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The Aielund Saga Review

by Purpleblob, 2017-05-24

In early 2016 I found myself on a quest to play the best of the best Neverwinter Nights 1 module, as I had been disappointed with recent 'AAA' game releases. My quest lead me to the Hall of Fame listing at NWN Vault, and specifically, The Aielund Saga series of modules.  I hoped that my heightened expectations would not ruin my enjoyment of this series - thankfully, the series more than earns its high praise.

The Aielund Saga is an epic adventure comprised of four chapters, with the last chapter divided into three parts. Set in the Kingdom of Aielund, the story unfolds in a small town where you find yourself trapped by seemingly never ending rain. You will quickly find two companions who are also tired of being trapped in the inn, and start to wander around the town looking for errands to be done. As your party work through the list of small favours for the townsfolk, you slowly discover that the cause of troubles around the region may be more than just unnatural weather.

This is where it all begins...

The story builds up slowly in the early game, revealing just enough to get you intrigued and hint at something more ominous in play. Experiencing the modules in order is recommend, as each one chronologically revolves around a major event in the saga and the tight story-telling and unexpected twists leaves the player wanting more at the conclusion of each chapter, despite the linear overarching plot.

The saga spans a number of years and you can truly feel your character becoming part of the community. The story will have you heading back to familiar towns and negotiating alliances with familiar faces, as previous friends may not share your cause as before. You will witness the rise and fall of nations and civilisations as you travel throughout Aielund and its neighbouring regions. In the midst of a power struggle, you may even lose your previous standing, and be reduced to nobody in the new order. You will need to rely on all the skills available to you and your companions to survive and regain your former standing.

Naturally, you will become well acquainted with locals of Aielund and form a strong friendship with those you travel with. All the companions are well-written, particularly the trio who are tied to main plot. One of the most memorable features of the companions is the fact each of them have their own lives and priorities - they will leave your side to fulfil their own goals and dreams, as opposed to  classic companions whose sole purpose in life is to be at your side all the time. You can feel the bonds you form with your companions are strong and mature - there is a real sense of trust and acceptance amongst your party. Over time, relationships may develop into something more intimate for some - luckily, the romance is low key and will not detract from the main plot. They can also be easily avoided if you wish without losing much content. The romances simply build foundations for you to further strengthen your bonds and provide occasional humorous banter.

Pay attention to what your companions say - you may miss out on something interesting!

Each companion can be found at different time periods across Aielund as they come and go. The detail put into this game by the author, Savant, is simply amazing - you will feel the passage of time through the subtle changes that occur throughout each region you visit. A snowy plain will be transformed into a lush green field specked with blooming flowers as the season changes. A cave once inhabited by hostile creatures will be blocked off several years later. The idea of revisiting the same areas may sound boring but this is not the case in The Aielund Saga - it is well worth it to re-explore every corner of the map as a lot may have changed since your last visit.

Travel is not limited to a set number of towns in Aielund and extends to neighbouring cities such as the desert town of Trinity as well as Dwarven and Elven cities. Encounters with other civilisations may also lead you to surreal locations such as underground Elven ruins or even to other planes of existence.

The Hall of Worlds - where will you visit first?

The landscape of each region varies drastically, and it goes without saying you will find a good variety of enemies - humanoid, animals, dragons and undead - which adds variety and challenge to combat encounters. As the module is built using the NWN engine, it features 3rd edition D&D combat which can be extremely fun as it offers a plethora of class and skill choices for you to experiment with. To support the player's choice of character build, the module provides a wide range of weapons and armour for you and your companions. Some unique weapons and armour come with their own lore and history which adds a bit of flavour and humour to these items.

The author has taken advantage of the non-combat skills available to the player, and several quests can be resolved in more than one way. While combat is always available to the player, those with smooth-talking characters may find another way to resolve a situation without bloodshed. Some quests showcase a good amount of roleplaying and class/skill reactivity - for example, a major event in the game leads to some desperate times for your party - and looting the dead to survive may come with consequences down the road.

Many weapons and armour look great on your character too! Some items are available purely for cosmetic or roleplaying purposes.

However, utilising the NWN engine comes with one major downside; the combat plays more or less like a solo campaign as player only has limited control over companions - while the combat is not overly difficult, it can be challenging and frustrating at times depending on your class choice and skill selection. This issue can be mitigated somewhat if you choose to play the saga with your friends. The module supports both single player and multiplayer up to 6 players plus two companions. Personally, I recommend single player for first play through to get full enjoyment out of the story and characters without being rushed by your friends.

The game is relatively stable in single player; the only critical bug I encountered was a scripted event where my protagonist ended up dying instead of having her HP being reduced to 1. Luckily, the module is still receiving support from a fellow named Balkoth on NWN Vault and an excellent installation guide and walkthrough are available on Lilura's blog for those in need.

The Aielund Saga offers a lot more than pretty spell effects and mounted combat...

The Aielund Saga stands out as a true gem amongst the vast sea of NWN modules; so much love and passion has gone into this epic saga and it really shows through the epic scale of the story, lore and the characters, it certainly deserves more than a single play through. It truly is one of the best cRPGs I have ever experienced alongside Baldur's Gate II.

Box Art

Information about

Neverwinter Nights

Developer: BioWare

SP/MP: Single + MP
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Pausable Real-time
Play-time: 40-60 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced

Regions & platforms
World
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2002-06-18
· Publisher: Atari

More information


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Summary

Pros

  • New world with well-crafted lore/history
  • Fantastic companions
  • Compelling story with plenty of plot twists
  • Interesting quest design
  • 3rd edition D&D combat

Cons

  • Limited control over companions due to NWN engine limitation
  • Dated NWN graphics
  • Cumbersome NWN inventory management
  • Modern tone of dialogue can be immersion breaking at times

Rating

Review version

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