May 21 2024 01:33:34

Neverwinter Nights Review

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Neverwinter Nights, being in some senses the sequel to such legendary roleplaying games as the Baldur’s Gate series (although not in terms of plot continuity) has a lot of expectation to live up to; We expect that it should play better, look better, sound better and in all other ways exceed what went before. It should come as no surprise that the real result is perhaps a little more mixed than that, but the game does indeed stand by itself, and is a game of irrefutable quality.


Be wary of thinking of anything in NWN [hereafter the grateful contraction of Neverwinter Nights] as single player. The main story can indeed be played by alone offline, or can just as easily be completed online with a party. In our opinion though, you should play it through alone in order to best experience it, since playing online with other people can be a very mixed bag, depending on who you end up playing with and if it’s a regular session.

The plot in the storyline is good, if not as personally involving as those in Baldur’s Gate. It lacks for twists in our opinion, and is fairly predictable throughout, as well as feeling much more linear. If there are three scattered items that you will need in your quest, you’ll very likely find that there are three areas directly accessible from your base of operations at that point in the story, which makes things more straightforward, but does lend a sense of everything being a little contrived. These however, are small quibbles, since the game certainly stands ahead of almost all other offerings in terms of the quality in which the story is told.

Gone in this game are the 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons rules, replaced with 3rd edition. Players familiar with the previous rules may spend a little time adjusting to the differences, while new players should pick up the ideas faster, due to the more intuitive style that the newer rules adopt. The rules don’t lack for flexibility though, and allow the same concepts to be handled in a generally much more straightforward manner. NWN hides the rules well, so that you don’t have to be intimately familiar with them to play, or understand what’s going on.

Players of the previous games may be disappointed to learn that their characters can not be imported into NWN, as was promised in Baldur’s Gate 2 – part of this must be due to the differences in the rules, another part probably being that NWN has a level limit of 20, meaning that characters from the end of BG2 would be very close to the maximum that they could get to, and those that went through the Throne of Bhaal expansion would certainly have gone beyond it. From a story point of view, the decision also makes sense, since the player is intended to start as an unknown adventurer who makes his or her own fame, and not a character of near legendary proportions that already has it.

NWN attempts to personalise the story by only giving you one character to play, not a whole party. A lack of well rounded skills is addressed by allowing you to hire a single henchman (or henchwoman) who will follow you around and help you, but will not be directly controllable. The benefits of the new system are that you don’t feel quite so schizophrenic trying to manage six different characters, each with items and abilities that you need to keep track of. On the other hand, this sanity and improved simplicity comes with a price – even with two characters, you’re well below the traditional idea that a party supports itself with say, a thief for the doors, two fighters for the front lines, a cleric for healing and perhaps a mage for all sorts of magical solutions to killing things. You’re much more reliant on the strengths of your own character in all situations, which is when the weaknesses of your character in some situations make your life difficult.

The AI for your henchman is also problematic – where a mage henchman might be expected to take spells that cunningly complement your abilities, you’ll find that they pick things that they want. While a thief may have a ‘use items’ ability allowing him of her to use scrolls, your henchmen won’t be able to use it, meaning that you may find yourself completely without the use of any big magic spells. Knowledge that you were about to walk into a fight used to mean preparing by casting some spells before hand, so that you’d be ready, unfortunately you won’t be able to do this either, since you can’t tell your henchman to do it. These and other small niggles crop up fairly frequently, and can become a source of irritation.

Romances with Non Player Characters feature in NWN, and are well done, but interactions between your character and your henchman however are a poor second. You must initiate the conversations with henchmen through the spoken interface to the commands and settings for the henchman, and can only start the new parts of the conversations after each level – it feels overly contrived, and reminds you that you’re in a game with characters that level up, which will suspend your disbelief.

You’ll discover that there are many hours worth of gameplay in the main story, even if you go through it all very quickly. There are a lot of smaller side quests to complete for extra money, experience and enjoyment, and to their credit, Bioware have managed to make it so that any sensible choice of character and henchmen combination will be able to complete any of the ones that are generally available, but there are also ones that are only open to certain alignments and character classes.


The potential for NWN in multiplayer is vast – it comes complete with a very functional server browser (although along the same vein as many other recent games it’s built in Gamespy, something that I’m not entirely fond of) and a module editor that both staggeringly powerful while also being very easy to start using. In order to put together a very rudimentary level, you’ll need no more skills than pretty much painting by numbers and some idea of the types of monsters and items. After people have had some time to fiddle and get used to the editor, I fully expect that we’ll start seeing some very professional modules released by authors across the internet.

Lag is a small issue – as I always seem to find myself saying, 56k may leave you in some difficulties, despite being playable. If you have it, broadband should be a much more satisfactory experience.

The biggest problem that you may have is finding a playing group that you get on with. Simply popping on and looking for an open server will often leave you a server or dungeon master that’s more or less focussed on combat than you would like, despite servers being given classifications by their administrators / DMs for levels of combat and story.


NWN has great graphics, and bearing in mind Morrowind’s lack of good animation to back up the graphics, you can rest assured that NWN doesn’t suffer a similar problem. Excepting some dedicated fighting games, NWN does one of the best jobs I’ve seen of portraying the swinging, parrying and dodging of swords while lightning is thrown across the screen by mages. While the basis hasn’t changed much from Baldur’s Gate, there have certainly been a multitude of improvements in the formula, and NWN has turned out as colourful, beautiful and tasteful, although it lacks some of the personality and details that the pre-rendered backgrounds had.

There is already work going on online to produce new tile-sets (the basic building blocks of the levels) for NWN, and they should certainly add greater breadth to the graphics.

I can’t get away without mentioning the amazing customisability that’s available for armour – you can individually select different parts out of some large selections, then select metallic and leather colours from presets.

NWN’s graphics aren’t perhaps as envelope pushing as say, Unreal 2 or Doom 3, but they really don’t need to be, they do a great job of supporting the real content of the game, and you can’t ask much more of a game.


NWN has a decent soundtrack and good sound effects to boot, in the hours that I played it though, I didn’t get tired of it that often, and only once started to play with an mp3 player switched on in the background.


NWN is a solid game, with few bugs, a lot of gameplay straight out of the box, expansive and varied multiplayer and a lot of replay ability offered in the future by user created modules (and I very much suspect, an expansion that pushes the level limits up). There’s no reason that anyone who likes roleplaying games should avoid it, and every reason they should take a look. If you’re not a big roleplaying fan, but think that it may be interesting, but have previously been put off because it’s too complex, you should give it a go.

Daniel 'Inept' Speed (

In Short

Great roleplay system in background
Colourful, well animated graphics

Long story
Replayability offered by editing tools
Multiplayer potential

Poor implementation of henchmen
Story predicatability
3 quests? 3 doors style.

20th level limit






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