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Created by Obsidian
Reviewed By Berliad
Review Posted on 2007-01-22
Summary (No Spoilers)
Number of Players: 1
Hours of Game Play: 81
Character: Berliad Gein, Neutral Good Aasimar Cleric of Deneir
Companions: Choose at least 4 from 11 available (eventually)
Start Level: 1
End Level: 20
Module Size: n/a
Hak Size: none
Death: So long as one party member survives the fight, all party
are revived afterwards with 1 hp
Resting: Usually unlimited, though in some areas there is a risk of a
Requires: NWN2 :)
Module Version Played: Started with 1.01, patched to 1.03 by the end.
Waiting for Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) was a lot like the
experience of waiting for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. I
desperately hoped for brilliance, but at the same time I feared complete
disaster. Neverwinter Nights (NWN1) is arguably the most important computer
roleplaying game ever developed, particularly in terms of how it facilitated the
creative efforts of an enormous modding community over the past half-decade.
Therefore, Obsidian's task of updating the game to modern technological
standards, as well as improving its interface and rulesets, all the while
preserving what was so wonderful about the original game, was no small task.
Like Jackson's films, the result of Obsidian's efforts is by no means perfect
(yet), but for all my high expectations, I'm very pleased with what we have
received. NWN2 looks to be a worthy sequel to the original, with a good
single player campaign and, more importantly, a game engine that offers
incredible potential for our modding community. If Obsidian and Atari
continue their active support of the product, there is little question in my mind
that the NWN2 community will rise to, and perhaps even surpass, the lofty
heights that the NWN1 community has experienced over the past 5 years.
While the bulk of this review will focus on the official campaign, I first want to
discuss the NWN2 game engine itself. The game still operates on the same
basic code as the original, but there are a number of significant improvements.
First, there are now genuinely controllable companions. This is probably the
biggest improvement in the new game. No longer are you required to fumble
with commands like "attack nearest target" and "stand your ground" to keep
your companions alive (although those commands are still available if you wish
to use them). You now have the option to switch between characters and
assign specific tasks to each of them. While initially I expected that I'd want to
take complete control of my characters while playing (NWN2 calls this "puppet
mode"), I actually found that a hybrid system of relying on the AI for my
melee fighters (most of the time) and assuming direct control of spellcasting
classes during combat resulted in the best experience. It is far more fun to
direct a party of adventurers through combat now than it ever was in NWN1.
Closely following the companion system in the improvement list is the
new Electron graphics engine, which completely replaces the graphics engine
used in the original. As someone who has spent the last two and a half years
playing through Neverwinter Nights modules, I have to say that I find the
graphics to be nothing short of spectacular. I purchased a new computer with
the specific purpose of running this new engine at a high graphics setting, and
I have rarely been disappointed--especially since the 1.03 graphics
optimizations. Character models are wonderfully detailed, to the point that
you can actually see pores on the skin of some of them if you zoom in close
enough. The outdoor areas, which are now composed of height-mapped and
textured terrain instead of tiles, are truly a sight to behold. Given sufficient
effort on the part of the builder, it is possible to create areas that are genuinely
jaw-dropping and unique. One can create almost any design one can imagine,
from rolling country hills, to swamps, to mountains, to bizarre pocket planes.
Add the gorgeous reflective water and the real-time animated shadows to that
mix, and we have a real visual treat on our hands. It does take some high-end
hardware to get the most out of the engine, of course, but that problem will
gradually become less of an issue as the game matures (optimizations have
already helped a great deal) and as the community's hardware gradually
The implementation of D&D; 3.5 rules seems to, by and large, be a nice
improvement over the NWN1 rules. For example, there are some changes that
affect equipment selection. Among the most significant is that +attribute
bonuses (e.g. +strength) on items no longer stack with each other, making it
more difficult to send one's primary attribute through the roof with items.
Similarly, some of the buffing spells (e.g. bull's strength, eagle's splendor, etc)
have reduced duration from 1 hr/level in NWN1 to 60 sec/level in NWN2.
They are still useful, but in early levels one might think twice about casting
them right after resting and instead opt to save them for when you really need
them. Other little changes can be found here and there, like the revised rules
for knockdown or the revised damage capabilities of Isaac's Greater Missile
Storm. As a whole, these changes should result in more balanced gameplay
than we had in NWN1.
