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NWN/HotU - Shadowguard Premium Module Review *some spoilers*

Discussion in 'Mod Reviews' started by Spellbound, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. Spellbound

    Spellbound Fleur de Mystique Distinguished Member ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran

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    Shadowguard Premium Module
    Version: v1.1. (Requires NWN 1.64+ and HotU installed)
    Review first posted on: February 18, 2005
    Review updated: March 5, 2005
    Mod download location: http://nwn.bioware.com/premium/module_shadowguard_support_changelog_v1.1.html

    Background

    An ancient stone door stands before you. The stones feel smooth under your touch, but notably warm. Curiosity now piqued, you search for a latch or some kind of lever, running your nimble fingers along the edges between the door and the frame, loosening layers of dirt that has caked there for centuries. Intrigued, you probe deeper and suddenly feel the slightest brush of air on your fingertips. Hurriedly clearing away more of the dirt, the breeze from within intensifies, drawing the dust and dirt up into a fine, gritty cloud that settles back upon you with a suffocating intensity, stinging your eyes and filling your nostrils. Shaking your head in frustration, you shove hard against the door again and again, until, with a final push, the slab creaks open in a whoosh of warm fetid air. Stumbling into the crypt, coughing and wheezing through the dust, you scan the chamber through half open eyes and it’s then that you see him….a lone transparent figure hovering on a dais, bathed in an eerie blue light, hands outstretched, beckoning you to come to him. You quickly turn away in confusion, glancing at the open door -- every instinct inside telling you to go through it. But the hands still beckon….the humming intensifies…..the blue light softens and fills the chamber. The invitation is open. And you need answers. Your life…your future….your fate. Somewhere inside you know the answers you seek are here and that he has been waiting for you…only you. As you slowly turn back towards the figure, you lift your eyes to his in acknowledgement and with a nod, go forth to begin your journey. (Screenshot: The External Spirit)

    Here is where your story begins.

    Content

    After speaking with The External Spirit, Keeper of the Flames of Fate, you are whisked away through the Veil of Time to Ghaarak, a northern outpost of the Sharakhan Empire in the world of Abaron, where you will play out your fate in a series of intrigues and battles. You begin with attending your graduation ceremony for citizenship in the Empire, where you will be asked to pass judgment on a demon. (Screenshot: Decisions, Decisions...) From there the story takes you through a series of interesting quests, meeting a variety of friendly characters such as Markius Albright, an imperial soldier of sorts, and a rogue, Tarin Lightfingers, to mention a few. The module also has its share of enemies for you, from evil demons (Screenshot: Demon Lord) to ranting prophets of doom (Screenshot: The Crimson Prophet) The basic plot behind this module is that the city of Ghaarak is in trouble and is faced with fanatical invaders that appear periodically before the final showdown. There is an additional sub-plot revolving around tensions between the main character and his or her father, which provide for some interesting dialogue. Most of the quests are centered around Ghaarak’s Market District, spinning off into different locales – all very typical NWN tilesets, of course.

    While I thoroughly enjoyed the quests that were available, there didn’t seem to be enough of them. And while I thoroughly enjoyed watching my foes drop with every swing of my blade, the battles seemed way too easy for a fighter – facing 6 or 7 opponents, one swipe of the sword, and down they went. There really was no challenge of any kind. On my second time through however, I played a sorcerer and did indeed experience more difficulty in battles – much more realistic.

    Gameplay

    The module begins with your character leveling up (or down) to 3rd level, which is the level the module was designed for. For questions about this and other general module issues, it’s a good idea to take a look at the Shadowguard FAQ.

    As alluded to above, I was very surprised to find a level 3 fighter able to take out a horde of enemies with one swipe of her sword. But even that much of an expenditure of effort was not required, as all NPC’s were endowed with immortality, so one could just sit back and let them do the job. (Not that I ever did, mind you.)

    I didn’t find any option for romance in this module – outside of some coy comments between the main character and her soldier friend. I believe the module was simply too short to support any romantic type of development.

