Friday, June 19, 2009

My initial problems with Neverwinter Nights 2 gave way to the realization that, no matter how undeniable the faults, the fact that the game is sufficiently reminiscent of Baldur's Gate 2 makes me want to forgive it. "Reminiscent" can be taken to mean aping unsuccessfully, if you like, but recalling BG2, which I first played a good 8 years ago, was a meta-pleasure that I will associate with the even otherwise still good NWN2. My character of choice in BG2 was (and still is) a spellcaster, and I still shiver when thinking of some of the higher level spells. I don't know if I will call it the best RPG I've ever played, because there is some very strong competition for that title (and that's only games that I know of). But it is the game that introduced me to the D&D system, which appears to be the de facto setting for almost all modern fare, and as such it's the first comparison for any game in that mould.

(Spoilers in this para) There were a couple of things I liked in the endgame, both of which were incremental novelties. First, the turning of some party members to fight against you was an interesting way to incite emotions in the player. After travelling for hours on end with some people, having them turn on you at the end can really hurt. In my case, I was especially shocked because I had almost exclusively used Qara the whole way through the game, and a betrayal at the very end made me really angry. Angry enough to unleash a WoTB on her :-) Second, the ability to control all your party (save the traitors!) in the final battle definitely makes sense for me. There's no sense in fighting an evil that threatens the fate of the universe and suddenly deciding that beyond four people, control is too difficult. I think that this again lends to the epic feeling of the end fight, because you have a large group fighting in unison against an ominous enemy.

Another thing that NWN2 made me realize is that, contrary to whatever protests I might have about being offered something new in games, I'm at a stage where I'm very happy just chugging along with things that I'm used to. Effort in learning something new is looked upon with great suspicion. NWN2 has a crafting system that lets you create special artifacts, a la Morrowind I suppose. "I suppose" because I spent zero time investigating this, being wholly focussed on getting Qara that Wail of the Banshee so that I could defeat that dratted King of Shadows. (Spoiler: Turns out Shadow Reavers are immune to death magic. Ah.) From memory, even KOTOR might've had this, and there too I completely ignored the undoubtedly enjoyable side-game. Heck, in this game I didn't blink when the area-of-effect spells left party members completely unscathed; no purist would stand for such a thing. (Do you know how much easier boss fights are when you can cast Meteor Swarms with impunity?) I should feel guilty about all this, but to be honest, the mere fact that I was able to enjoy a game after such a long time was good enough. None of which is to say that I've changed my mind about the whole issue of the future of gaming. No, I think I just I don't particularly mind if this is the height of gaming for me. But the medium as a whole ought to try to do better, just so a larger audience can figure out what exactly makes games interesting, and worthy of one's time.

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