Neverwinter Nights 2

I'm True Neutral, I go both ways. - Order Of The Stick

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Neverwinter Nights 2 is not for everyone. If you just couldn't get enough of the bland combat, idiotic henchman and square rooms of the original, this is not the sequel you're looking for. If just hearing the phrase "Planescape Torment" within ten city blocks of an RPG is enough to lure you in, you're going to be disappointed. Neverwinter Nights 2 is very much its own game, laying a flawed foundation that nevertheless may be just stable enough to kick off another five years of mod support by the community.

Seriously, there is nothing Planescape Torment about this game, people are just so shocked to find a story worth following in a game that has the word "Neverwinter" in the title, they can't think straight.

Time Played: 25 hours
Time to Finish: Lots More To Do
Last D&D Game Fully Enjoyed: Baldur's Gate 2
Annoying Gnome Bards: One
Jaunty Caps: Many

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If the 13 page thread in the forums is any indication, most people who have been salivating for the next D&D RPG injection have already run out and bought Neverwinter Nights 2. Good for you! There is an excellent RPG in here, if you can get past a few performance issues. Once you get it running at an acceptable level (see below for hot tips), prepare to play a boring, bland two hours before you start to see the potential the game has to offer. Consider the technical issues and brown swamplands a trial of commitment, a test cooked up by Obsidian to make sure you REALLY want a new D&D 3.5 game. There is no half-way here, you're either in or you're out $50, because you won't be returning a PC game anytime soon.

Obsidian took the limp single-player experience Bioware offered with the original and completely turned it around, starting by giving you actual party members to control, level-up and journey through the story with. Die-hards have complained that they preferred the solo-style of the original, but they're in the minority. You can't have the excellent story, which is mainly entertaining because of the interplay and personal stories of your NPC party members, and have the solo stuff too. You have to pick one, and Obsidian listened to the fans and made the right choice, taking games like Knights of the Old Republic and Baldur's Gate 2 as inspiration for the new approach.

It's too bad they also seem to have drawn inspiration from Everquest 2 for art direction, as most humanoids look like they came off the conveyor at a Barbie factory. There are some exceptions, but for the most part we've seen much better D&D art direction elsewhere. Graphics aside, they totally nailed the drunken Dwarf, uppity sorceress, spunky rogue and annoying Gnome. Not only did they manage to make these predictable characters likable, they actually gave them good back stories and capable voice acting. Not one voice has made me wish physical violence on the voice actor responsible, aside from a few single lines from low-rent guards.

Complaints have been made about the stupidity of the A.I, which holds true for about 98 percent of all games ever made, including pinball. It could be that we expect quantum leaps where incremental change is more likely, but that's not as much fun as slamming every game we encounter for not having perfectly realistic human behavior. In Neverwinter Nights 2's case, I actually find the friendly A.I to do a decent job of taking care of themselves in combat. There are the occasional "what were you thinking?!" moments when your sorceress buffs herself while surrounded by angry Orcs, but not too often. Besides that, you can switch your whole party to "puppet mode" which makes sure they don't do anything without being told. Kind of like Elysium, only smarter.

I prefer to let my allies go wild with items and abilities, just making sure my caster only does what she's told rather than throwing fireballs into scrums, frying allies and enemies alike. The pause key is your friend here, assuming you're not playing on normal (read: sissy) difficulty. In normal, area of effect spells don't hurt allies, rendering the casters much too effective to provide any challenge in the encounters.

Obsidian attempted to include different camera angles to spice up the interface, hoping that a more keyboard-centric direct control system may give the player a feeling of being closer to the action. This was a bad idea. If you're not going to allow the player the ability to strafe or do any of the other useful things direct control should bring, don't bother. As it stands, your best bet is to stick with the usual overhead camera that simply follows whoever is selected by the player. You can press the middle mouse button and slide the camera right down to ground level, facing forward or way up over top without much difficulty. There's plenty of control here, just stick with the ground clicks for moving around, be a movie director! Frame those battles with the perfect camera angles while the A.I does the heavy sword swinging and potion guzzling for you. That may sound too much like Dungeon Siege, but it's a matter of taste and Neverwinter Nights 2 allows for any play style you prefer.

