Neverwinter Nights 2

In a fit of boredom and as the result of another person's generous offer, I had occasion to play Neverwinter Nights 2. What follows is my experience with the game, a rather late review of a rather old game if you will indulge me after the jump. Do be warned, since this game is relatively old, I will not be holding back on spoilers!

Neverwinter Nights 2, as might be expected, takes place in the Neverwinter region of Faerun, the Dungeons & Dragons staple for the Forgotten Realms. You can expect all of the usual D&D mainstays to make return appearances. The extensive character creation, the usual list of spells, skills, and feats, and of course, a great deal of hack n slash combat.

The game starts you off in the small swamp village of West Harbor. It's generally implied to be a farming and fishing village deep inside a dangerous swamp called the Mere. The opening village sequence is meant to get you familiar with the game's interface and how to get around and engage in simple spell-casting and combat. Right away, one is going to notice that the atrocious interface that ruined the experience for the original Neverwinter Nights is back again for another run. Only somehow, some way, Obsidian found it within themselves to screw it up even worse than before.

There is no first person view at all, which is a serious let down even in a game from 2006. The closest equivalent is a badly implemented 3rd person over the shoulder view. Unfortunately because the camera controls completely suck, you won't get much enjoyment out of the nice graphics. Plan on spending most of your game in exploration mode with the action facing directly down from overhead. Bleh. Strategy mode sucks balls no matter how you go about it, suffering from a horrible lack of zoom capabilities.

The terrible camera and interface controls will haunt you through the remainder of the game, once more ruining any potential for greatness this game may have had - and it had plenty.

Your tutorial period will end quickly, leading into the first of several waves of tedious battles as your village falls under attack by unknown forces. Well, not so unknown if you have played other D&D games before. Githyanki and Duergar are hardly new, but they sure did throw a lot at you right away. During this battle, one of your friends from the village is killed in an act of complete moronic stupidity with no chance to undo the act. Yes, the game is filled with other such scripted events as time goes by. Despite the fact that D&D games feature resurrection, you are simply told to accept she's dead and that's that.

Once you've managed to stop the enemy from reducing your home to flaming rubble, you are told to go get a shard form a nearby ruin. After retrieving this shard, your real mission in life begins as you go on quest after quest after quest after... yeah... it does get slightly tedious as time goes by, shard-bearer. Your cold-hearted step father basically kicks you out of the village and heavily implies you are never to return. Thanks dad.

You'll get to meet several companions in your travels, but only a scant few of them are worth a shit. The rest are nothing but poorly done cannon fodder.

Khelgar, a dwarf of the Ironfist clan, is one of those who is well worth it. You meet him at the first stop after leaving your village. A strong fighter, and full of great lines, he's actually on a quest to become a monk. The nice thing is, he's not just perpetually on this quest, you actually will get to see his personal journey come to fruition as your trip through the main story progresses. Just don't get too many ideas about becoming an evil bastard, Khelgar's influence will plummet if you commit too many evil/unlawful acts. Not a good idea to have him turn on you.

Neeshka, your token teifling, turns out to be a rather good thief and well worth the trouble of keeping around. You get to help her out with a rivalry against one of her old pals in Neverwinter, and she's generally just cool to have around. Even if all you end up using her for is the inevitable trap disarming and lock picking. Life will suck for you if you don't bring her along.

Qara is a high strung sorceress who has been kicked out of the Academy. Although she has no real substantive plot of her own, she more than makes up for that by being totally bad ass in the magic department.

Sadly, the rest of the characters lack any real depth or feeling and are of almost no value in actual combat. So despite the fact that your list of companions can get rather extensive, it just isn't worth it to bother. Unless you're trying for the romance option. Yes, Bioware did do one for you, but unless you males like putting the moves on Elven druidesses, don't waste your time. Elenee is apparently the only available choice. Since I usually like to pursue these things, I was pretty pissed off by the time I found out she was it and it was too late to do anything about it.

