Neverwinter Nights, my new obsession
I just got this last night and only played for a few hours, so necessarily my review will be a "first look" of sorts. I expect, however, that I'll be obsessed - don't expect me to get out of the house much.
Neverwinter Nights is based on the 3rd Edition rules for D&D - and it's a fairly faithful adaptation. There are some key differences, however - mostly necessitated by the transferral to the computer media. Some things, also, have been streamlined.
For instance, modifiers due to one's [banned word] are narrowed down to a simple +2 on one trait, and a -2 on another. Also, stat generation is done by a "point buy" method, which gets more expensive at higher levels. A stat up to 14 costs one for one, while a stat above that costs two for one. If you want an 18 in strength, say - you're going to have to pay through the nose to get it.
The classes are exactly the same as 3rd Edition, with changes to suit the medium. For instance, the Paladin doesn't get a mount at 5th level, because there's no way to fight from horseback (or dogback, or whatever!). The skill lists are mostly the same, with all "Knowledge" skills basically collapsed into "lore" the only practical use for which is identifying magic items. Class skills cost one for one, and non-class skills are two for one.
There are some new skills, too - for instance "Discipline" allows the pc to resist opposed feats, like Disarm.
Feats are largely the same as 3rd Edition. There are some differences to streamline combat - for instance, "Power Attack" gives a flat +5 to damage at a -5 to hit, rather than being a matter of the player's choice.
The interface is simple, but sometimes hard to navigate. You right-click on something to open up a "radial dial" which has icons for actions arrayed around the target of the action like a clockface. Further levels of commands can be drilled-down by right-clicking on icons.. etc. Unfortunately, if you want to use an item in your inventory, you have to open up a radial display of icons, which sometimes can be indistinguishable from items in your inventory - which is confusing. The icons aren't more or less translucent than the background, so they can be hard to pick out in a cluttered environment.
Some simple work with the quick-slots will address most of that problem, however. There are a plethora of quick-slots too, all the function keys, plus ctrl-function and shift-function, for a total of 36.
The graphics are crunchy goodstuff! The style is somewhat similar in terms of it's design to Baldur's Gate II - but slicker with better ambient light sources, richer textures, and true 3-D environments. Character icons vary depending on the choices you make, and are very customizable.... particularly if you're playing a non armor-wearing character, in which case the variety of outfits is so dazzling as to make even Liberace happy. You can also choose your flesh tone, tattoos, hair color and style, and voice. Voice options range from "psychotic adventurer" (a quavering Malkovich-like voice) to "enthusiastic evangelist" (an Elmer Gantry "you are heaaaaled, brother!" type voice) to the "brooding dark hero" (gravelly and serious). All the voices are done by the same voice actor though... so they're not very different.
The sound is well done, too. The music is orchestral, suits the setting, and changes pace dynamically to match what's going on - if you spot an enemy who starts to charge you, suddenly the tempo increases and there's dramatic fight music. Ambient sounds are effective - exploring enclosed subterranean spaces can be frightening, with disorienting echoes bouncing around behind you.
The story itself, at least in it's early stages, is fairly hokey. There's this terrible plague in the city of Neverwinter, and you have to help the overly-endowed elven paladin in a metal-bikini find the cure. For some reason the cure involves monstrous creatures which... oh no! ... escape into the city. You're restricted from leaving the city, and must recapture the creatures. There are four chapters though - so I hold out hope that the story gets a little better. However, there are lots of side-quests - one for every henchmen you can hire, plus class quests, and other random things.
The voice-acting is about what you'd expect from a video game. Decent, but not truly inspired like say... "Freedom Force". They obviously had a small stable of voice actors to work with, because after a while, all the NPC's start to sound the same. Some of them are quite entertaining though - like the evil dwarven monk henchmen, who will wax eloquent about the beauty of death, all while beating the bejeebus out of enemies.
I really like this game. I can't wait to try the online version, which is rumored to be very strong and very easy to use. I hated Morrowind, and regret buying it - if I had known Neverwinter was coming out soon, I'd have just waited, but I gave in to impulse. Anyone want my copy of Morrowind? It sucks and I don't want it!