In defense of the Original Campaign

So I watched this Youtube video about NWN and it was all quite interesting. The presenter was pretty hard on the Original Campaign though and from his point of view all the criticisms are entirely valid but I wanted to offer a counterpoint. Suppose that one’s first experience with Neverwinter Nights was multi player. When I first found the game in 2007/8 or so I already had a series of computers that were on a LAN. My very first playthrough was multiplayer. A LOT of the faults in the OC are minimized by this or at least they were in my impression. As a party we could take plenty of henchmen if we chose to and each character class had options where they were the lead character. From a multiplayer point of view the OC ticks a lot of boxes. It all works and offers a lot of content. The story is still average at best but all the challenges work better when a group of players are working together. That is when the magic of the game shines through. Add in some junk food and a fireplace and it’s an awfully good way to spend time together. Since EE came out I’ve been devoting some more time to NWN after drifting away. It’s still a winter pass time rather than a summer one but now I have family members playing that weren’t even born when the game came out. The OC isn’t the greatest thing ever but it’s a solid MP experience and it’s pretty robust in that players can’t readily break the game by making silly mistakes. Young kids do that from time to time. So now, after a decade plus I’d like to raise a mug of ale in salute to the OC and NWN. After all the family that slays together stays together!

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Mind that this thread is posted in NWN1 section, but second half of that video is dedicated to NWN2, so there is something in it for the red team too. It is 3 hours long, so I jumped between some of its parts.

tl;dw:

Dude stomps on OC calling it “not classic” (who decides that?), complains about single-companion-system rogue Tomi, then goes on to glorifying SoU and single-companion-system rogue Dorna, who is just as one-dimensional and twice as annoying. He also somehow misses the fact that both games start in a very similar manner (you, the student, need to help your master) and that after you leave the initial winter village, SoU becomes boring, railroaded H&S, with the last chapter being the biggest offender in this regard (there is just you, one quest giver, throng of monsters and whatsherface boss who you defeat by destroying one placeable). He has many valid points, true, but at this stage I had to turn the video off.

Personal opinion / bait:

I don’t care about NWN multiplayer at all. From singleplayer perspective I have (a probably radical) preference for OC over its expansions. While it is a predictable “Bioware standard” story, it is a solid, complete release that evokes good feelings of 2002. Technical details aside, SoU and HotU are pretty much its fanfics, with okay story but padded with mindless hackenslash. SoU was true pain to play (see above), while HotU scores on the nostalgia by shoving in OC characters and doing the “epic” stuff.

I never really understood the complaints myself. And I got into NWN from Baldurs Gate 2 and its trailer during installation which looked totally awesome. But I also played games like Diablo at the time and I soon jumped into multiplayer in NWN which is just completely different game.

Anyway, before I jumped into multiplayer I did played the OC and I liked it. I made just one playthrought, but I still remember some areas, quests, henchmen (which I cannot say about some newer games I tried unfrotunately…). The story wasn’t bad and I didn’t mind that the game is bit straightforward either. Apart from that what can you criticize on vanilla OC? That it wasn’t as epic s BG2 story? Thats about it.

However I could not get myself to play SoU, I tried several times but that campaign has awful balance and I found it really really boring. HotU on the other hand is a real gem and the story can be compared with BG2.

As I see it the biggest complains are about henchmen. Majority of the players are coming from BG2 and they are used to the gameplay style of pause, issue orders to all party members and unpause. NWN however has very limited party controls and this is not really possible to do, there is also limit on how many henchmen you can have by default so the gameplay is simply different of the BG2 style. I suppose some singleplayer-obssessed players can be mad about it, but the game is balanced in its way and the difficulty is not that high for this to be an issue. In fact you can finish the game without touching any npc just relying on henchmen (under right circumstances).

I soon jumped into multiplayer where you cannot pause anymore, learned that playstyle and never paused NWN again not even in singleplayer. I just didn’t need to. And if you cannot pause the game you will be glad you don’t have to control your party members and that they act themselves.

Same here. I tried replaying OC a few times, but usually ended after the second chapter. Nevertheless, it always felt good up to that point. SoU is really bad and HotU would be better without the senseless combat.

Like you say, OC henchmen are simply utilities: named summons with a bit of story on top to keep the player interested and to permit all PC classes to have similar overall experience. They can also be switched when needed with ease. I wouldn’t be surprised if some players didn’t know you can finish all of their quests in one playthrough.

