Neverwinter Nights 2 Updated Impressions - Character Creation, High-Level Battles, Story, and Character Development

We take an exclusive look at this role-playing game sequel and discuss the story and character development with one of the finest RPG writers in the business.

The classic role-playing game has you playing as a would-be hero who must perform a bunch of quests, recover a bunch of treasures, gain a bunch of experience levels, and maybe fight a bunch of monsters, some of which may or may not be skeletons. But the upcoming sequel Neverwinter Nights 2 from developer Obsidian Entertainment and publisher Atari will offer a very different experience, because the game will not only ship with a massive single-player game that will eventually make you one of the most important and powerful characters in the world, but it will also ship with a robust toolset and everything you need to build and play your very own adventures online. Fortunately for us, Obsidian creative director Chris Avellone--whose writing and design credits include the flawed-but-still-enjoyable Knights of the Old Republic II, the postapocalyptic RPG Fallout 2, and the cult-classic Planescape: Torment--gave us a guided tour of what this sequel has to offer. A warning for Torment fans: this preview contains a spoiler that may make you get all nostalgic and misty-eyed.

Just thinking about the expansive single-player game and multiplayer options in Neverwinter Nights 2 makes most adventurers...pensive.

To begin with, Avellone showed us the game's mostly finished character-creation system, which is even more comprehensive than the feature-rich system from the original Neverwinter Nights (which was developed by BioWare). The sequel will let you create a character with highly distinctive appearances by choosing from many different armor and clothing sets--which can also be accessed in the editing tools to create flashy-looking weapons and armor, or to create a uniform worn by guards in a city. It will also offer just about every canonical character choice in the standard "3.5 Edition" Dungeons & Dragons rules the game is based on, including elves, dwarves, humans, half-elves, half-orcs, and "plane-touched,"--half-humanoid, half-otherworldly creatures (such as half-demon "tieflings"). The character models all look distinctive and detailed, and because the game offers plenty of different customizations (including skin color, hairstyles, and starting clothes), creating a unique-looking character should be a breeze. In addition, you'll be able to choose from plenty of different "subraces"--subsets of standard races, like the infamous "drow" dark elves of the Forgotten Realms fantasy setting, as well as the somewhat less-infamous "deep gnomes." You'll even be able to choose a religion for your character by selecting a patron deity from the Forgotten Realms pantheon.

The subraces will have specific advantages and disadvantages that will help differentiate each of them without making any one of them unfairly powerful. And as Avellone explains, all characters will be able to take an optional "background" feat that further develops their abilities by adding even more bonus skills--at a cost of weighty penalties that balance them out. The designer compares the approach that Obsidian is taking with character creation to the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. system of the Fallout games, which let you take powerful "perk" traits that also often carried equally powerful disadvantages. And like with Neverwinter Nights, the character-creation menu (as well as the menus you'll be shown later when your character advances an experience level and earns more skills and feats) will offer "pick for me" buttons that will make the game choose optimized picks for players who don't care to constantly roll the dice to see if they're getting drunk. You'll be making these choices (or letting the game do it all for you) all the way up to a character level of 20--which, in 3.5 Edition rules, is an almost-godlike level of power.

You'll also be able to create a character from a brand-new character class, the warlock--which Dungeons & Dragons fans will consider to be an even more-focused version of the sorcerer class. For those of us who aren't already D&D nerds, this means that the warlock, like the sorcerer, doesn't learn spells from magical scrolls, but rather gains them from resting. However, the warlock has even more focus than the sorcerer. This new profession takes a decreased number of different magics that can be memorized and used for the trade-off of being able to cast those few spells more or less endlessly each day. So, the warlock can be a very powerful combat spellcaster who pelts his enemies with continuous fireballs, lightning bolts, and everyone's favorite spell, magic missile. Plus, it can be a good choice of profession for beginners who don't wish to choose from huge lists of spells.

You'll be able to choose heroic feats and skills that will make your character more than just a guy in a tin can.

The character-creation system will also include a full suite of heroic feats and character skills, and because the game is being developed by some of the same talent behind the Fallout games and the later Dungeons & Dragons RPGs of the late 1990s, which emphasized story and character interaction, you can expect to see non-combat skills like bluff, diplomacy, and intimidate to be much more useful than in a standard hack-and-slash game. You can also expect to see some very spirited and unusual dialogue, including dialogue options to do things like, you guessed it Torment fans...snap someone's neck when he isn't cooperating (don't worry, though, that character was asking for it).