There also a number of changes that relate to character creation. Some
classes, like bards & rangers, play quite differently than in NWN1 thanks to
changes and expansions on how they are implemented. There are also a host
of intriguing new prestige classes, as well as the new Warlock class.
Furthermore, character creation options have been enhanced via subraces for
most of the major races. These add a huge amount of replayability to the
game, as there are now many more good options for each character class,
allowing more unique character types. Some of these new subraces are
structured such that they encounter penalties to advancement. I played as an
Aasimar in the official campaign, and as a result, I was always a full level
behind my companions (even so, I did still make level 20 in the final area of
the game). This did impact how effective my character was, as he was always
a bit behind others in terms of his spell progression or attack bonus. Whether
the special bonuses my subrace received made up for that is debatable.
Nevertheless, because the bulk of the campaign is played at higher character
levels, this turned out to not be a terrible penalty--things might be different if I
were playing a low-level community-made module, of course. There are more
severely-penalized classes in the game, such as the Drow or the Deep Gnome;
I expect that players of those races feel the advancement penalty quite a bit
more than I did with my character.
There are a variety of other new features, one of which is the quick-cast
menu. This is truly a life-changer for spellcasting classes. Gone are the days
of having to re-organize your hotkeys every time you need to change your
spell selection, or of clicking through the multi-tiered radial menus to find your
spells. This menu makes it easy to see all the spells you have available, select
them, and cast them. I was particularly impressed with how the system
handled spontaneous casting by clerics and druids--just click the spontaneous
cast icon and you can view the complete set of options available to you. I also
really like the new drop-down menus that have replaced the old radial menus,
and find them much quicker and easier to navigate (tip: going to the options
menu and reducing the hold-time necessary for the drop-down menu to open
really helped this system feel more natural to me). Finally, though I haven't
experimented with it much yet, the ability to customize the appearance of
much of the user interface appears to be extremely powerful. Already, there
are a host of UI adjustments on the Vault that
do everything from change the size of inventory icons to completely
reorganizing the heads-up display. There is the potential for modders to
create custom interfaces for their modules, which really takes the ability of
modders to change the feel of the game to a new level.
Nevertheless, among the new features there are some that may need
some work, or that just don't work that well for me. First on the list is the new
targeting system. While you can still select an action (like a spell) and then
select a target as in NWN1, you also have the option of right-clicking on a
target and then selecting an action. While this new procedure is useful when
buffing up a character with spells, or when attacking a single target with
multiple spells, it has some significant drawbacks. First, there is only one
target available at a time for the entire party. I often wish to have different
party members attacking different targets, and this requires me to change new
targets every time I switch between companions--there is no "memory" of
which target was selected the last time I possessed each companion. Second,
it is very easy to forget that you have a target selected, which can sometimes
cause you to cast a spell at the wrong target. While you can cancel casting the
spell, it often wastes a valuable round of combat. I would just ignore this new
targeting system altogether, but it is now the only means by which you can
assess enemy health in the game--the option to mouse-over foes and see
their health status was not re-implemented in NWN2, unfortunately, and it is
Another change I don't like is Obsidian's decision to change the inventory
system such that all items take up the same amount of space, eliminating the
"inventory tetris" that one often had to "play" in NWN1. While this, in
principle, is fine, it has had the result of making inventory items more difficult
to tell apart. Even after playing this game for 100+ hours, I still have to
mouse-over many objects to be able to tell what they are. This problem could
be remedied, at least to some extent, by adding improved inventory
management features, like sorting or filters, to the game. Unfortunately, this
has yet to happen, though it apparently is something that is under
consideration by the developers.
There are also some improvements that could yet be made with the
companion system. The artificial intelligence for spellcasters remains fair, at
best. My warlock, for example, if left to his own devices, would cast Devour
Magic (a spell breach-like spell) at certain enemies over and over again, even
though they didn't seem to have any magical protections. Other problems
exist with the text feedback during battles. While it's just like NWN1 for the
character you are controlling, you receive noticeably less text feedback about
the actions of other characters in your party. Also, some of the difficulty-level
rules only seem to apply to the character you currently control. For example,
even though I was playing on normal difficulty, I found that companions who I
was not controlling could receive critical hits from enemies. There were also
rare cases when area-of-effect spells would still impact other party members if
cast by a companion who I was not controlling. Finally, it would be nice to be
able to select multiple party members and give them all commands at once.
