European Windows version box art
|Platform(s)||Windows, Linux, Mac OS X|
NA June 18, 2002
EU / AUS July 3, 2002
NA June 20, 2003
NA August 2003
|Genre(s)||Computer role-playing game|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
|Rating(s)||ESRB: T (Teen)|
|Input methods||Keyboard, mouse|
Neverwinter Nights (NWN), produced by BioWare and published by Infogrames (now Atari), is a third-person perspective computer role-playing game that is based on third edition Dungeons & Dragons and Forgotten Realms rules. It was originally to be published by Interplay Entertainment, but the publisher's financial difficulties forced the change. Infogrames released Neverwinter Nights for Windows on June 18, 2002. BioWare released the freely downloadable Linux Client in June 2003 (purchase of game still required). MacSoft released a Mac OS X port in August 2003. Two expansion packs were released in mid and late 2003, and a third in 2005. On October 31, 2006, a Neverwinter Nights 2, was released followed by an expansion in late 2007.
The core release includes the game engine, a campaign that can be played as single player or multiplayer, and the Aurora toolset (for Windows only) used for creating custom content based on the same engine.
Play centers on the development of a character that becomes the ultimate hero of the story. In the original NWN scenario supplied with the game engine, the player is single-handedly responsible for defeating a powerful cult; collecting the four reagents required for stopping an insatiable plague; thwarting an attack on the city of Neverwinter, and many other side quests.
The first and final chapters of the story in the official campaign deal with the city of Neverwinter itself, but the lengthy mid-story requires the player to venture into the countryside and then northward to the city of Luskan. Neverwinter is a city on the Sword Coast of Faerûn, in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons and Dragons.
Prelude: The tutorial takes place in the Neverwinter Academy. The player then meets Lady Aribeth to help combat the Wailing Death, a plague sweeping the city. However, an attack by mysterious assassins results in the majority of the Academy's students and teachers being killed. The player must then find Neverwinter's hope of a cure: Four monsters sent from Waterdeep, that have been released in the attack.
Chapter One: The game proper begins at the temple of Tyr in Neverwinter's City Core, where the player is properly introduced to Fenthick Moss and Desther. Fenthick Moss, Aribeth's lover, praises the player and ask for their help. Desther, however, is dismissive of the player. Aribeth charges the adventurer to find the four parts of the cure. The four Waterdhavian creatures are: a Yuan-ti, a Dryad, an Intellect devourer, and a Cockatrice.
The player is sent to the four city districts: the Peninsula (where the Neverwinter jail is located), the crime-infested Docks district, the upscale Blacklake district, and the slums of Beggers' Nest. Each of the four districts is facing disturbances that are possibly (later proven to be) related to the Waterdhavian creatures.
As the player finds the reagents for the cure, they draw the attention of the cult behind the spreading of the plague, resulting in the player being attacked by mysterious assassins, with anonymous notes on them, hinting at a sinister agenda behind the Wailing Death.
Chapter One - Finale: During the cure producing ritual, Desther's Helmites attack Castle Neverwinter. During the confusion, Desther and his false Helmites escaped through a portal with the completed cure, and Fenthick chasing after them. The player is ordered to chase after them to Helm's Hold, where the portal leads to. It is revealed that the real Helmites are dead or imprisoned. After fighting through the undead raised by Desther, the player confronts him. Following a brief fight, Desther surrenders and is condemned to burn at the stake. Fenthick, who had supported Desther, is hanged despite having been unaware of Desther's true intentions.
Chapter Two: The player arrives at Port Llast to find Aribeth, who asks for the player's help in locating the cult who attacked Neverwinter. She advises the player to speak to Aarin Gend, Lord Nasher's spymaster, who tells the player to check out nearby caves, where humanoids have been busier than usual, and suspects cult involvement. The player fights his way to the bugbear leader and discovers a cult member has indeed been rallying the humanoids. Aribeth congratulates the player upon the return of the cult member diary, but asks for evidence of the cult's location.
The player then explores Charwood and finds a haunted castle that seems to be frozen in time. In Charwood Inn, a madden cultist is found and killed, and his diary reveal that the cult's headquarters is located in Luskan.
