Neverwinter Nights 2 made a serious splash on the RPG landscape back in 2006. But gaming has seen a ton of awesome RPGs since then, including a seriously engaging Neverwinter Nights MMORPG.
You don’t need to roll a perception check to guess the obvious question: is it still worth playing this classic game? Or should you move on to something a little more modern?
As the name implies, this game mostly takes place around a city named Neverwinter. It is part of the familiar Dungeons and Dragons world Faerûn. And the 3-act adventure will give you a nice tour of areas around the Sword Coast.
The plot is very much vintage Bioware. You are an orphan whose town is attacked, and you get caught up in the quest for a mysterious object. Before you know it, you and your party are the only thing that can stop the evil King of Shadows. Unless, of course, you decide to join forces!
It’s good to get the bad news out of the way first. So, in the spirit of ripping off the Band-Aid, here goes.
This game doesn’t look great.
In all fairness, it wasn’t the best-looking game even back in 2006. Character models are often pretty rough, and the whole aesthetic of the world is a bit dull and uninspiring. However, fans of Dungeons and Dragons will be happy to see faithful recreations of many familiar monsters.
As with most older games, there are some third-party mods to help it look a bit better. But out of the box, this is a game that truly does look its age.
A Real Party
The highlight of most Bioware games is the wide variety of characters that join your party. This game is no different, offering engaging and fully-voiced characters to help bring your fantasy adventure to life.
While it seems like old hat now, one of the better parts of this sequel game was taking control of the different party members. In combat, you can either trust the A.I. (whose behaviors you can endlessly tweak) or micromanage every character class to better leverage their strengths.
Depending on how much you love micromanagement, combat can be very engaging or a sluggish chore.
As mentioned above, you can personally take control of any party member during combat. This lets you ensure each character does what they do best: rogues sneak around back, fighters tank baddies, and so on.
That’s really fun… at first. Eventually, you’ll want to speed battles up by trusting the A.I. And you can only trust the A.I. about as far as you can throw your desktop tower.
No matter how much you tweak characters’ behavior, they surprise you in the worst way. When you need help with a foe, your party members will inevitably be chasing down a fleeing enemy or otherwise ignoring you.
Therefore, while the ability to take control of the party was innovative at the time, what this game’s combat is missing is a more intuitive and user-friendly A.I.
Real talk: this game has a steep learning curve. While the storyline is ultimately very engaging and rewarding, you should experience it with eyes wide open.
Basically, this game is a faithful video game adaptation of the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG. That means you must either already know or quickly learn about the importance of various stats, spells, monsters, and weapons.
Once you learn your way around, you’ll find that this game has amazing depths, especially when it comes to creating your own character. But, you have to do your D&D homework (3.5 edition, to be precise) to really unlock its full potential.
That Familiar Feeling
This isn’t a slight against Neverwinter Nights 2, but many things are going to feel very familiar if you have played other Bioware games such as Knights of the Old Republic.
Character with a mysterious past swept up in a grand adventure? Check. Branching dialogue and various character alignments? Check and check. Ability to get a “light” or “dark” ending based on your choices? Big check!
These are all good things, and if you like the classic Bioware formula, this game is enchanting. Just don’t play it when you’re sleepy or you might mistake it for Bioware games such as Baldur’s Gate!
All Loot, No Box
Neverwinter Nights 2 came out before the modern mania of loot boxes. So, where did they stash the loot? Just about everywhere.
Inventory management is really baked into this game. You are constantly finding cool new gear and having to shift it around for your character and the rest of the party.
On one hand, this evokes that classic tabletop RPG feel: every battle is a chance to get cool loot for your warriors. On the other hand, you may spend more time sorting items than questing and killing to get those items.
Are You There, Mod?
This review has focused on Neverwinter Night 2 “out of the box.” And there is nothing wrong with simply enjoying the game for its character banter and cool plot.
However, the real strength of Neverwinter Nights 2 is the modding community. And while there are various graphical enhancement and UI improvement mods, the real fun comes from custom-made adventures.
Just like with the tabletop game, enterprising GM’s could design their own standalone adventures or even ongoing tales. And if you’re coming into the game just now, you actually have 13 years of cool mods to choose from.
Ultimately, the mods really push this game over the edge. In addition to an engaging story and characters, there is an endless array of new content from fans waiting for you to discover.
While it has some warts, Neverwinter Nights 2 is still worth playing. If nothing else, this game will be remembered as Bioware at the top of its game. And it remains an amazing love letter to fans, all these years later.