Which brings us to the REASON I didn't pursue it sooner. Along the way, you meet up with an NPC named Shandra Jerro. Now, for you diehards, perhaps you saw this coming. I did not. She seemed like the most logical choice once she came on board. She even occupied a free party slot which effectively gave you a 5th party member. So I did everything in my power to see to it she survived, and got influence boosts in any possible situation they would come up. I was absolutely sure that I was well on the way to fulfilling it, when BLAM. The plot rips her from the party, kills her, and then has the gall to replace her with her evil uncle or grandfather or whoever - no, the game was actually not even sure what his relation was. To say that this pissed me off would be an understatement.

Oh, and to whoever also decided you can't pursue something with Neeshka, it was glaringly obvious she should have been an option too, but wasn't. Seriously, a god damned elf druid? Get real.

This of course brings us to plot elements. There were good, and there were bad.

The good, partway through your campaign in Neverwinter you'll be accused of massacring a village that resides along the border with Luskan. Rather than simply going through the motions and having the game dictate a bunch of boring dialogue, you actually get taken to trial and can conduct your own defense. I'm not sure how scripted all this was, but you apparently were able to influence the direction of things via skills such as diplomacy and intimidation. Of course, it wasn't just any trial, you get made a squire in order to avoid being taken to Luskan and given the crappy version where you're guilty and beheaded without a chance to defend yourself. So there was sneaky political gaming going on the whole time on both sides. Again, not sure how scripted this all was, but I was found not-guilty (good, I didn't do it anyway) and then the Luskan ambassador challenged the ruling with a dual to the death. Oh joy.

More good, you get to build a castle! Well, not you yourself, but you get to direct the construction of one through dialogue options. After seizing the place from one of the main bad guys, Lord Nasher tells you to go get the place built up to use as a war fortress. I don't care how you slice it, such things are always cool and in this case you really do get to see the fruits of your labors. In so far as you can see it while looking down on it from the sky. Damn you interface. If you think you won't have enough money to build the place up, you're mistaken. I burned through very nearly 1 million gold and still had 300,000 in the coffers when I was done, and it was basically an impenetrable fortress. At least until that backstabbing worthless ranger sabotaged my gate!

Now for some bad. Seriously folks, spending the entire Act 1 on getting into a sealed district to the city? All because I chose to play it straight and be a city watchman? So wait, do they quarantine entire districts of cities when people get killed these days or am I missing something? The whole idea of there's this gate, you can't open it, yet an entire district of the city is back there still able to eat and drink as though nothing is wrong is absurd on its face. What's even more absurd is that not only do you have to clean up the docks, root out all the corrupt guards, and generally impress the captain lady, but THEN you get to go defeat a marauding band of orcs and rescue a wayward emissary before they'll let you in - and then you have to be escorted?!?!? Fuck this shit, gimmie the grappling hook. I'm going over the wall.

The previously mentioned bits about Shandra Jerro. You spend your entire quest up until her death pursuing entry into Ammon Jerro's Haven. When you finally get in there, you have to deal with a bunch of demons and devils. Yeah, the whole thing was rather forced and the entire war on the lower planes thing is getting old to hear about all the time. You finally get to confront the bastard warlock who has killed tons of people, razed a fort and a village, and also by this time burned your own village to the ground and killed everyone in it. You DEFEAT the bastard warlock in combat, and then you get told - in a rather forced way - that you now have to work with the asshole? Bullshit. You can take your ritual and shove it up your ass. Let Neverwinter burn, I want revenge for torching my home.

Last but not least is the ending itself. The boss dungeon containing the evil guy you've REALLY been after all this time was nothing but one tediously long encounter after another with elite level undeads, shadows of all shapes and sizes, more undead in the form of skeletons and shit, MORE shadows, another ginormous group of elite vampires, and then a ridiculous battle with three shadow reavers. Yeah, those duded that look like Ghost Rider. The ones you have to use those stupid ritual scrolls on to actually kill, despite the fact that it's not terribly hard to wound them to "near death" at which point they become like the unkillable iron golems from Arena.

