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NWN/HotU – Kingmaker Premium Module Review *some spoilers*

Discussion in 'Mod Reviews' started by Spellbound, Jan 5, 2005.

  1. Spellbound

    Spellbound Fleur de Mystique Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Kingmaker Premium Module
    Version: v1.1. (Requires NWN 1.64+ and HotU installed)
    Review first posted on: January 5, 2005
    Review updated: March 5, 2005
    Mod download location: http://nwn.bioware.com/premium/module_kingmaker_support_changelog_v1.1.html

    Background

    A voice whispers to you, insistent, calling you, pressing you forward into the northlands. Through impossible battles it urges you on, but your friends can’t hear this voice and they don’t understand – the risk, the blood, for what? They don’t want to go on. The enemy is old – attack after attack, drawing you and your party northward, taunting, laughing. And so you move on to a confrontation that you know is inevitable.

    The module opens with you and your friends once again at a crossroads. In the dead of night, exhausted from the never-ending chase, they look to you once again and question – some support you, some wonder why. An odd group of friends they be – Calibast -- a loyal good natured Azer fighter and an old friend, Trip – a sweet, but cowardly Wererat rogue, Jaboli – an arrogant Rakshasa wizard and Kaidala – a Nymph druid that is obsessed with dying. As you talk with your friends, trying to ignore the ever-present voice buzzing in your ear, consensus is reached once again, and the party presses forward through thick brush and comes out onto an open, burned out field. Looming before you are the towering stone walls of the Keep of Cyan and directly below them a vicious battle is in play – the Keep is under siege. You and your party quickly try to close the distance to the Keep, weaving in between fireballs exploding on the ground, the hordes attacking anything that moves. As they catch sight of you they advance, axes covered in the blood of the innocent. Your friends valiantly try to defend you, but the journey has been too long, their bodies no longer have the strength. In the final moments of their glory, the enemy that you have been chasing finally appears before you – The Masked Man. (Screenshot: Confrontation with the Masked Man) He laughs at your efforts and in the few fleeting final moments, you turn and sadly look at your loyal friends, their blood spilling on the ground and wished it had ended differently. But it was not to be. In a blinding light, you demand one last time for him to unmask himself, to show his true self and amid the wild laughter emanating from his glowing life form you make your last feeble charge, but it is done, it is over. (Screenshot: The Masked Man Begins His Attack) The life is torn away from you and your companions and death comes quickly. (Screenshot: The Masked Man Releases his Death Spell)

    This is the beginning of our story.

    Content

    The module begins with the main character being resurrected by a Shaft of Light that has quite an interesting personality. (Screenshot: The Shaft of Light) You are instructed that with this Shaft of Light, which has now become a magical sword, you can resurrect two of your party members, but for every one you bring back to life, you must doom the other to true death. I found this choice to be very difficult at first. Trip’s “doom” dialogue was heart wrenching – his sobs and pleading in a child like voice reminiscent of Cespenar, just cut to my heart. Once you have decided on your party, you enter the keep and meet up with an assortment of NPC’s that took part in the defense of the Keep. They inform you of the situation at the Keep, which involves a search for a new Lord, for which you may apply, providing that you can get yourself elected that is.

    The module’s plot is divided between performing a variety of quests for various guildmasters and the never-ending search for the Masked Man. The entire module is on a timed sequence, where you can only perform a certain number of quests before your promotion to Lordship. You do get a few warnings along the way, but time is of the essence.

    The quests themselves were interesting, some far more difficult that others. As would be expected, the choice of NPCs had a bit of an impact on difficulty level. I played through as a fighter the first time and had an easy go of it – taking Calibast and Trip to round out my party. The second time through however, I played as a sorcerer with Calibast and Kaidala. While Calibast is an excellent fighter and Kaidala’s shape changing abilities were superb, I really felt the impact of not having Trip’s trap disarming abilities. Some of them were quite nasty. The guild quests overall represented a good cross section of monsters, locations (typically NWN all the way), but were a little light on loot. I didn’t really come across much in the way of gold or very interesting items, except for the psionic gems, which talk to you through the mind of the Masked Man. Without providing too much of a spoiler here, I will say that different quests provide different insights into the overall storyline. The archeologists quest (which is by far the most difficult and graphically eye-catching), provides some additional insight that shouldn’t be missed.

