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Home > Review Archive > Video Games > Results: Neverwinter Nights

Neverwinter Nights
by Dr. Matt J. Carlson
December 14, 2003

Bobby braves the underworlds of Undrentide. Is the world ready for more Neverwinter Nights?

Reviewed for PC.

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Scroll down for our Kid Factor.

Neverwinter Nights had an absolutely huge reputation to live up to when it was released. However, it managed to perform quite well despite such high expectations. Billed as a great tool to help D&D role players to play 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons together online, as well as a computer RPG building tool, it succeeded on many levels. The final game can actually be broken down into three main parts. The sample adventure provided with the game to demonstrate its capabilities, the scenario-building tools that can be used to build scenarios to exchange and play through live, and the Dungeon Master interface that allows a Dungeon Master to adjust and create a game module on the fly while playing online with his players. Each of the three parts of the game may not quite rate the price of a full computer game the three parts together make for a game that no fan of role-playing games should be without.

The adventure provided with Neverwinter Nights (called NWN from here on out) is fairly long, up to 40 hours with side quests, it is not the worlds deepest plot or the worlds best graphics, but it is a reasonably good adventure. It is playable by almost any character type and is a great example of the capabilities of the NWN game engine. The entire adventure was made with the toolset provided to the player. The game can also be played online in a multiplayer mode as well as an added bonus. To top things off, the adventure can be completely dissected and picked apart in the game's editor mode, allowing adventure designers to imitate, copy, or modify any part of the provided adventure and use it within their own created adventure.

The adventure designer for NWN is probably THE best feature of the whole package. While there are obviously some restrictions on available art and objects, those folks with true artistic ability can import their own. Unfortunately, those of us without that artistic flair probably can't manage to make items and objects pretty enough to blend in with the stock items. It is much easier to design a map layout once you become familiar with the tools and objects available, since a designer's imagination can sometimes exceed the available tools and objects. A simple example of this occurred on my very first map. I tried to build an "L" shaped house but found it very difficult since most of the stock houses were a mixture of box shapes and mixing and matching them usually resulted in a house with an interior design that made no sense.

Designing an adventure is more than just making maps and placing monsters and items, and NWN provides a handy scripting language that is very expandable. As an example, the "hired help" NPC characters within the main NWN provided adventure are all part of an intricate scripting language that control the NPC behaviors. Quests, items, monsters, you name it, can be given abilities, decision making skills, and more. While this may seem like making an adventure is complex, the tools are there to be used. If designing an adventure is not for you, the fan community has made and continues to make great scenarios that anyone can download and play, giving a NWN owner about as much RPG adventure as they could want, without having to design anything themselves.

The final part of NWN to examine is the online, on-the-fly, Dungeon Master interface where the Dungeon Master (abbreviated DM) can modify and add to an adventure on the fly. This interface is truly powerful and allows a simulation that is closest to the old fashioned pencil and paper role playing games played around a table. Unfortunately, this is probably the weakest part of the game so far. While the tools are there and, barring some initial game crashing bugs that hopefully have been ironed out by now, the idea of doing things on the fly is probably too ambitious for most mortal DMs. There are a lot of things to keep track of, and human players are always crafty and creative. It comes down to the rule of thumb that DMs use when playing around a table. The more preparation a DM can do to prepare things, the better a game will go. If a DM can build a "mostly" self contained adventure and let his players roam around in it, just giving things a nudge here and there, I think it is a great substitute for gaming around a table for those folks who are separated from their standard role playing friends by large distances. Those that can find the time and place to get together in person will probably find the computer tools more work than any gain they might otherwise receive by using them.

Neverwinter Nights is an excellent translation of the 3rd edition Dungeon and Dragons rules to a computer. Some changes in the rules were made to make the game more like standard computer role-playing games. For example, combat tends to be more frequent, be worth less experience, and death is not as harsh a penalty as in the paper and pencil game. But, once again, the makers of NWN have provided for all sorts of tastes. The rules can be set for any adventure built with the tools. Fans have already easily converted the provided main NWN adventure into a more traditional D&D rule set for those who prefer that sort of challenge. All the new 3rd edition classes are there and most, but not quite all of the feats and abilities are also provided for. Anyone wanting to play the game or an adventure with a gnome monk is free to go ahead.

To close, I will just reiterate one of my opening statements. If you like computer role playing games, you should buy this game. Even if designing adventures is not your thing, there is a wealth of fan created adventures there for the downloading and playing. Not every adventure will be absolutely high quality, but enough of them are, so that a purchase of Neverwinter Nights will only be a purchase you regret if you end up loosing too much of your time playing.

Kid Factor: The kiddies will probably enjoy the adventure, especially if you read and play along. A LAN is ideal for this. Or, you can become the Dungeon Master and guide your kids friends through an adventure you and your own kids have created. Neverwinter Nights is very much the kind of game that gives back what you put into it 100-fold. –Kid Factor by Robert Andrews

Age: 13+
ESRB: T- Teen
Producer: Atari
Developer: BioWare
Score: 4 of 5
Reviewer: Dr. Matt J. Carlson

Click to learn more about GamerDad's Kid Factor review section. The kiddies will probably enjoy the adventure, especially if you read and play along. A LAN is ideal for this. Or, you can become the Dungeon Master and guide your kids friends through an adventure you and your own kids have created. Neverwinter Nights is very much the kind of game that gives back what you put into it 100-fold. –Kid Factor by Robert Andrews Kid Factor by Dr. Matt J. Carlson

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ESRB rating:
T - Teen



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