I consider myself to be an old school gamer. It’s a term that gets bandied around a lot these days, but I don’t think anyone has ever bothered to clarify what it actually means. Is it someone who likes old games, or has played for a certain amount of time? Or is it someone who searches for a certain quality in games that once upon a time could be located quite easily, but which modern games seem to lack?
I place myself in the latter category. Before 3D rendering and normal mapping, games had to rely on 2D sprites for graphics which, if we’re completely honest, were rubbish. But to compensate for this, game developers had to use this little thing called ‘gameplay’ to keep us interested. To most modern gamers, this is an alien concept. They’ve been beaten down and suppressed by too many hours of Halo, CoD or – much, much worse – WoW.
Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that in my humble opinion, the greatest game of all time is Baldur’s Gate 2 – Shadows of Amn (Baldur’s Gate was Bioware’s first serious foray into the RPG genre, and thank any God who wants to listen that it was as successful as it was. The world would be a much sadder place without Bioware). Now, I was recently looking for a game I could play multiplayer with my lovely girlfriend (whose refusal to join us civilised folk on a PC greatly limits the number of games avaliable to us), and the first one that came to mind was Neverwinter Nights 2, the spiritual successor to BG2 SoA. Both are based in Faerun, the world of Dungeons and Dragons, although NWN2 uses the 3.5 rule set while BG2 used 2.0 instead (2.5 if you happen to have the expansion).
I had played NWN2 before, several years ago, but never managed to finish it. After about an hour of playing, I remembered why. The control system is incredibly awkward, and the camera is more interested in staring at the wall that anything useful. My preferred class has always been wizard, but annoyingly enough most of the best D&D spells are missing or completely nerfed (I nearly cried when I found out that there was no Comet spell). Sure the graphics are far superior to BG2, as they should be in a game nearly 8 years newer, but the storyline is comparatively weak, and most of the NPC’s are either completely useless or profoundly irritating. In the case of the gnomish bard, both. NPC’s in BG2 each added something unique to the party with their presence, while NWN2’s NPC’s are about as generic as you can get, with very few exceptions. The two romances that are available are boring and pointless, with about as much emotional depth as a tree stump. One is essentially a glorified one night stand – nothing at all like the detailed, involving romances in BG2.
My point in all this is, just because something looks better doesn’t necessarily mean it is. I’ve completed BG2 so many times I’ve lost count (at about 50-60 hours per play through, no less), as many as three times with the same character even. NWN2 didn’t even get through a full play through before I became horribly bored.
Our next play through? Baldur’s Gate 2.