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  1. #1
    Lesser Hivemind Node Drinking with Skeletons's Avatar
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    Neverwinter Nights 2 Retrospective

    Oddly in line with the release of Neverwinter, I've been replaying one of my personal favorites, Neverwinter Nights 2. It's a title that I had feared I'd find unbearably clunky after playing the Dragon Age games, but you know what? It's better than either.

    I could go on and on about the campaigns, but let's talk about interfaces. So many PC games obsess over hotkeys and nested submenus. The Dragon Age: Origins interface was all about that handy little hotbar. Unfortunately, DAO's hotbar would get absolutely crammed full of odds and ends, especially for mages, to the point that at level 20 it was essentially useless, the videogame equivalent of a hoarder's nest. NWN2 has the potential for the same thing, except they wisely included the Quick Cast menu, a tiny, transparent box containing all of your spells, neatly organized by level, with additional filters for different modifiers (such as Empower Spell). This handy little tool makes life so much easier for Sorcerors, Wizards, and other spellcasters that it makes the contention from other titles that spellcasters need to be trimmed down ludicrous. It just works.

    Past that, the interface displays absolutely everything you could need, from different modes to a hotbar (when you really need it) to a quick toggle for turning off party AI. And individual, grid-based inventories for each party member should be mandatory. NO MORE LISTS. It's been a while since I played a game that had a really great PC interface, but they provided it here.

    Unfortunately, the engine powering all of this goodness seems to be constructed from string and bubblegum. Weird glitches, crashes, and quest problems abound (I'm pretty sure I missed out on the best ending for Mask of the Betrayer because a side quest didn't trigger appropriately), and not even the console possesses the power to fix things. Throw in the translation of a tabletop ruleset to ensure you can't ever keep good track on what's going on and I can see how some people could loathe the title.

    Actually, the tabletop conversion is pretty interesting. While the pace doesn't translate in the least, one thing I truly love is that the rules, while sometimes needlessly complex, are always understandable by a human. The numbers used aren't being plugged into some secret equation buried deep within the game code (well, they are, but you know what I mean) but are instead displayed proudly for anyone to understand. I know what 2 points of Strength gets me in NWN2. I have only the faintest clue what 2 points of Strength gets me in most other titles. This is why I don't mind developers using d20 systems in their games. Is it clunky? Yeah. But it's comprehensible.

    At the end of the day, Neverwinter Nights 2 is one of my favorites. I'll probably come back and put up posts about each campaign, as they deserve to be treated individually, but NWN2 is what keeps me from going back to the original NWN. Oh, I played the original first, and I envy its superior mod scene. But I like NWN2's class selection far more, I like the added feats and spells, and I find the campaigns to be superior (well, I can't speak of Hordes of the Underdark; I only played about half an hour of it). If someone knows of any mods that add in the new classes and spells (and I know that there is a spell icon mod, if nothing else), I'd love to dive into the original, with it's more numerous mods and official add-ons. Until then, I'll have to be satisfied with Obsidian's output, and hope that Project Eternity somehow manages to equal it. And if you are wondering if Obsidian can actually do right by a party-based RPG, then NWN2 is the benchmark.

    What about everyone else? Any opinions on this?

  2. #2
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bhazor's Avatar
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    I liked NW2 but I have to say I was the opposite. Thought the engine was pretty solid but that the interface was an abomination. Why the hell does it display a huge generic swag bag icon at the top of the screen whenever I pick something up? An icon that has to be manually closed, every, single, damn time. Then there's the weird camera design where you have three different options for control and none of them work like they should. Its also a very generic looking game which I guess is a symptom of the modular design system. Its no worse than say the Elder Scrolls in that regard but it's just as bad. Certainly better than the original NWN at least.

    I will say add that I replayed DAO recently and despite the much smoother interface the game really can't hold a candle to NWN2. The writing is rubbish, the character customisation is pathetic (especially spell choice) and there's just so many lame overlong Fade sequences. Heck in some places I think it actually *looks* worse than NWN2.

    Regarding the campaign and add on premium modules, I think my favourite part was how every module was a completely different type of RPG. There was Mask the (second) spiritual successor to Planescape, there was the prolonged dungeon crawl of Westgate and the pseudo Ultima style Storm of Zehir. They certainly varied in quality but I definitely appreciate the variety. It's something I hope Obsidian will return to with Eternity.
    Last edited by Bhazor; 08-05-2013 at 02:14 AM.
    “People will kill you over time, and how they’ll kill you is with tiny, harmless phrases, like “be realistic”
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  3. #3
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    NWN2 is ok at best, MotB on the other hand is one of the best RPGs ever made.

  4. #4
    Lesser Hivemind Node Harlander's Avatar
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    The single-player of NWN and its sequel are not bad at all, but they're not the important part of the games.

