Amehdaus's Neverwinter Nights 2 (PC)
| [January 11, 2007 12:53:23 AM]
| Note: I am attempting to format this post with some coding to see if and how it works so I apologize beforehand if (when?) it comes out less-than-legible.|
As I noted in the previous (perhaps overzealous) Neverwinter Log, I was going to fiddle with the level editor in the game for the follow-up.
In short, the editor is rather fantastic - speaking from a DM's point of view (that's Dungeon Master to the layman, which I believe is Klingon for King of Nerds). As a video game tool, restricted to the parameters of the Neverwinter's bastardized d20 system (as if it wasn't bad enough to begin with), it is only so strong as the engine, and generally weaker due to the human factor.
The interface is...daunting. In my mind, "daunting" is a good thing. No, I'll likely never exert enough effort to make use of every feature (or even nearly every feature - but the options are all there. It can allow for everything from basic map editing cut-and-paste to a complete retexturing of models and geography and likely a number of features I'd never think to seek. I restricted myself to an hour of fiddling and bear no fruit from that but an awe of the possibilities at reformatting nearly every aspect of the game for a custom campaign, from character design at the greater level to the fine details of creating fully customized classes and races (and additional possibilities are readily available online to expand the features.
In truth, I know I scarcely scratched the surface. I was infatuated with the number of menus and submenus and all sorts of pretty things that simultaneously infatuate and appall the ADHD and Obsessive Compulsive aspects of my personality. The interface takes some getting used to but I'd reckon the curve is a great deal less restrictive than the Unreal editor or Morrowind's editor - even if the features don't allow quite so many possibilities in the 2d level design (a flaw of the system, not the editor).
In light of the length of my previous posts and the attempt at formatting in this one, I am cutting this short as I go to fiddle some more with editor and hopefully generate something functional - even if only as a gaming aid for a tabletop roleplay session.
I am presentently looking for a roleplay group, by the way. < /plug>
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| [January 10, 2007 09:26:45 PM]
| [Part V]|
The game flows smoothly enough, offering new quests and reward over the next ridge (metaphorically speaking) or in the next zone (literally speaking). A bit of momentum goes a long way towards a lost night, completing just one more quest or clearing one more forest of lizard men and spiders to gather the goodies they store in poorly protected crates and suspiciously abundant chests. (I notice my commentary grows ever shorter as the overall entry lengthens and the sun sets. Alas. I will also take this moment to apologize for my wordiness to anyone that has actually read this far and thank the very same for doing so - commentary appreciated... and all that jazz.)
Social Interactions & Cutscenes
I'll group these as they are mostly related. The cutscenes ar rendered in the game engine and are basically dialogues without options for the player to decide on a response. Either way, I find that more often than not rapid clicking to move to the next caption (I read far faster than I listen) and fast forward through the scene overpowers my interest to follow the voices. Likewise, scanning the dialogue options for the response that is least offensive or most likely to open an otherwise hidden zone and then selecting the next response without actually listening to or reading the dialogue is more common than not. If I happen to pick up a quest in doing so, it will appear in the quest log with more than enough information and if a zone is unlocked, it will appear on the world map.
The dialogue is witty enough with the personalities involved and some inside humor for the genre will give me a decent chuckle, but no scene or dialogue has been rewarding enough to merit repetition to revisit the joke.
A Final Gripe
One quest I was assigned involved ignited three flammable nodes (a wagon and 2 stacks of crates) to burn down the city watch. Having just recieved a fire-specialized sorceress in my party, I thought I'd be clever and have her stealth just ever so carefully outside of view of the patrols and use the Combust spell (range 30 yards or more).
1) Casting magic apparently breaks stealth as the spell begins casting.
2) In this instance, the combust spell would only work at touch range.
3) The combust spell *did* light the stack on fire aesthetically but did not meet the programming trigger criteria which apprently requires you to use a torch.
4) When I was fed up with the quest not allowing my cleverness and just walked up in front of a guard and lit the wagon on fire, the guard didnt respond.