If I seem light on gameplay descriptions, it's because you've already played this game before. It's Baldur's Gate in 3D, it's Knights of the Old Republic, it's Planescape Tor "… ah ha ha. Sorry, couldn't help myself. I just love watching your eyes light up with false hope.

Should you buy Neverwinter Nights 2? Yes, just wait about a month until things settle down and the game is patched up a bit more, it's perfectly playable for me but it doesn't hurt to be careful. The single player is actually enjoyable so you don't need to wait for user-made adventures this time, but they're a nice bonus. Obsidian's mandate was to take one of the most successful community-supported games ever made, listen to what fans wanted and package it all up a new engine. It may be a little incomplete yet, but they've laid the foundation for a game that could last five years if Atari doesn't completely screw it up.

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Hot Performance Tips!

With a 7800GTX, 2 gigs of RAM and AMD 64 3500+ processor I expected better performance, given the relative graphical quality of the game. Here are a few things you can do to get some frames back, without sacrificing too much quality. There is a great post on the official message board on how to tweak your settings, but here are the main ones to focus on.

- Force V-Sync off in your video card control panel.
- Lower the shadow detail or turn it off completely, it really depends on your system performance. I can get away with medium outside of Neverwinter city.
- Uncheck water reflections for sure, water refraction helps a little too.
- Uncheck "Point Light Shadows" for sure. It doesn't do much for the look of the game, and make a decent difference to performance.
- Make sure Xfire is not running, some users have had issues with the program while playing.
- If you open the nwn.ini file in your My Documents\Neverwinter Nights 2 folder, you should see something like "NormalMappedTerrain=1" Set it to 0 and save the file. It wouldn't hurt to backup the file before making changes.
- Drop your max draw distance to about half, you won't notice much difference and it helps.

There you go! Also make sure you have your latest video card drivers and hug your computer every night. With these changes I rarely have lower than 30 FPS at 1680 X 1050, with high detail.

- Shawn "Certis" Andrich

Comments

A co-worker of mine is absolutely hooked on NWN 2. I'm sure I will be too, but at this point there's just so much going on I can't really immerse myself in an RPG without feeling I could better spend the time chainsawing locusts...

I just got this, and while it looks like fun on a stick, I can't get over the temptation to upgrade my PC. Damn you, NWN2, for making me spend even more money!

It's definitely fun. Great review!

Certis wrote:

Kind of like Elysium, only smarter.

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Uhm, For me, NWN2 is the closer succesor to baldurs gate 2 (man, how much i talked about that game)
I think i'm the only one but i really did't like NWN1, is was like a old school 3d-person FPS or close, too much solo, and too many elements with little use, now NWN2 trully remins me of games like BG2, like some small details (exameple, AT least when you open a chest you get someting good, or things like you really need to pause the game and think tactically, or things like, all the traps, mobs, quests are done in such a way that you really need all the abilities of your companions), the only game i have seen that is in BG2, i don't know why people say some "oposed" things but this is really a good game, especially the main campaing, i really like it, i played so many rpgs sience BG2, PC and consoles, an this story really remins me of BG1 for example. (i'm not a fan of user-made adventures)
What can i say, its my play-style i think ^^, and i enjoy every aspect exept performance.
I just wanted to leave the comment about the BG, or planescape comparison.

Demiurge wrote:

I just got this, and while it looks like fun on a stick, I can't get over the temptation to upgrade my PC. Damn you, NWN2, for making me spend even more money!

A computer upgrade is the perfect chaser to a brand new Xbox 360

tekert wrote:

I think i'm the only one but i really did't like NWN1.

I think you're practically in the majority as far as the single player campaign, actually. I know I found it to be, as the French say, "merde".

Certis wrote:

$50 bucks

50 dollar bucks? That doesn't make sense..

Good perspective, though. I see the game as a great step forward in the Faerun universe, but there's still something I feel lacking. Granted, the performance problems this game is giving me is not helping that.

