Neverwinter Nights 2: Nitpicks

By Shamus
on Jan 19, 2007
Filed under:
Game Reviews

Here is a list of flaws, great and small. A lot of this stuff is the kind of thing that never gets mentioned in reviews, but I think it matters. I wouldn’t want developers to get the idea that we don’t care about things like CD key length or a predictable autosave.

The flaws, in increasing order of seriousness, from the minor to egregious:


This game has the longest CD key I’ve encountered so far. Thirty-five alphanumeric digits. Sweet mercy.

There are a few bugs and broken quest triggers. One was a looping cinematic that I couldn’t escape. I checked the forums and this is a pretty common and well-known bug, but no patch has yet emerged to deal with it. A user made a mod fixes it. Sigh.

When you reach Neverwinter city the game locks up randomly until you pass some plot point that I haven’t figured out.

This game also broke the record for number of splash screens. There is a little animation for Atari, then Obsidian Entertainment, then Hasbro, then Wizards of the Coast, then NVidia, followed by the opening cinematic, which then leads you to a bunch of fine print atop the logos for all of the companies you just saw. After that you are at last, mercifully, delivered to the main menu. That is a lot of times to have to smack the ESC key when trying to start the game. Geeze guys. Do you mind? I’m trying to play my game here! Get over yourselves already.

The autosave is unpredictable. I never know when it will do the auto-saving. In the middle of Act II is when the game started killing me. It had been pretty easy up until that point, so I wasn’t in the habit of saving often. I went to load the auto-save, and found it was almost two hours old. Sometimes the auto-save seems recent. Sometimes its ages old. I don’t know why. Eventually I learned not to trust it, and got in the habit of manually saving on a (very) regular basis.

The sound effects are very lackluster. Most areas are dead silent. Some (Like Port Llast) have odd sounds that don’t seem to fit. The swampy areas should have been creaking and croaking and buzzing and bubbling. Barring that, our footsteps should have made a little noise. (Once in a while they did.) Swords always went “thud” in combat instead of “clang”. Fighters grunt when they attack, and in long fights this can ge really annoying. The music gets old quick. The combat taunts are fun, but they don’t always make sense. Bash a door open and your character will start trash-talking to the door. “Now you will pay, villain!” or “Perish, as you should!”. No effort was made to make the many crypts and dungeons sound spooky.

The system specs are out of control. I was shocked to find out my GeForce 6200 was below the minimum system requirements. There is no reason the game needs this much hardware. It’s not doing anything special. When I first started the game I was getting about five frames per lunar cycle. Luckily, I was able to turn down some settings and get it running smoothly. Still, this game doesn’t look significantly more advanced than (say) KOTOR, yet it requires many times the horsepower. I’m pretty much sick of this whole graphics card business. I’m buying them about every nine months or so now, they are getting increasingly expensive, and I’m not at all excited about the visuals I get from them. I can go back to games made five years ago and they still look great. This was not the case in 2002 or in 1997, but we are on some sort of visual plateau. Why the hell do I need to keep buying new graphics cards to play games that look 10% better than the crap I saw last year? This is a problem all over the PC games world, but NWN 2 is a particularly severe example of this problem in action. It demands a lot of horsepower for only a modest benefit.

The leveling is pretty much on rails. Sure, you can do all the side-quests you want, but in the end you’ll still ding level 20 just as you enter the room to face the final boss. Go through the game and skip all the quests, or track down and complete every little quest in the game. It doesn’t mater, because the XP rewards are small enough that they don’t make much of a difference in the long run. Now that I think of it, this is probably more a problem with D&D itself than with this game in particular. Still. For me one of the most satisfying parts of a CRPG is building the uberchar: The process of amassing huge loot and XP and leveling off the charts, so that early sacrifices pay off as power rewards later in the game. I like stomping the Big Bad. It’s been a long time since a game has let me do that. Maybe I need to move to console RPGs, since the Japanese seem to be the only people who have discovered the elegance of self-balancing games.

The load times are needlessly long. Save the game. Then re-load that game you just saved, and it takes even longer than moving from one area to another. It’s obvious that when you load the game, it purges EVERYTHING from memory and then re-loads it all. This is very sloppy, and is made worse by the need to load the game often in Act III.

The camera is clumsy. It’s possible to position it just over your shoulder as in KOTOR, but you can’t play that way. This is a shame. There are many interesting, highly detailed areas that are quite provocative up close, but in order to navigate I have to pull the camera way back until the game looks more or less like Diablo II. There was no setting that allowed me to look with the mouse and walk with the keyboard third-person style, which is what I really wanted to do. Even when pulled way back, scenery was always in the way to keep me from clicking on the ground to move my characters around.

The AI is a joke. You’ll finish a tough fight and pause to regroup. Everyone is low on magic and health. As you go around fixing everyone up, you’ll suddenly notice that one of your characters has sprinted off to go mix it up with a bunch of foes waaaay off in the distance or in another room, who were content to leave you alone until your wizard went charging in to the middle of their group for a little fisticuffs. Once the fight starts, the rest of your team will run to his aid. What you end up with is being dragged from one fight to another before you’re ready, blundering through a dungeon, setting off traps, passing up loot, and starting fights without proper preparations. If you grab that wizard and yank him back before he starts trouble, by the time you get him back into place someone else will have run off. It’s like playing with a bunch of spastic junior high kids with ADD.

The spellcasting AI is even worse. Casters will cast dispel for no reason. They will unload a big spell on the weakest monster. Or they will skip casting spells and run into the fray for a little meele funtime. My cleric would never heal anyone on her own, not even herself. Sometimes they will cast stupid, low-level spells which are useless or weak against your current foe. I never saw them turn undead (or if they did, I never saw it work) despite that being your major foe later in the game. Once you’ve beaten down the enemy gang and reduced their group to one last monster, then the casters spring into action and use their buff spells on everyone. The durations are such that they will most likely wear off right before you find your next fight.

