Reviews Revisited: Neverwinter Nights

Genre: Role-Playing Game
Format: CD
Developer: Bioware
Publisher: Atari
Mac Port: OMNI Group
Mac Publisher: MacSoft
Minimum System Requirements: 450MHz processor, OS X v10.2.6, 32MB video card (Radeon/GeForce 2 MX), monitor supporting 800x600, 256 MB RAM, 2.1 GB hard drive space
Review Computer: 2GHz 20" iMac, 1GB RAM, 128MB ATI Radeon 9600; 2GHz 20" Intel Core Duo iMac, 1GB RAM, 256MB ATI Radeon X1600
Network Feature: Yes
Intel Compatibility: Rosetta (Universal patch in development)
Price: $34.99
ESRB Rating: T (blood and violence)
Availability: Now
Official Website:
Demo: Tech Demo 1.0

I'm glad I didn't review this game when it was released in 2003. I wanted to, mind you. Although I didn't play much D&D back when I absolutely should have, and although I have little interest in books and movies about wizards and sorcery, I love role-playing games. I enjoy getting caught up in the stories and the characters, I enjoy the fighting, and I enjoy the heroism. I like to think that had I lived back in the times that, you know, didn't exist, I would've been so heroic, traveling from town to town with my +1 boots and halberd, helping people get even with crooked innkeepers and clear out the rabid wolf packs that killed all their cows. Of course, I know me, and that's not what I would've done. I would've been that dude in the corner of the pub who hires the adventurer to win back his girlfriend because I'm too afraid to venture into the goblin cave to retrieve her amulet I'd lost.

Had I reviewed Neverwinter Nights back then, there's no way I would've finished it. Not even close. Dudes, I'm sorry, but we go through a lot of reviews here at Applelinks, and you have to really tear through them or they'll pile up quickly. So, I let Bill do the tearing on Neverwinter Nights. Recently, though, I found myself with some free time, and thought I'd like to take a leisurely through some Forgotten Realms, finally, with no intention to review it. As I played, I knew that wouldn't happen. I'd have to write about this game, and it would eventually lead to the creation of a new feature here at Applelinks: Reviews Revisited. Here we go...

Neverwinter Nights begins as all such games do; with the creation of your character. There's plenty from which to choose here, so much so that newcomers to the genre may feel a little overwhelmed, although seasoned pros will be happy: gender, race (seven options), class (eleven options), abilities, etc. Have no idea what an uncanny dodge is? Neither did I, and I didn't want to learn, so not a Barbarian, me. There's no shortage of Neverwinter Nights fan sites that offer tips on creating your character, so go to them if you're felling inundated. I found GameBanshee to be quite helpful, but there are others.

Your character created, you start the adventure, and you'll be starting it for quite a while. You think you're in the introduction, but that becomes the entire first part of the story; you end up about a quarter of the way through the game before you even leave town. Did I mention this game is long? Bioware claims 60 hours of gameplay, and that's if you play straight through without, you know, exploring and saving and dying and restoring. I probably took 60 hours just to get through the first part, but they were 60 solid gaming hours. The type of gaming hours that make you want to thump your chest and shout "I'm 15 again!" while seated at the dinner table.

Neverwinter Nights

A huge benefit to this game, and what made it more enjoyable for me than the Baldurs Gate games, for example, is the ability to play your character the way you want to play him (or her) but still take advantage of other abilities through a henchman (whom you don't control, but can tell how to behave). For example, I can't like messing about with scrolls and spells. Nothing ruins a good fight faster than having to cast something. Just give me a big old bastard sword and a shield and I'll be fine, thank you. Only, usually, I'm not fine. This is D&D, and spells are its B and B. This is where the henchman is so helpful, because I was able to hire one with good healing and defense spells, which helped me tremendously as I charged headlong into battle. I could've hired another fighter or a thief or what have you, but I found my choice effectively complimented my abilities. Throughout the game, you can fire your henchman and hire another, and even hire the original back (they all follow you from locale to locale), but I wouldn't recommend this. Your henchman levels up when you do, so it's good to have one that's powerful towards the end, and each henchman comes with side quests that you won't get to finish if you keep selecting new partners throughout the game.

As with the henchmen, there are certain missions in the game that you can only take if you're a certain type of character (or are good at doubletalk). Not everyone will hire you, after all. Racism is a sad reality even in Neverwinter, and the elves just aren't going to give you their elfin tasks if you're, you know, not an elf. The benefit here, aside from pointing out that life would be a better adventure if we could all just get along, is that the game has great replay value. Pick a different race, choose a different henchman, and you've got a new game.

Neverwinter Nights

Not that you need to bother replaying this, of course. As I mentioned before, it's very long, and you're not going to get through right away. Even when you do, you're not done. There are two official expansion packs available: Hordes of the Underdark and Shadows of Undrentide. When you're done with those, you're still not done. You've currently got five modules created by the Bioware team which—although not full expansion sets (and therefore not as expensive)—offer new adventures with new characters and such. I haven't tested any of these yet, but it seems that all of them are Mac compatible (although they may take a little work to run, if the Bioware forums are correct). Even then, you're still not done. There are also user-created modules, and that whole online multiplayer thing that just won't seem to go away.

That's an awful lot of gaming, my friends, maintained by a rabid fan base and dedicated developers (that Universal patch is coming, by the way, but the current version is playing just fine in Rosetta on my 2GHz Intel iMac). Is the boxed game any good, though? Yes. It is. Despite being three years old, Neverwinter Nights is still one of the best RPGs available—if not the best—for the Macintosh platform. I won't go into too many details as to why; Bill's review holds up just fine, and that's the point of all this. I've played many games since Neverwinter Night's release, but I've found very few of them to be this engrossing. It's apparently much easier to create a game that takes advantage of the latest hardware technology than it is to create a game that takes advantage of your need of adventure and your sense of imagination. It's three years on, and the graphics are still great, the battles are still challenging, the adventures are still exciting, and the ending is still...well, actually, I didn't mind the ending as much as Bill did, but I knew it was coming, and I knew there'd be expansion packs to cushion the blow.

Neverwinter Nights

And so, if the current glut of new Mac games has you down and you don't feel like waiting until the Christmas season to pick up something new, don't be afraid to go back a few years to try Neverwinter Nights. With its size and expansions, I'm fairly certain you won't be needing much else well into 2007. Just make sure you help that guy win back his girlfriend. He travels a hard road.

Applelinks Rating:

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