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The GoodI liked Baldurs Gate 2. I thought that it was a marvelous game, a shining beacon of light in the darkness of average RPG-s, so of course I was very interested in Neverwinter Nights and hoped to find the same kind of quality in it. I was hoping it to be better than BG2... which sadly it wasn`t.
It seems that someone in Bioware came to a bright idea to do a Diablo-clone. Why Bioware? Why? What about the story, the content, the meaning of the game? It is missing in the endless randomness (I was like level 3 and happily walking around in the city of Neverwinter and looking into barrels and stuff, and then I found an ancient über-cool armor of the Sun God of Mulhorhand in a barrel... kinda breaks the immersion and believability of the world, doesn`t it? EDIT: I understand that this was a bug because what you find in barrel depends on your level; this means that I was supposed to find that armor in that barrel when I would have been near level 20) and boring hack and slash quests. You showed the world that RPG-s can be more than "I kill the mighty dragon with sword of elemental evil of destruction which is doomed +8.... and save the princess of course" and the next thing you create is Diablo.
I liked what you did with shadows, and the clothes were nice and there was something that resembled a story... but I never thought that you could mess up a story which would be a perfect dramatic tale of loss of innocence in a cruel uncaring world, where people only care about their selfish fleshly needs and the innocent ones die tragically by trying to save the world, or by just trying to live according to their hearts. How can possibly anyone mess that up? What happened?
The BadReally...what happened? Remember Jeremy Soule - the musical genius behind Icewind Dale. Remember how beautiful the music was in that game, how inspiring and romantic. His music in Neverwinter Nights is boring, awful, uninspiring and unromantic( His Kotor work wasn`t much better in my opinion).
Remember the party members in BG 2, how interesting they were, how they interacted with the world and other party members? Well forget it about here in Neverwinter. You only can get one henchman, and they just kill everything that is red. Although some of them have nicely written backgrounds. But talking to them leads only to quests which are like "find-the-most-rare-and-sacred-flower-of-fallen-angels-in-a-barrel-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-please".
And they only give you information about them when you have gained enough levels. "Hey, Tomi. I am now almost level 10. Can I now hear your story?" "Hmm...nope." "Why? I just killed 10 000 orcs. I deserve to know your story." "You have still 3 expierence points missing to hear my story!" "Aaarrrghhh...please. I just want to believe that this game is more than hack and slash...that there is beauty to it....please talk to me...have mercy on me...be interactive." "Nope, can`t do." *In frustration the player kills himself.
Remember how interesting the Forgotten Realms world was in BG. In Neverwinter Nights I found out that FR is a patchwork of genres, it tries to be a little bit of everything.... and it does it horribly (another dimensions, heaven and hell, polytheistic religions, western, fantasy, pulp fiction, over thousand secret organizations all trying to conquer the world, etc). It goes way over the board. In BG Bioware used the most interesting parts of FR and fitted it in nicely and logically. In Nights they don`t try to achieve realism. There is an ancient alien-like race, who are called Creators, and they try to bring back the glorious days of their old empire; then there sacred barbarians, demons, evil brotherhood of mages, politics,... it just is too much... it doesn`t have the one single feeling which the game needs to have a sense of believability.
They have lots of sidequests in Nights, but they all contain bad dialogue and hack and slash solutions. But you learn more about FR, unfortunately too much. Speaking of dialogue.... it is quite horrible, especially for Bioware. And the voice acting... lets not better go there. In BG 2 there was a nice balance between the personal story and the sidequests story. I myself don`t care about sidequests, I like it when my games are personal, linear and dramatic. The more personal, the more it affects me emotionally.
NN consists only of sidequests... and there isn`t actually any freedom of choice in them (I only tolerated Fallout because there you could make choices). Either the " I-love-people-they-are-very-nice-and-I-like-flowers-because-they-are-pretty" way or the "I-am-so-selfish-and-evil-I-want-lots-of-money-I-luv-money-I-love-killing-people-for-money-I-love-me-with-money" way. Talk about deep moral choices.
And now, Aribeth. She was the character I fell in love. The only character in the game that seemed like character... atleast when she wasn`t giving you quests. Basically Aribeth was another try of Bioware to do their Moral Crusader who-is-to-brutal-in-enforcing his/her-views-on-the-world (like Anomen in BG 2) kind of character. Now Aribeth was the innocence which I mentioned earlier. She was the only noble and pure character. Everyone else in the game were selfish, low, full of hate, etc. And what does Bioware do? Bioware enforces the player to believe that the people in the city of Neverwinter are good (they raped,killed and tortured each other...and not some evil maniacs, but common people) and that Aribeth was evil; she tried to help the people in Neverwinter and they hanged her lover.... of course she goes mad and wants to kill them all... and Neverwinter deserved such punishment.
Unfortunately you can`t choose sides. You have to kill Aribeth for the good of Neverwinter because the noble Lord Nasher demands it (noble lord who hangs innocent people because the mob demands it). The twisted one-sided moralism in this game sickened me. There was no love in this game, no mercy. Only hatred, violence and money.
Edit: Other minor things. Because of tile-set design, new locations did not feel new (all the villages, caves, forests looked same). It kind of intensified the feeling of been there, done that. And I swear those barrels were everywhere.