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NWN Gargaune's Greater Guide to Enjoying Neverwinter Nights 2

Discussion in 'Obsidian Entertainment' started by Gargaune, Mar 22, 2021.

  1. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    I've got a little time to kill and I figure it's worth having a general guide on how to best set up Neverwinter Nights 2 for play, at the very least because the Mask of the Betrayer expansion is a campaign which any cRPG enthusiast should experience. Obsidian's 2006 NWN2 is a game of lingering notoriety mostly due to a disappointing main campaign and a set of obstinate, bellicose controls, but just as there are other campaigns to redeem the original module, there are ways of minimising the pain of the game's interfaces.

    And before you “smash” that Reply button, no, the answer isn’t uninstall.exe. Unfortunately, uninstall.exe is incompatible with MotB, therefore suggesting it would out you as an Agent of Decline. That settled, below I'll be covering basic mods, configuring your controls and user interface, as well as an overview of some available campaigns.

    [​IMG]

    Mods

    Obviously, there's a plethora of different mods you can get for NWN2, but I'm just trying to cover some basics here. I've mostly linked to the Neverwinter Nights 2 Nexus in this piece, since the website has a more newbie-friendly presentation, but you'll have a wider selection available at the venerable Neverwinter Vault.

    For the uninitiated, most of these global-effect mods are quite easy to install, you just have to copy the respective files in the prescribed locations, check their installation notes. NWN2's Override folder, which is the typical destination for most of these items, also supports named subfolders, which makes them easy to track.

    Essential:

    - Tchos’ HD UI Panels: Resizes a variety of UI elements to fit widescreen resolutions, you absolutely want this. It also rescales portrait panels to the taller NWN1 standard, so you should also download the optional NWN1 Portrait Pack and NWN2 OC and MotB Pack. To change an in-game portrait for a character you control, open the Character sheet and double-click the 3D portrait frame.

    - NWN2 Facelift Pack by Xaltar: Head models are the part of NWN2 that aged the poorest, visually, and this mod makes a big, big difference for a wide variety of them. The only caveat is a minor bug that causes the left eye to slightly clip through the head mesh when holding a spear.

    - NWN2 Main Menu Music Replacer: Might sound trivial, but if you spend more than thirty seconds in character creation, you'll absolutely want to spare yourself the SoZ menu score. This is a plug-and-play replacement with a NWN1 menu theme.​

    Optional:

    - NWN2 Client Extension: Tread carefully here. The main argument for the NWN2 Client Extension is that it resolves a platform clock bug which causes animations to stutter the longer you go between power cycles. And it does that, but in my case it's introduced another, worse bug, that causes more severe game stuttering when the AI has challenging pathfinding to deal with. Personally, I'd sooner suggest you just reboot your PC every four or five days if you're actively playing NWN2.

    - Kaedrin’s PrC Pack: Adds a ton of new character progression material (base classes, prestige classes, spells etc.) from the extended 3.5E material. Probably not suited for those new to the game, and even some experienced players might deem it as overdoing it.

    - GFF Editor: BioWare's original NWN1 editing utility still works for NWN2's saves. You're unlikely to need it as, for all its minor bugs, NWN2's official content doesn't feature game-breaking issues, but can't hurt having it on hand if you play some more finicky user-made content or you just want a new haircut.

    - Portraits for Companions NWN2: A relatively new upload, if you intend to play the OC and don’t care for the portraits packaged in Tchos’, this is a nice alternative.

    - Companion and Monster AI by Tony_K: Supposed to improve both ally and enemy AI. I've never used it myself since I’m absolutely against using party AI and can't be bothered for the latter, but it’s often suggested. Be advised that it might have compatibility issues with various campaigns, at least it seems somewhat common for module authors to state whether or not it's compatible.

