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Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide Review
PII 450, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1.2GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jun 17, 03 (released)
|» All About Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide on ActionTrip|
Rummaging through my precious collection of PC games, I found it hard to find something I'd consider worth playing more than once. Happily, my quest for any halfway decent game ended when I located Neverwinter Nights among my compilation, which was one of the rare games that managed to hold my attention for a long time. Conveniently enough, I was delighted when AT finally received the full retail version of the long-awaited expansion pack, Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. Cooperating with the developer Floodgate, Bioware worked on enriching the gameplay with new feats, spells, and monsters, while preserving all the elements that made the original the powerhouse of CRPG gaming it is today. In short, the add-on features a variety of new content, and gives you a slice of good clean RPG fun for roughly 30 hours. Naturally, the rudiments of gameplay are once again defined by the D&D 3rd Edition rules (set forth by Wizards of the Coast); hence the length of the whole experience depends on how adroit you are at using the aptitudes of the character classes.
Follow that guard. He looks awfully suspicious.
Right, I think we have enough meat for the road.
For what it's worth, Shadows of Undrentide draws players into a campaign that's enwrapped in a classic fantasy tale, which incidentally has more of a flow to it than the original. Granted, the whole game is not as lengthy as NWN, but it has a well-placed set of twists and turns in the plot structure to keep you involved for the long haul. It all starts in a remote frontier town called Hilltop, which is located east of Neverwinter, in the icy wastelands of the Silver Marches. In case you were wondering, you won't be able to venture westward near the city of Neverwinter - its gates are close to avert the spreading of the plague. Your adventure begins when you join the disciples of Drogan - a skillful magician and a member of the Harpers. Unexpectedly, Drogan's school was attacked by raiders. Drogan was seriously injured in the scuffle and four powerful artifacts were snatched away by the mysterious raiders. This is where your quest begins. Your must journey into the perilous Anauroch desert and recover the artifacts before it's too late. This may not be the best storyline we've ever heard, but events in the game unfold dynamically, offering you enough character depth to constitute an excellent and involving RPG endeavor.
Once the game commences you are offered a set of new prestige classes, which include the following: Arcane Archer, Assassin, Blackguard, Shadowdancer, and Harper Scout. Needless to say, each of these new classes was supported with an adequate background narrative. There's also additional info, portraits, and voices you can supply your character with, while choosing numerous new skills, spells, items, and feats. For an in-depth presentation of the stats and general skills of these new classes you can visit Bioware's official web site. As for the innovative elements, there's plenty to find in Shadows of Undrentide - 16 new creature, 30 new feats, over 50 new spells, and an increased amount of puzzles. So, it's safe to say that you'll have your hands full while experimenting with all the new content. The best part is that gamers are not forced to begin playing with inexperienced characters. New character classes are already leveled and therefore adept in using their combat skills and magic abilities. Such an element saves a lot of time and energy and relieves players the aggravation of beginning the game from scratch. Players should also be glad to know that all the new options and prestige classes are not restricted to the expansion pack, thus they may be used in the regular NWN game - which further increases the replay value of the product.
Before the expansion was released we were informed by Bioware that the programmers toiled away to make an improved version of the AI, both for enemies and henchmen. This proved to be true. Your opponents are smarter and they will be making extensive use of their fighting abilities and magic skills. Similarly, henchmen have a set of intelligent behavior patterns, which make them good travel companions and admirable assistants in combat. Although, on a few rare occasions I did encounter weird issues - your companions would sometimes stand around and watch you fight off a mass of enemies. Still, this wasn't that much of a problem and, as I said, it occurred rarely. Anyhow, players will get to use henchmen considerably more often than in the original game, which means the gameplay is a bit more team-oriented. By the way, before you begin you can select three different characters to accompany you on your quest; Dorna Trapspringer (a dwarven rogue-cleric), Xanos (a half-orc sorcerer), and Deekin (a kobold bard).
Just one quick spell, and voila! A nice barbecue.
Thanks to NWN's excellently balanced control system, handling multiple characters throughout combat will be easy. This time around, players can enjoy a more detailed approach in controlling their companions - now you have the opportunity to access their inventories, furnishing them with new weapons and items. In addition to that, players can dish out levels to their henchmen, thereby determining which skills and abilities to enhance the most.
To some, it may come as a disappointment that the game hasn't changed visually. It's still powered by the Aurora engine and it shows the same amount of details on the characters and in the environments. Although this doesn't have any effect at first glance, it might put players off when they zoom in closer on the action, expecting flashy detail and new visual effects. All that aside, Shadows of Undrentide brings on an interesting new variety of worlds you'll get to venture in. Even though new tilesets were added to the levels, we were disappointed to see that some of the settings lack additional background detail.
Still, as before, there's an amazing variety of solid eye candy in the game; for instance, you'll see some impressive lighting effects and a real outburst of color, caused by several new spells. So, it's always fun to waste your opponents with devastating new magic and watch them shrivel into oblivion. The art and character animations were done splendidly, which was also a distinguishing feature of Neverwinter Nights. The sounds may not be much of an improvement over the original game, but there's quite enough cool new music, expert voice acting, and a variety of new sounds coming from monsters and NPC's.
In the end, we mustn't leave out that Shadows of Undrentide also includes an updated Aurora toolset that has several nifty new features for the vast mod making crowd. You can have a lot fun by combining the new tilesets (desert, ruin, and winter) and using all the innovative monsters, skills, etc.
Well, that's about it. I was also happy to discover that Shadows of Undrentide possesses the same degree of replay value as the original game. Once gamers have gone through the entire new campaign, they can find a lot of new and interesting things to experiment with the next time around - a characteristic that should define any decent RPG. Players that face NWN for the first time, will no doubt be impressed with the hugeness of the entire game.
8.5 Very Good
Involving story. New monsters, spells, tons of new items to toy with, etc. New classes are already leveled. Excellent sound. Adequate replay value;
The visuals are the same. Occasional AI issues, but nothing serious.
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