Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide Review

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:BioWare Corp.
Release Date:2003-06-21
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Isometric,Third-Person
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A year following the release of Neverwinter Nights, the game is still going strong. There are numerous player-made modules, custom files, and even persistent worlds now available, due to the ease in which people learned the Toolset wizards incorporated with the game. The full year has come around, and BioWare and Floodgate Entertainment have released the first official expansion for Neverwinter Nights, entitled Shadows of Undrentide. Will it be enough to garner a new wave of gamers?

Before starting, it is important to note that Shadows of Undrentide is a parallel story to Neverwinter Nights, meaning that you can not import your level 20 character and start from the beginning. This can cause for a bit of frustration, as those players who were able to endure the entire original campaign worked hard on developing their characters. With that said, Shadows of Undrentide initially gives you the familiar character creation screen. Along with it, though, you have the opportunity to begin a new character with some of the many new feats and skills added with the expansion. Some of these skills and feats are well placed, and deserving to be placed into the game. For example, Appraise, which helps establish a positive or negative image for your character when bartering with merchants, is a welcome addition. Others, such as Tumble, seem to have been incorporated just to satiate specific gamers. Depending on how you view the game, and what you as a player search for in a game, the inclusion of these feats and skills can either be a boon or a bane.

The game begins easily enough, and you learn you are one of four students for a Dwarven mage named Drogan. You're given a brief idea of what sort of people your future henchmen (in this case, it would be fellow students) are like. The conversation, though, is cut short as the sounds of battle are heard below. Being faithful students, you all flock to help protect Drogan. This is where the premise of the story is laid out, as you find Drogan fighting against a large number of Kobolds. Drogan inevitably falls to the numbers, but not before they are fought off by you, your fellow students, and a Harper named Ayala. Ayala explains that artifacts placed in Drogan's keeping had been stolen during the attack, and being Drogan's eldest student, you are to recover them. Early in, the story establishes a plot similar to the original campaign, in the sense that you're recovering items for the greater good (much like the collection of items for the Neverwinter plague).

BioWare's track record in the sound department goes unhindered with this expansion. Once again, the voice acting, music, and sound effects are splendidly incorporated into Shadows of Undrentide. The character voices seem real and believable, and convey subtle emotions effectively. Although many of the basic sound effects and music have been reused from the original game, they are tried and true tools.

The online aspect of the expansion seems to have been BioWare's primary focus. Upon SoU hitting the shelves, patch 1.30 was also released. Although there were a variety of fixes, many of them had to do with the DM client and Toolset. The changes made only add to the sense of control and ability to create the best role-playing experience possible for players. The changes made to the Toolset now allow for a greater level of scripting control and freedom, giving the truly adventurous creators in the community much more to work with and creating more immersive modules for downloads.

I didn't encounter any real nasty bugs or glitches, which is a positive sign that BioWare has been able to address and fix many of the original gameplay and compatibility issues that plagued the initial release. One glaring aspect of the game that stands out, however, is the simplicity to gain levels and rise in power. Upon playing for little over an hour, and finishing only a few significant battles, I was capable of rising to level four. Being able to attain power this easily seems awkward, and seems to cater more to the impatient and power-gaming players of the community. While it is not necessarily a bad thing, it is something that may possibly be a turn off-for those of us who wish to experience a more true aspect of tabletop Dungeons & Dragons.

Shadows of Undrentide bodes well as an expansion to Neverwinter Nights, featuring a stronger story and improved gameplay aspects, as well as increased freedom and control over both the DM client and Toolset. The only facets I feel it suffers from is the still somewhat outdated Aurora engine and some questionable feats and skills, some of which should have been placed in the original, and others that probably shouldn't have been included at all. Overall, however, Shadows of Undrentide is a quality expansion, with many worthwhile additions to the original game.