And those who enjoy a good story with memorable characters to go with their hacking and slashing will likely spend a great deal of time exploring and enjoying the adventuring party system in Neverwinter Nights 2's single-player game. You'll be able to create an adventuring party with up to four characters (your original character plus three companions), and you'll have full control over each one's actions if you care to take it. Though you can control only one character at a time--in battle, for instance--you can pause the game and switch control to a different character whenever you like. You can also control your characters' advancements by choosing different feats and skills as they gain levels, manipulate their inventories, and equip them with different items.

Three's Company, Four's a Party

But perhaps more importantly, you can gain influence over your companions in Neverwinter Nights 2 using an enhanced version of the "influence system" that Obsidian first used in Knights of the Old Republic II. In that game, taking certain actions and saying certain things to your travel companions could cause them to shift their ethical alignment more toward good or evil. In Neverwinter Nights 2, influence is much more subtle than being naughty or nice. Instead, gaining more influence may cause your companions to reveal more of their personalities to you or to get them to cover for you when your character isn't quite up to a challenge (for instance, getting in good with a stout dwarven companion who is skilled at intimidation may mean that he'll jump in and bully someone on your behalf if your skills aren't up to snuff).

In your journeys, you'll meet up with new companions...and you may end up changing their destinies.

In some cases, you may even change your companions' destinies--you might, for example, persuade the same stout dwarf warrior to pursue a different career path if you can exert enough influence. In the meantime, different characters will have their own personalities, which they'll reveal not only to you, but also to their other companions. It will be very, very possible to put together a party with characters who dislike or even hate each other--but, as Avellone points out, it will also be very possible for you to take advantage of that animosity and play your companions against each other.

In the single-player campaign, you may have to pull as many strings as you can get your hands on, since, according to the story, there's a serious power struggle that threatens to tear the Sword Coast of the Forgotten Realms apart. Three mysterious and exceptionally powerful beings are at war with each other over control of the area, and although you may begin your career working for one or more of them, you'll eventually find yourself on the other side of their swords (or magic wands, or whatever).

In the meantime, should you arouse their ire, they'll not only send their henchmen to destroy you in battle, but they'll also spread rumors and accusations to destroy your reputation. So, during the game, you'll be fighting for your life, as well as fighting to acquire evidence and to rescue witnesses who can clear your name of the charges brought against you, and in some cases, you may have to make some hard decisions about making truces with former enemies or bending the rules a bit to get your way. Perhaps this isn't surprising coming from the same development team that created Fallout and Planescape: Torment, but Avellone assures us that Neverwinter Nights 2 will offer the same compelling and rewarding gameplay experience for an evil character as it offers for a good character.

Perhaps because you find yourself at odds with such powerful beings who exert such tremendous political influence in the single-player game, you'll eventually find yourself to be a key figure in the future of the realm. You'll advance through the ranks in Neverwinter until you become a high-ranking official, and in much of the later parts of the game, especially during the campaign's third and final "act," you'll act much more as a general commanding an army in a full-scale war, rather than a down-on-his-luck adventurer fighting rats with a rusty dagger in the hopes of earning some copper pieces. Sure, several of the skirmishes we watched--which included exploring an ancient forest inhabited by gigantic forest animals and a wizard's dungeon full of elemental spirits--look like they'll pose a good challenge for most role-playing fans.

However, the game will also offer titanic battles, such as one of the later conflicts in which you and a small army under your command must hold the ramparts of a fortress from attack by swarms of undead creatures. This impressive-looking night battle requires you to run back and forth along the walls, smashing any siege ladders that try to unload packs of vampires and other nasty critters, all while being pelted by catapult blasts and a continuous hail of magic missiles. (And as the designer suggests, this extremely chaotic battle won't even be the worst of the conflicts you'll face.)

Things may seem calm, but the Forgotten Realms are on the brink of all-out war.

If you've been following the development of Neverwinter Nights 2 so far, you should already know that the game will ship with an enhanced toolset and enhanced online multiplayer options. However, we suspect that most RPG fans will be at least as interested in the single-player campaign, if not more so, especially given the intriguing story and party mechanics. And don't worry--the campaign should last for a good, long time. According to Avellone, the game's testers have been hammering away at the single-player campaign for months, and although they know the campaign like the backs of their hands and are continuously playing through while skipping all cinematic sequences and side quests, they still end up taking about 25 hours each time they play through...which means that most of us may end up looking at 30-40 hours.

Neverwinter Nights 2 stands to become the same kind of successful, all-in-one RPG package that the original Neverwinter Nights was, just better--with more content, a more-powerful editor, and an even more-substantial campaign with bigger party sizes and much more compelling character interaction. The sequel is scheduled for release in October.

