BigRedMachine's Neverwinter Nights Review
- The graphics
- The character creation
- Some good gameplay features
- Sound is not THAT good
- What's with all the barrels?
- Plot not always interesting
So, here's the next best thing from Bioware after the awesome Baldur's Gate series. There has been a great hype about this game and I cannot blame the game press. It is a new standard in AD&D gaming, that's for sure. Revolutionary 3D gaming in an epic Forgotten Realms environment. New and improvement gameplay which makes you forget Baldur's Gate in an instant. The story is so great, that all other stories seem lame and unoriginal. Everything in this world is possible, the most amazing creatures will pass your eyes and you cannot imagine that you will ever play a game like that ever again in your life! At least, that's what the developers said. Let's find out if it's true, shall we?
Wow, you are to graduate from the Academy! What academy? I don't know, but it sounds great! Just a few final tests and you are ready to go into the great and wonderful world of Neverwinter Nights (NWN). Too bad that there's that little and extremely nasty disease spreading through town, called "The Wailing Death". Sounds nice, doesn't it? Well, you can compare it with The Plague I guess. But first there are a few tests to complete. Yada-yada, after a few minutes you are done and there is a great ceremony to honor you and a select few other who also completed the training at the Academy. But no! Something goes terribly wrong! You are being attacked by enemy priests and nearly everybody gets killed. Except for you and a few others of course. Why have you been attacked? Well, the Academy was preparing a cure for The Wailing Death and the Waterdhavian creatures (WHATerdhavian creatures?) required for the cure have scattered through town. Up to you to find them and cure The Wailing Death!
There is the beginning of a story that is really good. Sometimes you feel a lot like you've seen this before somewhere before, but when you advance in the story, it turns out to be an epic story of heroes, betrayal and monsters. And lots of those. Maybe not as grand as the Baldur's Gate 2 story, but to be honest, which story is? Prepare for a lot of plot twists and extra storylines, so you will need a large memory capacity to store it all. Bioware has done a good job on keeping the game interesting story wise, but that only goes for the first Chapter. There are a few moments where you honestly don't know what the hell you should do, but wandering around always gives you some clues on what to do. Later in the game the story does seem to get boring a little, but luckily there are lots of things to do apart from doing the main storyline.
But how are the characters of the game? Well, you have your own character of course. And true to the AD&D principle, you can create your own character. You can choose from the dozens of classes, races, appearances, feats and stats that we all know. Ranger, paladin, assassin, half-orc, human and dwarf. You name it, NWN has it. Personally, I love it to spend a lot of time on the creation of my character, I tweak him (but it can also be a she, don't worry ladies) as long as I want to. Until I find a right combination. So if you love to fudge around with your own character, you are gonna be in heaven with NWN. How about the NPC's? Well, most don't have a major role in the game. You see them for a few quests and then they disappear out of your life or have nothing or real value to say anymore. The only NPC that stays with you through the game is Aribeth, she is a guard captain who gives you your major quests during the game and adds up for a lot of conversation. Don't you have any companions on your quests you wonder? Not in the Baldur's Gate way. You don't have a party in this game. You do have a few henchmen or women by your side. Like in the Diablo games. But these henchmen are not as shallow as in that game. But you also can't compare them with a real party. But more on that in the Gameplay section.
Gameplay-wise, this game doesn't come as close to Baldur's Gate as you might think. You might think that it is the same, but as you venture more and more into the game, you see that you're gonna miss the gameplay of BG. Here the game falls and quite badly as well. The fighting system is so boring and virtually aimless, you simply click on an enemy and your character will keep slashing until either you or the enemy dies. You can't control your character efficiently like Diablo, by moving and switching attacks while using your different skills, nor do you have a party to manage and organize like Dungeon Siege or the big Baldur's Gate itself. Your party may consist of a maximum of three, along with a henchman and a summoned creature, and both of them you can't truly control or give any useful commands to. My biggest problem was my henchman and how he died always because I couldn't order him to retreat. It's not a real bad fighting system, but I've seen so much better. They really couldn't done more to have you interact with the enemies more.
Then comes some small itches here and there, like those scattered multi-thousand barrels and chests that are supposed to carry great items within. You pass several minutes bashing and unlocking a dozen of them only to find a few gold pieces. I'm positive that during the time I finished the game I have opened a minimum of a thousand barrels and chests, only to find a couple of really good items, it just doesn't feel right regarding all the effort and time you waste on them. Altogether with the boring fighting, gives you a really hard time with the game. The game is full of itches that can get the most enthusiastic of players eager to throw it in the first bin along his way, but wait; all is not lost though. Throughout my personal experience, the time I have passed trying the game at first, searching for something to like and maybe to prove that I didn't throw my money away I came up with something strange. This game doesn't necessarily make you like it by itself; you just have to learn to like it. There are many examples of well-thought situations which require a bit of thought or skill.