You team up with a lot of party members as the adventure goes on. Some of them are repulsive or irritating. There is no way to get rid of them, and often you are obliged to take them with you. My favorite character was killed at one point, and I was obliged to team up with her murderer, who then became a central character. Give me a break. I realize that you must be on rails when playing on the computer, but this is just making things worse by making the player resent those rails. If this had been an adventure run by a human, then at the end of Act II I might have asked the DM to find another player to take my place. At the end of Act III, I think I would have told the DM that I didn’t want to have anything to do with his games in the future. Note to Obsidian: I don’t want to have anything to do with your games in the future.

You can only have four other people in the party at once, and the rest of your companions wait back at the tavern for you. Very often I realized I needed to change a member. I would find I had no use for the bard in the dungeon, but I really needed the Rogue. Or maybe I was facing a bunch of undead and I wanted to get the cleric’s help. In any case, I’d have to hike up out of the dungeon, through several loading screens, and navigate all the way through town, then enter the tavern. The walk itself took several minutes, and the loading screens ate up at least a few more. I just wanted to say to the DM, “Look, I run back to the Tavern. I get the Rogue and dump the Paladin.” KOTOR had this and it worked just fine, and it eliminated a lot of dull, pointless backtracking.

SPOILER: As I mentioned before, the ending was one of the very worst I’ve ever seen. Some people pointed out that the budget was cut or the schedule shortened, and that would indeed explain why the ending played out in text and voice over. But that doesn’t explain why the ending was so senseless and childish. The voiceover tells you that the dungeon collapses and your party is apparently buried alive. There is something seriously wrong with a team that thinks this is a good way to end a 50 hour game. All they had to do was say “you live happily ever after”, but instead the writer killed off the player and all of their friends. This is after killing off everyone in your hometown, and most of the other sympathetic characters in the game. This is the most reprehensible flaw in the game, and the one that has put me off of Obsidian games for good. (They got me once with KOTOR 2 and I gave them some slack. Now they have done it to me a second time and I’ve decided that these people don’t know how to end stories.)

Wow. This is a lot of grievances, now that I’ve bundled them up and stacked them together. The big problem here is that a lot of flaws combine, Voltron-style, to become bigger and meaner flaws. The lack of ability to switch party members at will is made worse by the loading screens. The uneven difficulty is made worse by the capricious autosave. The bad AI is made worse by the unwieldy camera that makes rounding up your bezerker wizards all the more difficult. The crashes are made worse by the annoying splash screens. Everything is made worse by the ending.

People are giving this game all sorts of awards. There is indeed a lot to like here, but there are enough compounding flaws here to ruin the experience, particularly if you allow yourself to be spoiled by the excellent first act.

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From the Archives:

  1. GEBIV says:

    Come on Shamus. Tell us what you really think. :)

    Actually, thank you very much for this reveiw. I’m glad now that I don’t have a system capable of playing this game or I might have wasted my own money on it.

    By the way, if you ever manage to get on the development team for, or design your own CRPG, I will be the first in line to buy it.

  2. Andrew Cory says:

    I think I’ll be skipping this one, then…

  3. eloj says:

    Did you check the size of those save games? Ouch. As for the end, I’m pretty sure it didn’t say you were all killed, it said you all disappeared or words to that effect (hint: expect expansion to start on another plane).

    Also, you’re talking about the good ending. The Evil ending is much much different, and most people actually prefer that one. One nitpick is that if you’ve played evil through the game you actually get to pick at the start of the final battle if you want to “turn” and be good at the last minute, so you can actually see both endings fairly easily if you want to (reload, do the other). No such luck if you played good, then it’s the “good” ending for you. You can however solve this with a bit of console hackery if you don’t feel like playing the game all over.

    The system reqs. is a problem, and I believe in this case we can blame the engine. It just can’t be well thought out when you consider what you get for your “shaders” and “memory bandwidth”. I believe they have a problem with their shadow volume algorithm, since turning down shadows has such a dramatic effect. Also, games use shaders more and more not just for special effects (which in the “old” days meant you could atleast play the game, but you would get less of the flashy effects), but for integral parts of the engine such as skinning and full screen post-processing effects. This means that more and more entry level cards can’t even start the game at all. NWN2 requires Shaders 2.0 IIRC, and a game such as Rainbow Six: Las Vegas won’t run unless you have a Shaders 3.0 card(!!)

  4. Dr-Online says:

    *Downloads the game*

    What? I’m a bit of a masochist.

  5. ShadoStahker says:

    I never used NPC mages in NWN 1, but I’ve heard their spellcasting AI was just as bad.

    But there, you couldn’t actually control them at all.

    In any case, it’s always been the pathfinding that irritates me. When playing KOTOR 2, on Goto’s ship, I tried to walk through the door into the next room. The map looked something like this:


    __________________________
    | | | |
    | X = A = |
    | |______________| |
    | | | |
    | = B = |
    |____|______________|____|


    (= is a door)

    I (the X) was trying yo go east into room A. It was a distance of maybe 5 feet.

    T3-M4 decided to go south, east through room B, back north, and back west into room A.

    The worst part? He had to open three doors to follow this path, drawing the enemies from two rooms to join the room I was about to go into, killing us all.

    WTF?

  6. ShadoStahker says:

    hmm… that didn’t work.

    __________________________
    |....|..............|....|
    |..X.=......A.......=....|
    |....|______________|....|
    |....|..............|....|
    |....=......B.......=....|
    |____|______________|____|

  7. Shamus says:

    WordPress won’t let you use HTML tags, but it lets me ADD tags to your comment. (WhatEVER) so I was able to make the map in your second post monospaced.

    YES. That type of pathing problem is maddening.