For example, I'd like to have the ability to select all my melee characters at
once and tell them to attack a single character--this is not possible in the
current version (1.03).
While the new graphics engine is extremely powerful, there were some
aspects of the visuals that could use improvement. For example, at least as
displayed in my graphics card (Radeon X1900XT), under some lighting
conditions, the skin of some of the character models would get over-saturated.
Their skin was effectively rendered as entirely of one color, rather than
showing the shadows and imperfections that are normally offered by the
texture mapped skin. This contrasts with the armor and clothing models,
which never have this problem. I haven't been able to determine precisely the
conditions when this happens, but when it's present, it is very noticeable.
Also, while the customization options for each of the available character heads
is impressive, the different heads do look very similar to one another in shape
and overall appearance--particularly when you first start playing the game. I
have found that they do each look more different to me now than they did at
first, so perhaps it is just a matter of getting used to the new character models.
Also, I have to say, while the open-faced helmets are wonderful, some of the
"social" headwear looks positively ridiculous. The mask of persuasion, for
example, is a feathered mask that looks like it came straight out of Eyes Wide Shut, while the
swashbuckler's hat (+1 diplomacy) is an absurd looking fedora that seems
particularly out of place on anyone wearing armor.
Finally, another important feature that was present in NWN1 (though
recently became possible to turn off), but is absent in NWN2, was the ability to
get information about the status of targets via the Examine window. This is
particularly problematic when using spellcasters, because many of the disabling
spells do not have persistent visual effects associated with them so that it's
clear when they are still in effect. For example, the Bigby-series of spells,
many of which hold a foe over their duration, only show an obvious visual
effect (the big hand) when the spell makes contact with the foe. For the rest of
its duration, it's very hard to tell whether the foe is actually being held by the
spell, as the foe will dance around like they are still actively involved in
combat. There is also no way to diagnose whether an enemy has particular
immunities except by trying out spells or abilities and having them fail. I
guess there's certain realism that comes with not being able to have this
information, but I still would prefer to be able to get it somehow.
Overall, however, I'm very pleased with the new gaming engine offered
by NWN2. I've played both the official campaign as well as ~5 short modules
by the community, and I am now every bit as comfortable in the new game as
I was in the original--and in many ways, I like it much better. The rules seem
honed, the companion system is wonderful, and, of course, the graphics are
So with that evaluation of the engine in mind, let's turn our attention to
the official campaign.
I found that the official campaign itself played reasonably well most of the
time. While some have complained that the campaign seemed too linear, I
thought it represented a nice balance between exploration and focus on the
story. There are some substantial side-quests and side-areas available for
play, some of which are quite interesting. A number of the best ones help
create backstory for the companions that you encounter and travel with in the
game. While several of these could have been greatly expanded upon, they
were a welcome break from the often-intense main path through the
One of the major gameplay features of the official campaign is the
stronghold. Roughly half-way through the story, you are assigned the task of
renovating a dilapidated keep and preparing it for war. The resource
management mini-game that ensued was a lot of fun and, though still
somewhat simplistic, did a great job of simulating the sorts of challenges a
commander would encounter when placed in that situation. Much of it is
handled through the dialog system, though there is a custom user interface
window that pops up with the actual stats of your keep (funds, number of
troops, keep repairs completed, etc). It really is exciting to think about what
an ambitious modder might do with such a system.
Another interesting feature in the official campaign is the new crafting
system. Using a combination of various materials, as laid out in recipe books
that you can find throughout the game, you can craft extremely powerful
items--probably the most powerful weapons and armor in the game. Doing so
requires a skill point investment in crafting skills to make the base items, as
well the selection of feats to enchant these items with magical effects.
Fortunately, different characters can specialize in different aspects of crafting,
allowing you to spread the investment in crafting around your entire party. As
a result, mid-way through the third act, I had given all my melee-oriented
characters +5 adamantine weapons with enhanced fire damage, as well as +5
armor with spell resistance. Fortunately, some of the key crafting items are
somewhat difficult to come by, so one isn't able to make every item one could
possibly desire--this keeps combat balance from getting too out of control.