As soon as the God of Patches comes out I will savor the moment I start cranking the options up to where I want them to be. Water reflections?! Oh sweet Jesus I have missed you.

Certis wrote:
Demiurge wrote:

I just got this, and while it looks like fun on a stick, I can't get over the temptation to upgrade my PC. Damn you, NWN2, for making me spend even more money!

A computer upgrade is the perfect chaser to a brand new Xbox 360 ;)

You guys will be the death of my wallet.

50 dollar bucks? That doesn't make sense..

You don't make sense!

I blame my editor.

Certis wrote:
50 dollar bucks? That doesn't make sense..

You don't make sense!

I blame my editor.

Yes, I know I don't make sense. I am filled with far too much turkey and cranberry dressing to make any sort of logical point.

I'm surprised I can still type.

Your're right AI is always had-turkey-stuffed-with-beans-yesterday diaper stinky in computer games and certainly in RPG's, but it's still frustrating. When 2 groups of enemies are close enough to each other, your morons will just run to the next group even before the first group is exterminated dejanzie style. Annoying! But in puppet mode they'll just stand by while one of your party gets slaughtered. Double annoying! I'd like a mode in between puppet and "AI", where they just chuck potions and cast defensive spells, and defend when the party's attacked without running to the other side of the world.

Is that so much to ask? Huh? HUH?

I agree with the perspective. Nothing will ever beat my all god holy first time experience with BG1, but this does comes close. But I don't like all that talk about planes and stuff, but that's more my personal problem.

Finally finished the game, so if you want to hear my thoughts on what passed for an ending, look here. Another NWN game, another crappy official campaign. Another Obsidian game, another ridiculously bad ending. Patchs can't fix a poor single player campaign and unless they port BG2 over as an add-on module, this game's coming off my harddrive for good. What a waste.

Rat Boy wrote:

Finally finished the game, so if you want to hear my thoughts on what passed for an ending, look here. Another NWN game, another crappy official campaign. Another Obsidian game, another ridiculously bad ending. Patchs can't fix a poor single player campaign and unless they port BG2 over as an add-on module, this game's coming off my harddrive for good. What a waste.

Nice to have something to look forward to. I can't say ending worries me too much, so long as the journey is good. After playing all night, I can safely say I'm still having an excellent time with the story and the characters. Not quite on par with BG2, but close.

No spoilers!

Hm, bad views on the ending of the game? I've been having a lot of fun with it so far, and the lengths they went to make it unlike the original NWN campaign have shown through so far. Yeah, it reminds me a little too much of KOTOR.. but is that really a bad thing?

Knowing Rat Boy for years now, I know our tastes tend to diverge a bit when it comes to RPG's and stories, I'm not too worried about it.

Besides, I enjoyed Jedi Knight II despite the weak-sauce "hand shake" ending, I don't mind the game jumping off a cliff so long as I enjoyed running there.

Without getting too far into it, the ending reminded me of the finale of Quantum Leap. Yeah, it's that big of a kick in the nuts for all the work you put into it.

I have really enjoyed it so far and like Certis I am ok with a weak ending as long as the game was fun getting me there. I have been hooked on the game so far and it is making a slow period of cruise and the interminable wait to get home that much better. Of course I have a sick addiction to Madden 07 for the 360 so the occasional swift kick in the nuts from a game seems to sit well with me.

I haven't finished it yet, I agree with the review. It's great fun and I have a hard time stopping because I get that "whats next?" feeling.

Biggest problem is the performance, which seems to be (my guess) highly dependent on the graphics card. I have a vanilla non-GT Geforce 6800 with 128 MB memory on a Core2Duo 6300 with 1 GB RAM and depending on the locale frame rates can hit about 10 FPS or lower (But mostly its better than that). I'm running at 1280x1024, medium textures, no shadows.

The interface needs some work. I'd love a single button to turn AI on and off for all characters (like in BG2). But can (and hopefully will) be fixed.

There's still some unfixed gamestopping bugs, i.e. if you play on Hardcore D&D rules at some point an enemy can kill a gamescript-important ally of his with an area-effect spell and you can't proceed because the script can't play any more.

