Neverwinter Nights was a fabulously promising game that, despite good reviews, had many questions to answer. Firstly, there was concern about its lasting appeal and the ability to deliver the multiplayer experience and grow a community to create the modules. A more direct concern for BioWare was being able to convince gamers that NWN was capable of a truly epic singleplayer experience, like past BioWare games.
Shadows of Undrentide took the first tentative steps forward, though it seemed to stumble in places. However, Hordes of the Underdark is a fully BioWare-developed expansion, unlike SoU. The extra content provided is quite staggering, there’s a whole new selection of music, tilesets and monsters.
In fact, the very name Hordes of the Underdark hardly does justice to the expansion, since the Underdark is but the middle third of the game. Undermountain is the first and, by the last chapter, the player is advanced enough to warrant some planar travel, if you get my drift.
Better than the new tiles and monsters are the wonderful new features given to player characters. The level limit has been raised to 40, though the player will be hard-pressed to reach level 27 by the end of the campaign. There is a veritable deluge of new prestige classes like the Pale Master and Red Dragon Disciple. These aren’t just your run-of-the-mill modifications to the base class, either.
The Blackguards and Arcane Archers of Shadows of Undrentide have nothing on the new prestige classes, which are truly inspired. Anyone choosing a Pale Master or Red Dragon Disciple will be facing a complete change of playing style after putting in just a few levels into those classes. There’s really no proper comparison or description that would do justice to these, but suffice it to say they’re quite unique, powerful and enjoyable.
BioWare also threw in a few pleasant surprises into the later acts. The weapons, which are already interesting enough (at least one is intelligent and speaks), can be upgraded in chapters 2 and 3. On top of that, the player gets to conduct a defense against a siege at one point in the game. That all sounds impressive, but does it work?