One game that always looked appealing to me was Neverwinter Nights. Made available for mac, the original seemed to shine from out of the gates (special thanks to mysterious reader who corrected us on this, kudos -- Editor). In late 2006, the sequel was released, only for PC. I had given up all hope of seeing a version that I could play, so I allowed the game to drop off my radar. Imagine my surprise, then, when a copy of Neverwinter Nights 2 (for Mac!) fell into my lap for review.
First, a little background: I am a huge fan of the RPG genre. I would venture to guess that at least 75 percent of the games I own are (or could be loosely defined as) RPGs. There is just something about the combination of epic story, boundless exploration and character development that has always appealed to me.
Contemporaneously (add that to your vocab), I am a huge fan of Apple computers; and as most gamers know, Mac users just haven’t, historically, had access to the best games out there. PCs used different types of processors, and most developers didn’t want to recode an entire game for a platform whose market share was meager at best.
Now, thanks to Apple’s brilliant decision to make the switch to Intel processors, developers can make games playable on both Mac and PC, with significantly less effort. And, much to my delight, they’re beginning to do so.
So, was it worth the wait?
The first order of business in Neverwinter Nights 2 (after installation, of course) is creating and naming your character. There are tons of customization options here, so this process could keep you busy for quite some time if you want to create a truly unique individual. After your in-game persona has been fleshed out, the game begins and you’re in for quite the epic adventure.
The first portion of the game behaves like you might expect, with much of your time spent adventuring in a party and killing off enemies. Later in the game, however, there is a shift, and you find yourself with your very own castle, which you must manage fully (economically, militarily, etc.). It makes for a nice change of pace, and keeps the game from becoming monotonous.
You’ll quickly discover that this game, though similar in many respects, does not play like your typical RPG. Sure, you’ll visit towns and talk to NPCs, gathering information along the way, but you’ll also find features that are often only found in other genres.
One example of a borrowed feature is the strategy element that is involved in battle. If you hope to defeat an enemy in the most efficient way possible, you will have to use the unique abilities of each job class to your advantage. In other words it would be wise to use, for example, those characters whose jobs involve stealth to get behind the enemy, while you use your other characters to keep the enemy distracted. Not surprisingly, this feature makes the game all the more fun to play.
Another feature that sets this game apart from many others in its class is the ability to control each of your party members individually. This plays a large part in making the strategy elements of the game so interesting. Each character also has their own inventory list, which I find to be both a blessing and a curse. Individual inventories mean that more items can be carried at a given time, but when you need to change party members you are forced to manually rearrange items and transfer them individually from the departing member to the new one. This should have been more streamlined, because it takes a considerable amount of time to do. It detracts from gameplay, and it has to be performed each time you want to change parties.
The controls in Neverwinter Nights 2 are fairly intuitive, and practically every action that can be performed in the game has a keyboard shortcut. Overall, everything works very well. The one thing that I want to gripe about is in fact the most basic of controls—moving the character. This game still uses the method of forcing you to physically turn your characters around with the left and right keys, before pressing either the up or down key to make them move forward or backward, respectively (à la Tomb Raider or Resident Evil). Some people may still enjoy this, instead of the more widely accepted method of having the character face and move in whichever direction corresponds to the directional button pressed, but I find it to be incredibly dated and frustrating.
What does it look/sound like?
Seeing as Neverwinter Nights 2 was originally released in 2006, the graphics aren’t exactly cutting-edge. The look reminds me of World of Warcraft, which is to say that it doesn’t push the limits of any modern video cards, but it could be likened to some of the best efforts from the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation of consoles.
So far as sound goes, this game does not disappoint. Voice acting is consistently good (which helps to move along the excellent story), and the score is, at times, mesmerizing. Even sound effects and ambient noise are expertly used, to deliver a truly immersive gaming experience.
Though this game certainly has its flaws (what game doesn’t?), it manages to more than make up for them in story and gameplay. The sheer size of the game will keep you entertained for hours on end. When you do manage finish the single player mode of the game, you can always go back and play with others online, for virtually limitless replayability.
If you are a Mac user who is looking for an enthralling, immersive gaming experience, look no further than Neverwinter Nights 2.