Besieged By Drow

And their legion of malevolent creatures.

The citizens of Waterdeep stood valiantly against the onslaught to no avail, with their hearts gripped by naught but despair, and their famed adventurers butchered by beasts, they sought divine intervention in their darkest hour. And there before them stood a shining beacon of hope, righteousness, and questionable decisions. Hordes of the Underdark is a surprisingly content-dense expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, which (loosely) follows on from the events of Shadows of Undrentide by hurling you into the abyssal depths of Undermountain.

Perilous as they may be.

Infested with creatures heard of only in the hushed whispers of drunkards. Creatures that you’ll need to form tenuous allegiances with, who are easily swayed to your cause, and can certainly be trusted, because they definitely won’t be swayed by an even better offer in the future.

But, had Kaelan not delivered the mirror to them, they would’ve pierced his skull with their tentacles and feasted on the juicy brain within. Which would’ve been unpleasant. Avoiding this grisly fate only required the acquisition of an ancient relic, which was offered to- and absorbed by- a giant brain. Undoubtedly making the entire species even more powerful. But that was a fair trade. No man nor creature is going to penetrate the orifices of my Half-Orc Cleric. Not all of his decisions were questionable, though. He dismantled a false religion that participated in human sacrifice. He also freed a species of winged creatures that were caged for their hubris, and for using the same mirror that was absorbed by the giant brain. Which was shattered so that no-one could use it again. But I’m sure that they were just being unnecessarily cautious.

Surely nothing terrible will happen as a result of this…

However, it is, in my experience, an expansion pack marred by flaws. Combat quickly became unbearable when characters refused to act due to the sheer number of things happening at any one time. Even Kaelan himself was helpless. I’m not sure whether the mechanics (or 3rd edition rules) were ever intended to be used in these kinds of scenarios, but it was obvious that Neverwinter Nights wasn’t handling them well. Which is unfortunate, as I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the different regions of Undermountain while completing the quests found therein.

Combat was just a slog.

Most likely because you were developing an established character, who, with each new level, encountered increasingly unbalanced combat. Until it simply ceased to function. As is often the result of exponentially increasing statistics, as the numbers become too high to handle.

Not that my criticisms should dissuade anyone from experiencing Hordes of the Underdark for themselves. Rare is it that I’ve enjoyed exploring an environment as much as this inhospitable cavernous expanse. The subterranean societies were meticulously designed which reinforced their isolationist existence, as different races formed fragile bonds to survive the harsh conditions of Undermountain. They couldn’t rely on help from the surface. It was also great seeing old friends from past conquests, and being able to bring two of them along with you. I’m just hoping that the issues that I encountered were due to some kind of a glitch. Because this is a wholly satisfying campaign that perfectly concludes my time with Neverwinter Nights, and would be an easy recommendation were it not for the absurdly frustrating combat.

Have a nice week, all!


Smitier Than Thou

Blessed be thy axe.

An enchanted armament set aflame with righteous vindication, striking at those who would prey on the weak and the helpless. Lending aid to those who have lost everything. And desperately trying to redeem its wielder for their questionable actions. Let us look upon Kaelan, brave Half-Orc Cleric, and former student of Master Drogan, as he seeks to uncover the truth behind a simple theft. Shadows of Undrentide is the first expansion pack for Neverwinter Nights, which introduces numerous new mechanics and affords the opportunity to begin your adventures anew.

And so begin anew I did.

Far from the plagued city of Neverwinter, nestled deep in the mountains of the north, in a house under the tutelage of Master Drogan, before he was besieged by kobolds and adventure was afoot. One fraught with danger, suspense, mysteries, and delightfully smooth progression.

No longer shall I wear the same armour for nearly two chapters. Nor shall I wield the same weapon until it dulls from overuse. I’ll find increasingly more interesting halberds and completely abandon two-handed axes, and then I’ll enchant those halberds with Darkfire to deal a cacophony of elemental damage with each swing. Then wonder if this is something that a man of faith should be doing. And struggle despite casting many beneficial spells, because I’ve entirely ignored using a shield, and Dorna is currently dual-wielding, but feel satisfied when enemies are reduced to giblets. Then really wonder if this is something that a man of faith should be doing. It probably isn’t. It better suits the lust for battle that a Barbarian is known for. But I’m really rather fond of my Cleric, and I don’t want to take levels as anything else.

Smitin’ in the name of Master Drogan.

Of the notable differences, and there are a few, Shadows of Undrentide has meaningful exploration, and will reward your curiosity with enchanted equipment or useful items. You can (finally) share your equipment with companions, too. So I’m no longer hoarding (and eventually selling) useful equipment. I’ve found exploration to be ludicrously satisfying as a result, and that is such a contrast to how I felt for the majority of the main campaign. Which sometimes felt sluggish. With experience points being eked out rather than earned for completing various quests.

