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This game is the spiritual successor to the Baldur's Gate series and originally also was intended to be its actual successor (the loading screen tips in BG 2 announced that you could export your characters to this game), though this hasn't come to pass. That said, it still has to shy away from it in a lot of regards even though by all means it should be superior as the more recent installment.
- it begins with the sub-par looks: these are partially owed to the fact that it was an early 3D RPG from Bioware (their other games of the time - even the visually poorly-aged Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights 2 - looked far better) and to the entire game being created in a DIY-builder that was also accessible to players. But still: Appearance-wise, I was never able to shrug off the feeling that I was in some studio - without a horizon, lacking variety when it came to background elements, its rectangular rivers and plastic-looking trees; not to mention the poor character graphics if you weren't playing as a human.
- even worse was the party system: while the game started the Bioware trend of you being able to recruit all available henchmen instead of having to choose between them, it drastically reduced their number (6 in the original game, which is barely more than a full BG party), you could only take one of them with you at the same time and were unable to equip or level them (all of that was automated), which made the game basically a solo endeavor - it's quite telling that they never did that again.
- finally, both the story as well as the character interactions did little for me. Sure, the henchmen have more interaction with the character than they did in BG 1 and even BG 2, but they weren't really that interesting and didn't interact with one another. And the plot wasn't very exciting when compared to basically every other Bioware game apart from maybe Icewind Dale.
When I play a new generation of games, I expect meaningful progress to be made; and a more recent game shouldn't be a step back in comparison to earlier games (whether they're from the competition or, even worse, their own predecessors) - and ultimately, NWN was a step back in multiple regards, and even the (in my opinion) superior 3rd Edition Dungeons and Dragons ruleset can't divert from that: When I played it back when it was brand-new, I could never shrug off the feeling that I was playing a game that was ultimately inferior to the BG series.
It was only with the addons, which gradually got rid of the game's shortcomings (apart from the fairly limited henchman selections and the graphics) that it finally tried to make good on its potential.
The core game itself is fairly average, around 6/10 - without the Dungeons and Dragons license, I probably wouldn't even have finished it. With addons it's a 7 or an 8.
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