The dumb thing is that all that BioWare needed to do was think of another word to go with 'Neverwinter' and it would've been fine! Or they could've just called the thing Neverwinter on its own like the folks who made the 2013 MMO would later do. Legacy of Neverwinter Chronicles: Origins, there you go!
Great looking font though.
I said earlier that I'd be taking a quick look at the game, but it's an RPG so that was actually code for 'I'll be playing this for hours'. I've written about enough of these games by now to know the drill: to get a good feel for what kind of RPG this is I'm going to have to invest a fair bit of time, so forgive me if this drags on a bit.
(Clicking gameplay images will likely open them up a little bigger, with more readable text and obvious aliasing.)
It's funny, no matter how much they dress it up with scrolls and dragons, the 'BioWare' text itself always looks very sci-fi. They've been THE traditional western fantasy RPG developer since 98's Baldur's Gate, but I reckon their logo looks more at home on the games they'd end up making later like Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect.
By the way, those modules it's promoting are short expansion packs with their own stories and characters. 'Premium' modules are the ones created for sale on the BioWare site, but the game comes with all the RPG making tools needed for anyone to craft their own home made module. It was designed from the start to be the ultimate pen and paper role playing simulation, allowing people to make their own content and even run multiplayer games as a Dungeon Master with full control over the game world during gameplay.
I'll just be playing the original campaign on my own though, because I'm boring.
But before I get into the real plot I've got to build myself a newbie hero! Do I go with a young Conan the Barbarian type? A ninja elf in training? Gandalf the green?
There seems to be several different styles of portraits here and I'm guessing that's because more were added in the expansions. It does mean there's a fair amount to choose from though and for once in an RPG I don't have to click through them one at a time!
By the way, the game adds a huge border to these windows in higher resolutions (in a similar way to Knights of the Old Republic), so I've cropped them down for you. Imagine you're drifting through an endless black void filled with spinning red fog: that's what you're missing out on here around the edges.
The character creation options seem pretty similar to the ones I saw in Baldur's Gate last year, but this based on a newer edition of Dungeons and Dragons, (the 3rd Edition in fact), so the rules are a little different. I don't have to roll my character's attribute scores for one thing, which I'm massively grateful for. It never made any sense to me why I'd basically be rolling a random difficulty level.
I've decided to go with a female sorceress with a random name and a whole lot of Charisma. They throw far too much info at you at the start for a new player to really understand the choices they're making, but the game at least make it that clear that sorcerers need good Charisma to unleash their higher level magic.
The video goes on to show off the city of Neverwinter, ruled by a guy who looks a whole lot like the bloke fighting that minotaur in the intro video. It's a bastion of civilization, the Jewel of the North, or at least it was until the Wailing Death swept through the population.
To save Neverwinter, a paladin called Lady Aribeth put forth a call for a champion... and then set up a champion academy to train all of the wannabe protagonists that showed up. Because she's wise enough to know that level 1 characters are utterly useless in D&D.
I have to admit that I'm immediately put off from the game by how it looks. Glowing green text in transparent windows looks more sci-fi than fantasy, having the spell icons obscure the shortcut keys I'll need to activate them isn't very helpful, and the lack of a ceiling isn't doing much to immerse me in this place. Also traditionally shadows tend to fall away from light sources.
But what really puts me off is this radial menu, with a cryptic icon in every circle. And worse it's got nested menus, so to figure it all out I'll have to explore a few levels deep into this labyrinth of glyphs, highlighting each in turn so it'll tell me what they mean.
Look at this though, it really is impossible to know what I'm selecting here without hovering my cursor over them! Other games have made this kind of menu work (like The Sims for instance), it's definitely got its uses, but they generally had the sense to skip the icons and just use words.
Oh cool, it seems that equipping armour makes my AC go up instead of down in this; they've moved on from all that THAC0 business used in the earlier games. In Baldur's Gate mages couldn't equip armour at all, but in this I'm choosing to wear the dress because bulkier clothes increase the chance of spell failure. I can do without every tenth spell blowing up in my face.
THE QUICKBAR IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURES IN THE GAME! YOU SHOULD LEARN TO USE YOUR QUICKBAR!They really do bring out the lime green text for that one. It is a very nice quickbar though I suppose; you can add anything to it, from inventory items to emotes. I'm impressed.