    NWN2 Still has this same problem. Once in a while one of my spastic casters will get in front of a tank. Then I’ll enter a room. The caster will STOP IN THE DOORWAY to do their mojo, blocking the tanks outside. The tanks will then run all the way around to another door, rounding up a bunch of extra foes and dragging them into the fray.

    Someone needs to put down the pixel shaders and get to work on the pathfinding code. Sheesh.

  8. Shamus says:

    eloj: I think you are precisely right about building their core engine functionality on advanced pixel shaders. This is a shame.

    Yeah, those multitextured, normal-mapped locks of hair are exquisite, but they require $300 of graphics hardware, make the game run slower, and at ten meters away you can’t even tell the difference.

    I hope graphics hardware settles down soon.

  9. eloj says:

    I think that, somewhat ironically, we might be seeing engines going back to “software” renderers. CPU core numbers are creeping up, and raytracing for instance can be rather easily parallelized (well…).

    The only “problem” is the enormous inertia built into the industry when it comes to knowledge and technology (do you think nVidia and AMD/ATI would like to see their precious IP and know-how going down the drain?) about polygonial engines. All this stuff with shadows and “dumb” lightning models is because of the polygon based (or maybe rather “raster based”) roots of current 3D tech, that all goes away if you change the basics. Raytracing gives perfect shadows, and as good lighting as you can spend cycles on, every time.

    The inertia is absolutely collosal, but all it takes is for a new Carmack to suddenly appear out of nowhere.

    I guess _realistically_, it will still build on current tech, so people will find ways to leverage shaders and the absolutely insane fill rates of current 3D tech.

  10. Mordaedil says:

    If you didn’t see my post on one of these other threads, I’ll just put it here…

    “The original plans for NWN2 was that it was going to be a trilogy, but because the Lead Designer was cut last year and JE Sawyer was instated instead, they had to make up an ending rather rashly. This caused us to get the “bad, but open” ending.”

    By rashly, I meant rushed, by the way. What bugs me is that they had these great and even awesome voice-actors (Sand, Ammon Jerro, Elanee, Khelgar) and the last monotone reader didn’t fit at all.

    Beyond that, I think people focus too much on endings. Too many great games have had their reputations devastated by a bad ending, while providing countless hours of good entertainment.

  11. Alan De Smet says:

    Raytracing isn’t about to replace rendering polygons in the near term. Sure, you can raytrace in real time on a cutting edge PC, but to stay faster than 30 frames per second the resulting image will look really, really old. I find it particularly telling that high end rendering systems (like Pixar RenderMan) don’t do raytracing; it’s too slow for their needs.

  12. Beyond that, I think people focus too much on endings. Too many great games have had their reputations devastated by a bad ending, while providing countless hours of good entertainment.

    When it comes to judging this kind of thing, if the author and audience disagree, the audience is right. The author’s job is to deliver a story (whether interactive or not) that the audience will, once it’s over, be glad they experienced. But it’s the audience that decides whether they’re “glad”, not the author, and they decide based on their own criteria, not on the criteria that the author thinks they should.

    A successful author (or producer of any product) gives the customers what they want, not what the author/producer thinks the customers should want.

    The audience focuses on endings. But to claim that they focus “too much” on that is nonsensical. It’s the audience that sets the standard — because they’re the ones with the money.

  13. …more…

    It’s also the case that there’s a big difference between a snoozer of an ending (“Is that all?”) and a gut-punch ending, one which inspires thoughts of violence against the author in the minds of the audience.

    In anime, I’ve seen snoozer endings, but those are not the ones that really have ruined shows for me. It’s the endings of shows like Cowboy Bebop, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, or Mahoromatic, which inspire an urge to commit violence. I hated the way all of those ended — but at least the endings were dramatic.

    It sounds like NWN2 has both a gut-punch and a snooze ending: the ending is nihilistic and boring at the same time. If so, that’s a major failing in story telling, and it can and does completely ruin the memory of the earlier time spent on the game/show.

    To this day I cannot go back and rewatch Cowboy Bebop because I cannot forget — or forgive — how the series ends.

  14. Bogan the Mighty says:

    The ending is just as important as any other part of a game. Sure you might have had fun playing through the game, but if you get to the end and say to yourself “you’ve got to be kidding me, that’s it?” Well that can ruin the whole thing like Steven said. From the sounds of it the ending for NWN2 seems so bad that it’d almost be worth just quiting before you get to it just to keep your own sanity.

    And Shamus I think that is what needs done. Someday once I can actually program somewhat on par with you we will create the ultimate rpg that will set it self apart with games like KOTOR and Final Fantasy. All we need is people that can do that other stuff.

  15. Thad says:

    The worst ending I’ve come across is in Deathtrap Dungeon. After fighting four dragons (and the last one is really annoying), the final cut scene is… annoying to say the least.

    (I was able to simply say “well, it’s just a final scene, it doesn’t really matter what it is” and get with other things, but it was irksome.)

  16. crazy_cat says:

    Have to agree – NWN2 is the most tragicaly disappointing game I’ve ever tried to play.

    I had looked forward to it for years after getting hooked on NWN – especially the MP aspect.

    I played NWN2 for less than a week and didn’t even complete act 1 before giving up on it and going back to playing KOTOR instead, and if I want to play something MP I would go back to original NWN instead.

    Sad really – but Oblivion really screwed this one up. Bigtime.

  17. Katy says:

    I understand that things pick up a bit after you get out of Neverwinter, but I’ve started several characters, and never gotten much past the start of quests in Neverwinter; I’m just finding party management and fighting BORING, even though the story of the missing shards is interesting.

    There is an undocumented way to turn off the splash screens — edit the ‘My Documents\Neverwinter Nights 2\nwn.ini file, and add the line

    Disable Intro Movies=1

    to the Display Options section.

