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Neverwinter Nights Retrospective at Eurogamer

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Neverwinter Nights Retrospective at Eurogamer

Editorial - posted by Infinitron on Sun 9 December 2012, 13:52:50

Tags: BioWare; Neverwinter Nights

Over a decade after its release, Eurogamer's Paul Dean writes about his memories of Bioware's controversial game:

By the turn of the century, all us PC owners were accustomed to sliding 3D cards into our machines and come 2002 I don't think there was anyone among us who wasn't on their second or third card. BioWare wanted to exploit this technology as much as any of the ubiquitous first-person shooters that swarmed the market and so it put its popular Infinity Engine to bed. Lush as its rendered backgrounds were, there was no room now for 2D or isometric RPGs.​

In its place, the Aurora engine would provide a full 3D experience, allowing players to zoom, pan and glide their way around a new game world populated by polygons. Furthermore, Aurora would come with its own toolset, giving gamers the chance to create new environments, new dungeons and new adventures for one another, even letting us role-play together, one player taking the role of the Dungeon Master, guiding the other players and shaping the world about them. It was this, most of all, that would be our great step forward.​

But Neverwinter Nights stumbled. The game paid a terrible price for its technology. Once I was able to squeeze my way through all the hype and marketing and reach for a copy, I found myself with a game that was as bland as a baked potato. While BioWare had indeed given its new game a full 3D engine with all sorts of real-time lighting effects, it had forgotten to include that which had made its earlier titles so rich, engaging and endearing. It had forgotten to give it personality.​

He mentions the bland, prefabricated levels and the lack of party dynamic in the single player game as the main flaws, as well as the cumbersome interface which made playing multiplayer modules with a DM a plodding affair. On the plus side:

Neverwinter Nights had something of a small victory when it came to its accessibility compared to BioWare's previous RPGs. It introduced gamers to Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules, the Second Edition rules going the same way as the Infinity Engine. The Second Edition was always a curious thing to try to understand even outside of the context of a computer game, but the Third Edition system presented mechanics that were much more logical and consistent, not least because it was mostly about adding numbers to other numbers in the hope of achieving a bigger, better number.​

The game's real saving would come later with the release of two expansions, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark, and what was one of the earliest DLC collections, the Premium Modules. Among its offerings, the first expansion added much needed tile-sets, scripting tools and more playthings, while the second was widely praised for featuring a single-player campaign that was far more involving than the seemingly endless series of fetch quests that described the main game. Finally, Neverwinter Nights was worthwhile, just as long as you were willing to pay a little more.​

What isn't mentioned in the retrospective is the surprisingly little known fact that the disappointing Neverwinter Nights original campaign was a troubled project that suffered from severe cuts to its ambitious original design.

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