5) When the last guard finally did respond at the third node when I lit the crates right in front of him, I nimbly succeeded in my Bluff attempt and told him I was just getting ready to report the blaze having just innocently wandered by. He bought it. I must be a darn good liar - then again I d have Beguiling Influence (Warlock spell granting +6 to such checks for 24 hours...or until you change zones.)
Final Final Gripe r.e. GameLog
1) Apparently I talk too much, needing to break my single entry into 5 seperate posts due to a maximum url post length of which I was not forewarned. I am profusely thanking the Muse that advised me to backup the post in Word before sending. Offerings of rice... or maybe a firstborn may be in order.
2) The posts apparently don't keep my paragraph indentation which makes them *even more* difficult to read.
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| [January 10, 2007 09:21:16 PM]
| [Part IV]|
Because this game has nothing to offer the genre that hasn't been done, it does little to spark the imagination. At best, it offers me some quest ideas for the next tabletop roleplay session I lead - and that is only if none of the players has tried the game... and assuming they are new to roleplaying in general as "the oldest trick in the book" rehased tends to fail in an experienced group with infinite options.
It is the largest d20-based digital game to date with the most complex story and some interesting magical items (although nothing so entertaining as the cursed girdle of sex-change in Baldur's Gate). It creates a digital representation of one of the long-standing Dungeons & Dragons world, Faerun adding flesh to characters and places previously restricted to writing, stationary illustrations, and tabletop imagination.
Only the level designer which allows for live online play comparable (if only barely) to a live gaming session is likely to leave a mark on the industry as a whole. Again, I haven't sampled that aspect as so will reserve commentary for the time being.
The typical RPG leveling system allows reward in that aspect of increased power and options. Likewise, magical items increase in power and frequency to reward the player for advancing the plot and wandering off the the required paths to wade through optional encounters. The d20 system allows for (and encourages) a high degree of "twinking" - gathering equipment and abilities to master a niche role and abusing that power with gusto. It is not my idea of a good time, but I know a number of people who find it to be rewarding.
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| [January 10, 2007 09:20:48 PM]
| [Part III]|
"If it breathes, we can kill it." - Cpl. Hicks
If it has a talk bubble, use magic to increase your conversation skills and talk to it. If it has a sword icon, increase you combat skills and kill it. Occasionally an ambush will "surprise" you but if it does, you can just reload and prepare your party an retrigger it.
People are good, monsters are bad -- it's all very cut and dry and the voice acting will usually betray a traitor long before they turn. (Ah yes, there is decent voice acting for major characters - which immediately informs you which ones are the most important characters likely to reappear later on).
There is also token conflict within the adventuring party (no one seems to like anyone else, except the protagonist, and they will initiate small cutscene dialogues -- I imagine later in the game, one must choose between one or another in different cases based on who you like and whether you respond to the world in a manner befitting "good" or "evil."
As I've just installed Windows on my Macbook, I've been rather starved of any game outside of World of Warcraft of late and my roommate happened to have Neverwinter Nights II lying around - making it the perfect candidate as a game to pick up an play. I've a vested interest in tabletop gaming and a number of Dungeons & Dragons books in my collection (which have been gathering a rather stifling coat of dust) to have initially viewed the game with both blind vigor and expectant cynicism. True to form, it is entertaining enough as a whole and a nice variety from grinding reputation with the Timbermaw tribe in World of Warcraft but nothing special the underlying history of gaming (tabletop or digital). I'll continue playing a little more to complete this portion of the story arc but will likely move on to something else before long.
Use the World of Darkness storyteller system rather than d20, keep d20 roleplay to the tabletop realm, don't reiterate every fantasy archetype, incorporate z-axis... all wishful thinking.
Well, z-axis is the one feasable change that would would change the game immensely and all for the better increasing feelings of immersion in the dungeon and living true the roleplay experiences of spiders on the ceiling and being limited in light sources and other perceptions (note that every race in the game except human can inherently see in the dark).
