The original Neverwinter Nights was an excellent role playing game based on the settings from the board game, Dungeons and Dragons. Neverwinter Nights 2 has been a while coming and Iím pleased to say that it has been worth the wait for every fan of the first title. Once again the single player part isnít all you have to play with, you also have the tools to build your own modules, campaigns and quests for friends and other on the Internet.
Returning to Neverwinter Nights was a great experience which is pretty lucky considering how high everyones hopes were that it would be success. Why were the hopes high? Well firstly it is a sequel to the best Dungeons and Dragons based license, 2nd it had the designers of some of the other fantastic role playing games like Baldurís Gate and Planescape Torment. Iím happy to say that overall the game lives up to these hopes; firstly it has an excellent really enchanting story that is full of characters, twists and turns.
The original Neverwinter Nights had a good story, but it was never one that really made you want to keep playing it through, Neverwinter Nights 2 is different, it manages to keep you interested throughout the 50 hour long campaign, this is something the developers should be proud of as not many games even last 50 hours these days, let alone keep you enthralled. You start the game by creating your character. You pick the race, subrace, appearance, class, moral alignment and finally the voice for them. Once you have done this the story begins, you start off as a young man trying to impress his step-father, the story starts off slowly, building up early on after an early attack on your home village. I wonít spoil anymore of the story for you, but suffice to say, there will be a lot of combat, dialogue and exploring to do.
Neverwinter Nights 2 also requires you to make various choices during the game, these are mostly dialogue pieces, you choose what to say, how to say it and whether you want to be good or bad. This means you can lie, threaten or just ask a simple question to try and get responses out of people. The dialogue is very well written throughout the game and I genuinely canít remember a moment when I wanted to skip past any of it.
The other good part of the game is that you donít only have to follow the main story arc, there are lots of little side quests to do. There is also a lot of interesting dialogue too that helps you understand your fellow sidekicks and characters, though you donít have to listen to everything they have to say if you donít want to, you can choose what to ask.
As with other role playing titles, you donít have to play as just your one character, there are a lot of others who will join your party along the way. All you have to do to control them is to click on their picture in the top right. They donít just help you fight either; they can be wizards, fighters, thieves, ranges and more.
You will use their skills to take on all kinds of enemies during the game as well as unlocking chests and disabling traps. While most of the game can be played in real time, you also have the option of pausing the game by pressing space, this allows you to assign orders to your party, be it fighting, spells or whatever. This is something I did a lot of the time, as it was much easier to organise who you wanted each of your party to attack while paused than it is in the heat of the battle.
The AI itself is good most of the time, but there is the odd occasion when it doesnít do what you hope it would, sometimes as you are running around you would expect your partner to be close by, but sometimes he can be miles back lost or stuck or will sometimes just freeze, this can get very annoying in the middle of a battle. The good news is that the developers are patching the game, and the latest patch as made quite a difference in general.
As I mentioned earlier, there are loads of quests in the game, the quests range from delivering certain items to saving people and answering riddles and once again you donít have to complete them all to complete the main part of the game. When you complete quests or kill enemies you gain experience points, from here you can advance levels. When you gain a level you can use the points you have earned to develop skills such as strength and intelligence or learn new spells.
As with every other role playing game under the sun, Neverwinter Nights 2 has a lot of looting. You can collect gold, treasure, weapons and armour along with spells and such like. You can also sell things along the way to gain more gold to purchase items. The game also has the option of letting you collect ingredients and use them to create items.
I found that generally the user interface was quite easy to use, although for items it was a real pain as it has no option to let you arrange items by type, this means going through each item individually to try and find out what it does and instead of doing a hover style system with items stats, you have to right click on them and then select examine but this then means you canít compare items either.
I have to say that I am not into Dungeons and Dragons board games, or any board game for that matter, so hearing that games are based on a dice throwing system gets me confused, but Iím pleased to say that overall It was pretty easy to understand, I just went with bigger numbers are best, that seemed to work for me! In all fairness, the developers have made it easier for simple gamers like me to understand the rules and fans of the board games will feel at ease right away.
You can play Neverwinter Nights 2 in multiplayer modes as well, either over the internet or via your network, it can be played with up to three other players to form a party of four. You can also play the single-player game cooperatively; this is a real plus point as I love playing proper story games with friends. The in-game browser makes it very easy to setup an account and find games to play or set one up yourself.
The big selling point of Neverwinter Nights 2 will once again be that you can create your own game, it includes a fantastic editor program that allows you to really create some great games. If you have the time it is well worth playing with and once again I am sure in a few months time there will be some excellent game modules out online and I for once canít wait to play some of them.
I have pretty much been praising the game since I started the review, but now its time for me to mention some of the bad parts, first off the game has a few technical problems mostly performance related. While the game looks pretty good for the most part, there are some speed problems, the game can get jerky at points when it really shouldnít when there is little action on screen. Also the excellent cutscenes are let down by some very poor clipping, I mean Iíve never ever seen a dwarfs beard disappear into armour before. Donít get me wrong though, I feel that that the game looks very good with some great designs and artwork and some excellent spell effects. The game has also been patched a few times since its release which has improved it somewhat.
The game camera can also be a real pain too, just when you think that you have set it up perfectly when fighting outdoors, you have to move inside a building, the camera doesnít adjust itself and more often than not you are unable to see anything that is going on without once again adjusting the camera.
Sound though is excellent throughout the game, the voice work from the main characters is superb and probably some of the best I have heard in a game for some time. Also it is worth me mentioning just how good the music is, it fits the game perfectly and as a fan of the original you can hear some very similar sound styles which really pleased me.
One final note is that the game is one of the few out right now that works perfectly well on Windows Vista (assuming your video drivers do!) and it even installs its own place in the Games Explorer so you can get easy access to updates and web links as well as seeing what performance you should be expected (or is that hoping?) for the game.
Overall I loved Neverwinter Nights 2, not just for the single player game but also for the extensive multiplayer parts. The game has an excellent story and some very good quests. The game is also very long, not just in Single player either, with the fact that you can create new stories and quests it means the game will last months to come. Yes it has a few performance problems, but unlike a game like Dark Messiah, these are very easy to look over and are getting fixed at a good pace through patches. Itís an excellent game and no Role playing fan should be without it.
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