The problem with Neverwinter Nights 2
is that it wants to be two things at once, and those two things end up cooperating like fire and water. Take a complex ruleset mostly tamed by a commendably intuitive interface and wrap it around small, claustrophobic levels and a long, dull, predictable story that comes across as restrictive and linear to a fault, and you either have clashing design decisions or a game only patient D&D
purists will find appealing.
On the one hand, NWN2
is probably the most ambitious attempt to date to simulate D&D
on a computer, and if you want a computerized version of the ruleset with minimal deviation (mostly to accommodate things like combat rounds that have to run in real-time), here's your poison. But if you'd rather immerse yourself in a decent rip of a story that doesn't include wooden characters, endless FedEx quests and stuff to fight that stands around solely to go "EYAAH!" and charge when you get too close, then watch out. NWN2
's campaign is like slogging through a particularly hackneyed Bob Salvatore yarn where you're just another unlikely zero-to-hero. Zero-to-hero is fine. Tired storytelling's not, especially since this is Feargus Urquhart we're talking about, the guy who turned Zeb Cook's somewhat obscure Planescape
campaign setting into one of the best story-driven RPGs going.
Technical glitches don't help, like inventory remove/equip hangs and party members who stupidly walk over traps that your thief's disarming, but they aren't the biggest problem. Over the years we've seen RPGs move in two directions: One attempts to mask rules and stats and makes what you see and how you act the source of why you want to keep playing; the other hoists exotic canon into simulations that teeter on the brink of source fetish. Neverwinter Nights 2
is the culmination of the latter, where spending time tweaking classes and feats and spells and a bazillion inventory items amounts to half of everything you get up to. That's OK in the pencil-and-paper game, where it's necessary, but shouldn't a computer version be more?
But wait: "I know D&D
, and you, sir, are no fan of D&D
." Not true. I'm just not a fan of games that daisy-chain sparsely detailed areas together and require you to run from one end to the other battling enemies pulled from the tired old passive-aggressive playbook. I don't want to go spelunking in dungeons where every corner's perfectly squared and every segment's implausibly flat as a pancake. And I really don't care for situations where, for instance, you clear out a bandit camp, trigger a script and then the bandit camp's suddenlyprestofull of bandits again. It has nothing to do with D&D
, but rather the collision of tortuously detailed rules with a mediocre game engine and a dog-tired storytelling approach thatin 2006no longer entertains the way it thinks it does.
If there's saving grace it's the toolset, which in the right hands may over time yield better community-driven adventures or clever ways of lacing together areas that make the game world feel less arbitrary and lifeless. D&D wonks
, have at itit's your every dream come truebut everyone else should take deep breaths and think twice about what they expect out of an RPG today, and henceforward.
Convincing hardened D&D'ers that their beloved system may finally have teetered over into fetish is like rolling boulders up a hill, but it is, in the end, the big problem here. It's easy to say "But it's a D&D game, so fidelity's a virtue." Too easy. If you really want computer-aided D&D, it's far more satisfying to grab a copy of Code Monkey's eTools and stick with your local haunts. Matt