Another Beamdog remastering of a D&D classic from BioWare, Neverwinter Nights was the next step from its isometric 2D predecessors, bringing D&D into the 3D world. As with previous games – Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale – I remember Neverwinter Nights with great nostalgia, as the stories with these games are always deeply enjoyable. But I think the modern RPG’s have smacked the rose-tinted goggles of my head as this game does not hold up as well as the others. The story is still strong, the customisation options are vast and there is a lot more voice acting than previous games, but the graphics, audio and gameplay are where Neverwinter Nights has some issues.
The story goes that you are a promising warrior of an academy, and there is a serious plague in Neverwinter scaring everyone as the death toll increases daily with no sign of a cure. However, a rumour of a cure surfaces and involves extracts from some rare creatures. You meet with the leader Lady Aribeth who tells you that they are being targeted by enemies and the plague is no accident. She tells you of the cure and that the creatures needed for the cure have escaped so she needs your help in returning them. But retrieving the cure is only the beginning of the story which develops as you find the enemy cult who released the plague and what their true intentions are.
First, the visuals; to be fair it was originally released in 2002 and some good work has been done to make it work on modern-day resolutions, but the character models don’t look great. It was the first time these D&D based games went 3D and I remember it being great for the time, but with the competition in this genre being quite strong, it cannot really compete. The building structures are quite plain and the character models are quite basic and clunky. There’s no denying that you are playing a game from the past.
The audio hits some good and bad points – though unfortunately it hits too many on the bad side. There is a lot of voice acting in Neverwinter Nights , so you get to hear a lot more dialogue throughout rather than having to read walls of text as per previous games. There is a limit though, and it seems even the voice actors got tired from reading so much dialogue as when the voice acting stops there still yet more text to read. The background music in the different areas starts from being OK and setting the mood to being infuriatingly repetitive. In one area you can hear fires crackling and the occasional scream and panic which sets the mood of the area. But when you start to hear the same screams and panic every 2 minutes it really starts to grate. The combat sounds are as you’d expect, the clinking of swords, the swoosh of arrows and the whistle of a timed dodge and fits nicely with the action of the gameplay….
The gameplay is where this game really struggles as it flows so slowly. The combat is real-time, but the speed is of a turn-based game. Like the previous versions, you can pause time and queue in certain actions to coordinate the battle before resuming. But when you first just try to get to grips with the combat, you may think there is not much to plan until you gain more items or unlock more skills. But just attacking is just painful to watch. You and your enemy attack in what feels like 5-second intervals. Watching your character fire an arrow or swing his blade every 5 seconds is like watching paint dry. As with before, you do pick up companions to help balance out the numbers in a fight but it’s still so slow. However, it still has the old style of having to work out where you need to go from either reading the journal or talking to everyone you meet and reading walls of text does start to wear thin. It is also notoriously difficult as you start out and if you don’t play extremely tactfully you will find yourself or your companions dying a lot so make sure you save regularly.
The other part of these kinds of games is the loot and Neverwinter Nights is quite stingy in that department. Very rarely does the enemy drop anything; most of the loot comes from containers in rooms, some of which are locked, so you need some skill in lock picking to get to it unless your companion is an expert. But then next comes the struggle with the amount of weight you can carry – it isn’t much, and even just finding a single piece of armour is enough to tip you over the edge and make you encumbered. With traders very spaced out the easiest way to sell items is to teleport back to base and sell them there. But if you want to use the teleport back to where you came in from, you have to pay a fee and sometimes with what you have to sell the profit margin is very small. The only advantage it seems you can get in the game is buying advanced weapons and armour but when you make so little money the time it will take to purchase these items it doesn’t seem worth the effort.
This addition to Beamdogs rejuvenated D&D games didn’t hit the mark for me as the others did. Its slow-paced combat really kills the momentum and is much tougher than its predecessors even on an easier setting. The story itself is still interesting and gripping, but it’s not enough to save the game from its flaws. With it being so slow, tough and not very pretty it will be hard to pick this over games in the same genre. D&D fans, or fans of the original game may still find some joy here, but newer players may not see what all the fuss was about.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.