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Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide

System: PC
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Teen
Designers: Bioware
Publisher: Atari
Price: $26.99
Rating: 8 of 10

Review by Brutilus

As a journeyman adventurer, you find your way into the mountains to Master Drogan, a retired dwarven adventurer and teacher of bold young folk seeking to make their fame and fortune fighting monsters and delving into the deepest of dungeons. Your schoolmates are from all walks of life and races.

While training with your beloved Master Drogan, a horde of cowardly kobolds sneaks in and deals him a nearly mortal blow and steal several of his sacred artifacts. You have no idea why they attacked or who was guiding them.

Your search for your master's would-be attackers will guide you deep into terrifying tombs, burning deserts, and ancient cities. Can you stop the mad conspirator that wants to ressurect an ancient empire and spread the shadows of Undrentide?

Almost made it...Follow the path of the kobolds to meetings with dragons, adventures with new friends, and a final showdown with an unnamed foe.

Overview

Shadows of Undrentide is the first expansion to Bioware's amazing Neverwinter Nights (review).

SoU is still set in the lands of Faerun (the setting for Forgotten Realms), but does not seem to be an immediate continuance of the Neverwinter Nights story. Your character has taken up training with the Dwarven Master Drogan to try to hone your skills. You are attending the school with several other students that are studying along side you. You can ask any one of the four of them to help you in your quest.

Nothing has been changed in the graphics and sound engines. You can expect the same beautiful graphics and sound that you got in Neverwinter Nights with no real upgrades to speak of, but there are new music tracks and much more voiceover work for a new storyline.

The most important changes in SoU are all in character design. Bioware has increased the upper character level limit to 30, added 5 new "prestige" classes, 30 new feats, and 50 new spells.

Snidely Whiplash gets medieval Prestige classes are specialty classes that give your character additional abilities and bonuses. They are only obtainable by characters after they have met certain prerequisites, such as a certain bonus to hit and certain feats. There are 5 prestige classes to choose from, including Arcane Archer (an elven master of archery and magic who can imbue his arrows with magical properties almost at will) and Blackguards (evil anti-paladins who specialize in causing the suffering of others).

Feats are (almost exclusively) combat related abilities that your character can use. Many of the new feats are upgrades and additional benefits on top of old ones. They feature prerequistes of old feats and some pretty awesome benefits.

Inventory management now has a new dimension. Now you are able to manage the inventory of your henchperson. You have no idea how important this is until you start collecting suits of armor and weapons like stamps. You run out carrying capacity very quickly as the game proceeds and there never seem to be enough bags of holding for sale.

It also helps quite a bit that you can upgrade the equipment of your henchperson as it helps keep both of you alive later in the game. The difficulty level of SoU is kicked up several notches from the original game. Even using my imported, level 16 character with awesome equipment I had difficulty down the stretch.

None of your companions from the original story make an appearance in this expansion. There are 4 new companions to choose from, some are more tolerable than the others, but all with fully developed personalities and histories. My personal favorite was Dorna Trapspringer, a female, dwarven rogue with a dry wit and quick sword.

I feel like I'm being watchedThe new storyline gives rise to a need for new creatures and Bioware doesn't disappoint. Gorgons, half man / half scorpion abominations called stingers, and even a medusa were created to fill out an already impressive roster of baddies. There are 13 other creatures appering in Shadows.

If making expansion modules is your thing, Shadows of Undrentide has 3 new tilesets to slake you thirst for creation. The rural winter, ruins, and desert tilesets round out your world nicely. My personal new favorite tile is the giant head. You can add a lot of character to a map by inserting a few random heads in the sand. (Reminds me of corporate management...)

The increase of maximum character levels to 30 will allow you to incorporate bigger and badder monsters and increase the number of said monsters in a given area. Many players will be excited by the opportunity to pit the characters against twin dragons or a platoon of pit fiends.

All in all, Shadows of Undrentide is an excellent successor to Neverwinter Nights, but does not have as good of a first person story. It makes for a great lead in to the next expansion, Hordes of the Underdark.

Shadows of Undrentide requires the original Neverwinter Nights to play. It is available by itself or, for those of you who have been slack and didn't buy the original yet, in Neverwinter Nights Gold. The latter is a great deal as it includes Neverwinter Nights, Shadows of Undrentide, and (for all the losers out there) a strategy guide for about 10 bucks more than the module by itself.

Get in the adventure by buying your copy of Shadows of Undrentide or Neverwinter Nights Gold at Amazon.com. Read my review of Neverwinter Nights to see what you've been missing.

All images are property of Bioware. Article copyright 2003 MillionairePlayboy.com


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