Neverwinter Nights

So I’ve finally had some real time to play through Neverwinter Nights – I’m not finished, but I’ve probably logged some 20-odd hours of game time (mostly over the previous weekend). I’ve finished the first chapter, and started in on the second.

First of all, Neverwinter Nights has the feel of D&D 3rd Edition down pat. Seeing the feats and skills in action is truly amazing, and beautifully executed. I love watching Daelan Red Tiger, my ‘henchman’, kill a creature, take a 5-foot step and launch into an attack against the next creature, using the cleave feat. I love watching my character, an elven rogue/wizard, sidle around a creature to flank it, then repeatedly backstap the poor thing.

The graphics are great. Zoom in close and they look a little blocky, and show their age (the game being 5 years in development), but from the zoomed-out position, they look great. The way the character changes appearance based on what equipment is being worn is also well done, and the models for the various creatures are very nicely done (although I do have some quibbles, to be listed later).

The score, by Jeremy Soule (isn’t every rpg score by him these days?), is understated, appropriate and not at all distracting.

The game play itself is excellent – the interface is wonderfully intuitve and non-intrusive, the storyline is intriguing (although I do long for a true high-fantasy storyline – the balder’s gate and this one have all been somewhat gothic in nature), the characters driving the plot all compelling (although like most game characters, they telegraph their intentions long before the game reveals it, and long before your character can do anything about it).

I’ve not spent too much time in the module builder or DM client, but from what I have spent, they are fantastic. I am convinced that with care, I could recreate any table-top world I’ve imagined. With fans able to supply new monster models and tilesets, the options will continue to grow. Aurora, the scripting language, is very easy to use if you understand perl, and so scripting events will be fairly straight forward, and I have glimpsed the amazing complexity that one can script. Check out Neverwinter Vault for some execellent resources to this end.

Finally some quibbles, which are fairly minor:

  • You can’t equip henchmen, nor have more than one (although you can have a henchman and a summoned creature, like a familiar)
  • When fighting trolls, I’ve seen no evidence of regeneration, and when you put them down, they’re dead – even without fire
  • Fighters have more class skills than wizards, because there are no knowledge skills
  • There’s no language skills – a really minor thing, but I always feel different languages add amazing flavor to a game
  • The game seems heavily weighted to rogue & wizard types – there are so many traps and locks to pick that not having rogue levels becomes quite dangerous. And without spells, the options of what can be done become far fewer (although the combat feats are beautifully implemented, and choosing which feat to use as a fighter would indeed be fun)
  • The ‘Stone of Recall’ from the main story – this essentially allows you to teleport out of any situation, be healed for free and then for a tiny amount of gold, be teleported back – makes all sorts of things less scary (like poison/disease or massive bodily harm).

But overall, definitely at least an A, if not an A+ for this game. The best thing about it, however, is that it has made me more excited about D&D, rather than less. Seeing the table-top game in action, is (in a very geeky way) a rush. I’ll be uploading files to a server soon-ish and attempt to setup and run through a couple of modules, so if you’re interested, let me know and I’ll email once this is up and running (the goal is to have something up for next weekend).