Neverwinter Nights 2 Review

No question about it, Neverwinter Nights will always hold a place in my heart. Besides the decent single player campaign and the expansion packs, the ease of community-orientated projects really made NWN the impetus for inspiring future PC developers to go all out on their own masterpieces. I spent well over 200 hours playing awesome modules that I would have gladly paid full price for, just proving how involved the game was in the gaming community. But before NWN, other RPGs did capture my attention — namely the classic Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale series’. Upon hearing that some of the developers of those games were going to create the sequel to NWN, I immediately jumped all over my house. After what seems like forever, the time has finally come to install it. So, does Neverwinter Nights 2 deliver?

As a fan of the team behind it would expect, the classic dialogue and humor is one of the biggest strengths of the game. The folks at Obsidian Entertainment (mostly formerly of Black Isle) are famous for crafting unique, diverse and totally dynamic plotlines and dialogue for the main characters, and in NWN2 it shows. These days, single player D&D RPGs seem to be on a small decline in terms of the plot and writing department, but NWN2 does all it can to put the genre back at the highest tier of game-writing. If you love reading about characters or want to plunge knee-deep into dialogue-rich conversations, NWN2 has enough for 5 or more helpings. Speaking of dialogue, the voice acting is absolutely perfect for the main characters. The cheerful yet meek tiefling rogue Neeshka’s voice acting is complete with the subtle humor behind her "hideous" appearance, while the gruff yet honorable dwarf Khelgar Ironfist’s voice acting is rough, tough and ripe for dwarves all around.

Under the hood, Obsidian scrapped the Aurora engine and installed the new and improved Electron Engine. The game is clearly visually enhanced, but upon launch a lot of players complained of unstable and low performance. However, the visual upgrade is perfectly suitable for the game’s world. Spells definitely get the big-ups with the visual upgrade; once you start casting a few, you’ll immediately notice the visual flair. Spells are complete with stunning captures of light and color along with dazzling effects, making for a beautiful spell-casting experience. Trees and the general outdoors are also rendered in all of its glory; leaves will flutter in the breeze and (with bloom on) you’ll capture plenty of historical sunrises and bright sunny days.

Other new things this time around include an adaptation of the D&D 3.5 rules, a new character class (Warlock), many new races (the tieflings, for example — others include the Drow and the angelic Aasimar), more prestige classes and overall fixes and enhancements to the game’s formula. For example, there is now a quick-menu for spells that easily lays out all the spells you know without having to take up a ton of slots on your quick bar. There’s a small inclusion of colored "clouds" that fire-off when specific actions take place, such as using Cleave/Great Cleave, dodging attacks, getting attacks of opportunity or getting hit by arrows, and it helps you figure out what’s going on. And in response to fan demands, area of effect spells now have a diameter measurement that’ll show how much room the spell will take up when cast — something players have wanted for a long time.

Massive changes to henchmen have been implemented, too. When they "die" in combat, they’ll arise at the end with a little health, making death much easier to cope with. You can also tweak their AI scripts to suit whatever you need at the moment. For example, fighters don’t have to walk through traps before the rogue, so why not let the rogue lead the way? You can also easily change their inventories, as well as spend time fumbling through their character sheets upon leveling. The changes to henchmen are a noticeable step forward from NWN, putting it on par with Baldur’s Gate.

Of course, since this is Obsidian’s second game there are clear influences from their first game, Knights of the Old Republic II. Combat is very similar (also pretty straightforward); you can queue up actions and attacks (up to three) for all your party members. Conversations are similar, too — especially in the cinematic showcase. At times, the camera can get easily obscured by something, such as a roaming NPC, or just get stuck behind some stationary object, which is a problem Obsidian was noted as having in the past. This can cause some frustration, depending on what situation you’re in when this happens. Lastly, KotOR II‘s influence system carried over; if you agree with, disagree with or do something a fellow party member mentions, then you’ll gain or lose influence with them. If you gain enough, you can earn extra conversation pieces or open up future quests. For example, in the "tutorial" one of your best buds is a lawful character who will always act for the good of all people. If you decide to go save his family or ignore them to chase after some bad guys, you’ll gain or lose an appropriate count of influence.

In a nod to one of the successes of NWN, Obsidian didn’t do away with mods and tweaks in NWN2. Since the game has been out for about a week, mods are slowly starting to creep up, so I’ll take this time to talk about some I nabbed recently. Most of them can be found at the NWN Vault; a group of mods (which I find incredibly useful) tweaked the game’s UI, and it can be found here. For example, one of them increases the hot bar to include more rows (currently there are mods for an additional 2 to 5 rows). Unfortunately, shortcut keys don’t work for the extra rows at this time. Another mod can move the party windows to the left, freeing up room on the right side. Lastly, there are two that resize the various icons in the spell book and inventory menus, making them take up less space on screen. Even though these mods are relatively small, they still greatly improve the NWN2 experience. It’s only a matter of time before epic modules and vast modifications creep throughout the community, and when that happens prepare for NWN2 to become even more incredible.

There are some downers to the game, though. I talked earlier about performance problems; the visuals are good, yes, but not that good when you consider the game’s mega-high system requirements. Combat is also very straight forward, and it seems that most of the game’s locations are linear. I remember in NWN, you could roam each location to uncover something new — but in NWN2 there is just the main path to where you’re going, and that’s it.

For RPG lovers, picking up NWN2 is a no-brainer. The game has the story, the characters, the action and the lore behind it to make it an enjoyable piece of work. Even better, the community-orientated projects will launch in full force soon, which will easily tack on several more hours (hundreds more, most likely) to the replay time. Even before the community embraces the module creations, you can replay the game with other characters and classes for a new experience. For you newbies to RPGs or D&D in general, Neverwinter Nights 2 is a good way to be indoctrinated in the genre. For years, I’ve been waiting for another Black Isle RPG — if you’re like me, NWN2 is probably the closest you’ll get.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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