Neverwinter Nights 2

Sword of destiny.

When you were a child, someone decided to leave a shard of a broken magical sword in you, which didn’t kill you or even inconvenience you in the slightest. Until now. Your village of West Harbour comes under attack from Grey Dwarves, githyanki and their allies. That sends you to Neverwinter where you find a job with the local police routing out corruption in the force before making sure that some local orcs get their names on the endangered species list.

In Chapter 2, you’re accused of committing a massacre (no, not of the orcs) in the village of Ember. Don’t worry, they make you a squire and you get off on a legal technicality after you fight a duel against Black Garius’ chief minder. You even get knighted and a castle, which might sound nice until you find out that the previous occupant, Black Garius, wasn’t too keen on maintenance, leaving you saddled with a massive mortgage and recruitment problems.

In Chapter 3, when you’re not crippled by debt repayments, you’re a diplomat forging alliances and a sword, which happens to be the one weapon that can vanquish the King of Shadows. (Handy, eh?) And then it’s off to war. You start as the Captain of the regular infantry before joining the SAS to whack Black Garius (who must be a Diarrhoea Demon – he keeps coming back) and the King of Shadows. Unfortunately, the ceiling caves in and kills everyone – probably. The place must’ve had the same builders as the keep.

Unlike NWN, you actually get to run a party of PCs, although I still have a preference for the way things were organised in BG 2. The game seems to be trying to preserve some vague semblance of the grid-and-miniatures version of D&D as it inexorably shifts towards becoming a full-blown third- or first-person RPG like Morrowind or Oblivion. Although the final version of the game is less buggy than it was on release, there still seem to be a few hiccups such as occasions when PCs would become all shy, hang around doors, and refuse to come when called. They also seemed to display the usual sort of behaviour, either running off the leash or doing nothing. My character was quite good at doing nothing even although you’d think that the main character would move on to the next monster within a reasonable distance.

Game play was the usual sort of thing – pausing, trying to organise the troops and attacking. It seemed to generally ensure that no matter what choices you made, you kept going in the right direction, although there were times when a little more guidance was necessary. Some of the battles seemed to suffer from Custom Level Syndrome™ which states

If the number of monsters in an area is n and their Challenge Rating is m, then n and m must be greater than or equal to a number that can only be described as unreasonable.

In the battle against Black Garius, who’s merely a level 14 wizard (by this stage of the game, the party is about level 19 or 20), a balor (CR 20) appears along with a whole bunch of monsters. Out of curiosity, I checked the DMG to see what sort of odds the PCs might face. The answer was five or six CR 14 monsters or one CR 20 monster. Even with the larger party in the final two battles and a wand of resurrection, the Encounter Level is ridiculously high.

Unlike the traditional form of D&D, the game runs too quickly to take any reasonable action. Start quaffing healing potions and you’ll probably be cut down. Go to heal some other character, and someone’s going to die because you can’t be in eight places at once.

On the other hand, while the action in the game can be overly rapid (even if the entire battle sequence drags on), the cut scenes can be tediously long at times.

Anyway, my next stop is the original version of the game which I started a couple of years ago, but failed to complete partly because my old laptop was persistently overheating even in the depths of winter and partly because I was getting bored with the game. My main motivation this time is to find out what life is like beyond level 20 in the expansion packs.

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