The player is charged with investigating the troubles in Neverwinter Wood. The player discovers that "The Spirit of the wood" has gone mad, and is causing all the animals of the wood to attack humans on sight. After discovering the way into the realm of the Spirit, the player discovers yet another cult member, driven mad by the spirit realm. The player kills the cult member and takes his diary. The player can then decide to cure the Spirit or kill it, and is rewarded upon the delivery of the news to the archdruid of the forest.
At various times, the player is ambushed by members of the Cult, who upon their death leaves behind diaries or letters from a certain "Maugrim" that may or may not prove the Cult's location.
After being presented two pieces of explicit evidence, Aribeth is assured that the Cult is to be found in Luskan and bids the player speak to Gend. Gend tells the player his friend will get him into Luskan, to meet him and Aribeth in Luskan's temple of Tyr.
Chapter 2 - Finale: When the player enter the Temple of Tyr in Luskan, he realizes that Aribeth has already gone into the Arcane Brotherhood's Tower, who are the true rulers of Luskan. Currently, there is a battle between two of the five captains on who should rule Luskan; the other three are presumed dead. Gend wants the player to align himself with one of the captains and battle their opponent in order to gain their seal, which allows them into the Brotherhood tower. After battling one of the two, Gend makes a fake seal that allows the player in the tower. As he enter, he hears that Lady Aribeth is joining with the cult. Now the player is forced to stop her by traversing all nine levels of the tower, the last floor being the Pinnacle. At the Pinnicle, the player intrudes on a meeting between Aribeth, Maugrim, and Morag, Queen of the Old Ones. After this encounter, the player returns to the temple and reports to Gend of Aribeth's betrayal and the cult's plan of retrieving relics of old magic called the Words of Power. The party goes to Beorunna's Well and starts Chapter three....
Chapter Three: This chapter revolves around the retrieval of the last three words of power. There are four in total, but the cult has one of them which was acquired in Chapter Two in the Neverwinter Wood. When all three are found, the hero goes back to Neverwinter for the final battle and also meets a rebellious Old One named Haedraline.
Chapter Four: It was revealed that Morag is actually using a projection to talk to Maugrim and that she is actually in the Source Stone, a magical stone used as the portal to Morag's pocket plane where she and the other Old Ones sleep. The hero needs to confront Aribeth and either redeem her or slay her, and then confront Maugrim to get the last Word. After that's done, the hero goes to the Source Stone and enters it using all Four Words of Power. In there he has a final battle with Morag. When she is dead, the Source Stone and the world in it implode, but Haedraline creates a little portal for the hero to escape. The game ends with a movie showing the Source Stone's destruction and an epilogue.
As in Dungeons & Dragons, the first thing a player must do is create a character. One can choose the character's gender, race, character class, alignment, statistics (strength, dexterity, etc.), abilities (skills, feats, etc.), appearance, and name. There is a great deal of customization involved - one can be, for example, an outdoorsman (Ranger class), healer (Cleric class), and then choose the skills and feats that would help them the most (a Ranger might want the Animal Empathy skill, for example, while a Cleric would choose the Combat Casting feat).
The game is lengthy (original NWN has three CDs, while the expansions each add one CD - Later productions moved the entirety of the game to a single DVD). Following a small prelude, there are four "chapters" in the original game, with each chapter consisting of a general storyline (the first chapter, for example, deals with a mysterious plague in the city of Neverwinter), and within each chapter, there are many quests, subquests, and mini-storylines. Depending on specific quests completed, and specific items kept, some storylines are continued throughout the entire game (such as Henchman or Aribeth's tales). Completing many of the side quests will give your character more experience (and special items), making him/her level up faster and continue to make the game easier as you progress. For example, completing all quests in the first and second chapters will start you in Chapter 3 with a 13th level character, instead of a 10th.
The game's actual mechanics are based on the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rule set – most important actions (fighting, persuasion, etc.) are based on a die roll. For example, when a fighter attacks, he would roll a 20-sided die (called a d20 in-game) to determine if he hits the target and then roll another die determined by the type of weapon (an 8-sided die (d8) for longsword, 2 6-sided dice (2d6) for greatsword, 10-sided die (d10) for dwarven waraxe etc.) to determine damage dealt.
The robust multiplayer component separates Neverwinter Nights from previous Dungeons & Dragons games, as there are many servers for players to choose from. Each server, depending on hardware and bandwidth, can support up to 72 players or more in the same module. NWN game modules run as a variety of separate genres and themes, including persistent worlds (which are similar to MUDs), combat arenas (player versus player modules), and simple social gatherings similar to a chat room. The campaign included with the game can be played with friends, for example, or a team of builders can build a virtual world similar in scope and size to commercial MMORPGs. BioWare insists that these persistent worlds be free of charge, primarily for reasons of copyright law.
Many persistent worlds are still actively run with updates and improvements; notable examples include Avlis, Arkaz and Layonara. Servers can also be linked together, allowing the creation of large multi-server worlds. Two early examples include A Land Far Away and Confederation of Planes and Planets.
Because Neverwinter Nights lacks a global chat function aside from the supported Gamespy, players typically join "pickup" games through the game's multiplayer interface, or schedule games in advance with friends. Matchmaking sites, such as Neverwinter Connections, facilitate scheduling of games, and the experience is much like traditional Pen-and-Paper roleplaying games. Persistent worlds do this work for them by inviting players to visit their website and continue to roleplay there.
One important feature of Neverwinter Nights is the 'DM' or 'Dungeon Master' Client, a tool that allows an individual to take the role of the traditional 'Dungeon Master', who guides the players through the story, and has complete control of the server. While not the first game to utilize this feature (one previous example is a more basic version in the game 'Vampire the Masquerade', based on the printed gamebooks published by White Wolf), Neverwinter Nights had the most evolved version of this feature and thus arguably created one of the most 'immersive' RPG experiences currently available in CRPG gaming. The DM Client allowed players to participate in regular campaigns, while also allowing persistent-world servers to flourish by permitting the Dungeon Masters of those servers to possess NPCs 'on-the-fly' for added realism.
Neverwinter Nights ("NWN") generally has up to 9,000 or more players online at any one time.
Neverwinter Nights ships with the Aurora toolset, which allows players to create custom modules for Neverwinter Nights. These modules may take the form of online multiplayer worlds, single player adventures, character trainers or technology demos. Additionally, several third party utilities have further expanded the community's ability to create custom content for the game. Custom content creators are known as builders in the Neverwinter Nights community.
The Aurora toolset allows builders to create map areas using a tile system; the appearance and surface textures of the area are defined by the area's selected tileset. Builders can overlay placeable objects onto areas, and use the built-in scripting language NWScript to run cut scenes, quests, mini-games and conversations. NWScript is based on C.
Third party utilities allow builders to create custom content for most aspects of the game, ranging from new playable races and character classes to new tilesets, monsters and equipment. Custom content is added to the game in the form of hakpaks. Builders have used the Aurora toolset in combination with hakpaks to create playing experiences beyond the scope of the original campaign. Despite the game's age, the Neverwinter Nights custom content community remains active.
In terms of sheer user-created content, however, the major player is certainly the team that produced the Community Expansion Pack (CEP). Overseen by a small group of Neverwinter Nights builders, the CEP project was an enormous collection of player-made items, creatures and character appearances compiled into an interconnected series of add-on files. Content is only added to the CEP after being tested and approved by the CEP team, giving rise to one of the most widely-used player-made enhancements ever created for Neverwinter Nights, and (thus far) the only one to have received its own page on BioWare's official site.
Due to the extreme success and popularity of the CEP, a sister-project was started several years after the CEP's release. Dubbed the Community Tileset Project, it is attempting to duplicate the CEP's success, but the focus of the CTP is to create a collection of user-made tilesets, which are used to create a basic Neverwinter Nights map. While progress has been slow, the team itself is still working together.
Those who purchased the Macintosh version of the game have complained that the editor is not included, even though it is mentioned in the manual and advertised on the case.
- Shadows of Undrentide (SoU) — This expansion scenario pack was released in June 2003. It adds 5 prestige classes, 16 new creatures (two of them available as additional familiars), 3 new tilesets, and over 30 new feats and 50 new spells, as well as additional scripting abilities for those who use the Aurora toolkit. It features a story line concerning a student sent out to recover some stolen magical objects. The story begins in the Silver Marches, eventually moving toward the desert of Anauroch and the old Netherese city of Undrentide.