All of which leads up to the final encounter with the elusive King of Shadows. Basically a giant version of a blade golem, with shadowy special effects. So here I am, standing there, after what was the longest most boring and dreadful monologue by an evil boss I've ever had the displeasure of enduring. The battle finally begins (Sand, you asshole, good thing you died quick) and it's like, ok, now what? What the hell am I supposed to do? Nobody has told me jack shit. Cast spells on the guy? Er, nope, can't reach him. Have Neeshka shoot arrows? Nope, can't target the guy. Yet *HE* seems to have no trouble whatsoever with summoning shit in my face and firing spells of his own from behind some barrier that wasn't there when we walked in. Yeah, anyway, so I killed all his summons easily enough. Then noticed Neeshka had taken to shooting... something.... wait... how lame. You have to actually attack the barrier?

So ok, barrier broken, lets get the bastard. So we attack again. Doesn't really seem to be helping. I don't know how long I spent trying, but once more the guy was down to "near death" and then suddenly becomes invincible. As I'm scratching my head and TRYING to scroll around (fuck you interface) to see what I might need to do, I catch a glimpse of text over Ammon Jerro's head saying I need to attack the statues. Like, wait, the ones you SPENT THE ENTIRE GAME SAYING I NEEDED? Now you want me to attack and destroy them? Tell me again why we bothered with all that bullshit at the Iilfarn ruins? For no reason you say? Ok, just wanted to be sure.

So anyway, I finally destroy the statues and the guy still won't die. To quote an Oblivion taunt: "Why won't you DIE!?". Cue Jerro's obscure white text on white background masked by white spell effects. Seriously guys, why all the white? I have to attack the portal now because I'm carrying the only weapon capable of damaging it? So wait, why didn't I just do that before? Scripted bullshit event you say? Gotcha. At least it didn't become Icewind Dale.

So yeah, yay! The evil dude is dead. Cue up the... what? Still shots? Badly drawn still shots? Wait a fucking minute, did that guy just say we DIED because the ruin collapsed on our heads? So... uh... that's it? Sorry but you're all dead and all you worked for was for naught? UGH. So tell me then. Why didn't we just blow up the damn ruin ourselves and avoid all this crap? Bring it down on the shadow guy's portal and crush it into pieces? Too logical? Right.

If you've read all this up to now, congratulations. You have a lot of patience. I'm sure there must be a skill you can advance with that.

Speaking of which, anyone notice how you can rack up all kinds of diplomacy, intimidation, bluff, and whatever skill points and still fail the checks ALMOST EVERY FUCKING TIME? Really, next time you're going to pull that please just tell me they're useless so I can spend my points on stuff that actually isn't. Assuming any of the skills were worth a thing, cause they sure didn't seem to make any real difference to me.

From what I've seen of screenshots, the graphics in the game should have been really cool to look at. Too bad that was impossible if you actually wanted to play. Since I was forced by the shitty camera to spend my game looking down on the ground, all I ever got to see were roofs and the streets, which didn't impress me in the slightest.

Also, this is 2011 and I'm using 2010 hardware to play a 2006 game. I thought that meant I was supposed to have nothing but buttery smoothness and 60fps without fail? Well, it failed, and badly so. Game performance in several areas was so bad it was like waiting for a slideshow to advance. In other areas, it was only passable enough to cause me immense eye strain and in one particularly bad place, I nearly puked from the motion sickness it generated. Bioware, can we please find a new engine that's playable? Surely a company with your resources could have done better.

There was also something borked with the sound because I'm led to believe that spells made noise and characters grunted in combat and that your weapons apparently clanged as they hit the enemy. I got none of that, and Googling turned up nothing - not even a possibility of it being a Windows 7 issue that I might have been able to solve. So either it's broken and nobody noticed, or I got hosed. The plus side to it though was that the remaining sound was quiet enough to allow me to play late at night and not bother anyone.

Dwip tweeted something about having merchants in the merchant quarter of a city. Let me second, third, and fourth that if I may. Seriously people, my keep had more merchants once I went and took Deekin out of the city.

