Neverwinter Nights and Shadows Of Undrentide
The NWN Original Campaign (OC) is standard RPG fare, but the quests are engaging and the game quickly immerses users. Those familiar with Dungeons & Dragons should feel right at home. For those without Dungeons & Dragons experience, the manual is thorough and easy to read. Anyone having played an RPG title before should be able to get around quite easily after a few minutes. If all else fails and you don't want to read the manual, the Prelude in the OC is a tutorial on all things NWN. There should be no reason to feel lost playing this game.
You can choose from seven races and 11 character classes, assign ability points in each of six categories and choose feats. You also can customize your character to create exactly the character you want to play.
The OC is broken up into five chapters, including the Prologue. The OC provided me with about 45 hours of game play. Each chapter has numerous sub-quests to complete on your way to completing the main quest for each chapter.
The expansion pack, Shadows of Undrentide, provides another single-player campaign comprised of three chapters. It is noticeably shorter than the NWN OC and provided me about 25 hours of game play. The SoU story is very interesting, though, and the NPCs are much richer and have better dialog options than those in the OC. SoU also adds various game play additions, such as new feats, spells and character classes, plus the ability to manipulate your henchman's inventory--a feature sorely lacking in the original game. Other additions and the depth of the added content makes purchasing the expansion pack an easy choice, indeed.
Some issues and shortcomings still can be found in NWN and SoU. As noted, the installation script provided on the SoU CD-ROM does not work properly for many people. Thankfully, you can install SoU manually by unzipping four files (follow the instructions on the linked installation page above), but this oversight is particularly glaring. The toolset for making your own content does not function natively, but NWNWine may work for you. The cut scenes, movies at the end of chapters that further the story, are not viewable natively in NWN, and this issue has not been corrected in SoU. The fact that cut scenes are not natively viewable is mitigated somewhat by the following:
I would have liked to see the movies, but they weren't vital to completing the game.
Two workarounds are provided by the NWN Linux community, NWMovies and NWNBink2Ogm NWNBink2Ogm. Tux Games also ships the movies in MPEG format if you order SoU from them. I was not brave enough to try the workarounds and cannot comment on how well they work.
As as last resort, you could view the movies on a Windows installation.
The two single-player campaigns can be played over the Internet in cooperative mode, but the user-made modules really are what extend the life of NWN. Some of the modules are Persistent Worlds (PW) that run for long periods of time, providing a dynamic environment that changes through the use of scripting and AI enhancements to the original game content. Bioware provides a full description and FAQ about Persistent Worlds here. One such user-made PW is The Land of Nordock. I have found this PW to be very engaging and have logged many hours playing there. The makers of this PW have created a top-notch game, and the give users adequate DM (Dungeon Master) and technical support through the forums. I would advise anyone wishing to try a PW for the first time to visit the official Nordock servers, as the players and staff typically are enthusiastic about helping new players. I tried several user-made modules and PWs while reviewing SoU, and Nordock quickly became my favorite place to game on-line.
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