Experience points are now plentiful.

And they can be earned from interacting with NPCs, uncovering hidden quests, discovering secret locations, and by exploring the world. Allowing you to rapidly develop your build, but also introducing challenging encounters far earlier than you’d expect them in the main campaign.

Hordes of the Underdark, the second expansion pack, concludes the events of the first, and intends for you to import your existing build. Which is exactly what I’m going to do. I have no idea how far I’ll be able to develop this build- or how powerful it will become- but I’m curious to see how it fares with even higher level content. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Hordes of the Underdark introduces its own subtle differences to established mechanics. I’ve been looking forward to Shadows of Undrentide since I purchased it, but this experience has exceeded every prior expectation. Hence why I’d highly recommend this expansion pack. It’s an absolutely brilliant departure from the main campaign, which has the same complexity and challenge that you’ve come to expect. Along with all of that CRPG goodness that you’ve come to love.

Have a nice week, all!


His Unholy Mistress

No heinous deed goes unpunished.

Especially when that heinous deed threatens the city of Neverwinter, and led to a freshly graduated Halfling Ranger being entrusted with its continued existence and prosperity. One that has never faced anything more challenging than an inanimate training dummy. But ours is not to reason why, ours is simply to endanger ourselves while capable adventurers cower in fear. Neverwinter Nights is a narrative-driven CRPG based on the Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition rules, which tasks you with uncovering the truth behind a virulent plague that has consumed the city.

A truth buried in ancient legends.

One that takes our intrepid adventurers on a journey through lush forests, mouldering tombs, thriving farmlands, defiled temples, and many other treacherous regions. And one that involves conquering the seemingly unending swarm of freshly resurrected corpses.

Which does make some semblance of sense, as there is no shortage of fresh corpses due to the plague. They might as well put those corpses to work. Especially if it’s going to impede the adventurers who are looking for a cure to said plague. But that’s why you enlist the services of a Cleric, or a Paladin, and regularly use Turn Undead, because that will obviously solve this problem. Until an absurdly powerful fallen champion rises from their grave. Then you’re going to hammer the Stone of Recall hotkey, and pray that they have disappeared upon your return. Which did happen on more than one occasion. I’m not really sure why it happened, or what caused it, or why they would suddenly be on a different map, but it sure was annoying. And it could’ve easily broken numerous quests had I not hunted them down.

She may be small, but she sure is mighty.

Neverwinter Nights has proven to be an enjoyable experience, but I’ve been continually disappointed by the uneven nature of combat. Succeeding in challenging encounters is a slog. It’s not a fun slog, either. It usually involves being unable to hit (or deal damage to) a particular creature, while taking ludicrous amounts of damage for your flailing. Admittedly, this build wasn’t the most proficient in combat. But I wasn’t usually struggling this badly. It’s kind of understandable, as these encounters are supposed to be challenging, but this didn’t feel challenging.

It felt frustrating and annoying.

Otherwise, it has largely been the experience that I’d hoped it would be. Deeply satisfying quests that encourage exploration, with extensive character development opportunities, and delightfully flexible rules, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the thrill of adventuring.

Having now completed the main campaign, I’ll be attempting to complete the two expansion packs, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark, as well. I’ll be journeying through those with a Half-Orc Cleric who favours two-handed axes, which will only persist until an enchanted two-handed sword becomes available to him. But one can hope that a decision made while conceiving a character will actually be adhered to. Even if it would be as much of a surprise to me as it would be to you. Despite the sometimes lacklustre encounters, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how engaging I’ve found this experience to be. Hence why it’s so easy to recommend Neverwinter Nights to those craving a complex CRPG, and to those who value meaningful character development that defines your build and its capabilities.

Have a nice weekend, all!


Blood On Your Hands

Doing your duty isn’t always pretty.

You might need to prevent an uprising of sentient robots, further destabilise a society that barely functions as it is, or embark on an otherworldly journey through countless mind-altering drugs. These are the untold tales of the heroes that Wellington Wells never recognised, but were instrumental in changing the lives of those around them. We Happy Few continues its narrative-driven adventures through a drug-addled society with three distinct DLC experiences, each introducing a different protagonist with wholly unique mechanics and their own events to follow.

And their own problems to solve.

Of the three, the third, We All Fall Down, expands on the events of the main campaign. Lending insight into how Wellington Wells functioned as a society after Ollie realised the truth, and how his actions influenced another prominent character to take their own drastic measures.