    It's the multiplayer, which allows people to act as DMs taking people through a custom-made module, its powerful scripting, and decent server capabilities which allowed people to set up their own mini-MMOs which were the real unique point of NWN.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Fumarole's Avatar
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    The campaign is great fun when played multiplayer, not to mention incredibly easy with five players. Then again perhaps that can be said of most games when one considers my gaming group. Playing a svirfneblin rogue and running around looting everything while my friends did all the heavy combat lifting was immensely fun.
    The Medallion of the Imperial Psychopath, a Napoleon: Total War AAR
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  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus c-Row's Avatar
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    What I miss most were NWN's map editor toolsets.
    - If the sound of Samuel Barber's "Adagio For Strings" makes you think of Kharak burning instead of the Vietnamese jungle, most of your youth happened during the 90s. -

  7. #7
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    I played NWN2 far, far too much when it was first released and it was possibly both the best and the worst game ever at the same time (especially persistent servers).

    Most of the servers felt exceptionally incestuous after several months of being open, small groups would form and some seriously weird shit would go down .. but as a new player trying to break into those servers? Good luck.

    On the flipside I met some folks off it I'm still in contact with today and as a DM had some incredibly good times creating different events/objectives for people (however they'd lose their shit if you told them they were wrong).

    Fun times.

    Forgot to mention that Jockie who posts on this forum actually did an introspective piece on it a while back, quite a good read.

    http://beefjack.com/features/second-...-role-collide/

    I only care because that's my screenshot at the top.
    Last edited by Noirdeathe; 08-05-2013 at 09:50 AM.

  8. #8
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jockie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Drinking with Skeletons View Post
    At the end of the day, Neverwinter Nights 2 is one of my favorites. I'll probably come back and put up posts about each campaign, as they deserve to be treated individually, but NWN2 is what keeps me from going back to the original NWN. Oh, I played the original first, and I envy its superior mod scene. But I like NWN2's class selection far more, I like the added feats and spells, and I find the campaigns to be superior (well, I can't speak of Hordes of the Underdark; I only played about half an hour of it). If someone knows of any mods that add in the new classes and spells (and I know that there is a spell icon mod, if nothing else), I'd love to dive into the original, with it's more numerous mods and official add-ons.
    What about everyone else? Any opinions on this?
    Hotu is easily the best of the NWN1 campaigns, slightly slow and difficult at the start, it surpasses the OC and Undrentide with a more interesting story and better characters, I'd give it another go!

    In terms of classes and the rest, you're so utterly spoiled for choice by mods that it's not even funny - the PRC has about 150 extra classes for the original. There's a version for NWN2 as well, to be found here, though it's less extensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noirdeathe View Post
    I played NWN2 far, far too much when it was first released and it was possibly both the best and the worst game ever at the same time (especially persistent servers).

    Most of the servers felt exceptionally incestuous after several months of being open, small groups would form and some seriously weird shit would go down .. but as a new player trying to break into those servers? Good luck.

    On the flipside I met some folks off it I'm still in contact with today and as a DM had some incredibly good times creating different events/objectives for people (however they'd lose their shit if you told them they were wrong).

    Fun times.

    Forgot to mention that Jockie who posts on this forum actually did an introspective piece on it a while back, quite a good read.

    http://beefjack.com/features/second-...-role-collide/

    I only care because that's my screenshot at the top.
    Didn't even have to pimp my own writing! I'd say thanks for the link, but as you say, you were predominantly interested in pimping out a screenshot you took, for whatever bizarre reason!
    I write about them video games at these locations

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  9. #9
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    I only do it because I love you.

  10. #10
    Lesser Hivemind Node Harlander's Avatar
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    Did anyone use Neverwinter Connections? That was a thing of beauty in its heyday

  11. #11
    Lesser Hivemind Node apricotsoup's Avatar
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    I would have loved to love MotB, but the interface and especially the camera were so unweildy that I couldn't bring myself to do anything in the game after a couple of hours of frustration, looking up fixes, mods, anything.

    Which is a shame as it's exactly the type of game I like.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by apricotsoup View Post
    I would have loved to love MotB, but the interface and especially the camera were so unweildy that I couldn't bring myself to do anything in the game after a couple of hours of frustration, looking up fixes, mods, anything.

    Which is a shame as it's exactly the type of game I like.
    You did disable the camera settings in the options, right? You can have it exactly the same as the original NWN.

    Top-down, edge of screen/arrow keys rotate camera.

    There are even mods that completely rehaul the UI, been around for a while.

  13. #13
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    The PRC pack had an amazing amount of options, but some of them either didn't work, worked in really weird ways, or made the game crash. I remember True Namer being an example of all three.

    DAO vs. NWN2 is an interesting choice I have a huge list of comparisons so I'll just go by game.

