Monday, May 7, 2007

Late to the Party: NWN Hordes of the Underdark

A couple of days ago, I finished the campaign included with the first Neverwinter Nights expansion, Shadows of Undrentide (SoU). At first, though, it was a bit disappointing because this campaign assumes you start fresh; porting over my level 16 character from the previous campaign was possible but hardly logical, as SoU has you starting as an "apprentice" adventurer.

After four artifacts were stolen from your master's home (a dwarven wizard who's apparently also a Harper) by kobolds, you're tasked to track down and get the artifacts back. This brings you into conflict with the white dragon that rules the kobolds as well as its accomplice, a (Drow?) sorceress that keeps the gnolls in thrall. Caught in between is one of the most interesting NPCs ever created for NWN, Deekin, who'll soon join you as a Kobold Bard. After recovering the artifacts, you find out that one of them (the Tower Statue) was more than it seemed: inside was a mysterious jewel whose true powers can only be identified by journeying across the Anauroch to find your master's archeologist friend. And from there, you end up in the sunken city of Undrentide which the "big boss" wanted to raise up. Undrentide was apparently one of the flying cities of Netheril, an ancient empire which wielded powerful magic compared to present-day standards. The climactic final battle takes place in the highest tower of the city, as the city floats above the desert.

SoU's adventure was a bit shorter than the first campaign's "plague in Neverwinter" storyline, but noticeably better designed. For starters, it was less of a Monty Haul than the previous campaign, and there were really a couple of times (okay, maybe more like a handful) that I had to reload and rethink my strategy in order to continue. The final "boss" fight was also more epic: as I went around smashing the mythallars that gave the medusa sorceress nigh invulnerability, pieces of masonry were starting to float up into the air in a Dragonball-Z-esque way!

Still high from finishing the adventure, I immediately set off on the 2nd expansion's adventure, Hordes of the Underdark. Hordes of the Underdark (HotU) is a direct sequel to the previous expansion, SoU. The hero is assumed to be the same one from SoU, as evidenced by the copy of a book titled Shadows of Undrentide, written by one Deekin. Also, this expansion's teleporting/respawn mechanic, the Relic of the Reaper, is said to have come into the hero's possession during his "brief stay in the Plane of Shadow." People who played SoU would remember that at SoU's end, as Undrentide crashed back to the desert, the hero used the Portable Door (one of the artifacts you gain in the endgame) to flee to the Plane of Shadow.

Deekin also makes a reapperance as your first henchman. Also, some of the henchmen who were available in the first NWN adventure (i.e. the plague in Neverwinter), make their appearance here as a party of adventurers which you would probably need to save at some point in the story.

This time around, it's off to Waterdeep and the mysterious mega-dungeon that lies beneath the city, Undermountain. This time, the City of Splendors faces an attack from the Hordes of the Underdark which apparently is making their way through Undermountain, something that has not happened before. They need a hero to take the fight to them and you are one of those who heeded the call.

So I loaded up Laire Random, my Rouge 6/Fighter 6/Weapon Master 1 character from Shadows of Undrentide, and started the adventure (HotU actually allows you to start out as a fresh Level 15 character but I wanted to play the actual character I went through SoU with). The very first event that happened divested Laire of his gear from SoU. Wah. I've read somewhere that you have a chance to recover them later in the story though. Right now, I'm running around Waterdeep--the small section you're allowed to explore at least; the City's closed a la Neverwinter in the first adventure--trying to get adequately equipped before descending into Undermountain.

Wish me luck!