Neverwinter Nights 2

9_1Neverwinter Nights s is an old-fashioned RPG, where careful character management and shifting through complex dialogue trees take precedence over single-minded dungeon romps, and success is largely determined by the understanding of the 3.5 ruleset that only tabletop D&D players can fully grasp. Not that the game’s inaccessible – in fact, Obsidian did a nice job of demystifying D&D for non-D&D players (a friendly 175-page manual helps), while the relatively linear plot and simple side quests keep you moving along and leveling up at a merry pace.

The first Neverwinter Nights was a solid D&D role-playing game, but where it really impressed was with its dynamic toolset that let players create their own campaigns. Developer Obsidian’s own campaign within Neverwinter Nights 2 doesn’t break new ground, but it’s done with much humor, intelligence, and love and respect for the wonky fantasy geekfest that is D&D.

The game kicks off with a basic tutorial that details the basics of the game. Experienced Neverwinter Nights players, however, are sure to feel right at home, and might completely skip the prologue. Quests, character progression and battles are handled pretty much the same way as in Neverwinter Nights. Another recognizable facet is the dialogue system, which resembles Bioware’s Star Wars RPG, Knights of the Old Republic, in almost every way. In line with this, Obsidian has incorporated an involving storyline to keep you on your toes.

Gameplay wise, there’s a lot to enjoy. Progressing through the chapters unlocks an impressive amount of skills, henchmen and a wide variety of quests to go through. The coolest thing is that the development team was smart enough to include practically all the skills, feats and special abilities that were present in Neverwitner Nights, Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide and Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark. Familiar prestige classes and base classes were also included, but some of them require special conditions in order to be unlocked.

Obsidian wisely increased the first game’s one-companion limit up to four, giving you a full, controllable party with their own stats and inventory. The NPCs that join you are the usual assortment of fantasy clichés, but again, the writing makes it work. What’s also interesting about them is that they react to your decisions (actually, non-part characters do this as well). In short, doing things that are out of your character will affect your party’s loyalty to you, and a healthy injection of moral ambiguity ensures that not all of those decisions are easy to make.

3At some point in the game, your character achieves a certain level of prestige that allows him (or her) to own a stronghold. Possessing a stronghold definitely changes further endeavors. For one thing, besides handling main quests and side-quests, you’ll be preoccupied with various chores required to keep a stronghold functional. Things such as training troops, improving weapons and armor, maintaining and repairing everything within your territory, instituting taxes, and even signing up merchants to flog various goods for you. NWN fans will surely find this to be a rather noteworthy improvement over the original.

Even though Neverwinter Nights 2 sees a few inventive components, the game actually doesn’t amount up to anything groundbreaking in terms of gameplay. Quite simply, the development team decided to draw on all the aspects of gameplay that made KoTOR and the original Neverwinter Nights great, and implement them in the sequel. As you’d have thought, Neverwinter Nights 2 is like Knights of the Old Republic sprinkled with D&D.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 2 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 7.2 GB HDD, 128 MB Video, WinXP

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