Friday, May 31, 2013

Neverwinter Nights 2

Like Knights of the Republic 2 previously, was Neverwinter Nights 2 as well put into the hands of Obsidian Entertainment when BioWare started focusing on their very own stuff. The Aurora Engine did not quite satisfy the guys at Obsidian, though, and thus, with a whole lot of improvements, Aurora became Electron.

As a result, NWN2 looks way better and much less artificial than the first game. The atrociously short view distance was improved, character models have face animations, and in general there is much more detail. I also liked the altitude differences and large sizes of some of the maps.

However, I am not entirely sure the bloom effect was a necessary addition. I turned it off because it made the starting swamp areas look dreamy. Metal armor, especially chain mails, had a pretty shine with it, though. The game also feels somewhat heavy; the loading times could definitely be faster.

NWN2 had many bugs at its release and some were never fixed. I encountered few on my run. One of them a total show-stopper; in the final stage of the Crossroads Keep battle, Garius spawned bit off from the intended position and instead of summoning the nightwalker in the cutscene, he was pulled into melee by one of the Greycloaks on the other side of the barricade. Without the nightwalker dying, the battle cannot end. Luckily, I was able to trigger the script via a console command to continue in the game.

The other option would have been to load a save. The game autosaves very rarely, however, and I was rather lazy at saving the game myself too as I did not find it particularly challenging. Only few times my was whole party knocked out. The most challenging fight was in the last part of the game where you fight three Reavers at once. There I had to reload quite a few times. I think it was mainly because most of my buffs had ran out and you cannot rest in there without interruption.

I noticed that fights throughout the game tend to become much harder if you try continuing too long before resting and rebuffing. Rebuffing takes incredibly long, though, especially at higher levels when you have dozens of spells, and I really wish there was a way to macro everything to a single button. I guess you could do with less rebuffing if you micromanaged your whole party constantly, but I found it to be much more cumbersome in NWN2 than it ever was in the Infinity Engine games.

It is good the option to do so exists, though. There is actually quite much taken from the previous D&D games, I feel. Unfortunately NWN2 does not quite succeed in creating a proper mix of them. I find it perplexing that reviewers found the story to be a good one.

The biggest problem is how much the game relies on the companions who are all irritating in their own ways. You cannot even deny them joining you. They do not agree on anything and much time in cutscenes is spent on listening to them uselessly arguing over stuff. The influence system is as annoying as it is in every game that has one. And the influence values end up mattering at the final showdown when the Garius persuades the disloyal ones to join him and the King of Shadows.

Apparently after the first phase, if your character is evil, you get your chance to turn on your companions instead. And I gladly took the offer. Although I did then reload a quicksave to take off their death magic immunities beforehand to then kill them with a single Wail of the Banshee. The damn paladin still made his saving throw, though, and then almost managed to take me out as well with his Smite Evils. But I got him too after casting few more spells. So satisfying.

Also, the evil ending sequence was much more rewarding than I recall the good one being.

Neverwinter Nights 2 uses the updated, 3.5 edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I suppose it does as good job at implementing them as Neverwinter Nights did to the 3rd edition previously. They also included almost all of the player races and classes found in the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms supplements, giving you a whole lot of options to choose from when creating a character. This time my character was a caster, a wizard(necromancy)/pale master/arcane scholar of Candlekeep/red wizard of Thay.

I wish Obsidian had taken spells from the Magic of Faerûn book as well. It includes a handful of 3rd edition versions of spells that made Baldur's Gate 2's arcane casters so cool. I mostly favored offensive spells that had no friendly fire, namely Isaac's Missile Storm and death magic. Although, even Fear seems to be able to hit party members in the targeted area, even the caster herself, in fact. Doesn't make much sense, that.

Neverwinter Nights 2 is a mediocre RPG, in my opinion. I think its biggest merit is giving the series better looking graphics and slightly better rules. Otherwise it is not much of an improvement from the original game. I do not feel like playing the 40+ hours campaign again anytime soon. I will, however, import my character into the expansion, Mask of the Betrayer, and continue my adventure there.

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