E3 2002Neverwinter Nights hands-on multiplayer impressions

We visited with BioWare at E3 and took the multiplayer version of Neverwinter Nights out for a spin.

We visited BioWare's E3 meeting room and sat in on a multiplayer session of the Canadian developers highly anticipated role-playing game, Neverwinter Nights. As it happened, we ended up playing as a cleric, though the party we joined, which also consisted of a fighter, a rogue, a wizard, a paladin, and a barbarian, were all at about level 18, so that we could jump into a dungeon without fear.

Joining a multiplayer game is simple-we choose our character, clicked on the "connect" button, and we were in. All characters appeared in a small training area with training dummies-we were able to try out the game's simple point-and-click combat, which is initiated with a single click on the target enemy. We also took some time to try out the game's different spells-Neverwinter Nights will have nearly all the popular magic spells that appeared in the Baldur's Gate series, though they will the spells will be modified to be consistent with the 3rd-edition rules. Among other things, we were able to use Heal, Horrid Wilting, Cloudkill, and Fireball, as well as turn undead. As you've probably seen in previous screenshots and movie footage, Neverwinter Nights uses colorful particle effects for most of its magic, and though they seem rather simple for the most part, all spells are immediately recognizable at a glance.

We then jumped into a dungeon that was filled with umber hulks, zombies, vampires, and skeletal warriors. The few undead creatures that weren't destroyed by our character's powerful 18th-level cleric's turn-undead ability would turn and shamble away in fear, and get cut down easily. New monsters were spawned in quickly and easily by the dungeon master using a simple pull-down menu to choose the monsters, and a drag-and-drop mouse command to put them into the game. Neverwinter Nights will ship with a huge number of different and familiar Dungeons & Dragons monsters, though dungeon masters will be able to create their own custom creatures to make them tougher, richer, injured, hostile, or friendly.

The actual adventuring was done by simply pointing and clicking-players control their characters by either pointing at a destination and left-clicking, or holding down the left-mouse button and dragging. Neverwinter Nights also lets players use the W,A,S, and D keys to move as well. Accessing and actually using special abilities seemed a bit cumbersome-the game has a mouse-driven interface that consists of multiple menus, so casting the fifth-level spell Flame Strike required us to right-click off to the side of the screen to bring up the spell-casting options (which let you cast spells normally or use any 3rd-edition metamagic feats, if your character has any), left-click on clerical spells to bring up the different spell levels, left-click on the fifth-level spell icon to bring up all memorized spells, then left-click on Flame Strike. Neverwinter Nights lets you assign quick hotkeys to the function keys on your keyboard (we bound Cure Critical Wounds to F6, for instance), and lets you use multiple hotkey banks-and the game should also let you manually create your own hotkeys. Hopefully these won't prove too cumbersome in the final game. Otherwise, Neverwinter Nights looks as good as ever, and as promising as ever. The game is still scheduled for release this summer.

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