E3 2003: The RPGs

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Combat in the game reminded me a lot of the Infinity Engine games, due to the fact that all battles take place in real time, but can be paused whenever you would like to issue different commands to your party members. An interesting addition to this game, however, is that the developers took the time to choreograph a lot of the melee fighting in the game. Therefore, whenever your opponent blocks or parries your lightsaber, you will actually see them do so along with a flurry of sparks from the collision. Should you decide you would rather not fight with a lightsaber, you can select from an assortment of other weapons or any of the Force Powers you have learned instead. One final note about the combat that should make Baldur's Gate II/Icewind Dale II fans happy is that dual wielding a set of lightsabers *is* possible.

Overall, Knights of the Old Republic is set to please both Star Wars and RPG fans alike. Incorporating the talent of both BioWare and LucasArts with the depth and intricacy of the Star Wars universe is sure to make the game a solid hit. Luckily, the Xbox version should be available within the next month or two and the PC version will follow sometime in the fall.

Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide

Both BioWare and Floodgate Entertainment are collaborating to bring Neverwinter Nights fans their first official expansion, Shadows of Undrentide, which was demonstrated to me during the second half of the meeting. Before I explain what I was shown, however, I'd like to share some news that should make NWN fans even happier. Upon entering BioWare's private booth, one thing that stood out as odd to me was a poster on the wall entitled "Hordes of the Underdark". After some investigating, I learned that this is the name of the previously unannounced expansion for Neverwinter Nights. Unfortunately, that was all I could learn about it, but since BioWare themselves are developing it, one can hope that their representation of the Underdark rivals their previous work in Baldur's Gate: Shadows of Amn.

Shadows of Undrentide is not being designed to carry on where the Neverwinter Nights campaign left off - it is a separate entity all on its own, which means that you'll need to start a new character when you begin. You won't necessarily have to choose from the original set of classes, however, because the expansion is introducing five new prestige classes: the Arcane Archer, Assassin, Blackguard, Harper Scout, and Shadowdancer. These classes bring a nice mix of abilities, and should appeal to new and veteran players alike. For example, the Arcane Archer will have the ability to fire a seeking arrow or an arrow that can slay even the largest foes in one hit, and the Assassin is capable of creating and resisting powerful poisons, as well as casting spells that assist in stealth (such as Invisibility).

Original classes are getting a few upgrades, too. Barbarians, Druids, and Rangers, for example, will be able to determine the whereabouts of a person or monster by searching for their footprints or even speaking with animals in the vicinity. These abilities were demonstrated to me during my meeting, when the character needed to track down some Kobolds. A nearby dog helped us to determine that the Kobolds had moved toward a particular building, and tracks in the snow verified that they had entered through one of the doors.