Neverwinter Nights 2 Preview

"So fast forward to about 2003 or 2004 and Atari approaches us and gives us the great opportunity to do Neverwinter Nights 2. And so first of all, hey, yeah, wow, that's cool. Then we tried to think about it; well what does that mean? Like, what do we do? Like, okay yeah so, as it is, there are thousands of people playing it online. They've modules going and it became a repository for a lot of people making modules as it evolved.... And so, it kind of became a thing of elation to 'What the hell are we gonna do?' And I think it all became easier once we sat down and talked about it.

You know our job in making Neverwinter Nights 2 is not to go nuts. It's not to make it into something it's not. It's to take what it is and move it forward. That was our whole thing. So we had to decide on what is Neverwinter Nights. It's a single player game that takes a whole long time to play it, with a story. It's a multi-player game for people to get online and play with their friends.... And it provides toolkits for people to finally make modules the way they would want to in their heads on the computer." --Feargus Urquhart, Obsidian Entertainment

On Sunday, July 23rd, Obsidian Entertainment gave a panel on the upcoming NeverwinterNights 2 (NWN2) at Comic-Con International. The founders of Obsidian, Feargus Urquhart, Chris Avellone, and Darren Monahan, and lead designer Josh Sawyer gave an exclusive preview to the upcoming sequel in the Neverwinter series.

From left to right: Feargus Urquhart, Darren Monahan, Josh Sawyer, and Chris Avellone.

Of course, the most difficult aspect in creating any prequel, sequel, version 4, or continuation in a series is taking the same idea and improving it without changing it in a way that upsets its audience. This entirely what Obsidian Entertainment is bent on doing, and so far, it's seems they've succeeded.

Overall, the game is like v3.5 of Dungeons and Dragons, the same way Neverwinter Nights (NWN) was version 3. It's what they called a two-dimensional 3D game, in that all the graphics are three-dimensional, but there is no flying, and you can't go under a bridge, only over it. There is at least 30 to 40 hours of single player gameplay, more than the original Neverwinter Nights. NWN2 takes place a few years after Neverwinter Nights, and deals with some troubles due to reconstruction. They do reference some past events.

And no, you cannot import characters from NWN into NWN2.

But the real question on everyone's mind is "Will the graphics obliterate my computer?" At least three or four people (myself included) in the Q&A line wanted to know the same thing, and when it was asked, they all stepped out of line. Even when the Obsidian team was loading up previews, their computer flickered every few moments. The loading screens in NWN2 were as long as the ones in NWN and sometimes seemed to freeze. In response to this, Obsidian did acknowledge that more than decent system would be necessary to play the highest graphics setting. However, in NWN2, there are more options to turn down the graphics. Not just a low/medium/high setting, but to turn off individual features, for example, the texturing on the field, to improve gameplay. The recommended minimum specs at this time are 2.4 GHz, ½ gig of RAM, Radeon 95, and Pixel Shader.

A look into character creation. This is a human female.

The first thing we saw that showed off the amazing graphics was character creation in NWN2. There are more heads, bodies, and all of that, but now just about every aspect of the character can be colored, not just the hair and skin. There's eye colors, outfit colors, and the like. More voices, more packs, better looking half-orcs, and improved graphics all around were the main appeal, visually. Name generators now have a bit of AI to them; the developers researched their mythology for it. As for major changes, finally, there is real deity selection. In NWN, you typed in the name of your deity and used it next to never. Now, deities are available based on your race and class, letting you choose from a limited amount of deities based on your type (with an even more limited selection if you're a spellcaster). And for all the spellcasters out there, deities do affect the casting of spells.

Much different from NWN. Deities will affect clerics, wizards, and sorcerors the most.

In singleplayer story mode, the tutorial is done through a harvest festival. The creators said that it felt much more like playing through a story than doing a tutorial for the game, but it should get players acclimated to gameplay.

