Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 13.04.2020

Review for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on Nintendo Switch

There was a time when the name BioWare was synonymous with prestigious role-playing experiences thanks to their work on Baldur's Gate and its expansions. Dungeons & Dragons have always been an excellent proving ground for pushing the envelope for RPG design, and in the early '00s, 3D graphics finally hit a point where they could (almost) depict what players could imagine. Neverwinter Nights must have been incredibly ambitious for its day, since it tries to have the nigh endless depth in character building and customisation seen in CRPGs, while boasting a fully realized 3D medieval fantasy setting. Almost 20 years later, Beamdog has managed to take the entirety of Neverwinter Nights with its expansions, Shadows of Undrentide, plus Hordes of the Underdark, and port it all to the Nintendo Switch. How does it all fare? Find out in the review of Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition.

This Enhanced Edition of Neverwinter Nights will perplex newcomers. It starts off reasonably interesting enough with some high stakes; a chaotic seige involving skeletons, goblins, and the newly created player-character just trying to make it out alive. Lots of information is thrown around, and tutorials fire off; all designed to prepare the hero with whatever it will take to conquer this campaign. While things start off with a bang, and there is a bit of intrigue, the unravelling plot becomes utterly generic.

The main campaign amounts to a completely stock evil lizard person who aims to take over the world, and BioWare is taking this seriously without any shred of irony or awareness of just how idiotic the main villain's plan is. This came after the likes of Planescape: Torment, a CRPG that challenged all RPG conventions, and crafted a plot of self discovery. The story of Neverwinter Nights is no more complex than an episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Screenshot for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on Nintendo Switch

Unlike CRPGs before this that relied on the Infinity Engine, Neverwinter Nights opted for a fully 3D world to explore. The ravages of father-time have been extremely cruel to many 3D games from this era. Even with some of the newly added lighting features that Beamdog was so gracious to implement, this is one ugly RPG that had questionable art-direction, even for its day. On Switch, Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition things not only have a vulgar ugliness to everything, but it also runs very poorly. There is no telling when the frame rate will take a nose-dive into the single digits; whether it is plunging an unremarkable dungeon passage, or the densely elaborate capital city.

It might have to do with the lighting effects, but even then - there is nothing here on display that should be taxing the hardware this harshly. Most embarrassingly, it is extremely easy to get stuck on basic geometry in the world. It is not clear if this is something that is the result of Beamdog's remastering, or if this was something that was inherent in the original. Either way, it is shocking that it still remains in a release in 2019. This is not something that only happens occasionally when trying to stress the software in anyway, as it can happen for the most basic of actions. Whether trying to walk around furniture in some dwelling, or just around some treasure chests; the absolute worst enemy players will face is random objects that will end their game and force to reload the last save.

Screenshot for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on Nintendo Switch

Much like the other Beamdog 'Enhanced Editions' released in 2019, unless one is experienced with the meticulous rule-sets of the various Dungeons & Dragons editions, expect to look up a PDF file of the Neverwinter Nights instruction manual, because there is so much to the character building and planning. The interface was also not properly adapted to a controller format, so navigating menus or trying to pull up some abilities during the automated combat is never smooth.

Actual engagement in these kinds of RPGs has rarely been graceful, and typically involves spectating more often than making careful choices. Most of the actual strategy is made before combat, and during the planning and preparation stages while building a character, not when clashing with foes. The controller mapping does not feel natural, and one could argue that this was something that just was not ever meant to be played on consoles, and that would be completely valid. Some games just can't be translated to a controller for them to be enjoyable experiences.

Screenshot for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on Nintendo Switch

While the conversion to the Nintendo Switch might have been misguided, an issue that runs deep in Neverwinter Nights is in its character building. There are so many abilities and stats present, that so much of them could be condensed, which would result in the game having almost half of what it has now. For example: anyone making a stealth class build will find that really basic abilities that should be one, have been separated into multiple skills. One would think that being able to disarm a trap would overlap with the same skill set of laying a trap, but this is not the case in here. There is so much junk spread out, where it can lead to tens of minutes fiddling around in menus and sub-menus, reading descriptions and cross examining options. Thankfully, only the player-character requires this much attention, as this would have become an agonizing chore if this was so widespread to the companions.

The saving grace of Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition is that it also comes with the expansion DLCs that prove to be much better campaigns, especially Hordes of the Underdark. The class building is altered to a degree where players are given much more power at the start, where characters they assume the role of are akin to almost demi-god status. There is much more fun to be had with these more powerful abilities, and users have more flexible options when roleplaying. The expansion stories also a much more thoughtful than "bad guy being bad" because there is a world that needs to be taken over. The overall tone is more nightmarishly surreal and hellish, that borders on being a full on horror RPG. Despite these bonus campaigns being more compelling experiences, the weak and crumbling foundation of Neverwinter Nights still remains.

Screenshot for Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

This compilation has seemingly endless replayability, thanks to it having the potential for user-created content for those who are dedicated enough to figure it out. Even without all of that, the mixed bag of campaigns on offer take over one hundred hours to experience. It is an ugly and frustrating RPG to play; one that is woefully poorly designed, and very rough, with some glimmers of gold speckled throughout the DLC campaigns. Only those who grew up playing Neverwinter Nights, or are die-hard RPG fans will have the resolve to enjoy this package of 2000-era BioWare. This truly requires historical understanding of the limitations of the time it was made, and that many RPG developers were just barely coming to grips with 3D engines. Everyone else would be better off replaying Skyrim.

Developer

Beamdog

Publisher

Skybound Games

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

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