- Hordes of the Underdark (HotU) — Released in December 2003, it expands the level-cap to level 40 (epic levels), and adds a number of spells and items appropriate to such characters, as well as adding further tilesets, prestige classes, feats, and abilities, and compatibility with the Intel Pentium 4 Processor, which was unsupported in previous versions. The story continues where Shadows of Undrentide ended, with a character of at least 12th level (if you start this expansion with a character below level 12, the game will level you up to 15), and leads into the vast subterranean world known as the Underdark. The first chapter of the story takes place in the Undermountain dungeon beneath the city of Waterdeep.
- Kingmaker — includes three premium modules, Kingmaker, Shadowguard, and Witch's Wake.
In March 2004, an expansion known as the Community Expansion Pack (CEP) based on community material was released. This freely downloadable expansion was compiled by members of the Neverwinter Nights community. It combines a selection of previously released custom content into one large hakpak. BioWare had no involvement in creating content for the CEP, but provided resources to help promote it. Players must add the CEP to a module with the toolset to use CEP content.
Though not actually expansion packs, Atari released subsequent editions of the game following its first release in 2002. These editions are: Neverwinter Nights: Gold, which combines the original game with the Shadows of Undrentide expansion pack; Neverwinter Nights: Platinum (in Europe called Neverwinter Nights: Deluxe Edition), which combined all three NWN products and came on a single DVD-ROM or four CD-ROMs; and Neverwinter Nights: Diamond (in Europe called Neverwinter Nights Deluxe: Special Edition), which includes everything in the Platinum edition plus the three additional modules from the Kingmaker Expansion Pack.
As well, in early December 2003, the Players Resource Consortium released the PRC, which is a group of hakpaks combined, which added classes, races, skills, and spells to the game. As of May 20, 2006, the PRC now has roughly three times the number of prestige classes the original game had. It also adds dozens of epic spells, and many normal spells that make better use of BioWare's Aurora engine. These include: Teleportation, Transposition, Mazes, Summoning Houses and more. As well, psionic powers have been included, which are essentially spells, but done with "power points", akin to the sorcerer class. Much of the PRC pushes the engine in ways that the designers never intended, so caution is advised when making use of the hakpak.
In late 2004, BioWare launched its online store and started selling what it called premium modules as part of its digital distribution program. This initiative was spearheaded by BioWare's Live Team Lead Designer, Rob Bartel. Though technically not expansions, these smaller-scale adventures introduce new storylines and gameplay. They often include new music and art that BioWare claimed would be integrated into future patches and updates to the core game. The most recent patch, 1.68, includes much of the art and music that can be found in the premium modules.
According to BioWare, the revenue generated is used to support their fan community and provide ongoing updates and improvements to the popular game. The modules that are sold in the BioWare store require an active internet connection to play, even when played in single player mode. The modules in the Kingmaker expansion were stripped of this requirement but are only for Windows. The modules included with Neverwinter Nights Diamond Edition do not require Internet access to play.
- Neverwinter Nights: Kingmaker — In November 2004, BioWare announced their flagship premium module, which later received the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences 'PC RPG of the Year' award. The player is called upon to defeat the evil at the Keep of Cyan, and win the throne.
- Neverwinter Nights: ShadowGuard with free Witch's Wake — At the same time as Kingmaker's release, BioWare also offered a bundled pair of shorter premium modules which included ShadowGuard, created by community member Ben McJunkin, and Witch's Wake, a remastered version of Rob Bartel's popular story-oriented module by the same name. The remastered version added new subraces, music, and substantial voice-acting throughout.
- Neverwinter Nights: Pirates of the Sword Coast — In June 2005, BioWare announced the upcoming release of a new premium module. The story begins in the city of Neverwinter, and leads to a lengthy ship-bourne, swashbuckling-style adventure. Characters start at the 5th level.
- Neverwinter Nights: Kingmaker (Premium Modules collection) — Atari released this CD-ROM expansion pack in September 2005. It compiles the premium modules Kingmaker, Shadowguard and Witch's Wake.
- Neverwinter Nights: Infinite Dungeons — In May 2006, BioWare released this premium module which takes place in Undermountain below Waterdeep. The main feature is randomly generated dungeons, which are suitable for all levels of adventurer. The module is designed for single and multiplayer gaming. With the exception of the ability to respawn one's character, ID is very similar to a 3-D roguelike.
- Neverwinter Nights: Wyvern Crown of Cormyr — In September 2006, BioWare announced a new premium module produced by the DLA team. It features fully ridable horses, flowing cloaks, tabards and long coats, a new prestige class (the Purple Dragon Knight), and extensive new art, creatures, and tilesets. Characters start at the 6th or 7th level and module offers an approximate 18 to 20 hours of gameplay.