Furthermore, I expect that one could absolutely play through the entire
campaign without crafting and still have sufficient equipment to perform well
in the heated fights near the end of the game. Crafting will just give you a bit
more control over your characters' items, allowing you to really optimize your
For all the good, there were some substantial problems to gameplay as
well. Most notably, while acts two and three were very engaging from start to
finish, the first act seemed badly neglected in terms of both effort and design
expertise. Despite a good start, the story in the first act progresses sluggishly
(at best), while you are required to go on a series of grueling "dungeon
crawls," often fighting repetitive sets of enemies who spawn more or less right
on top of you. And there are other problems during this part of the campaign,
ranging from substantial plot holes and poor atmosphere to polish problems
(see below sections for elaborations). This made it a real chore to get through
the first third of the game. Fortunately, the latter parts of the campaign were
dramatically better. It was not surprising to see in the credits that the different
acts of this game had different design teams.
Storytelling : 7.5
As mentioned above, the official campaign varies tremendously in quality
between the first and second acts. Act one does manage to set up the overall
story, and in all truth starts off quite well. Your character was raised by a
foster father in the small village of West Harbour, which is located in a swamp
known as the Mere of Dead Men, south of Neverwinter. The story begins when
your village is inexplicably attacked by bizarre creatures from another plane.
After fighting off the initial assault, your father sends you to Neverwinter to
seek answers--and, given that the creatures seem to be targeting you, your
father seems to think that sending you away might help prevent another attack
on the village (nice guy, eh?). What follows is an adventure that builds
slowly, but eventually places the character in a key role defending Neverwinter
against a near-invincible and mysterious power.
Obsidian wanted the player to have to build up his or her reputation in the
world gradually to make the climb to a hero of Faerun a more realistic process,
rather than handing the player the key to the city in the first half-hour of
gameplay like in NWN1. This sounds good in principle, but the result, at least
as it was executed in this game, is that the epic story doesn't really progress
for most of the first act. For me, this was 20-25 hours of game time, and for a
while it seemed like anything that was done to improve matters would be too
little, too late. Further compounding these problems were a series of glaring
plot holes and consistency problems in some of the quests along the main path
of act 1, which were frequent enough to become really frustrating.
Act two, however, kicks off with a really inspired sequence of events that
instantly got me back into the game. To be frank, it was astonishing how
much better the story was structured and executed in the second act. It's hard
to not expect more consistency from an experienced set of people like those
employed at Obsidian. Act three was even better, with a series of major plot
twists that kept me on my toes, ultimately climaxing in a fantastic series of
battles and, in my opinion, a fine end to the story. Therefore, my
recommendation to players is to smash your way through the first act as
quickly as you can and then settle back to enjoy the latter two acts--they're
definitely worth experiencing.
A major emphasis in the writing of the official campaign was on the party
members. In the original game's official campaign, it was not only the case
that you had limited control of the companions, but they played a fairly limited
role in the story as you moved forward. In nwn2, on the other hand, several
of the characters that join your party are absolutely essential to the story.
Others, while more tangentially related, have interesting backstories and
undergo some character development throughout the campaign. A few of
them were also quite memorable and were genuinely a pleasure to have in the
party. There are a few characters that I could personally have lived without, as
I thought they were rather 1-dimensional and annoying (it should be noted
that one of these seems to be a favorite of many players). Most of the
companions, however, were very well written and add a lot more to the
experience of playing the campaign than the henchmen ever did in NWN1.
One of the important new features of the Neverwinter Nights 2 engine is
enhanced support for cinematic cutscenes. These were used to great effect
throughout the campaign, both to add a sense of drama to the conversations
and to depict more elaborate, action-based scenes. I found that the direction
of these sequences ranged from adequate to very good. There were a few
times when there seemed to be over-long delays between camera changes, but
most cutscenes were effective, if not occasionally spectacular. The writing was
generally solid from an artistic point of view (there were polish issues though),
with some wonderful little flourishes worked into some of the side-quests and
events. For example, your character has a series of encounters with an
amateur, clueless, wanna-be adventuring band that are positively hysterical.
Nevertheless, there isn't much of the introspective analysis of human nature
that made Planescape: Torment or (the good parts of) Knights of the Old
Republic II so compelling.
Finally, journal entries were used effectively throughout the campaign to
keep the player on task. They were generally very concise, yet had just
enough information to help the player remember what had happened, and
what they needed to do to finish up any given quest. That said, they weren't a
particularly memorable part of the game.
Atmosphere : 8
While the latter two thirds of the campaign maintained believable and even, at
times, deep atmosphere, the first act suffered a bit in this regard due to poor
(or just neglected) design. A prime example is Highcliff, a medium-sized
coastal village you encounter early in the first act. It does have a nice layout,
including dramatic cliffs that lead down to the docks that keep the town alive.
