Review by Kyriani Agrivar

Reviewed: 08/08/02 | Updated: 08/08/02

Neverwinter Nights: A Game With Much Potential

Though I have seen many reviews and critiques of Neverwinter Nights I have to say that most are too extreme in favor or against it. It is my intention with this review to try and give an unbiased perspective on this excellent game.

Gameplay: Being a former Infinity Engine game player, it took some getting used to before I became comfortable with the radial menus. Now that comfort has been achieved I have to say the radial menus and hot keys work very well to allow you to get around in all the various menus. The Aurora Engine keeps several Infinity Engine-style elements and yet allows for a lot of new things as well. Being a 3D game, Neverwinter Nights is very different from the Baldur’s Gate series and should not be compared to it since it functions on such different levels.
I personally like being able to change camera view and pan around. It really enhances the interactive experience when you see things from a closer-to-life perspective. Movement was easy enough and combat was simple to engage in. I would hazard to say that MORE strategy is needed to survive in Neverwinter Nights than in it’s predecessors since you do not have a party of characters to support you. Granted there are henchmen, summoned allies, familiars, etc. but they are controlled through a somewhat limited AI and I thought a bit more work could have been done here. The AI options you receive when speaking to your allies are too broad and aren’t always carried out very well. I have seen a rather excellent fan based modification that GREATLY enhances the AI. I believe that Bioware should have employed something like this from the start. I also would have liked to see an option to have a multi-character party completely controlled by a single player but the lack of this does not detract from the game it self.
As far as interacting with the game world it’s very easy even for someone new to this style of PC game. The menus are rather self explanatory in function and most things have descriptions that can be brought up for further clarification. This allows one to get right to action so that’s where we’ll go next.

Story:The story line of the game is rather lacking in depth compared to previous games of similar ilk but is, not entirely, without merit. The story has several great elements and a few memorable characters. I wish there were more memorable characters like them throughout the entire story but no one really does make a stand out impression aside from these few. My one major complaint was that most of the sub-quests were step-and-fetch style (ala Baldur’s Gate 1) and many times ended with combat with no other option to choose. The story included with NWN is very combat heavy and this is usually the manner in which things get accomplished. There are several options, however, for role playing such as using the persuade skill in conversation or choosing to outright lie though in many cases the game engine allows you to circumvent failure by trying to speak with the person repeatedly.
All in all I have enjoyed this game and believe it’s a good entertaining game with wonderful replay value thanks to the tool set included with it. The story line isn’t bad and kept me interested throughout. The tale isn’t as “epic” as Baldur’s Gate but is a little more down to earth. If not for the fact that you are single-handedly (for the most part) saving everyone and everything it might also be a close to realistic story.

Graphics: While graphics have never been a huge issue with me, I have to say the tile sets are beautiful. They really allow for the building of gorgeous customized settings and this is showcased well in the included story. On the down side I thought that the colors were a bit drab. Now I know in real life everything isn’t always vibrant but there could have been a little more variety in the range of coloring.
The special effects are excellent. Spells really look like they have some punch to them and water is a lovely thing in this game. Over all the graphics are good. Not ground breaking but I’d rather have this than gorgeous cut scenes that don’t involve my input in the slightest (ala the later Final Fantasy series).

Sound: The music in NWN is very generic but this isn’t necessarily bad. The ambient sounds and music are more in the background adding subtle feelings rather than carrying you over the top with driving anthems. Again this give the whole game a more down to earth kind of feel and that can be considered a good thing.

Replay: This is one of the game’s most wonderful features. With the tool set (and over 600 fan made modules as of this writing) I don’t think any other game has as much replayability right now. The tool set allows for the making of custom stories and adventures and will keep players busy well after they have beaten the included game story. On this note I’d like to bring up my issues with the tool set.
Although very versatile, and offering a number of features, the tool set lacks in several areas. In my opinion everything should have been customizable but in several instances particularly with equipment, you are limited to what is presented before you and can modify only certain things. I hope in a future expansion they address this lack of customization ability. I would also like to see more variety with how to craft items. Being able to make only about 9 or so variations on a sword can limit the uniqueness of items over time. Now we come to the issue that makes the tool set so versatile and at the same time so frustrating… scripting.
I do not possess any working knowledge of C++ and I doubt your average teenager does either. But to truly make a wonderful, fully fleshed out campaign, one must somehow learn to use this cumbersome computing language to bring their module to life. I think a lot more work could have went into streamlining the scripting to make it more user/newbie friendly. I do know that if you are willing to work at it, have a good guide book, and constantly scour the Bioware scripting message board you can basically find what you need to make a decent story and an enjoyable adventure.

Is It Worth The Price: I’d say so. The average video game of any sort runs anywhere from 30-70 dollars and usually has very limited replay value. At 50 dollars or less if you really shop around you get quite a lot in that little black box. If you think about how much you spend for just one evening out for dinner and a movie I think you’d see just how “worth it” this game really is.

Closing: Neverwinter Nights had a hard road ahead of it. A lot of hype built up over the time it took to develop the game and a lot of fans were disappointed. I wasn’t one of them. I’ve never been one to follow hype or trends. I waited patiently to see what was offered. Have I taken pleasure from playing this game? Yes. Will I still be playing this game next year? Almost a certainty. I do hope however that an expansion is not long in the coming. The people have had their chance to see what's been offered and to make their desires known. I am hoping that changes WE as a collective game playing community would like to see will be taken into consideration when they release the expansion. I am perfectly content to be patient and wait.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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