Previously canceled modules
- Tyrants of the Moonsea — In July 2006, Alazander released the first cancelled premium modules to Neverwinter Vault. The story takes place in the Hillsfar area and includes gladiatorial matches. Characters start at the 12th level. Artemis Entreri makes an appearance in this module.
- Darkness over Daggerford — In August 2006, Ossian Studios Inc., headed up by Alan Miranda, a former producer at BioWare, released the second canceled premium module to the Vault. The story takes place in and around Daggerford and has been compared favorably to Baldur's Gate 2 in terms of its scope. Characters start at the 8th level.
- Witch's Wake II: The Witch Hunters — The sequel to the popular Witch's Wake premium module, this canceled module has never been released for download, free or otherwise.
New content created for the premium module program by the DLA team continues to be patched into the game's official resources. Neverwinter Nights 2 was released on November 4th, 2006, and new support for the premium module program is unlikely to continue (although BioWare has said that they will not stop supporting the existing modules). Development resources for premium NWN content is likely to be redirected to BioWare's new Dragon Age RPG.
Neverwinter Nights was generally met with very positive reviews. GameSpot referred to it as "one of those exceedingly rare games that has a lot to offer virtually everyone, even if they aren't already into RPGs", and praised it for its campaign, its Aurora toolset, and its graphics.
- E3 2000 Game Critics Awards: Best RPG, Best Online Multiplayer
- E3 2001 Game Critics Awards: Best Role Playing Game
- E3 2002 Game Critics Awards: Best Role Playing Game
Since the original release of Neverwinter Nights, several in-game portraits have been modified in patches due to their having been copied from outside sources. In another instance, the Canadian Red Cross complained to BioWare about the appearance of the Red Cross symbol on the in-game item "Healer's Kit", not wanting the Red Cross to be associated with the game's violence. This resulted in the Red Cross symbol being removed from the Healer's Kit through patches.
Neverwinter Nights is used for educational purposes in West Nottinghamshire College in the United Kingdom as a means of delivering Key Skills and of showing IT designers how to understand the coding in the game.
Also, the game itself and the Aurora toolset have been used as part of a level design course, given at the Ubisoft Campus in Montréal, Canada.
It is also being used as part of the Applied Computer Science (ACS) program at Contra Costa College (CCC) in San Pablo California. The ACS program is a core component the of CCC Tech Prep outreach to Middle College High School. Additionally, Champlain College is currently using the Aurora toolset as part of a Sophomore game design course.
The Synthetic Worlds Initiative at Indiana University has used it as a basis for the creation of Arden: World Of William Shakespeare, where Shakespeare's dramatic history of Richard III and The War of the Roses can be interactively explored.
A sequel to Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter Nights 2, was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, a company which has a long history of association with BioWare. According to BioWare, the change of developer is due to BioWare's business with other titles, such as Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, a role-playing game based in the Star Wars universe, was also released by BioWare using a heavily modified version of the Aurora engine of Neverwinter Nights. The sequel, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, also used this modified engine. Because of this, modders have been able to modify these games using some Neverwinter Nights modding tools.
- "Confederation of Planes and Planets". http://www.copap.org. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "PC Neverwinter Nights Review". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/neverwinternights/review.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "Portrait". NWNWiki. http://nwn.wikia.com/wiki/Portrait. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- Doctorow, Cory (2006-02-09). "Canadian Red Cross wastes its money harassing video game makers". Boing Boing. http://www.boingboing.net/2006/02/09/canadian-red-cross-w.html. Retrieved 2007-11-17.
- "Computer game to boost key skills", BBC, 2007-01-07, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/6254989.stm, retrieved 2007-11-17
- Official NWN website
- NWN Vault, the largest hub for user-created content
- NeverwinterConnections.com, Matchmaking site for NWN online multi-player gaming
- Sorcerer's Place Neverwinter Nights coverage
- Reference and utility
- NWNWiki @ Wikia (formerly nwnwiki.org)
- NWN Lexicon Scripting Reference
- NWmax 3d modeling software for gmax and 3dsmax
- Neveredit module editor for Linux and Macintosh
- DVD/CD Install Script for Linux
- more up to date install scripts
- General resources
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