There's also an annoyingly large number of inaccessible buildings in your city that's barely big enough to be a town. If you can't be bothered to put a working door on every single house you put in the game, then please, just don't bother. I want working locations, not worthless clutter. Whole sections of the city weren't even worth exploring because of it.

And enough with the ridiculously overpowered dragons ok? Your one encounter with a red dragon is plot-forced so you HAVE to kill it. This is impossible without using the console. If you had no access to the developer console, the game would have ended abruptly with that fight because that dragon couldn't be harmed, or so it seemed. I couldn't actually say for sure because I turned on god mode and left the room while my only surviving party member (me) stood there and slowly killed it with his axe.

The two black dragons, also plot-forced, were just as bad. Right out of the gate, one acid breath and 3 people are down and dying. And that was after I resigned myself to staying on the easy level setting after so many other battles turned into huge long drawn out affairs that repeatedly resulted in more dying party members than they should have. God mode saved my bacon several times, and I should not have had to use it at all. Make your foes actually killable would you?

There was also apparently a crafting system that lots of people drooled over. Unfortunately because the skill system was complete shit, I never managed to be able to take advantage of it. Then again, the fact that there were no molds sold anywhere, ever, certainly couldn't have helped this. If the initial supply of them you're given at Fort Locke was all you ever got, then that's just plain stupid and lame. I sold those things for cash after it became clear I couldn't do shit with them.

Last, but surely not least of the problems, game breaking bugs. After spending 3 years patching and making me endure over 4 hours downloading them all, you'd think the game would have no bugs, or at least no plot stoppers. Yet, it did. In the desert area outside Ammon Jerro's retreat, there are these braziers. You need to activate them using fire elemental hearts or some shit. Well that's great, except that one of the required elementals never spawns. No elemental = no heart = can't activate brazier = can't complete guardian quest = plot stalls due to being unable to enter Jerro's retreat. Not funny. Were it not for the toolset (which is its own wondrous piece of shit) the game would have ground to a halt there, unable to finish.

So what should you come away from this huge rant with? Don't waste your time on this game. Yeah yeah, I know, I'm about 5 years too late. Let me just say that had I paid for this pile of crap, it would have gone back to the store and I'd have rage demanded a refund over it. Yes, it's THAT bad. Sucks to see what could have been great turn to such utter crap all because it uses an interface fit for a 1980s game.
.........................
"It is pointless to resist, my son." -- Darth Vader
"Resistance is futile." -- The Borg
"Mother's coming for me in the dragon ships. I don't like these itchy clothes, but I have to wear them or it frightens the fish." -- Thurindil

Well. I guess that's that then.

       
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Posted on Feb 24, 2011 7:41 pm by Samson in: | 18 comment(s) [Closed]
Comments
Wow, Samson, that was an incredibly long post to essentially say that your experience with the game completely and totally sucked with a very few small exceptions.

       
One foul ending to a greatly flawed game that could of been so good. I too, had to resort to the console to complete this game. That ending had me in a foul funk for days after. Reminded me of the old dos game Anvil of Dawn. I got to the end Boss battle and kept winning but somehow I lost. I beat the Boss but it kept saying the world was lost. Inadvertently, I stumbled into a pit while fighting the Boss and Presto Chango I had sacrificed myself and the world was safe again. I woke up my roommate with my howls of rage. So much for the relaxing balm of playing games.

       
For the record, I'm doing my own review of the game by tweeting it, and more on that later.

For those of you who enjoy comparing and contrasting, Twenty-Sided on: the egregious Blacklake plot door, the horrific, soul crushing ending, and some other flaws.

I totally tried to get in with Shandra Jerro the first time through too. I despise Elanee. Not as much as I despise Grobnar, but a lot. Apparently Casavir is the male romance, which is just as bad.

You've got to admit, Crossroads Keep was pretty damned cool.

MOTB makes the engine work better, but it's still bad, no matter how you look at it. It's just less bad the one way.

