Review by: Thomas Cap
Games get more and more complex these days. How many times did you find out that you have left some nifty - if not vital - item behind? Especially big-scale role-playing-games with a hundred or more hours of gameplay often offer no possibility of turning back. Simply starting all over? Hardly anyone has time for this nowadays.
Strategy guides often offer a great way to deal with such problems and others. Some people condemn the use of strategy guides, although personally I believe that the way people use them is what's important in the end. Someone that follows a professional walkthrough letter per letter will perhaps in the end have found and solved everybody and everything, but following a walkthrough he will often lose lots of background info and I doubt that he will have the same experience as someone who played it all by himself. I believe that people should try their best and only if they can’t get on get help somewhere else.
But to the guides, shall we?
Neverwinter Nights - The Shadow of Unrentide
The original Neverwinter Nights was without doubt one of the more successful RPG titles in the last few years. Lately Bioware presented us with the long awaited expansion set titled “The Shadow of Unrentide”. Although “only” three chapters in length compared to the original four and a prelude chapter, the expansion was by no means less complex or intriguing than the original game. But so many people to speak to, numerous quests, side-quests, side-side-quest and to most of them multiple and / or class depending solutions... BradyGames to the rescue...
The next generation
NWN is based on the Dungeon and Dragons role-playing franchise, and first time players often learn the hard way that character generation in a RPG isn’t an easy thing. The game offers the possibility to auto generate a character for you but these characters are often only average and especially all non fighters should put a good amount of time into character creation. This also explains why almost fifty percent of the official guide covers nothing but character generation and development. After explaining the pros and cons of the 7 races you can choose from, the guide continues to cover the 12 character classes and the 5 so called advanced “prestige classes” introduced along with The Shadows of Unrentide. For every class there is also a sample character available, with detailed instructions on what makes it special and what pros and cons come along with this type of character. A solution until you are ‘daring’ enough to give it a shot yourself.
The rest of the first half of the guide lists and describes all features, skills, magic spells, basic weapons and items available throughout the game – and there are quite a bit of these, take my word for it.
Finally we arrived at the walkthrough for the game itself. It is split up to cover each of the areas of the game in its own section. Each section starts with different maps of the area you are about to explore, followed by a bestiary of the different creatures with detailed stats you may encounter in this area. A detailed text describes how to solve the area at hand. Boxes in different colours always appear when you have to make a decision. There is more than one solution depending on what character you play and how you want to play. You can be a noble paladin and be good and follow e.g. the yellow boxes, or be awfully evil and do what the black boxes propose. The choice is up to you.
Likes and dislikes
Covering a RPG is often a hard job, and although the game is still complex even with help of the guide, BradyGames’ contribution brings light to players who stumble through the darkness. Many hints and tips will help you not miss a single side-quest or valuable prize.
Although featuring a tidy layout which helps finding what you want once you've found the appropriate area, finding a specific point in the game often gives you a hard time because the walkthrough itself should have been split up into more section. Splitting it up only by the three main chapters – each with at least 30 pages – is too unclear.
Fans and collectors alike might also be interested in the fact that the guide offers NO new artwork of its own. While no must for a good walkthrough, featuring more than just plain screenshots and character portraits copied from the game would have been a nice idea.
A very good walkthrough for first time players and players who want to discover every little secret that there is to find in “The Shadows of Unrentide”. The walkthrough could need an improved layout in order to make finding things easier, and a little more artwork is never wrong. But in general 1 ÂÂ½ thumbs up from me.
WarCraft III - The Frozen Throne
I recall a review from some other magazine stating that “The Frozen Throne” is one of the largest expansion sets ever available for a RTS game and I totally agree with them. A vast new story line and over 20 new single-player levels not counting the very interesting Durotar bonus campaign are more than enough to make every WarCraft fan happy.
Hence “only” a RTS game with an obvious and unique goal in every mission, the guide to this expansion set is of course way less complex than the one for “Shadows of Utrentide”..
Welcome to the World of Warcraft
A short and to the point introduction covers all the new features in The Frozen Throne. New heroes and their abilities, new units, new buildings and not to forget the 2 new races are covered here.
The walkthroughs for the levels themselves describe detailed strategies how to solve each level step by step. Even if you don’t wish to follow the solution letter by letter, the large maps of every level highlighting every point of interest might be interesting for you. With these you can find the often well hidden neutral buildings and fountains, not to forget the most powerful artifacts and items available throughout the game. And without giving away too much – didn’t you hear the rumours of a hidden level in the alliance campaign as well?
The guide concludes with a section covering multiplayer in WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne. Because of the vast amount of new units, abilities and buildings, a lot of new strategies were developed and people who are a little into professional WarCraft playing might have heard about the author of this section of the guide, Mr. URGHURGH
URGHURGH describes in an easy to understand way how to use different units' abilities and combinations for your advantage, as well as what weaknesses of your enemies - whether human or AI – you can use to assure your victory. Of course no one claims that with this guide you will be in the top 30 rang list within a week, but it might help to show your less experienced friends a trick or two, and you might at least put up an honourable fight against a more experienced player.
Although I believe that RTS games in general can be solved without a walkthrough at all if you put a little effort in it, the detailed maps and the battle strategies from a real pro make this guide worth you money. As above a final side note from me regarding the layout. Although still not perfect in my humble opinion, it is way more pleasing to the eye than the above reviewed copy of Neverwinter Nights: Shadow of Unrentide guide. I admit that I’m someone who thinks that looks sometimes DO count as well...
To award or not award
We reviewed two handy tools for beginners and professionals alike, and without any doubt they both deserve the above score and a small token of appreciation in form of one of the awards I'm giving away.