Neverwinter Nights and Shadows Of Undrentide

by Ron Powell

Title: Neverwinter Nights and Shadows Of UndrentideManufacturer: BiowareURL: www.bioware.comPrice: $29.99 for both Neverwinter Nights and Shadows of Undrentide at various on-line retailers


  • SoU adds a lot of content to NWN.

  • The single-player campaign is shorter in SoU, but the story is much richer.

  • Many user-made modules are available.


  • Can't view movies in either NWN or SoU, disappointing when you reach the end of a campaign.

  • No native toolset.

  • Manual installation.

Neverwinter Nights is a third-person perspective role-playing game (RPG) built on Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition Rules released by Bioware. The game has a large single-player campaign and extensive on-line gaming possibilities. An expansion pack also is available, Shadows Of Undrentide. Additionally, currently over 2,600 user-made modules are available for download.

Linux and Neverwinter Nights

The Linux port of this game was beset by a series of delays. Originally, claims of out-of-box support for Linux were made. A few days before the game hit the shelves, however, support for Linux was changed to "coming soon". Many fans, myself included, opted to purchase the game at its release hoping that "soon" did indeed mean soon. I purchased my copy on June 22, 2002. In August, a Linux client development page was created, and the release date slipped from fall to winter 2002. The last estimated release date was noted on the Bioware Web site as moving from Dec 22, 2002, to March 21, 2003. The client Beta 1 was released on March 20, 2003. Since then, a total of five beta clients and two final clients have been released to the public.

The Beta Process

The most amazing thing about the first beta was it was truly playable. There were bugs, of course, and some performance/tweaking issues as well. It should be noted that the active Linux client forum, which includes both users and Bioware developers, handily overcame most of those issues. The second beta came exactly one day after the first, on March 22nd. The third beta was released one week later on March 28th. The fourth beta was released April 7th, and it fixed even more bugs. A fifth and final beta was released, and the full client came a few days before the Shadows of Undrentide (SoU) expansion pack hit the store shelves.


An installation guide for NWN and SoU can be found here. Recently, Bioware gave Linux users the ability to download the resource files for NWN, removing the requirement to copy the files from a Windows installation. An excellent user FAQ by an NWN forum user is a great place to start for issues that occur when running the game. The forums also are an excellent source of information.

Knowing several tips can help you get NWN running properly the first time:

  • Installing NWN is a manual process, meaning you have to create the directories for the game. No component of NWN lives in the user's home directory; all saved games and configurations are stored in the NWN directories you create. These directories must be writable by the user running the game. It may be possible to restrict access to some directories, but I chose to make the entire NWN directory writable to my non-root user for the sake of simplicity.

  • The installer script on the SoU CD-ROM is broken; use the manual installation instructions, linked above.

  • For optimum performance, set your desktop to 24-bit color depth. The game performs horribly at less than 24-bit color depth.

  • SDL is required for the game (links are provided on the linked install page).

  • The game plays only at resolutions defined in your XF86Config(-4) file.

  • You can run in windowed mode by changing nwn.ini as such:

    [Display Options]
The Single Player Game

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.

On-Line Play

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.

Final Thoughts

Neverwinter Nights is a good game on its own merits. Not only is the game well made, but an all-too-rare Linux option is available. Shadows of Undrentide likewise would have stood well on its own. Together, they definitely make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. I thoroughly enjoyed the single-player campaigns, and I am completely enamored of the on-line play. Pros: SoU adds a lot of content to NWN The single-player campaign was shorter in SoU, but the story was much richer Many user-made modules to play Cons: Can't view movies in either NWN or SoU - this can be very disappointing when you reach the end of a campaign!! No native toolset Manual installation Company Information: Bioware Price: $29.99 for both Neverwinter Nights and Shadows of Undrentide at various online retailers

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