  18. Vilific says:

    Erck, that might help, Shamus

  19. Ishmael says:

    They screwed up KOTOR II. And from everything you’ve said they horribly botched NW2 (making me glad, like the first poster, that my machine can’t run it). There goes the last of my faith in Obsidian, I think. *sigh*

    Reading this brilliantly written article had caused me to realize something. I think one of the MAJOR appeals of MMORPGs (such as World of Warcraft) and the reason I have almost entirely switched to such games instead of new single-player games is that I no longer trust game developers to give me a decent ending. Or really, a decent story at all.

    I could say more, but it would honestly be TOO MUCH more. Suffice to say, I have very strong feelings about stories and I think modern game development doesn’t place *nearly* enough emphasis on making the game’s story *good*. I really hope more games like NWN2, KOTOR2, and others that follow their mold fail horribly, and thus provide a wake-up call to the industry at large.

  20. Ishmael says:

    I suppose I could have summed that up with, “LFM innovation, PST.”

  21. Evil Otto says:

    One of the things I found remarkable about KoTOR2 was just how much I disliked all of the NPCs. My attitudes ran from indifference to their fates (Atton, Handmaiden) to boredom (Disciple) to outright hatred (Kreia). The only remotely interesting NPCs were the holdovers from the original KoTOR (Canderous/Mandalore, HK-47).

    The original game had some interesting, even fun characters, an excellent ending, romance, some great fights, in short everything that a Star Wars game should be. KoTOR failed miserably in that regard even before we factor in the dull-as-dishwater NPCs and repeated planets (“Cool, we get to go to Dantooine and Korriban again. That’s WAY more interesting than going to planets we’ve never been to before.”), and the endless opening planet (I don’t even want to think how many hours I spent running around that damned mining colony).

    Although, I will admit, Darth Sion was a pretty cool villain.

  22. Shamus says:

    Otto: I found the same thing. I hated nearly all of them. Even of the holdovers from KOTOR, Canderous wasn’t exactly my favorite, and T3 was by nature pretty uninteresting. Of the new characters, I hated Atton (his confession reveals him to be a viscous bastard) was irritated by handmaiden, and really, really hated Goto. I hated Goto the most, because he was so obviously forced to be in my party against my will. I really had nothing to gain from the guy. The bounty hunter chick was treated like a secondary main character at a few points, and I never cared about her for a second.

    HK was amusing, but he was really just a running joke which they extended and beat into the ground.

    NWN2 has Qara, who is a stupid brat. She has a CHA of 18, which doesn’t explain why she’s so mean and hated by everyone else in the party. Then there is the Warlock, who killed my favorite character and then joined my team. He’s very similar to Goto in many ways.

  23. Shamus says:

    Another way to compare KOTOR to NWN2:

    In KOTOR, the SECOND time I went through the game I realized how much on rails I was.

    In NWN2, I was aware of the rails almost from the start, because I struggled to break free of them at every turn. No! I don’t want this jerk in myt party, but I can’t kick them out. No! I don’t want to do your stupid nonsense subquest, but the game won’t let me refuse.

    (For example, I went through the first meeting with Qara a number of times (stupid load screen) looking for the option that would let me refuse letting her into the group. You can protest it or embrace it, but you can’t keep her out.)

    KOTOR was guilty of passive railroading: putting the player in positions where there is really only one reasonable choice, but making it look like they could have chosen something else.

    NWN2 was guilty of active railroading: Imposing choices onto the player that are unreasonable, or otherwise contrived.

    Every DM needs to do a little passive railroading, but active railroading is a major no-no, and a sign of clumsy writing.

  24. Shamus says:

    And to heap more praise onto KOTOR: Those were some great characters. Bastila? Carth? Mission? Those were some outstanding people. Good times, good times.

    I even went throught the game as a female and totally got Carth to kiss me.

    I probably shouldn’t have admitted that.

  25. Evil Otto says:

    Heh, me too. I played through KOTOR twice, as a male and a female, and completed the romance subplot both times. I liked the characters so much I couldn’t play through the dark-side ending, since I would end up being responsible for many of their deaths.

    Mission managed to avoid being annoying (despite being the token kid in the group), Carth was interesting in that you had to pry information out of him with a crowbar, and I really enjoyed HK47, but my favorite NPC was Jolee. He got in a few great lines (Sith Student (threateningly): “Do you know how many Sith there are on this planet?” Jolee: “Six? No, seven!”), and wasn’t as annoyingly self-righteous as pretty much all of the Jedi in every incarnation of Star Wars. Basilla annoyed me with her lectures until I realized she was being set up for a fall, and then she amused me.

    And I did NOT see the plot twist coming. (Of course, I never see plot twists coming. I’m clueless that way.) After the truth was revealed I sat there thinking “No *way*!”

    I never did much with Goto in KOTOR2, since by the time I got him I already had the party set the way I liked it, but he annoyed me too. I would have shoved him out an airlock somewhere in hyperspace if I had been given a real choice, followed by Kreia. What was wierd about the sequel is that I had no difficulty morally playing through the dark side storyline. I didn’t really care what happened, didn’t care about the characters, so being evil wasn’t any more difficult a decision in-game than choosing whether to wear black robes or brown ones. And the side benefit of being able to kill that arrogant @sshole Vrook was a positive.

    In the end, though, the railroading was even more blatant than the first game… it didn’t matter where you went, there was no benefit to planet-hopping, and the endings were virtually the same either way. After that bad experience and what I’ve heard about NWN2 here and from others, I’m not going to be buying any more Obsidian products.

  26. Someone working for the AP gave it a positive review.

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,245060,00.html

    However, it’s clear from reading it that he hasn’t finished it yet and discovered the Gainax ending.

