Shadows of Undrentide

When Neverwinter Nights was released in 2002, it had everything I wanted in a CRPG. In particular, Kal & I had tried the awful multiplayer in Baldur's Gate, but there's only so much of "you must gather your party before venturing forth" that we could put up with. I had enormous fun on the multiplayer servers, especially the persistent worlds. I spent quite a few hours in the level editor as well, dreaming of creating an electronic version of my pen & paper city, Helsmuth. However, I have never finished the single player game. I only ever made it as far as Chapter 2. Partly it was the sheer grind of tracking down the "Waterdhavian creatures," but mainly because it just couldn't compete with the experience of playing D&D in person. NWN did finally convince me to convert my game from 2nd edition to the 3rd edition rules, though, so there's that.

The main reason I decided to buy NWN Diamond from GoG was because NWN2 was too demanding for my old (2009) laptop. However, the screenshots below were taken on my ASUS ROG running NWN at 1920x1080 resolution with 64mb textures at best video quality. I recently had the urge to play Hordes of the Underdark, but I really didn't want to start with a level 15 character. Thus began my first playthough of Shadows of Undrentide. The review below contains several spoilers for NWN:SoU.



Chapter 1: Hilltop Hoods
Disappointingly, the starting premise of this expansion is almost identical to NWN. Harking back to the attack on Candlekeep that began Baldur's Gate, you find yourself under attack by kobolds. You are an apprentice of the dwarf Drogan (rather than a ward of Gorion), who is one of the Harpers. It is up to you to go fetch four MacGuffins that are scattered all over the map: the mummified hand, the tower statue, the dragon's tooth, and the mask. The cool aspect is that you can play the two villains against each other, promising the drow that you will slay the dragon and vice versa. Still, there was a bit too much deja vu here for my liking.

Betraying one of the villains

The companions are terrible, particularly in terms of their AI. No matter how many barbarian levels Xanos has, he will still waste time with 0th and 1st level attack spells in the middle of combat. Even when surrounded by zombies, who all get attacks of opportunity. Both companions are multiclassed: a barbarian/sorcerer and a rogue/cleric. You need to instruct them which character class that you want them to specialise in. After Chapter 1, you also have the option of Deekin Scalesinger the kobold bard. But we all know that bards are OP...
Kel-Garas packs a wallop

The "interlude" between chapters is very much like Chapter 2 of NWN, where I stopped playing. However, I managed to muddle through the stinger caves, the tomb of Kel-Garas and the formian hive. Still not much to inspire, until you find yourself in the ancient Netherese city of Undrentide. You are now in a race against time to stop Heurodis from raising the flying city off the ground. After killing some shield guardians for Ashtara the asabi, you have to enter a storybook to fight a devil for the soul of a maiden, then enter a story within a story to converse with an archmage who is doomed to hell. To solve this quest, you rewrite each of the stories to give them a happy ending. This was the highlight of the game for me: the first spark of real creativity in an otherwise bland procession of fetch quests.

Feeding the tentacle beast, who I call "Fido"

Fighting the shadovar lich and his minions on the plane of shadow was a bit underwhelming. Admittedly I had extremely high expectations for how that scenario would unfold. The Temple of the Winds was more atmospheric and the final battle with Heroudis was reasonably satisfying. It took around 44 hours to reach the end of the game. By then, my character was a Rogue (6) / Sorcerer (1) / Dragon Disciple (6). Evidently it is usual for an imported character to be lower level than a brand new PC in Hordes of the Underdark. I suppose we'll see how that turns out.

Facing off against Heroudis

I've played NWN2: Storm of Zehir, so I know that not all Neverwinter games are quite so uninspired. If you haven't played that yet, I definitely recommend it. As for Shadows of Undrentide, not so much!

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