[GAS] Review - Neverwinter Nights 2: Addictive.
By The Other Sysadmin
[Geeks Are Sexy] Tech. News
Neverwinter Nights 2 was released October 31st. I received my pre-ordered copy November 1st, and installed it the minute I got home. The opening sequence is incredibly well done and gives you a little hint as to the re-occurring characters that you will encounter in the game.
Having played NWN1 and its modules, I kind of knew what to expect from the game play. I was a little rusty, but I was pleased to see that they didn't change too much in game-control. One of the big improvements was the camera views that were offered up for you. The environment in NWN2 is 3D, whereas in NWN1, it was not. In the first installment, your camera views were limited to left and right toggle and zooming. In the latest version, you can also toggle the environment up and down like a teeter-totter, so that you can see at eye-level or God's-Eye view.
The developers of the game obviously spent a TON of time on redoing the environment engine. The details in the houses, the trees, the rocks and mountain faces were impeccable. And lighting?? Holy cow!! Even my Super-Gamer Machine couldn't keep up. (I may have to invest in another GeForce 7800GS and SLI-bridge the two together). My only complaint is that, when using a Top-Bottom view, when passing trees, they do not fade away so that you can actually see what your character is doing. You have to zoom in, limiting your field of view to make sure you're not getting attacked. Fading would have been a nice touch!
Lighting is huge in this game. You can set it up so that the engine draws shadows for more than 4 light sources; including ones from other characters (torches, lit staff, glowing swords etc.). This requires a HUGE processors, and even more powerful video cards. My lone 7800GS couldn't entirely keep up, though, it puts up a good effort. So expect to do about 30 minutes of tweaking before you start to play. I had to turn the lightsources from ">4" to 2. I adjusted anti aliasing to 2 from 4, and took out "Character Lightsources" as well. This made the game smooth enough for me to be happy.
They have also added the ability to change the color of any light-source (if you're into that kind of thing). They more than likely added this feature for those of you who would like to run your own servers and your own environment for multi-player modes. For example: Let's say in YOUR world, you have two suns; one is yellow the other is red. Lighting and shadow drawing within the environment would reflect this by providing a different colored sky, and appropriate lighting highlights on metal and reflective objects (Swords, Shields, Armor and water). Very cool for the die-hards among you.
For all of their attention to details, the one place the graphics team didn't really spend a lot of time was in making the "Toons" (That's, uh, gamer-speak for "Your Character", for you Non-Gamer types). This doesn't surprise me all that much, as the view of choice for most NWN2 players will most likely be what you see to the left there: A top-down view to see as much action as you can.
Another improvement from the last installment of NWN is that the creators of the game provided way more "Quick Action" slots. If you look at the image there, you will see them at the bottom of the screen. In the heat of battle, these "Quick Slots" come in handy and can be accessed using every number of the QWERTY keyboard, including the "-" and "=" keys . There are two rows like this, so setting up Quick Slots is one of the things I do the most.
Now, onto the actual game play.
If you read the review that Kiltak provided below, you would have noticed the reviewer talk about the story behind the game being well-written. Well I agree with that assessment. And not only is it well written, it's well delivered by the host of voice actors used in the game. The NPCs are amazingly well done. (My Favorite is a Demon-Girl [A Tiefling] named Neeshka - a thief with a winning personality that is somehow falling in love with my Toon - how fun!) The NPCs that I've encounters so far, are a drunken dwarf who loves to brawl, but wants to be a monk, a tiefling thief who just wants to be accepted by someone without prejudice, a high-and-mighty elf druid who finds herself homeless, and a rogue wizard girl who LOVES to set stuff on fire and was kicked out of the academy for setting a library on fire. Like I said, very rich characters. Obviously somebody put a lot of thought in to making party interaction fun! And it is too. You find yourself in the middle of squabbles all the time, and it can be down-right comical! So not only are you playing a game, you actually get the sense that you are part of a story; a novel or movie of some kind, and you are the lead role. Makes for some very rewarding gaming.
So after finding out that your Foster Father had hidden a shard of crystal somewhere in a cave, you are sent to Neverwinter to see your Uncle and determine what is so important about the Shard, and why some baddies are out to kill you for it. Once there, you have two paths to find the answers to your questions: the way of crime or the way of the righteous. Being a Paladin, of course, I chose the righteous way, and I became a member of the Watch - solving crimes and fighting corruption.
The only thing I don't like as much as the first version is the fact that you cannot highlight the entire party to set a Group AI option. AI has to be set one character at a time, and it's a little frustrating if you want to change a character's behavior in the middle of a battle. Highlighting a character makes him the leader and if his "Command Set" is set to "Follow Me" the others will stop their attack and run after the chosen character, which leaves them open to Attacks of Opportunity ... I guess you can see the problem with this right? This is a minor annoyance; I had to change my usual behavior of play more or less, that's all.
I find NWN2 very addictive. I try to play at least 3 hours a night, and actually played around 12 hours on the weekend. I would say, confidently, that this game has met my expectations. It's all I expected it to be.
I'd give it a 8.9/10.
Here's are the spots where the game lost a few points for me:
- The details of the characters aren't as well done as the environment.
- Some of the basic party control functions have not been well thought out. (as previously discussed in this review)