RPGs are one of my favorite video game genres. I missed out on a lot of the seminal ones from the ’90s and early 2000s. Ergo I did not play Neverwinter Nights back in the day. Believe me, I feel dirty saying that being one of Bioware’s earlier titles before this modern chicanery. Oh, Bioware what happened to you! Regardless, after almost twenty years I get to play Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition albeit with outdated mechanics and old engines. But that’s just it though. This title holds up exceptionally well in almost all areas. Just pay no mind to the tops of maps being nonexistent.
The story remains unchanged as you’ll still be a user-generated character who must aid the nobles and find the cure for a plague. It has ravished Neverwinter and brought the land to its knees. After doing so you discover there’s traitors, conspiracies, and even primordial entities all with a role to play in this expansive adventure. The two expansions released after Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition’s original release appear as well. So, your fifty-ish hour adventure is greatly extended. That also doesn’t include the small additions and fixes from devs and fans alike. Those were called premium modules believe. This wouldn’t be an “Enhanced Edition” remaster without those I feel like after all.
World and gameplay mechanics are still built around an MMORPG-like structure with Dungeons and Dragons combat ascetics. Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition is still a third-person RPG though where stats affect chance rolls and all of this starts with the character creation. Which makes a lot of current character creators seem incompetent mind you. There are loads of possibilities on how you can create your person and what path to send them on. It got to the point where I was overwhelmed and just randomized my appearance until I found one. Same with my name too. The number of playstyles is also impressively varied. There are of course classes like a magical, arrow slinging elf or a human warrior, but there are levels to each class. For example, you could be a half-elf, half-human who specializes in dual-wielding with the practices of a monk. I’m almost positive anyone will be able to find their niche and I wish more games nowadays had this depth.
Now depending on where you allocate stats, abilities, yada yada yada…will dictate how combat, dialogue checks, and intelligence levels perform stacked to a dice roll. You can pull up this dice roll equation on-screen or hide it, but essentially if you roll a higher number than what you’re up against’s number than you will succeed. This will determine a missed physical strike in battle, convincing someone to spill their guts, or impressing someone with insight. Just tied to a bit of random chance in turn-based attacks instead of solely relying on stats. For those worried about this aspect don’t be. Most dialogue boxes can be repeated like you didn’t just talk about something and combat is fairly by the numbers. I never once felt screwed over by a bad dice roll. I did feel ripped off when I realized my chosen class and abilities weren’t suited to lockpicking and there was A LOT of that with chests and doors. Luckily, there’s a companion you can hire who specializes in that sort of thing.
The variety between playstyles is matched only by the content. Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition is a jampacked title for an experience from 2002. If your choices leave you at a loss for what the game presents to you, there should be a person to talk to, item to use, or recruitable companion to aid you. Which is saying something because again this experience is deceivingly huge. There are multiple ways to progress at almost every instance, a whole host of ways to progress the story, and many nooks and crannies to discover. One such moment was when I decided to explore everything I could and came across a rich man’s estate. It wasn’t tied to the story at all, but when I reached the inner chamber of Mr. Money Pockets, he started exclaiming I was “here because of her right?!” When trying to pacify him by stating no one sent me and I’m just looting, he responded more despondent and essentially gave up on protecting his valuables. My plunder ended up involving a painting of the man in a bright, golden frame and some woman somewhere must have really wanted this. Too bad I couldn’t find her (without looking it up) to find out why she gave a quest for this relic. Point being Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition has a ton of side missions, miscellaneous content, fleshed out conversation boxes and trees, and I still can’t believe it was made almost twenty years ago.
Now with this large of a creation, you’d need a good user interface, inventory system, and smooth menu options. This is where Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition starts to falter a little. There are quite a handful of menus to sort through from a weapon wheel, item wheel, inventory screen, character sheet page, an area map, a merchant’s inventory, and, believe it or not, a lot more. Quite a few I listed can be pulled up at the same time and causes some unfortunate problems. Take selling something for example. Both inventory menus will be pulled up and at first glance, you’ll notice you can’t move over to the seller’s inventory and pushing X on an item just selects it to be dragged. Keyboard and mouse support, I suppose. What you must do, however, is press L2 and select the sell item option with the left analog stick. This won’t always work, and the game will act like you choose a back function. It’s not very fun selling the same thing a few times just to get it sold. This too can occur when you select a combat option or when trying to consume an item through a similar wheel menu.
Worse still are these menus can glitch out and leave your primary selection in the gameplay. The only problem is you can’t control the character with some of the menus already up. It took me a while to realize I could cycle through these menus with L1 and R1, but I was never told this was possible. Additionally, the inventory selection marker would change its position from one inventory menu opening to the next. This made it frustrating to select the recall stone in my possession. This item made it possible to cheese the entire game by selecting it, using it, and being returned to your “base” where there are items, health spells, and transactions to use. You can then return to where you were before choosing the stone with enemy health levels and positions intact. So, imagine my surprise when my cursor for the inventory screen was left on the stone only to open it and have it on a completely different page. Yes, I died plenty of times to this. Even navigating the level up system can be a painstaking trek through menus for all these reasons mentioned.
Much smaller on the annoying scale, but still an issue are quest items picked up. If you never turned them into where they need to be, they sit in your inventory taking up space. You can’t sell them as they’re worth zero currency and your only option is to drop them. It seems pretty contradicting for Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition not to have updated this setup. Gameplay may have held up impeccably, it’s just user interface and menu navigation could have used a lot more polish. But what! There’s more! Technical issues hold back this game as well. Sometimes going through an exit or entrance to an area won’t get the desired effect. Your characters will stand in the darkness of the doorframe instead of when you should have been transported to the next area. Companions can also get stuck in command loops or in place. Hell, even your character can get stuck on objects or entryways. I imagine in due time these, more than likely, port problems will be patched and improvements will be made. There are a couple of non-issues I’d like to see changed, but I’ll wait and see how these qualities of life issues are handled first. For the most part though, Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition gets a pass of sorts since it is such a large, older title.
The absolute biggest issue deals with the multiplayer modes, unfortunately. You can invite others and join online servers to help or get co-op help with nearly all aspects of the campaign. Even some PvP functions or so I’m told. Every time I tried to join a lobby from the main menu’s Multiplayer section I was met with a black screen. I could choose to bring along my pre-made characters or use a default one from a rather impressive list. Then joining was nothing but waiting in the darkness. Basically, anything online is a no-no at the moment. However, it must be said scrolling through all the possible extras and enjoying all story modes really does impress. It shows how wonderfully the developers and fans of old built this world. The lore really stands out and so did my enjoyment of it even with all these problems.
Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition PS4 Review
- Overall - Very Good - 7.5/107.5/10
There’s no sugar coating the many technical and user interface problems Neverwinter Nights Enhanced Edition has. Whether due to being a PS4 port or just ageing less than gracefully. Surprisingly, I found I didn’t mind that much as flabbergasted as I was. The Neverwinter Nights experience still holds up remarkably and I’m glad I finally have a chance to participate in it. The story is interesting and fleshed out while the combat and Dungeons & Dragons shtick suit the RPG formula well, even by today’s standards. Anytime I can enjoy a game by just exploring and doing what I want is a win in my book.
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Reviewed using PS4 Pro.