Neverwinter Nights 2
Neverwinter Nights 2 was standing very high on my wishlist for a long time. My desire for an epic adventure like Baldur’s Gate 2 could offer, including a strong storyline, dramatic characters and memorable fights and surroundings has been burning for years already now. All my hope was set on this RPG that didn’t only promise all of the above, but also an improvement of the do-it-yourself module-maker that already gave us so much replayability and user-generated content with the original Neverwinter Nights.
The story is like in every RPG worthy of that name: an evil something rises and you get to save the world. Luckily the plot goes a lot deeper than this superficial view and we’re treated to a believable setting, the necessary betrayal, unexpected plot twists, interesting characters, friendships and hatred and so on.
On top of that you can make real choices during conversations, tell NPC’s and people from your party to shut the hell up or decide to follow their advise, and these decisions will have repercussions on the rest of the game, both in short (fist in your face) and long term (team mate gets fed up with you and leaves). It’s been already quite some time since we’ve been emerged like this in the storyline of a single player campaign, one that will even cluster you to the screen for a couple of dozens of hours.
The quests you get to do aren’t of the copy/paste kind. I admit, sometimes you need to search for an item or here and there kick some vermin into the ground but luckily these simple things are more than compensated by missions that are perfectly integrated in the story and are more varied than those we could come up with on a rainy Sunday afternoon. As cherry on the pie the completion of your quests get you a decent experience boost so that you don’t only have to improve your character by defeating enemies.
True lovers that want to discover everything will have plenty of reasons to replay the game. Next to the story, the many big and small quests and the choices, you can also vary a lot in who you want to take with you in your party (up to 3 people) and also the different classis with extremely long lists of skills, spells and abilities make for some real variation.
With the story, the replayability, the classis and skills things are pretty good already and also the combat is something we’re very pleased with. With the space bar you pause real-time fights so that you can easily think about your strategy and give assignments. An ideal compromise since the heavier fights can be controlled well and the easier ones can be done almost on automatic pilot. The AI is smart enough to help with that, only too bad that the pathfinding in small corridors or complex dungeons is a bit off. It’s frustrating that such small flaws can take away a lot of the fun.
A nice addition is the possibility to create your own weapons and items. You collect the necessary things and ingredients, add everything together and get new handy items. The treasures you find in dungeons and on your enemies are also well done with interesting and useable properties that keep the experience fresh. Too bad that the interface is a bit less fresh (not to say it smells) and makes it unnecessary difficult to manage your possessions. Why not look at so many other games that do it well and copy it? The makers also could have done that with the use of the camera. Despite the multiple viewing angles you’ll never be completely satisfied and look around without worry. The camera gets stuck too often and also you’ll often miss parts of the action. Unfortunate!
Neverwinter Nights is of course more than a campaign for one player (which you can play in co-op as long as you do it from the start which makes it quite unusable imho). Thanks to the multiplayer option (up to 4 players) the social aspect of D&D RPG’s doesn’t get violated but lifted to the next level. Combine this with the great Editor that added countless hours of extra and free content, and we can now say with peace at heart that you won’t finish quickly with this game. The editor is very powerful and although it will take time and skill to make new modules that are worthy of the game, it’s open and accessible enough for everyone to try.
Graphically, NWN2 is a good step forward compared to its predecessor, but it won’t have your jaw falling on the ground. The animations aren’t always as natural and also the textures could be a bit sharper. Luckily these and a couple of other technical flaws are set straight by the inspiring surroundings and levels and the fights with their many effects will make up for quite a bit.
The soundtrack is of a high level with impressive orchestral parts (that’s how it should be done!) and voicing that manages to amaze both qualitatively and on a quantity base. Everything nicely fits together and with the story so that it all makes one great whole, something that’s an achievement by itself.
Neverwinter Nights 2 isn’t the bomb I had hoped for. Some technical flaws and lack of real innovation make a less than perfect score, but those that don’t mind (like me) will find a fantastic adventure, an epic storyline filled with interesting dialogues, exciting fights and gameplay that remains faithful to the traditional RPG’s. The Editor is a god gift for the creative mind, those looking for a way to play RPG’s with their friends and those that just want free content for their favourite game. NWN2 will deliver a lot of pure gaming fun for the lovers of classic PC RPG’s for the coming winter months and that’s all we need!