Also, a forgiving system is nice but also poorly aligned to the genre and the heritage. Arguably, there should be no ability to save the game at all - or at least a reward for not doing so in flavor of the tabletop sessions.
Also, in vein of the forgiving system, there is no recorded passage of time. There is no penalty attached to holding off on saving the townsfolk as you take time to loot their homes - they'll usually be invincible if you need to talk to them and doomed to die regardless of intervention otherwise. Also, the pressing task of delivering the artifcact that forms the basis of the story is not quite pressing enough to encourage the party to refrain from looting every room in the irrelevant bandit camp or lizard man temple - or slaughtering the drunken sailors with big mouths just before petitioning the village elder for aid.
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| [January 10, 2007 09:19:51 PM]
| [Part II]|
In a word, none. The system is based completely on the existing d20 roleplay system adapted (that is restricted) to the parameters of the game world. The story is a tale as old as time -- only you can bring the magical ring to Rivendel for the elves to scrye its true nature! -- err, bring the silver shard to Neverwinter so that a wizard can scrye its true nature...
The game fits tidily within the 2 1/2d niche, possessing pretty 3d environments and characters but limiting interactions to a 2d plane. the characters can't even jump - that always makes me sad - but, at least thus far, no terrain has been dynamic enough to incite the desire.
The d20 system is the industry standard for tabletop roleplay (unfortunately, as it is a rather poor system) and the basis of the game engine. For the mechanical issues (usually issues that empower the character), the system works well for the conflict resolution ingame, and is simple and repetitive enough, operating in the background, to allow the story to progress without inconveniencing the player.
Far more forgiving than its digital predecessors, a "game over" is only suffered when all members of the party have been reduced to 0 hit points. After a conflict, any downed characters are automatically restored to 1 hit point and candidates for the plentiful healing magic, potions, and bandages. Even with a party death, the only penalty is to pick up from that last time the game was saved - which can be at any time. Thus the process of saving as the enemy is spotted or just before a conversation to ensure the best result is encouraged. For myself, I try not to reload unless killed completely to try and progress the story for story's sake rather than achieving the best loot.
As noted, the game is 2 1/2d, and both dungeons and wilderness seem distressingly linear jaunts of ensuring you've killed everything in one room and its offshoots before moving on and ensuring everything is dead in an area before leaving the zone -- because, as everyone knows, if you can kill it, you'll get xp for doing so~ and even more xp if you talk to it first.
For the linear nature of the design, the aesthetics are pretty and varied and that aspect, at least, is no letdown within the genre. This seems like a good moment to point out that the game has a level editor to make your own adventures although I have not yet played with it. I think I'll make a point to review that aspect for the second post.
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| [January 10, 2007 09:18:54 PM]
| [Part I]|
Protagonist: In homage to its predecessors (Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate) and, more importantly, the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game, character creation encompasses a dutiful selection of races including the seven core races from the roleplaying game (Human, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Halfling, Half-elf, Half-orc) as well as several subraces (such as Dark Elf and Wood Elf) and two "outsider" races gifted with demon or angelic blood.
In addition to race (and gender), numerous options are available to customize the avatar further to better emerse the player in the game including skin and voice, hair colour, and hairstyle. (I must say none of the voices was particularly appealing for the impending barrage of acknowledgements each time the character is ordered to perform an attack or other action.) For my initial character, I was able to make a human appearing rather similar to myself.
The eleven classes from the core roleplaying are all options at character creation to fulfill any of the archetypal fantasy roles and all are very accurate representations of the tabletop counterpart within the confines of a closed system. In addition, a twelfth class is represented from the expansive supplementary books of the system adding an extra "caster" class to the mix. I selected this new class, Warlock, as my class of choice, hoping for the same powerful options it allows in the tabletop (including unlimited ranged magical attacks).
