January 15th, 2013
Author: Jeremy Letang
Over the course of my years playing games, I’ve never been particularly exclusive to one genre. While I am and have always been a huge fan of real-time strategy (RTS) games, I’ve spent a lot of time playing various shooters, role-playing games (RPG) and even racing games. Recently, I have had this compelling urge to go back and play one of my absolute favorite RPGs of all time, Neverwinter Nights.
Originally released in 2002, I must say that this game still holds up phenomenally well. The play style of Neverwinter Nights is perhaps different than many gamers would be used to, but it certainly adds an element of excitement to the game. Gameplay in Neverwinter Nights is based on the rules of Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition, which means that virtually everything of consequence in the game, are decided by dice rolls. You don’t actually see any dice rolling, but the values can be visible. As a result, the game is turn-based; you don’t launch headfirst into battle and start slashing away. Whether or not you hit your opponent is decided by the dice and the amount of damage you do, as well. This adds an interesting element of anxiety and intrigue to the game.
Character design is quite rich. You have the ability to change virtually everything about your character to customize it to the way you want. Class and skill trees are numerous and yet somehow all exceedingly different. Even simple choices, such as your alignment has an element of depth to it as you are presented with a matrix of nine choices, ranging from Lawful Good to Chaotic Evil. This ultimately has a significant effect on the way you play the game.
The incredibly immersive environment created by BioWare in the city of Neverwinter is spectacular. You truly feel like you are searching for the cure for the Wailing Death (the first portion of the game). For a game, which was released over ten years ago, all things considered, the graphics are still quite solid and it goes without saying that the sound and music is absolutely surreal. Voice acting is impeccable and the environment is immersive and expansive, and every depth you enter feels like a new and exciting area you need to investigate.
You will not be disappointed when it comes to the story either. It holds your attention, enough to keep you asking questions and wanting more answers. The gameplay is designed to motivate players to develop their characters. Every time you engage in conversation with someone, you have a choice of how you will respond or treat them, which ultimately affect the way your storyline plays out with your character. The Lawful Good Cleric, who is rude to everyone he meets, will quickly end up on the Chaotic side and have trouble speaking with townsfolk and will not find too many alternative quests waiting for him. Your conversation options depend on how you have previously interacted with various other NPCs. This element makes it feel contiguous throughout and forces you to look at the repercussions of your actions.
Neverwinter Nights does not waste any time getting you into the action: within minutes of starting the game, you are engaging in your first battles while trying to do right by Lady Aribeth and search for the four Waterdhavian Creatures, who hold the cure for the Wailing Death, which has been leeched upon the city of Neverwinter. Much of the first half of the game takes place within the immediate city of Neverwinter in various dungeons. However, as you continue further, you venture into other locations in the massive universe created by BioWare.
There are countless side quests to steal your attention from the lengthy and invigorating storyline, but of course, the side quests you receive and are able to complete do depend very much on your decisions throughout the game. The side quests add a significant portion to both the storyline and the gaming experience. Although, you can easily run through the main quest in a relatively quick manner, with the average play time being about 50 hours. Another aspect which BioWare focused heavily on for this game was the addition of custom modules. While there were a few official expansion packs for the game, that improved and added various features, the custom modules were truly where the community lived and thrived. Countless additional modules exist for Neverwinter Nights. These modules are what we know as DLC today, but these were developed by the community. Modules would add entire new realms that players could venture through and explore, and changed various game settings, making the game harder for the more extreme player.
I didn’t find too many major flaws with the game, but the menus and the interface feel a little bit clunky and not particularly well designed in my opinion. I found it difficult on occasion to return to the menu I was looking for or to exactly understand what everything meant as I didn’t find the descriptions particularly useful. Neverwinter Nights takes for granted that you do understand basic Dungeons and Dragons rules, so if you do, you shouldn’t have too much trouble adapting to the gameplay mechanisms.
A second issue I have with the game is the Skills system. When I played through the game the first time, I found it to be rather cumbersome and not well managed. The interaction of abilities and feats is something that takes some getting used to, but once you have played for some time, you quickly learn the mechanics of the system.
At the end of the day, the game is still fantastic and exciting. If you are familiar with the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic franchise, this game should feel very accessible and enjoyable, as Knights of the Old Republic was based off of Neverwinter Nights. There are also three expansion packs for the game: Shadows of Underentide, Hordes of the Underdark and Kingmaker, along with countless player created modules, creating even more hours of gameplay. The game still feels exciting and fresh to me and the sheer amount of ways the game can be played, with the depth of character selection and development, Neverwinter Nights is one game I’d recommend to pick up and try.