My three main memories of the original Neverwinter Nights:
a) exasperating various Bioware devs by doggedly creating an all-Dire Badgers module in the editor during a studio visit
b) my boxed copy INCLUDING ACTUAL CLOTH MAP being stolen by a jealous middle manager at a former workplace
c) playing co-op with Jim and Kieron, formerly of this parish, and sometime contributor Dan Griliopoulos, who rather complicated proceedings by attempting to murder every NPC we encountered.
What I am saying is that 2002’s Neverwinter Nights was one of those games that embeds itself into your life in various ways, for years. And now it’s getting the spit’n’polish treatment for a semi-remastered release.
Beamdog, headed up by former Bioware bigwig Trent Oster, has for some time been in the business of creating ‘Enhanced Editions’ of 90s and early noughties cRPG hits. We’ve had both Baldur’s Gates, earlier this year we had a solid if slightly too mod-replicating take on the e’er-essential Planescape Torment, and now Bioware’s first foray into 3D RPGs steps up to the plate.
NWN was revered far more for its mod-friendly nature and bundled editor, which resulted in a colossal number of player-made adventure modules over the years, than for its fine but unexceptional singleplayer campaign, and that remains the major reason to be excited now.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Ah, that music. It’s not quite as powerfully evocative as The Elder Scrolls theme, but it sure puts me back in a very particular place.
As for the enhancerisation levels, it doesn’t look like quite as much has been poked and prodded as was the case with the Infinity engine games, but a) clearly I can’t see what’s been done under the hood and b) NWN arguably needed less doing, as 3D can often scale up to different resolutions and have post-processing applied in a way that always isn’t quite so easy for 2D games. Or, at least, so I understand it – I may be howlingly wrong.
I’m seeing some depth of field effects, better anti-aliasing and a rejiggered, cleaner UI, but fundamentally it looks like Neverwinter Nights at a higher res. I guess I’d like to see improved character models, but the more they swap out in this kind of thing, the higher the risk of creating something that jars with the original vision or, more importantly, our memory thereof. I suspect the big win here, though, is general improvements to compatibility and display that work right out of the box, rather than require extensive post-installation tinkering.
But here’s the really good news: NWNEE supports saves, mods and modules from the original version of the game. I.e. 15 years of community-made love and labour can plug right into it. That’s glorious.
Here’s the full list of promised features and changes:
Improved Display: Your portrait, combat bar, inventory, and other UI elements adjust in size based on your chosen resolution including 1080p and 4k.
Advanced Graphics Options: Pixel shaders and post-processing effects make for crisper, cleaner visuals. Enable contrast, vibrance, and depth of field options as preferred.
Community Endorsed: Original developers have teamed with key members of the Neverwinter Nights community to curate important fan-requested improvements to support players, storytellers, and modders.
Backwards Compatibility: Works with save games, modules, and mods from the original Neverwinter Nights. A galaxy of community created content awaits.
They haven’t put a release date on this yet, but it’s available to pre-order for $20 on Beamdog’s site now, and folk who do so will gradually be invited into “a Head Start program, allowing players to try an early version of the game, import modules, and prepare persistent world servers.” You can wishlist on Steam, but not head start bobbins there as yet. If you can’t wait until however you long you have to wait for, there’s always the olden NWN Diamond Edition over on GOG.
There’s also going to be a deluxe edition, which bundles in olden premium modules Pirates of the Sword Coast, Infinite Dungeons, and Wyvern Crown of Cormyr, a couple of soundtracks, and a new portrait pack. However, the base NWNEE does contain all the content of NWN Diamond Edition, i.e. including the Shadows of Undrentide, Hordes of the Underdark and Kingmaker expansions.