    - Spell Fixes and Improvements: "This package provides various spell, bard songs, and invocation fixes for NWN2, MotB and SoZ." Incompatible with Kaedrin's PrC Pack or any other mod with its own Dialogue.tlk. Suggested by Morii.​


    There are also some campaign-related mods you might possibly consider, but I'll get into those in the relevant section. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that unlike global overrides, module-level modifications go in their campaign folders and need to be applied before you start a campaign and cannot be jettisoned afterwards. It's just the way NWN saves work.


    Controls Configuration

    Okay, now if there's one section of this guide that you should absolutely try, it's this one. The point is to set up your camera and keybind settings comfortably, some options are obvious but a couple bear spelling out.

    - Options -> Exploration Mode: Enable Turn Camera on Mouse Hitting Edge of Screen, Take Control of Companion on Left Mouse Click (even though it’s bugged, more later), Left Click and Hold: Marquee Selection and Camera Focus: Directly on Controlled Character.

    - Options -> Strategy Mode: Enable Scroll Camera on Mouse Hitting Edge of Screen, Take Control of Companion on Left Mouse Click, Left Click and Hold: Marquee Selection and Camera Focus: Can be Moved Freely.

    In both modes, you’ll want The Mouse Cursor Will Highlight: Everything and you can play with the View options at your discretion.

    - Options -> Interface: Disable Automatically Run Actions on Current Target. It’s easy to forget a target selected and it causes far more hassle than it’s worth.

    - Options -> Keymapping -> Misc.: Make sure you set Toggle Group Selection to a comfortable input! In fact, I’d suggest a thumb mouse button if you have it available.

    While we’re at it, if you can also somehow fit Pause and Inspect onto your mouse, you’ll be able to play the game almost keyboard-free – still more erratic than TB, but practically just as lazy. For my part, I tried it, but I’m too used to Space and Tab by this point.

    - And finally, in-game, Character -> Behaviour -> Puppet Mode: On (All). You’ll have to do this whenever you gain a new companion, but once you’ve done it, they’ll remember the setting even if you swap them out.​

    [​IMG]
    So how does this work? The Exploration camera’s going to be your main perspective and you’ll be using it for upwards of 70% of the time, both for movement and trash mobs, and you’ll be switching to the Strategy camera for more challenging encounters. The latter would be a better Infinity Engine stand-in, but its range from the party is too close for comfort and you’ve got an elevation bug to contend with it as well. Oh, and ignore Character mode altogether.

    As for controlling your party, Puppet Mode gives you the reins entirely and you can forget about context menu orders and AI behaviours for your companions - they’ll move where you tell ‘em and attack what you tell ‘em and that’s it. It’s also worth pointing out that, even in Puppet Mode, your characters will still automatically move on to fresh nearby targets once the battle is joined, so you don’t have to micromanage each and every trash encounter. This is also why you want to have Toggle Group Selection on an easily accessible keybind (e.g. mouse button), so that you can quickly swap between ordering your current leader or your entire party, and you’ll get used to it faster than you think. The caveat here is that whenever you enter a new map or engage in conversation, you’ll revert to only having your leader selected, so remember to re-select the group afterwards.

    Sadly, this control scheme does not extend to summons, whom you cannot assume direct command of and you’ll still have to Order about (via context menu or hotbar shortcuts). In that respect, if you’ve disabled Automatically Run Actions on Current Target as suggested, you can try lowering the Context Menu Delay under Interface to minimum for a snappier response, just keep in mind it makes it a little harder to clear target portraits.

    The last thing to cover here is the bug I mentioned earlier with Take Control of Companion on Left Mouse Click – this works perfectly fine when you only have one character already selected, but if you have two or more, clicking a character in the game world will swap and issue a “go to” order. So, realistically, get used to selecting your characters via portraits (Click/Shift+Click), Marquee or Function keys (if you hate simplicity).


    HUD Configuration

    Another item you should give a little attention is your HUD configuration. While NWN2's UI has a variety of mistakes and bugs weighing it down, it also has some great features, like the Quickcast menu and an excellent degree of customisation. You can drag many of the panels around on your screen, and you really should, since the default layout isn't the most inspired. Pictured below is my suggested layout (with Tchos’ HD UI mod in use), and I've definitely found it much more comfortable than the original.