Unfortunately, it is entirely cosmetic: only one building in the entire village is
enterable, and that's due to a very minor side-quest in that man's house. As a
result, the town feels like it belongs in a more action-oriented rpg like Diablo,
because all the townspeople just stand around outside their respective
buildings--the town elder, merchants...even the town drunk stands around
outside the tavern! The result is that the whole area felt rather hurriedly put
together. In contrast, some areas in acts 2 and 3 were nicely detailed, to the
point that even the cats roaming the grounds of the player's keep have names.
The new graphical engine is capable of brilliant things, and in general the
official campaign is very attractive to explore. The swamps are rendered
beautifully, with just the right amount of mist, vines, and water to give the
feeling of a murky, wet, dangerous place. Conversely, the city of Neverwinter
is a very attractive, well-designed town with a variety of stunning buildings,
both inside and out. There are also forts, graveyards, crypts, ancient ruins,
rural towns, mines, and even a hidden valley shaped by the death of a great
creature in some long-forgotten battle. All of these are wonderfully designed,
with careful use of placeables, lighting, textures, and tinting to bring them to
life. The one thing I found lacking were wide-open, large areas awaiting
exploration, like those in Baldur's Gate or many of the community's NWN1
modules. This latter issue is presumably a limitation of the new graphics
engine, because such areas require extraordinarily large file sizes to render the
height maps. Even so, I'm sure we'll see areas that push the envelope a bit
more as community members masters this new toolset.
Sounds are not as revolutionary. Many of the inventory sounds are
identical to those from the original game, from the "ding" you hear when
handling gems, to the creak-and-thud of a closing chest, to the incantation
sounds as traditional spellcasters invoke their spells. Furthermore, many of the
old ambient music tracks are used in low-key places throughout the campaign.
Nevertheless, this wasn't as much of a problem as it might have been. There
are new sounds that have been added. For example. the warlock's
spellcasting is accompanied by guttural growls that really set apart his spells
from those of other classes. I also thought that the voice of a particular female
dragon was particularly well done. There is also a very nice set of new music
ranging from opera to marches to ambient compositions. This new audio all
blended seamlessly with the previous material, and kept things fresh enough
that I rarely noticed those cases when I was listening to recycled material.
Among of the new "sounds" of this game is a significant amount of voice
acting, with roughly 60 actors contributing their talents to help bring the dialog
to life. I would estimate that at least half of all dialogue lines are acted,
including all major conversations associated with the plot. Most of the talent is
quite good, and some, such as Milton James (Aldanon, a Neverwinter sage)
and Steven Scott (Duncan Furlong, owner of a Neverwinter saloon) to name a
few, were outstanding. Like many games with relatively low acting budgets,
there were some individuals who either under- or over-acted their parts,
though rarely to the degree that often plagued the NWN1 official campaign.
There is also a set of new voicesets for player characters on top of the original
offerings, and I've found that several of these have immediately become
favorites, though some (like in the original) will probably go unused.
Roleplaying : 8.5
I'm going to preface this section by emphasizing that I'm evaluating this from
the perspective of my neutral good cleric. I have seen reports (including those
of my fellow reviewers) indicating that some of the dialog is a poor match for
the personalities and actions of less savory characters.
Nevertheless, I thought Obsidian did an excellent job with roleplaying in
their campaign. In the most obvious case, social skills checks for diplomacy
(which replaces persuade from NWN1), intimidate, bluff, and even taunt are
sprinkled throughout the game, and can play a critical role in interactions with
both friends and foes at key parts of the story. More subtly, in many spots
throughout the campaign, dialog will shift based on one's class. For example,
my cleric sometimes had the opportunity to use dialog options that reflected
his divine nature, such as being able to invoke a position of moral superiority
in certain conversations.
Furthermore, there is an interesting influence system for one's
companions. Your actions, whether directed at your companions or not, will
change how your companions view your character. Gaining influence with
your companions can sometimes cause them to make changes in their
perspectives, which can allow you to learn more about them or even influence
whether they'll continue to fight for your cause. Furthermore, while in other
party-based D&D; games of the past you often had to (by necessity) stick with
the same party for most of the game, the NWN2 official campaign will often
require you to adjust your party composition depending on the task at hand.
