Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition in 2024 – A Nostalgic Look at a Bioware Classic

Ah, Neverwinter Nights, the classic early 2000s RPG and follow-up to the mighty Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn. Let’s take a look at this wonderful title that ate up so many hours of my teenage years, specifically the single player campaign. The multiplayer is a whole ‘nother beast that I won’t really be talking about too much in this article.

Neverwinter Nights (NWN) was developed by Bioware and released in June 2002. Like I mentioned, this was their next title after Baldur’s Gate, but gone was the 2D Infinity Engine. Neverwinter Nights has fancy 3D graphics, a rotatable camera, and Dungeons and Dragons 3E. While I’m not sure about how commercially successful Neverwinter Nights was (Wikipedia says it sold 2.2 million copies by 2007 which seems decent enough), it received above average review scores and even had 2 expansion packs, Shadows of the Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark.

I should get this as a tattoo.

In 2017, NWN was revived as Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition. This was a remaster of the game for PC and consoles. It wasn’t remastered by Bioware… Oh no, they were too busy mucking up Anthem to do anything productive. This effort was from Beamdog, a studio headed by former Bioware developer Trent Oster. When it was announced, it was a pleasant surprise. NWN was kind of a niche title by that point, and it wasn’t really talked about too often in the media.

Sweet Nostalgia

My first experience with Neverwinter Nights, or NWN from this point onward, was with the Platinum pack. It was a bundle in a fancy silver box that had the base game and both expansions. This was still the era of the of PC big boxes – you know you had a good game if the box had velcro on it! It also included a thick spiral bound game manual and a map of the Neverwinter and the surrounding areas. While I was probably 13 years old at this point and had a crappy Dell Inspiron laptop, that didn’t stop me from playing every day when I got home from school.

Despite being over 20 years old, NWN never really died. See, the multiplayer system in NWN was almost like miniature MMORPGs, and there were hundreds of them. You could play on any server, and each server had a distinct community of people, characters, rules, quests, towns, enemies. Each server was handcrafted by players, so when you joined a new server it was like a brand new experience.

There were so many different types of servers. Many were roleplaying (RP) focused, so you had to talk as if you were your character. There were so many neat RP servers, like the Lord of the Rings server that was entirely themed around Tolkien. Another RP server was based on the anime .hack. It had custom classes and races that tied into the game – really neat ideas. My favorite though, were the action oriented servers that had hordes of enemies, lots of experience, and plenty of loot!

My point is that the multiplayer was a defining feature of the game. You might be wondering, “Well, hmm, Mr. Taco, was there a single player mode?”

The Original Campaign (OC)

I never gave the OC the time of day. I’ve spent hundreds, maybe thousands of hours in these virtual fantasy worlds but never bothered to actually play the single player story that shipped with the game. That all ends now, as I’ve finished the campaign and now I can cross this off my gaming bucket list. Overall, I really enjoyed the campaign but I can see why it had a middling reception back when it released.

The character creation is a little overwhelming and gives you a lot of freedom. It’s actually quite comparable to rolling a character with your buddies around a table, and the options here are quite extensive. There’s a bunch of base classes to pick from, feats and stats to select, and skills to click through. Just for funsies, I wanted to make a character with a bit of a theme. My character is a true neutral druid named Big Smoke. He doesn’t particularly care for anything and serves to protect the natural balance in the world… yet here he is saving the world with his horde of summons. Druids can be powerful, but overall I’d say they’re kind of mediocre in this game. I wanted something that might be a little more challenging, but still fun. Plus, they have a special prestige class called the Shifter that I had my eye on.

After making your character, you’re thrown into the Neverwinter Academy, a school that teaches you how the game works. The city of Neverwinter is suffering from a plague, but your leader and mentor, Lady Aribeth, has a plan to cure the plague using reagents from several magical creatures. Unfortunately during your training, a cult attacks the academy, killing students and stealing the reagents for the cure. Aribeth recruits you to find the creatures, return them to her, and find out more about the plague.

Lady Aribeth is a paladin, righteous and standing by her code of ethics. At her side is Fenthick, her romantic interest who is much more of a follower than a leader. Also standing nearby is Desther, a local priest of Helm who is investigating the cult that attacked the academy, and if they are responsible for the plague.

After the introductions are complete, you’re basically tossed into the city of Neverwinter to explore and investigate. Unfortunately, the city is in complete turmoil. Not only is there a plague ravaging the city, there’s also an ongoing prison break, a zombie attack in the graveyard, and pirates up to no good in another area. The city is split into several areas, each with a different theme, enemies, and quests to explore. I rather like the freedom here, you can visit the different districts in any order you want.