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Discussion

92 comments
zyclon99
zyclon99

Looks cool. Fallout and Planescape writer's influence should make a fun and intelligent story with many different opportunities to explore and truly roleplay. I think I'll be pretty busy this winter with both NWN2 and then Gothic 3. The gaming gods smile upon us. : ) Don't forget to pause your game long enough on Nov 7th to go out and VOTE the Republican jackasses out of office! I'd bet it would increase your Karma by at least 3 - 5 points!!

auron_xp
auron_xp

well the characters look better than the ones in the original neverwinter nights

Tsunami_pt
Tsunami_pt

Impressive... I wonder if it is this game that will take me away from WoW (at least, for a couple of weeks...)

berdugorn
berdugorn

rykaziel- What you say may be true but will these comunity campaigns be worth playing? the good thing with a massive campaign is the long story, with many different litle campaigns you lose that... i hope that they will make a much bigger expansion at least! :)

FlashNovice
FlashNovice

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!! Spoilers!!!!!

rykaziel
rykaziel

Berdugorn- Do not forget that the game is coming with such a feature rich toolset, that I'm sure you'll be finding community created campaigns within the first week.

berdugorn
berdugorn

it seems VERY good but there is one point that disapoints me, they make it sound that 30 to 40 hours are enough and satisfying but to me it sounds like a small game (if you consider that baldur's gate was 100+++ hours!)

Whiteknight1981
Whiteknight1981

I liked playing what I did of Neverwinter Nights, but what I see on the videos makes me take a moment to wonder. I see some great spell effects, wonderful textures and great models when it comes to monsters and people, but during attacks, there seems to be no tactile sensation, no satisfying whack of the sword to show that you nailed that evil porcu-wolf thing with your sword/club/whoopie cushion. Guess I'm not as much of a number cruncher that I need to be to fully enjoy this game. Still, my hopes are up, the maintain your own castle feature sounds amazing.

BDANick
BDANick

The editor capabilities of this engine will be incredible, are they planning on making it entirely mod friendly? Id like to know whether ill be able to import some texture files to the game for some seriously kick-ass dungeon delving. The character creation system sounds almost flawless, i was hoping they'd be bringing in the warforged/shifter races from Eberron although that might spoil the Forgotten realms theme somewhat. Its a shame there's been no serious action in the Eberron direction, THAT would be a seriously funky game... I really want to know what the spell list is going to look like, if they import them from D&D then which books are they going to use???

wuzgar
wuzgar

Game is looking mighty awesome at the moment. Just hope they'll make playing an evil character worthwhile.

TheVelvet
TheVelvet

I just hope my computer can run it

ergo2497
ergo2497

I hope the toolset gets a little bit easier to use... But other than that, the single player game looks amazingly good. Same head writer as Planescape: Torment + Fallout 2 = OMGHOLYCRAPWTFPWNED!

Egameht
Egameht

"glitch24 ONE THING I HOPE THEY WILL INPUT is a tutorial for their fighting system, because I (and pretty sure many others) didn't really get the battle system...prolly because im not a dinosaur (no offense, but the only way u'll prolly get the battle system is if u were born teh 70s or if ur a major geek who still likes to play old school D&D!). I'm pretty sure i would've been really into the ORIGINAL NWN if I knew how the D&D system worked (and if the graphics were a lil bit better). DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE THE LAST NWN DID AND PROVIDE A TUTORIAL ON THE BATTLE SYSTEM!!!!!!!!!!!! " Actually, the Dungeons and Dragons system (3.5 edition) from Wizards of the Coast is a profiting hobby. While it's not as thriving as video games, there's more then just people born in the 70's that play D&D. This isn't even including other companies, like White Wolf (who made the original pnp game that is the basis for Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines) and Steve Jackson Games.

theperson98
theperson98

This game is gonna rock! It already sounds better than the first. Not to mention the graphics look amazing and reading about that battle sounds awesome. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

glitch24
glitch24

ONE THING I HOPE THEY WILL INPUT is a tutorial for their fighting system, because I (and pretty sure many others) didn't really get the battle system...prolly because im not a dinosaur (no offense, but the only way u'll prolly get the battle system is if u were born teh 70s or if ur a major geek who still likes to play old school D&D!). I'm pretty sure i would've been really into the ORIGINAL NWN if I knew how the D&D system worked (and if the graphics were a lil bit better). DON'T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE THE LAST NWN DID AND PROVIDE A TUTORIAL ON THE BATTLE SYSTEM!!!!!!!!!!!!

ahyumifan
ahyumifan

this game plays like WOW -0-

august_king
august_king

I enjoyed the original Neverwinter Nights, some of the player created modules were awesome.Some eclipsed the main single player quest. I'm glad they improved the character interaction. The fact that you can influence members of your party sounds cool. The development team has really improved upon everything that was bad in the original. I'll get this when it comes out!

