Getting back into RPGs: BG2 or NWN?

I keep meaning to get back into RPGs, and I’ve even loaded up BG2 plus the add-on and NWN, but I haven’t really started up either one.

So, this looks like a good place to get a decent response to this question: for someone who hasn’t played a good RPG in a long time, which would you recommend: BG2 plus expansion, or NWN? I’m looking for some degree of at least the illusion of freedom, and that ever elusive attribute called immersion. I want something that will swallow me up when I play and let me get completely lost in the game world.

What’s the general opinion?

I might be inclined to say BG2 because when you hit Chapter 3 or 4 you get a mindblowing number of quests you can complete. I was finding new quests to start while on other quests. This immerses you in the game if you like quests. I felt the story was better in BG2 although the story in NWN is by no means bad.

However, I thought NWN had a more reasonable number of quests and you could actually complete them all. I quit BG2 because it was just getting out of hand with the number of quests and I hate skipping things. Another plus is the single person control it is more conducive to actually getting into your character from my perspective. BG2 had characters with personality that would join you but I played it in multiplayer mode so I could roll my own party.

So overall it is a tough choice. It really depends on your preferences for party vs. single character plus henchman and the number of quests and the storyline.

– Xaroc

BG2 is the best single player RPG of the last ten years of so, IMO – at least of those I’ve played. I found NWN’s included campaign to be pretty uninteresting. I’d go with BG2.

Hard to say why I responded to BG2 so well. It was a lot of things. Some great quests, a long story with a truly “epic” feel and lots of different settings (Athkatla, the Underdark, even a Planar Prison), and great party dynamics. It’s amazing how much the party NPC characterizations and banter, and their associated sidequests, added to the game, but I really missed that part in NWN.

Obligatory warning about BG2:

If you end up selecting BG2 as your timesink of choice, I recommend you stick to the main plot until you get to Chapter 6. At that point, you can go back and complete/skip as many of the optional side quests as you like. If you start to get burned out, it’s a short sprint from Chapter 6 to the end.

  • Alan

Dear god, don’t touch NWN.

Yeah! Don’t touch it–play it.

Well, the other approach is to play as many side quests as you want in Chapter 2, then “clean up” whatever ones you haven’t done in Chapter 6 before going on to the finish.

minor spoilers

Playing BG2 with ToB installed (as I did the second time around) is interesting. The X-cap is raised and some of the funky special abilities from ToB can start to kick in before you actually start playing the expansion. Your guys can be ridiculously powerful relative to the BG2 enemies. The second time I played BG2, I made sure to get all the best items (I used a great game guide that was in, I believe, CGM), and by the time I got to the final battle (which I’d found really tough the first time around) it was pretty much a joke. I mean my lead fighter was walking around with something like a -14 armor class, and that was without Drow armor. It was ridiculous. “Power-gaming” may draw scorn, but it can still be fun in its own way. :)

I doubt I’d find ToB so easy on the second try, though. Draconis and the Drow (forget her name) are the two toughest battles I’ve ever played in an Infinity Engine game. I never could beat Draconis on core rules, though I guess it’s not that hard if you know how to do it.

Drow = Sendai

The warning is after watching two friends burn out during chapter 5 and never finish the game. They did all of the side quests during chapter 2 and then found that they couldn’t maintain enough interest to carry them through to the end.

Oh, and it’s also worthwhile getting the BG2 bugfix packs from the Baldurdash site.

  • Alan

Ah, I see. That certainly wasn’t a problem for me.

As much as I love BG2 – and I do – I’ve never played an RPG I enjoy as much as NWN. I love the 3E rules, and as much as I miss Minsc and the crew from BG2, playing only one character really improved my experience.

bah! toss them both and pick up jagged alliance 2 instead.

Did that - loved it. I love tactical combat games. Some parts were tough, though.

At the risk of actually believing what you wrote in your BC3K review for CGW, then I’d say you don’t want to play either one. If true roleplaying is important to you and your opinion of the world is also shaped by what you perceive to be true and not forcefed entirely down your throat, you might want to try Morrowind instead.

I can only go by my wife’s reaction while watching her play it over her shoulder, but the immersion factor the world gives you is extremely high. (simply gorgeous with high end hardware) There’s the main quest to follow and a billion side quests. It seems to fit what you’ve listed above.

There’s obviously lots of cons against Morrowind, but I think that has more to do with what a player looks for in their game. It seems to me that the exact same criticisms leveled at Morrowind were said of Daggerfall as well. It’s either your kind of game or not. As for myself, I think Morrowind would bore me to tears. I much prefer BG2. Great story and the exact sort of gameplay I look for in an RPG. Those looking to play BG2 as their first rpg in a while would do even better starting off with the original Baldur’s Gate.

NWN has been extremely disappointing so far, but I haven’t finished it yet. I find I echo every sentiment Asher has written about it here in these forums.

Now…if you want a story that sucks you in and keeps you there emotionally, go play Planescape: Torment.

Well, I haven’t played NWN yet, but let me echo the praise here for BG2. It’s simply the best RPG around. Planescape is a more fully realized world, but there is a LOT of text, so unless you are in a reading mood stay away.

