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Of course, it’s up to you to decide whether play peacemaker or stir up additional trouble, because NWN2 gives you plenty of scope to play the game your own way. Perhaps it’s not as pronounced as it is in the Knights of the Old Republic games, but NWN2 still gives you a real sense that your behaviour, your dialogue choices and the side-missions you take or refuse have an impact on your party and on the way the game progresses as a whole. I’ve taken the easy-going but generally good approach in my own game, but there’s no reason why you can’t play nasty if you want to, or play a stuck-up prig if that takes your fancy. Some tasks might be easier, some might be harder, and part of the fun is finding out for yourself.
Above all else, I suspect that will win NWN2 its biggest fans and keep them long term is simple: it checks all the right boxes for the old-school RPG player. Levelling up, equipping new armour, spells and magic weapons is as addictive a business as it ever was, but what keeps you playing is something less tangible – the feel. NWN2 has the character of tabletop D&D down pat. You sneak down the corridor, checking for and disarming traps, then storm into a room to find a priest raising zombie hordes at a his unholy altar. You press space, send your dwarf fighter charging in and have your sorcerer brewing up something explosive, press space again, and it all comes together. NWN2 is as close as you’ll get to D&D without unearthing your old geeky mates and getting them in for a session.
But then there’s nothing to stop you doing so if that’s what you want. Like its predecessor, NWN2 is built from the ground up for multiplayer, and whether you play the campaign alone or with friends makes little difference. And once it’s over, the game still has longevity, thanks to the mildly bewildering but comprehensive toolset. The original Neverwinter Nights brought the total D&D experience – dungeon masters, fan-created modules, official expansions – to the computer, and the fact that DMs could create and manage new adventures, then unleash them on the wider NWN2 community was a huge part of the game’s lasting appeal. Even this year, four years after its release, new community-created modules were arriving. I wouldn’t bet against that holding true for the sequel.
Is this the last of a dying breed? Maybe, but it’s going out not with a gasp, but with a song. NWN2 is a reminder of all that was once good about the classic RPG, and what will continue to be good while this game and its community lasts. It’s not a game for everyone, but if you loved the old-school D&D epics and mourn their passing, then this is the best wake you could imagine.
Defiantly old-school, the single-player campaign is a superb example of the classic RPG. And with the tools and the community behind it, there’s no reason why it can’t be something more.