Neverwinter Nights Original Soundtrack


Review by · October 12, 2018

Editor’s Note: The tracklist displayed on the left reflect how the tracks were ordered on the back cover. This order is wrong and has been corrected in its entry on

Neverwinter Nights’ soundtrack is difficult to review because it is simultaneously enjoyable and frustrating to listen to.

Stylistically, it is closest to Morrowind, which composer Jeremy Soule also created the soundtrack for. Dreamy and impressionistic but not as soaring or epic as Soule’s later contributions to the Elder Scrolls series, the music of Neverwinter Nights maintains a sense of airy openness by generally keeping things sparsely orchestrated, leaning towards the softer dynamic range, and only occasionally utilizing the full grandness of the orchestra. As such, the music is often beautiful and moving whilst also mysterious and intriguingly distant, easily captivating the imagination. Sounds great, right? Well, NWN’s OST is also structured by the sound design principles of classic isometric Dungeons & Dragons-style RPGs. These games, one of which Soule also composed for (Icewind Dale), featured short, compact musical pieces that focused on setting a scene and capturing or enhancing that setting, becoming more a part of the game world itself than floating independently of it.

Unfortunately, this combination doesn’t always work when the soundtrack is experienced in isolation from the game. In this case, the music sometimes feels too restrained and inexpressive, not making the impact it needs to within a limited duration. Too often, Soule only has enough space to set the mood, not enough to explore and develop the established atmosphere or take the listener on a journey. The conclusion of pieces can often feel jarring or unsatisfying, like an incomplete or rushed speech. Finally, with the emphasis on atmosphere over melody or rhythm, a lot of songs, whilst pleasant and effective enough at capturing the atmosphere, aren’t especially memorable. This is completely unlike Morrowind, where despite the stylistic similarities between the two soundtracks, each piece has room to progress and develop, and the music consequently holds up better as an independent work. As a longtime NWN player, I can match pictures and scenarios to the music and have had the time to pick favorites, which allows me an extra degree of engagement with the soundtrack. But not everybody will have this position.

The above might make the soundtrack sound like it’s excessively meandering and consequently not worth listening to, but I should emphasize that there are moments of incredible beauty, such as “Forest Day Theme 1” and “Forest Night Theme,” that compare favorably to many of Soule’s best and better known works. There is a balanced and diverse mix of pieces. Finally, the combat tracks are also a welcome exception to the rule; they are surprisingly varied whilst following the example of previous Infinity Engine RPGs in emphasizing strong rhythms and melodies to underscore the intensity and rush of combat. Nevertheless, I do feel that the music could have been so much more had the track lengths been permitted to be longer, although I accept that doing so would’ve likely jeopardized the game’s identity.

Overall, Neverwinter Nights’ soundtrack is a pleasant and atmospheric listening experience. However, it isn’t Soule’s most engaging work, nor would it be my first recommendation from his long and prestigious discography. Since it loses some of its power when isolated from the game, I suspect that its appeal will be mostly limited to NWN fans and Soule enthusiasts.

At the time of writing, the NWN OST is out of print, but it comes bundled with the game (in MP3 format) when purchased via GOG, along with the OSTs for the NWN expansions. (The track titles are also a bit more evocative.) I suspect that most of the soundtrack’s target audience will be content with that, and those who are curious enough to listen would be better served buying the game (which is already fairly affordable and worth grabbing anyway) and listening to the music in its ideal context.

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Francis Li

Francis Li

Francis was part of the RPGFan Music team from 2016-2018. During his tenure, Francis bolstered our music review offerings by lending his unique voice and critique of the world of RPGs and VGM. Being a critic can be tough work sometimes, but his steadfast work helped maintain the quality of reviews RPGFan is known for.