As far as complaints about party control go it seems to me that if you are looking for full party control then you are just playing the wrong game. The full control comes from having three other people playing with you. That’s what NWN was built to do. It all works in single player but it shines in MP. The other factor that I think should be considered is that NWN came out a long time ago. Comparing a game from 2002 to 2020 is going to result in a certain bias. Yes newer games have better graphics but far too often graphics are a substitute for gameplay. Gameplay is what NWN provides in near limitless quantities.
I’m not bashing the video producer outright as it is a well made video. I just wanted the chance to discuss some of the conclusions that the presenter made and pitch out some different thoughts.
One particular point stands out when the presenter talks about out of hours of gameplay maybe ten were really memorable. He says it like it’s a problem but the truth is that is a fantastic percentage. You can’t have peaks without valleys and the “formula” had to fit the technology of the day. If anyone ever makes a “prelude” that teaches a player how to play the game without being formulaic then they’ve really accomplished something.
If the modding community took a notion to update the OC and flesh it out a little bit and add in all the new features that have appeared in the game it’d be as epic as anything out there. I downloaded Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh recently and the visual appearance is breathtaking compared to the OC. I was really blown away when a ship sailed off from in front of my PC. I’d not seen anything like that in NWN.
The OC was plenty good enough for its time, its just that better stuff came later. Time works that way…

i fail to see where playing nwn’s oc in multiplayer helps to mitigate the valid critizism expressed in the linked video. yes, with another human player you don’t need to take one of the henchmen along the ride. this doesn’t make their design any better. they’re still stereotypical chlichés of adventurers right out of the player’s handbook with nothing interesting to say. but that was not even a point in the video - at best perhaps a notion on the side.
the video, at least the first thirty minutes or so, was about a boring beginning and a lackluster first act, consisting of endless corridors and sparsely decorated rooms. hundreds of traps and locked chests, making it critical of being a thief yourself or taking one with you - filling the only single slot you have for taking henchmen. wasting time while your henchmen is disbaling said traps and locks. linear dialogues and quests without multiple solutions. mostly boring quests, npcs and encounters… after reaching act 2 it get’s a bit better, but not much. the oc is and will be forever an afterthought.
after developing the engine and toolset, bioware just rushed something for singleplayer to get it out the door and on the shelves. only shipping the toolset with a handful of modules as showcasing material, as planned first, would have been a spectacular financial failure. a solid revenue from dlc and games as a service was no thing back then.
nwn stood the test of time and still lives because of its strong foundation: namely the easy to use toolset, open and free multiplayer, and the community and its content. a conclusion the video reaches too.

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That is just total nonsense and proofs that whoever wrote that has no knowledge of the game mechanics and design.

I suppose I can agree with criticism of the story, perhaps balance and some other stuff like loot in city barrels, but this is just bullshit.

the Original Campaign had to be made in such a way as to introduce players who may or may not have DnD experience to the game itself. That includes learning the gamplay mechanics in addition to learning how DnD itself works. Playing the OC as an experienced player is different from playing it as someone new to the game. Neverwinter Nights was limited by the hardware of its day. In 2003 on a 17" monitor with an STG4400 video card I’d guess it was something really special. I think I found the game in 2008 but I’m not really sure. Even then most anything I ever posted online or read online was making it work with the hardware I had at the time. I guess one of the reasons that I am so taken with the Enhanced Edition is because of how easy it is. Load it and roll, turn detail to max and enjoy it.
In the OC with two other player characters we could have as much or as little interaction with each henchman as we chose. We could play off each other’s strengths and the dynamic between fighter, spellcaster, and healer made the game work for us. We didn’t need a rogue, we had knock, power attack, and a pixie.
I guess its possible that if we had played SoU and Hordes before the OC we’d feel differently but that wasn’t what happened.
Touching briefly on the “sparsely decorated rooms” point is when you are struggling to reach 40 fps there’s no need for more paintings on the walls and the rooms have to be open enough for pathfinding to have some chance of working. If a DnD party tried to battle its way through my actual residence they all be killed tripping over laundry baskets and decorative tables. Not the most glorious way to go and it wouldn’t be fun in game for the rooms to be realistically sized and cluttered.
Just my very random thoughts in a fairly random order…