Apparently if you dick around with the sound options, you get one that works and a bunch that should work but actually don't. Don't ask me why.

There's actually a lot of crafting stuff for sale places if you look. Fort Locke has a dude that sells some stuff, and one of the two whole merchants in the Merchant's Quarter in Neverwinter has a ton. It's possible to use the crafting system if you care to, and as these things go, it isn't bad.

       
From the soul-crushing-ending rant at 20-sided, in a user comment:
The most powerful classes in D&D are Druids, Clerics, then Wizards or Sorcerers, in that order.

Please tell me this user was on crack and refused to share? How the hell could such a thing even be possible given that it was ALWAYS the cleric, druid, or sorcerer lying on the ground dead in the opening moments of a battle?

Total agreement with his rant on the plot door thing. Good to know I'm not the only person who thinks that was a travesty.

OH yes, he covered the autosave issues. I totally forgot to even mention that. The whole system was a damn joke. Terrible execution, utterly unreliable. I nearly threw the keyboard through the window FOUR TIMES when the game randomly screwed me on some insane battle only to find out it last decided to do an autosave several zones back. I therefore got into the habit of saving as we entered every last zone and at several points within, because you could spend hours poking around inside a zone only to get fucked in the ass. Iilfarn ruins, I'm talking to you here - goblins kicked my ass? Seriously?

I didn't get any of the crashing or random freezing he talks about, so the game did at least have stability going for it. For what little that's worth when you find yourself reloading after bugbears have mashed you into a pulp unexpectedly. Fuck, really? Bugbears killed me? Yep, they did.

       
Honestly I think it's the other way around. Sorcs/Wizards/Clerics/maybe Druids. Given a couple buff spells, played manually, Qara could probably solo most of the game.

Everyone hates that plot door.

I barely even notice the autosave, since I quicksave like a madman. F12 FTW.

       
I think you're both still on crack then. Spellcasters were always the first to get popped, leaving my barbarian to clean up the mess along with Khelgar. Got to where I was seriously going to solo with him through the rest of the game until they started forcing me to take the damn cleric and warlock along for no good reason.

       
I don't know about how they are in NWN2, but in the pen-n-paper D&D, it really depends on the level and what other skills/feats you focus on, and who/what you're fighting. In my experience, which encompasses all the way back to D&D in the original boxed sets before the original AD&D was released, clerics have always been the most heavily unbalanced but after that sorcerers/wizards can easily be your serious powerhouses. For some things, Monks can't be beat (especially at higher levels in earlier editions). For some things you seriously need a fighter (or at least a fighter sub-class). Bards can be pretty bad-ass if you deck them out right. Druids though? Sorry, I've always found druids only rock at the very top ranks and then only if you don't follow old-school rules where they no longer really have personal interaction with humanity like high level monks. If you happen to be fighting things that are totally nature related then druids can be handy... otherwise, I'll take a thief or bard to round out my party before the druid any day. If I can get one, high level psionicists are my preference over most other classes in general, but they can be hard on the out of character maintenance. :shrug:

       
3.5e druids certainly don't suck if you play them right, though they're hardly as good as the other spellcasting classes, IMHO.

I could tell you all sorts of stories on how ludicrous 2e psionicists were. Of course, this was also the same group with the dual-wielding minotaur, the anti-magic sword, the cleric with the vorpal harpoon, and a couple other things, so ludicrous kind of goes with the territory.

As far as spellcasters in NWN2 goes, the trick is to keep, let us say, Qara at the back, preferrably with stoneskin/shield on, and just keep dropping high damage AoE spells until you run out of enemies. Your fighter types and Neeshka can pretty much run themselves, but if you show your casters some love, they're pretty damned awesome.

Which goes for any given D&D game, I might add. F/M/Ts are pretty epic in BG2, and Kivan can say a thing or two about solo mages.

       
@Dwip: I think they fixed most of the problems with Psionicists in 3e but at a cost of some crazy accounting practices. :shrug:

@Samson: This, and the plenitude of patching that generally goes into games in the interim, is why I usually wait for the GOTY version of games. You usually get more for your buck out of it and the patches are already available by then. At least, in most cases...

