Neverwinter Nights 2

Review

posted 12/5/2006 by Randy Kalista
other articles by Randy Kalista
One Page Platforms: PC
Despite such tedious nitpicking, the single-player quest is a truly worthy undertaking. With the momentum of events that thrust you from your childhood stomping grounds and into an adventure of (allow me to use a frequently abused term, except in this case) epic proportions, there's no denying or escaping the furious undertow of storytelling that sweeps your character across the venerable Forgotten Realms landscape
 
This isn't your average grocery list of fantasy adventure tropes to rummage through. This isn't just some been-there-slain-that-got-the-princess set of tasks, perpetuated by a traffic circle of hollow side quests. In your travels across the land you'll engage in morally perplexing scenarios:  You'll encounter a misunderstood enemy, displaced from their own homelands and desperately seeking new roots; you'll mitigate or provoke police corruption within gray areas that make it hard to throw the first stone; and you'll struggle to keep your particular fellowship of the ring intact, as every decision you make will spur their loyalty, or spurn their trust -- and this is all just the warm up round in the game's opening chapter. Remember, these are the makers of KOTOR 2 that you're dealing with here. Sometimes, figuring out how to decisively tackle a chamber full of lizardkin is the least of your worries. And discovering more of who you are through your character's decisions become the meat and drink of the experience. They make no apology in forcing your to think your way through some too-close-to-call decisions.
 
Don't be afraid to enjoy the sights along the way, though. The textures are enthralling, but the art direction and overall architectural designs are disturbingly unimaginative and unwilling to take the "go big or go home" risks that have made other RPGs more of a visual feast. So while it doesn't fall victim to the siren's call of oversaturated graphics, it grants it a 'realistic fantasy' aesthetic that instills a sense of bland, but shines more limelight on character development and sharp, intelligent writing (two RPG fundamentals that are hardly ever brewed with this much vim and vigor). In a land where the "dungeons" can be the thug-ridden streets of Neverwinter, and the "dragons" can be the coin-extorting city watchmen, NWN2 is as much about ethics and integrity and it is about swords and sorcery (don’t worry, evil geniuses … there's plenty of opportunities to use the Force for the Dark Side, too).
 
If that's not enough, Obsidian hired on a cast of superlative voice actors that have worked on everything from Oz to Chappelle's Show. They particularly scoured the halls of Law & Order and NYPD Blue to fill up the casting couch, and then dog-eared another set of resumes with Red Dead Revolver and Grand Theft Auto to their credit. In what is doubtless an Oblivion tribute, NWN2's Lord Nasher is voiced by a bonafide Patrick Stewart impersonator; no harm, no foul, and the experience is only enriched from the decision. 
 
Should the single-player campaign leave you jaded and unfulfilled -- in which case, eight to ten duergar will arrive on your doorstep and promptly revoke your D&D fan club card -- then the NWN2 toolkit comes prepackaged with an executive suite of options, ready to make you the next Dungeon Master extraordinaire of the D&D online set; or convince you of how utterly taxing it is to create a truly good game of this magnitude. Caveat emptor, it isn't as drag-and-drop simple as the ADHD-addled crowd might hope for, but the built-in NWN community has already proven their talent in acquiring and utilizing these tools effectively.
 
So in addition to the requisite two, possibly three, expansion packs coming within the next couple years, expect several free modules waiting to integrate themselves into your multiplayer campaigns. That is, after you've clocked-in several 8-hour days and 40-hour work weeks' worth of the single-player story.



B
Neverwinter Nights 2 is the final word when delving into the richest Dungeons & Dragons experience available on a hard drive today. The bugs will get mashed, the community will thrive, and Obsidian's reputation for challenging and meaningful narratives will live on. No self-respecting D&D fan should go this holiday season without it.


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