I can’t imagine having not played Neverwinter now, after so many years and after how much it has influenced my life as not only a gamer but as a whole with the many people I met whilst playing. It had both a single-player and multiplayer mode, so often enough I would find myself clicking the one that transported me to the online community. I have to admit there were many bad memories that came with this, but honestly I find that the good (no matter how small or big) memories out weighted everything negative. You’ll find that you have that with many online games nowadays (again, I even had it when I played World of Warcraft)…especially as gaming is becoming a normal thing.
So I really want to focus on the nitty-gritty story-line with this article and delve into the richness Bioware likes to create. It’s been so many years since I played this game and I still remember how it felt. As the player you control a single character, customisable, with a specific chosen set of skills that could be anything from a Bard wielding a deadly musical instrument to the regular old goodie two shoes Paladin. Honestly I’d always go with a violin as a weapon any day…what better way to freak your enemy out than music them to death?!
There isn’t just the regular base class, you also have the chance later on to expand to multiclassing so that you can further develop your character. Neverwinter Nights really gives you the choice to create your character from scratch. From hand picking the skills, feats, spells and ability scores. You make your character how you want…and this is one of the things I loved about this game from the moment I installed it. Which, by the way…took 3 discs to do. Yes, you heard me. Three discs…
Once you’ve created your hero and you’re ready to set off into the big wide world of the Forgotten Realms, you find yourself stationed in an academy just outside the city of Neverwinter. As a student of this academy, and a new player to the Neverwinter game, you go through training to find out how to use spells, skill points and overall use your character to its fullest. Unfortunately It’s not all fun and games, because Bioware doesn’t like to do things easy and with only the knowledge just received by your trainers you get attacked by a Snake Cult. Not very original, huh? Apparently these people like reptiles. We can only hope they aren’t lizard people in disguise! So yes, the cult. Of course you’re not going to die here (if you do, shame on you. You must suck to die straight away after the “tutorial”!) and once they’ve been defeated you’re told to meet with an NPC called Lady Aribeth. During the game it’s vital to be a loot whore. Loot EVERYTHING. Like I mean everything. You see a chest? Loot it. Corpse? Grab that blasted cash and run for it!
The City of Skilled Hands, Neverwinter, is a pretty grand place and has a lot of different shops and four main districts. There’s the Peninsula, Beggar’s Nest, Docks and Blacklake. You may also see the main castle of the city, Castle Never and the Halls of Justice…these halls will be your best friend if you die, trust me. You will respawn there whenever you find a shiv in your back or a fireball conveniently right in front of your face. No one likes burnt eyebrows!
The real story of this game begins when you find out that the city has been corrupted and a plague is sweeping through the streets untamed. It’s a bit obvious at this point what needs to be done and you’re sent out under the direction of Lady Aribeth to find a cure for the plague, Wailing Death. Fun times and backstabbing. Normally at this point you’ve picked up a couple of henchmen from the local Trade of Blades establishment, ‘cause I’m pretty sure when I played this I died a few times before realising I could literally have minions to do the dirty work while I hang back and throw pitiful balls of fire at them. Lazy, I know…Anyhow. One thing I love about these RPG games is that you have the option to reply to certain conversations with a set of given answers. Instead of a general “Yeah sure, I’ll do that.” You get three or four or even more possible choices to choose from…and they really can change the conversation for the better or worse. I’ve spent many games loading saves from a point where I accidentally killed someone due to a conversational blunder. (Don’t get me started with Mass Effect blunders) Whoops…? I just thought it was the best option to pick! I didn’t think the guy would go bloody rogue over a pastry!! So yeah it’s a good idea to not just randomly pick whatever is under the cursor at the time.
We were at the point where you, the player, needed to find a cure…well that does happen, but again nothing is ever simple and while you’re off gallivanting through the woods it appears the same cult that invaded the academy in the beginning wants to have another go at you. Here’s where the backstabbing begins! When the materials are brought back to Castle Never and the cure is underway, the place gets attacked and a so-called friend nabs off with the completed cure while no one is looking. Luckily the brave and fearless hero manages to see him as he flees and ends up catching up to him, overpowering him into submission and surrender. So that’s that, yeah? Nope. Not quite. That strange cult from before with the lizardy snake people? Yeah well they were the ones responsible for the plague that swept the city of Neverwinter. Shocker!
A hero’s work is never done and while half the case is closed, you set off again with Aribeth to track down those slippery snakies. Just when you think you know everything and what’s going to happen, Bioware throws a massive curveball and deepens the storyline even more. They truly know how to keep you wondering and on your seat when playing…which is definitely the case when you find out the truth behind the cultists plans. In some locked away pocket world there are these beings called the Old Ones that once ruled over the land many, many years before the player was even born, but they didn’t rule justly and for many centuries all the races at that time were forced into slavery for the Old One’s. You’d think that eventually someone decided to get their own back on these beings and seal them away, yes? I mean I thought that too…but it turns out they couldn’t handle the climate. Yup. The bloody weather changed and they high tailed it into a snazzy little pocket world that was perfect for them and in hopes that the free races would keep the lands for them and welcome them with open arms once it was safe to return. Fat chance that was! As time went by people began to forget their existence and they were left fuming in their little bubble of evil. This cult, in the thousands of years since their sealing, was the only one to even attempt releasing them and would have gotten away with it had the player not foiled their plans.
It would be no surprise for me to say that instead of releasing the Old Ones and reigning destruction and slavery onto the land, you end up entering their world to confront their most powerful and destroy them once and for all. Piece of cake!
I’ve talked about the main plot here and I have to say it only just covers half the amount of content within the game itself. There are many side-quests, including henchmen *cough* minion *cough* quests, that expand the world of the Forgotten Realms and so many things to explore and find within the city. The lore of this universe is so diverse and large that there is even a reference to the city Neverwinter in their previous game, Baldur’s Gate. They are both set in the Forgotten Realms and that is why I love the richness of the lore and story of their games…they aren’t just games to me and they certainly aren’t something you’d play for half an hour. They’re a universe I can immerse myself in and feel like a part of…I don’t care for graphics (it’s nice, don’t get me wrong) but a good game is all about its content and flow of game mechanics.
I mentioned in last month article about how my parents played either on the PC or table top? Well they both played Dungeons and Dragons for years and I used to watch them when they did. As a kid I was so curious about the little figures and of course, wanted to stick them in my mouth or play with them. When I got older I realised there was a method to their madness and found myself intrigued by the rules and mechanics that made it so playable. Bioware created their first game engine to work on this very same rule system for Baldur’s Gate and to keep that Dungeons and Dragons feel…the successor to this engine, Aurora, was used as the base for the Neverwinter Nights games. These sorts of games have been in my family literally for years…and it not only developed my tastes as a gamer but also created an unbreakable bond with my parents. Plus, it’s handy when your own mother understands half of what you talk about when you discuss games! My dad and I just can’t shut up.
I missed out a lot of names and explanations also with this article…mostly because I want you people to experience the fullness of the game yourselves (if you haven’t already of course) because it doesn’t matter how old a game is, what matters is if you can enjoy it and fall in love with it at the same time. Games are worlds that other people have come together to create…those make-believe places we all think of somewhere in our heads. When all else fails in real life and things get tough…we know that those worlds are always open to us. We deviate from what is real to immerse in the make believe.
Where do you think books take you when you read them?
Next issue: Mass Effect
Neverwinter Nights, the beginning will be continued.
Some of the storyline is resourced from the Forgotten Realms wikia because I suck at remembering stuff: http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Neverwinter_Nights