An engaging sequel to 2002's RPG Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter Nights 2 offers a fresh single-player campaign, new classes, spells and items from the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition rules, and updated tools, tiles, and other goodies for budding Dungeon Masters. Unfortunately, some all-too-familiar annoyances drag the game down, notably a frustrating camera that hinders as much as helps, and suspect AI.
But first, the good. The strength of the Neverwinter Nights franchise has always been in its customization, and NWN 2 doesn't disappoint. When creating their character, players can choose from an array of eight races (some with two to three sub-races), 12 classes, and (eventually) 16 prestige classes. The player creation process, one of the most involved in an RPG to date, could keep you busy for hours, especially if you're unfamiliar with D&D.
Once complete, your character can be exported for play online, or used in the game's main campaign, a massive, sprawling affair with plenty of gameplay, even without downloading custom player-created modules, a staple of the previous series. NWN 2 comes with a powerful toolset that allows creative (and technically-savvy) players to craft their own adventures and modules.
It's possible to play the main campaign alone, or with up to three friends. For those who adventure solo, the designers have greatly expanded the "henchman" system from Neverwinter Nights. Instead of being limited to one companion, now you can travel with up to three characters, each with their own history, motivations, and likes/dislikes. With well-written dialogue and exceptionally engaging voice acting, these characters provide much of the charm of NWN 2. During battles, though, it's more of a chore to manage your characters than anything else. Limited customization of your companions' battle AI exists, but even given that, often your party will scamper off to disable traps or attack a different enemy, leaving them vulnerable to attack, and you alone to deal your foes.
A buggy AI is one thing. A camera that restricts your field of vision at the most inopportune times is a more serious flaw. The camera takes patience and practice to master, and oftentimes it's a struggle to find an acceptable angle for an area. It's all too easy to miss doors, chests, and other objects due to the camera, an unfortunate drawback to a deep, flexible and engaging RPG with plenty to offer the hardcore RPG or D&D aficionado.
Graphics: The game looks great with full setting enabled, but unfortunately, won't really run well on any but the highest of the high-end machines on full-settings.
Sound: Excellent voice acting and ambient sound. The soundtrack gets a little repetitive -- unavoidable given the length of the game.
Enjoyment: It's easy to get lost in this game -- and that's a good thing. Even better? Getting lost with three of your closest RPG buddies.
Replay Value: Given the wide variety of characters you can play, it's possible to play the main campaign many different ways. But online content and modules is where this game really shines.
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