    I think the module is quite well done as it leads you down the path of your destiny – to find out who this Masked Man really is and why he continuously draws you to him. You get just the right amount of clues along the way to keep it interesting and the ending turns out to be a real shocker, where all is revealed.

    Gameplay

    The module begins with your character starting at Level 3. Should you try to import a character from HotU or SoU, the character will automatically be de-leveled down to Level 3, losing any of its prior prestige class abilities. I tried this and was a bit disappointed at first. To help with initial module questions and issues, I suggest taking a look at the Kingmaker FAQ, a good source of information for the module, as well as their Kingmaker general and technical boards.

    Supposedly there are options for romance in this module, but aside from a few romantic bits of dialogue, I saw no true romance options. A major part of this has to come from a major portion of the module being on a timer – there really is no time for anything, aside from questing – and even that has to be done very quickly. I played both a female and a male to see if it made any difference – there was none that I detected. A few suggestive quips and that was about it.

    At first, I was somewhat annoyed that I couldn’t finish all the quests – even trying to go through them at lightning speed, it was for naught. However, it does lend to the replayability of the module – but I think that should be a thing of choice, not a requirement to complete it.

    This module comes with an authentication process that is triggered every time you load up a game. I didn’t find it to be intrusive whatsoever – the authentication took 3 seconds with my cable connection. The unpacking of the module, however, did take quite a bit of time.

    Sound

    Without a doubt, the most significant attribute of this module is the voicing. It is, without question, the best character voicing of dialogue that I have ever heard in a game. The voices sound true and completely match what you would think these characters would sound like. Of particular note is the voice of Enivid Divine, the perfect embodiment of what a female paladin should sound like. The dialogue itself was intriguing, funny at times and completely believable. There is a good bit of it, so that’s a good thing!

    The music was a blend of familiar NWN tracks and some new sounds that were quite excellent. The new songs, which were mostly battle scores, occurred mostly in the last quarter of the module, but went a long way to adding a good degree of mystery and successfully got the battle blood up and flowing.

    Visuals

    The visuals in this module were standard NWN graphic displays – well known tilesets of caves and crypts – so no surprises there. There were a few quests that had some interesting visual puzzle effects (Screenshot: The Archeologist's Quest Puzzle), but outside of that, the visuals were quite ordinary.

    Bugs

    Though most of the gameplay was smooth, with no crashing issues, I did find a few bugs during both my pass throughs. I experienced some dialogue issues in a few instances, where the options seemed to cycle around in a never-ending loop. Also, in the archeologist’s quest, once you receive the quest from Ohio Smith and he and your party troop down to the crypt, I would expect that if I talked to him again to get more information he would recognize me as having talked to him before. But that wasn’t the case. I tried to reinitiate the conversation; he treated me like he’d never met me before and the journal logged it as the beginning of a new quest, even though we were halfway through completing it already. Another area where I had trouble was in the kobold quest of leading cows out of a cave. I led 3 cows successfully out of the cave, but the 4th one stayed behind. I spent quite a bit of time trying to lure that animal out of that cave – only to finally give up and go back to the guildmaster and realize then that the quest had indeed been satisfied, even though one cow remained behind. Apparently, Bioware has discussed some of these issues on its forums, so it would be a good idea to check there for any fix information.

    Final Thoughts

    Bioware has made the following claims regarding their $8 module:

    1. “highly replayable adventure through alternate plot paths and non-linear storytelling”
    2. “5-8 hours of gameplay”

    In my opinion, they delivered. While there are over 4000 free NWN modules available for download, I still feel this module provides loads of adventuring fun and has a variety of quests with monsters to suit the tastes of every player. The replayability of Kingmaker is quite extensive – either to complete the entire quest line or trying the same quests with new NPCs as part of your team. As dialogue is such a huge part of this module, the quests take on a very different flavor, depending on who is with you in your party.

    Bioware also advertises 5-8 hours of gameplay – in my opinion, that’s understating its potential. I have played for over 30 hours already and have only made 2 passes through the module. I can easily envision creating a new character, with any assortment of NPCs to play through the module again.

