Neverwinter Nights 2

Worm 6/9/2007 

In preparation for the upcoming expansion, I am getting hyped up about NWN2 again and working on an Arcane Archer.

If you do get this game, make sure to turn on gore early as to give the harvest fair festivities a darker tint. This is maximum violence, not exactly Fallout, but at least it's something.
A little about the author: Iíve played through Baldur's Gate more times than I can count. Letís try anyway. Due to the hyping of Necromancy in Ultima Online and related in-game events, my first play-through was as a Necromancer, and I had to cheat at the end. After I determined what a shitty class that was, I replayed as a halfling Thief. After that I started BG2 again from the beginning as God knows what. When Baldur's Gate 2 came out, I started as a dwarf Berserker and played it all the way through. I played through Throne of Bhaal as a gnome Cleric. I also tried a Paladin to do the Vicona romance. This kind of shit elates me. Iíve spent, no, Iíve wasted lots of time in D&D adventure games and dungeon crawl games is what I'm saying.

Neverwinter Nights 2 features enough D&D to make your liver go bad. There are loads of races and sub-races, prestige classes, and implementations of every skill. Even as a bard youíll be given chances to use your perform skill in normal conversation, sometimes itís even a real roll. You can turn around lots of situations with diplomacy and other skills. Donít worry that the game is lacking dialog if you donít want to play a master diplomat -- you get banter from your NPCs on almost anything you do. However, this creates the most annoying aspect of the game, the influence system.

[Influence: Failure]

All the things you say will either be agreed or disagreed with by your current party layout. This will effect their influence rating with you, all it really alters is if they give in to your incessant prodding about their past, and it effects what I believe is the single one NPC class change in the entire game.

The system is far more intrusive than what prevented me from getting all the info out of HK-47. While the dialog in Knights of the Old Republic required a few points there are some things in NWN2 that donít seem to be unlocked until upwards of 30 influence. I used a console command to cheat, and I suggest everyone does the same. You donít even get something interesting from a lack of influence, just tight-lipped NPCs.

No retarded speech options, sadly.

The worst part about influence is that dialog skills (diplomacy, taunt, lore, intimidate, and bluff) can rarely be used to give you more influence with your teammates. Ultimately the only player who isnít going to have rather botched influence scores is someone who knows where the influence checks are going to occur, so he doesnít bring the Chaotic Evil Ranger and the Lawful Neutral Paladin.

However, many of the dialog skills are quite necessary. Diplomacy is the most widely used, with bluff coming in second. In some situations youíll find yourself needing taunt or spellcraft for some reason or another. There are few plain stat dialog options like in Planescape: Torment, which is a shame. So it often comes down to multi-tool characters like Rogues or Bards giving you the most freedom in dialog. A character with 20 Intelligence, 20 Charisma (but no diplomacy) is going to have just as poor dialog choices as my Half-Orc Ranger/Assassin.

[Crafting: Failure]

The game also features a nice try at player crafting. The crafting simply serves to make +6 items of the +2 and +4 ones youíll find in your adventures and the enchanting amounts to adding plus five and loads of elemental damage to whatever you please. The whole time youíll have to hunt down various monster parts to grind up into essences. This wouldnít be so bad if greater essences could be split into multiple lesser essences. Instead of that you can downgrade a high essence to a lower level, but not receive more. This is just a goofy choice and a waste as what level of essence you need seems to have no relation to the power of the item youíre crafting.

On top of that youíll have to hunt down gems, which get plentiful enough on monsters and in shops. However, itíd be better to just have the store and the crafting tables next to one another, just in case you thought you had a canary diamond on one of your characters. The end-game weaponry is really disappointing as it just consists of rehashes of old weapons with higher enchantments. All this item hunting and there is really no chest or way to access out of party NPCís items. So you end up with various mules and the crafting materials dispersed sloppily amongst your characters.

If you canít stop yourself from needing a +6 Acidic Flaming Darksteel Sword of Icy Chaotic Bane, be prepared to be frustrated out of your fucking gourd.

The normal difficulty is called ďHardcore \m/ D&D RulesetĒ

The game attempts to take off the frustrating edge associated with some DnD computer games, with the starting difficulty featuring fireballs that wonít harm your teammates. None of your NPCs really die, they just are rendered unconscious and wake up after hostilities have ceased, and the game plays with that in mind. With your meager four man team, youíll constantly run into more enemies than you ever did in BG2. This can get pretty frustrating, especially when you go from a warehouse to fight with half the thieves in Neverwinter to a house with the other half hidden in the shadows lying in wait. This seems to have been slightly addressed with the latest patch. Itís not harder. It just doesnít require you to open a door and start throwing fireballs because there are twelve thieves in there.

Whoís your daddy?

Naturally, the game starts out with you as a foster child and I wonder exactly how many game developers were left on doorsteps given this trend in RPGs. The tutorial is a sufficiently gay festival where you compete in four competitions beating, casting, stealing, and shooting. Youíre awarded a ĎHarvest Cupí for playing through the entire thing, which you can immediately pawn off. You find yourself fleeing your once idyllic home with no understanding of why people want to kill you!

Along the way you accumulate NPC friends and battle the forces of evil, even if youíre evil. You follow a pretty set path and there are few side quests on the way. The game attempts to provide you with a Brady Bunch of NPCs who represent the full gambit of what you could possibly want rather than allowing you to choose. You really donít get many doubles of any class, which means depending on what class you are youíll have a pretty regular party layout and often have little reason to bring along the bard or druid.

The NPCs can all be set into Puppet Mode which will allow you to directly control them. This is necessary for any caster you have given AOE spells to, unless of course you set the difficulty to make your party members invulnerable to that. Most NPCs have their own little side stories, some which amount to a few dungeon crawls or world map encounters, a couple have actual impact. They are all also locked into whatever classes you got them as, which is a dumb choice given the expansive prestige class system and fun leveling.

The combat is very well done and suffers due to the horrid dungeon crawls youíre forced to endure. When you have a quest to go into a house itís designed like a dungeon, this is the same for everything youíll encounter in the game. Even trying to stop a truant from fucking goth guys in a crypt. As youíre stopped while youíre walking around you assume it will be a short side quest, however it turns out that the particular crypt stretches the length of Neverwinter. Most dungeons are littered with traps that spring infinity times and donít get revealed until youíre right on them. You can get a feat that makes your guys normal speed in search mode, but unless you put it on your main character there is no assurance youíll need whomever you have it placed on. Since elves get that ability default, itís worth playing one because even with no skill heíll still reveal most traps.

Chapters

The first chapter plays with you as a ghetto ass punk, and somewhere after that you find yourself living large in a Keep. There are some neat things you can pick in customizing your keep, which really donít seem to pan out successfully. At a point you need to defend the keep from a pretty giant invasion force. The game manages to be very awesome at points, only if you have the thick skin required to get through some of the more obscene parts.

Lots of problems!

You cannot take "The Portrait of Ron Jeremy" with you.
However, your characters are going to look GREAT dying and through the reloads. The customization is pretty sweet, and allows for enough variety in facial design to keep you happy. All the armor looks pretty good; however, some limited customization would be nice. The races are faithful to the D&D Monster Manual, which causes some pretty idiotic cut scenes if you pick a halfling. My first character was a Half-Elf bard that turned into a Duelist, and he looked exactly like the kind of slime I wanted him to be. He played sort of like a fragile critical hit machine, which was pretty neat. I tried a half-orc Ranger / Assassin that got boring after the 400th dialog opportunity he missed and Iím currently working a Bard / Arcane Archer so I donít have to fail a million diplomacy checks in the expansion.

Some of the end encounters are incredibly tough, especially if you went with a cool character build thatís not too ready to handle every situation. I ended up cheating on the final boss, but they had a very cool idea for the final fight, which would have been wonderful if they scaled his hit points back by a few thousand. I used god mode. My major problem was that the battle uses ALL your characters, and therefore it was made harder. However, if you did not properly manage the obnoxious influence system, some characters would turn on you. How that will translate into the expansion is yet to be seen.

I really like the game, and the module definitely shines in some moments. Its biggest problem is that it essentially feels like it has been designed by a giant Planescape: Torment fan who just memorized the 3.5 handbook. I hope they break out of that in the expansion.

Worm