PC Game Review: Neverwinter Nights
Release Date: June 16, 2002
by Kevin Kuphal
Published: July 16, 2002
This is it. This is where my true self is revealed.
Yes, I know it's hard to believe, but I played AD&D when I was younger. I
know, I know. You're beside yourself. Shocker. So you can only
imagine my delight at hearing the details of Neverwinter Nights: AD&D 3rd
Edition rules in a highly detailed 3D game including the ability for a Dungeon
Master (DM) to control the game and mold it to his or her liking while it
progressed. It sounded like a dream come true.
Neverwinter Nights has come about as close to a perfect PC
based RPG that I have ever seen happen. It misses the mark only
slightly and only in light of other titles on the market that did it one better.
So to put things in perspective for you avid gamers, let's compare, shall we?
this title came out I was blown away. The game seriously impressed me from
the moment I stepped into the beautifully rendered world. Neverwinter
Nights has matched this in every respect and in some places exceeded what the
folks at Gas Powered Games had achieved. One fault of Neverwinter is the
load time between areas of the game. Dungeon Siege did a remarkable job
with their game engine, completely eliminating transitions between areas, not
allowing them to in any way detract from the action at hand. Neverwinter
Nights could benefit greatly from this feature as the act of exploring a city
was punctuated often by waiting for a room to load. Granted, the wait time
was in seconds, not minutes, but still seemed extraneous given the fact that
Dungeon Siege lacked this problem.
The major downfall of Dungeon Siege was not in the world
that was created, but in the game engine. Without a detailed skill system,
creating characters was an afterthought. Without extensive mods, the
item variety was nearly non-existent. Neverwinter Nights excels in both of
these areas by virtue of its basis in the AD&D 3rd Edition rules. Now, all
you non-D&D players out there, don't freak out. Neverwinter also does a
tremendous job of providing you with a tool, in the way of the Recommend button,
that takes all the detail out of the rule set and makes the decisions for you,
and makes them very well. This game centers around your character and the
plot, both things that Dungeon Siege sorely lacked.
Neverwinter Nights has some failings in even the places
where it rivals Dungeon Siege. While the graphics engine of Neverwinter
Nights is equal to that of Dungeon Siege, it is excessively more demanding of
top notch hardware to run it. It is a shame to see two very similar games
on the market: one that can run beautifully on some rather meager hardware, and
another that chokes on anything but the most recent. I could go on and on
about the incompatibilities between this game and the 3dfx Voodoo series of
cards which are still popular with many gamers, but I will leave it only as a
mention and a frustration. Neverwinter Nights however excels in the audio
department. The environmental and multiple speaker support worked right
out of the box and the music and ambient noises were marvelous to hear.
The NPC speech, too, was well scripted with a wide range of voice talent that was
a pleasure to listen to as much of the game plot is advanced through
conversation with the people in the game.
||Pentium® II 450 MHz or AMD K6 450 MHz
||16 MB TNT2-class OpenGL 1.2 compliant video card
||1.2GB minimum hard drive space
||128 MB of RAM
||DirectX 8.1 or higher
||DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card
||8X or better
||56K modem for TCP/IP Internet or IP
If there is one thing that Diablo II did is make you come back
again and again and again for more gaming. At least, it did for me -- to the
point I was looking for a twelve step program to break myself of it. As it
happened, Civilization III was the catalyst to my departure from Diablo II but
that was only replacing one addiction with another... I digress. The
fusion of hack and slash combat with a certain amount of character generation
was a perfect mix that few games can achieve. It's hard to say whether
Neverwinter Nights will achieve this level. The richness of the plot works
against the replay-ability in some ways as the combat is secondary to the story.
By contrast, the combat was primary to Diablo with the story being a mere
backdrop. Neverwinter Nights has an extraordinary potential to be a game
that can be played over and over by virtue of the module system. Much like
D&D itself, the true appeal of the game is in the ability to take your
characters into new and exciting situations. With the Aurora Toolset,
Neverwinter Nights has the ability to match this appeal in a computer game.
But, this will depend greatly on the community and the production of quality
modules to play that are challenging for a variety of character classes so that
people will play them repeatedly looking for a new twist on an old story.
As it stands, the combat system in Neverwinter Nights is a
beauty. The radial action system is a true innovation in controlling 3D
games and once you get used to it, it is absolutely amazing. The campaign has
enough combat to keep you on your toes and enough story to keep you interested.
With intricate spell effects and detailed character actions, the game is filled
with eye candy for the player to enjoy.
Here was another game that impressed me from the start.
The completely non-linear structure of the game harkened back to the days of
Ultima where you wandered the world looking for adventure all the while
progressing towards and ultimate goal on your own line, not by being pushed
there by a predetermined story. Neverwinter Nights has some aspects of
this type of play. Your journal, much like that in Morrowind, keeps track
of your interactions with people in the game and the tasks that they desire for
you to perform. Not nearly as expansive as Morrowind, the campaign in
Neverwinter Nights does have quite a few quests that appear and you can choose
to do them in a variety of ways. It is exciting to see this coupled with a
true arc story that permeates the environment keeping you moving towards a goal.
Morrowind suffered in some ways from being too expansive and making it too easy
to lose track of what you were doing by overwhelming you with choices.
With the right blend of non-linear stories and quests and a central storyline,
modules for Neverwinter Nights can achieve the promise of what Morrwind
attempted to build.
Putting it all together
Put the Dungeon Siege graphics engine in the rest of
Neverwinter Nights and you would probably have as close to the perfect game as
you could build. The Dungeon Master aspect of Neverwinter Nights is truly
original and a great component to the game. By giving all of the D&D
players of yesteryear a place to exercise their skills at running a storyline,
they have ensured themselves a long lasting community of gamers that will
continue to expand the game. It is in these modules that the future of
Neverwinter Nights lies. With the right, high quality modules, you can bet
that this game will be one that is played for years to come by its fans.
As with any role playing game, the game is only as good as the stories that are
My grade for this game reflects on the important things that
Neverwinter Nights has achieved by bringing the richness of D&D gaming and
stories to the PC, something that every game that has come before has
failed to do in one way or another. It is somewhat disappointing that
Bioware was not able to meet the level of graphics optimization that Dungeon
Siege did as well as the no loading ability of that game. It is
unfortunate for gamers to have to feel as if they are taking a slight step
backwards when playing the game, because it is such a superior game in nearly
every other aspect. This game is one to keep your eyes on even if you find
the original campaign lacking in some way. The community is huge and
hungry for quality module productions, especially after what many felt was a
disappointing release of community tools and features from Dungeon Siege.
The intricate game mechanics of Neverwinter Nights is a wonderful system for
people to build their worlds upon. Diablo II had a rich environment filled
with unique items and complex calculations that people could strive to combine
into the best character they could.
Neverwinter nights has matched its predecessors and taken role
playing to the next level.