  27. Jeffrey says:

    I must be the only one here who actually liked Kreia. Well, as a character, maybe not so much as a person. She was unafraid to ask the sensitive questions, poking into what “Light Side” and “Dark Side” meant. She is as subdued as Tyrannus is flamboyant. Ending aside (sigh), she was pretty much one of the best manipulative villains I’ve even seen in a game.

    She may have been “clearly” a Sith, but she still seemed pretty gray to me, just with a dark side slant as Jolee had a light side slant.

    Of course, Jolee had much more entertaining old-person stories. :)

  28. bkw says:

    Beyond that, I think people focus too much on endings. Too many great games have had their reputations devastated by a bad ending, while providing countless hours of good entertainment.

    A wonderful meal at a 5 star restaurant can still be ruined if, for desert, they force feed you the contents of the cat litterbox.

    I’m curious to see what you make of Japanese CRPGs if you ever make that leap, Shamus. I could type for pages, but won’t spam your blog :)

  29. smilydeth says:

    You want bad endings? Remember Diablo 1 anyone? After wading through endless nearly identical levels and killing endless waves of hellspawn critters (usually the same 10 models given a new paint-job)…you finally get to fight DIABLO!!! When you kill him, it cuts to an ending sequence in which you rip the crystal of evil from diablo’s head and for some apparent lack of anything better to do with it…YOU SHOVE IT INTO YOUR OWN FOREHEAD!! Now I know that’s what i’d do with it.

    I think writing bad endings is sort-of required for crpg’s….how else can they justify the pointless storyline of whatever sequel that follows…for example Balder’s Gate 2.

    sorry for the vent.

  30. Evil Otto says:

    smilydeth,

    Yeah, I didn’t understand that either. Generally speaking, shoving demon-possessed crystals into your skull is not high on the list of “wise things to do.” Especially since it took Diablo what, five, maybe ten minutes to possess the hero? Carrying demon-possessed crystals didn’t seem to be a problem for the hero of the sequel.

  31. Reading this convinced me to play World of Warcraft instead.

    BTW, I searched all over for Cowboy Bebop’s ending and couldn’t find it. The Wiki was amazingly empty of content.

    Speaking of bad endings, the last Wing Commander game, they cut the production budget, dropped out the last half of the plot and left the game hanging at the very end. So it sold only 700,000 copies — seems like a sad way to say good-bye to the fans.

  32. Mordaedil says:

    Still, NWN2 is getting a lot of post-release support, they even went to including a new head in the latest beta patch (soon to be full release patch), so I suppose something as changing the ending isn’t impossible, though I’d rather want a sequal.

    As for railroading, I can’t remember a game that wasn’t to some extent rail-roaded for ages.

  33. Justin Cray says:

    To fix party size woes:
    Open the console.

    then type exactly this:

    DebugMode 1
    rs ga_party_limit (X)

    X can be as high as 12.

    Note: this might screw the game up even more (use alternating save games), but I didn’t notice a significant increase of the still existing crashes.

    Also this game is hilarious if you try to roleplay a truely evil PC. Insane Gnome Bards, whiny Elf Druids, or hypocritical Paladins, my Barbarian/Black Guard let them all come along instead of cleaning the genepool of such filth.

    Infact you can’t force an attack. Unless something is hostile to you can’t harm it in any way. (stealing from them wont even garner a response! Neeshka approves!).

  34. jbrandt says:

    “It’s like playing with a bunch of spastic junior high kids with ADD.”

    …and is thus an accurate recreation of tabletop AD&D.

    Well, at least the AD&D I used to play…

  35. David says:

    While I haven’t played NWN2, it sounds like it has the same ending as Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, a hack and slash RPG on the PS2. It ends with the heros escaping the villian’s crumbling lair via a portal which leads to some unknown location.

  36. DrHeinous says:

    Am I the only one who though the Cowboy Bebop ending was fitting? It was that sort of show; it had to end that way.

    But, this isn’t motivating me to finish NWN2. I’m 2/3 of the way through it though. Another friend finished it and didn’t seem to think it was so bad…

  37. Ryan says:

    I’m too cheap to pay for new games, so I’m always late to the parties, but sometimes that works out to my benefit. I only got around to buying NWN a couple months ago, and haven’t even been motivated enough to fulfill any of the quests. I’m certainly not motivated to waste any money on NWN2 – thanks for the warnings.

    I loved KOTOR – I’ve played it through several times, good, evil, ambivalent, male, female. I’ve never gotten far enough as a female character to get Carth to kiss me, I didn’t know it was even possible, I’m quite tempted to try now. As a male I tried to get Bastilla to fall in love, but since that was my evil character she didn’t like me too much.

    The plot twist in that game was the greatest I have ever experienced. Shortly before it was revealed I had started understanding some of the hints a little and was coming to the conclusion on my own, yet it still took me by surprise and was almost a life changing experience. I was disappointed by how KOTOR2 handled that character.

    Kotor2 was fun for me, though nowhere near as fun as the first game. I suppose the new/enhanced Force powers probably had a lot to do with that. Though I’ve only completed the game once, as a Dark Side character (of course). I don’t recall that the ending was severely disappointing, but I don’t recall feeling like I achieved anything, as I did with the first one. When Goto joined the party I wanted nothing more than to hunt him down and kill him – very frustrating that it wasn’t one of the missions.

  38. HC says:

    I liked both KOTORs – though the second was clearly not done, and I only started enjoying KOTOR II the second game through, when I actually knew all that the character would have known, and how the game would trigger events, and could guide conversations and act so that the story unfolded as I would have written it. The final planet aside, I quite liked it.

    And yes, Kreia was probably the best part about it for me too, though the degree to which you could manipulate your companions was also wonderful.

    NWN wasn’t worth it for the official campaign – it was worth it for the modules. Take Twilight / Midnight, for example. Practically worth the price of NWN on its own as a single player offline game, let alone what you can do with a group and GM. NWN2’s official campaign has fairly little to do with whether it turns out to be a worthwhile game to get.

    Though, if we’re talking about good stories and good endings, I have to bring up Planescape: Torment. Great game.

  39. Stranger says:

    So the ending is . . . “Rocks fall, everyone dies”? I’m going back to Morrowind; at least that runs passably well on my system.

    As far as games which made me happy I played them? Baldur’s Gate . . . not necessarily for the ending, but for the wicked little ideas it contained for plot points. And the dream sequences. Can’t forget those . . .

  40. Teague says:

    Another quick plug for Wizardry 8. It has some dated graphics, but I think the gameplay is far superior to many other party-based fantasy RPGs. It’s often overlooked, because it didn’t get any hype when it released, but it got great reviews from those of us who stumbled on it.

    I have been playing NWN2, and I am aware of the issues with party members’ AI, but if you turn off all their auto functions, then the only problem left is the tendancy to run off to engage distant enemies on their own, and this can be somewhat prevented with the broadcast commands. I guess the bottom line is that I like to micromange my party members tactically, so I’m frequently pausing to tweak their positions or actions, and thus they don’t have much chance to get out of control.

    I played some Planescape. I see why it was popular, but I had some issues with the concept of the temporary tatoos, among other things. I don’t remember why I quit playing it, but I did.

    You want to talk about stupid party AI ruining what would otherwise be an awesome game, how about Fallout and Fallout 2? At least in 2 you could tell them what equipment to wear/use. Of course you still had no direct control of them in combat, so your old fat mechanic could still walk right into your line of fire, or your buddy with the submachine-gun could still kill you with burst fire because he’s not bright enough to find an open line of fire.

  41. Telas says:

    So how does NWN2 compare to NWN for a “custom module” engine? I really think NWN was great for solo D&D… hoping NWN2 is the same for 3.5.

    Telas

  42. Morrinn says:

    This review voices my very same opinion on this game. What grinded me the most was the fact that after act II, the only reason I kept playing the game was because I was looking forward to seeing the resolution of some of my favored party members.

    Had I known then that the only real resolution to theese favorite characters of mine would simply be DEATH…

    I’d probably have stopped playing -_-

    -Thanks Shamus, Great review.

    P.S;
    Even if the ‘evil’ ending is mildly better then the good one, I aint playing through that damn travesty again to find out.

    Peace.

  43. Drasoini says:

    I know I’m coming in late with this comment, so I hope someone sees it. But “Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura” is a great game if you want to do the not on rails, no class-based leveling and still have a decent storyline. -Yes- it requires patches, but they can be found (both official and player created patches and mods, like the 124 level cap instead of 50).

    Just my thoughts.

    And I won’t be getting NWN2 either.

  44. DaveJ says:

    The biggest problem I have with nwn2 is that everytime I want to fight someone, I have to talk to them first, even if its just “look let’s attack the city watch”

    Jesus that is annoying.

    Arcanum was a fantastic game and I loved the endings. Because the good ending recapped the game and showed how your sidequests influenced the world. Awesome.

  45. Lo'oris says:

    (answering to old comments is pretty pointless, but i’ll do that anyway)

    @Mordaedil: i completely disagree with you about the endings: they are VITAL. The ending is the last part of a story, meaning that every plot and subplot is at least revealed and everything must make some sense. A bad ending ruins a good story, because it ruins your suspension of disbelief.

    @Steven: lol, i LOVE the Cowboy Bebop ending. I’m surprised to find somebody who didn’t like it.

    @Ethesis: it’s pointless to “read” its ending if you didn’t really watch all the episodes.

    @DrHeinous: you’re right. It HAD to finish that way, it’s always has been the mood of the story. Anybody who has actually watched it knows all the main plot was already crafted from the beginning, but i’m pointing that out just in case someone of the mtv-generation did watch it while playing with the gameboy and pretend to criticize it.

    @Shamus: have you ever considered the possibility that the ending was bad ON PURPOSE? Such as the publisher tells Obsidian “come on finish it come on finish it” and they pointlessly fight saying they aren’t ready yet .. then they are really forced to end, and decide to make it so bad it’s plain as crystal to everybody that it was done on purpose. That’s why they used a bad voice. To let us all know that it’s WRONG. I suppose.

  46. Morgana says:

    I understand that this is an old thread but…
    i played NWN2 and enjoyed it thoroughly, ending and all. I actually liked the fact that it did not have the usual happy end -for now, as everything implies the heroes and the sword of Gith will re-emerge. But the reason for this post is that i want to know what the BAD hero ending was. Everyone says it was way more fun and i cannot help being curious -though not curious enough to replay the game as an evil character! So, any hints?

  47. Krellen says:

    NWN2 does make two games now that Oblivion has basically not finished. Unlike KotOR2, NWN2 at least gets a sequel, but I’m not sure how much a saving grace that is (especially since they expect me to pay for it.) One this is clear to me: publishers need to shut the heck up and let developers do the game they start. There’s a reason Blizzard was regarded as the best in the business, and it had more to do with their policy of not releasing unfinished games than anything else.

    That said, a couple counter points: I prefer KotOR2 to KotOR, at least until you get to Malachor. I simply found the plot better and the characters more interesting. And unlike some, I saw the Reveal coming for ages; since the moment I landed on Dantooine, basically. Of course, I habitually talk to my companions as much as possible, so it’s likely I got more information out of Bastila on Taris than others. Had Obsidian simply finished KotOR2, rather than slapping together a “final level” like they did, I think it would definitely deserve to top its predecessor – though it’s true RPGs seem to not provide enough backstory to let you properly play your character these days. Obsidian isn’t alone in this; the last RPG I can remember that gave enough backstory to let me play right was Baldur’s Gate.

