I loved Neverwinter Nights when it originally released and have spent hundreds upon hundreds of hours enjoying its grand adventure. It was actually one of the first games that got me into this traditional style of RPG and started my love affair with BioWare, so it’s got a special place in my heart. Naturally then, I was excited to see it come to consoles – especially on the Nintendo Switch where I’d be able to play it on the go comfortably. I did always worry how well it would actually work with a controller though, especially with the game’s deep gameplay mechanics and reliance on menus. Unfortunately, the results aren’t very positive…
Neverwinter Nights sends you on an epic adventure that’s full to the brim with quests to complete, locations to explore, NPCs to interact with, and enemies to kill. It feels like an RPG in the most traditional sense, with a VERY deep character builder allowing you to shape every facet of your protagonist, whilst virtual dice-rolls make up the core of the action in true Dungeons and Dragons-style fashion. Developing your character further as you progress through the game and interacting with others in the world is incredibly rewarding too, with the player genuinely feeling like they’re shaping the tale around them – then again, what else would you expect from a BioWare game? Add to that some slick combat that demands real tactical-thought, and it’s easy to see that Neverwinter Nights offers a rich and challenging experience for RPG fans.
There’s a wealth of content to play through too, including multiple expansions and additional modules. The expansions actually include some of the game’s most enjoyable quests and take you to some interesting locations, so they’re definitely worth getting stuck into once you’re done with the main game. They can all be enjoyed in online multiplayer co-op too, so you can dive into the action with a friend. It’s great.
I’ve really got heaps of praise to pile on Neverwinter Nights after enjoying it so much in my younger years, and I actually think the game holds up well today. A lot of RPGs are timeless and the experience offered here feels so traditional and refined in design that it’s hard not to be totally immersed into the adventure it offers. Unfortunately, despite Neverwinter Nights’ strengths with the content it offers and its rich RPG experience, it has a few too many issues on the Nintendo Switch to make it feel like essential playing on the platform.
For one, the text size is too small, especially when playing on the Nintendo Switch’s portable mode. I actually found it a little blurry at times, which felt particularly weird given that the game has been upscaled in almost all other facets of its design. The controls are incredibly clunky too – they’ve actually been re-designed to cater for consoles, but with all of the menus you’ve got to work through and the different actions you can have your character perform, everything just felt a bit too fiddly to really enjoy. Even basic things like targeting enemies could feel like a chore and with no shortcuts in place to assign actions, you’ll quickly find that even the simplest of encounters could prove to be challenging (and not in the right way). I did get used to the controls more I played, but they just never felt quite right; some of these PC-ported games can make the transition to controller well, but Neverwinter Nights feels like it needs a mouse and keyboard to be properly enjoyed.
Then there’s the camera, which offers a third-person view on the world that just feels a bit limiting. Admittedly, this is a small problem in the grand scheme of things, but it could make it awkward to explore some of the game’s smaller environments and keep track of the action around you. There is a keyhole-like feature in place that ensures that any objects covering your character are always made invisible so you never lose sight of them, but honestly, this looked worse in-game than having your position covered – you can turn it off though, so that’s something. It’s a small issue overall, but another hindrance for console gamers to deal with.
Worst of all though were the awkward glitches, with both enemies and the player able to get stuck into the environment at times – there’s some occasional slowdowns in-game too, though these weren’t too common. At one point I found myself completely stuck in a door, with my player locked into place and unable to move at all. The worst part? There are no checkpoints, so I had to load a previous save to fix it. Fortunately, I’m one of those players that ensure they save game every ten minute so I didn’t lose too much progress, but given that I came across these glitches on a few occasions, it could’ve been a lot worse.
So Neverwinter Nights was released back in 2002, so players hoping for amazing visuals might find themselves a little disappointed with the game’s blocky characters and undetailed environments. I’ll admit, I had some idea in my mind that it was all going to somehow hold up well, but it could actually be pretty ugly on occasions. However, it’s a forgivable sin; whilst Neverwinter Nights isn’t going to impress anyone with its visuals, it is full of unique monster designs and some fantasy locales that add a ton of personality to the experience. It might not offer a world that’s particularly pretty to look at (which is probably understandable for a seventeen-year-old game), but it didn’t stop it from being alluring and fun to explore.
Neverwinter Nights still offers the gripping and deep RPG experience that it did all those years ago, so re-visiting some of the old locales and completing quests that I enjoyed in the past felt really good and brought back some nostalgic vibes. It’s an old game now, but the gameplay has held up surprisingly well and it still offers an adventure that’s worth being a part of.
Unfortunately, the Nintendo Switch version just doesn’t really play that well – the controls are clunky, it was hard to read a lot of the text, the camera was awkward, and I even came across a few technical issues. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly playable on the console and it becomes easier the more you play, but Neverwinter Nights is one of those titles that’s simply so much better on PC with a mouse and keyboard.
Developer: BioWare, Beamdog
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC