Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Darkness Over Daggerford: Enhanced Edition Review



Ossian's award-winning Darkness Over Daggerford (2006) is a Forgotten Realms epic strongly influenced by the Baldur's Gate series, what with its world map system, explorative aspect and companion banter along with its large number of side quests, player stronghold and references to the lore of Bhaal. It's a solid entry in the line of traditional Baldur's Gate-esque epics for the Neverwinter Nights platform, in which arena I would place it below the Aielund Saga and perhaps on par with Crimson Tides of Tethyr - both of which I consider inferior to Swordflight

DoD was supposed to be released as a commercial Premium Module, but the Prime Evil known as Atari scrapped the program during its development. Not to be discouraged, Ossian completed the module and published it on IGN's Neverwinter Vault, free to download for all members - and the community rejoiced!


***

However, with the advent of Beamdog's Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition, Ossian have been given another chance to upgrade and monetize their module 12 years later (it's currently available on Steam and on Beamdog, but will also eventually be available on GoG, too). Thus, bearing in mind the amount of passion and dedication that went into the creation of their epic, even someone like me, who has been critical of Beamdog's vision of and progress with NWN:EE, cannot help but wish the developers well.

Check out the changelog posted by the devs. Clearly, an honest amount of work has gone into DoD:EE, which is now a full-blown professional/official release with extended OST, lots of VO work and lovely painted portraits for all important NPCs, not just companions. Some of the non-companion VOs sound a little "newsreader-like", but they are still better than nothing. It is enjoyable listening to your companions comment on the environment as they walk over invisible triggers placed in key positions within the areas. I also enjoyed the fitting jingles that played in each inn (unique to each inn); it adds so much to immersion to not hear that stock-standard stuff that plays in every NWN module. 


Some of the criticisms that I leveled at DoD (in my walkthrough) have also been addressed, such as wealth accumulation being too easy, some items being OP, the PC not having an opportunity to rest before leaving the caravan, and cutscenes causing the enemy to get the jump on the party. In at least once case, the stealth approach has been opened up, too. Of course, some things were not addressed such as the ridiculous amount of scripted cutscenes, but at least they seem now to be safely skippable with the Esc key providing that you first wait until the cutscene is in full swing. 

There are also hundreds of bugfixes and extensions (approaching 1,000) that are the result of the devs going over each and every quest with a fine-toothed comb.

Visually, there do not seem to be any improvements other than Beamdog's specular maps (shiny metal armor), normal maps (woodwork, brickwork), and advanced frame-buffer effects such as Sharpen, Vibrance, and so on. Framerates seem fine.

I encountered no bugs or CTDs while playing through the adventure. Thus, it is polished.

But here is the crux: Do I think it's worth shelling out for?

For those new to NWN who haven't played DoD, I think it is. It's a nice, casual, introductory adventure that will make you chuckle and feel good after a long day at the office. For diehard fans of DoD and those who want to support Ossian, it naturally is. But for those who have played it before and don't care about aesthetics and the odd bug and annoyance here and there, I don't think it adds enough content to warrant a purchase.

***

Along with the writing and descriptions of lore, the most impressive achievement of DoD is its Baldur's Gate-eque overworld map, complete with transitional waylays:


DoD is also notable for its DLA-built TNO tilesets that give a natural sense of terrain undulation and an eye-widening sense of elevation, a sort of precursor to the expertly sculpted terrain in Harp & Chrysanthemum:


Also, love the custom signs fitted to the stone walls of various buildings:


All in all, congrats to Ossian and I wish them all the best with DoD and any future endeavors (especially D&D ones). :P

Does anyone know what the companion influence system does? In MotB, it affects PC + companion stats. But in DoD, it seems to do nothing? There are six banters for Raegan and five for Purfbin (one for each PC level gained).

Recommended Builds

Ok, here are three character builds to help the newbies get going. Characters below 8th level are bumped up to 8th at the beginning of the adventure. They will also receive a few useful items tailored to their class.

• Human, Female, Chaotic Good, Bard 
Role: Enchantress (debuffer, immobilizer), Ranged Attacker (crossbow), singer (buffer, debuffer), loremaster, diplomat.
Stats: Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 8, Cha 16
Bard 1: Curse Song, Lingering SongCantrips
Bard 2Mage Armor, Sleep
Bard 3: Spell Focus: EnchantmentCharm Person
Bard 4: Cha +1, Ghostly VisageTasha's Hideous Laughter
Bard 5Identify, Eagle's Splendor
Bard 6: Rapid Reload
Bard 7Hold Person, Confusion, Charm Monster
Bard 8: Cha +1, Haste
• The most important skills are Perform, Lore, Tumble and Use Magic Device. Appraise, Bluff, Persuade, Heal, Concentration and Spellcraft are secondary but still important. You should have enough skill points to invest in all of these, more or less.
• Loot the chest for Leather Armor +1Gloves of the Minstrel (Perform +3) and Boots of Tumbling (Tumble +8as well as Light Crossbow and Bolts (99). You must rest first in order to have spells for the opening battle! Before exiting the caravan, buff yourself with Eagle's Splendor, Mage Armor, Ghostly Visage and Haste!
* Remember that you will have a Fighter companion (Raegan: recruitable post-battle or in Daggerford) and a Rogue companion (Purfbin: recruitable in Daggerford). Thus, you have a tank to hold back the aggro and a thief to pick locks and disarm traps.
Bard 9: Greater Spell Focus: Enchantment
Bard 10Displacement, Improved Invisibility, War Cry
Bard 11Hold Monster
◦ Bard 12: Cha +1, Extend Spell

The good thing about this build is that it's very versatile with UMD and yet not overly OP (so you will look to your companions and crafting more.)