Didn’t the pixie try to object when you were forcing it into a keyhole? :innocent:

TR

No class is needed in OCs. All of them are playable with every class with spellcasters having the easiest time. Rogue is not needed, there are no traps which would trigger unlimited times afaik and if there are such then it is either a bonus chest for rogues only (which doesn’t mean that you must have rogue and that you must open it at all) or it can be disabled by some other means. Same with locks as 99% of locked objects can be destroyed and unlike other games you won’t lose anything from its insides in case of containers. Furthermore every class can take points in Open Lock and Disable Trap and due to the fact that you get 20 in the roll for free and that DCs are not that high, you can at least with dexterity/intelligence based character or bard due to his bonus to all skills open/disable everything with just 1 point. There are items with bonuses to these skills too.

I tell this to players playing on my multiplayer server all the time. That there is a dungeon that has traps and locks doesn’t mean that you must be a rogue or even have ranks in Open Lock/Disable Trap and even if that dungeon was really rogue only nobody forces them to finish that dungeon, that is simply an option.

So lets summary:

  • you can ignore the locked doors/treasure, even if it is part of some quest, you don’t have to finish all quests at all
  • you can destroy the locked doors/treasure with weapon or spell
  • you can unlock pretty much everything with Knock spell or weapon that has On-Hit knock property
  • you can take rogue class henchmen who will open and untrap everything for you
  • you can take Pixie familiar who can do the same
  • you can avoid stepping into trap if you don’t run hasted thorought whole map and thus see it in time, taking ranks in Search and using Detect Mode actively will make you to find all traps before you run into them (what I see is that players do not put a single rank into Search, they never use detect mode and they always run inside rooms without thinking and then they complain there was trap that killed them because they were lazy/greedy and didn’t use potion/healer’s kit to heal to full hp prior to moving forward)
  • you can just step into trap with enough hipoints or item/buffs offering physical/elemental protection (99% of traps will not kill you unless you play wizard with 8 con and you are performing a no items challenge run)
  • you can use familiar to step into the trap for you and disable it that way
  • you can use summon to do the same by summoning it behind the trap and then telling him to come to you (if moving past the trap is not possible) (I think trap won’t fire when summon gets summoned inside trap)
  • you can use Find Traps spell to disable all traps in large radius
  • you can tell rogue henchmen to handle traps for you
  • in case of trapped object you can destroy it from range with ranged weapon or spell and avoid triggering trap this way as well
  • you can just take a few ranks in appropriate skill and do it yourself
  • you can play the very easy difficulty where you cannot die and just ignore traps if this is your cup of tea (and if this isn’t your cup of tea then what is your problem?)

So anyone claiming you need rogue is totally lacking knowledge of this game and its possibilities.

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Anyone who critiques NWN based upon the OCs knows nothing about the game. It was never about the OCs. The OCs were merely examples on what could be done with the game. They either don’t know, or don’t want to know, and that’s fine, for it matters not to us.

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Those mere examples were also critical to initially sell the game to the masses. After all the toolset isn’t marketable by itself. One is free to criticize the playable product for plot, characters, pacing, or under-utilization of its engine, which OC tries to employ to the best of its ability. Like I wrote in my first post, I do not agree with how this critique is formulated in the video. It appears to ride the “trash OC” bandwagon while missing that the same tropes are present in the expansions, especially SoU.

+1 for @Shadooow for listing all the roguish possibilities. I’d add to this list (1) the panther familiar, who’s both a rogue and able combatant, (2) fact that you can respawn with little penalties and quickly teleport back to where you died, (3) that traps are sometimes marked with placeables (i.e. scorch marks) for extra visual cues, and (4) the possibility to inject a cheat override script that will handle all traps in the area.

Finally, in the video at 11:20, guy says “he never wants to play as a thief himself”, so it’s his own damn fault for handicapping himself with “theme characters” who won’t put a single point in rogue skills only to defeat those puny traps and locks with 18 DC.

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yep,but I always name my pixie “Tina the Fey” so it didn’t bother me to hear the complaints!!

I’ve always been a casual enthusiast and play for fun. I don’t spend much time studying the absolute best build or anything like that and I’d say NWN fits my needs very well like it is. My very favorites are Eye of the Beholder by Dark and Accursed Tower by Udasu but I like the OC just fine.