Is there a specific reason why my Drow Rogue can wear, say, bard-only equipment? Is this a bug? Am I too lazy to search the NWN2 forums on this issue? YES.

Demiurge wrote:

Is there a specific reason why my Drow Rogue can wear, say, bard-only equipment? Is this a bug? Am I too lazy to search the NWN2 forums on this issue? YES.

Probably. Did you put ranks in the Use Magical Devices skill?

Oh, and pelhikano - try following the suggestions from obsidian, and make sure you've forced vsync off (something you can't actually do from the default NWN2 profile in the Nvidia drivers - they specified the wrong executable). I have a vanilla 6800 and a slower processor, and I get ~30-40 fps after taking their suggestions and turning of vsync.

[quote=ChrisGwinn]

Demiurge wrote:

Oh, and pelhikano - try following the suggestions from obsidian, and make sure you've forced vsync off (something you can't actually do from the default NWN2 profile in the Nvidia drivers - they specified the wrong executable). I have a vanilla 6800 and a slower processor, and I get ~30-40 fps after taking their suggestions and turning of vsync.

I already turned off vsync. The problem with the framerates is that they are so inconistent. I get smooth FPS in most outside places, but for example in the Temple of Tyr (a quite small indoor area) it really choppy. I think they need to work on their engine some more, I can't believe that what little you see in those areas could possibly take so much power to display.

See, if I've checked up on this review, I would've known early what this game really is, rather than assuming that this is the same solo RPG as NWN1. All the hours spent replaying Icewind Dale 2 could've been put in this. This line, "It's Baldur's Gate in 3D," was all I needed to hear before rushing down to the nearest EB.

Thirteenth wrote:

See, if I've checked up on this review, I would've known early what this game really is, rather than assuming that this is the same solo RPG as NWN1. All the hours spent replaying Icewind Dale 2 could've been put in this. This line, "It's Baldur's Gate in 3D," was all I needed to hear before rushing down to the nearest EB.

Comparing it Baldur's Gate is a stretch. After playing through it a second time, I realized that it has two critical flaws; bad controls and bad party member AI, both of which ruined the experience for me. Also doesn't help that after grinding through a frustratingly dull and long campaign, the end movie is nothing more than a concept art slide show narrated by Bob from Atari's accounting department. I'd say this was one of the weaker D&D efforts on the PC, not the strongest.

Comparing it Baldur's Gate is a stretch. After playing through it a second time, I realized that it has two critical flaws; bad controls and bad party member AI, both of which ruined the experience for me.

You played through it twice, AND it ruined the experience? Talk about a glutton for punishment!

Certis wrote:
Comparing it Baldur's Gate is a stretch. After playing through it a second time, I realized that it has two critical flaws; bad controls and bad party member AI, both of which ruined the experience for me.

You played through it twice, AND it ruined the experience? Talk about a glutton for punishment!

I was hoping the patches fixed some of the issues I had. They did not. I wonder if they'll make us pay for the fixes by buying Mask of the Betrayer.

Rat Boy wrote:

Comparing it Baldur's Gate is a stretch. After playing through it a second time, I realized that it has two critical flaws; bad controls and bad party member AI, both of which ruined the experience for me.

I have to agree with this completely. Though i never completed it...

I found the "radial" menu system in the original to be really useful.... NWN2 messed up their control scheme in so many ways. Not to mention that the bad AI is made worse by the bad controls which make it more difficult to control exactly what's going on for each member.

Arise thread!

I heard that there were some large patched to this recently? Did any of you that play it notice any improvements? I really enjoyed the first one but the second has been on my "maybe" list for quite a while.

NWN2 has been working for quite some time (finally). 1.10 was released a few days ago, it adds a lot afaik, mostly for the mod creators I assume, but its also meant to accompany the release of the expansion. Just got expansion installed (hooray for early Europe releases for once), and they already had to release a hotfix for the game, Obsidian kinda sucks at having working games from release day (same for Nwn2 as mentioned, and Kotor2)