Neverwinter Nights, by MacSoft
Posted: 18-Nov-2003

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacSoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Mark Pickett Class: GAMES

Overview
Neverwinter Nights for Mac is the long awaited port of the award winning PC roleplaying game. Developed by BioWare, the makers of the Baldur's Gate series, and brought to the Mac by MacSoft, Neverwinter Nights brings the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition rules to your computer. Set in the town of Neverwinter, your character must help save the town from a terrible plague and uncover who or what is behind it all.

System Requirements

  • 450 MHz G3
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 32 MB video card (Radeon/GeForce 2MX or better)
  • Monitor that supports 800X600 and above
  • 2 GB disk space
  • Mac OS 10.2.6 or higher


Test System

iBook 500MHz, 256 MB RAM, 10 GB Hard disk, Mac OS 10.2.8


Installation
The program installs from 2 disks and takes a while, but completed without any problems. After installing, I upgraded the program to the latest version (1.32.7054) from
Bioware's website.

Gameplay
The game starts off allowing you to choose whether you want to play the included campaign or another module. Additional modules are not included with the game, but can be downloaded from
Bioware's website or the Neverwinter Vault. I chose to play the campaign and proceeded to the next step which was character generation.

You can play the game with a pre-made character, and there are about 20 of varying classes, races, and alignments (good or evil), or you can create your own. The character generation is the most extensive of any that I have seen. You begin by "rolling" your abilities. This generates random numbers from 1 - 18 for each of your six abilities. The abilities are the standard RPG character traits - Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Although the names may change between RPGs, the meanings stay the same. You'll also choose your gender and race. Then choose your character's portrait. The
Bioware website has instructions on how you can create your own image to use as your portrait - very nice touch. Another option I like are the skill packages. You can choose skills individually or you can select a skill package that will contain useful skills based on your character's class.

The campaign module is divided into a prologue and 4 chapters. The prologue is where beginning players and characters can get started. Here you learn about the Wailing Death, the plague affecting the town. You start in the Academy after having been recruited to help the town. An in-game tutorial is presented by speaking to the non-player characters (NPCs) you meet in the Academy. Each will explain a different aspect of the game from how to fight, how to use your inventory and journal, to how to use the different in-game camera angles. An unexpected attack on the Academy gets the action going. By the time the battle is over, your character has been "gifted" two levels and you have been tasked with helping find a cure for the Wailing Death and finding out who is behind the attack on the Academy.

The campaign plays out within the confines of the town of Neverwinter. There are a lot of places to explore and many side quests that you can complete. You'll soon need to hire a henchman, and there are many to choose from at the local watering hole. Make sure you find someone that is able to do the things that your character is weak at. For example, a wizard would be wise to hire a fighter. One can only hire one henchman, so choose well. This is one of the aspects of this game that made me think of Diablo 2. The other is that the campaign is slanted heavily toward fighting and collecting loot. Still, once you've started, its hard to stop playing. My wife commented on more than one occasion that she had become a Neverwinter Nights widow.

The 3-D graphics are very well done. The game camera shows the point of view above your character. The camera can be zoomed in and out and the graphics look smooth at most of the zoom levels. Only when the camera is zoomed in very close are the polygons really obvious, and then it's more the buildings than characters that become squared off. The maximum zoom level is really too close to play the game though, because you can't see much. It is nice to watch a fight close up though. The animations are well done as well. Characters walk, run and even fidget a little when standing idle for awhile. There is an option in the game options for "Violence level", which seems to control the combat animations. On the "low" setting, there are no combat animations. The characters in combat merely stand next to each other and sort of flash when they get hit. The "full" setting adds combat animation. The characters will swing their weapon or punch or attack with whatever means they have. They will also react to being hit. There is another setting "special", but it did not seem to act any differently than "full". The violence setting can be password protected too. Once combat is initiated, it goes until you are dead, your opponent(s) are dead, or you run away. You can pause the game at any time, including during combat, so you can perhaps drink a much needed healing potion. When you resume the action your character will stop fighting to drink before continuing the attack.

All of the normal weapons and armor can be found. Weapons include swords, axes, clubs, maces and bows. For armor you get robes, leather hide, scale mail, chain mail, and plate mail. Each item that you equip on your character (wear), causes a change in your appearance. In some situations, NPCs will even take note of your appearance, like if you're armed in a place where you shouldn't be.

With multiplayer support, you can take the experience online. The online game server is free and provides gamers with any type of game they could want to play. At any time there seem to be hundreds of games going on of all types. Game types include story driven games, action, social, role playing, etc.... You also have the opportunity to join a "persistant world" (think Everquest without the monthly fee).

Other goodies included with the game are a server program to allow you to host network games and a Dungeon Master (DM) Client. With the DM client you can control the adventure for a group of friends.

Summary
Neverwinter Nights is a fabulous addition to any game library. The packaged game provides hours of fun and the wealth of downloadable modules provides for an endless gaming experience. Although, the supplied campaign plays a lot like Diablo 2, mostly hack and slash with little roleplaying, it was fun and addictive. Once you decide to take your game experience online, you can play countless user created modules, join a game hosted by someone else, or become part of a persistent world. Unfortunately, you won't be able to create your own module, as the tools set for doing so was not brought to the Mac (The
Open Knights group is currently trying to do this). No matter how deeply you want to delve into the various aspects of the game, from basic adventuring solo-style, to online role-playing, you will thoroughly enjoy this game.

Pros

  • Addictive gameplay
  • Excellent character generation
  • Huge supply of additional modules
  • Multiplayer capability


Cons

  • Lack of module building tool kit for Mac
  • Little roleplaying in the packaged campaign


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice