I've never really been that into CRPGs. There were some that I loved back in day when I had infinite amounts of time to play over summer breaks (Bard's Tale, Goldbox series etc). My video game playing over the last 10 years has consisted increasingly of playing mobile games when I have a few minutes to spare. I've been turned off generally by CRPGs in recent years because most don't really scratch that tabletop RPG itch that I like. In my experience, game play consists mainly of resource management, grinding, (tons and tons of GRINDING), linear story line (at least in most every JRPG I ever played), and fetch quests (I hate nothing more). Plus, they usually require around 60 hours to beat and that just seems so overwhelming that I won't even consider starting a game like that. So generally I'm not a fan of CRPGs.
Last winter, during a gog.com winter sale, I picked up a copy of Neverwinter Nights. I had never heard of it. I am vaguely familiar with some Bioware games. I have played (before bonking out) some of Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2 and I do hope to play Baldur's Gate when it comes out on the Google Playstore so I can play on my tablet. I bought it on a whim to give it a shot because I had read a user review that had mentioned user created content and thought that sounded kind of interesting.
As I became familiar with NWN, I soon realized what an amazing game it is. The original NWN was shipped with a 50 hour campaign that was generally regarded as fairly lackluster by most people. But I think its a mistake to judge it by the original campaign because it more a TOOL rather than a game in the same vein as Baldurs Gate.
So what makes NWN awesome?
NWN captures the feel of tabletop RPGs better than any other CRPG I have played.
There is a MASSIVE amount of user created content unlike any other game I am aware of. Literally thousands of user created modules and adventures...and many of them are really great. Like, better than most other CRPGs I've ever played, kind of great. Check them out here. Of the the several adventures I've played of 300 or so modules that are rated 9.0 and above, all of them hands down have been really fun.
There is something about user created adventures that really appeal to me. Now I don't presume to know a lot about the video game industry and the business of making games but if the industry is anything like any other kind of business model in the US, the bottom line must be money and appealing to the tastes of wide variety of gamers. With teams of 50 people working on a single game and I imagine a lot of compromises have to be made which often leads to very general game design. Imagine playing a tabletop session with 50 Dungeon Masters. Creativity and ingenuity in game design can happen of course but I have to say that I am lot more excited about playing a adventure created by one person. To play their single vision of the game they created. There is some excellent stuff to be discovered at nwvault.com. I'll list some adventures I've played when I provide some links at the end of this post.
Plus...many of these modules take only 3 hours or less to play rather than 50. It feels much more akin to a tabletop session. A lot more manageable with my schedule too. Usually in a week or two I can finish a module of this length.
And many of these modules actually FEEL like a tabletop session. Maybe because many of these modules are faithful recreations of tons of old school D&D modules.
I have already played through:
Dwellers of the Forbidden City
Keep on the Borderland (I had always wanted to play this with other people but never was able to until I got to play through NWN)
and I've been working my way through the Lost Tombs of Tsonjcanth.
Like Ravenloft? NWN has got you covered. Like Dragonlance? Again you're not going to be hurting for modules to play. Check out this list here.
The single player game play is great. In most CRPGs, of course, you control a party. In NWN, again like most tabletop RPGs, you play as one character. Now, two other party members can join you (3 in later expansions and user created mods), but you don't directly control them. You tell them as your character what to do in the game. “Protect me”, “Use your spells when you think you should”.The henchman mod I list at the end of the post should be downloaded to improve over the original game AI system.
The multiplayer experience is great too. Many user created modules are on nwvault.com that are tailored specifically for multiplayer.
Perhaps the coolest thing about NWN, and I haven't tested it yet but it just sounds so amazing, is that there is a DM mode. You can play NWN with a DM who controls the world of the game. Like an RPG you can do pretty much anything you want and the DM will respond to it. I would LOVE to test it out. The community is much smaller than it was apparently around NWN heyday in the mid 2000's so I may have trouble finding an opportunity to do it. Anyone who might know of where to find games that utilize DMs, let me know.
There are also around 100 persistent worlds that seem to cater primarily to roleplaying. They do have live dungeon masters who play as specific times that will respond to what players are doing. I played only momentarily a few weeks back on Arelith and hopefully will get a chance again soon.
Never Nights 2 is also really great as well. Maybe not as many user created modules but I have enjoyed what I've played so far.
This fall I picked up some game keys for NWN at GOG for ridiculously cheap. I'd love for people to play this game. So if you're interested, shoot me an email and I will send you a key for free. No strings attached (solodungeoneer at gmail dot com) . Please only request if you don't have the game and you are actually interested in playing it, I'd love to give the keys to people who are truly interested. I have 3 keys, so its first come first serve. Let me know if you are interested in playing multiplayer and maybe we can set up a game sometime. I'd love to try out Tomb of Horrors with other people sometime.
Tomorrow on gog.com, I think NWN will be sold for 80% off for one day as part of their winter sale otherwise it is 50% off through the holidays. So if you miss grabbing a key from me, get it during the sale. You'll pay 4.99 tops. Definitely worth picking up NWN 2 as well.
The Diamond Edition, which is what is available at GOG, comes with the original content and 3 official large adventure modules (full on campaigns) as well as 3 smaller adventure modules. That's over 200 hours of gameplay for the price of a beer.
Go here and you can download the rest of the Premium modules for free.
There are a ton of user created modules but the ones I've gotten into so far are:
A Dance with Rogues (I have played some other bioware games that attempt to give you the illusion that your conversation choices matter, but I don't think I've ever played a game where that is actually true. A Dance with Rogues does this in spades. Apparently it was created by some french woman who created the entire game for herself. A friend of hers discovered it and told her she needed to upload it for other people to play. Its pretty amazing. Avoid though if you arn't up for R rated material)
Darkness over Daggerford
Hordes of the Underdark
Keep on the Borderlands
Mountains of Mirrors
and from NWN 2
Harps and Chrysanthemums
Download these mods:
Also make sure you have a bink player installed to run the intro movies. Google it.
So, I'm done geeking out about NWN and next week I plan on writing up a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game session I played last week using the ideas I wrote about on my last post.