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Platform: PC
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Bioware
Genre: RPG
Format: CD
Release: US 11/25/03 - Japan N/A



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"The Drider comes."
 
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"Your choice, worship or die."
 
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"I seeee you!"
 
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"They followed me home... can I keep em?"
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Justin Hoeger
Preview First Look
10/27/03
Justin Hoeger

“Neverwinter Nights” and its first expansion pack, “Shadows of Undrentide,” both followed the same basic mold: you create a fresh, inexperienced character and guide him or her through the game’s quests, gradually building up abilities and statistics to make the character into a physical powerhouse, master wizard, or a bit of both. The games’ many combinations of races, classes and skills made for titles with nearly unlimited play potential, and the powerful world editing tools let players create their own AD&D worlds. But there were limits – in terms of levels, characters stopped at 20. “Hordes of the Underdark” will up that ceiling a bit, pitting high-level characters against legions of powerful foes.

In “Hordes,” you start out with that seasoned level 20 power-house, either by importing a character from one of the previous games or constructing one from scratch, and characters can now reach up to level 40. And you’ll need that extra strength, because this game is filled to the brim with the nastiest creatures AD&D has to offer – Demiliches, Beholders, Demonflesh Golems and Mind Flayers are just some of the 16 new enemies you’ll face this time around.

The story centers on a power struggle among the Drow, an evil race of subterranean elves, who are struggling for power after their goddess, Lloth, disappears. One Drow rebel has raised a powerful army of monstrosities to destroy the northern city of Waterdeep. Your character is prophesied as the only one who can stop this rebel, and you are marked for death. You fend off a Drow assassin, but not before he’s able to make off with all your hard-earned equipment, so even though your character’s level is high, their equipment won’t be strong at the start.

Extra levels aren’t the only advantage you’ll have – the game offers six new Prestige Classes, including Weapon Master, Red Dragon Disciple, Champion of Torm, Dwarven Defender and Plane Shifter, which can be learned when certain conditions are met. These classes can be added as a second or third class and don’t require as much effort to be effective, unlike normal multi-classing, which needs both classes to be kept near the same level for both to be effective.

Also provided are more than 40 new spells, such as Ball Lightning, and more than 50 new feats, such as Armor Skin. You can also employ two henchmen this time around, and several of these return from previous games. Not only that, but not everyone in the Underdark is a foe – the assorted monstrous races in the deep places have an uneasy living arrangement, and will react to you differently under some circumstances.

On the design side, the game features four new tile sets and an improved toolset. Visually, the game will get a boost, but don’t expect the eye-candy to be that much sweeter than previous titles. However, the camera has also been improved, allowing for a closer look at the action. The four new tile sets include: the initial exterior catacombs of the Underdark, the habitats of the Drow carved with effigies of their dark spider god, the organic-looking Mind Flayer caves, and the actually organic Beholder tunnels. There will also be new voice sets and music by composer Jeremy Soule.

The game’s interface should remain the same as before, with a real-time progression of rounds and turns with the option to pause the action to select a strategy for battle. “Hordes of the Underdark” is no revolution; but looks to be a solid expansion to “Neverwinter Nights.” If BioWare can keep coming up with interesting extensions of the original game, the franchise could last for a long time to come.



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© 2003 Atari Interactive, Inc.
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