The thick outlines are a new visual filter in the Enhanced Edition. The line are a little thick in this picture but eventually I found a style I liked.

Moment to Moment Gameplay

Neverwinter Nights operates on a time-based system. Combat rounds, take place every 6 seconds, and a whole turn is 10 rounds, or 60 seconds. You can move freely, but there is a pause if you would like to queue up a few actions.

I really like the combat in Neverwinter Nights. It’s much faster than playing DnD obviously, so it’s quick and to the point. You can see all rolls made in the combat log, and your character sheet is extensive with buffs, rolls, bonuses, feats, and more. Now the beginning of the game, when you only have a few levels under your belt, can be a bit slower. You only have one attack per round, so some people may feel like they’re just waiting around only to have a bad roll and miss your attack. I didn’t mind this – I had my familiar and summons to watch so encounters were usually over quick. Big Smoke is very much a quantity over quality kind of druid.

Deep in a dungeon with my henchmen and animal companion.

Illusions of Choice

While there’s plenty of freedom in how you approach your goals, the consequences of your character’s actions are more of an illusion. This is especially true in dialogue options. In the end, the game mostly forces you to go where you’re supposed to go. If you resist or pick some of the cheeky dialogue options, the NPCs (whether that be Aribeth or someone else) will just kind of give you a side-eye 🤔 for a moment, and then you go off on their errands.

There’s less of a focus on the dialogue compared to Bioware’s previous titles. Most of the responses you can give are either “I am a holy paladin and can do no wrong” or “Give me money or I’ll cut your throat.” Now in Big Smoke’s case, druids are required to be neutral… Then again, humans are fallible and he may have demanded gold from unfortunate refugees, or even taken a baby. Yes, you read that right. There’s even an achievement for it, but I’ll leave that a mystery in case you want to play it. 😈

Of course there are more dialogue heavy scenes and quests where your choices do matter. In one side quest, you act as a lawyer for someone who may or may not be framed for murder. This is obviously a very dialogue heavy mission, so your choices have more of an impact here.

Most acts follows a very similar structure. It goes like this: You arrive in a new town, and you’re tasked with collecting several artifacts or items. You’re then given a few subtle hints, and then thrown into the wind to accomplish your goal. The town is pretty sparse, but it has all the supplies you need and it acts as a sort of hub.

Sea of Loot

One thing I really like about the maps in this game are the incentives to explore. There are so many hidden nooks and crannies filled with treasures and secrets. In one location in Act 2, there’s a corpse somewhat hidden in a log near the town. On this corpse? A bag of holding. With the limited inventory size and my character’s low strength, this was an essential piece of kit and unleashed Big Smoke’s unsatiable need for loot.

Luckily for Big Smoke, there’s plenty to loot in this game. What he didn’t realize is how long it takes to pick a lock. A lot of loot probably sounds like a good thing but the way it was implemented caused a bit of frustration. The way loot works is a bit of a conundrum; loot is randomly selected based on the container it spawns in or the strength of the monster. A dragon will have better loot than a goblin, and a ornamental treasure chest will have better loot than a locked armoire. This sounds great, but there are so many locked containers that may possibly have great loot. This presents a problem because Big Smoke doesn’t know how to pick locks and he doesn’t have any spells to unlock containers!

Some districts of Neverwinter and the surrounding cities have roving bands of thieves.

This is where Tomi Undergallows comes in. Tomi is one of the companions that will tag alongside you. He’s a halfling rogue, and excels at unlocking containers. Unfortunately, you can only have one compaion with you at any point. The game would be way too easy if you had multiple companions, so you’re just limited to one plus any summons you may have. But then, here’s another problem. The more summons and companions you have, the less experience you get. Due to the way party scaling works, I was getting significantly less XP with my summoned army, so I unfortunately missed out on a lot of experience over the course of the game.

Another minor gripe is that it takes forever to open locked containers. It takes a solid 10 seconds or so to unlock a single container. If the container is trapped, you’ll need to disarm it first or hope that it won’t kill you. It would be so much more convenient if lockpicking was instantaneous. While I’m on a rant about lockpicking, here’s another aspect that was mildly infuriating. If you have companions and you click on a locked chest, any companions you have will start to attack the chest. If you have Tomi, then he will walk towards it to unlock it. But if you have, say, a summoned dire spider and Tomi with you, you have to click the chest and then immediately click the spider and tell it to not attack the chest. Otherwise, it’ll break the chest (and the loot) before Tomi can finish unlocking it. Needless to say, it’s a process and was very frustrating to deal with through the 30-40 hour campaign.

