.
It was not a particularly successful adventure, as my thief’s stealing, griefing ways did not mesh well with others and I was eventually banned from the server. But it didn’t matter, I was hooked
. When we reviewed the game, we knew it was great, but we didn’t realize what the fans were going to do with the toolset. They built new modules, add-ons, crafting systems, and persistent, online worlds – almost infinite content, and all for free. Just awesome.
So my anticipation for Neverwinter Nights 2 has been intense, and the result is that I am mostly pleased. While it doesn’t stray particularly far from the original in any way, it’s a solid sequel, and the wizard’s hat once again feels comfortable atop my head.
It has been many years since the plague and the war with Luskan devastated the city of Neverwinter. Now the hamlet of West Harbor has been attacked by mysterious evil forces. Many died, but with your help, the village managed to repel the attackers. Your father believes these fiends were seeking a silver shard he had hidden away – a mildly magical relic from the war thought to be mostly valueless.
So he dispatches you to take the shard to your uncle in Neverwinter who has another shard and may know more of its secrets. But the journey to Neverwinter is long and treacherous, and who knows what you’ll find when you get there?
How you get there is up to you, as the full D & D range of characters is available. The rule set has moved up to version 3.5, and the races now include Tieflings and Planetouched, as well as some fancy strains of elves and others - beings with more powerful stats that level up relatively slowly.
You’ll find a number of new prestige classes as well, like the Warpriest and the Duelist, though the only new base class is the Warlock. All the old character classes return, including the annoying bard
. Please, can we please just get rid of the bard?
Also new is the whole game engine - goodbye Aurora, hello Electron. Unfortunately, new doesn’t mean better, at least not in every way. Terrain, dungeons, caves, cities and crypts look more natural and less like a tileset, but considering the steep system requirements, it doesn’t look that much better. It’s certainly not the visual leap forward that the original Neverwinter Nights was.
However, the real problem is the camera. It’s much more versatile than the old Neverwinter Nights camera, allowing you to zoom in and view the action from almost any angle. The downside is that it has no A.I. whatsoever, which means the task of keeping it pointed at useful angles is up to you. While you can get used to constant camera manipulation, it’s certainly not ideal.
Neverwinter Nights 2 sounds as good as the original, because half of the audio content was ripped straight from Neverwinter Nights. Don’t get me wrong, the character voices and spell incantations sound good, I just felt a little disappointed at hearing the same old lines. Other voice acting in the single player game is plentiful and well done, and there are some new orchestral tunes to flesh out the soundtrack. Overall, a respectable package.
You may wonder why I’ve waited so long to discuss the gameplay, but there’s not much to talk about. The point and click interface works almost identically, and you still use the spacebar constantly to pause and unpuase the game in order to perfect your strategy. Henchmen have become full party members, making Neverwinter Nights 2 pretty much a sequel to Baldur’s Gate as well.
You can have up to three party members, all of whom you can control as minutely as your main character. Their combat A.I. is passable, but when they inevitably do something a little stupid, you can take over and queue up some moves for them. Purists can even put their party in ‘puppet mode’ and they won’t do anything in combat other than what you tell them. This is better than the henchman system of the original, although it’s hardly new.
Crafting systems, originally mods and hacks created by users, have been fully embraced by Obsidian (the game’s developer), and now many of the skills and feats relate solely to item creation. Speaking of which, what really has me excited is that once again, the whole designer toolset has been released. Player made modules and servers have already started to crop up like weeds. Where the fans take it from here is wholly unpredictable, but one thing we know for sure, it’s gonna be big.
With fifty hours of story, branching down different paths based on your moral choices, Neverwinter Nights 2 would have already been a hefty adventure. But with the thousands of amateur dungeon masters that can’t wait to get in on the action, this quest will truly have no end. Despite a few nagging issues, this trip to Neverwinter is a satisfying experience and a worthy sequel. Now if only I could find my old bag of dice.