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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RPG

 

Publisher

Infogrames

 

Developer

BioWare

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

 

- Smooth, polished graphics

- Powerful Editor

- Well-used license

- Involving storyline

 

 

- Henchmen seem tacked on

- Choppy when using system with minimum requirements

- Some players might prefer a full-size party to the single character + henchman setup

 

 

Review: Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (PC)
Review: Icewind Dale II (PC)

Review: Planescape: Torment (PC)

 

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Neverwinter Nights

Score: 9.5 / 10

 

I’ll admit to being a bit wary when I first opened Neverwinter Nights (NWN).  The hype had become a big problem for me.  Now, unlike some people, I don’t dismiss a game simply because it is being hyped heavily in the mainstream press.  My problem with the NWN hype was that it mostly involved the game’s editing suite.  So little was being said about the actual game that I became worried that the single player game was just a bonus for buying the marvelous, modular NN tool kit.  Thankfully, soon after installing NWN on my hard drive, my niggling fears went directly away.  Neverwinter Nights is a brilliant and highly polished RPG masterpiece, and I have never been so glad to be wrong.

 

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The first thing that struck me about NWN was the lack of a party.  The player controls one single character (who is helped along in the game, if they so choose, by a myriad of hired henchmen).  Players expecting the large parties of the Baldur’s Gate games may be disappointed, but after Morrowind and Dungeon Siege, single-character RPG’s are beginning to grow on me.  Using 3rd edition AD&D rules, NWN gives the player an immense amount of control over the kind of character they create and the way that character looks.  I chose an Elf paladin, and customized him to match, as close as possible, my own physique and facial type.  Any change done to the character on menu screens is immediately reflected on the on screen character.

 

After creating a character, players play through the prologue.  The prologue of NWN sets the stage better than those of similar games.  In fact, after the prologue, I was pumped to get at the adventuring.  Though slightly overly familiar, the dark back-story of the mysterious plague is involving. I always wonder in these games 

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why the town couldn’t find a hero a little tougher than a first level paladin (or whatever), but that is certainly the convention of the genre.  Here, the player’s character is again presented as the world’s last, best hope (at least he or she is a warrior of some type, unlike Dungeon Siege’s heroic farmer).

The Dungeons and Dragon’s license is put to good use here.  Early on (again, as usual in games of this sort) you are limited to fighting poorly 

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trained humans, goblins, and the like.  Eventually, you take on an amazing menagerie of beasts and NPC’s.  These creatures are served well by the game’s graphics engine.  Everything here is sharp and well detailed.  Textures, lighting effects, and character models are all top notch.  The character models especially are a step up from what we have come to expect from an action RPG.  

 

Combat is handled with a simple, Diablo-style, point and click.  Early on it seems like decades between attacks, but as your number of attacks per round goes up, the game speeds up remarkably.  When things get rolling too fast, and the character is surrounded by death and destruction (or, if you just have to go to the restroom) play can be paused with the spacebar and actions planned out while the world remains frozen in time.  Henchmen can be given simple instructions or allowed to decide what to do on their own.  My personal experience was that it made very little difference.  In fact, I played most of the game without a henchman because I really hated having to waste healing magic on them.  

 

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I don’t talk about sound much in my reviews, mostly because it is the element of games that I am least influenced by.  I play a lot of games with the sound turned down completely anyway, so I can listen to CD’s or a movie I’m playing in the background.  Still, even I noticed the quality of the orchestral score that follows you around Neverwinter on your travels.  It is sweeping and moving, and it never got old, especially not to the point that I ever thought about reaching for my headphones and switching over to a little Ella Fitzgerald.

 

I’ve come this far without really mentioning the editor, so lets end there.  It is just as flexible and powerful as I’d been led to believe it would be.  Anyone with a small amount of experience with computer programming will be creating single player dungeon crawls in a matter of minutes.  These are already popping up in abundance on the web.  More importantly, all the tools are here to create the next NWN or Baldur’s Gate.  It is the most powerful toolset ever set loose on the general public (nudging out Morrowind’s tool kit slightly), and the possibility that some user out there might create a truly great RPG is high.

 

Great graphics, great score, intriguing story, thoroughbred pedigree—Neverwinter Nights has everything it takes to be Game of the Year.  Add the editor to a brilliant and long (around 60 hours) single-player quest, and NWN is a great value and another of this year’s must-own releases for the PC.

 

- Tolen Dante

(July 27, 2002)

 

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