This gives you the chance to get to know most of the characters, at least for a
while. Even so, you will almost always have some options about who is in
your party, and therefore will most likely maintain a core set of companions for
most of the campaign. Given how these companions tend to chime in on
conversations and talk amongst themselves, I expect that a different party
composition would result in a somewhat different feel than what I experienced
my first time through.
There are other aspects of the game, beyond the dialog, that enhance the
feel of roleplaying. The stronghold mini-game makes for an outstanding
roleplaying opportunity. At the start, not only was the keep in shambles, but it
had a very small contingent of unequipped and untrained soldiers tasked with
protecting the keep and the surrounding lands--which, as it happens, were full
of bandits and monsters. You're immediately forced to make some hard
decisions. Do you focus on recruiting more soldiers, or do you train those you
have? Or, do you try to get things under control around the keep by patrolling
the nearby lands? And when your soldiers are already stretched to the limit,
will you answer the cries of a nearby village desperate for protection?
Furthermore, to what extent do you levy taxes on your impoverished people,
or invest your own finances into keep renovations or equipment for your men?
You'll have to make all of these hard decisions as you manage your keep.
Also, even though I've been pretty hard on the first act, there is a major
portion of that act in which a player must choose between two entirely
different, parallel paths. While the path I followed was fraught with design
mistakes and seemed incomplete, it's not often that a game of this sort allows
that sort of divergence--I applaud Obsidian for trying it.
The main marks against roleplaying that I encountered were consistency
problems that pulled me out of character and sometimes had me scratching
my head. For example, all too often, NPC dialogues are often not updated
following major changes in the world that should greatly affect those
individuals' outlooks on life--or at least their answers to the set of questions
I'm allowed to ask them. This sort of thing was particularly pervasive among
the companions. They rarely get updates to their non-spontaneous dialogue
options, even when it's obvious that they should have been updated based on
the events that had occurred. I also was not terribly plussed with the romance
plot for male characters, though I did not aggressively cultivate it, and
therefore may have missed out on some parts of it.
Action : 8
Combat is very interesting in NWN2 thanks to the existence of a true
controllable companion system. Much like in the Inifinity game engines, you
can now pause the game, take complete control of your party members during
combat, assign commands to them, and unpause the game to see them launch
the coordinated attack you prescribed. If you do not want to manage your
companions and just want to focus on your own character, you may allow the
game's artificial intelligence to control your companions like in NWN1. I found
that the AI worked well for melee classes, but not as well for spellcasters. So,
I opted to primarily let the AI control my melee companions, but to take direct
control of my spellcasters and manage their spell selection during battle. This
worked very well for me and was quite enjoyable.
In terms of the official campaign, action, like the story, varied greatly in
quality between act 1 and the following acts. In act 1, most of the combat
consisted of long dungeon crawls in which my party faced repeated encounters
of identical spawn groups, most of whom would spawn very close to the party.
Almost all the fights were against between 4 and 6 foes at a time, usually
consisting of no more than two npc blueprint types. By and large, combat in
the first act was repetitive, boring, and uninspired. There were a few great
moments, such as the battle in West Harbour that starts off the main story, but
those events were few and far in between.
In contrast, acts 2 and 3 operated under a very different principle. Almost
every encounter had meaning, and rarely would you fight the same spawn
group more than once. Boss fights tended to be spectacular affairs,
particularly as I approached the end of the game. One of the greatest
sequences involved a series of battles for control of your keep, one of which
features a fight on the walls in which you defend against invaders attacking
with siege towers. Combat in acts 2 and 3 is varied, interesting, and most of
all, fun. Maybe not quite as strategic as the brilliant mage duels of Baldur's
Gate II, but not far from that mark either.
Combat balance was pretty good throughout the game. There were some
times when it became a bit easy, but never to the point that I was completely
unconcerned for my party's well being. Other times, particularly among fights
that "should" be tough (i.e. "boss" fights, or fights vs. large numbers of
enemies), I found myself scrambling to achieve victory. I was very pleased
with the selection of companion classes available for my party, though I did
encounter some regrettable overlap with some "required" characters near the
end of the campaign. Also, there was also only one companion who was
capable of picking locks and disarming traps via skills, which means that if
your own character is not a rogue, you will pretty much be obligated to take
her with you on every mission in the game.
