For some, Neverwinter Nights may be best remembered as one of the first 3D powered role playing titles from BioWare. For others, Neverwinter Nights was a multiplayer dungeon crawl hosted on AOL back when the online service was second to Compuserve. Neverwinter Nights Mobile, from JAMDAT, bears more resemblance to the latter. There are no 3D graphics here. There’s no open ended gameplay, multiplayer sessions or player-controlled DMs. Instead, Neverwinter Nights Mobile is more of a traditional single player role playing game.
You begin Neverwinter Nights Mobile by constructing a character. Using the classes and skill sets found in Dungeons and Dragons (3rd edition), you’ll begin with rolling dice and distributing points. This lets you fine-tune the creation of a fairly unique identity. It definitely makes Neverwinter Nights Mobile more complex than the usual Fighter, Mage and Ranger classes.
Unlike other BioWare titles, the conversations in Neverwinter Nights Mobile don’t bend to cater to the character you’ve made. Fans of BioWare titles will remember fondly that a charming thief could always talk themselves out of a sticky situation. Unfortunately, dialogue is more of a one-sided affair here; usually text that informs you what to do and where to go next. Thankfully the text is quite legible and well written.
The other thing that was missing in Neverwinter Nights Mobile is the ability to access sidequests unique to the class you’ve chosen. Those who remember Baldur’s Gate 2 may remember that a bard would have to put on a play, while a fighter would have to go undertake some heroic outing. No such luck here.
If you’re a role playing novice, Neverwinter Nights Mobile comes with a comprehensive help section. It will explain a lot of the Dungeons and Dragons terms as well as instructions on how the game works. Although it is all text, I found myself happily referring to it more than once.
Neverwinter Nights Mobile is divided into two maps. You have the world map and then the playing area. Because the game is in 2D, the playing area and characters look a lot more like Final Fantasy than any BioWare created role playing games. Hence, you’ll spend a lot of time bumping up to chests, wall fixtures and cabinets to get items.
Combat is more automated than button mashing. Depending on the statistics you have, you’ll attack at certain intervals. You can choose to quickly arm between melee and ranged weapon. But for the majority of the game, you’ll simply run around trying to get a good position and avoid being swarmed by the many enemies on screen. It will play well for fans of online role playing titles like EverQuest, Ultima Online or Dark Ages of Camelot where combat is more of a passive wait-and-attack affair.
One of the things I didn’t like about the game was the absence of hit detection. Except for ranged weapons, where an arrow streaks from your character, you don’t really know when you’ve been hit. It would have been nice if critical or near death hits shook the screen a little. And one thing I don’t see developers take advantage of enough is the system in Planescape: Torment where the damage received is shown in numerical health points above the character.
Neverwinter Nights Mobile starts you off in a lush green forest peppered with mountains and cavernous dungeons. It doesn’t stray too far from that. However repetitive the scenery looks, though, every playing area opens up with a little loading time. The game “fetches” the particulars of a dungeon or town by connecting to an online network. This loading is pretty lengthy. For bigger areas, it seems to take longer and I would have preferred if they could cache some of data by quadrants. For example, leaving a dungeon (one) to head to town to sell loot (two) and then heading back (three, four) took four loading screens.
The overarching story of Neverwinter Nights Mobile is divided into three chapters. It promises fifteen hours of gameplay. This is pretty unprecedented for a wireless game. I found the lack of any multiplayer to be a bit disappointing though. The very least they could do is let people trade items and characters through the phone.
Thus, you’ll have to settle with trading items to the NPC vendors in the game. You’ll do this a lot too since loot and treasures are bountiful in this world. Using these items yourself may turn into a bit of a hassle. Sure, it’s nice that like the other Neverwinter Nights titles, you can arm yourself in many categories including gloves and helmets. But it’s another thing to actually scroll through a list of inventory objects to find the best one. One option that might be nice is a button to that says “Arm the best items”. At least then, you don’t have to dig through three or four layer menus to get things done.
Without a lot of competition, Neverwinter Nights Mobile is easily one of the deepest role playing titles you’ll come across in the wireless space. As a handheld game, it features far more environments than could possibly be fitted in a regular phone’s memory. Dungeons and Dragons fans will also be happy with the 3rd edition implementation and Forgotten Realms setting. And gamers used to console style role playing games will find more familiarity here than your typical PC role playing title.