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NWN 2 has arrived...


Andyr

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I'm writing this while I wait for my disk to defrag. I highly recommend defragging as this will improve disk accesses during games, and CRPGs tend to do a lot of disk access.

 

I purchased the regular edition of the game on DVD for $49.99 US. The box contained a cardboard tray (for strength), printed manual (like BG2's as far as binding and size), and two discs: the NWN2 DVD and a free 7-day trial version of D&D Online, which I won't bother with.

 

Install!

 

You'll be asked if you wish to register the game with Atari. I declined for now.

 

The installer copies large ZIP volumes to your hard drive and then unzips them to create the game install. This means you will need at least 7gb of free space to install the game. Users report various install failures when they don't have enough free space. I have 93% free space on my 500gb drive so no problems there.

 

After the ZIPs are copied, the installer checks to see if you have Microsoft's .NET 2.0 installed. If you don't, it will install it. This is required as the game is built upon this foundation. This installation didn't require me to restart my computer, possibly due to Windows XP Pro.

 

After that, the game will check to see if you have the latest version of Microsoft's DirectX installed, and will install it if not. This, too, is required. I was already up to date in this regard.

 

Then you'll be asked if you wish to install XFire online multiplayer sofware. The option defaults to Yes, but I turned it off as I've little interest in multiplayer games.

 

Once the game is installed, the Updater will run. It will automatically restart after updating itself. Then you can begin the download of patch 1.01, which is 82.7mb in size. It took about four minutes to download on my internet connection. (Cable is awesome where I live.) The patch install took longer than the download. The updater will ping several servers in an attempt to download from a "closer" server to your location. If all else fails, it will default to www.atari.com.

 

I noticed during the patch install that there are different effects files (I noticed shadows specifically) for different video cards, namely generic, ATI and NVidia. This lends a bit of credence to those users to say the game looks different on their computer than in the various screenshots the developers and other users have posted. (I'm running NVidia 6800GT and every game I've played recently, including Half-Life 2 and Mysterious Island (adventure game) has looked stunningly beautiful.)

 

The total time for install, on my computer and internet connetion, was 17 minutes. I had no errors or issues.

 

The Manual

 

Some folks don't read the manual, but I usually skim through it and use it as a reference while playing. The pages are glossy with sort of a gray weave background, and there are 177 of them. There are several sections: Quick Start, What's New in Neverwinter Nights 2?, D&D Concepts, Neverwinter Nights 2 Basics, Player's Handbook, and Appendix: Charts and Tables.

 

There are two types of hint boxes throughout the manual, NWN2 Tips and D&D Notes. The former provides tips for new users, and the latter explains how NWN2 differs from the D&D rules. I'll highlight most of them below. Note that some of these variations existed in the original NWN as well.

 

- D&D Note: "The D&D system requires that you spend all of your skill points when you level up, or lose them, but NWN2 does not. Also in NWN2, you cannot buy a half-crank in a cross-class skill. Instead it costs two skill points to increase a cross-class skill by one rank." (The latter point is identical to how NWN functioned.)

 

- NWN2 Tip: "Bonus skill points from a high Intelligence are not gained retroactively."

 

- NWN2 Tip: "If your Constitution ever increases (or decreases!), then your hit points will retroactively increase (or decrease) as well. So if you cast a spell that increases your Constitution, you will have more hit points... until the spell ends!"

 

- D&D Note: "You'll notice that more types of bonuses stack in NWN2 than in D&D. For example, in NWN2 enhancement bonuses to abilities scores from magical items do stack with those from spells."

 

- D&D Note: "In general, the racial abilities in NWN2 match those of the same race in Dungeons & Dragons. Some racial abilities (such as specific spell powers) did not translate well to a computer role-playing system. In these cases, an approximately equal benefit was added to the race."

 

- D&D Note: "In NWN2, gaining a level in a non-monk class does not restrict you from gaining more monk levels later."

 

- D&D Note: "In NWN2, gaining a level in a non-paladin class does not restrict you from gaining more paladin levels later."

 

- D&D Note: "In NWN2, druids can become warpriests."

 

- D&D Note: "Many skills in NWN2 work somewhat differently than they do in D&D. These deviations are necessary to adapt D&D to a computer role-playing game and attempt to maintain the flavor of the original skill. Please read skill descriptions carefully."

 

- D&D Note: "Lore is a NWN2 skill that is similar to the D&D Knowledge skills."

 

- D&D Note: "Parry is a NWN2 skill. It is not part of the D&D game experience." (This was the same in NWN, and it was explained that the combat engine allowed the skill to exist.)

 

- D&D Note: "Taunt is a NWN2 skill. It is not part of the D&D game experience." (Same as in NWN.)

 

- D&D Note: "In Dungeons & Dragons, the skill Disable Device includes both the Disable Trap and Set Trap skills. For reasons of game balance, these two abilities are tied to separate skills in NWN2."

 

- D&D Note: "Many feats in NWN2 work somewhat differently than they do in D&D. These deviations are necessary to adapt D&D to a computer role-playing game and attempt to maintain the flavor of the original feat. For example, Exotic Weapon Proficiency gives you proficiency in all exotic weapons, and the Disarm combat maneuver cannot even be attempted without the Disarm feat."

