I figured this would be an appropriate spot to post my review of the game. This first appeared on the boards at www.tontoclan1.com, and is part of a larger thread, in case I miss any of the stranger references and you're curious.
(The original, written partway through Ch1, on 6/27)
I picked it up Monday. I'm feeling a little underwhelmed by it. The plot's ok. It's got all those 3e D&D rules that I know very, very well. That's good.
It looks...ok. Nowhere near Morrowind's level of sophistication. Of course, Morrowind is perhaps the most visually stunning game I have ever seen, but. At the same time, NWN's graphics are a little, well, blocky. They look ok, but BG2 definitely looked better.
And the interface well and truely pisses me way the hell off. Sure, you've got a camera that you can zoom in and out, and move around you in a number of ways, but none of the three camera modes they give you is all that great. In top down, you've got a static camera that you have to spend excessive amounts of time driving, which means you drive the camera more than your guy. You can move the camera way over your head and zoom way out, but then you can't see far enough in front of yourself to shoot people with bows if you need to. Driving mode is simply a disaster. Chase mode is the best of the three, but the camera still has a mind of it's own, which means you still drive it a lot. Greatly missing is a first person view like Morrowind.
Gameplay wise, it's decent. I understand and like the 3e rules. The radial menu is kinda funky at first, but isn't bad. There's more quickslots than I can possibly use at this point in my game. You can finally move around during dialogue some. That's all great. There's some quirks though. The camera thing is one. You also need to click an awful lot to move anywhere, and the combination means that movement is a lot of clicking and fighting the camera, which sucks. I'm also very pissed off right now that my rogue has a very hard time finding eq (+1 rapier anyone?) while the fighter, monk, and caster classes all have tons of eq by contrast. In fact, it seems like there's an overabundance of monk eq, which, given that I really hate monks on general principle, grates, but that's not really the game's fault. My only other gripe is that the bosses I'm fighting right now are generally very, very hard, and then only reason I can even survive a fight with a couple guards is because I have this half orc flunky who r0x0rz everything, because I can't. That's a tad annoying, but it's ok. And a word from our sponsor on flunky management... it's good. I miss having total control of my flunky like in BG2, but he's got his own mind, which is cool. On the other hand, at the moment, it's not a whole hell of a lot of a mind. One of BG2's strengths was the great NPC dialogue and side quests. Essentially, they were interesting. And the world had a lot to do. Neverwinter itself is pretty freaking boring right now. Maybe it gets better later, I don't know. Right now it's more or less doing the main quest. Oh, and I miss being able to equip my flunky. He's got good stuff right now, but still.
But of course this is NWN. It's all about the multiplayer, stupid! I will grant this, of course, but I cannot review the MP experience, since I haven't PLAYED NWN multiplayer yet. Still, most of what I've said here applies there, too.
On the plus side, I hear the editor is great. That's a help, given the fact that NWN is supposed to be Unlimited Adventures II, and you're supposed to be able to design your own modules for it easily. That's cool.
Given all of that... 7/10 aliens.
x7 (who changed the emote limit? *frown*)
And now, on a related topic, I think this game needs to be compared to Morrowind. Both of them being RPGs and all. So let us compare them.
In an audio/visual sense, Morrowind completely blows my mind. If you've ever seen a dust storm or rain on the kind of water a GF3 level vid card will give you, you'll understand. The music and the voices, while they do get repetetive after a time, are still good.
NWN looks ok, like I said. But it's not even in the same class as Morrowind, except perhaps in character modeling. The graphics are way, way too blocky. Even BG2, based on the LAST toolset, looked better. On an audio level, NWN has pretty good music, but the voices are freaking repetetive as hell. If I hear "Rage of the red tiger, unleashed!" from my flunky one more time, I'm going to KILL something.
Morrowind's got this one hands down as well. The reasons for it are sort of like this. Morrowind has a bunch of keyboard things you need to run, sure, and it's definitely a two-handed game, but you can configure these controls VERY easily, and the learning curve is practically non-existant. The only really hard part of the interface is the combat manouvers, and you can toggle a Use Best Attack option, which does just fine. In the first person view, I very much feel like I am a direct, seamless part of the world around me.
NWN, by contrast, well... It's the camera, ok? The stupidity of the NWN camera system blows my mind in way something like the way the coolness of the Morrowind version blows my mind. You can read the above rant about how the camera styles suck, and that should cover that. Controlwise, however, the mouse thing works better than you might think. OTOH, I wish there was a keyboard way to drive, since clicking your way there takes eons. In short, NWN would be a lot cooler if the camera didn't suck. It wouldn't be better than Morrowind, but it would at least equal it.
World and Gameplay
This section should be read with the notice that I'm not yet out of Chapter 1 of NWN, whereas I've beaten Morrowind once and am halfway through a second playing.
Yes, you'll notice that Morrowind has this section wrapped up too. The reasons for that are pretty simple. The world is larger than Neverwinter's. And there's a LOT to do there. I've done more in one canton in Vivec than in all of Neverwinter so far. And you can join guilds, great houses... NWN doesn't even come close for quests. In short, then, NWN is pretty boring. Do the main quest, or maybe the do the odd 5 side quests. Yawn.