    And on the issue of NWN2 future in user-created mods and online play: everything I have heard from those that are heavily into the modding of NWN indicates that the NWN2 toolset is radically different from NWN’s, making modding far more difficult and less flexible than it was before. It may be Obsidian had to rebuild the engine due to BioWare keeping too many parts, but I thought from the very beginning that the interface changes in NWN2 were completely unnecessary. And I agree with you on one major thing, Shamus: graphics are way overhyped, and are dragging the industry down. I do think NWN2 is a good example of that.

  48. Frogbeard says:

    I must say I’m not planning on finishing this game. The pathfinding is as stupid as you mentioned. But it’s the sporadic autosaves that have made me quit. And, I save frequently. I mean, frequently. But, between the time you begin fighting the Warlock at the end of Act II, and the first battle at the beginning of Act III, it is almost entirely battle—>cut scene—>locked into conversation —> cut scene—>locked into conversation —> cut scene–> Act III Title Screen! —>cut scene—>battle….all in all about 20 to 40 minutes real time without much to do….and it didn’t even do an autosave at the beginning of Act III! I died in the first battle of Act III, and have no intention of going back to my last save and spending another 30 minutes clicking the mouse to speed through cut scenes.

    Stupid, stupid design. And the story is not good enough to make me want to fight the design to see it through to the end.

  49. Blackbird71 says:

    I realize this is an old thread, I came here following the link in Shamus’s “Shopping for Games” post. I just thought I’d address a question that no one has answered:

    The auto-saves trigger on area transition (sometimes by cutscene as well). So, the frequency or sporadicness of your autosaves is directly proportional to how much time you spend in an area. If you’ve been there for a while, it might be a good idea to make your own save. The quicksave feature is great for this, I highly recommend using it, as well as frequent saves regardless of the autosave.

  50. Wen says:

    I too have come to this discussion late, but wanted to share my NWN2 experience. So, despite all the issues with this game (namely the multitude of maddening little bugs) I stuck with it and played through to the end. Why? Well, because I love video games and I like to see things to completion. So, as I’m fighting the final boss I hit a roadblock – a show stopping bug that will not let me complete this game. I tried everything and have finally accepted the fact that I will never see the ending, but it sounds like I haven’t missed much. This made me want to write hate mail to Obsidian. Like many others, I was offended by Kotor2, but this is just maddening. Well, at least Mass Effect is coming out soon. That should make me feel better.

  51. Drony says:

    I believe it to be my duty to leave a comment about NWN2, I know I know, I am far behind schedule on posting anything constructive. But that was an issue with my original disc that had somehow ended up beeing created in double size, and for some odd reason I couldnt get a refound or a swap because I had already unpacked it.. well whoopiedido that is usually what I do when I want to install a game.

    As for what I have experienced so far I can only nod at everything that have been said here, I am usually not one to dump a game just because it have a few flaws. If I had to compare NWN2 to any other game then I would dump it right next to Gothic 3 on my overall hating list. The fact that both games have a terrible ending is bad enough, but that they were both released with so many bugs is incredible. The very ending of a game is by all means critical. A game can be oh so great at many points, but if the ending is a piece of junk and if the player keeps speculating when the next bug will apear then it’s no wonder you have the urgency to vomit after compleating it.. you cant enjoy something if you cant have a relaxing time while dooing it.

    NWN2 is (perhaps not) an overall bad game.. although I have a hard time pointing something out that I really enjoyed about it.

    I was personally an extreme fan of both NWN, Gothic & Gothic 2 and I must say that I still play my so beloved Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games.

  52. Sandrinnad says:

    NWN2….

    Overall I definitely emjoyed NWN more I think, but I didn’t hate NWN2. It could be because I didn’t actually play it right through – it took me a good 10 months in 4 chunks. It meant I had to adjust to that ANNOYING camera again every time, but it took a while for all the other little annoyances to build up :)

    The ending was pretty crap though.

  53. sineWAVE says:

    Sorry this is a year or so late, but I’ve heard that certainly for NWN1 you are supposed to need to play multiplayer for the last bits of the game. Mightn’t it be the same here? (whether this is desirable or not is another matter…)

  54. chan says:

    NWN 2 sux..the control are so clumsy. I got sick of it after 10 minutes of playing. The reviews never mentioned anything about the clumsy camera and controls. this game sux big time!

  55. Rufus says:

    I agree with chan, even i cant understand bout chunky shards story and king shadow lullaby.. But making own stronghold is brilliant. Even though we cant jump to act 2 directly.
    Overall : boring

  56. Arachnidus says:

    I am glad I have finally found that I am not the only one to be disappointed with NWN2. I agree with almost everything in Shamus’ review. Years and many reinstalls later I have to give up on NWN2 and finally admit it was a bad buy.

    Everything but the graphics are a downgrade from the old school 2D RPGs. I spent more time adjusting the camera than playing. Why spend money on lackluster voiceacting instead of just storywriting?

    What I wouldn’t give for an RPG with 2D sprites in HD. And a game that was actually drawn by an artist, not modeled in 3D!

  57. Gabe says:

    Shamus, your post(number 25) reminded me of the time I got Bastila to have sex with me. I loved that game, and played through it many times, only managing to do that once. Her attempted ‘sexy face’ was hilarious she looked offended by a dirty joke or something.

    The one thing i liked about KoTOR 2 was the lack of a level cap, but unfortunately the railroading made it very difficult to take advantage of this. One thing that was always fun was using the jedi mind trick to make people do evil things. The ending did bug me. Kind of takes away from the glory of victory when YOU DIE! If you’re good, self sacrifice is okay, but when you’re evil it’s just a disappointment.

    (Go to hell, spell check! Jedi’s a word, ya jerk. Oh sure, ‘Jedi’s not a word, but ‘ya’ is. you suck.)

