One of my favorite D&D videogames is still getting beefy updates after 21 years

Dark elf with cape and whip holding hand outstretched with underground city in background
(Image credit: Beamdog, Bioware)

Ever since talking to prolific Neverwinter Nights module builder Luke Scull, I've been on a Neverwinter Nights kick, working through some of the huge backlog of high-quality user-made campaigns for Bioware's 2002 RPG. While playing Swordflight, a standout hardcore, ambitious mod, I logged in one day to notice new UI elements, graphics options, and quality-of-life changes, stuff that just wasn't there before. Surely Beamdog isn't still updating its 2018 Enhanced Edition re-release, right?

As reported by Gaming on Linux, that's exactly what's happened. Beamdog's patch summary characterizes the update as "a year-long love effort" by community developers clippy, Daz, Jasperre, Llareth, niv, Soren, tinygiant, and virusman, packaged by the company into an official update for the game. The full patch notes are honestly too extensive to repost in full here, and can be found on Beamdog's official website.

The first things I noticed were changes to how damage numbers are displayed to make them easier to parse, as well as area of effect indicators for where your spells will land—particularly helpful on max difficulty where friendly fire is turned on. The AoE indicator is a small thing, but a huge improvement to the game's playability, especially if you're used to newer CRPGs that more clearly display information like Divinity Original Sin 2 or Dragon Age.

I was very surprised by the new "Toon" shader that was added as well—this creates a thick, comic book-like border around most in-game models that's somewhat reminiscent of the Borderlands games. I wasn't expecting much—Beamdog previously put out a high resolution texture and model pack that, while a fun addition, tanks the game's performance even on modern hardware and never quite looked right to me—but the Toon shader kind of rocks. It preserves the original NwN look while smoothing it out in a strange way, making it feel more deliberately stylized as opposed to just low-tech. I only played around with it a little bit, but I might be keeping this rendering mode on from now on.

I was also intrigued by the new eight-way multiclass ceiling that can be turned on when creating a module (a user-made area in Neverwinter Nights). The original game's D&D third edition ruleset only allowed you to progress in three different classes on the same character, with NwN 2's addition of a fourth in line with version 3.5 of D&D feeling oh so luxurious and permissive. The module-by-module nature of the rule change means you can't take your Fighter/Bard/Weapon Master/Pale Master/Purple Dragon Knight/Red Dragon Disciple/Arcane Archer/Shadowdancer back into the main game, but future modules or multiplayer servers can now pursue whole new frontiers in power gaming.

To commemorate the update, Beamdog also commissioned a new, higher-resolution version of the Hordes of the Underdark cover art from former BioWare artist Mike Sass, who's also responsible for the original Baldur's Gate's iconic portraits. Really, it's just nice to see the game's legendary community continue to sustain it all these years (and two-and-a-half editions of D&D) later. If you want to talk about a "forever game," Neverwinter Nights is it.

Patch Highlights

  • AOE Indicator | Spells and spell-like abilities now display a targeting indicator displaying their range and, if appropriate, their AOE shape and size
  • 8 Multiclasses | Added support for up to 8 multiclasses, configurable per-module
  • Faster Load Times | Improved area load times by up to 100x (!)
  • News Section | Added an in-game News UI that shows upcoming patches and community news
  • Script-created UI Improvements | “NUI” (script-created UI) will no longer break input to the game (WASD, drag & drop)
  • Play NWN as a Cartoon | Added a new "Toon" post-processing shader as a graphical option
  • Goodies for Builders | Hundreds of new functions and goodies for module builders
  • Hundreds of Bugfixes & Optimizations | More bugs squashed

Dark elf with cape and whip holding hand outstretched with underground city in background

(Image credit: Beamdog, Bioware)
Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.