The Dungeons & Dragons game world has produced several engrossing RPGs for computers over the years, including the two Baldur’s Gate titles, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment and the first Neverwinter Nights tale. They were all concerned with a hero and his companions battling monsters and villains (usually in subterranean lairs) whilst gaining experience, skills and weaponry, but Neverwinter Nights was the first to introduce 3D rather than the fixed, top-down view.
This essentially upgraded sequel has been taken on by Obsidian (who produced Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II) who’ve made some significant improvements, although there are some issues that still need to be fixed. On the plus side you have a brand new storyline for the single-player campaign, where a small town foster boy becomes embroiled in a major conflict in which he will turn out to be the pivotal figure. So in addition to several familiar faces, there are hosts of new characters and maps as well as new races to explore.
One major advance is that the travelling companions you choose (you can have a maximum of three) can be much more tightly controlled by you – including their combat mode, behaviour, class and skill choices. You can even make them enter ‘puppet mode’ where no action can be taken without a command from you. Both your character’s and your companions’ development will depend on the choices you make, both in terms of class, etc., and in terms of background stories.
Also, should you choose to operate mostly in stealth mode then you will avoid many of the fights on your path. Fighting, on the other hand, is a great way to build experience and booty – and you will do a lot of fighting! Serious D & D fans will also appreciate the completely revamped Toolset which allows you to create completely new adventures, characters, maps and even dialogue.
There is much to admire in the newly overhauled graphics, although there are still problems with clipping and the camera movement is just as unwieldy as before. In combat situations there can be significant delays before blows are struck and some barging for position when you enter the fray with your travelling friends.
Yet for all the relatively insignificant irritations and shortcomings, what will keep you up night after night, playing until the wee hours, is the sheer compulsive attraction of the characters and the storyline. There’s barely time to breathe as you move from area to area, with so much to explore and learn, more than a few surprises and a great many quests to keep you busy.