At first, you will get bombarded with quest and every newbie to the genre will give up by the sight of that ever growing list of quests. Luckily you can set them in order of priority to see what you must/can do first. Very handy tool if you ask me. Just keep your calm and do the quests one by one. It really helps. While fighting is frequent and is to certain degrees tedious in the game, the action development is fast-paced in comparison. What I mean is, you won't have to fight for hours and hours collecting that item and killing that boss, then simply returning to get your reward and marching for another quest and so. The game always gives you something to refresh your mind being in a new idea or an interesting turn of events. Am I still unclear? Then I will explain. Between time and time, the game will present you with a new idea. Once, I was venturing inside a castle that is considered to be stuck in the tide of time, which means that the time doesn't change inside it. I was surprised to find out that the reason was a massacre that happened years ago. Apparently, some god froze time inside the castle waiting for someone to solve this matter and judge between the two lords who caused this catastrophe, and guess what; I had to play judge in order to return everything back to normal! Another incident was when a priest at the temple of Tyr asked me to defend a suspected criminal; he gave me a book listing all the people who were meant with the case. I had to pass by all these people, questioning some and persuading others to say the truth. In the end, I had to represent the criminal in court and prove that he is innocent by asking certain questions to a group of witnesses then coming up to a backed-up conclusion of what truly happened. Once, I was even followed by a man with a contract to assassinate me-I must say that I enjoyed killing him! The game is full of brilliant ideas such as these that can keep you interested, and that's even without mentioning time travel and the different contests you can participate in. Only if you bared a bit with the game, you will come to learn to love it.
The character you create at the start of the game can alone alter totally your gaming experience as well. Take the bard class for example; this class concentrates on charisma and your ability to persuade other people, so if you love your character to have an effect on other people (or NPCs) you will love this character making your game more pleasant and joyful. I myself chose the paladin because I like the combination of power and priest skills. I even let him gain a few a few Wizard levels, so that I could have a completely weird, but enjoyable character to play the game with. It's great to see your character grow and give him new feats for combat. On the light of the things I said till now I can come up with one conclusion; this game will only satisfy the hardcore type of gamers and maybe the most committed types of them. I really liked this game, but it took me a long while to see the beauty and true value of it which doesn't come as a surprise. However, the game itself if played merely in singly player can't last long, as you would tend to get bored quite easily after you finish the game the first time. The true replay value, however, lies in the toolset (or editor) and the multiplayer option this game has. Though I haven't but slightly tried it, I'm sure it would be one of the best multiplayer experiences a player can try. The game is made to easily contain about thirty-two players in one game, along with a new fabulous option which allows a certain player to be a dungeon master. This guy will be able to do everything and anything he feels like to enhance the gaming experience. He can add more enemies, create new bosses or even possess certain NPCs and talk through them. If you ask me, this game was made for multiplayer, and it's there where it truly shines.
The gameplay has its charms, the graphics are great, but the sound just isn't anything special. At many part of the game, you don't even have background music. Luckily there are a lot of sound-effects in the background which fit the environment, but even with that there are errors. Example: the Beggar's Nest is infected with zombies, so everywhere you hear moaning and screaming and other things that might originate from the mouth of a zombie. But after you cleared the quest of getting rid of them, everything turns to normal in that area again. But when you enter it after the quest, you still hear the moaning and groaning. They could at least have replaced it with normal chatter like in other areas.
A very nice thing about the sound in this game is that nearly every dialogue is spoken. It gives the chatter way more depth and it keeps you from clicking through the conversations like you don't care what is said. The voices are well done and fit the characters. Of course there is some background music and it is pretty standard. But once again, it fits the environment and does it work. Nothing special though. You've heard it all in those other games.
The game shines here. At first glance, you will see a wonderful world in stunning 3D. You have full control of the camera at any time and just running around is a great experience. The spells are nicely worked out as they are supposed to and the character models look great, even from up close. My piece of magical half-plate armor really shines and sparkles from up close! The animations are great from the normal camera distance, but when you zoom in, all the characters seem to vibrate and wobble a lot. But since you normally don't play at a level of where you can count you character's nose hairs, you will find that your characters move fluently. So, the characters are great. But what about the world? It's great too, you can count on that. Although the world is a bit dark (looks like they are running a 20 hour night-cycle there in Neverwinter), the houses and streets look great. The artwork is well done and even at the end of Chapter 1, I was still amazed at some of the buildings in the center area. And that's mostly because you haven't noticed them yet since there are a LOT of them.
Why not a perfect 10 for graphics then? Well, it all LOOKS nice, but it doesn't actually WORK all the time. There are a lot of bugs in the graphics. Even the later patch didn't fix all of them. Sometimes, certain objects in the game just disappear when you turn the camera, only to appear again when you turn back. The same goes with certain parts of buildings in the game. You sometimes will get stuck in certain points where you are not supposed to get stuck and some NPCs will walk into objects or even you. Luckily, these things aren't going to spoil your gaming experience that much. You are way busier with other things in the game than annoy you on these minor glitches. I haven't found major bugs, so there aren't any fatal errors in the game which ruin your game experience, which I did found in Baldur's Gate 1 and Dungeon Siege. So just sit back and enjoy the graphical ride. Don't annoy yourself with the bumps in the road and enjoy the scenery.
NWN is as I said before, a game that you must learn to love. There are many wonderful things in this game, but it also has its flaws. It's an RPG that definitely is more than average. The environments are great, the graphics stunning and some gameplay elements are refreshing. But the meager sound and repetitive parts in the game keep it from being a classic. All those things could have been tweaked a little more and they could've spent a bit more on the later part of the story. But other than that, I love this game. The score might not reflect it, but I have to be fair. I enjoyed this game, but it is nowhere near the splendor of Baldur's Gate 2 or Planescape: Torment
But if you want to expand your Bioware collection with a good title, you have to buy this one. It offers enough good things to leave a good memory of this game. You just have to look past the flaws. If you don't think you will be able to get past the glitches, don't bother. But this should be a game which appeals to both hardcore RPG fanatics and newbies in the genre. Just have a bit of patience and all will be unvealed. And since NWN: Shadows of Undrentide is released, there willl be much more gameplay to look forward too. NWN: Hordes of the Underdark also has been announced, so with multiple add-ons, you will be busy for hours. I will review those add-ons later, but you can first have a lot of fun with Neverwinter Nights itself!
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