Malcolm Owen On December 24, 2006 at 3:58 pm

It’s probably a vogue thing to start describing anything related to Dungeons and Dragons by going through all the usual geek related humour. Most would expect the obvious ‘Firing Magic Missile into the Darkness’ and ‘Where’s the Cheetos?’ quotes, the acknowledgement of Skull from the webcomic PVP willing to spend his dwarf character’s reward on Ale and Whores, if only to be as true to the character as possible. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise people if I started adding references to the cartoon series or the appalling movie (with a guest appearance by Richard o’Brien), and in a world filled with fantasy-based branding and magical experiences, many would understand these, and then go back to playing World of Warcraft.

Neverwinter Nights 2 is based upon, unsurprisingly, Neverwinter Nights, which itself is based on the rules and guidelines of the table-based game that people believe stereotypically nerdy guys with no boyfriends play, Dungeons and Dragons. And if you think of this on it’s own, it’s fairly ok idea for those that want in on the D&D phenomenon without having to remember details from a hefty rule book, without making a model that looks vaguely like the character that’s to be played, without having to come into contact with people they wouldn’t be seen dead near.

You start off by making a character, using a fairly generic list of jobs derived from the usual D&D lists, and big lists at that. Races, Subraces, Moral Alignment and Class are the big ones, along with the ability to adjust your appearance to however you wish, and then you’re thrust into a fairly coherent tutorial that explains how to play the game. Via the medium of a harvest festival. Unexpected, but nice.

After you’ve finished making a huge pig become more of a runt (one of the tutorial tasks), you’re flung into a story filled with most of what you would expect from a fantasy epic. Your village gets attacked by some unknown force, and you, yes only you, can defeat them. How? By travelling great distances, meeting various creatures, and trying not to die in the process. Side quests are plentiful, so if the main narrative isn’t long enough for you, there’s always someone that needs help.

As expected in the world of D&D, you can create a party made up of people you meet throughout your adventure, whom can make up for your character’s own deficiencies at various points. Controlling other party members is an essential part of the adventure, and the ability to stop everything happening onscreen, giving instructions to the group and then unpausing the action to allow the other combatants to follow your orders, means that some quite complex and action-packed battles can be managed in the time you want it to.
However, you will end up having to control your cohorts more often than you would expect. They get stuck a lot more than you would expect, forcing you to ignore your own (and in these situations, about to die thanks to something mean running right at you) character in order to get the moronic one near to where you need them (by which time your character has died). The party’s thinking doesn’t improve in battles against successive mobs, either. I’ve found the other members of the party charging headlong into another evil group just after defeating a closer set, despite all of the party members being close to death and therefore won’t survive for more than a few blows.

Whilst we’re on the subject of things that do not work in an effective and constructive manner, you will soon learn to hate the camera. You have various choices as to how the camera behaves, but there are very few occasions where you have to move the camera manually in order to see what you’re actually doing. It’s a pain and you would think that on a sequel to an extremely well known and loved game, the people behind it would have got the camera working in a way that is satisfactory. Sadly, it isn’t, and it hurts the game, despite everything in it looking gorgeous.
Then you have the general graphical user interface of the game. It’s all well and good to give people a large inventory to fill, except that it becomes a chore to sift through the 4 pages looking for the one item you desperately need. It’s also a chore to find out the stats of items. It’s not at all helpful, and when you compare it to other inventory systems such as the aforementioned World of Warcraft, you have to wonder if it’s a step backwards rather than forwards.

Of course, it’s safe to say that the main game itself is good, a few largish hiccups in terms of technical achievement aside, but there is one factor that I can only speculate in, and is actually quite important to the success of Neverwinter Nights 2: The Community aspect.
The original game had a plethora of additional content made by it’s fans, and this new version contains tools to try and give the community more control over what it can produce. If the NWN community does what it did with the original game, then that can only be a good thing, and you’d get a lot of enjoyment out of it.

So, the summary. If you want a game that can give you a lot of adventures whilst at the same time being a captivating story, then NWN 2 is your game. You may not want to wait until the fans have got hold of the game, since there’s enough there to keep you occupied for many evenings. The developers might be able to sort out the camera problems and party intelligence in the future, but these are small problems in a game that makes you want to roll D20s wherever you go.

Give it a try, you will probably enjoy it. Who knows, you might want your own dice bag…


Good story marred by dopey AI, but hope with community additions.


Good to see, if only the camera didn’t screw up.


Exceptionally well done.


It’s a good game that will last a long time.

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