    [​IMG]
    What you've got there is most of the information and shortcuts concentrated on the lower part of the screen, left to right - Menu/Rest/AI buttons, Combat Log, friendly and hostile Target Portraits overlayed (you'll have to drag the latter in place during your first combat encounter), the default Horizontal Hotbar 1 above the Action Queue and the optional Horizontal Hotbar 2, and finally the Modebar.

    Between the two Horizontal Hotbars, you've got 24 quickslots readily available, plus the multiple rows in the default bar for less used shortcuts, so you can go ahead and disable the Vertical Hotbars and free up screen space. You'll also want to disable the useless and offensive Minimap (hit N after every start, another one of NWN2's irritating little bugs) and move the Quickcast menu more to the side, further clearing up your screen centre. The console-style Target Portraits aren’t much use and you can safely stack them since you can only target one actor at a time.

    In any case, you'll agree it's a neater layout than having the various info scattered around the screen. You might consider expanding the height of the combat log if it's not comfortable for you, though I find I rarely have to scroll through it to check the rolls during play.


    Campaigns

    Last part, and this is by no means supposed to be an exhaustive or "top" list of NWN2 campaigns, it’s just what immediately comes to my mind to get you started and if you want more, then check out the Vault in general and its NWN2 Hall of Fame in particular.

    [​IMG]
    - NWN2 Official Campaign: Obviously rushed, it's caught flack for its uninspired narrative, level and encounter designs. If you've never played it before, it may be worth giving it a go out of curiosity, but do not push yourself to finish it! If you find you're getting bored or frustrated, stop, spoil yourself with a plot summary and move on to MotB.

    Optionally, there is a NWN2 OC Makeover SoZ Edition mod that backports features of the second expansion into it, such as party creation, party dialogue, multi-classing companions etc. I haven't bothered, but if you do, keep in mind you'll still need some standard companions for specific quests. If you want it, install it before you start playing the campaign.

    - Mask of the Betrayer: If you only ever play one NWN2 campaign, it should be this one. I'll reiterate that you don't need to finish the OC for it, a plot summary will suffice or you can even roll your own backstory and incorporate or ignore the smattering of OC references - a macguffin, a couple of recurring characters as bit parts, and a location. I would, however, definitely suggest you avoid a MotB walkthrough on your first playthrough. I'm not particularly averse to the practice in general, but this campaign benefits immensely from what you do or do not discover on your own.

    Like the OC, this one too has a NWN2 MotB Makeover SoZ Edition mod, but I strongly advise against dumping the default companions. The module could've definitely used an extra one or two followers, but the ones included have excellent writing and a large degree of plot relevance.

    Also, a note on the Spirit Meter in MotB - ideally you really should leave it on, it's part of the campaign, but it can be safely disabled from the console if you just can't put up with it.
    Spirit Meter Console Commands (open)

    To enable and disable Debug Mode, bring up the console with ~ and enter, respectively:
    DebugMode 1
    DebugMode 0


    To disable the Spirit Meter, while in Debug Mode enter:
    rs ka_se_terminate

    To re-enable or merely reset the Spirit Meter to its initial values, enter:
    rs ka_se_init

    Thanks to GameBanshee for still keeping track of this stuff.

    Finally, as a present, here’s another set of MotB Tchos’ UI-compatible portraits:
    Portraits (open)

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Safiya is the one from Tchos’ pack, Gann and Kaelyn (roughly) paste the original faces over the busts from Tchos’, Okku’s just the reframed original and One of Many is a pair of orange dots onto Wraith HoMM III by soft-h.

    Couldn’t find an image host with Targa support, so you'll have to save these as .tga yourself (24bits/pixel, no compression).

