For many of us nerds, the first useful thing we could figure out for a computer to do was roll-saving throws for Dungeons and Dragons. BioWare's Neverwinter Nights for the PC finally accomplished this feat, garnering rave reviews and huge sales in response.
Jamdat and FloodGate will be bringing Neverwinter Nights to mobile phones in early 2004. It won't be the same as the PC version, let alone the real-life version. It can't be. It took decades for PCs to properly represent AD&D electronically. Nevertheless, when FloodGate's NWN comes out this year, it is going to revolutionize mobile RPGs.
We played betas of the game on an LG VX6000 and a Motorola MPx200 Smartphone. Both sport impressive graphics for their hardware, but it's hard to look at anything else once you savor the Moto isometric perspective and detailed textures. If you are serious about mobile games, your next phone should run a Microsoft OS.
As you know, before you play NWN, you've got to create a character. The choices are drawn from AD&D 3.0 rules. In the mobile version, there are seven races and seven classes (Barbarian, Cleric, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Rogue, and Sorcerer). Character portraits and background music are pulled from (or heavily influenced by) BioWare's NWN game, and both add nice touches to the game.
But the story is the main thing. The teams from both FloodGate and Jamdat are longtime AD&D players, (and environmentalists) and the narrative arc shows it. In the first chapter, you are charged by your adopted father to find the cause of a blight threatening the Circle Grove. It turns out that displaced Dwarves and their metallurgy are causing the blight, but they'll stop polluting if you complete several quests. These missions are nicely varied, and the characters you encounter along the way set a new standard for mobile adventuring.
However, all of the standard RPG problems remain mostly unfixed. There are (and perhaps will always be) too many repetitious conversations with NPCs. There are scores of buildings to visit across dozens of towns in mobile NWN, but there's little variation beyond the "buy/sell" or "sleep here" options. It would have been nice to see more of the racial/alignment effects that appeared in the PC version get translated to mobile.
But these are minor points which are more associated with the RPG genre than this particular implementation. The version we played is only 80 percent finished, and the team is working on several improvements. Moreover, the architecture of the mobile platform makes adding new modules for NWN possible. Although Jamdat has not committed to expanding the series beyond the three missions included in the download, the framework for doing so is built into the game engine. If all goes well, you might be playing NWN on mobile for as long as you've been playing it on your PC.