Thunderbolt logo

Neverwinter Nights

The man in the armor suit, the rising champion and glowing hope for all people. He was secretly chosen by the gods and deliberately pushed to his destiny. He is the one who will save humanity from slavery and destruction, and the one all prophecies talked about. He is Hercules, hmm sorry! Let’s do it again. He is the hero of Neverwinter Nights. Not so slick, but gets the ball rolling!

In a time of great darkness, while plagues and chaos infested the jewel city of the north, Neverwinter, a hero was needed.

And so it was that the most ambitious adventurers in the whole north were grouped together. They were brought to the academy of Neverwinter to study under the hands of the best. One of them will have to carry the burden and save the whole world this one is you.

The same typical story you hear everywhere. “The fate of the world is in your own hands”, “You are the hero all prophecies talked about”, “You are the last hope for humanity”. These have just gotten too old, and Neverwinter Nights in the beginning looks exactly the same, but truly it isn’t.

The story of Neverwinter Nights, while starts slowly picks up speed later on. It creates many loose ends at the beginning and end of each chapter, then starts to twist and twist. The most unexpected happens and the loose ends start to connect together, creating a masterful brilliant picture in the end. The plot is made to surprise the most imaginative of players putting them in the atmosphere with ease and (if you allow me) joy. I still remember the first sudden attack in the game. Everything was peaceful, while calm music played and joyful moments were being celebrated, then the most unexpected happened and the attack started. I jumped off my chair splattering the tea I was drinking all over the place, cursing and swearing I reached for the mouse hoping I wasn’t too late. Well, that was a bit imaginative but manages to get the idea through -hopefully!

It’s common sense for an RPG game, such as this one to start with building your character. What should the awaited hero look like, how will he act and what would his ways in communicating and fighting be. Is he going to be a vicious half-minded barbarian or a lawful paladin who walks in the light of divinity? Is he looking for fame and wealth, or is he really the self-driven hero coming to cast away the evil and save the world? Nothing is previously set up, it’s you who will have to choose all that and shape your own destiny.

First, you will have to choose your race which defines your primary features; take the intelligence and strength for example. Then your class, which can fortify your previous choice, so if you chose a Half-Orc race that has high strength, then chose a barbarian class, you’re definitely up to a good start. Further more, you will have to distribute your ability points, taking into account the specialization you want your character to have, emphasizing certain abilities like strength or dexterity for example and ignoring others. After that comes the distribution of skills which affects your general abilities in certain things like disarming traps, moving silently and resisting some types of attacks. Fear not we’re near done, you will then choose your alignment which controls how your character reacts to others, is your character good or evil, lawful or chaotic, here is your chance to choose. At last, you will have to choose the feats or skills your character is to have, say its ability to wear heavy armor, or use two handed weapons and such. At first it may seem dazzling, but after some while you will be able to understand it and create more powerful and better planned characters, it just needs time and experience.

After creating your character, you will be ready to start the game. Everything looks exactly like the other RPGs out there. You point and click for your character to move, attack or operate. You have a quickbar at the bottom for you to fill with different hotkeys and commands making your life a lot easier. You have at your right those buttons for the journal, inventory and character. You will be given the choice to take a tutorial about everything you need to know, so no need for you to worry here.

Now to the important stuff, how the game plays. Unfortunately, here the game falls and quite badly as well. The fighting system is so boring and virtually aimless, you simply click on an enemy and your character will keep slashing until either you or the enemy dies. You can’t control your character efficiently like Diablo, by moving and switching attacks while using your different skills, nor do you have a party to manage and organize like Dungeon siege. Your party may consist of a maximum of three, along with a henchman and a summoned creature, and both of them you can’t truly control or give any useful commands to. My biggest problem was my henchman and how he died always because I couldn’t order him to retreat. It’s the worst fighting system I ever saw, especially that I’ve played and seen all kinds of different RPGs.

Then comes some small itches here and there, like those scattered multi-thousand barrels and chests that are supposed to carry great items within. You pass several minutes bashing and unlocking a dozen of them only to find a few gold pieces. I’m positive that during the time I finished the game I have opened a minimum of a thousand barrel and chest, only to find a couple of really good items. It just doesn’t feel right regarding all the effort and time you waste on them. Altogether with the boring fighting, gives you a really hard time with the game.

The game is full of itches that can get the most enthusiastic of players eager to throw it in the first bin along his way, but wait; all is not lost though. Throughout my personal experience, the time I have passed trying the game at first, searching for something to like and maybe to prove that I didn’t throw my money away, I came up with something strange. This game doesn’t necessarily make you like it by itself; you just have to learn to like it.