 

- D&D Note: "Specialist wizards in NWN2 do not choose two prohibited schools of magic. Instead, one specific school is automatically prohibited based on your chosen specialization."

 

In the VO listings, I didn't see anyone I recognized from the BG series. All new folks.

 

Just in time, the defrag is done and I'm finished writing. Now to fire up the game and check it out.

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I purchased the regular edition of the game on DVD for $49.99 US.
OUCH!

 

After the ZIPs are copied, the installer checks to see if you have Microsoft's .NET 2.0 installed. If you don't, it will install it. This is required as the game is built upon this foundation. This installation didn't require me to restart my computer, possibly due to Windows XP Pro.
Wasn't the .NET crap just for the toolset (even though it's not optional)?

 

Keep it coming!

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OUCH!

Eh, that's pocket change for me. The other games I got were under $30 though.

 

Wasn't the .NET crap just for the toolset (even though it's not optional)?

Not sure, but problably. The toolset does come with the game, after all.

 

More info.

 

Game startup displays several movies, including a full-screen version of the Warlock battle scene that looks sweet, though I detected some rendering glitches (blocky rectangles) in the overhead clouds during the early portion of the movie. (You can ESC through the movies. I don't yet know enough about the game to know if you can disable the movies entirely.)

 

The keyboard config options are found on the main game menu, not on the in-game options menu. Some options require you to restart the game before you'll see them kick in. This applies in particular to the texture quality setting.

 

There are tons of configuration options, and most of them will require a decent computer if you wish to max everything out. My computer meets the required specs but I still couldn't play it at 1600x1050 with everything maxed. Instead I'm at 1024x768 with moderate settings. Oh well. Of interest is that the configuration program accurately gauged how powerful my system was and set the defaults accurately. I was forced to return to them after experimenting, just so I could play without stuttering. Perhaps future patches will improve performance; it's happened before. I'm also due for a cpu/video upgrade and that would also help.

 

I did experience one configuration glitch. Changing the resolution to widescreen (1680x1050) confused the mouse so that I had to hold it a couple inches below buttons to get them to highlight for use. Using ALT-TAB to minimize the game and bring it back fixes that glitch.

 

The game interface is something like a combination of NWN and BG2, so it doesn't take long to get used to if you've played either game. I noticed the mouse driver auto-accelerates depending on how quickly you move the mouse, so no twitch reflexes allowed. (This might vary from system to system, and might be tied to my default mouse settings in Windows.)

 

Despite having to turn several options down, the game still looks and sounds better than NWN. Character creation was fun, and I managed to create a fighter that looks like me (though I'm built more like a rogue.) The game lets you see what prestige classes look like even though you can't select them during initial character creation. I'm not spoiled by Oblivion so I think the character models look just fine, and are generally an improvement over NWN's models. Especially noticeable are the missing doll-like constructions where the hips and legs seemed to be pinned to the torso. Ugh. I'm glad to see those gone.

 

Most of the soundsets are carried over from NWN, with a few new ones added. My favorite Reserved Guardian is still there, and the others that I play for laughs, like Sociopath.

 

The game loads and saves reasonably fast, though it does require you to retype the name of a save game even if you want to save over an older game. It'd be better if they displayed the current name and let us press enter to leave it unchanged. Someone already suggested this on Obsidian's forums, and I hope the developers consider it.

 

So far using containers is straightforward. I clicked to walk/run to the chest, clicked the chest to open it and to view it's contents, then double-clicked to grab the item. Nothing tedious there. The radial menu is gone; instead you click the eye icon in the lower left corner and then select from the menu that is displayed. There are also hotkeys for major screens, like Character, Inventory, Journal, and so on. The Rest icon is right next to the eye icon.

 

The music is nice, and non-intrusive so far. We'll see when it comes to battle. The BG2 battle music grates on my nerves after awhile, though I enjoy the area music. We'll see how NWN2 does in this regard.

 

That's about it for now, since I haven't even barely scratched the tutorial. You're allowed to skip the tutorial if you just want to start playing, thankfully. I'm going through it because I'm getting older and more forgetful. ;) (Don't hit me Berelinde; you're a couple months older than I am. I was born on 9/11 :):) )

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Eh, that's pocket change for me. The other games I got were under $30 though.
I simply wouldn't value the game at $50, but I guess it's in line with other new AAA titles (or BBB, rather).

 

Game startup displays several movies, including a full-screen version of the Warlock battle scene that looks sweet, though I detected some rendering glitches (blocky rectangles) in the overhead clouds during the early portion of the movie. (You can ESC through the movies. I don't yet know enough about the game to know if you can disable the movies entirely.)
Confirmation that they're still using Bink, I guess (I know they still use Miles).
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Well Smoketest, your start was better than mine. Initially, my DVD-RW wouldn't recognize the disk.

 

After I finally accessed the disk through explorer (autorun didn't work) the install hung and a I got a cyclic redundancy error. Updating the firmware on my DVD-RW did the trick.

