What is it with unnatural plagues and role playing games? It would be nice if, just for once, a hardy bunch of battle-scarred dwarven fighters and aloof elven mages would stumble into a town where there was a terrible epidemic… much wailing and moaning… all caused by, let’s say, dirty water. Yes, simple, straightforward, vastly unpleasant Cholera.
A not so refreshing change, perhaps, and definitely one that doesn’t make for good fireside recounting to the strums of Fioli the bard’s lute. Which is probably why the plague afflicting the poor residents of Neverwinter is almost certainly woven by evil magics, the main clue being that many of the deceased are soon back on their rotting feet trying to munch away on the healthier members of the populace.
Initially it’s your job to help recover a cure for this plague, as well as determining its origin, armed only with a copy of the Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons rules. This is a new system from the D&D versions used in previous Bioware RPGs such as Baldur’s Gate, and it brings with it a much more detailed character advancement system.
Another big change is that instead of controlling the usual party of six adventurers, in a Baldur’s Gate style, there are two here – your main character and a henchman you can hire. This makes the single player adventure more personal, though your strategic options in combat are obviously more limited.
As you would expect, visually Neverwinter Nights is more polished too, with some pretty slick background graphics and spell effects, though it’s not quite as impressive as Dungeon Siege. The interface is a work of art in itself, with simple radial click menus and an easy to use hotkey system which makes managing your character a doddle.
What hasn’t changed from the likes of Baldur’s Gate is that Neverwinter Nights boasts a truly epic plot with four huge chapters and a staggering amount of side-quests. One of the game’s only problems is that it can be tricky to keep track of all the quests; there are so many. Our only other real gameplay moan is that it can be difficult to control your henchman at times. But these are pretty minor niggles.
You certainly get value for money with the massive campaign and if that wasn’t enough, the multiplayer aspect is even more impressive. A full scenario editor is included so you can create your own maps and campaigns and indeed over a thousand modules (or adventure scenarios) crafted by Neverwinter Nights players are available for download already! One player can even Dungeon Master the multiplayer adventure, stepping into the monster’s shoes to make for a really authentic pen-’n'-paper style D&D experience.