The first retail expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights is only about a week away from hitting store shelves, and we were lucky enough to get our hands on an advance copy. Shadows of Undrentide contains a brand-new campaign spanning more than 20 hours and featuring new locations such as snow-covered regions and ancient ruins. Undrentide also includes new monsters such as the cockatrice and the sphinx, new character feats and skills, and enhancements to the Aurora toolset for those who wish to create their own new adventures.
Shadows of Undrentide's campaign is not a continuation of the original Neverwinter Nights' storyline, so we began by creating a brand-new character for the proceedings. We noticed a few new character portrait and voice options are now available, and we also noticed another of the game's new features: a number of "prestige classes," high-level character classes with fairly steep requirements but some significant benefits. First-level characters cannot belong to these prestige classes, such as arcane archer and blackguard (essentially an anti-paladin), but they give you something to aspire to, whether you choose to play as a morally good character or an evil one.
Toward that end, Shadows of Undrentide's campaign offers ample opportunities to role-play, even from the get-go. Like Neverwinter Nights before it, Undrentide packs in a lot of dialogue, and you'll frequently be able to interject with a variety of comments from your character's perspective. In one early quest, we were implored by a woman to save her husband and baby from a pack of kobolds that had broken into her home. We rushed inside the house to find the husband dead, though we managed to recover the child by offering a gem to a particularly greedy kobold in trade. We then returned to the woman and told her we'd recovered the baby safely. Then, recalling that our fighter was of evil alignment, we figured we'd lie and tell the woman that her husband was also alive and well. (Another option was to announce that we had decided to keep the baby, but we weren't feeling that evil.) But our lie didn't quite work, since our fighter wasn't an especially persuasive character. The woman caught us in the lie and ran for the guards, assuming we were the ones who had killed her mate.
Like Neverwinter Nights, Shadows of Undrentide is a single-character adventure, though you can pick up a henchman. A few are available to choose from early on, and they can balance out your main character's abilities--for example, we chose to travel alongside a thief, who could disarm traps and pick locks for us while we handled the dirty work.
Your main character in Undrentide is the favored student of a highly experienced dwarven adventurer. One day, his home--a training ground for adventurers such as yourself--is besieged by kobolds. Your master is struck down, and four of his mostly highly treasured artifacts are stolen. The game's main quest revolves around recovering these artifacts and discovering who or what is behind the unprovoked attack.
Shadows of Undrentide retails for about $25 and will be available soon. Look for a full review soon.