D&D in a box, Part 2

A few months back, I started this thread , wherein I requested recommendations for a computer-based Dungeons and Dragons style game that I could purchase in a box, wouldn’t need other people to play, wouldn’t require me to work too hard (including thinking), and could put away if I didn’t feel like playing. Please note, I have absolutely NO interest in playing on-line, anymore than I have any interest in playing with a group of people in person. I don’t want to have to interact with other real human beings. Not that I have anything against human beings, but that’s not what I’m looking for. Period, end of that part of the discussion, ok? :slight_smile:

Out of the recommendations from that thread, I ended up buying Baldur’s Gate (I & II), Dungeon Siege (I & II), and Neverwinter Nights. It turned out to be very much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Baldur’s Gate simply required too damned much of me, Dungeon Siege required a little bit too little, but Neverwinter Nights was just right (not perfect, mind you, but the right degree of effort needed).

Let me explain. First of all, I’m not the greatest multi-processor around, so I get flustered when I have to handle my henchmen in any depth whatsoever. Hell, I’m not even comfortable playing any kind of magic user when I have no henchmen; again, it requires more thought and effort than I’m looking to put in! I have the brains to do it (or, at least, I used to play a cleric successfully in paper and pencil D&D back in the late 80s), but I’m not interested in working them out so hard when I’m at my leisure. The whole environment and the number of things you had to consider was just too huge in Baldur’s Gate. I gave it a try a few times, and eventually just admitted that it simply wasn’t fun enough to justify the effort I was putting into it, effort being the thing that in general I am looking to avoid at all costs.

On the other hand, Dungeon Siege was just pure hack and slash, and got boring eventually. It wasn’t hard to play, I’ll give it that, but it had almost no plot. I like a plot.

Neverwinter Nights (NWN) seems to hit a happy medium for me. Even in the expansion modules, where you have considerably more control of the henchmen than you do in the original game (for example, you can give them things, and choose what armor and weapons they use), it’s just not as complex or difficult as it seemed to be in Baldur’s Gate. Further, you can get away without playing with any henchmen at all if you are pretty powerful, and that’s my preference. When I have a henchman, I spend all my time worrying like crazy about him or her - watching their health more carefully than my own, and even worrying about hurting their feelings! (Don’t tell me this is stupid. I know it’s stupid. But I’m fifty years old, and at this point in my life, there are some things that are simply not going to change!) Hell, I tried playing it as a Druid once, summoned a Dire Boar as my familiar, and then spent all my time worrying about the damned thing! (His name was Piggie, and I pet him and stroked him and called him George). That lasted a good two-three hours before I realized that this was making me absolutely crazy. Plus computer controlled henchmen can be annoying; they rush in where angels fear to tread, and fight each battle as if it’s their last, so if they have any spells or limited special abilities, they can easily use up all their good stuff on piddle-ass little fights and have nothing left for the real battles. So on the whole, I prefer to adventure alone (you also get better XP). But in Baldur’s Gate, that’s an easy way to die really fast, especially early on in the game.

I’ve really enjoyed NWN, and I was looking forward to getting NWN II. But I’ve read some previews that suggest (very happily from their standpoint) that it’s a lot more like Baldur’s Gate in many ways - a lot more control of the henchmen and what sounded like a considerably greater degree of player complexity. Plus the darned thing is almost 50 bucks, and what with being out of work indefinitely because of dizzy-spells, and looking at a reduced paycheck as a result pretty soon, $50 is way more of an issue for me now than it was back in May when I first asked. Last but not least, there probably won’t be any good walk-throughs or hints available right off the bat for NWN II, and I’m sufficiently pathetic that I need those badly!

I’ll add one more thing. Unlike a real gamer, I am overjoyed when a game is easy to play succesfully, and enjoy nothing more than cutting through a swath of opponents like butter because I’m seventeen times more powerful than they are. My problem with Dungeon Siege was NOT that it was easy; it was that it had little to no plot. I have absolutely no ego invested in my skill as a gamer; I know that I have none, and am unlikely to develop much of any. I just want to enjoy myself.

So what I want to know is, are there other games that require an effort level comparable to NWN and have a good storyline? NWN’s stories weren’t perfect by any means, but they were enough to keep things interesting, and enough to cause me to play through a second time as a male character just to see how the romance part of the story would work for a guy. I don’t mind if it’s a very easy game to play; in fact, the easier, the better! But I do mind if there’s just nothing to it but cutting through a bunch of orcs or whatever, with no real quests or interactions with the NPCs. Oh, please note that while I’m open to other RPGs, my preference is for the D&D based ones. Second choice would be alternate (or actual) history, next choice would be sci-fi (even though I love reading it), and last choice would be contemporary.

Oh, the other question I had was about NWN itself. I know one of its great virtues is that you can develop modules for it (not that I have the slightest interest in doing that), and that a number of people have done so and many of these are available for free or very little money. Only problem is, I have no idea where to find them. Can someone point me at a website or three?

I thank you in advance for your help!

Oh, btw, I also want to avoid a “persistent world” game. I know that it cuts down on the realism a great deal, but I prefer a game in which, regardless of how long I take to get things done, the critical events are just unfolding when I get to the right point to observe them.

The bad news is, almost any new game you buy is going to be in that price range. The good news is, the on-line walkthroughs get released at an astounding rate. For any high-profile new release, you should be able to find complete walkthroughs in less than a week.