If you want to just crash through the campaign, then dedicated Wizards and Sorcerers are where it's at. I prefer the former because they have extra feats, extra skillpoints and a broader spellcasting repertoire, but Sorcerers are better at brute force for players that understand the spell ranges per circle. Of course, there are many ways to build Wizards but this one is probably pretty common:

• Human, Female, Chaotic Good, Wizard (Generalist) 
• Role: Arcane bombardier and buffer, loremaster, diplomat.
• Stats: Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 18, Wis 8, Cha 12
Wizard 1: Spell Focus: Evocation, Greater Spell Focus: Evocation, Burning Hands, Magic Missile, Mage Armor, Protection From Alignment, Identify, Shield, Endure Elements
Wizard 2: Ray of Enfeeblement, Sleep
Wizard 3: Empower Spell, Flame Weapon, Fox's Cunning
Wizard 4: Int +1, Bull's Strength, Cat's Grace
Wizard 5: Extend Spell, Fireball, Haste
Wizard 6: Silent Spell, Displacement, Lightning Bolt
Wizard 7: Improved Invisibility, Stoneskin
Wizard 8: Int +1, Isaac's Lesser Missile Storm, Ice Storm
Wizard 9: Still Spell, Mestil's Acid Sheath, Cone of Cold
Wizard 10: Maximize Spell, Firebrand, Bigby's Interposing Hand
Wizard 11Isaac's Greater Missile Storm, Chain Lightning
Wizard 12: Int +1, Quicken Spell, Greater Stoneskin, Mass Haste

That's by no means a pro-build but it will get the job done with minimal fuss. You will have more skillpoints than you know what to do with. I recommend Concentration, Spellcraft and Lore along with a smattering of other skills, including social ones. If you want to get a little creative, start off with a level of Rogue for the skillpoint boost and access to UMD for Monk boots. You should buff Raegan with the spells highlighted in pink. Remember that you can find more spells in the game-world, which will increase your ranges greatly. Find robes, staffs and wands, and go to town.

Ok, let's have a look at a solid physical-based damage dealer and conventional tank:

• Dwarf Male Lawful Good, Fighter 7 / Dwarven Defender 6
• Role: Physical-based damage dealer and conventional tank. Also, "diplomat" (intimidator) and healer (healing kits are very, VERY useful when the party has no cleric).
• Stats: Str 16, Dex 13 (requirement for Dodge), Con 16, Int 13 (If you want to take them, this is a requirement for Disarm and Expertise), Wis 8, Cha 10
Fighter 1: Weapon Focus: Scimitar, Dodge
◦ Fighter 2: Power Attack
◦ Fighter 3: Toughness
◦ Fighter 4: Str +1, Cleave
◦ Fighter 5: --
◦ Fighter 6: Weapon Specialization: Scimitar, Great Cleave
◦ Fighter 7: --
◦ Fighter 7 / Dwarven Defender 1: Str +1, Defensive Stance (1)
◦ Fighter 7 / Dwarven Defender 2: Improved Critical: ScimitarDefensive Awareness (1)
◦ Fighter 7 / Dwarven Defender 3: Defensive Stance (2)
◦ Fighter 7 / Dwarven Defender 4: --
◦ Fighter 7 / Dwarven Defender 5: Str +1, Blind-FightDefensive Awareness (2)
◦ Fighter 7 / Dwarven Defender 6: Dwarven Defender Damage Reduction 3/-

Skillpoints should go into Lore, Heal and Intimidate (for dialogue flavor). Discipline is not needed in DoD. Always wear the heaviest armors and wield the sturdiest tower shield off-hand. Feel free to focus on and wield any weapon (I like Scims for the crit range). You can sub it out for something else, but Great Cleave should be effective on DoD squishies. Look for items with Str boosts and perma-immunities (fear, immobilization) and resistances (elemental). Bag up and use healing kits like they're going out of fashion.

For other ideas on characters to play, I kindly refer you to my Best Classes write-up.

Darkness Over Daggerford coverage:

My walkthrough (incomplete, but it's a solid starting-point.)
Developer insights by Luspr, writer and designer for the original game


EoP

3 comments:

  1. Awesome review! I do have a question though. The font used in your screenshot of the game, where did you get that? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Eetheart. It's the Enhanced GUI mod. Write-up with links:

      http://lilura1.blogspot.com/2017/08/Neverwinter-Nights-Best-UI-Mods.html

      Delete

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