    - Storm of Zehir: If MotB was Obsidian stretching their writing muscles for an epic campaign, this is the opposite, a more systemic, lower level open-world adventure. It's some got some great features (party creation, party dialogue, interactive world map etc.), but it's much more perfunctory on plot and dungeons. Definitely worth seeing for yourself, though it's no shame if you burn out on it after a while. Well, of course I'd say that, because I burn out on it after a while.

    - Mysteries of Westgate: After NWN1, Ossian Studios returns with a plot-driven, mid-level city adventure, and it's one that's generally very well regarded in the fan community. Sadly, while I can confirm it has the makings of a great module, I've never been able to progress too far due to my personal dislike of city adventures. I haven't given up yet, I'll make it stick one day. If you've got NWN2, you absolutely should try this one at some point.

    - Baldur's Gate Reloaded: Might be contentious with the Monocle Police, but if you've played Baldur's Gate a bunch of times, this Reloaded campaign for NWN2 has some novelty value to indulge in. Unfortunately, beyond NWN2's platform limitations, there are aspects of the original campaign that did not translate well into 3.5E, so it is a paler rendition of the source material. That said, the campaign is meticulously ported and well polished (for the most part!), and it's a damn sight better than the NWN2 OC, give it a go.

    There are also two significant mods for BGR. The first is Silverwand Baldurs Gate Reloaded Enhancements, which adds party creation, standard multi-classing, better resurrection and rechargeable wands, and I highly recommend you apply it. The second, and this is a must-have lest cinematic dialogue drive you nuts, is Baldur's Gate Reloaded Conversation Overhaul, which converts most dialogue to the SoZ frame standard. Install them in this order and, once again I'll remind you, before you begin playing the campaign.

    Two more warnings here... Firstly, BGR recommends that you play it with a clean Override folder, stuff like Xaltar's Facelift and Kaedrin's PrC mods are already included and will conflict with standalone versions if present. And secondly, as far as reaching Baldur's Gate itself, I've only encountered one game-breaking bug - do not talk to Shoal the Nereid! That script will definitively wreck your savegame going forward, just forget about the Helmet of Defense and force-attack her from a distance. If you don't know what I'm talking about here, then go play the original Baldur's Gate before you even think about Reloaded.

    - Pool of Radience Remastered: A modern reimagining of the classic Gold Box game, it's rather rough around the edges but it's kept my interest for a few hours thus far. Not much more to say, if you're done with the other major content, check it out.

    - A Hunt Through the Dark Remastered: I'm gonna give this a mention sight-unseen, I haven't gotten to it yet, but a Vault 2008 Module of the Year sticker's gotta count for something. A drow-centric campaign supposed to have been inspired by the War of the Spider Queen series of D&D novels and it's also got a sequel called Lolthanchwi.

    - Icewind Dale: Well... This is a bit of a harder sell, between the more laborious NWN2 controls and IWD's superb aesthetics (if NWN2 can reasonably do justice to BG's visuals, the same can't be said in IWD's case). I certainly respect the effort and I've had some fun with it as far as Kuldahar for now, but it inherently trades a fair bit in exchange for the novelty of trying the campaign in the 3.5E ruleset. Still, if you've come to enjoy your time with NWN2 and care for a different IWD experience, can give it a look.​

    -​

    All right, that’s about it. I was half-considering doing another section on bugs but, in spite of their unseemly number, they’re minor annoyances for the most part… failing to save the Minimap’s Off setting, not starting in Exploration mode, controls getting temporarily screwed up, that sort of thing. Nothing you can’t fix with an extra click or two or a Quicksave/Load, and this guide’s already ended up longer than I’d intended.

