Another gaming venture in which I’ve recently engaged is a return to Neverwinter Nights, the old classic of early “3D” CRPGs. I got back into at the request of a buddy of mine who suggested we play through some of the player-generated content together. I figured I’d give it a go, since I remember enjoying the game quite a lot when it was first released more than a decade ago.
The return to it was brutal. Let me be clear, though; it’s very likely not the game’s fault, but my own. It’s been so long since I’ve played something so, honestly, tough. With MMO mechanics having largely been standardized, things like balanced pulls, beginner areas, and trash mobs have become part of my gaming psyche. This is not how things were done in Neverwinter Nights. I thought I’d be clever and play a rogue so I could stealth around and make sneak attacks, but the truth is that more often I’m being sneak attacked by sly wolves or bandit rogues.
I’ve died over and over, and each time I die, there’s an experience and gold punishment for having done so.
Part of me rebels and wants to spit at the designer for being so “unfair” in the early stages of the game. I haven’t played the damn thing in probably 8 or more years, so to relearn both the mechanical system (which is not entirely D&D) was hard enough, but to top it off with having to relearn the culture of caution in a gaming atmosphere where players mostly run free and do as they see fit, conquering much harder mobs and overcoming the odds – well – that doesn’t happen in NWN.
That part of me is constantly criticizing the design, but the truth is, D&D is hard. My buddy keeps pointing out how “the early levels” of D&D are inherently poorly balanced, but I’ve never DM’d or been a player in a campaign where low level PCs were put to such tests.
But that’s the hot-headed part of me. The more coolly analytical part knows that I’ve been reckless (not only because my buddy keeps telling me I’m being reckless). I’m not used to games being so lethal; I was legitimately one-shotted by stealthed mobs three or four deaths in a row. In the mean time, mobs detect my stealth from across the screen and come running.
I had some early, deaths, too, from playing an RPG the way many (stupid) RPGs are played; I went into some random person’s house and started looting it. She did not take kindly to this and promptly killed me. That sort of “realistic” response is missing from so many games, and I’ve always lamented its absence. I loved that you couldn’t sell stolen things in Morrowind, and that people would get angry and potentially even attack you in Oblivion and Skyrim; that felt much more authentic. However, that early death set me back and prevented me from being the appropriate level when I left town, meaning I was getting one-shotted by the aforementioned mobs because I had less hp than I should have.
Part of the problem, too, is that D&D is designed for well-rounded parties. I figured a rogue could use magic device enough to partially make up for having no spellcasters, and I’d have a tank to help with mobs, but the fact is I can’t heal the tank at all right now, so if there’s a mispull, we’re likely both dead.
So these two sides of me are at war. I know I should be more careful; I’ve just been trained out of it by a decade of “less realistic” games. I also feel, though, that design that’s so tightly tuned is perhaps at fault because it means one early mistake can lead to, eventually, an unplayable character.
That said, these early setbacks haven’t prevented me from wanting to play; quite the opposite. I want to play to overcome the nonsense of the early levels and move on to brighter pastures. It’s just been a hard wake-up call from the land of MMOs.
Stubborn (and probably re-rolling)