BioWare‘s 2002 release, Neverwinter Nights, is a bit of a giant on the RPG scene.
Not only is it a detailed and engrossing Role-Playing Game par excellence, but it also plays host to a huge modding community. It’s also well-known as a multiplayer game too and features campaigns that can be played single or multi-player, and also features Player-versus-Player (PvP) combat.
As a single-player game Neverwinter Nights is a treat for anyone who loves RPGs. The Aurora Engine is a little clunky at times (inventories especially), but is more than capable of making any scenario enjoyable and engrossing.
Playing Neverwinter Nights feels like a mixture of Fallout and Warcraft – mixing real-time and turn-based gameplay with a multi-character party/control system. The game is a mixture of exploration, dialogue, and tactical combat and uses 3D graphics to represent the game world (unlike BioWare‘s previous games, which used 2D graphics). And – like any good RPG – the quests come thick and fast and are managed in your journal. Items, spells, weapons and armour are organised via pop-up menus.
When you enter combat you are encouraged to use the game’s extremely useful ‘pause’ function. Like ‘VATS’ in Fallout 3 (or Fallout New Vegas), combat in Neverwinter Nights features the ability to stop the action; move the camera; and stack up commands, all while the action is paused. You can play the combat out in real time if you’re good enough, but the pause feature definitely tips the balance in your favour. Followers and party members can also be macro-managed very precisely using this ‘stop time’ function, or you can leave the AI to let them do what they want. It’s good to have the choice. Once you’ve gotten used to the control system, though, you’ll see that this is a seriously complex and tactical game – very challenging in places; especially on the hardest difficulty setting.
One aspect of Neverwinter Nights that I love is the music. It reminds me of Bernard Hermann‘s classic movie scores that he made for Ray Harryhausen‘s famous films (particularly 7th Voyage of Sinbad), with a sprinkling of more modern John Williams. There are a couple of musical cues that seem very familiar, but to me it makes the game comforting – even though the gameplay is very tense at times.
I can’t recommend Neverwinter Nights highly enough if you like RPGs.
The 2006 sequel, Neverwinter Nights 2, is more of the same and just as good, and better looking overall.