Whew, I finally finished up Neverwinter Nights 2, a game I've been playing off and on for a couple weeks now. While I don't have time to write a full review of the game, I thought I'd offer some quick points for anyone else thinking of taking this one on.
I was a big fan of the original NWN and played through most of the expansions. Even though I didn't think that series was perfect either, it did have decent gameplay. The only serious limitation was the so-so plot and bland characters; if you couldn't get into the roll-play aspects of it, it wasn't a good game. On the plus side, it had great graphics and lots of options to customize your character, including the "feat" system which I like a lot.
The second game has a slightly better story, but it's plagued by laughable cliches. The characters vary widely. On the one hand, a tiefling rogue and dwarf warrior are lots of fun, and I liked having them around. I also liked Sand, though I didn't keep him in the party since I played a wizard myself (you're severely limited here; mostly to 3, but later to 4 party members). The interactions between the characters are fun, too, and there must be an ungodly amount of voice acting here to account for all the different party combinations. There's certainly enough variation to keep things from getting stale. On the downside, some of the characters (especially the cleric) is so annoying that it's painful to have her in the party..."KNOW that I KNOW that what is KNOWN is what you must KNOW...." I kid you not. Every other word is "KNOW." Almost every scene with the cleric is laughable at best. I also thought that Shandra Jello (or whatever her name is) was pretty dumb, but I hated her enough to realize she was adding some interest to the plot. Still, when she finally died, I was like "Yay."
The story is as cheesy as we might expect--defeat the evil "KING OF SHADOWS..." (ominous drum roll with thunder sound effects). Yawn. I mean, they couldn't come up with anything more original than "King of Shadows?" Whatever happened to great names for villains, like Mondain? Tyranthraxus?
The camera controls consistently irritated me throughout, though I did manage to get used to them eventually. There's little excuse for this in a recent game, of course. I think pretty much any game like this should be at least as smooth as World of Warcraft, which, if nothing else, is very easy to control (gameplay and camera wise). NWN2 spins like crazy, and even the cutscenes were poorly managed--I kid you not, several of these had such bad camera angles that the speaking characters were obscured by a bush or a wall, and I really don't think it was by design.
The craft system was shit. It amounts to having tons of junk in your inventory and worrying over reagents and such. Total waste of time. As far as I can see, there's little reason to have a craft system in a single player game, since there's no economy. It'd be different if you could make items and sell them for a big profit, but you generally have enough cash to buy great items anyway (or more likely find them). I tinkered with it a bit, but saw that it was more trouble than it was worth and just sold everything to buy better gear.
All in all, if you're thinking about picking this up, I'd say hold off unless you're really dying to get back into a NWN-like experience. It's not entirely disappointing, but it's relatively unpolished and rough around the edges. Furthermore, the difficulty is uneven, too. I had the game set at "hardcore rules," and found that I could blast through most battles, so you might want to set it higher. Oh, might as well mention that the AI is buggy as hell. The party is very difficult to control, and always seem to be just standing around as others get nailed. I don't know how many times I was in battle and thought, "Where's Khelgar??" then realized he hadn't moved away from the entrance of the dungeon. I could see no reason for that behavior other than bugs, so be warned--you will be frustrated.
I see little reason to wade through this game while there are better offerings, particularly Mass Effect. I think I'll tackle Knights of the Old Republic next, though, or perhaps try Spore. I still have Bioshock around here, but don't really care for those dark games too much.
So thats a fail then? :)
I've been interested in playing Jade Empire but meh... I dunno.
-- Stu --
I wouldn't call it a "fail," but not something I'd rush out and buy tomorrow if I were you.
I recall purchasing the first "Neverwinter Nights" at K-Mart for approximately $3!!! While it seemed a good game, I never played it to completion (I may get around to it someday, I dunno...).
Would you say the NWN2 engine is BETTER than the first? Much of the apparent appeal of the NWN games is the possibility of creating your own "campaign," so I am curious if the new engine is any more suitable for such purposes? From your review, it almost sounds like a step DOWN from the previous version. I hate bad camera systems; they ruin otherwise great games ("Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" comes to mind, a GREAT game that is ruined by poor camera work).
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