    By this point, you should hopefully have enough to get a reasonably comfortable experience out of NWN2 and enjoy some of the legitimately lovely content it has to offer. Or at least to whine less about... oh, right, this is the Codex.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2021
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  2. rusty_shackleford Arcane

    rusty_shackleford
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    nwn2 has a community fixpack you can find here:
    https://github.com/nwn2fixes/player
    yes, it's worth using
     
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  3. Lambach Arcane

    Lambach
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    Any mods out there that alter encounters in either OC or MoTB to make them less piss-easy? Tony's AI improves the enemy AI (e.g. archers shooting your squishy spellcasters rather than the guy in plate armor and a tower shield, better item usage etc.), but that doesn't do much to increase the challenge after the first couple of levels. Enemy spellcasters are still pants-on-head retarded, which I think is the biggest reason for this.
     
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  4. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    Not that I'm aware of... SoZ struck me as more challenging than MotB and the OC, and then BGR also seemed to err on the side of overtuning, though that was probably compounded by my bad choices in chargen.
     
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  5. Lambach Arcane

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    It's even easier to overlevel and stomp everything in SoZ, specially if you do all side-quests and doubly so if you make use of the absurd amount of gold you can earn to craft obscene, god-like equipment. The only 2 exceptions I can think of are that one Yuan-Ti temple on the first map, because if you're still on the first map, you'll probably be under-leveled for it unless you grind random encounters like a madman, and the final fight, although the Big Bad who is by far the biggest pain in that fight can be quite quickly trivialized by a couple of Enervation spells because some genius forgot to make the toughest mofo in the game immune to level drain, lul.
     
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  6. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    Ah, fair enough. I didn't know, since I tend to run out of steam on SoZ around the time you hit the Sword Coast. Maybe give BGR a try, then. It does peter out as you advance, but the starting levels felt a bit more punishing than the original and the new XP maths means you can no longer skip ahead on farming Ankhegs. I haven't gotten far enough for a crack at Durlag's Tower in BGR, that's what I'm most curious about.

    Fun tangent, if you play a Blackguard in BG2:EE, you can kiss all the Succubi you like.
     
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  7. Alpan Magister Patron

    Alpan
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    I think NWN2's reputation for initially poor camera control and bugs kind of resulted in a clusterfuck of perception. I can honestly say that I've encountered no significant bug during my time with it (OC and MotB). That said, I did use TonyK and the fix pack, so maybe they helped, but they don't touch the engine.
     
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  8. Lambach Arcane

    Lambach
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    To be honest, the charm of the first BG was all the shenanigans you could pull, like stacking summons from wands, having rings that let you cast a bajillion 1st-level spells (i.e. Magic Missiles) etc. All of that is neutered by transferring it to NWN 2's 3.5 ruleset and engine.

    There's a reason why in NWN2's OC you level from 1 to 4 during/right after (if you don't actively skip all non-essential content) the tutorial, and the reason is that low-level D&D in vidya format sucks massive ass, specially in 3.5 that doesn't allow the kind of cheese AD&D/2.0 does.
     
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  9. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    That's been my experience with the bugs as well, they're primarily UX-related and more annoying than significant. Like how you have to keep disabling the Minimap after every restart, or that broken "take control with left click" behaviour. They irritate over time but you can learn your way around most of 'em, and that's the main point of this guide, to help work around some of the interface's bugs and less fortunate design decisions. NWN2 will never handle as nicely as the IE, but you can squeeze a reasonably comfortable configuration out of it.
     
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  10. There is a simple workaround in NWN2 if you experience CTD while switching resolutions in fullscreen: alt-enter to put the game in windowed mode first and THEN change your resolution. Then alt-enter again to return to fullscreen.
     
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  11. razvedchiki Erudite Sad Loser

    razvedchiki
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    anyone tried the personal difficulty adjuster?
     
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  12. catfood AGAIN

    catfood
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    The camera is shit and no amount of tweaking is ever going to fix it.
     
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  13. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    Difficulty Modifier or Personal Impossibility Adjustment? Haven't tried either, wasn't even aware of them, but they may be what Lambach was looking for.

