In the current state of the electronic entertainment market, the role-playing game is dealing with a worn nest. With recognizable titles turning to numerous sequels, and newer titles lacking online capability beyond massive multiplayer, the least likely thing to see is a title based on an already tired medium.
Or is it?
Coming out within a matter of a month or so is an actual Dungeon and Dragons set title, an intriguing prospect for those of us who have not been satiated by the current crop of multiplayer games. That game is Neverwinter Nights from publisher Infogrames, and BioWare Corporation, the development team.
Neverwinter Nights is more than simply set in the realm of the infamous tabletop role-playing game; rather, it is set in a specific plane, known as the Forgotten Realms setting, on the world of Faerun. To whittle down the locale even further, all the players interact inside and around the cold northern metropolis of Neverwinter.
This, however, is where Neverwinter Nights takes a selective back step in the contemporary perception and conceptualization of online role-playing. Unlike other online-oriented titles, Neverwinter Nights will not have a persistent world; the game will instead mimic the environment that defines the real world pencil and paper Dungeons and Dragons.
Storytellers in charge of the game, more widely known as Dungeon Masters, will host the games to a select group of adventurers. They will control the flow of the universe, commanding foes the players will encounter and people the players will meet. Whether this form of small group, selective, online role-playing will be successful should prove interesting.
Just like BioWare's previous Dungeons and Dragons titles set in Faerun, such as the Baldur's Gate series and Icewind Dale, the game will follow the same rule system employed by the real pencil and paper game. For those of you who follow the rules and regulations of the latter, BioWare has opted to use the 3rd Edition Rules developed by the current distributor, Wizards of the Coast.
From this already solid fan base comes some fresh features, however. Neverwinter Nights will also contain an independent single player version, of which BioWare boasts will provide about 60 hours of game play. That doesn't include any official modifications or modules that may emerge.
Unlike the previous titles, however, the player takes command of a single character, rather than a party of adventurers. With that stipulation, however, comes some flexibility in the character creation process. Not only can all the familiar D&D classes be selected, players can select their own alignment, from good to evil, and choose from any number of races, aesthetic appearances, and creeds.
The way the game is currently described, the perspective will follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned titles, providing a third- person bird's eye view. This time, however, the characters and environment will be shown in 3D, supplanting BioWare's old 'Infinity' engine.
The hype and fan affection for this game is definitely present, although whether Neverwinter Nights will live up to it is uncertain. Regardless, the title should yield an interactive response from the role-playing game community, as it bridges a gap between massive multiplayer games and role-playing games that always appealed to single players or small groups. Whether that bridge will hold remains to be seen, but most outlooks at this time are positive. Stay tuned to keep updated with news, reviews, and previews about this title as they come.