    There is also a Kingmaker “Lite” version available for slightly less, for those people who don’t have a fast internet connection for the download – it’s only 10 MB as opposed to the regular 72 MB. The “lite” version lacks the exceptional voice acting and a few other features, but is basically the same module regarding gameplay.

    For an $8 purchase, I don’t see how you can go wrong with this module. When I think of other ways I could have spent that money and then look back on the hours of fun and laughs I had playing Kingmaker, the choice is fairly obvious. Great module! :thumb:

    Update

    Version 1.1 is now available from Bioware, fixing most of the bugs that I noted above. The list of changes is long, but among the corrections are: dialogue issues, the cow problem in "Stan's Cow Quest", some different spell effects, correct exporting of character at module's end and a better final battle -- more attuned to the difficulty level of your character. The list also includes some enhancements that will definitely add to the module's gameplay.

    [ March 05, 2005, 15:20: Message edited by: Spellbound ]
     
  2. Rednik Gems: 21/31
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    Nice review, :thumb: . Now I actually might want to re-install NWN and give it a go just so I can play through this mod.

    Now, how much variety is there in terms of role-playing options?
     
  3. Spellbound

    Spellbound Fleur de Mystique Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    The dialogue was very well rounded, in terms of alignment choice -- plenty of options to go the evil route, as I recall. I only played through as "good" though, so I'm not sure if there is any change in outcome if you choose the evil side.

    Glad you liked the review! :D
     
  4. Sarevok• Gems: 23/31
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    Where in Faerun does it take place?
     
  5. Spellbound

    Spellbound Fleur de Mystique Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    The game only tells you that you're in the Keep of Cyan, which lies in an area called "Valratha".
     
  6. joacqin

    joacqin Confused Jerk Veteran

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    And you need both expansions to play this?
     
  7. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    [​IMG] The modules are all set in homebrew campaigns, they're not set in FR. You only need NWN and HotU apparently.
     
  8. Sarevok• Gems: 23/31
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    They are not set in the FR? That sucks :toofar:
     
  9. Spellbound

    Spellbound Fleur de Mystique Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Joacqin -- FAQ 1.02 (found in the Kingmaker FAQ link provided in the review) addresses that issue -- only HoTU is required.
     
  10. Taluntain

    Taluntain Resident Alpha and Omega Staff Member ★ SPS Account Holder Resourceful Adored Veteran Pillars of Eternity SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!) Torment: Tides of Numenera SP Immortalizer (for helping immortalize Sorcerer's Place in the game!) BoM XenForo Migration Contributor [2015] (for helping support the migration to new forum software!)

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    [​IMG] The review has now been updated to take into account the changes and fixes in the v1.1. You can find the update notes at the bottom of the review.
     
  11. Harbourboy

    Harbourboy Take thy form from off my door! Veteran

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    Nice review, Spellbound. I'm sure I wouldn't mind paying $8 for something that looked and felt professional, as opposed to some mod that some kids have hacked together without any of the finishing touches (e.g. sound - as you have well described)
     
  12. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    I just finished the mod and thought I'd share my thoughts (I was planning to write a review until I saw Spellbound's excellent reviews for all the Premium modules). It's very short (I finished it in 3 play sessions) and the areas are small, but each area has quite a few things in it. The module lacks the very annoying "container with very minor loot every two steps" feature of the OC and (to a lesser extent) the expansions, something I was grateful for. The short length really shows if you try to get the strict 4 votes required (you get one by default, another by completing a required quest, and you can get 2 at once within minutes of completing said required quest) but I ended up with 6 overall so did a bit more. Replay value would be good if the required quest wasn't the least interesting of the ones I did. As Spellbound said the voice acting is excellent and really stands out. In addition to the regular NWN bugs (crashes on loading a game, the occasional graphical glitch, and so on) the module has a few oversights such as the journal not getting update properly, quests staying in it when they've been completed, occasionally people not realising you've accomplished something; no severe bugs though. The only real problem with the length is the story: it's good and starts at a good pace but then everything rushes for the finale. The lack of an ending is also a disappointment - I'm not asking for lengthy cutscenes but it would have been nice to have a "what happened next", even if it was only a couple of paragraphs of text. All in all I thought the module was enjoyable.
     

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