View Full Version : Shadows of Undrentide a great Dungeons and Dragons expansion

September 6th, 2003, 10:02 AM
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif NEVERWINTER NIGHTS: SHADOWS OF UNDRENTIDE
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Dragons and kobolds and gnolls, oh my! These are just a few of the freakish creatures encountered in Shadows of Undrentide, the expansion pack to last year's excellent Dungeons and Dragons game Neverwinter Nights. As an expansion, it requires that first game to play, which is no great onus -- the original is easy to find for around $20. The new game's plot is independent of the first game, though some events are mentioned.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif The new story starts much more humbly than before -- players take on the role of a student of the great Dwarven adventurer, Master Drogan.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif The game opens with an attack on the remote school by a band of marauding kobolds, smallish lizard-like creatures in the service of a dragon. The kobolds poison Drogan and steal four magical artifacts, stirring up trouble in the nearby town of Hilltop on the way. It's up to the player and the other students to find a cure and get the treasures back.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif The story will spread and tangle as the game goes on, of course, with many characters met along the way. Most of these characters have a task for the player to perform -- some optional, some not. Players can pick how their characters behave, whether good, evil or somewhere between, and there are many character classes to chose from and develop.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif These include the classes from the first game, such as Fighters, Clerics, Paladins, Rogues, Druids, Wizards and so on, as well as five new "Prestige Classes," available once certain conditions are met. These are the Arcane Archer, capable of imbuing arrows with magic; the Assassin, skilled in stealthy and deadly arts; the villainous Blackguard, a stalwart servant of evil; the Harper Scout, gifted with supernatural abilities; and the Shadowdancer, master of illusion and shadow.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif These classes can be chosen as a second or even third class, though doing so may spread character levels a bit thin, since only one class may improve with each experience level. With the new abilities these classes offer, plus many new skills, spells and feats added to other classes, there are nearly unlimited ways to play through the game.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Certain class types require a specific alignment among Evil, Good and Chaotic, Lawful and Neutral. The Paladin, for example, must be Lawful Good, while a Druid cannot be Lawful.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Characters are further tailored to the player's taste by race and appearance options. There are seven races, including Human, Elf, Half-Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, Gnome and Half-Orc, with slight ability modifiers and natural skills attributed to each.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Visually, the game is virtually identical to the last. There are new environments, creatures and items, but the graphic quality is much the same. The game engine is built for utility and flexibility, and so is not extremely detailed or flashy. But it is very serviceable.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif This utility is necessary because of Neverwinter Nights' second draw, its "Aurora" tool set. Using this, gamers can create their own campaigns to equal anything put together by the official team, and trade and play them online.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Shadows of Undrentide adds several features to these tools, including the three environment tile sets and a way to generate plots and store inventories automatically, instead of word-by-word and item-by-item.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Music consists of tracks from the original game as well as new pieces, and all of them are good. Sound effects are fine, though certain ones could use a bit more variety, such as the magic words spoken along to spells and the background cries that accompany some dungeons. The voice acting is of the same level as in last year's game -- high quality, but a bit sparse.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Even if one doesn't already have the original, buying both Shadows of Undrentide and Neverwinter Nights is a bargain -- two great games for about $50. With another expansion on the way in a few months and countless player-designed modules available online, the value of the game is assured.
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/09-03/09-06-03/tab.gif Details: Atari for the PC. $29.99. Age rating: Teen.

Justin Hoeger writes for the Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.