    I liked the characters in DAO better than vanilla NWN.
    DAO had a rock solid engine.
    DAO had better graphics almost all of the time.
    DAO's spell interactions should be added into any game that's imitating a tabletop rpg in the future; it adds verisimilitude and that's a good thing.
    DAO's autoleveling areas should be shunned in the future by everyone.
    DAO's heavy reliance on spell resistance should be shunned in the future. Spell resistance is an overly game-y mechanic, especially the ridiculous flat out do no damage kind. Vogel does it better, where it affects damage percentage and to hit chance is entirely separate.
    I wasn't crazy about DAO's spell system, but some of the new spells like forcecage and virulent bomb were absolutely great.
    All of these positives about DAO pale in comparison to one overwhelming negative, lack of mod support. Modules took the NWN games from decent RPGs to great platforms.

    NWN's was prone to the camera being too close, and the rare but noticeable instant exit bug.
    I thought NWN2 had a far superior plot overall.
    NWN2 also has an incredibly asanine update process that takes hours.
    The tactical system of NWN2 had far greater depth, and out of combat skills matter more (though not enough) in NWN2.
    NWN2's quickcast bar is perfect, and I wish they had relied on that more instead of using it, the circular menu, and the hotbar.

  14. #14
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    I loved NV2 as a singleplayer game, way way better than anything else Obsidian have done.

  15. #15
    Lesser Hivemind Node Bhazor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    DAO vs. NWN2 is an interesting choice I have a huge list of comparisons so I'll just go by game.
    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    I liked the characters in DAO better than vanilla NWN.
    Inconsequential companion dialog is about the only thing Bioware writers are any good at. Their attempts at lore, story, consistency of tone, thematic links, wham lines, any attempts at serious drama etc are at best passable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    DAO had a rock solid engine.
    Given its time and budget it was also incredibly tame. It really isn't much different from the engine used in the original KOTOR.

    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    DAO had better graphics almost all of the time.
    It was also released a full two years later with a EA budget.
    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    DAO's spell interactions should be added into any game that's imitating a tabletop rpg in the future; it adds verisimilitude and that's a good thing.
    That was something that seemed to be dramatically stripped down during the design phase. I remember early interviews claiming spells were very physical like being able to use a stone spell to knock down doors and jets of water to extinguish flames. In the end magic interaction was incredibly narrow with a scant half dozen combinations and most of those just did extra damage. More importantly spell selection was very restrictive and committed the cardinal sin of skill trees, forcing you to take rubbish feats/spells you'll never use just to get access to the next spell in that branch.
    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    I wasn't crazy about DAO's spell system, but some of the new spells like forcecage and virulent bomb were absolutely great.
    I assume by forcecage you mean Crushing Prison as forcecage is the D&D spell it was based on. Likewise virulent bomb is near identical to the plague spell from D&D. Both spells are available in NWN2.
    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    All of these positives about DAO pale in comparison to one overwhelming negative, lack of mod support. Modules took the NWN games from decent RPGs to great platforms.
    To be fair DA:O does have a meager modding community even if EA doesn't support it. Of course being Bioware fans most are for vaguely creepy romances.

    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    NWN's was prone to the camera being too close
    Never felt it was too close but yeah the camera was a cluster fuck that needed a lot of user tweaking to make functional. Fortunately theres plenty of mods that completely redo the interface.
    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    I thought NWN2 had a far superior plot overall.
    Agreed, though it makes a terrible first impression. The third chapter in particular (where you have to get to the rich area of Neverwinter) has one of the most pointlessly drawn out questlines I've seen since the courier mission from Ocarina of Time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Internet View Post
    The tactical system of NWN2 had far greater depth, and out of combat skills matter more (though not enough) in NWN2.
    That's what you get for basing your combat on an actual RPG system rather than trying to copy WOW combat.
    Last edited by Bhazor; 09-05-2013 at 01:54 AM.
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  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Faldrath's Avatar
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    Can anyone suggest one of those UI mods for NWN2? I tried to play it again recently, but the camera, and lack of "select all" were driving me nuts (although I fully admit I might simply not have found the select all key, because I can't believe it really doesn't have that).

  17. #17
    NWN2 + expansions might be my favorite game(s) of all time.

    Speaking of which, I really need to play it again.

  18. #18
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    Never got round to finishing NWN2 or starting MOTB - is MOTB completely standalone or will I be missing out if I start playing it without finishing the OC?

  19. #19
    Network Hub Choca's Avatar
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    I recently tried to replay it as I have some good memories of MotB but it's just so clunky to play that I quickly gave up.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kreeth View Post
    Never got round to finishing NWN2 or starting MOTB - is MOTB completely standalone or will I be missing out if I start playing it without finishing the OC?
    It builds on the same character as you play in NWN2 OC but it is largely stand-alone. If you don't want to play through the OC I should not take that as a hinderance towards playing MotB (which is significantly better).

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