Characters are defined by six attributes (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and the next step of character creation is to distribute points amongst these on a sliding scale. For my purposes, high Charisma for spellcasting, and equal emphasis each to Dexterity (to hit with ranged attacks and decrease how often I am hit), Constitution (to increase how much damage can be suffered before dying), and Intelligence (to increase the amount of magical items I can use). I find it interesting that a "standard" character for Dungeons & Dragons recieves 25 points to distribute in the roleplaying game while Neverwinter grants 32 points for a considerably more powerful character.
After selecting my skills from those available to the class (emphasis to Bluff for lying to enemies and avoiding combat, Use Magic Device for lying to magical items, and Concentration and Spellcraft to aid im magic), and a selecting a feat (a specialist ability), the game dropped me in the middle of a nice cutscene introducing a distant foster-father and a nice basic delivery quest.
I feel I should take a moment to mention that I took the long route of character creation as I am well-familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons system and its options. For the less savvy or those that might be intimidated, simply selecting a race and a class is a perfectly viable option, allowing the game to automatically assign skills and feats characteristic of the choices - a nice alternative.
As the game progressed, I was given the option at each level up (triggered by accruing an ever-increasing threshold of experience points gathered by communication, combat, and questing) to advance as a Warlock or dabble in one of the many other classes. As a purist, I've stuck with the class and have advanced to level 8 as a Warlock (out of a maximum level 20).
True to the tabletop, the game is based around a party of adventurers rather than purely on a single character, however it is only this first protagonist that is so customizable. As additional members sign on over the course of the game, each is locked within advancement of a single class and with a set personality that works to advance the underlying plot.
The story begins with an optional tutorial introducing the player to the mechanics of conversation, basic questing, magic, melee and ranged combat, stealth, and trickery (lockpicking and pickpocketing) through a series of competitions in the town's annual faire. After the tutorial completes, the town is handily ransacked and you are informed that only you have the power to deliver an ancient artifact hidden near the town to the city and game namesake, Neverwinter. I have yet to reach the city for the number of sidequests and obstacles en route (including a barricaded fort and angry lizardmen that have been sinking boats along the only viable route to the city -- quite inconvenient).
Gameplay is smooth overall, allowing the game to be paused at any time to issue commands to each of the members of your adventuring group (with a nice artificial intelligence that allows them to operate fairly effectively even without guidance). Only the druid (who should be fulfilling the role of a healer seems to forego the use of anything useful and favor a rather nasty habit of transforming into a badger at inopportune times (thus being unable to heal what with the lack of opposable thumbs).
Most of the game is as simple as hover the mouse until you find something you can interact with and a relevant icon will tell you exactly how to interact (loot, disarm trap, pick lock, talk, etc.). Occasionally you can hold the mouse to reveal extra options (such as attempting to pocket the trap for future use). Most actions are tested based on your skills and attributes using the "d20" system - that is, the game finds a random number between 1 and 20 and adds your bonuses. If the total equals or exceeds a required threshold, you are successful - if not, try again. This system holds true to combat as well, rolling the same odds against the target's armour value.
Play incudes interactions in the city quest hubs allowing a number of options in conversation with the townsfolk that affect what quests you will recieve and the potential rewards of those quests. In many cases options exist to refuse a quest outright, or fail to recieve it by insulting the townsfolk and sewing the seeds the discord. I've discovered that getting caught robbing them also seems to sew malintent.
These quests (or just general exploration) yield a number of "dungeon-crawls" and wilderness travel, which provide an acceptable variety in the play experience - albeit the restriction to stay on the marked paths is somewhat saddening in light of the completely open-ended basis of the game.
While no specific aspect of play is particularly innovative outside of the precursor d20 system, the hours do slink away while playing and that next quest that's just over the next ridge calls in typical rpg fashion.
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Amehdaus's Neverwinter Nights 2 (PC)
Current Status: Stopped playing - Got Bored
GameLog started on: Friday 5 January, 2007
GameLog closed on: Tuesday 30 January, 2007