BG2 has it all. Great tactical combat, interesting characters and quests, neat loot, great art. The class specific quests are great. As for the expansion, my wife played that while I was out of the country. So all I can say is that it looks cool. The Mrs’ swears by it though.

Wow - you actually read my BC3K review and remember what I said, Gordon? I’ll have to be more careful about what I write in the future! LOL!

Actually, I do love free-form, the-world-conforms-to-you games. But that’s not to say I can’t enjoy a good “standard” RPG. I just play few enough of them that I don’t want one that is totally linear, or that feels “forced” in pushing you down one avenue of action.

I am playing Morrowind on and off, and enjoying it for the way I play it - not really trying to be the hero of the world, just l’il ole me exploring and adventuring and deciding when to be good and when to be bad.

And based on earlier discussions, I downloaded Ultima IV from Underdogs (it was truly made freeware at one time by Origin, and they have a graphically enhanced version there.) I missed that one. Seems like I’m playing as many older games as newer ones these days.

Can’t go wrong recommending BG2. I thought the gameplay was much more engaging than the original, not to mention more polished (naturally).

I did like NWN, but the campaign really wasn’t the focus of Bioware’s energies. You need to have interest in the multiplayer aspects or wait for some quality sp mods to get the immersion you’re looking for.

BG2 is a better game if you’re gonna timesink. I actually preferred ignoring the plot and just running the quests as many as I could, as I could give a shit about whiny Imoen or the Irenicus or anyone else in the game, just bring on the dragons.

The module creation aspect of NWN was of great interest to the RPG community, because the idea of running DnD games online has been around forever, and this was supposed to let you do it. It gets every part right but one (and here’s where it gets strange): you can make a mod to represent just about every kind of tabletop DnD3e game you could run, but you can’t make one to recreate the experience of playing any other DnD video game because of that fucking single-player rule.

I’ve been playing tabletop RPGs since I was six (that’s 21 years now, but who’s counting?) and I actually consider the video games for it, Gold Box to present, to be part of the whole DnD experience, where I’d like to make mods that recreate the Gold Box style of playing the game (possibly to cleanse my mind of this nightmare.) That would require being able to make and play at least 4-6 characters simultaneously, which is UNLIKE tabletop gaming but I think a valid part of DnD thanks to the Gold Box games and now BG/IWD/etc.

I actually blocked time this summer to do this, realized after playing with the engine that I couldn’t, wrote a polite email requesting the ability to do so (yes I can manage those now and again) and now I guess I’ll wait for a patch or something.

In the meantime, a bunch of my friends are gearing up for GenCon, so we’re running RPGA modules like mad. They’re the worst adventures ever written, but it’s the only way to get points to take with you to the convention. The Living Greyhawk mods are especially bad, woeful even, but these are my friends…so I’ve been playing every single day to help them out. Did you know they make you file paperwork for this stuff? You have to fill it out with a pen. Paperwork and pens…It’s so alien to my concept of playing paper and dice RPGs that it makes me sick, but every year I go back and help them run through whichever mods are available so they can get their points.

I hear IWD2 is all DND3e rules. Good God I hope they don’t make the same mistakes UBI did.


I would love to see BioWare come out with a NWN expansion that allows players to control parties. I have no idea if this is something they want to do, however. They may feel that the D&D experience they are promoting is multiplayer as hence the ability to control a party goes against that.

There has always been a dichotomy between the different types of RPGs: single player (or single player with non-controlled party members) and party controlled. To go back to maybe some of the earliest, in the PDP Oubliette, you controlled a party - in DND(later Telengard) you played a single character. Later, single player had the roguelike games, the Ultimas where you controlled one person with helper NPCs, the Fallouts, the Elder Scrolls, etc. The party controlled had the Wizardry series, the gold box, the Baldur’s gates.

I like both kinds and I respect that all RPGs make a decision on how they will proceed - I just can’t see why there are so many insisting NWN would be a better game with party management.

Ah, someone remembers Telengard… good game.

One point – at least as far as Ultima V, you had complete control during combat over all the members of your party. Not sure about afterward; I never did figure out the combat systems in VI and VII.

I have no objection per se to a game where you control one character. I liked all the old Rogue-style games, I liked Morrowind, etc. What I don’t like is having to conduct tactical combat when my henchmen have crappy AI. From what I played of NWN (especially in the big boss/setpiece battles), my henchman would sometimes run off and fight people I didn’t want him to fight, or he would get killed because he had no potions and I couldn’t get to him quickly enough to give him one. General AI settings for the henchmen were not sufficiently configurable to address all these concerns. There is nothing more frustrating than knowing how to win a battle but being unable to execute that strategy. If you’re going to make tactical combat be a major part of a game, and you’re going to make direct control of party members impossible, then the AI had better be very good. NWN’s, as far as I saw, did not qualify.

I felt the game was primarily designed for MP parties, and the single-player aspect was rather tacked-on. Maybe I’m giving the boys at Bioware short shrift, but that’s the impression I got after Chapter 1. Haven’t played beyond that.