Neverwinter Nights Diamond - PC - Review
An old friend has come home and while age may be showing just a bit, still it is a welcomed visit.
BioWare has released Neverwinter Nights Diamond, which is both something new and something old. The pack is a compilation of the Neverwinter Nights saga, as it now stands, with the original title and the two expansions – Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark. But that’s not quite all. BioWare had included the Aurora Toolset with the original releases, which allowed players to create their own game modules and Diamond includes three complete adventure modules – Kingmaker, ShadowGuard and Witch’s Wake.
Ok, let’s not reinvent the wheel. The review of the original title was posted on July 2, 2002 (has it been that long??) and can be found at http://pc.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r13354.htm. The Shadows of Undrentide review was published on October 23, 2003 and is at http://pc.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r21295.htm, while Hordes of the Underdark was published later in the year (Dec. 29, 2003) and is at http://pc.gamezone.com/gzreviews/r22760.htm.
Those reviews speak for themselves. Players new to the series are going to find a successive group of stories that define this particular branch of the role-playing genre. Neverwinter Nights was not only progressive in terms of story arc and character development, but it sported an interface that took time to be comfortable with (not master – everything was presented to you) and options for defining your avatars place in the world.
The game’s graphics were wonderfully textured and truly demonstrated why, when it came to the imaginative lands guarded by Wizards of the Coast, BioWare was and is the top developer.
The game takes its cue from the Shadows of Undrentide title (the shortest of the two expansions, but one that added new prestige classes) in scanning the host system to configure the game for optimum performance. Of course, you don’t have to follow those recommendations and can bump up any aspect you wish. For instance, the game’s default resolution is 800x600, but while the game warns the framerate may take a hit for bumping it up, going higher reveals such wonderful texturing that the game remains a tasty bit of eye candy.
Neverwinter Nights begins with the tale of a hero called forth to help unravel the source (and find a cure for) of a plague that is settling over the lands. The plot twists and turns as you gather adventurers to form a group and begin the adventure that will offer side quests and customization features depending on how you work your main character. Shadows is the story of a school of adventurers, suddenly attacked. It is revealed that the school’s master is of a group known as Harpers and was entrusted with hiding/safeguarding four relics of immense power – relics stolen by the attacking kobolds.
Once you have created characters in the original title and/or in Shadows, you can import them into the adventure that comprises Hordes. Below the town of Waterdeep is the Underdark, and therein is an army gathering to lay siege to the town above. Your job is to save the town. Gee, aren’t you glad that it was not something hard?
These games, and the modules, very much are point-and-click adventures that not only require some quick decision-making, but appeals to the cerebral side as well. The Aurora Toolset is a dandy bit of creative design that allows gamers to create their own adventures. Examples of what is possible is actually included with the game with the three modules accompanying the release. BioWare has been known to sell these on their Web site, but fans looking for something more have the opportunity to test these creative and imaginative mods.
Of course, you can create your own avatar to enter these mods, but they also come with a variety of pre-built characters that you can draw into the group and adventure with. While entertaining, though, the mods are not the draw.
Neverwinter Nights Diamond is not for those who have the original and both expansions. But for those who have never played the game, who do have an interest in a very well-made RPG, this is the set to own. Or, if you own the first title, but not the expansions, and enjoyed the original NWN, then pick this up. There is easily more than 100 hours of gameplay here in the solo mode and you can always go online for a fix there as well (yep, co-op mode is available).
The games may be a touch dated, but these are the games that live fondly on as not only great adventures, but defining moments in the RPG realm.
Review Scoring Details for Neverwinter Nights Diamond
There are some load times that will interrupt the flow of the game – especially when you hit turning points in the plot. But the interface gives you all the tools you need at the click of a button. This is mostly a point-and-click driven game, but it works so very well here that any other means would be inappropriate.
The in-game avatars are looking a little old, but the environments and effects are still a wonderful treat for the eyes.
Conversations are mostly text-driven and in the modules there are some cliché voices characterizations that almost lead to knowing what will be said before it is even uttered. The musical score is still solid, even after 2-3 years.
A bit of a learning curve but the game is so deep that you will feel the 20 minutes or so you take to get comfortable with the interface and flow of the game is nothing compared to the 100 or so hours you are playing it.
Packaging all three games is a wonderful idea. Including the modules – if for no other reason than as an example of what players can do with the Aurora Toolset – is a nice touch. Too bad it took two years to do this.
Modules and multiplayer co-op mode – these lend themselves to a great time online.
It would have been nice to see this released perhaps a year earlier simply because the principle three games were shipped in 2002/2003. Still, though, these games lose little in terms of gameplay.