The second, Lightbearer, was easily my favourite, and the most creative. Following the misadventures of Nick Lightbearer was hilarious enough, but the bizarre combat mechanics made it even more enjoyable. Using his guitar to deal damage (and parry incoming damage) was ridiculously fun. I also enjoyed its final boss, despite it being the simplest to defeat. They Came From Below had an interesting final boss, too. A hectic encounter that required you to manipulate the environment to reduce incoming damage, which didn’t always work as expected. We All Fall Down relied on puzzle solving and navigating the environment for its challenges, often shying away from combat despite how versatile the whip proved to be. You could easily avoid damage by stunning (or knocking down) your opponents with a volley of strikes.

Setting the stage for a grandiose finale.

Unlike Arthur, Sally, and Ollie these protagonists have no means by which they gain skill points. But they do unlock new equipment and new abilities throughout their adventures. Victoria is the only exception as she can find and use contraptions to upgrade herself and her equipment, or completely forego those for the challenge. And the associated achievement. You’ll be rummaging through bins less often, too. Crafting mechanics are notably absent, and each character can only make use of a few items. Healing items are available to all but in surprisingly limited quantities.

Making them ridiculously valuable.

You won’t be able to develop as extensively to favour stealth or combat, so running away and hiding in the nearest bush isn’t an option. You’re going to have to fight. Usually in confined spaces and with limited movement. Or while becoming accustomed to different mechanics.

The diversity of the DLC has exceeded any prior expectations that I had for it, with the developers once again exhibiting their seemingly unending creativity as they craft three enrapturing campaigns. Each featuring the same painstaking attention to detail that made We Happy Few the one-of-a-kind experience that I found it to be. Each adding to the impressive content-density of the main campaign. And each implementing its own unique mechanics. If the developers were considering a sequel to We Happy Few, I’d be interested to see how that would deviate from the established mechanics we’ve come to know and love in this ludicrously content-dense experience. I can wholeheartedly recommend We Happy Few in its entirety, and encourage those who have completed the main campaign to try the DLC.

Have a nice week, all!


The Burden They Bear

They’ve cast aside their masks.

Exposing the truth about the sordid events that Wellington Wells hides underneath its colourful exterior, while making it painfully apparent that their society is on the brink of collapse should things continue as they are. Which couldn’t have happened to nicer people. Not that everyone was complicit to the events that occurred during the war, but most have perpetuated that lie for their own happiness. We Happy Few is an enrapturing narrative-driven adventure through a drug-addled society, in which three separate protagonists discover the truth about themselves.

Or what they believe to be the truth.

Many of the events are left open to interpretation, with few explicitly stated, while the recollection of events given by each protagonist can’t be trusted, as they’ve each got their own justification for their actions. Their perception has been been irreversibly warped to fit their narrative.

Most notable with events involving multiple protagonists, as the actual events often differ, highlighted by subtle hints in the dialogue, suggesting that each is witnessing their own version of the truth. Or that their recollection of events is hazy due to substance abuse. Making them an unreliable source of information, especially when each exhibits their own selfish tendencies on a regular basis. Only furthering the ambitions
of others if it aligns with their own motivations. Which suits the bleak landscape of Wellington Wells (and its inhabitants) perfectly. Rare is it to encounter a protagonist that isn’t inherently likeable, but We Happy Few proudly presents three of them. Which is what I’ve enjoyed most about this experience. Nothing is ever what it seems to be, and you’re rarely able to fully predict how events will unfold.

I don’t know what they’re taking in this house, but it isn’t Joy.

Having favoured stealth as Arthur it was easy to adjust to Sally, who favours stealth due to her non-existent combat proficiencies. Even using the same non-lethal weapons as I’d used with Arthur she could barely deal any damage. Or take any in return. So she relied on her chemical concoctions to gain the advantage. Ollie, however, favoured combat, but relied on his fists due to a lack of non-lethal weapons. Then he acquired a recipe for the best non-lethal weapon I’d ever seen. Which, due to its durability, never broke, despite how many people he hit with it.

And he hit a lot of people with it.

Opting to knock the opposition unconscious has made this experience more challenging, and I’m glad that non-lethal weaponry even exists as it would’ve been ridiculously tedious relying on their fists. Unarmed damage remains absurdly low even after investing in the relevant skills.

Of the purchases that I’ve made in recent months, We Happy Few is easily one of the best. It’s proven to be an exhilarating one-of-a-kind adventure through the wholly believable society of Wellington Wells. Every aspect of its creation has been meticulously crafted by incredibly passionate developers, whose creativity continues to shine in the three delightfully diverse DLC experiences. Each featuring their own unique mechanics and recounting the (often bizarre) misadventures of lesser known Wellies. Misadventures that I’ll be writing about in a separate post, as I’d like to highlight how different and how fun they are. Due to how content-dense it is, I can’t recommend We Happy Few highly enough to those who crave a satisfying narrative-driven RPG. It truly is the experience that keeps on giving.

Have a nice week, all!