Friday, June 22, 2007

Dark Waters

So, as it turns out, another member of the review guild was particularly interested in writing the review for Dark Waters when/if Adam Miller decides to submit it. Furthermore, I don't know if it's ever going to be submitted for review (Miller asked to delay the review until he had more time to patch it...and it's been a while), and besides, I've moved on to other I've decided to just post my comments.

Keep in mind that my comments were from Dark Waters version 1.03, and there is currently a 1.04 version on the Vault. Nevertheless, I think my comments are still applicable--Miller has primarily been fixing bugs, and while I did encounter a couple of those, it's not my primary critique of the module. As you'll see, I did think it was a fun game. I just think the story needed a bit more fleshing out.

My comments:
My Vote: 7 - Very Good, Deserves a Look
Version Played: Dark Waters 1.03, using NWN2 1.05
Character: Human male rogue/fighter (hey, we're going to be a pirate, no?)

There's an awful lot to like about Dark Waters--its potential is amazing--but in the end, I thought it fell a bit short of being a satisfying experience. Surprisingly, though, I think it fell short for reasons other than those that are typically mentioned in votes by other players.

First, what I liked: it's a wonderful setting. I guess you could call it Final Fantasy meets Waterworld--a very cool blend of traditional swords 'n magic fantasy with late 1800's-style technology, all set in an interesting post-cataclysm world that is just starting to come back to life. It's very deep and well-conceived, with a unique history, class structure, and feel. The setting alone makes it worth checking this module out.

On top of that, of course, is the custom content. The voice acting is the flashiest and most obvious innovation, and it ranges from very good to not real good. Fortunately, most of the main characters are very well done (particularly Heather and Daniel), and those are the characters that you converse with most often in the game. There is also a custom score (excellent), and a ton of custom placeable models included in the game. It's quite a resource for the community.

But what really impressed me--and in this way, it reminded me a lot of Dreamcatcher 2--were the variety and creativity of the various puzzles you encounter along the way. None were particularly difficult, but they were interesting and original, and often dazzling.

The story itself borders on outstanding--it's a bit complicated, but it's fascinating, splendid science fiction/fantasy. But I found that the main shortcoming of this module is the execution of this story. While it is true that the opening series of cutscenes has a bit of a clumsy feel to it (a common complaint), I didn't find this to be a big issue. The problem I ran into were the final few nodes in the story, which seemed pretty rushed.

The issue, I think, has to do with the rather large size of the cast. There are effectively eight main characters for most of the module, two of which are treated as villains much of the time. I found that the development of this core cast of characters was well done--you learn about them at a nice pace, develop their personalities slowly, and ultimately have a good feel for who they are. But then, near the end, a 9th character is introduced who plays a pivotal role in the plot.

I found this individual's introduction to be really jarring. It was very difficult understand who he was, and he was never really given a genuine introduction. It'd be one thing if he was a stranger, but instead he apparently has a long history with some of the characters in the party. The result was that the final few cutscenes had a very rushed, and somewhat contrived feel as the author tried to tie up all the loose ends. I think that a bit more time spent generating backstory for this character--perhaps with another major flashback, for example--could have made a world of difference.

My other critiques have already been offered by other players. The combat is fun enough for a light/moderate combat module, though the final battle was much too easy. There are a lot (maybe too many) of speak triggers throughout the module, and sometimes it's possible to trigger one that assumes you've already experienced a previous one, which can be confusing. Also, there are still a few remaining bugs, though fortunately it looks like most of the show-stoppers have been resolved.

Overall, it's an interesting module and is definitely worth checking out. It's something of a landmark given the amount of custom content, but the issues with the story in the latter half of the module left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. Nevertheless, for the most part, I had a terrific time playing it, and I'm really looking forward to playing the next chapter.
It's kind of a shame for these comments to be coming out so late, but oh well. Live and learn.

No comments:

Post a Comment