Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights was a fascinating anomaly of a game, years ahead of its time. An online-oriented community sandbox disguised as a traditional Dungeons & Dragons adventure. While quite plain looking, taken at face value, it hid great depths and multitudes of opportunities for those willing to dig just below the surface.
Today, courtesy of Baldur’s Gate‘s new stewards, Beamdog, it returns. Polished up a little for modern PCs and their audience, Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is out now.
While the Baldur’s Gate and (to a lesser extent) Icewind Dale games are considered largely timeless classics, broadly improved by Beamdog’s modern spit n’ polish, I can see Neverwinter Nights being somewhat more divisive. Even for its time, it wasn’t exactly the nicest-looking of games, and the out-of-the-box main story was a little bit naff, in large part due to its focus on a single player character – hardly playing to D&D’s strengths.
That’s not to say that Neverwinter Nights doesn’t have its fans – it has plenty – but they tend to be players who either started with the (significantly better written/designed) expansions, and those who played it online using its extensive toolkit and dungeon master features, which almost certainly inspired Divinity: Original Sin 2’s tabletop-esque multiplayer mode. Neverwinter Nights also allowed players to run persistent worlds, MMO-lite style, with scripted and respawning events mixed in with live, DM-run story arcs.
The enhancements brought to this version of the game aren’t nearly as sweeping as Beamdog’s other remasters. Tweaks have been made so that the UI scales more gracefully on higher-resolution screens, and some minor graphical enhancements have been made (including slightly more detailed character hands), but for better or worse the game itself is largely unchanged from its Diamond iteration (featuring both expansions, plus several DLC scenarios).
One thing that you can definitely chalk up as a ‘better’ point of leaving the game largely unchanged is full backwards compatibility with existing Neverwinter Nights mods, scenarios and more. While some of the old community hubs have fizzled out or shut down, most of the old, major mods should be accessible with a little searching. One thing few remasters can boast is a decade or more of fan-content, functional and ready to roll from day zero.
Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is out now on Steam for £15.50/20€/$20, with several DLC packs (including Wyvern Crown of Cormyr, Infinite Dungeons and Pirates of the Sword Coast) available for around £2 each, although if memory serves, none of these three are must-plays.