Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Memories of Neverwinter Nights

Companion piece to A Brief History of PJ the MMO Player (mostly MMORPGs).

So, hands up if you know that Neverwinter Nights was an MMORPG first and a best-selling PC RPG second.

Developed by Stormfront Studios and published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. on AOL under license from TSR, the *original* Neverwinter Nights was the very first graphical MMORPG, running from 1991-1997 on AOL. This MMORPG version was the predecessor of many other successful titles, such as Ultima Online, Everquest, and World of Warcraft.

In 2002 BioWare and Infogrames (now Atari) obtained permission from Wizards of the Coast to create an RPG based on the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons and Dragons. The result was the PC RPG Neverwinter Nights.

The PC RPG version of NWN was a massive hit and its legacy has come down to us in various forms: an eponymous sequel that came out in 2006, as well as other hit BioWare titles such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Top half of the composite image shows a promotional wallpaper for the original boxed set of Neverwinter Nights; bottom half is another player's screenshot of his character and inventory, from Gamespot.

I began to play NWN sometime in either 2004 or 2005, and was hooked hard on the original campaign and its intricacies of character creation, alignments, sidequests, and dialogue.

For the record, I preferred to play a female neutral good half-elf fighter. After trying on a few of the henchmen (female human bard Sharwyn, useful for her buff songs; and male halfling rogue Tomi Undergallows, great for avoiding all manner of traps and opening chests), I settled with a fellow melee specialist, the male half-orc fighter-barbarian Daelan Red Tiger - partly because he was a great keep-the-pesky-sneak-attackers-off-my-back kind of guy, but mostly because the item he gives at the end of all his sidequests buffs against Fear.

And you don't want to be vulnerable to Fear effects in the endgame.

The first playthrough of the game, however, did not end as anyone would expect. As I was slogging through Act IV, the PC I was playing on suffered a massive crash, deleting all my game data!


Once I got my shot at a do-over I vowed to play through straight to the end. Lessons learned from the first playthrough:
- Know the correct order in which to complete quests.
- Find the correct henchman and stick with him/her throughout the entire game - and make sure to equip the final upgraded form of the item that henchman gives.
- Go everywhere, talk to everyone, and open every damn door/chest/box/barrel/whatever.

I got some serious help from the game on the second playthrough since there were several drops of godly weapons and armor. By the time I finally got to the point where the previous game had crashed, I was more than ready for the final set of boss fights.

I wonder if I should play again. Maybe this time I'll take up the spellcasting classes - and I'll make doubly sure to get Daelan as my henchman again.

(I DID try NWN 2 but never got past the first act. Ironically, the graphics engine gave me migraines. I gave it up as a lost cause.)

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