Well, 60 gameplay hours and two inches of facial hair later, I can emerge from my crypt to tell you that Neverwinter Nights is incredibly addicting. But, before I trip over my enthusiasm, here’s some preliminary information on the game. Neverwinter Nights is an ambitious role-playing game that utilizes the third edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. If that means nothing to you, that’s ok, because the game’s engine handles all the transparent dice-rolling required to determine attacks, saving throws, and the like. However, it is helpful to study the manual (it’s loaded with over 200 pages of information) and try to learn how a lot of the features work such that you can upgrade your character appropriately.From the outset, you’ll realize how customizable the game is if you try and create your own character from scratch. Luckily, for beginners, there are a handful of pre-made characters you can choose. If you create the character, you’ll have to choose his or her race, class, feats, alignment, voice, appearance, and distribute points to attributes. In Neverwinter Nights, you can select any of the following classes: Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, or Wizard. You can multiclass your character, selecting at most three of the classes listed, however, there are lots of rules for penalties and even some restrictions on which classes can be used together. Beginners should probably avoid multiclassing.Each class will get specific feats, which are special abilities, like using weapons in both hands, using specific weapons/armors, increased evasion techniques, summoning a familiar, etc. Your character’s alignment determines how he or she views good and evil. This will mostly affect how non-player characters (NPC’s) react to you through dialogue. There are six main abilities common to every adventurer: strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. You’ll a*ign points to these attributes when creating a character and every fifth time you level up.In addition to these abilities, there are also skills you can a*ign points to. These skills are for things like disabling traps, concentrating when casting a spell, healing, detecting enemies, identifying items, etc. Only a select few of these are important to any one class. Luckily, if all this confuses you, you can click a “Recommended” button that will automatically distribute points for you in a beneficial manner.Once you finally have a character created, you’re provided with a tutorial that takes the form of your final training at an academy that has recruited numerous adventurers to help stop a plague in Neverwinter. Things go wrong quickly and you’ll be asked to aid the city of Neverwinter, and that’s where the true adventure begins.The game is split up into four chapters, each of which brings you to a different city, and should take on average, about 60 hours overall to complete. The chapters are divided into areas of differing size, where you’ll be able to interact with hundreds of NPC’s and perform plenty of side quests in addition to your main objective. The nice thing is that you’re not forced to complete all side-quests, so you can focus on the main objective, if you want to move quickly through the game. You keep a nice journal of all your a*ignments and they’ll appropriately go under complete or incomplete sections of the journal. You can even sort the journal by priority, date, or name or even type your own notes in it. [Persuade]Is this game sounding robust yet?Although you travel solo in this game, you are able to take on one henchman. There are a handful of these characters, some of which you’ll have to hire, some of which will simply accompany you if you’re willing, depending on which chapter you’re playing. I played through as a wizard and was able to summon a familiar, as well as a creature, so I never really used a henchman until Chapters 3 and 4. The game a*umes you’ll use one, so you probably should. Plus, they’ll give you other side-quests you wouldn’t receive normally.As far as the quests go, a lot of it doesn’t feel too original. It basically boils down to this: find a certain number of items and bring them back to a specific person. There are some more creative story elements spread throughout the game, but overall, it shouldn’t be an amazingly unique concept to anyone. However, the gameplay itself is quite engaging.Playing as a wizard, I had about 50 spells to play with and about a dozen different creatures to summon for aid. So, my usual tactic was for my creatures to engage the enemy at close range and I would attack from long range with magical attacks and a crossbow.The interface for combat is exceptional here. The most important feature of the game is probably the quickbar that resides at the bottom of the screen. It contains twelve slots to put weapons, spells, or skills into. You can even hold down Shift or Ctrl to display twenty-four more slots. To add something to the quickbar, simply drag it from your inventory or spell book into a slot. Then you can just click the slot to enable that weapon or spell quickly. The slots are also mapped to the function keys (F1 – F12). [Persuade]Still reading this review or are you heading to purchase the game yet?The second most effective part of the interface is the ability to pause the action by pressing the spacebar. From here, you can rotate the camera all around to get a better view of enemies and target them more easily. As a wizard this was particularly effective, allowing me time to choose an appropriate spell without my creatures taking unnecessary damage.Combat is based on dice-rolling in the third edition rules which you don’t have to know. But, based on your roll, you can miss the enemy, hit it normally, or land a critical hit. Instead of just missing with an attack that appears to go right through the enemy, the enemy will actually dodge the attack – it’s a simple animation, but definitely makes the game seem more natural. Your character, as well, will do his or her own dodging maneuvers.The last major feature of the interface is the radial menu. When you right-click on an object, a menu will appear with all submenus encircling the menu. You can click the middle to return to the previous menu. The radial menu is useful for casting spells that don’t work well in the quickbar because it will only perform one of the several versions of the spell. You can also examine an enemy, pickpocket an NPC, use a skill, talk to an NPC, etc through the radial menu.OK, so not only is there a 60-hour single player campaign, but you can play through the single-player campaign cooperatively with friends or allow someone to be a Dungeon Master and lead a role-playing game like an actual table-top game would progress. The versatility of Neverwinter Night’s game engine also allows any additional modules (created by Bioware or other gamers) to be played both single or multiplayer.Since I mentioned additional modules, I’ll talk about the Aurora Toolset that is provided with the game. This is most definitely the most robust toolset I’ve ever worked with. It contains wizards (software wizards, not magical ones) that will automatically set up areas, blueprints for custom objects, and even scripts. Honestly, I played with the toolset for 20 minutes and had a fully functional module that I could walk around in. A few more times playing with it, I had two areas that you could travel between, a creature that would speak to you and attack you if you said the wrong thing, customized dialogue that would appear based on a character’s abilities, and objects to interact with. The toolset is amazing and anyone who enjoys creating custom content would greatly appreciate how detailed the toolset is. [Persuade]Do you even need any other reasons to get this game?Surprisingly, the weakest parts of the game are its technical aspects. I got a random lockup after using the quicksave option multiple times. The path-finding for the characters can be downright awful. I even unfortunately got a bug where I never got credit for finishing a quest that I clearly completed. The monotony of the quests can sometimes be a little disheartening too. During Chapter 3 I was starting to lose my drive to complete the game, but once Chapter 4 hit, I was sucked right back in.Besides those problems, I’ve had an incredibly enjoyable experience with Neverwinter Nights. I found it impossible to sit down and play the game for less than three hours at a time. The gameplay combined with the sheer size of some areas usually wound up taking that long just to complete. Not only that, but the inclusion of the Aurora Toolset has intrigued me to create my own modules, providing increased replayability. Also, the variety of character classes, feats, spells, henchman, and multiplayer component make this game highly desirable in the replay value column.As far as comparisons, this game is a lot like Planescape: Torment, but more focused on battle than doing mindless chores for others. I highly recommend this game to any role-playing game fan. [Persuade]This is a must-have for Dungeons & Dragons table-top role-playing fans.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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