Then, we were taken into the field to see some battling. The first thing noticed was an new over-the-shoulder view, which had the character on the ground, and yourself a bit above it. There are more views in NWN2, aside from the previous omniscient overhead and behind the back views, including a first-person view. Monsters attack based on line of sight; when they see you, they attack. Also, water is no longer an impenetrable barrier; puddles can be walked through and lakes can be waded into.

A protective shield can be summoned around the user.

For spells, there are two significant changes. The first is being able to see the range that magic affects. The area is actually colored differently on the field, which is useful to see if you're accidentally going to blow your own head off. Also, quickspells is a new addition to the game, which lets you manage your next few spells by little icons.

A taste of the new quickspell menu, with spells recorded as icons.

As enemies are killed, people are spoken to, and quests are played, there is a little notification in the top corner that your alightment has shifted. It tells you the amount of points plus or minus it has shifted, and if the actual title has changed. For example, from Lawful Neutral to Neutral Neutral to Chaotic Neutral, &c. The alignment will dictate actions that can be performed. Also, communal alignment shifts have been fixed. One audience member said that he was a paladin, and if the rogue in his party was picking locks or pockets, he'd see his own alignment shift. Now, that has been fixed so that everyone has their individual alignment.


The difficulty of battle is based on the number of players in a party, and based on that, more harder enemies are generated.

Or, sometimes battle are based on a storyline.

Henchmen will be more similar to those in Knights of the Old Republic. There will be more control, not of when the henchman joins the party, but once he is in the party, you can play him as you would another character. When you're not controlling them, however, you can't stop them from doing stupid things.


Skills will be very similar to those found in Dungeons and Dragons version 3.5. There are a few exceptions. For example, instead of Taunt becoming more severe with more points added in it, it will affect a larger area of people. The main improvement to skills is crafting. Armor, alchemy, weapons, and traps can be crafted. Enchanting objects no longer takes EXP, just more gold. Trap crafting can no longer be done in the field, but must be done at crafting stations.

Skills and feats still have their complex and long menu screens.

Darren Monahan, who was controlling the laptop and playing bits of NWN2 for us, gave us one suggestion when playing the game. He said we should all check out a part of the game called "Battle of the Bards," which is going to be a huge singing and lute-playing competition.

Of course, Obsidian will be hard pressed to get every single feature into NWN2 before its release date. BioWare did the original NWN expansion packs, not Obsidian. However, Obsidian has spoken of a few things that they would probably have to put into expansion packs for NWN2, as it does not seem possible in time for the release. As Dungeon Master (DM) clients go, there will probably be three act designers for plot purposes, but anything unfinished would go into the expansions. A cutscene editor is something that they were considering putting into the expansions. Also, prestige classes with different spell tables is something that would have to wait until the expansion packs.

The worldmap for NWN2.

The huge, major, important thing of the panel was showing off the new toolset for NeverWinter Nights 2. This is what really gives DMs control over their stories. They can create a whole new level or area using toolsets. They can do it from scratch, starting with terrain, adding water, foliage, and introducing every single type of monster you can imagine. The toolset continually rotates through morning, afternoon, dusk, and night to show off what an area would look like at different times of the day. Colors and sizes can be personalized as well. The user interface seems easy enough. If major changes are made to an area, at the final version of the level, it has to be baked and distributed to anyone that wants to use it.

Some dragons (without wings, because it wouldn't fit), lizard monsters, and skeletons that have had their size and colors changed in the toolset.

The real treat during all of this was not just seeing previews and getting to ask questions, but hearing developers be really excited about their game. They weren't just trying to sell it to us; they all seemed to be fans of Dungeons and Dragons and really know what they were talking about when it came to the technicalities of the game. Feargus Urquhart made the joke that he's always asked by companies, "How are you going to make us a hundred million dollars, and why doesn't your game have Tony Hawk in it?" Well, I can't say whether or not Neverwinter Nights 2 will make Obsidian a hundred million dollars, but the developers seem to have the audience in mind more than doing that.

A look into the different worlds that can be created in the toolset.