The original Neverwinter Nights was undoubtedly a hit, not as much, it seemed, due to the single player game as due to the fact that it was incredibly flexible and expandable. I got the chance to speak with Chris Avellone, of Obsidian Entertainment and the creative director of NWN2, and he told me a good bit about it.
The most important thing he told me – and I consider this not just for myself, as a fan of the single player game, but also for anyone else who was a fan of the original – was that they knew what people liked about the original. They didn’t want to change that; instead, they wanted to give people more, and better. In other words – “efficiency” and “flexibility”.
More consists of more options and depth. The single player game, for instance, is much deeper and longer in this version. There are more character creation choices, more cinematic scenes, more classes, and more spell effects.
Better means better tools. For instance, the map creation tool was made better by making it a bit more standardized to other tools and, in particular, making it easier to make hilly terrain. The graphics are definitely better, the avatars can be customized, and better combat tools.
The graphics were one part of Neverwinter Nights that had to be upgraded in order to make NWN2 a better version of the original.
For example, as mentioned before, avatars are much more customizable, and there are many more spell effects and particle effects in the game – enough to make some of the huge battles in the single player game (more on those later) to be extremely spectacular.
The water effects looked quite good. A very interesting thing about the water – they added tools in that allow people to customize the viscosity, color, and its speed. That means you can have still water, choppy stormy water, or a swiftly flowing stream. It also means you can turn it orange, increase the viscosity, and turn down the speed – and you have lava. In fact, ice is simply a manipulation of the water!
Character creation is another part of the original game that has been greatly expanded. As NWN2 is set in the Forgotten Realms world, like the original (in fact, set 5 years after the last expansion), players will have access to 8 races plus varying numbers of subraces for each of them.
In addition, you’ll have a number of base classes – including a new “warlock” class – and even more prestige classes. There will be the full range of alignments, and your alignment will change based off your actions – a lawful good person who randomly murders someone will find themselves becoming evil. That’ll also tie in not only with some classes but also with the range of deities.
There are a lot more roleplay elements added into character creation, too. For instance, you will be able to add in background options from your home village (such as “flirt” or “troublemaker”). These may lead to additional dialogue options from characters who knew you before you started the game. You can even add a bio for your character.
Fortunately for some, though, not all of character generation is necessary. Instead, you can skip or just have the computer pick for a lot of the options.
Single player campaign
As mentioned before, the single player campaign is extended and deeper in this game than the original NWN. There are even more cinematics, inspired by games like Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2 and Jade Empire.
The tutorial, obviously, will show you how to play the game, but it’ll also teach you about your home and the world in order to give you more grounding and a sense of home. As you progress through the game, you’ll not only level up and become more powerful, but become more powerful in society, too.
In fact, at one point you’ll even have the opportunity to get a stronghold. You can work on it, and the improvements you do to it will be reflected in how it looks and how it defends itself – because, of course, it’s not interesting to have a large stronghold if it’s not attacked!
This was one of the sample battles Chris showed me. From afar, there was the battering of siege engines up against his stronghold while his character and companions manned the walls, reinforcing the defenders and issuing orders. Large siege towers would push up against the walls and let out swarms of attackers to be dealt with. The sheer overload of the spells going off and other effects made the battle amazing to behold.
You’ll also have more camera viewpoints, the ability to pause and assign commands, even to queue them up, and individually assign commands to the up to 3 companions that you have. You may have more people following you than three, though; while you can only have three “companions”, you may also have pets, familiars, and even squads of soldiers! Your companions will also be much more part of the plot in this game, and you’ll have to talk and work with them on their stories.
The companions are wedded to you by a system of influence. Your influence over them will depend on how you treat them and what they think of you. Thus, having low influence over a companion will mean that he’s less likely to help you.
This is probably the most interesting part for a good number of people. What kind of customizations will you be able to do? This can be a bit risky – look at the controversy about “naked toons” in The Sims, but there’s nothing IN the game that is risquй or bad. Anything that shows up like that would be completely the fault of the mods’ author.
Well, first the bad news – NWN mods will not be compatible with NWN2. That being said, the tools are more powerful and easier to use. And you will be able to import scripts and conversations.
One of the big examples of the “ease of use” factor will be the terrain creating tool. The original tool was a bit clunky to use. The new tool is more modeled after RTS tools, and just involves dragging the terrain to the height wanted.
I’ve already mentioned the water. Each piece of clothing and armor in the game is also customizable. The movies in the game can be customized with dialogue scripts, the lights can be shifted in color and intensity, you’ll even be able to combine effects.
Each item is a separate save file in this new version, in order to make it easier to make the same item repeatedly. You can also combine effects and weather more easily in this game. One example shown to me was a dungeon with four major rooms – each room had a different weather theme, such as one that was winter, one that was a spring-like jungle, etc.
It also showed another aspect of the game – every monster can be scaled and tinted. You can make a wee tiny monster, or a giant huge one – they can have their stats scale or stay the same. You can make them blue or gold or red or whatever you want. That helps the modders, creating their dungeon, make sure that the creatures are just write for the story they want to tell.
In short, the game looks exciting. I usually hate this kind of phrasing, but it works in this case – if you liked the first one, you’ll love the second one. It’s everything the first one was, but better, and more!
Neverwinter Nights 2 is currently scheduled for an Oct. 31st release.