In the last few months we saw a lot of great remasters of previously exclusive PC games join consoles, now we have a chance to look at Neverwinter Nights.
Way back in 2002 Neverwinter Nights blew away fans of the RPG genre. It was the first mainstream (at this point a niche hardcore) RPG that switched to 3D. It was a big step forward that made many excited, it was completely different and an evolution of everything made in the 90s. It was time to move forward and Bioware took advantage of a great engine and the excitement around D&D games.
What made it so different from other games was obviously the 3D graphics. The execution stayed the same, the storytelling was identical even though this might be the RPG with the worst story from that period. Wailing Death, a magical disease, spread through the land and Neverwinter is gathering volunteers to find the cure.
You create your character which is pretty much the same as in other games from the period, except for the fact that its a complete, animated, 3D model. Nothing is 2D anymore, it tries to show that the engine is absolutely ready for the new tech. Which it wasn’t ready for due to the free camera. So many players decided to play in isometric mode, except for a few moments during fights to appreciate the effects.
Which brings us to today. Neverwinter Nights is still the same RPG it used to be. It’s heavy on text and there’s a lot of interaction with other characters with a lot of reading and talking. The voice acting has been done for pretty much all of the characters, but only for the first few lines, after which it switches to text.
Even back when it was released, it was noticeable that some 2D backgrounds that were very detailed were now replaced by 3D objects with a lot less details. A very well made image is a lot better than a rough 3D model without much detail (or polygons for that matter). It’s understandable that things need to move forward, but this is an example when it went too fast and ignored a good solution while implementing something that isn’t quite there yet.
All of these things show how badly Neverwinter Nights aged. Better textures and higher resolution just aren’t enough to help this game find its place today. When it was released in 2002 this title was impressive because it was one of the very first to switch to 3D. Everything is very rough and it has no real artistic direction. It feels like there was no art director on the team to give form to the game.
Besides the textures and resolution, lighting and clothing have been updated. These things add to the game, but they don’t do anything to give it direction. As a game it begs for a remake, because the starting point for a remaster just isn’t good enough.
The game’s engine itself doesn’t affect just the graphics, but the mechanics too. The free camera is badly done and it points out the game’s many flaws. You get stuck in objects, animations get messed up or just look bad. It’s not even that looking back at it now it’s a bad game, it’s more how much the industry advanced in 18 years. Back then, what made people so excited about the game is that it brought something completely new, even though the user experience wasn’t the best.
The gameplay is bearable since it’s turn based, as it was common back then. This is the one point where the free camera can be nice, since it lets you analyze the entire field from any angle you want. It was cool back then, but right now, it’s nothing worth writing home about.
After a few hours of getting used to it and remembering how things work, you won’t pay attention to around 80% of the flaws. In case you played the original when it was released, you will enjoy this version too.
Which is ok in the end, that’s exactly what the fans wanted. They just wanted some nicer textures, support for modern aspect ratios, and resolutions, for their favorite game.
The best part is probably the fact the mods made for the original also work with the remaster. The consoles have only two available, but more will be available as DLC. There’s also two expansions that will keep you playing for a while longer. Interestingly, both expansions have a better and more interesting story than the base game. All together, there’s around 100h of content.
Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition is a unique title due to it being the first of its kind. It’s on a very specific engine, so there’s only so much you can do for it. Everyone who played it back in 2002 is sure to enjoy it and it’s worth their time. If nothing else, it’s exactly as it was 18 years ago, for better or for worse. Which leaves it at 7.5/10.