It’s obviously a throwback to more dated design, and I’m sure there may be mods to solve it. But man, it really makes it annoying to loot more than 1 chest at a time. It’s not uncommon for rooms to be filled with 3, 4, or even more chests. Once I got towards the end of the game, I was done with this. Big Smoke grabbed a few levels of rogue so he didn’t need Tomi to unlock chests. Sorry my halfling friend.

I’ll never miss a chance to cut down an ogre or giant…. or orc, or goblin, or anything with more than 0 legs. 😈


While Big Smoke taking a few levels of rogue may seem a bit meta, he didn’t regret it. He had a nice little 2d6 of sneak attack damage by the end, and his summon and companion held the attention of most monsters. Honestly, it just goes to show how you can build whatever kind of character you want and still be okay in the campaign. It’s a really well balanced adventure, meaning that any type of character will do well. Obviously it’s important to try and pick classes that compliment each other.

One neat thing about druids: they have a ton of buffs. Big Smoke was a buff machine. By the end of the campaign, I would spend probably close to 2 minutes just casting spell after spell. I would buff myself, my companion, my druidic animal companion, and even creatures from my spells. Druids are a buff machine! And in the end, 99% of all battle could be steamrolled through with my army. Big Smoke was unstoppable, there should be tales of his valor sung across Neverwinter. It sure made me feel more powerful each time I would get new spells, and that’s a feeling that’s hard to replicate.

Infiltrating a rogue wizard’s tower.

Towards the end of the game, there were a few tricky situations where my companions would be dispelled, but I was strong enough to fend for myself after a healthy dose of Bull’s Strength and Cat’s Grace.

The NPC companions were memorable…ish? Tomi Undergallows, a halfling rogue, was definitely my favorite because of his lockpick skills. His story is a bit weird, at one point he talks about his romantic adventures with a noblewoman, and how he’s on the run from the elite. Just imagine, a halfing sneaking into a mansion, avoiding guards, just for some tail. Makes me giggle just thinking about it.

Memorable Moments from the Campaign

Rather than go on and on about the game explaining how it works, I want to quickly run through some of the exciting and memorable moments in the original campaign.

Snowglobe Quest: At one point during his adventure, Big Smoke was teleported inside of a snow globe filled with dryads and dwarves. These two clans were fighting… but for what reason? Winter Fang, a deadly dragon and guardian of the snow globe is pulling the strings here. Defeating him was extremely difficult and required extensive potions and lucky rolls to get through his fear aura. He is also blocking two achievements, It’s Not An Ocarina and No Jewelry for Me! It’s a tough fight, especially if you don’t get assistance from the snow globe residents.

Double Dragon: Near the end of the game, there’s a pretty tough fight against multiple dragons. There’s a lot of micromanaging that needs to be done here because both dragons have fear auras, and they both hit like trucks.

Exciting Conclusions: Unfortunately I can’t elaborate more on the fate of some of the characters we’ve met in throughout the four acts. I will say, however, that there are some very satisfying and deserving conclusions to them. And in true Bioware fashion, you get to decide what happens to them.

Tomi’s Escapades: Tomi Undergallows, our beloved lockpicking halfing, was definitely one of the most memorable companions. I love his story – he tells it like the two of you are sitting at a bar, and he’s embellishing himself just a hair. At one point he talks about his romantic adventures with a noble’s daughter, and how he’s on the run from the elite of Calimshan. Just imagine, a halfing sneaking into a mansion, avoiding guards, all to get some tail. Makes me giggle just thinking about it.

Tomi Undergallows
Tomi, you dirty dog.

So what about the multiplayer?

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the multiplayer is where I spent much of my time. I played on a server called World of Iniquity with my friends from my high school. The server was more action oriented and there was a healthy PvP scene, so we would go hunt bosses for loot, then wait and prepare a trap for the next people that come along. Unfortunately, a lot of the player base left because certain builds became too powerful and dominated the server. Eventually the player count dropped from 40 (full) to just a handful of players. With such a small playerbase, the server fell off and some of the end-game content on the server wasn’t accessible. That was the end of World of Iniquity.

I’ll always remember spending my teenage nights traipsing through graveyards, killing fire giants, and leveling up my characters. I know there are plenty of other servers online now, and it’s always fun to pop on and explore, meeting new people and finding new adventures. But alas, life is busy so maybe I’ll get back to it when I retire!

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed playing through Neverwinter Nights in 2024. It’s always kind of been on my bucket list, and now it’s done, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. I know I’ll come back to it; I have the expansions to play after all. The nostalgia weighs heavy on me, and I can’t help but feel bittersweet that this part of the adventure is over.

That being said, Neverwinter Nights is a solid adventure with deep mechanics and freedom to build whatever character you want. If you’re into older RPGs, this is definitely one that you should play.

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