Shai182
Shai182

OMG relax guys they do not juge the game befor it release, i'm sure they will work things out befor the new dead line Atari gave them a whole moth is alot of time you know ;)

Shai182
Shai182

OMG guys relax let the game come out befor you juge it, they still working out the glitches and moving the game release to October was fine step from Atari, gives the Developers time to fix alot of stuff. So wait and see what will come out from this sea ;)

Sylvas87
Sylvas87

Alright, the actual interface looks fine. VERY akin to World of Warcraft, customizable as well. And someone at GameSpot's slacking. Get some of the new screenshots up here. The graphics look great. I just hope they've been working on the combat too.

bcfish
bcfish

I am an addict of the original Neverwinter Nights, so I can't freakin wait!!! And I can't wait to see what fan modules will come out soon after!

LoranHalvard
LoranHalvard

Hey Encimedes: Did you know that BEFORE the expansion packs of NWN1 came out, the max level was also 20? And you know what, that was more than enough. You'll just have to wait for the expansion packs for this one I guess.

LoranHalvard
LoranHalvard

Hey Encimedes: Did you know that BEFORE the expansion packs of NWN1 came out, the max level was also 20? And you know what, that was more than enough. You'll just have to wait for the expansion packs for this one I guess.

Qiron
Qiron

controls and camera looks retarded. why couldnt they go with something simple and easy to control like guild wars or world of warcraft or oblivion? what a joke of a game. it looks totally messed up. look at the weak fighting animations. WTH... not in this day and age should this be allowed. weakest sword fighting I have ever seen! Even Lego starwars looks better animation wise than this...

Encimedes
Encimedes

I played and enjoyed NWN 1+expansions and I think the original campaign was a great. The plot was interesting and the battle system was one of the best there is. YEAH, I think the campaign was SUPERB. But... In NWN 2 the max level will be 20?! it will ruin the multiplayer!!

butsomuch
butsomuch

All people who played NWN2 alpha build at Gen Con said the graphics were quite good.

kof_azn
kof_azn

Jeez......The screenshot isnt "cross eyed". Try clicking on it for a larger picture and u will see that it isnt. wish people did these simple things before bashing the game.

jamesdb3
jamesdb3

For all those basing there comments on the game from the review and these outdated (yes very outdated screenshots from an old engine build), please pop over to http://www.nwn2wiki.org first to see more screenshots and movs, then secondly get over to http://nwn2forums.bioware.com/forums/index.html and read some of the posts there, with feedback from the devs which is damned informative, and you will see that: 1). The GUI has been completely reworked 2). The dm client is a priority after shipping the game (they probably figure they will have the time while people play the OC) 3). The build that they use to showcase has been used for stability purposes as the crew is working on release build (better to show something running instead of BSOD and I can understand that) 4). Screenshots and vids have only shown certain areas true, but if you notice on the forum posts on the link above you will see OE has been keeping as much of the games OC story, background etc to their chest. 5). The whole engine was completely rebuilt from the word go (obviously) and is fully accessible in the toolset, which has had a large overhaul as well, to encompass more ease of use, functionality while maintaining a degree of compatibility for old nwn resources (scripts etc) All I would say is pop over to the two above links and you will get a lot more info and insight into the game than you ever could on gamespot (and that's and understatement).

pug987
pug987

The biggest problem with most rpgs that came out in the last years is that they are easy and small. I think NWN 2 will be a good game, even a great game, but if it's only 30-40 hours long that will be a huge dissapointment. An epic campaign like the one NWN 2 seems to have should be BG 2 scale, 120+ hours. If the game is more like torment or fallout 2 it could get away with being like 50 hours long.

danhuling
danhuling

The GUI graphics and character boxes and placement of the info boxes is horrid. PLEASE REMAKE these. They still look like an amature did them. Also, I agree, the interface from NWN1 was brilliant. The transparent look made it extremely less intrusive to the player. NO PORTRAITS in NWN2 btw. no more. (Bad idea) now we get to see cross eyes avatars. NO DM CLIENT shipping with game (it'll be in a patch). VERY BAD idea. I pray this game will do well, but it seems to be heading down hill. Notice how ALL the screenshots and videos are from the same exact 2 areas of the game? What are they hiding? There's GOT to be more than a small town and an elementalists cave... Just had a baaaaad feeling about this. Hope I am wrong. I really do.