While fighting is frequent and is to certain degrees tedious in the game, the action development is fast-paced in comparison. What I mean is, you won’t have to fight for hours and hours collecting that item and killing that boss, then simply returning to get your rewards and marching for another quest and so. The game always gives you something to refresh your mind being in a new idea or an interesting turn of events. Am I still unclear? Then I will explain.

Between time and time, the game will present you with a new idea. Once, I was venturing inside a castle that is considered to be stuck in the tide of time, which means that the time doesn’t change inside it. I was surprised to find out that the reason was a massacre that happened years ago. Apparently, some god froze time inside the castle waiting for someone to solve this matter and judge between the two lords who caused this catastrophe, and guess what, I had to play judge in order to return everything back to normal!

Another incident was when a priest at the temple of Tyr asked me to defend a suspected criminal, he gave me a book listing all the people who were meant by the case. I had to pass by all these people, questioning some and persuading others to say the truth. In the end, I had to represent the suspect in court and prove that he is innocent by asking certain questions to a group of witnesses then coming up to a backed-up conclusion of what truly happened.

Once, I was even followed by a man with a contract to assassinate me – I must say that I enjoyed killing him! The game is full of brilliant ideas such as these that can keep you interested, and that’s even without mentioning time travel and the different contests you can participate in. Only if you bared a bit with the game, you will come to learn to love it.

The character you create at the start of the game can alone alter totally your gaming experience as well. Take the bard class for example; this class concentrates on charisma and your ability to persuade other people, so if you love your character to have an effect on other people (or NPCs) you will love this character making your game more pleasant and joyful. I myself chose the barbarian ’cause I like brute strength and I really enjoyed seeing him becoming stronger and gaining more powerful moves and feats. On the light of the things I said till now I can come up with one conclusion; this game will only satisfy the hardcore type of gamers and maybe the most committed types of them. I really liked this game, but it took me a long while to see the beauty and true value of it which doesn’t come as a surprise after all I’ve said.

The game itself if played merely in single player can’t last for long, as you would tend to get bored quite easily after you finish it the first time. The true replay value, however, lies in the toolset (or editor) and the multiplayer option this game has. Though I haven’t but slightly tried it, I’m sure it would be one of the best multiplayer experiences a player can try. The game is made to easily contain about thirty-two players in one game, along with a new fabulous option which allows a certain player to be a dungeon master. This guy will be able to do everything and anything he feels like to enhance the gaming experience. He can add more enemies, create new bosses or even possess certain NPCs and talk through them. If you ask me, this game was made for multiplayer, and it’s there where it truly shines.

You can go reward yourself with a cup of tea now ’cause you’ve been able to read this far!

On to the review, our next stop would be the graphic section. At first glance, I thought “Hey! Is this the best graphics I ever saw or what?.” The game truly shows incredible beauty in drawing, details and lighting. How shadows move and rotate with the source of the light, how weapons gleam and how armors shines. Look into everything in front of you, it’s all detailed and amazingly realistic. However, after you play the game for quite some time, especially when you finish the first two chapters, you will begin to wonder “Have I been to this place before or is it my imagination?!”, and believe me it won’t be your imagination. Everything will start to look too familiar and can even become annoying. All structures look the same from the inside, all caves and dungeons too, and you would hardly see any difference, if any at all. What’s that word they use? “Sameness”, it’s not the best word but I think it’s enough to illustrate my point.

The camera, however, is a one I can take pride in. You can look from all angles (360 Degrees) and zoom in and out as you wish; it doesn’t leave much space for me to complain (what a shame)!

Here we stop to think and contemplate a bit about the musical and sound effects of the game. Well they are good, nice to hear and most suitable. The game contains all kinds of music, some of those peaceful tunes that play in the forests and green plains, some of those violent adrenaline-pumping kinds that play when you are fighting or when you get your ass into trouble. The music is pleasant and more than acceptable, however, it can get quite old and repetitive after a long while of playing, which may be considered normal regarding the many hours you are supposed to pass on this game. I will give my ending judgment on the music as “unarguably decent”, ’cause it serves its purpose well without getting old quickly.

This game is not a one I would recommend to everyone or even every RPG fan. It just needs a lot of patience and commitment from the player for it to show its true value. If you manage to endure it at first and try to like it, it will give you maybe more than you actually ask for. You just have to learn to like it for you to see the true beauty and great capabilities this game possesses.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in March 2003.

Gentle persuasion

Think you can do better? Write for us.