Reviewed: August 22, 2002
Released: : June 18, 2002
Most of you have heard it before, Bioware develops games that rock. Anyone that has played Baldur’s Gate or Baldur’s Gate 2 knows exactly what I am talking about. Neverwinter Nights is the next generation RPG from Bioware and it doesn’t disappoint. Everything has been improved; the interface, the graphics, the sound, and the gameplay – although I don’t really care much for the single player environment, more on that later.
When I was younger I was a huge fan of Dungeons & Dragons. My friends and I would get together at Jim’s house and play for an entire forty-eight hours straight and still not get through the entire adventure. I have been playing games from Bioware for as long as I can remember, and this game is the closest yet to those good old days of playing D&D in Jim’s basement for hours on end. In fact, after playing this game for what seems to be an eternity, I still have yet to complete it. I feel as though I get closer each minute that I play, but this goal is starting to feel somewhat unattainable.
Neverwinter Nights begins with you, the adventurer, trying to solve the mystery of a plague called the Wailing Death. The city was on the brink of discovering a cure when an unknown enemy stole the necessary items to create it. With this, the adventure begins. You will meet many interesting people and creatures as you travel throughout the Forgotten Realms in search of the cure. You will also come face to face with some very fierce and powerful creatures, this is where you will learn to battle and hopefully survive to adventure further into the world of the Forgotten Realms.
Bioware has definitely improved the user interface in Neverwinter Nights from what it was in Baldur’s Gate 2. The new radial menus that appear when you right-click on a character are filled with options and thus makes your gaming experience that much less tedious and cumbersome. I believe that this game was made to run with nothing more than a mouse. You really don’t even need a keyboard to play unless you want to use hotkeys and the new quickbar. The quickbar is a nice addition to the game as it gives you the ability to assign the function keys to weapons, spells, and almost any other item that you have in your inventory.
The game isn’t without its faults, as the A.I. pathfinding isn’t quite up to par. One of the main differences that you will see in Neverwinter Nights from the original Baldur’s Gate series is the amount of people that you can control and have in your party. In Baldur’s Gate you could have a party as large as six people and you were responsible for controlling the actions, combat, and inventory management of each and every party member.
In NWN you are only responsible for your single character. You do have a few options for your henchman, like how he reacts to enemies, how far he stands from you, but ultimately the computer itself is in control of your henchman. You may also be able to summon a creature to fight with you in some combat situations.
For the most part the A.I. is capable of assisting you in combat and being there when you need it. However, there are times when you are fighting a group of enemies and your hired henchman is trying to destroy a chest to get the valuables inside instead of helping you destroy the enemy.
The one thing that I would change, if ever I had the chance, would be how my henchman reacts when enemies move within hand combat range. If your henchman is using a crossbow, he continues to use it even when the enemy is standing right along beside him. Ultimately, your henchman should switch his weapon to a sword and start doling out some of his own pain and suffering.
Well, to sum it up in one word: “Wow!”. Graphics for a Bioware game have never looked better. The reflections in the water, the fog on the docks, and the spell effects are truly breath-taking. I would highly recommend a high-end video card if you are planning on purchasing this game and playing it for any amount of time. The game does require a DirectX compatible 3D accelerator, but nothing less than a GeForce 3 will really do this game the justice it deserves.
The feature that really caught my eye was the ability that the player has to zoom in and zoom out using the roller on a Microsoft Intellimouse. When you zoom in on the player you can see all of their clothes in the exact detail as what is in their inventory. The weapon that your character carries is also the exact replica of the weapon in their inventory.
Overall, you can tell that the graphics are a bit dated and are not the same caliber as the graphics of Dungeon Siege. This tends to happen when a game is in development for five years. As I stated before, however, a Bioware game has never looked this good.
The audio portion of NWN is also very well done. The voice acting has been done by talented actors and actresses, and this has a very positive impact on how the game is portrayed as you’re moving from place to place. The environment sounds are subtle, but if you crank up the volume you will be surprised at what you hear. The positional sound is definitely a plus when you are trying to determine where an enemy is and how to get there.
The audio in this game really lends a helping hand when you are in the heart of the game. You are able to hear sounds that will actually help you during your quest. I usually disable the music in a game so that I can hear the true audio.
This is a classic Bioware game, and with that you should know that you will be playing for many, many days to come. Two of the things that are included in the game are the Aurora Toolset and the Dungeon Master Client. These two items give the game almost unlimited replayability. The toolkit is extremely easy to use. Just remember; the longer you spend designing an adventure, the better the end result will be.
As most of you know, I am a huge fan of the GameSpy Arcade Network. This network makes it so easy to get online and find someone to play that it shouldn’t be free. Neverwinter Nights supports the GameSpy Arcade Network for online play. You can always find someone to play whether it is 4pm in the afternoon, or 4am in the early morning and you just need to get that final battle in before hitting the sack.
Bioware has definitely designed a winner in Neverwinter Nights. These guys have put five years of their life into this game and it really shows. The 3rd Edition Dungeon & Dragons Rules have been followed to a tee, and the gameplay is top notch. If you enjoy RPG’s and you have played any of the other Bioware games then I would highly recommend this game.
I remember waiting a few years for this game to finally be released after it was announced to the public. Bioware did the right thing in not rushing the release of this game and waiting until it was fully developed and tested before releasing it. Quite a few companies today release games before they are really finished, and the public (you and I) get burned because of it. Bioware is the exception to this rule, and I am glad to have had the chance to review this great product.