 

Then in the middle of the tutorial, the game crashed and re-started my computer.

 

As I recall, I had some awful troubles getting NWN1 installed and stable, so I guess this is just par for the series.

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Edit: screenshot removed, new one added at end of thread. The previous screenshot was of scenery and the user interface.

 

It's reduced in size and compressed to fit the 200k filesize limit for attachments, so the quality is subsequently reduced. I cranked the settings up to max at 1680x1050 resolution to take the shot. By the way, screenshots are saved in the NWN2 folder in My Documents, not in the NWN2 folder in Program Files. Took me awhile to find them.

 

Much is lost in this static shot however. The grass and trees, including individual branches, all blow back and forth in the breeze. It's more animated than NWN was. It's a shame the system requirements are so high because with all the settings cranked up, this game renders a very beautiful world.

 

I lied a little about radial menus. There is still a context menu but it takes a bit to pop up; you have to hold down the mouse button for a second. The delay for this is in the settings, but the minimum value is 1/10 of a second.

 

You can drag windows around on the interface, and resize the text window to a point. To do more, which is unnecessary unless you're going to heavily mod the game, you'd have to take a crash course in XML and edit the UI files.

 

The journal still features the user notes section, which in NWN carried across from game to game so long as you used the same name for your characters.

 

You can configure behavior for every member of the party, much like henchman AI in NWN. I told my character to use stealth between encounters, but turned it off for the screenshot.

 

So far this is like an upgraded NWN. Some folks are griping about the camera, but althought it's a bit touchy, it functions almost identically to NWN's camera. I can zoom in and out with the mouse wheel, lock the wheel to freestyle the camera, and of course move the mouse to the screen sides to rotate and/or move the view up and down. I haven't bothered with the other camera modes because this one (the default overhead view) suits me well enough.

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Well Smoketest, your start was better than mine. Initially, my DVD-RW wouldn't recognize the disk.

 

After I finally accessed the disk through explorer (autorun didn't work) the install hung and a I got a cyclic redundancy error. Updating the firmware on my DVD-RW did the trick.

 

Then in the middle of the tutorial, the game crashed and re-started my computer.

 

As I recall, I had some awful troubles getting NWN1 installed and stable, so I guess this is just par for the series.

I updated my firmware a few months ago, so that may have contributed.

 

While I usually build my own computers, I opted to have some guys put this AMD system together for me, and it's been worth it. Only crashes if I do something stupid. :)

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Confirmation that they're still using Bink, I guess (I know they still use Miles).

Yes, the movies folder is full of BIK files. :)

 

They do use Miles, but you can see a commented out reference to RAD EFX in the original NWN.INI that's in the installed NWN2 folder so they were playing with alternatives at some point.

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This is going to sound fairly hypercritical, but they really should have stuck with willows. The willows look nice. Those other trees, whatever they are, remind me of those old, extra cheap artificial Christmas trees, the ones with a few branches with lots of needles just sticking out and lots of empty space in between. Very freaky-looking. I like the pot haninging from the tripod. The branches in the foreground are a very nice touch, as is the misty effect in the background. I'm not going to critique the character animation. I'm not entirely sure I like it, but that might change if I saw it moving.

 

On the positive side, I really like the way the controls are unobtrusive.

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I hear ya. Trees are still making that journey from movies to live-action games.

 

The guy sort of moves around and scratches his head once in awhile because I'm not telling him to do anything. He does look sort of stiff with his hands at his sides like that. Ah well. Assuming this game is as popular with modders as the first one still is, I imagine there'll soon be mods to address these minor issues.

 

Edit: I changed the screenshot to a new one with better trees. Same area but facing the opposite direction. Shows off the dynamic shading under the trees, though you can't see it moving along the ground in a static photo.

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Ooh, that is very nice, indeed. I like it much better from that angle.

 

Things I especially like: the creases behind the knees, the house, the willows, the sawn-off tree stumps, the fieldstone chimney, the grass. Much better with those stupid bottle-brush trees out of frame.

 

Edit: your first picture illustrated a rendering oops, though. At the base of the closest tree, it looks like it pierces the plane of the ground rather than resting on top of it. I think it's a layering issue.

 

Jeez. Can I be picky, or what?

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Gah, NWN2 killed my videocard!

 

My eVGA Nvidia 6600GT is now pushing up electronic daises and I'm riding an ATI X1950 Pro.

 

The eVGA card bellied up during character creation! I used to think that software developers and hardware manufacturers were loosely in cahoots, now I'm thinking they just tied the knot.

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I have an NVidia 6800GT that isn't cutting it with this game. I have to turn the resolution down to 1280x1024 and disable environment shadows just to make it playable. I'm thinking of maybe going dual 7900GT or GTX. The cpu needs to be faster too. It's a shame that 2ghz can't run some modern games. This is part of the reason I'm slowly switching over to adventure games; they look just as beautiful, tend to be as fun if not moreso, and don't hog the system.

 

(I haven't played NWN2 since taking the screenshots, due to being completely wrapped up in the adventure game Dreamfall, the sequel to The Longest Journey, which I can play at 1680x1050 with all options maxed.)

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