Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Neverwinter Nights 1: Witch's Wake

A short review for the shortest of the premium modules I've played as yet -- Witch's Wake.

When I first tried playing NWN years ago, I tried this module along with the OC, but I didn't get very far. I didn't know what I was doing at the time, and I didn't understand what I was supposed to do with all the crafting materials I scavenged at the beginning. I stopped playing when I died to enemies in the graveyard.

Yesterday, having had some experience under my belt in the meantime, and an understanding of Neverwinter Nights gameplay, I picked it up again. I finished it the next day. I have mixed feelings about that.

In general, I'm going to say I enjoyed this module, with some reservations. Following are some of the module's pros and cons.

The bad

Just so I can end on a positive note, I'll start with the complaints. I only have two of note: I didn't like this module's cliffhanger ending or its respawning trash mobs.

I think I can see a possible reason for the infinite trash mobs, who swarm you as a low-level character and only give a single experience point if you kill them. The module has a special event for when you die (sending you to a plane of death over which the Night Hag has some power), so I would guess the designers restricted resting and loaded up the module with combat to ensure that players die several times before the module is over. It took a bit of exploring before I realised that the trash mobs would never end, and that there was actually no point in exploring certain locations, because there was nothing in there except for this pointless and unrewarding combat. By the end, I was cursing the constant swarm of rats, who even spawned in to interrupt my dialogue with the final NPC -- several times!

The module ends abruptly -- even more abruptly than Kingmaker, which at least had a little cutscene and a dialogue box wrapping things up. This one stops in the middle of a conversation to show a cryptic message, and then the credits roll. In the end, nothing is accomplished, and more questions are raised. I plowed through all those rats for this?

I know that this, as are all of the premium modules included with NWN Diamond, was originally intended to be a series, and I knew from the outset that there was no continuation of them, but this one left me extremely unsatisfied at its lack of any kind of resolution. A good cliffhanger should end the first plotline, while starting another to get you wanting more before it lowers the curtain.

One extra thing I didn't like about it was that it was another solo adventure. I thought I was going to get a companion at one point, due to an option to invite a character to come along with me, but it was a false hope. The character refuses.

The good

Amongst the module's good points are the characters, themes, and setting.

The setting was not the Forgotten Realms or any of the other D&D world settings, but something original to this module, as was Kingmaker. As such, I can't know anything about the races, magic, and history of this place other than what was exposited in the game itself. The titular "witch" is a night hag, but I don't know if that means her race came from the Grey Wastes or not. I had read in one of the developer accounts that at this time in the Premium Module program, developers were told by whomever was in charge that the settings should be original, and that some time afterward the exact opposite was decided, and that they all had to be set in the Forgotten Realms. I wonder if that has anything to do with why certain premium modules are no longer available for purchase.

I liked the German names for the dwarves. I think it fit them well.

The characters were well-realised and interesting. The Night Hag was described as fey, so it was appropriate that her motives and inclinations were inscrutable. She treated me nicely, and often made gestures of assistance, but some of them seemed to have possible negative consequences. She also once confessed to using me for her own purposes, and said we could never be friends. This seems fitting for a mercurial fey creature, and I liked her, even if I couldn't really trust her.

There were numerous opportunities in the dialogues to use character skills to attempt to open up certain avenues of conversation or to obtain favours or gain rewards. I always appreciate that kind of dialogue in games.

The ambivalent

As mentioned at the beginning, this is an extremely short module, which is unusual for a Premium Module. I think some of the Grimms' Fairy Tale contest modules had more content than this one. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. The only reason I played it when I did is because I knew it was short, and I wanted to play something short at that time. If it had had a proper ending, its short length might even have been a good thing.

The plot was rather common and familiar -- you've lost your memory, and there's something important about your past that you need to remember. At least in this game you're not the only one suffering from amnesia.

The beginning segment on the battlefield, where you scavenge from the dead, which confused me in my first play attempt, seems to have been intended mostly as an opportunity to scrounge up enough gold from the various crafting supplies to be able to buy some basic gear to start out. There's not much else gear to be found in the game, though, and even less gold, but the game is so short it hardly matters. There are two other opportunities to buy supplies -- from the blacksmith and the magic dealer in the dwarven village and from the Night Hag herself. There's also an "infernal contraption" in the magic shop which functions as a slot machine, which I suppose was included to offset the lack of opportunity to accumulate money in the usual fashion.


You wouldn't lose much time if you decided to try this one out, and if you use a higher level character (I started at level 1) you can breeze through the combat and experience all the unique things about this module on their own merits. As long as you understand that it has no resolution, and that there will never be a sequel, you might find it a worthwhile experience.

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