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 PLATFORM: PC
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

y inner dork loves nothing better than building the most efficient and powerful character possible within any given ruleset, and then utilizing my hero’s power to beat up on some bad guys and probably save the world in the process. Neverwinter Nights 2, for all of its flaws, does an excellent job of providing a framework for me to indulge in that, and for that I’m grateful. I just wish that it wasn’t so freaking frustrating some of the time.

With a few rare exceptions, NWN 2 is an even better translation of the tabletop Dungeons & Dragons ruleset into the virtual space than its predecessor. This title easily trumps the original NWN’s campaign with a vastly superior story and characters – not to mention the Knights of the Old Republic-like party system that takes the place of overpowered summons and hirelings. Developer Obsidian has created one of the best single-player fantasy tales around, with numerous branching paths and side missions to explore. NWN 2’s modular nature also means that you can play through the official campaign (or most any downloaded module) cooperatively with a friend or two.

The included campaign blows the first game’s story out of the water with a gripping tale of an evil cult that seeks Neverwinter’s destruction along the path to domination of all of Faerun. Players even have a decent amount of input, through the choices they make, over how the plot unfolds. However, the gameplay has a tendency to feel disturbingly similar to the original’s clunky framework. The interface is noticeably improved, but the odd way the engine assigns attacks of opportunity, as well as the horrid pathfinding and AI for both allies and enemies, are entirely unchanged. Under the hood, NWN 2 is almost identical to the original. While that’s not the worst thing in the world, asking for a little evolution in gameplay for a five-years-in-the-making sequel isn’t exactly unreasonable.

The true test of this title’s worth, however, is whether or not the online mod community embraces it with the fervor that keeps its predecessor popular to this day. The tools certainly won’t hold amateur creators back; Obsidian is kind enough to ship the tools that were used internally to make the official campaign. Which, of course, makes NWN 2 one of the very best titles available for modders’ purposes.

All that being said, the score reflects what comes in the box: a very entertaining, classic D&D tale that will provide dozens of hours of entertainment to RPG fans, as well as some mod tools with great potential. If the online scene takes off, though, you can expect many years of outstanding gaming out of this little package.

  

JOE JUBA   8
The number of video games that Dungeons & Dragons has influenced is probably incalculable, but the ones that implement the tabletop RPG’s d20 ruleset are far less common. Of those titles, Neverwinter Nights 2 provides the most faithful digital translation of the D&D experience that I’ve ever played. The controls are intuitive and simple, allowing you to cast spells, cleave orcs, and sneak around with ease. The new party system is a vast improvement, teaming you with cool characters (not just doofus hirelings) and giving you the ability to dictate their every move – which is great in theory. In practice, however, some dodgy AI and pathfinding had me doing more babysitting than a 10th level barbarian should really require. Nonetheless, Neverwinter Nights 2 is good cosolidation of D&D concepts, but it doesn’t gather the momentum to rise above the sum of its parts.
8
CONCEPT:
Deliver the definitive Dungeons & Dragons experience on PC
GRAPHICS:
Great if you have the machine to run it well, but low- and mid-end boxes will suffer
SOUND:
At least your allies generally say something when they’re about to run off and go do something stupid
PLAYABILITY:
The game flows decently once you tinker enough with the AI settings, but controlling the action is still more of a chore than it should be
ENTERTAINMENT:
D&D; fans will certainly enjoy this faithful representation of the tabletop RPG
REPLAY:
Moderately High
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