Grrr. I’ve spent several hours trying to get past the final stage of Neverwinter Nights. On every level of the game besides what I presume to be the final level, the game features a way to teleport from wherever you are fighting, back to a central area where you can rest, buy new supplies, and rearrange your equipment in safety. Then you can teleport right back into the thick of the battle.
I don’t mind a difficult battle, since an easy game is no fun. But on the final level, the teleportation stone doesn’t work. Likewise, on every other level, you can rest to restore your hit points and spells — but not on the final level. The designers made no attempt to provide an in-game explanation for the change in the game rules.
It wouldn’t have been hard at all to provide that in-game explanation. The game had already established that the chief villain is a lizard queen who can speak to people, and eventually possess them, through their dreams. So, if, when I tried to sleep on the final level, a cut scene played in which the lizard queen comes and possesses me, then I’d blame the queen, not the game designers. And if some event within the game disabled the stone, I would easily accept it if the game made me feel like I sacrificed that ability for a higher good. For example, if I traded the stone for a key that would get me into the final battle.
I have been a good citizen of this virtual world — I’ve painstakingly learned the rules, willingly suspended my disbelief. Again, I don’t expect the final battle to be easy, but I don’t expect the difficulty of that final battle to arise from a change in the rules at this late stage in the game. Yes, the designers are in charge of their world and ought to be able to do whatever they want. And yes, I suppose I could go online and look for cheat codes and hacks, but that wouldn’t help my desire to suspend my disbelief and enter into a story.
I personally like a fast-moving endgame that wraps up a lot of plot threads, showing you the consequences of your earlier actions. But Neverwinter Nights is a monster-bashing role-playing game — the story is grafted onto the basic “move around, kill things and find stuff” scenario. Of course, it’s a very good monster-bashing role-playing game — but since its strength was the RPG part, the final change in gameplay pretty much kills my desire to finish.
Knowing that the story is pretty much over at this point means I know I won’t be rewarded with more context as the battle continues to rage. Oh, well. Having a family and a demanding job (I always bring work home with me, whether it is grading, reading, or planning for next term) means that my game-playing time is limited. I got my money’s worth out of this game, but bleah — I feel that after investing so much time to learn the intricacies of this game world and its interface, I shouldn’t be expected to finish the game in a completely different environment.
Now that I think about it, there are a few doors that I passed on the way to the lizard queen’s lair, and someone gave me an artifact that I haven’t yet figured out how to use (I think I have to advance another level yet). But quite frankly the change in rules, without even the slightest attempt to use the storyline to explain the change, has really sapped my interest in seeing this story to its resolution.