Sylvas87
Sylvas87

The characters look like crap, the interface is just sad, and the combat looks... well, slow and boring. If they can pull a semi decent game out of this in two and a half months, I will be surprised.

garfis
garfis

And I also felt that the NWN series wasn't up to scratch compared to the BG series (although, I must confess that I did enjoy the NWN series)

garfis
garfis

All this reading about the Baldur's Gate series has made me very nostalgic indeed. It was one of the best games (along with System Shock 1 and 2, Tie Fighter and Half-Life) I ever played. I played through BG1 it's expansion and BG2 and it's expansion in one go. It was just awesome. I really miss something like that (although I must say I really enjoyed Oblivion!)

badtemper
badtemper

Sorry, nothing i see here makes me think we'll ever get back to the D&D fun of Baldur's Gate (I & II). Neverwinter Nights was a poor derivative of the former both in game-play and roleplaying and I see nothing in NWN2 to make me think that the developers understand what made Baldur's Gate such a great game.

Tonttu86
Tonttu86

Seems like I don't need to be disappointed with this game when it gets released. :) I loved the original NWN, spent countless hours on the multiplayer portion of the game. It's really good that they kept the WASD controls too.

BoBIshmael
BoBIshmael

I loved Baldur's Gate II and its expansion. I play and love DnD. So I was very excited about NWN 1. Biggest dissapointment in a video game ever. (Including Majora's Mask- that was at least worth playing). The single player campaign was TERRIBLE. No immersion in the story, stickly hack and slash which wasn't even good hack and slash. NO PARTY? What were they thinking? Now I understand many people enjoyed the online components of the game, but for me, I'd rather play real dnd than modules with strangers. So, while I hope they keep the online stuff good fromt he last game to please its fans, I am very happy to see they have realized how unbelieveably bad the single player was and are bringing it up to the shining glory of the KOTORs and Fallout.

geldonyetich
geldonyetich

"But the upcoming sequel Neverwinter Nights 2 from developer Obsidian Entertainment and publisher Atari will offer a very different experience, [...] because it will ship with a robust toolset and everything you need to build and play your very own adventures online." "However, we suspect that most RPG fans will be at least as interested in the single-player campaign, if not more so, especially given the intriguing story and party mechanics" Thanks for the preview, Andrew, but I've gotta say that the above two bits don't show much respect for what made the original great. The developers had better not be over-priorizing that single player campaign, as it's the multiplayer functionality and the editor that will make or break this game.

Encimedes
Encimedes

Did u notice??? they said the "Pick for me" system will work only until level 20! does it mean it would be the max level?! it's like taking a step back from the orignal!!! NOOOOO!!!

wallydog63
wallydog63

First off to DDPX, I know everyone has an opinion, but you way, way on the lesser populated side. NWN1 was a kick ass game. Much better then any of the expantions. I played and beat all the expantions and didn't care for them as much as the original. Reviewers and fans alike praised that game and still do. Now to Ramona. What do you mean there FIRST big miss step. Man they dropped the ball on KOTOR2. It wasn't even in the same league as the first one. The first kicked ass, the second, well it was just kinda there. In the first one you like your companions. In the second they were annoying and very non rememberable. There wasn't a single character from the second game that I gave a rats behind about. The whole game felt long and blah(or boring for you non-technical people). I just hope they don't screw up this game.

uberjannie
uberjannie

ramona : This game isnt about graphics and interface. Yes those two are part of the game and will ofcourse involve some of the gameplay. But the real feat this game will be is the real ROLEPLAYING part =) I havent heard about anything like this since KOTOR 2

ramona
ramona

I'm very worried about this game. The grapghics looks as RoterHund said very glitchy and slow, and the game in all, judging by the gameplay movie we got from this prewiev, looks, well, slow, strange. Like the character are moving through water, it seems weird. And then the worst thing of all is the realy sucky interface. WHY DID YOU CHANGE FROM NWN 1!!?? That interface was some of the best design I have seen in a game so far, and not just the interface but everything, inventory, menu, questlog, everything. NWN 2 reminds of some lousy MMORPG, with big flashy buttons and colorfull icons, I whant slim black and white buttons, simpel is the key. I have prebooked this game, I'm going to buy it simply because it's NWN, but I do not think it will be better than the first game, infact, I fear this game might become Obsidians first real big miss-step.

umbrae
umbrae

i am dying for this game... good thing I can still play NWN 1.

Tangeu
Tangeu

Equating the background system to the SPECIAL system in Fallout seems convoluted, especially when you could equate it to another actual background system (say for example Arcanum).

sumdumfu
sumdumfu

the controls look really messed.

Supa_Dave
Supa_Dave

Bring back Baldurs Gate II features, and make the gameplay and story like hordes of the underdark. Hope the items are also nice, like the holy avenger and the equalizer in BG 2.