Anyway, if you want actual D&D licensed games, NWN II is about it, unless you’re interested in digging up some older releases. Icewind Dale was a more combat-intensive version of Baldur’s Gate, but you might have the same frustrations with party members that you did in the BG games. The Temple of Elemental Evil was an attempt to bring 3rd Edition D&D rules to the PC without making any compromises in the system. It’s turn-based, so you can sit and think about your choices in the middle of combat. But it’s also every bit as complicated as the table-top game, which can be pretty daunting. It was also horribly, horribly buggy when it was released. I’m not sure how well patched it is now, I haven’t played it in about a year. Going real old school, there are the archaic Gold Box D&D games, such as Pool of Radiance and Dragons of Krynn. I used to play Pool of Radiance on my 386. I don’t know how well they’ll have held up: I can still enjoy them for the nostalgia factor, but without that, they might not appeal to anyone else. Lastly, there’s Planescape: Torment, arguably the smartest, deepest, most intelligent RPG ever made. It’s built on a modified Baldur’s Gate engine, although with less emphasis on controlling your party members than the other game. It’s an older game now, but still runs pretty well on current PCs.

There are some good contemporary RPGs if you don’t mind stepping outside of the D&D/fantasy milieu. The Knights of the Old Republic are RPGs set in the Star Wars universe, a couple thousand years before The Phantom Menace. They’ve got great plots and character, although the game mechanics were a little weak. Jade Empire is a game from the same company, using largely the same engine, but set in a fantasy world based off of feudal China. They’re working on a PC port for it (it was originally an XBox game) but it hasn’t been released yet. The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion is a first person RPG set in a traditional medieval fantasy world. It’s one of the best RPGs in years, and has a pretty easy learning curve, but it’s a resource hog of epic proportions. You need a seriously beefy computer to run it. Like NWN, it makes heavy use of downloadable content, some of it premium, but most of it fan-made and free. Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is coming out in two months, and looks pretty good from the previews. Like Oblivion, you’ll probably need a lot of PC muscle to run it, thought. Older, but still very good, games include the post apocalyptic Fallout series, which are some excellent turn-based RPGs. System Shock 2 is more of a first-person shooter, but it has RPG elements (your character levels up as you gain experience) and has an incredibly creepy storyline. Your character wakes up out of a hybernation capsule on the first faster than light spaceship, only to find the crew dead and the ship overrun by strange monsters. You have to figure out what happened by finding the scattered audio logs of the dead crew, and prevent the ship from returning to Earth with its cargo of deadly mutants.

Personally, the lack of control over henchmen is ultimately too much of a frustration for me in NWN. The same thing was less frustrating in, say, Fallout, because it was turn-based and so I could react to what my friends did on a round-by-round basis and because there weren’t these magic spells that needed to be dished out with some precision.

You can play Neverwinter Nights modules from now till Kingdom Come. Here’s a good source for fan-created ones:

There are also the commercially available ones from Bioware. I wouldn’t buy them through their download system, because I saw an actual expansion pack for sale at Best Buy a couple of months ago which had multiple official module expansions available in one boxed package. Check that out, and I suspect you can find a bargain that will extend the life of your NWN game for a good while.

You might also look into some older games, as Miller mentioned. Lands of Lore is fun without a whole lot of complications:

http://www.the-underdogs.info/game.php?id=1324

Anachronox is a console-style RPG, science fiction but with a humorous story line.

Divine Divinity is Diablo-like in its interface, but much more involved story-wise.

Arcanum is an excellent steampunk/fantasy RPG.

Seems to me like this question comes up often enough that we ought to get together and create a Straight Dope RPG Recommendation FAQ.

I would recommend Planescape: Torment; you should be able to get a used one for pretty cheap. You will have more henchmen to deal with, but, IIRC, they were pretty good about not dying. Torment was a great game with some really good (if twisted) plot. There is some henchman management, but not much. You can actually pretty much ignore them, if you choose. I found the whole background very entertaining and emersive.

Also, there are several walkthroughs available. You can customize your character only according to three classes: Fighter, Thief, and Mage. But you can multiclass all three, with no xp issues. (I do recall something about making sure your levels 5 and 10 are the same class, or something…)

Cheers!

Thank you a great deal for your help. I have a fair amount of computer muscle, having just gotten a new Dell in May (basic specs in the thread I referenced in the OP), so I doubt there’s much out there I couldn’t play due to system limitations. It’s all a matter of player limitations, i.e. me!

I think I could handle a turn-based complex game better than the ones that aren’t turn based. On the other hand, NWN has made me nuts with its bugs, and it’s not especially buggy as such things go, I gather.

Right now, based on what’s been said thus far, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Planetscape: Torment sound like my best bets for purchase, and I’ll go off and check out the sites Johnny Angel (are you old enough to remember Shelley Fabares?) suggested. I probably already have the commercially available NWN expansion modules, as I bought the platinum edition of the game.

Thank you all very much, and if anyone else wants to throw in his or her two cents worth, I’ll be delighted to read what they have to say. My problem is that I’m not a typical gamer. Which isn’t to say that the limitations of the NWN henchmen weren’t frustrating; they were. It’s just that there’s only so much complication I’m able to handle before it becomes work rather than play for me. Plus the guilt thing, of course.

Oh, btw, while it’s not a requirement, I did like the fact that you could get romantically involved with NPCs in NWN; it’s a nice feature. Kinda lends a little something to your conversations with them. More humor is also a good thing.

Thanks!