When developers release expansion packs, it often seems like they’re just trying to continue milking an old title for some new money. With Hordes of the Underdark, Bioware’s second expansion for their Dungeons and Dragons-based RPG Neverwinter Nights, you might be temped to think they are likewise trying to squeeze some cash out of an older title, but you’d be wrong, as Hordes of the Underdark is actually an enjoyable expansion that adds some new and interesting gameplay to the aging NN license.
Hordes of the Underdark continues the adventure where the previous expansion pack (the well-received Shadows of Undrentide) left off. You start your quest in the town of Waterdeep which happens to be under attack by the tituler hordes of the Underdark and it’s up to you to go out and hunt them down. You can choose to play as one of several new classes such as the weapon master and the red dragon disciple. Your new character starts out as at level 15 and you can level your character up to an astounding, and near godlike, level 40. Don’t expect to run willy-nilly through the dungeons with your powerful fighter though, because Hordes of the Underdark is the most difficult addition to the series so far.
Fortunately for you and your character, this time around you are able to recruit two followers to aid you in your battles along the way. Unfortunately, you can’t control your followers; they just follow you and attack the bad guys as needed. While the AI for the followers may not be the greatest, three fighters are always better than one.
In this expansion, you will face-off against countless enemies while on your quest to defeat the evil hordes. You’ll go up against mind flayers, umber hulks, driders, beholders and a multitude of creatures straight out of the D&D Monster Manual. While the new creatures and epic scale battles are a welcome addition to the series, the gameplay remains a straightforward hack-and-slash fest. The puzzles that do pop up every now and again tend to be pretty repetitive, especially the “pull a lever to open a door” bit. If you’re a fan of the Neverwinter Nights series, however, you’ll be right at home with the fighting and the puzzle solving.
Hordes of the Underdark is starting to show its age in the graphics department. Some of the textures look a little washed out or blocky and the cut-scenes really show that the graphics engine is ready for the retirement home. The blockiness becomes really noticeable when you zoom in on the action. The game isn’t what you would call ugly; it’s just that it could use a freshening up when you compare it to some of the more recent titles on the market. The dated graphics thankfully have no effect on the gameplay.
Along with the “been there, seen that” graphics, it seems that Bioware recycled some of the sounds and music from previous titles, while spicing them up with a few new tracks and some cool new spell and attack sounds. As a whole, the sound is pretty darned good and keeps the action flowing.
Hordes of the Underdark is a good expansion in that it offers some good additions to an already great series. Those of you who are invested in the series will be very happy with the new features and the 15 to 20 hours of single player hack-and-slash action that this expansion offers. I would recommend Hordes to anyone who has already played through the original title and the first expansion, and is looking for some more action set in the Neverwinter Nights universe.
- Gameplay: 8
- Graphics: 8
- Sound: 8.5
- Replay: 8
- Overall: 8.5
- A great addition to an already great game.
— Buzz Kilgore