  58. WafflesToo says:

    I played NWN shortly after it first came out, and I was bored to tears with it. I think I was over 20-hours into it before I reached the first interesting content at all and even that was so enemy-dense that even navigating the halls to try and solve the mystery was so laborous as to make even that segment dull and boring.

    NWN2 sounds like they made an effort… until they borked the third act ><. I hate trying to play a scenario where luck or absolute uber mini-maxing is an absolute requirement for getting through it. All in all, glad I didn't buy it.

  59. John Magnum says:

    Reading this thread because I’ve been playing KotOR II again. My main problem with the ending is that it reveals that every other aspect of the story was, ultimately, meaningless. I don’t mean that in the nihilistic “nothing is meaningful” sense that would be an actual statement–I mean that the events literally did not possess meaning, that crucial plot developments were based on words with no referent.

    All the stuff about echoes and wounds in the Force, and speculation about the nature of the Force, and what happens if you’re not connected to the Force… In the beginning, it’s all extremely abstract because the Force isn’t something real and we don’t really know, in any actual sense, how it works. Any speculation is pretty plausible. So, hopefully, by the end of the game, these concepts that the entire plot hinges on will be more clearly defined, so we can tell what’s happening. At the very least, it would be nice if we could tell what’s at stake.

    No such luck. In the end, all the cryptic nonsense about echoes remained cryptic nonsense. Kreia’s talk about showing that the Jedi Code was wrong remained meaningless blather, because the game never bothered to show us what she meant by it. We never got a sense of what Kreia wanted, or why she suddenly realized she wanted something else and went back to Darth Sion. It turns out that all the major events of the plot don’t mean anything, they’re just hype.

    If they’d focused more on the politics of the Republic, that could’ve been good. The internal decay of the Republic, the lack of a common threat, the various people trying to use or abuse Jedi to reshape it according to their specifications, the culture wars. Those things are still fictional, but they’re concrete enough that we can get a handle on them and care about their outcome. Onderon and Telos basically worked. The whole plot could have revolved around events like that, and they wouldn’t have needed to have characters keep talking about how significant the Exile was without ever explaining what, precisely, that significance was.

    It doesn’t help that I completely missed all the backstory about what, precisely, happened at Malachor V. Bao-Dur didn’t really interest me, so I rarely used him in combat. That meant I never got his Influence-advancing conversation options out of combat. That meant that I never heard about the mass shadow generator until I was actually at Malachor, making it seem like a gigantic ass pull. Instead, all I knew was that people and loading screen tips kept telling me how bad Malachor V was, but I couldn’t figure out what the hell I actually did there.

    • Joe says:

      To be perfectly fair, the KoTOR 2 ending wasn’t as much poorly written as it was completely unfinished. They cut out essentially the entire ending, leaving us with a massive series of fights against the same 2 enemies trying to get to the end boss. I honestly liked the story of KoTOR2 better than the original, provided you don’t include the ending on the sequel in that evaluation.

  60. Meh says:

    This games biggest flaw was DRM that is actually the culprit that ruined it on its release day and although Obsidian/Bioware would never admit that, they obviously used a restrictive kind of DRM. Well it’s been ages since its release and now they took out the DRM and for some magical reasons the game runs fine now. I can confirm this minus the single core hard coding, it runs fine so long as your system is up to specs.

    Make sure to fully update your game client, as it fixes numerous bugs and gets rid of the DRM garbage.

  61. Joe says:

    Shamus, I know this post is ludicrously old, albeit recently relinked, but I feel obliged to point out that the Mask of the Betrayer expansion was actually pretty good. And, what’s more, actually felt finished. It kicks off after the ‘Rocks fall, (almost) everyone dies’ ending, and goes through all manner of good stuff. It’s an interesting showcase of what obsidian does really well in Storywriting.

    That said, it obviously doesn’t fix any of the engine or gameplay nitpicks. My biggest complaint with it that couldn’t be said for the normal thing is that it gives you 4 party members and yourself, but doesn’t let you take all 4. I actually used a system command to increase the party limit so that I could get all the character interaction and whatnot that was written. I can’t remember if they had better sound assets, though.

    Also, another nitpick for the original: Sloppy dialogue coding. In one cutscene conversation, they applied whatever audio filter they use to make a character sound farther away. While in a cutscene. With the character standing right next to me. Right after combat. I know that’s probably one of those bugs that’s a lot harder to track down than you’d suspect, but it makes the dialogue unhearable and completely destroys the conversation. This happened a couple of times.

    At least I hope that’s what it was. The alternative is that they recorded the voice acting with absolutely no quality control at all. Not even as far as quality voice acting, but as far as simple volume consistency.

    • Rutskarn says:

      “Fixes the ‘Rocks Fall’ ending.”

      You order a steak. You get through most of it, and it’s pretty good–but then the last bite tastes like the posthumous flatulence of a diseased dog. It’s one of the most rancorous mouthfuls you’ve ever had the displeasure of swallowing, and even after it’s gone down, you feel like your gullet’s been used as the garbage disposal for a prison chef. You call the waiter and protest at the awful taste the meal left, and he taps his nose knowingly and says, “Ah, but that can be remedied by purchasing one of our lovely dessert options!”

      Nope.

      • Even says:

        Except it’s not actually the restaurant trying to market the product here nor has the incident been very recent to justify not to try it out, unless you really wanna keep on hating them even after 4 years because of a lousy steak. Just saying.

  62. Ateius says:

    On NWN2’s hardware requirements: I have a friend who runs a NWN2 server and keeps wanting me to join in. When I finally agreed to try it out, I was shocked at how atrociously the game ran on my 2012 system. My hardware can run Skyrim with everything absolutely maxed out, Guild Wars 2 at high-to-max settings, you name it. NWN2 at moderate graphical settings? Less than 10fps. There is something seriously wrong with that engine.

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