    Let me put it this way... Is the camera shit in NWN1? Because if you apply the configuration I'm describing, that's pretty much what NWN2's Exploration camera works like, sans an edge turn speed slider. And then the Strategy camera covers the more tactically-demanding engagements, even if its design falls short in its limited range and lack of tileset wall culling. It comes down to learning how to work with the camera and especially the party controls in Puppet Mode, the only thing you can't mitigate is when obnoxious spell effects obscure the action. And that's kinda my point - NWN2 won't ever control great, but you can reach a tolerable baseline with the right settings and a bit of practice.

    It's a damn shame we'll never have NWN2 Enhanced Edition because there's a lot of "nearly there" at play and a little polish - e.g. fixing a few interface bugs, formations and saving party positions, unlocking the strategy camera - could make a lot of difference in practice.
     
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  14. gurugeorge Arcane Patron

    gurugeorge
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    Strap Yourselves In
    I'm revisiting NWN2 for the umpteenth time. (I really can't get comfortable with the control system, I always feel like I'm fighting it in some way - nevertheless I've reached a tolerable compromise with the three modes, using Korntsalx's ahk .exe for Character mode, which kinda sorta works ok as a third-person mode for atmosphere, and uses RMB for panning round generally; and treating Strategy mode as like Dungeon Siege, which I recently played, and Exploration mode as like classic Infinity Engine. Even then, one can never be at peace with it, one can never relax into a rhythm of play - either there's rubberbanding or one forgets to stop turning before moving forward, or one remembers that you can't strafe and turn at that same time like every other fucking third person game, etc.)

    And for the first time ever, I've gotten to the trial sequence in the OC. It's actually very well done! I was on the edge of my seat lol.

    One of BioWare's better moments, I think.
     
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  15. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    :rpgcodex:

    Obsidian Entertainment - making BioWare's better moments since 2006.
     
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  16. Maggot Arcane Patron

    Maggot
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    Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire
    Last time I tried to use the Client Extension it caused all my saves to corrupt, wouldn't recommend unless it got a recent update.
     
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  17. gurugeorge Arcane Patron

    gurugeorge
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    Strap Yourselves In
    I meant the trial sequence, silly :)
     
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  18. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    Sorry, I don't follow. Obsidian did all of NWN2, including the OC, I don't get the BioWare reference.
     
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  19. gurugeorge Arcane Patron

    gurugeorge
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    Strap Yourselves In
    Doh.
     
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  20. gurugeorge Arcane Patron

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    Strap Yourselves In
    It sure makes Exploration mode much more pleasant if you use that mode as the "camera follows character" mode for general moving about, but contrary to your advice Gargaune, I'm not using marquee selection with Exploration, rather the "Left Click and Hold Moves Character" (which is kind of ARPG-like), and reserving Marquee selection for Strategy. That way in Exploration, I have the option of pointing and clicking to move or dragging to move (ARPG) and it's quite pleasant having both options for general exploration.

    I'm about 1/3 of the way through Act III of the OC now. The OC definitely gets better as you get more into it.
     
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  21. Gargaune Cipher

    Gargaune
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    I suppose it's down to how you do combat. I don't like switching the camera mode too often, I only go to Strategy for the more serious encounters, so I like having all my isometric trimmings, including Marquee, available in Exploration mode.

    Neverwinter itself is the low point for me, gets better after that, but the OC never really gets "good" in my view.
     
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  22. The Jester Cipher

    The Jester
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    My game runs like shit without Client Extension.
    :rpgcodex: Where is Spell Fixes?
     
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  23. Meredoth Arcane

    Meredoth
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    Spell Fixes and Warlock Reworked are two quintessential mods for enjoying NWN2.
     
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  24. The Jester Cipher

    The Jester
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    How do you use both at the same time? they have a .tlk file that override each other.
     
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  25. Meredoth Arcane

    Meredoth
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    Location:
    Todstein, the Nocturnal Sea
    I don't... If I plan to play as a WLK, I use the WLK reworked. If not, spell fixes. But since I don't play as a WLK from a long time, I only have the spell fixes installed. Spell fixes also fixes some WLK invocations, but is not like warlock reworked.
     
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