One aspect of the action that seemed a bit neglected in the game was
stealth. There are a few areas, mostly in relation to side-quests for the rogue
companion, in which stealth can be of great benefit. Nevertheless, I generally
found that the main advantage to putting my stealth-capable characters into
stealth mode was to slow them down and prevent them from rushing into
battle before my "tank" characters could get the attention of most of the
Polish : 6
Prior to its release, there was considerable pessimism in the community about
how polished this game was going to be. The original NWN1 was notoriously
buggy upon release, which seems to be the result of the immense complexity
of this sort of game. Furthermore, Obsidian's other major release, Knights of
the Old Republic II, had a lot of merits, but suffered from being released when
its campaign appeared to be only about three quarters complete. Finally,
several much-desired features were dropped from NWN2 prior to release, such
as mountable horses and the Dungeon Master client (though to their credit,
Obsidian released the latter feature in the release-day patch), causing fear
about what else might not make it into the game, or what would actually be
functional. Given all this bad news, many feared that NWN2 would be released
as an unplayable mess.
Fortunately, this is not at all the case. To be sure, there were significant
issues that needed correcting in the first few patches, and there are still some
important features that have yet to be added (especially those having to do
with the toolset). Overall, however, the game itself was mostly playable upon
release, and was in very good shape with the release of the 1.03 patch a
Nevertheless, when it comes to the official campaign, there are still a
series of problems. I myself encountered two game-breaking bugs during my
play-through. One of these was fixed by the 1.02 patch, but the other
required me to look around on the message boards for a work-around (it has
to do with a particular companion being in stealth mode when an area loads).
I also encountered a number of smaller bugs, from crafting recipes not
working properly (e.g. giving the wrong item) to scripting errors that made
side-quests impossible to complete. There are also still a series of glaring
consistency errors as you progress through the various quests, both along the
main path and among side-quests. For example, npc's will sometimes claim
that events have happened in one place when they instead happened
elsewhere, or not at all. Or, sometimes my character would claim to know
things he could not possibly know. Furthermore, there were a surprising
number of really flagrant typographical errors. Not just misspellings (though
those were present here and there), but missing words and strange added
spaces in between sentences that, along with missing capitalizations, speak of
fairly sloppy editing. It's not something that you'd expect to see in a
professional product of this sort, even with what must be a massive word
Therefore, while the game engine itself is now in good shape, and the
official campaign generally is very playable, there is still a substantial amount
of work to be done before the game would feel like a polished package to me.
Fun : 8
As you can see, I have mixed feelings about the official campaign. I had a
great time in the second and third acts, but the first act was, at times, hard to
sit through. But even the first act had some great moments, which made it
worth playing. Furthermore, the game engine itself works well, offers
spectacular visuals, improved rules, and the toolset provides opportunities for
our community modders to take their craft to a new level. As a whole, I'm
thrilled with the product Obsidian has delivered, and very encouraged by the
support that they and Atari have been able to provide the community thus far.
With ongoing support from a team of programmers and designers dedicated to
this product, there's every reason to think that Neverwinter Nights 2 will be an
outstanding platform around which our community can thrive for years to come.
Well actually I was talking about overall score Berliad hehe.
The NPCs are what I believe pushes it up to 8.5 overall, according to the vault standards that would be Excellent.
Rating 10: BG2 Massive in Scope, hundreds of different meaningful side quests that had effect on both the world around you. NPCs that were literally involved in the life of the character and yours in theirs. It was incredibly intricate and detailed. Very thrilling main quest through many different environments with many twists and turns. Combat that was challenging and rewarding... and hard in places. This one was a virtual smorgasbord of RPG goodness.
9.5 rating: Planescape Torment, incredible story, very real characters and a main storyline that shocked you at times. Just not as large in scope compared to BG2.
9.0 Rating: Icewind Dale, mainly hack and slash, but an incredible knaock for bringing to life the living history of the area, all wrapped in a storyline that was enthralling and made everything you did meaningful. This one had some true poignancy in it. It was pure old style D&D at its best.
8.5 Rating: BG1 and NWN2 OC, Some great quests, a good storyline, NPCs that really came to life. Slow in places but built to a crescendo at the end. I rate the NWN2 NPCs much higher than the BG1 NPCs with regards to interaction, but both were kind of a first attempt type thing with an engine.
This is why I said what I said.
And in truth, I would probably rate NWN2 OC higher than IWD its just that for some reason I was more immersed in IWD. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the history of the area, I'm not sure what it was, but IWD engrossed me more.