I have yet to crack open the NWN editor. From what I've read, it'll be a joy to use, while still remaining a powerful tool. I'm unclear as to how it'll work, but I have faith. NWN is, after all, a multiplayer game, a build your own world sort of a deal.
I have ample experience with Morrowind's editor, on the other hand. I've built half a town with it, wrote a silt-strider type system with pack guars, and redid the entire armor system, which including creating a new type. And overall, the Morrowind editor has a fairly large learning curve. It takes some serious practice to get good with it. There are some things I think it could do better on, but otherwise, damn. You can do ANYTHING with it. Change the rules, change the world, add on to the world, you can do it all. And then you can add it seamlessly into the pre-existing world. If NWN can top that, I will be impressed.
And I've avoided the issue of MP entirely, since, well, Morrowind hasn't GOT MP. Which is quite frankly too damn bad, because it would be a very, very good MP game. We can only hope for an expansion pack or something. NWN's main goal, of course, is MP, which is I think why the SP is sorely lacking. NWN is really about the fan's building stuff. But as an SP experience, it's very much lacking. So the end result is, what do you want from a game? If you want a highly replayable SP experience, it's Morrowind. If you want a MP game, get NWN, or hope like hell for a Morrowind expansion with MP. Because Morrowind rules NWN's world.
(Aftermath report, 7/8. Has some spoilers)
And as an elaboration on NWN (spoiler warning)...
I beat the game at about 4am Sunday morning. So some post-game comments are in order. First off, I should mention that I don't cheat at all in games unless A) There's a bug that has no other fix but to cheat load an item or something, or B) I've beat the game and I'm bored as hell and need cheap entertainment. With that said...
I used god mode to beat the final fight. The sequence of said fight is something like this: You're in a no respawn/recall area. The final boss is behind a blade barrier that does over 200 hp of damage if you try and cross it, which spells instadeath to just about anybody. There are furthermore a series of warding mobs that protect the boss from all your weapons, who you have to kill first. Out in front of the blade barrier is a statue to lower the barrier, along with two very large buff guys. So you essentially hafta kill the buff dudes then beat up the statue, then kill the ward mobs, then kill the boss, all the while watching as the boss tosses Really Huge Spells at you. Not all that much different than your average huge boss fight, except you're more or less forced to solo/semi-solo it. I had to solo it with my rogue, since my barbarian flunky died in the gigantic battle with lizardmen in the previous room. The other problem here is that you really need +3 weaponry to do damage to anyone, since the statue and the guys are all immune to sub+3 stuff. Ok, except I had a whole one +3 weapon for my dual-wielding guy. The uber-weapon I had just picked up right before this last dungeon was all of useless because it was only +1. And since my character was a rogue, I was forced to do 8 hp potshots at people while they did 12-20 megahits on me, meanwhile avoiding the instakill spells from the megaboss. In essence, I couldn't win. No fault of my own, but the way the game was set up.
Which brings up another peave. Rogues got screwed over hardcore for weaponry and a lot of other eq. To an extent, this isn't unique, since there's a TON of missing magic items (NWN has, I dunno, maybe a fourth of what's in the 3e DMG). BUT... Let's look at the classes.
Fighters/Barbarians/Rangers - Have well-stocked stores in every single chapter providing weapons, armor, and other stuff, in addition to being very well supported by random treasure, in addition to being well-supported at the weapon-maker guy.
Sorcs/Wizards - Have dedicated stores in every single chapter providing robes, spells, wands, gear, you name it. Well supported for scrolls and such in the random treasure rolls, but pretty well screwed at the weapon-maker.
Monks - Well supported in every general store in the game with specialized items, most of which are practically munchkin uberitems. Mostly screwed for random treasure, but they don't need it.
Clerics/Druids - Druids have at least two specialized stores that I can think of, as well as being able to use most of the fighter stuff and some of the other stuff. So they make off like bandits. Speaking of whom...
Rogues/Bards - Guess what I played? There's, um, one dedicated rogue store that I found, which sold stuff that was WORSE than what the general store sold, except for a fairly nice suit of armor, which I snagged. Absolutely dismal in the weapons department. I had a +1 sleeping rapier for well over half the game, then a +2 rapier, then a +3 rapier. I picked up a +1, keen, 1d6 acid damage rapier at the very end of the game, but couldn't hit anything with it because they were all immune to anything less than +2 or +3. My offhand weapons choices were absolutely dismal, since most of the daggers suck, the shortswords all suck, and most other light weapons aren't built for rogues. Oh, and none of them hit +3 with mods, so screwed there, too. The bards at least get a couple harps I couldn't really use. Oh, and all the random treasure I picked up was fighter-style eq. Go figure.
