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Now, almost a year since Neverwinter Nights was first released, BioWare and Floodgate Entertainment are gearing up to release the game's first expansion, Shadows of Undrentide. How will the expansion stand up to a game that is already this impressive? Well, due to our skillful (and relentless?) persuasion abilities, we were able to obtain a press copy of Shadows of Undrentide, which allows us to provide just enough information about the expansion to give you a good idea of what to expect.
Shadows of Undrentide expands on the initial eleven classes by adding five new prestige classes: the Arcane Archer, Assassin, Blackguard, Harper Scout, and Shadowdancer. These classes cannot be chosen during initial character creation, however. Each of the new prestige classes has a list of requirements that must be met before you are able to choose it during the leveling process. For example, a character has to be of evil alignment and must first allocate eight points in both the Hide and Move Silently skills before the Assassin prestige class becomes available. These requirements are well worth the effort, however, as the prestige classes offer some very powerful abilities to a character. To give you an idea of the potency some of these abilities have to offer, let's take a closer look at the Arcane Archer's Hail of Arrows. This devastating ability will cause your bow to unleash an arrow at each and every hostile opponent in the vicinity. Find yourself being chased by a sizeable army of screaming Kobolds? No problem.
In addition to the new prestige classes, Shadows of Undrentide will also add over fifty new spells to the game. Of course, with new spells come new spell effects, and Shadows of Undrentide has plenty of them. The Druid's new Bombardment spell brings a shower of fiery rocks down upon every opponent in the area, the Cleric's new Earthquake spell rattles the entire screen and throws your enemies to the ground, and the Wizard's new Isaac's Missile Storm spells fire a barrage of powerful missiles at virtually every enemy on the screen, depending on your character's level. The main spell-casting classes aren't the only ones who receive new spells, however; the Bard, Paladin, and Ranger all receive a smaller variety of the new arsenal.
The expansion also gives players a chance to further customize their characters with the addition of thirty new feats. Many of these new feats give players the ability to enhance their character's defense or offense in some way or another. For example, the Arcane Defense feat provides a bonus to the character's saving throws versus a particular school of magic and the Rapid Reload feat allows your character to reload their crossbow so quickly that they get the same number of attacks as they would using a bow. If you're not interested in combat-oriented feats, there are also general feats like Thug, which gives your character a bonus to initiative and persuade checks.
Players can also make use of three interesting new skills in Shadows of Undrentide: Appraise, Craft Trap, and Tumble. Appraise gives your character the ability to better negotiate the price of any items they wish to purchase or sell, Craft Trap provides the means for a character to combine raw components into various trap kits, and Tumble grants a chance for the character to roll away from attacks during combat, including attacks of opportunity.
BioWare has listened to their fans and has implemented a highly requested addition into Shadows of Undrentide: the ability to manipulate your henchman's inventory. This provides you with an additional character to help carry many of the items you find during your journey, and grants you the ability to decide which equipment you'd like them to use. You really can create a well-rounded duo this way, because your henchman's equipment can be arranged to complement your own.
Aside from all of the additional features, how does the Shadows of Undrentide campaign stand up against the original, you ask? Well, let me just say that the storyline is nothing short of fantastic. The story begins with your character being the senior apprentice to a man named Drogan, an ex-adventurer who has been training you (and three others) at his home in Hilltop. Within a few minutes of beginning the game, the sound of combat will be heard downstairs, and Master Drogan will have been struck down by a kobold wielding a poisoned dagger. Further investigation will reveal that the kobolds ran off with four powerful artifacts that Drogan had been guarding, and you must track them down to obtain what was stolen, as well as find a way to neutralize the venom that courses through the veins of your liege. The task isn't as simple as it seems, however; early in your adventurers you will learn that several powerful adversaries are involved in the plot and that the artifacts aren't exactly what they seem. Your task shifts from simple item retrieval to unmasking the perpetrators behind the theft and discovering why these artifacts are so sought after.
Overall, Shadows of Undrentide is a perfect example of the high quality we've come to expect from BioWare. Possessing an intriguing storyline, a vast number of new advancement options, and several all-nighters worth of area to explore, Shadows of Undrentide is a worthy addition to the original game and an absolute must for any Neverwinter Nights fan.