With Atari all set up to release Neverwinter Nights 2 later this month, Wyvern Crown of Cormyr is likely to be the final premium module for Neverwinter Nights. (Originally, Infinite Dungeons was supposed to be the last module, but then BioWare decided to release Wyvern Crown of Cormyr as well, and so I suppose it’s possible that another module might sneak in under the gun as well.) That makes six premium modules in total, and, by all accounts, they did exactly what BioWare wanted: they gave players extra reasons to play Neverwinter Nights, extending the shelf life of the game, and they generated enough money so that BioWare could continue to add new tile sets and equipment and more to the Aurora toolkit, giving fans of the game more things to play with. The modules were all well made, and most were relatively fun, and so, as experiments go, you’d have to say that this one was a success, and I can only surmise that BioWare (or other companies) will attempt similar endeavors in the future.
But back to Wyvern Crown of Cormyr. The module follows the basic Robin Hood premise. After spending many years away adventuring, you return to your homeland to find things awry. The king is dead, demons have been attacking, and a blight has started taking over the forests. Your family has moved to a new farm to try and eke out an existence, but no sooner do you return to them than hobgoblins attack, killing everyone but you, your brother, and a childhood friend. Together, you set out to exact some revenge on the hobgoblins — and to track down whoever ordered them to attack your farm. Along the way you gain favor with the local lord, starting as a squire but then eventually becoming a knight, you participate in jousts and other tournament games, and you discover that an artifact called the Wyvern Crown might be responsible, in one way or another, for all of the troubles in the area.
Wyvern Crown of Cormyr has a lot of things going for it. The story is set up well, and it involves people with motivations rather than caricatures that do whatever is required of them by the plot. The quests are also handled well, almost always giving you options for diplomacy versus combat, and giving you ways to role-play your character. The module also contains several new things, like the ability to ride horses and an expanded rural tile set that includes castles with ramparts and towers. And there are even some fun little details, like how you can gain titles (such as “the wise” or “the cruel”) as a reward for completing certain quests.
But probably the most notable addition in Wyvern Crown of Cormyr is the jousting tournament. Unlike the other games included in the module (like darts or the guess-the-magic-spell game), jousting doesn’t have anything to do with your character build. It’s more of a rock-paper-scissors game. You select where to aim your lance (there are seven spots), and then you choose how to sit on your horse (such as leaning to the left), and then the jousting bout is run.
Depending on what choices your opponent made, you might score a solid hit (worth 1 or 2 points), knock your opponent off his horse (worth 3 points), or miss him entirely (worth nothing). The first person to reach 3 points wins, so sometimes jousts can end quickly, and sometimes they can go on for several bouts. The jousting competition is a fun little mini-game, and it does a nice job of underscoring the medieval setting of the module.
Unfortunately, despite all the pluses, I didn’t overly enjoy Wyvern Crown of Cormyr. It has sort of a dreary campaign, where everything is serious and dark and muted, and where just about everybody is a bad guy with some sort of evil agenda. There isn’t a lot to root for or to care about. The module also has more than a few bugs. One companion I used wouldn’t gain levels, the jousting competition froze up on me a couple times, and at one point when you lead an army, the army decided to target my companions in addition to the enemy troops, and that made the battle much more difficult than it needed to be. The final confrontation also seemed overly difficult. I had to do a lot of running away and returning, not to mention saving and loading, to keep my party alive, and at the end I sort of felt like I had cheated my way through.
And then there are the horses. Riding on horses should have been one of the highlights of the module, but thanks to a clunky interface and atrocious pathfinding, horses weren’t a lot of fun to use, and eventually I started avoiding them. Obviously, the module designers couldn’t do anything about the pathfinding problems, which have always existed in Neverwinter Nights, but it’s completely on them that they decided to include so many narrow and twisty pathways, which only exacerbated the situation. Fortunately, horses weren’t required except in a couple of places, and so they were easy to ignore.
But, overall, I’m going to give Wyvern Crown of Cormyr a mixed blessing. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but it includes a 20-hour campaign that gives players a lot of options for replayability, it includes a large and impressive rural tile set, and it includes a fun jousting mini-game. That is, Wyvern Crown of Cormyr gives you about the same amount of new content as either of the two official expansion packs, and all for just $11.99. So if you’re looking for something to do this month while waiting for Neverwinter Nights 2 to show up, Wyvern Crown of Cormyr is something you could try, although I’d recommend sister premium modules like Kingmaker or Pirates of the Sword Coast first.