Neverwinter Nights isn't simply another computer game. It's a Dungeons & Dragons computer game, as well as all the tools you'll need to create your own Dungeons & Dragons adventures. Neverwinter Nights is an achievement. It accomplishes what computer role-playing games set out to do when Wizardry debuted in the late '70s: re-create the social, hands-on experience of tabletop gaming.
Neverwinter Nights uses the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition rules in (nearly) all their complex glory. It's the first game to attempt to fully support D&D 3E's customizable features, and more significantly, it's the first game designed to re-create the experience of playing tabletop D&D. You can play BioWare's extensive campaign alone or online with your friends, or you can use the included Aurora toolset to build your own adventure module and run it for your buddies with all the control you'd have if you were running a tabletop game. The powerful Dungeon Master client lets you put words in nonplayer characters' mouths, control monsters, alter the game world, and customize your adventure on the fly. If playing is your thing, you can join other people's games and play through encounters with other gamers around the world.
Everything works as it should and the game is beautiful to behold. BioWare has used a limited 3-D engine to allow you to spin your viewpoint around your character and zoom in on the action. During combat, Mages unleash spectacular spells, Priests raise their symbols to drive undead hordes back, and Rogues tinker with locked chests, while Fighters dodge, parry, and strike ferociously at any attacking beasts. The sound is topnotch, with BioWare's typically high-quality voice acting and music from composer Jeremy Soule.
But all isn't perfect.
The game makes a great effort of implementing the full D&D 3rd Edition rules, but doesn't quite succeed. In NWN, Paladins lose their Detect Evil and Mount abilities. Druids can shape change into animals, but can't change back to human form at will. Darkvision has no noticeable in-game effect. Troublesome issues for hard-core D&D fans, but it's understandable that some changes would have to be made in order to shoehorn a freeform tabletop RPG into a computer program.
Other issues are not so easy to understand: the camera controls are simple and will not allow the user to lower to decrease the camera angle--you'll never get anything approaching a character's-eye view of the world. Moving to a new section within a building or going from an indoor to an outdoor area takes you out of the game and presents you with a (mercifully short) "Loading" screen. There is an artificial limitation on how many henchmen you can hire in the single-player game: you're limited to one hireling, and Baldur's Gate fans will miss the squabbling party from earlier games. More significant are the problems that arise from trying to re-create a social experience like D&D in a computer game. Multiplayer games with strangers are confusing and not as fun as they sound and, like the tabletop game, they're really only as fun as the players and especially the DM you're playing with. Multiplayer NWN is only worthwhile if you have a dedicated group and a DM that knows what he or she is doing. The last drawback is the documentation. The manual is large and detailed but it omits key help in module creation; you have to buy a separate strategy guide if you want that information.
But though slightly flawed, NWN has indisputably won the holy grail of RPG gaming: getting the Dungeons & Dragons experience into a personal computer. The included campaign is fascinating and the tools are powerful enough to ensure a steady stream of module content from devoted fans. Make no mistake, Neverwinter Nights is an achievement and will likely change the way CRPGs are played from now on. It's a game no RPG fan, no D&D fan, should miss. --Bob Andrews
Could have been so much more, August 19, 2002
I want to give this game more than 3 stars, I really do, and I don't want anyone to get the impression that this is not a fantastic feat of programming, because it absolutely is, but there are disappointments that must be addressed.
First of all, the game is skewed toward melee classes. I played a monk with a cleric henchman and had no need for a magic user. The appeal of D&D and other RPGs is the fact that different skills are needed and that they enhance one another. In NWN, at least in the included campaign, fighters and healers will do the job. Magic-users are superfluous.
Second, money and treasure are far too easy to acquire. Upon completing the single player game, my monk had several hundred thousand gold pieces and was selling nice enchanted weapons and armor because he couldn't hold them and already had the top of the line. This kills the incentive to continue in a big way.
Third, your character maxes out at level 20. If you play the single player game all the way through, you will get to level 20, period. It is too easy to get there and once you do get there, what next? Why keep playing that character online or elsewhere? Another incentive killer.
Fourth, the pre-release press promised everything the 3rd ed rules had. In anticipation, I purchased the Monster Manual. Well, most of the monsters aren't in the game (not just the single player, but the toolset as well), including some very popular opponents, and there's no way to create your own monsters, so unless BioWare plans to release a monster library, you're stuck with just a few of the monsters. Examples of missing monsters include Kobolds, Gelatinous Cubes, Owlbears, and Manticores, just to name a few.
Fifth, the toolset is very easy if you just want to place monsters and treasure, but if you want to add some complex puzzles, you will have to learn C++ (or a close facsimile). Don't expect to fire it up and whip out a creative module. It will take some time, and be prepared for all of your locations to be rectangular grids.
Having said all this, NWN is a good game, but it is not the ultimate CRPG. I would recommend it for all CRPG fans, but you may want to let the price drop a tad. In the meantime, I'm crossing my fingers for a FREE monster expansion.
Spent ... dollars on a game I STILL can't play., August 16, 2002
I updated everything. Even bought a new graphics card. I upgraded from a GeForce2 to a brand new GeForce4 64 Mb DRR.
The game still crashes...plays for a few hours... then crashes again...after several hard reboots; it freezes...then plays...then crashes...etc.
It's sad really because its a very beautiful looking game with real potential.
Since not some people ARE capable of enjoying gameplay without problems (lucky dawgs!), I'd advise to buy at your own risk.
If your system crashes, it's not your comp it's the game!
However, don't be surprised if your comp never runs the same again even after a complete uninstall!
3 - 3.5, August 15, 2002
the game itself is very fun, the storyline well thought of. the character have a life all to themselves.
the graphics are very well done. in game play it is good that you get to zoom in and out to get better angles of the battle. with the character looking so much larger it is better to see them.
still over all i would have to say that baldurs gate 2 is the better game. not just with having more than 1 character in your group. it runs smoother and i love the storyline it has. i recommend either just staying with the baldurs gate series or taking this game with a grain of salt.
Lives up to the hype! Awesome game!, August 14, 2002
This is the first game that successfully brings tabletop Dungeons & Dragons to the computer, with a live Dungeon Master and infinitely customizable adventures. It's every D&D geek's dream come true.
I won't buy another computer game until the expansion or sequel for this game comes out. It's that good.