Neverwinter Nights 2 Preview

A game like Neverwinter Nights tends to appear once in a blue moon. Four years later, and the NWN community is still pumping out daily custom content for the public. To satiate the fans’ appetite, even canceled premium modules are being released freely (Darkness Over Daggerfall is the latest), and official patches (1.68 adds visible cloaks) are still being developed. So how does a company follow up a legacy like that with a suitable sequel? Obsidian Entertainment may be a relatively new company – their debut title was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords – but they are comprised of RPG veterans. Anyone who has played Fallout or Icewind Dale will know exactly how Obsidian works, since most of Black Isle Studios is now Obsidian Entertainment.

One wonderful tactic Obsidian really ran with is to fully utilize the game’s official forums. Everyday there are responses from Obsidian employees answering various questions from the community. For example, yesterday Shane DeFreest, NWN2’s Community Manager, reiterated that NWN2’s DM Client is under development, but won’t ship with NWN2. They take the client very seriously, but the details are short since it’s still being worked on. Another news bit came from George Ziets, NWN2 Designer, clarifying just what Able Leaner (a new feat solely for humans and doppelgangers) meant. The new feat won’t make all skills class skills, it’ll just lower the cost of cross-class skills to one point. Useful, yes, but not insanely over-powered. Forums are vastly popular to communicate information to the community, and seeing Obsidian use them nets them a brownie point from me.

In NWN2, the single player game is getting a fairly impressive overhaul. For starters, the D&D third edition rules are getting canned; in-place will be the D&D 3.5 rules. Starting with character creation, plenty of new additions will also be present. New sub-races include Drow, rock gnomes (and other variations of gnomes), lightfoot halflings (and other variations of halflings) and the Duergar. Races include the ol’ elves, half-orcs, and humans, but there are some new races, namely "plane-touched" races like tieflings. New prestige classes are present, and they include things such as Arcane Trickster, Duellist, Eldritch Knight, Frenized Berserker, Shadow Thief of Amn, and a War Priest. The Warlock joins the ranks as the new character class in NWN2. The Warlock has fewer slots to remember spells with, but the tradeoff is that they can cast spells quicker.

In character creation, background traits will be present, too. These traits will add some sort of bonus or penalty, as well as shape how the folks in your starting town will react to you. In past games, Obsidian/Black Isle incorporated background traits as parts of each character (most memorable in Fallout). They were not necessary for your character, but they added a little spice. The background story behind some of them was often hilarious, as well. Conversations will be conducted more cinematically this time around, like in KotOR2. About halfway through the game, you’ll be given a stronghold. Build up your soldiers, defend your keep during attacks, or have runners fetch new quests for you – it’ll all be there. If you want to go out and adventure, hire a work foreman to look after your workers and handle things.

Henchman control will be more refined in NWN2. You’ll be able to take full control of your henchman for the first time, and even if you don’t want to, their AI is much improved. Taking control of your henchman opens up for more tactical gameplay; now you can line up specific spells or have them attack specific enemies. The influence system from KotORII will carry over to NWN2. This means that your actions and dialogue will have long lasting effects on your henchman. If you’re chaotic evil and like to punch babies, your lawful good henchman (depending on how loyal they are) can either change their alignment to suit your needs or continue to berate you for your actions until the point of departure. In total, you can have up to four henchmen with you, rounding out party gameplay similar to Baldur’s Gate.

Want to know some more general tweaks to the game? Turning Undead will no longer have a bunch of undead running around; instead they’ll stay in place incurring their respective penalties. Area of effect spells will now have a template-like icon (like a circle) that’ll appear to signal how big of an area the spell will effect. The NWN radial menu is gone. Instead, there’s a context-sensitive drop-down menu. Characters will always receive the max hit points when they level up this time around, as well. All characters can now choose up to four total classes, instead of the three back in NWN. There are many more changes to the gameplay in NWN2, but it would take far too long to list them all. All in all, the list of new features is very, very impressive.

Visuals are definitely enhanced for NWN2. Using a vastly updated Aurora Engine, the newly dubbed Electron engine will be rebuilding the visuals from the ground up. Screenshots don’t do justice; even when "new" screenshots get released, various Obsidian employees will say they’re old. Real-time reflections in the water, shadows of objects reflecting on other objects, and heat haze are just some examples of the new eye candy players can enjoy in NWN2. The rendering of spell effects, as well as armor and weapons details, are vastly improved, too. In a widely loved move, the camera won’t be permanently stuck peering over the players’ shoulder – now it will be 100% movable. I’ve always wondered what the sky looked like in NWN…

The toolset is also getting an upgrade. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier it won’t ship with the game. However, it will be available for free online soon thereafter. Modules from NWN won’t be able to be directly imported to NWN2, but some aspects of them will, namely dialogs and NWScript. Terrain and textures – like grass – will be "painted" into the modules this time around, and modders can easily change the colors on the fly with little work. Objects are still selected from menus, and are easily placed wherever they’re needed. More properties for objects will be available, however. Go ahead and create 50-foot tall trees, or 1-foot tall gnomes – it’s all your choice, as height mapping replaces the tile-based system. Therefore, more organic and natural areas in the game will be able to flourish more fully. A full day/night cycle will also be implemented, so modders can know exactly what things will look like any hour of the day. Change the sky, clouds, or wind; add more or less bloom for bright or gloomy days – it’s all there.

Ever since I reinstalled NWN in July, I’m creeping up to 200 hours of total gameplay (it’s at 186 now). If NWN2 manages to remain similar to NWN, it will be a surefire hit, and a huge timesink for gamers. Obsidian is taking all their time to finely tweak the game, and so far their results look impressive. I really can’t wait for the community to swallow up NWN2 and get their hands on the new toolset, because once that happens things will really take off. Circle October 17th on your calendar, folks, so you can remember to pick this one up.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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