Review by Jen
I come away from Neverwinter Nights thinking to myself,
"That was fun. Now what can I write about?"
There is not much to say. Neverwinter Nights is fun, a
lot of fun. It is also bland. Despite its figurative colorlessness,
it has an addictive quality to it. I started down the Path to
Gaming Enlightenment and Achievement of the One True Electronic
Nirvana the arcades of the 1980s, when platform was my thing.
"Just one more levelgimme another quarter, willya?"
Perhaps that is why Neverwinter Nights worked for me. Gameplay
has a certain sameness throughout; locations are all made from
the same limited set of tiles; freedom of in-game choice is illusoryyou
see it but you don't feel it; after a very few times bashing open
chests, I lost that little buzz of excitement on learning what
lay within. The story is nothing special, yet another product
of the Acme Fantastical Defy-the-Odds-and-Save-the-World Factory.
I'm thinking it was the ongoing quest for more strength, better
weapons, longer life that propelled me forward, much like the
points and levels of Centipede or Crystal Castles
of days gone by. And there are some dragons. Dragons are cool.
I am not interested in D&D rules, any edition, I don't like
dice games, statistics bore me. So when I play a CRPG, I am perfectly
happy to ignore as many of those aspects as possible and let the
game do the scut work for me whilst I barrel through it in pursuit
of the bigger and better. Neverwinter Nights will do the
stats chores for you. But if you are one of those peculiar people
who wants to micromanage your way through it, you can do that
When you start, you can either create your own character or choose
from one of the premade ones. I made my own, but after I got her
looking how I wanted her and chose her fundamental characteristics
(human, fighter, chaotic good, blah blah blah), I went along with
the game's recommendations for abilities and feats and blah blah
blah. (Here's some editorializing from one who probably just doesn't
get it, i.e., me: Sometimes the distinctions among these various
choices are pretty much not in evidence.) Anyway, I ended up with
one Mommy G, polished, jet-black skin, dark blue hair, and stylish
Mommy G was an asskicker. Mommy G wielded a longsword and sliced
right through everything that got in her way. She tried to be
a good person most of the time, though. As always in these games,
Mommy G met her maker on a regular basis, especially at the beginning.
After she moved up a couple of experience levels, though, she
became tougher and lasted longer in battle. That's when the game
started being funI'm never too fond of dying all the time
in any game.
Once you get into the meat of the game, you mostly get the standard
step-n-fetch tasks, with the occasional brain-bender thrown into
the mix. Neverwinter Nights usually gives you several quests
to work on at any given time, so if you're hornswoggled by one,
you can just go on to the next, and chances are the first will
resolve itself along the way.
There's a whole messload of fighting in NWN. It's real-time
virtual dice rolls; you can pause at any time and issue a command,
sometimes a string of commands, such as move, drink a potion,
switch your weapon (you cannot change armor during battle); otherwise,
you can just sit back and watch the avatars duke it out to the
bitter end. In the game options, which you can access whenever
you want, there is a difficulty slider with four settings on it,
ranging from Easy to Impossible (I don't know about the nomenclature
of that last, exactly; truth be told, I never even looked since
it was so far outside my realm of comprehension). I mostly played
on the default Normal setting, but I snuck it down to Easy from
time to time when I came across something particularly hard to
As for the plot, I very recently played Star
Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, another game
by the same developer. Same shit, different daythe stories
are that similar (although the settings are wildly different).
Even several of the puzzles are repeated. I really loved KOTOR,
and I am well aware that it came after NWN. I am glad
I played it first, though, because otherwise I would've felt at
least some of the same disappointment with it, by far the better
of the two games, that I now feel with Neverwinter Nights.
It's as if these developers only have so many good ideas and
they pack them all into every game they make. Which is okay, seeing
as how it's balanced out by the fact that there are not very many
bad ideas 'tall. Some, though.
Anyway, story: You are plopped down out of nowhere smack-dab
into the military academy of the city-state of Neverwinter. You
are a new recruit; this is the part where you get to familiarize
yourself with the controls and interface and learn a little about
what's in store for you depending on the type of character you're
playing. As a fighter, I had to figure out how to manage the swordplay,
first against friendly NPCs and, a little later, weak monsters.
This is also the part where you learn that your destiny is to
save the city first from a plague and later from enemies both
corporeal and ethereal, from both within and without Neverwinter
itself. You end up roaming the surrounding lands and attempting
to thwart ever more evil foes.
A big job for one persontwo, actually, in my case. Early
on, you get an opportunity to hire one or more henchpeople depending
on your character. As a fighter, I could only have one companion;
I believe the maximum is four, and some character types can even
have vicious animals accompany them and aid them in combat. Each
of the possible henchmen (or women) (or beasts) have different
strengths and weaknesses that come into play in different areas
of the game, or perhaps complement the abilities of your own character.
The game is broken into four chapters; once you finish a chapter,
you are thrust into a new locale and there is no going back. It
is almost like four different but connected gamesin each
chapter, I felt as if I were beginning anew, new maps, new quests,
new shops, new people, new monsters ... In the middle of
Chapter 1, I won a bar in a fight, which entitled me to be paid
that establishment's income once a game-week from that time forward.
But I was never able to go back there to collect any of it!
Luckily, money is never much of a problem. As in just about every
RPG, you pick up stuff from the chests and barrels and dead bodies
littering the landscape. Most of it you can't use or don't want,
and so there is a lot of buying and selling. You end up exchanging
your spoils for better weapons, magic spells, items, and/or armor,
and once you have the best of everything, you just take cold,
hard cash. The merchants never run out of money, and they'll buy
just about anything you have to offer. Of course, buying a thing
costs about four or five times as much as its sale value, but
that pretty much mirrors real life, don't you think?
Finally ... I am such a huge ignoramus! Once I had everything
I wanted or needed, inventorywise, I was saving up all of my money
and hoarding all of my specialized armor and weapons and what
have you, thinking when I finished the original NWN campaign,
I'd be all prepped and buffed and rich and powerful for the transition
to the expansion Shadows of Undrentide (I have the NWN
Gold edition, which came with SOU). Nope. Not only
is there no kind of transition, the expansion is a whole 'nother
game altogether. (Who knew?) You can save your NWN character
only and get a little bit of a leg up in SOU if
she was any good by the end of the original campaign (mine was),
but everything else is lost and you start SOU at level
zero with nary an asset to your name. And thus I called the game
done and figured I'd save SOU for another time. Nevermind.
I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Sorry 'bout that. When
you start SOU, you'll have multiple instances of your NWN
character in the premade set for the new game. Some will have
the inventory and money and some won't. Choose wisely, grasshopper.
So here I am, writing this review. And now this is done too.
Release Date: June 2002 (original version); May 2003 (Gold version)
Four Fat Chicks Links
450 MHz processor (800 MHz recommended)
128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
2.6 GB free hard disk space
8X CD-ROM drive
32 MB TNT2-class video card
DirectX-certified sound card
Multiplayer: Local area network with TCP/IP protocol or established
internet connection (56 Kbps modem or faster required)
DirectX version 8.1 or higher
Where to Find It
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