My personal opinion though, is that if the NWN2 OC is this good already, the expansions are probably going to knock our socks off.
I do stand by my claim that the companions played a much greater role in this campaign compared to nwn1's. There are a lot of plot-triggered conversations and cutscenes with companions, and at least three of them are absolutely essential to the story. But I absolutely I agree with your complaint about how their non-spontaneous dialogs are not updated over the course of the game--you'll note that I made this criticism in the review, though perhaps I didn't weight it as heavily as you would. I also think your complaint about how we cannot coax the henchmen into prestige classes is a legitimate beef--or at least something that would have been a very nice feature had it been implemented.
I think you'll find that some of the other reviews that come out this week more explicitly consider the evil path and how that affects roleplay--as I indicated in my review, here roleplaying was scored from the perspective of the neutral good cleric I played in the campaign. And, for him (and me), it was a good roleplaying experience.
I am going to have to disagree with you on your review of henchmen (and your score for role-playing in general). It seems to me you are wearing rose-colored glasses here. The henchmen in NWN1 at least changed conversation options with each act and their conservations were more "context sensitive".
In NWN2, companion conversations don’t change from one act to another (Neeska and Grobnar's in particular). They never have anything interesting to say. I was very disappointed with how shallow the NPC companions were -- especially compared to say KotOR2 (also done by Obsidian).
None of the NPC companions had complex or independent motivations; they in essence were all one dimensional characters. What disguised this was some good voice acting for a few of the companions; Kelgar for instance. But even into the third act, his dialogue featured “Who are you?” as one of the options and other equally trite choices given that he is the first companion met. In addition, the romantic interests were two of the least developed characters.
There were too many companions that you had to carry through the campaign to develop any of them. In fact, the most interesting companion in terms of dialogue (both inherent and scripted) didn’t make it to the end of the campaign. NWN1 had about the right number of companions.
It would have been nice to have some control over the development of the companions. There was only one companion who had the possibility of changing class (and into one he wasn't designed for, no less). It would have been interesting to at least push some of them into prestige classes at the very least.
One of the key aspects of role-playing is requiring the character to make a choice -- this is what made BG2 such a good CRPG. In BG2, the character (male at least) had to choose which character to romance. I think that this should have been the case with NWN2 -- Elanee or Neeskha; Bishop or Casavir.
I would also like to pick a nit about the two supposed paths. These paths both lead to the same place without any real consequences for choosing either. What would have been truly revolutionary would have been to have the second path played from Garius’ point of view.
The problem with the stronghold mini-game is that it is of no real consequence either. The choices you make in the process of building the keep have no affect on the story other than awarding you a couple of epithets.
Finally, the “evil” path had a much more interesting ending that the “good” path. And once again you can only be an “evil” character if you are rude and crude bully. Apparently, the subtle, suave, and sophisticated “evil” is reserved for NPCs. Or even the lying, deceitfully smile-to-your-face-stick-the-dagger-in-your-back “evil” also doesn’t seem to be allowed. You don’t have the choice to slowly corrupt your companions as was done with KotOR. I will also echo another common complaint, which was the rituals and sword did not really play much of a part in the final encounter. Your character spends most of his time gathering these plot items, if you will, only to find that not only are they not critical, but trying to use them impedes your ability to quickly take down the Shadow King. I crafted a sword that was way more effective than the plot blade.
I would give the role-playing category a polite 4.0 for the reason I have outlined above as well as the ones you have pointed out.
I had been watching your OC review on the Bioware boards while you were playing it, so I admit I already knew the things you were going to say.
I'm not going to argue with you, because everything you said is true. And I actually agree with you on most of it. Though the small and more cramped areas is one thing I'd have rated lower on, but those are one of my personal preference issues and not everyone is the same on that one.
Overall my personal score though would probably have been about an 8.5 mostly because of the NPCs, I really did like them even though a couple of them grated on me, I felt like I was talking to real people, and also felt that was the one shining moment for Obsidian throughout.
Keep in mind here... my idea of perfect 10 would be BG-2. So you know the scale I am personally rating on.
Excellent and very fair review--well-written, thoughtful, and thorough. Despite having pointed out the flaws in the OC, you still convince me that I ought to play it to the end. Most importantly, your in-depth appreciation of the engine itself--and your hints to modders throughout--is pretty inspiring for all the builders out there. _________________________ Maerduin's Blog Link
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