Games for Windows & NWN2: What the Hell?

There once was a time when CGW was the most influential games magazine in the business. It had this guy called Johnny Wilson at the helm - and I loved it.

Like many of the people here, I was a subscriber.

Fast forward a decade and Johnny Wilson departed to go work for Wizards of the Coast (and Paizo for a time).

Games for Windows, nee CGW is still trying to be relevant…

And somone at this magazine just assigned a review of Neverwinter Nights 2 to someone who clearly doesn’t even LIKE D&D.

Matt Peckham just slams this game in a worthless review, gives it a 5 out of 10. Its sin? Near as I can tell, for being a faithful D&D computer game.

“Call me crazy – I guess I’m just finally weary of being led around on a pencil-and-paper leash and batting numbers around a glorified three-dimensional spreadsheet …”

He could have said a lot about the game to criticize it - but attacking it for succeeding at what it sets out to do is just nutty.

Exhibit A:

To Jeff Green: this review did not influence my purchase of NWN2. It did, however, greatly influence my future purchase of Games for Windows. Good luck with all that.

Seriously: how do you decide, as an editor, to assign a review of a game to someone who clearly dislikes the genre? What causes you to do that and offer up a review like this with a straight face?

There was a time when your magazine was the most influential in the business. It isn’t anymore - not even close.

If you are wondering why - take a good long look in the mirror.

I’m really sorry it didn’t work for you Steel Wind, and I hope you enjoy the game. But for the record, I’m a huge fan of the genre, if by genre we mean RPG, and if by RPG, we mean something that’s still in motion and not some static thing that equals this-plus-that never changing. I gave Icewind Dale 2 an 87% for PC Gamer back in 2002–the highest score it received, if memory serves. And remember: 5 out of 10 = exactly average.


Uh oh.

It’s pretty clear from reading your review that - (For the record) - no - you aren’t a huge fan of the genre.

You just think you are. And therein lies the problem.

I stand corrected by your stunning display of logic! ;)

pulls up chair

Yeah Matt, don’t tell us what you like because we know better!.. You really gave it a 5 though? Ouchie.

Not something I’m even a tiny little bit happy about. I love these guys. I want them to keep making games. Just not like this one. :P

Is this going to turn into one of those “7-9 is the only way to score a review” threads? I can see why it’s called a dead horse.

Anyways, if you disagree with his opinion, well then, you disagree. So what? You like the game, so what if a reviewer called it average? That happens in a buisness solely founded on personal opinion and taste.

Props to Matt for standing his ground.

And saying a game is Faithfull to the D&D doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.

Anyways, I can’t say much else since I won’t be able to write my review untill Sat.

I can’t speak for Matt, but the impression I get from reading this stuff and his comment is that he’s a fan of RPGs, but doesn’t feel that a PC D&D game should be aping the pen-and-paper version.

Now, given that the NWN series exists in part to try to be a faithful recreation of the “books and graph paper maps” D&D, I think expecting it to “take the genre forward” or not ape the paper game is unreasonable. It’s like hating Falcon because F-16s are hard to fly.

Of course, the side issue is 1up’s horrible new rating system. Under the CGW Classic rating system, Matt would have given this three stars, which wouldn’t elicit the reactions of this “5,” which despite 1up’s misguided intentions here, comes across to people as “50%, or an F.”

Drats. On one hand, I have to respect the opinion of a man who’s given IWD2 87% on the 7-9 scale. Seriously, I liked that game a lot.

On the other hand, I really looked forward to an NWN game that didn’t suck. Now I don’t know what to believe. Curse you Matt Peckham, CURSE YOU!

Ok. I’ll go slow for you.

Your stunning bias for this review:

I’m a huge fan of RPGs = I clearly despise D&D

No possible incompatibilities surfacing to mind there?

Of course, you can always read other reviews from other sites and make a decision made from a broad base of opinions…

I hear gamerankings or metacritic are ideal for this

I have to agree… the point of the review seems to be more that the reviewer doesn’t like the D&D 3.5 rules system and wishes he were playing Oblivion. NWN2 is not Oblivion, and wasn’t intended to be. It was intended to be a D&D game-slash-construction set.

There’s quite a bit to ding NWN2 on (hideous hardware requirements, funky UI decisions, brain dead henchman AI) but basing a review of NWN2 on how D&D rules are old and crusty is kind of like giving Company of Heroes a 5 in a review (on a 7 to 9 scale!), dismissing it with “So, what’s up with all these Germans?”

Reading a review of NWN2 and having the reviewer regale us with the shortcomings of pen and paper D&D isn’t very helpful. It’s like a review of a turn based wargame where the reviewer tells us how he really wishes he were playing Starcraft.

I must say that I’m not a fan of this review either.

Peckham needs to review the game in its own merits. The first paragraph is irrelevant. He doesn’t need to apologise for the rest of the review. He should have scrapped the first paragraph and started off with the last one since it is relevant. Having gotten that out of the way he should have told us a little more about the game itself. How does the interface shape up? Is the story more engaging than the original? Are the editor tools any good?

It is your job to tell us these things. This review is, however, a classic demonstration of how review scores are a crap concept. Maybe if you had given the game an eight and then mentioned giving it a five in the text if you are bored with the D&D ruleset would have been a better idea.

That’s pretty much exactly it Denny, with one amendment: shouldn’t ape at the expense of sophisticated, progressive immersion. For instance, I once enjoyed the way Baldur’s Gate broke it’s world up into all those tiny little areas that took about a minute to walk across (the ones you ran around arbitrarily clearing out the FOW to find hidden stuff). But I wouldn’t enjoy that now, and it wouldn’t make much sense for me to say it was a good design idea today simply because it was good then.


I always thought DnD was about role playing… the dice and numbers are there only as a system of regulating the decision-making of players.

If this NWN is about number crunching and not role playing, than it deserves a 5… no?

Except the reviewer didn’t comment on the quality of storytelling at all, save a toss-off line about poor NPC interaction, something that I haven’t run into in my experience - and given Obsidian’s pedigree, if they put out a game with crappy dialogue, I’d expect that to merit more than one snarky joke.

To be completely honest I’ve only put in about 2 hours into NWN2 since I’ve been playing FF12 (gotta keep up my Squaresoft fanboy street cred, yo), but a lot of the problems I ran into in those 2 hours the review didn’t mention at all.

I just did, and by GOD am I handsome!