My other main complaint has to do with the really sucking endgame, which is more or less biased against my character. In fact, if you aren't a fighterish/monkish character at the end, you will probably die. The sequence is something like 4 or 5 rooms of really tough lizardmen who beat the piss out of my barbarian flunky, followed by (get this) TWO enormous dragons, who took FOREVER and a lot of luck to kill, not to mention the weapons problem again. And then you have a room stuffed with 6 or 7 buff lizardmen, who beat down flunky in nothing flat, then proceeded to almost kill me. And of course I couldn't get flunky back, since it was a no respawn area. And then you've got the last fight, which I've already talked about. In essence, my rogue character was screwed mightily. By contrast, my rogue character was able to rule Morrowind's endgame muchly, light armor, lack of hp, and all. This did not endear itself to me.
All my previous rantings about interface, graphics, and the like still stand.
Now, I wanted to like NWN. It was one of my most anticipated games for a long time. So, let's improve it, shall we?
Graphics quality - badly needed help. I cannot possibly believe that they couldn't bring up the level of graphics quality from the blocky crap that it is. In addition, it badly needed some more tilesets to choose from. The stock villages and dungeons get WAY old after a while. And it's not like this couldn't have been done, either. Morrowind, frex, has like 5 or 6 different architecture styles, much less dungeons and such.
Interface - First, a small one. The ability to get more zoom out of the camera. If I'm gonna see the area around me, I want to be able to really SEE it, ok? In addition, there needed to be a more stable camera - when your camera wigs out and flies all over in combat, it sucks. Likewise, you couldn't use stationary camera, because everything got lost behind walls. So you spend a LOT of time driving the freaking camera around, which gets really old. Insert the lack of a usable keyboard driven movement system in here as well. The clickfest of mouse-driven movement sucked. Surprisingly, I could have lived without a first-person interface.
Gameplay - There's quite a lot of stuff here, actually. Lots of little stuff, really. The insertion of ALL of the magic items from the DMG would have really helped item variety. Some of the best feats from the PnP game were missing - How the hell do you get off with no Whirlwind Attack? Rogues don't get XP for disarming traps or unlocking locks, something that's a step back from BG2. Although you can reach level 20, the equipment all maxes out around what you'd get at level 12 or so. IE, no +5 weapons or anything. Any of this stuff would have been great.
Oh, and the flunky system. I've been hearing this marketed as a good thing - semi-autonomous NPCs who act like your "partner." Except, well, he didn't. My flunky (notice that I call him flunky) was more like a permanant summoned animal than a real NPC. The familiar my sorc char has has more life than the NPCs. They TRIED to do it right by adding in subquests, but the whole one mine triggered wasn't able to be completed by me. Contrast to BG2's having lots and lots of NPC quests. We'll toss in here the lack of ability to deck out your flunky with good equipment. My own could have REALLY benefitted from some better armor, some of the uberweapons I picked up, etc. But I couldn't do that.
World - As a whole, I found the whole NWN world to be seriously lacking in depth. The main quest itself is pretty cool, for the most part, although it segues off into this really wierd stuff in Chapter 3. There were a few NPCs of real depth and emotion in there, namely Aribeth, who I actually DID care for. I began liking Daelan Red Tiger, my flunky, when he started telling me his life story, but became disappointed when he couldn't finish it because I wasn't high enough level. Go figure. Morag, Haedraline, Desther all had character. Everyone else was a lifeless cutout. In addition, there was a serious lack of side quests. They WERE there - Chapter 2 was GREAT for that very reason. Chapter 1 had a few, but mostly sucked. Chapter 3 had like 5 or something, only one of which was really interesting. Chapter 4 had one, but it wasn't much of a side quest, and Chapter 4 was essentially a giant dungeon crawl anyway.
What I'm getting at here is that while there's a lot of CLAIMS of a lengthy, engrossing SP game, they're false. NWN has even less depth than the original BG. BG2 is head and shoulders above it.
As I've just been reminded of some things that I forgot...
You can kill anyone or loot anything in all of NWN and nobody cares a bit. Morrowind is way more realistic that way. Hell, BG2 was more realistic that way. Hell, BG was more realistic that way. Hell, Ultima VII which came out in like 1992 was more realistic that way.
Oh yes. And the proliferation of chests with locks and traps is truely amazing, and also apparently random. I've seen some trapped chests in spider-filled caves. Granted that spiders are devious, evil little bastards, but still.
And a word from our sponser on the MP experience, now that I've played some NWN MP. I think if you got a few people together that were really dedicated to playing in a group, it'd work just fine. The game I played where people did this, it was kinda fun. The other game I played was Diablo II-esque kill everything in sight and loot it before the other people got there. No coop at all. I'm going to bet that 90% of online MP will be like that, so get in with some good grouping buddies now.
And the SP game is better played in an MP manner, but still isn't THAT great.
And an afterword on the editor, which I used for about 15 minutes the other day before realizing that it really, really sucks. A lot of that has to do with the archaic way NWN does areas, which are A) tile-based, and B) have that stupid way of linking to other areas carried over from the BGs and IWD. There's like one tileset. It's amazingly hard to see anything, and there's absolutely no power at all behind object placement. Morrowind's editor, OTOH, you can do ANYTHING with.
Is it clear how unimpressed I am by NWN yet?