Neverwinter Nights was released between Baldur's Gate II and Knights of the Old Republic and it really does feel like a transition between the two. The world is now full 3D, but characters don't move their lips as they talk. They don't even talk all the much either, as I'm lucky if I can get once voiced line out of them before they switch to dialogue boxes only. There's a dialogue box on screen right now in fact, though I can forgive you if you didn't notice it up there.
Oh, I told him that I'm here for profit by the way, because I am. I'm gonna loot every chest in this whole academy.
The staff understand that I'm not a fighter type so I don't need to take part in combat drills, but they're willing to let me join in anyway if I want to learn the ropes. I'll have the choice to switch classes at some point, so it makes sense that they'd give players a chance to learn how they all work.
Well it turns out that I suck at shooting arrows, huge shock. Right then, I'd better get back to looking in every door for a magic tutor then.
SOME TUTORIALS LATER.
The voice acting has been generally solid so far, but there's something really off about Aribeth's dialogue to me. I know she's supposed to be a noble paladin, but she's so damn 'well met, fair hero' that she sounds like she's wandered in from a CD-i game made a decade earlier. The character's played by Wendee Lee, who has been everyone in everything (Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop is the first thing that jump to mind), so I can only assume she was asked to ham it up deliberately.
After the fight against the invaders only Aribeth and I were left (because all the dead bodies fade away), and now I'm the one tasked with saving the day. You see, Aribeth had actually managed to find ingredients for the plague cure while her champions were all still in training, and that's what the bad people are here for. Her theory is that the invaders are magically tracking her so that she'll inadvertently lead them right to the ingredients, so instead she'll be luring them away while I race through the Academy to single handedly defend the cure for the city. This isn't going to end well is it?
Like in Baldur's Gate, magic users only get a number of shots before they need to rest. My magic tutor gave me an infinite rod of frost though, so I can keep this up all night. I simply press F4 to activate the appropriate quickbar slot and then click on anything that annoys me to make them disappear, and I never miss. Funny how the dead students lining the corridors haven't faded away like the enemies I've been killing.
The game has the same 'real time with pause' combat as the BioWare's earlier Infinity Engine games like Baldur's Gate, meaning that I can either make my plans on the move, or hit space bar to pause, figure things out, and queue up my next few actions. Either way it's simulating a tabletop game, one round at a time, so there's always a delay between attacks.
You know, all this solo combat is reminding me of that other D&D game released around the same time on the consoles.
|Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance (PS2)|
I've deliberately avoided looking through the manual because I wanted to see how much of it I can learn just by playing (plus I bought the game from GOG, so it's a massive PDF file instead of a handy booklet), but things like this make me feel like I've got some reading to do.
The game goes out of its way to explain the interface, how to perform actions, and other video game things, but when it comes to D&D elements like classes and intelligence modifiers and DC and saving throws etc. I'm left to figure it out myself. If I switched to a fighter right now, would I keep my spells? Would I be reincarnated at level 1 again? Would it mean I level up slower? Should I hang on and wait a few levels until I have earned the prerequisites to unlock a Prestige class?
There's a 'recommended' button there, and the game often recommends that I should quit thinking about all these boring numbers and just click that instead, like the process of character creation and development is just an optional feature for hardcore D&D fans. Well if the game's going to be like that, then I'm just going to stick with what I've got and move on then.
There's a lot here to choose from here, but that's fine because I didn't actually unlock any of these level 1 spells. I've unlocked a crappy level 0 spell instead and there's far less of them to pick from, so I'm just going to go with 'Flare' and move on. It makes enemies "suffer a -1 penalty to attack rolls" apparently, and it seems plausible that this helps me somehow.
It would've been cool if they could've thrown a line like 'reduces an enemy's accuracy, by...' or 'reduces an enemy's attacks per second, by...' in there as well though, for the benefit of people who haven't played the tabletop game.
It turns out that the cure ingredients were actually animals being stored intact and alive for extra freshness, and when the assault on the Academy gave them a opening to escape the creatures took it. So now they're out wandering the plague-ridden streets of Neverwinter, and as the only graduate of the Academy's champion training program before the teachers were all slaughtered it's up to me to catch them again.
To aid me in my quest I have been given a stone of town portal, which will bring me back to the city center free of charge where I can sell my gear and get some free healing. Could've really done with one of these back in Baldur's Gate.
And now I'm actually finally free to go and explore the city! Plague victims dying in the streets, burned out buildings, riots, bird cages scattered everywhere... should be fun.
Continued in part two!