To say that the expectations are high for Neverwinter Nights 2 would be a massive understatement. Not only is it the sequel to one of the best role-playing games ever to bear the Dungeons & Dragons license, but it’s also been developed by some of the creative talent behind such other revered role-playing games as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. The good news is that Neverwinter Nights 2 lives up to its pedigree by delivering a captivating story full of exciting twists and characters who you’ll grow attached to out of fondness or, perhaps even better, complete loathing. It’s not without a few frustrating technical shortcomings, but overall Neverwinter Nights 2 is a great role-playing adventure that just about anyone can enjoy.
As great as the story is in Neverwinter Nights 2, it’s difficult to convey without spoiling the plot; but suffice it to say that it will keep your interest throughout the entire campaign–which, at around 50 hours long, is no small feat. You begin the game by creating a character. You can choose a race, subrace, appearance, class, moral alignment, and even a voice for your hero. After you create your character, you are taken on a journey that will see you rise from your beginnings as a humble peasant to become one of the most respected and elite heroes of Neverwinter. It’s a long journey that involves the awakening of an arcane and unstable evil power that only a chosen savior (guess who?) can banish. As cliché as it sounds, the story reaches far beyond the usual good-versus-evil plot. You’ll get a heavy dose of political treachery; shattered, shifting, and solidified alliances; ethereal mysticism; dark secrets; and much, much more. In addition to the main story, the world is full of side stories that you can explore or ignore as you see fit. It all adds up to make this feel like a real world with real history and very real inhabitants, but beyond even that, the game does a great job of making you feel like an integral part of that world, rather than some insular hero who comes out of nowhere to save the day and then disappears.
A large part of what makes the story so interesting is that you play an active role in the way it unfolds. As you talk to all of the characters in the world, you’re given several choices in how to respond, and your responses often have a very apparent effect on the progression of the story. When speaking to someone, you might be given the choice to lie, intimidate, or simply ask questions to get the information or response you’re looking for. The choices aren’t black-and-white, though, and you’ll often come across some difficult moral dilemmas that make your part in the conversation much more interesting. Your responses have both immediate and delayed effects. If you tell a goblin chieftain that you’re sick of hearing him talk and would rather paint the walls with his blood, you can expect that you’ll have an immediate fight on your hands. But sometimes the effects are more subtle. If you are forced to make a decision and one of your party members tries to convince you to take a certain course of action, you can comply or simply tell her to keep quiet. Either way, your influence over that person will be affected. It isn’t much of an issue at first, but repeatedly going against an ally’s wishes can eventually turn him or her against you. The interactive dialogue is well written and so engaging that you’ll probably want to save your game often, so you can reload and repeat conversations just to see what will happen if you choose your words differently.