       
Me being the guy who gave Arthmoor the game, I feel vindicated that I was not dreaming up the rather blaaaahhh experience I had with NWN2. I obtained the game as a free gimmick when purchasing a Gigabyte graphics card (GT8800?) once, so to pass it on was easy.

Were the 2 black dragons after the one red dragon? Cuz I remember I came to the 2 black dragons but this is where I ended the game as I found the battle unwinnable just like you did. I didn't even bother to switch to godmode but shelved the game right then. So I never saw the endgame, and by reading your review it looks like I missed nothing. :lol:

Apparently they straightened out some things with the later add-ons / expansions but I would never throw good money after a bad game... if the base game sucks, it's game over with me.

       
Tommy said:

Apparently they straightened out some things with the later add-ons / expansions but I would never throw good money after a bad game... if the base game sucks, it's game over with me.

Herein lies the crux of the problem. I can fully appreciate fixing things via patches and updates after release in order to meet release deadlines and such, but I would think most people will never get to enjoy fixes of they only come as includes with add-ons or expansions because who in their right mind goes out and spends money on expansion packs for a game that's frustrated them too much to play in the first place?

       
Hmm. Peeked in at the buzz on the Bioware site about DA2 and it doesn't look good. Whole bunch of people pissed about the game. Yeah, apparently some of them have finished it already and are seething over it being a shallow story with terrible graphics on the PC and being full of bugs.

There's repeating talk of some people who criticized the game on the Bioware/EA forum, got banned there, and then EA locked them out of the game too. Enough people are mentioning it that there's no reason to believe it's a false rumor. Especially when the forum mods are directing people to the "big thread" to discuss the "ban issue". I couldn't find said big thread though. Very disturbing. Also highly amusing that people are jumping down EA's throat but will happily put up with the same behavior from Valve when they ban Steam users.

There's also word that EA has slipped SecuROM protection (the nasty rootkit evil version) onto the retail CDs for PC. This is apparently a violation of the judgment issued against them in the Spore case where the judge ordered them to clearly label the product with it if they use it in the future. I've seen the boxes, they have not done this, so if SecuROM is there, they're pulling a Sony on people.

All of this is of course extremely unnerving and is definitely giving me pause on deciding if I want to buy the game at all.

       
Damn, one really has to wonder if the whole gaming industry has decided to make it just not worth buying new games anymore. :(

       
Well it's certainly making me wary of considering anything that comes out of EA. This is the same sort of ridiculous crap they pulled years ago when they bought out Origin and ruined the Ultima franchise. They clearly haven't learned.

I just wish the outcry over people getting banned from playing their EA games would get focused on Valve instead, who are far more evil and have banned far more people over far less. The Steam sycophants will have none of it though, which is just mind boggling.

       
"True colors come shining through" and all that? Just not in such a lovey-dovey sort of way... :shrug: ;)

I don't think Valve's gotten as much publicity over it. Not really sure why given but.. on the other hand, you were at the forums supporting this game so you probably shouldn't be surprised by the bulk of the complaints being regarding this game rather than Valve. Whereas, Valve seems to be willing to push the extreme toward enforcing damage control on their sites. Would it surprise you if you learned that they ban you from all your steam games of you complain about them banning people from Steam games? (Not saying that they do because I honestly don't know, but would the tactic surprise you at this point?)

       
Edited by Conner on Mar 13, 2011 3:59 pm
No, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out they block people from playing their games if they complain on the Steam forums about Steam. It further wouldn't surprise me if once they ban people they also purge the threads so it doesn't show up on casual inspection.

       
Let's face it, if they're not afraid of using draconian enforcement tactics which include banning you from their system in such a way that you're even locked out of games that you bought legitimately through other means long before you first even encountered Steam, why would deleting subversive threads that triggered a banning seem severe?

       
So like I promised, the Twitter review is done now, and blogged with extra commentary.

       
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