    As I mentioned earlier, I played through the module twice – first as a “good” fighter and again as an “evil” sorcerer. I was hoping to see a change in quest offerings and conclusions based upon different alignments, but, alas, that did not occur. While some of the dialogue choices changed, the quests themselves did not, nor their outcomes.

    This module again 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

    While the voicing in both Kingmaker and Shadowguard Premium Modules is quite extraordinary, I noticed it to a lesser extent in Shadowguard. While there certainly were instances of unusual character voicing in spots, it wasn’t a common thread throughout the module.

    The music was a blend of familiar NWN tracks and some new sounds that were quite excellent. The new songs went a long way, however, to adding a good degree of mystery and successfully got the battle blood up and flowing.

    Visuals

    The visuals in this module were the standard NWN tilesets, but, for some reason, the Market Square, with its variety of vendors, reminded me of a BG2 quality. I kept expecting Aerie to pop out of a circus tent or see Jaheira come sauntering down the walk. (Screenshot: Market District)

    The module provided some very interesting spell effects – some quest related, but most just part of the main thrust of the game (Screenshot: Control Stone Effects) One of my favorites was the Guardian spell, one of three spells that you can choose upon graduation from the academy, to provide assistance and/or protection to you during your travels. (Screenshot: Your Bubble of Protection)

    Bugs

    Shadowguard appeared to be bug-free for both of my pass throughs. I didn’t detect any issues with general gameplay, dialogue or quest results.

    Final Thoughts

    Shadowguard intrigued me on a variety of levels. While I was somewhat disappointed with the unrealistic power a level 3 character could wield, I still found the battles to be fun and engaging, and was definitely drawn into the story as the module progressed. There is a fair amount of intrigue in the plot that intensifies in the last 30 minutes or so – enough so that you are left begging for more at the module’s end.

    Bioware has claimed that their $5 module offers 2-3 hours of gameplay. I found that to be an underestimation of its potential. Without rushing things and completing all the quests available, it took me a good 8-10 hours to play through the module. The replayability is moderate, mostly based on the availability to play different types of characters. The NPCs that join you in battle are static, and do not vary according to which type character you play.

    For a paltry $5, one can hardly go wrong with this module. And as a bonus, for that sum, you not only get the Shadowguard module, but the remastered version of the Witch's Wake module as part of the download package for free! (That review should be ready in a couple of weeks.) So, to sum it up... hours of adventuring, with a plethora of characters and monsters to suit most people’s tastes and an engaging storyline that successfully wets the whistle and leaves you wanting for more – definitely more yardage than you get from a $5 mocha and croissant. :D

    Bring on Chapter 2! :thumb:

    Update

    Shadowguard has now been updated to v. 1.1, fixing gameplay issues from the first release. While I did not experience any problems in either of my pass throughs, the fixes addressed in this new release focus on such things as dialogue issues, character placement, exporting capabilities, among others. The list is short....a great module made only better!

    [ March 05, 2005, 16:05: Message edited by: Spellbound ]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 25, 2009
  2. Will Gems: 13/31
    Latest gem: Ziose


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    I got this, Witch's Wake and Kingmaker the other day. I have only Kingmaker to finish now, and the common factor I have found so far is that as soon as the story gets going, the module ends. Presumably the idea is to leave things open for potential sequels following positive feedback, and they certainly do that. Im impressed with the standard of the premium modules so far and, should Bioware make more, hope they take the existing stories further rather than churning out more.
     
  3. Merlanni

    Merlanni ★ SPS Account Holder Veteran New Server Contributor [2012] (for helping Sorcerer's Place lease a new, more powerful server!)

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    Indeed, we crave for more, but I think that NWN2 will quench that.

    The rations/rest item is nice and a step more to D&D. For a moment I thought that the premium mods are experiments for NWN2. But still, it is just a piece of more NWN, which is 4 years old.
     
  4. Ziad

    Ziad I speak in rebuses Veteran

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    Did Shadowguard ever get a proper conclusion, or was the planned sequel cancelled like Witch's Wake 2?
     
  5. 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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