If you liked the romances in Baldur’s Gate II…prepare to be disappointed. While the options available in Hordes of the Underdark are genuinely interesting (especially Valen), the ones in the original campaign are…lacking, to say the least. One specificity of Neverwinter Nights, which wouldn’t be repeated until Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, is the possibility of romancing NPCs who never join your party as henchmen. Other than that, the actual content is very scant and doesn’t amount to much more than a future possibility for romance, rather than actual relationships. Besides, HotU basically confirms that none of it went anywhere, as the Hero of Neverwinter just up and left after a disagreement with Lord Nasher regarding Aribeth.

As was usual back in the day, male players have the advantage, with three choices to pick from (two of which are elves…) – Aribeth, Linu or Sharwyn –, while female players are stuck with Aarin. BioWare also freely gives in to its fetish for characters with tragic romantic pasts, as ALL of the available choices have suffered the loss of a partner, more or less recently.

Aribeth: SpikyThe most freshly-bereaved option of the lot: her fiancé dies rather early on in tragic circumstances (inevitable spoiler). Aribeth is an elven Paladin of Tyr (although HotU mysteriously retcons her as half-elven) with auburn hair and brown eyes. Her family lived in a village located in Neverwinter Wood, but it was attacked by orcs when she was a child. She was the sole survivor and exacted revenge on all orcs she could find when she grew up, until, one day, she got lost in a blizzard and thought that Tyr rescued her. She let go of her vengeance and went to Neverwinter to become a Paladin. This is where she eventually met Fenthick. Despite all this, her fiery temper is still one of her characteristics, even though it seems to be counterbalanced by duty. Aribeth has the peculiarity of being the only BioWare character who is romanceable by two different protagonists. And while widow(er)s are a BW tradition, Aribeth’s case is a rather uncomfortable one, due to how recent and essential to her storyline her bereavement is. She often talks about Fenthick, and, at first, the most a male protagonist can do is lend a sympathetic ear to her grief. She will give him a ring in Chapter 2, as a token of friendship. Chapter 3 turns into a big snafu for her, but, provided you make the right choices, Chapter 4 sees her admitting that she’s attracted to your protagonist and hopes that there might be a future for them. All the while talking about Fenthick. Awkward. You might argue that Jaheira’s case in BGII was similar, but at least she waited for some time before falling for the protagonist, whom she also knew beforehand from BG, whereas Aribeth and the protagonist have basically just met. What’s more, she doesn’t even mention him in HotU.

Linu: What is that armour?As already mentioned above, Linu’s husband died in puzzling circumstances, and she understandably wants some closure. Once all of her personal quests have been completed, she may give a hint that she’s interested in your protagonist and would like to see how things go once his quest is over. Just like Aribeth, you say? Linu’s husband has been dead for longer than Fenthick, so it feels less rushed for what it is: a noncommittal expression of interest. That being said, considering how catastrophe-prone Linu is, I’m not sure how safe a relationship with her would be, regardless of how kind and well-meaning she is. She also makes no mention of the protagonist in HotU.

Sharwyn: Healthy glowAs already mentioned, Sharwyn’s lover abandoned her several years prior to the game (at least, he’s not dead!) for a noblewoman who artificially maintains her beauty with magic. Part of her questline involves finding a way to break the spell, but Sharwyn eventually expresses doubts on whether she really wants to do so. She seems to have come to terms with the betrayal and isn’t sure that breaking the spell would help, especially since her lover wasn’t actually bewitched and thus left her of his own volition. A male protagonist with high Charisma can flirt with her, to which she will respond enthusiastically and, like Linu, suggest that they see where things go once the quest is over. There’s even an option to suggest a kiss, if you bring her along to face the final boss. But that’s it. That being said, her dialogue in HotU does state that she developed feelings for a man who subsequently left Neverwinter, which could be taken as a reference to the OC protagonist. It doesn’t paint him in a very positive light though, especially considering Sharwyn’s history. Thankfully, she gets a happy ending after HotU.

Aarin: SoulfulThe lone option for female protagonists (and the only romanceable black character in a BioWare game until Mass Effect 2) is Lord Nasher’s spymaster, whom you first encounter in Chapter 2. Aarin has brown hair and black eyes and was born a slave in Calimshan, although his mother was originally from Chult, a tropical country far to the south of Faerûn and the in-universe equivalent of Africa. After his master beat his mother to death over some spilt beer, Aarin killed him and became an outlaw. His talents got him noticed by a pirate crew, so he began gathering information for their captain and trying to minimise bloodshed during their operations. Eventually, he got fed up with their cruelty and omitted to warn them when Lord Nasher laid an ambush for them. Seeing that Aarin was a man of principles, Nasher offered him to become his spymaster. Aarin lost the woman he loved under tragic circumstances, which has made him understandably wary about falling in love again. Nevertheless, he develops an attraction to a female protagonist and eventually gives her an amulet as a token of his affection. The problem with Aarin’s romance is that it’s the only one of the lot where love is actually professed – again, despite how recently he’s met the protagonist –, and yet, once that’s done, it basically devolves into “but your quest is more important right now, so we won’t speak of this anymore until it’s done”. And there’s no mention of him or any potential relationship with the protagonist in HotU, only that the latter left Neverwinter. It’s disappointing, but at least you can headcanon that the two of them left together, since there’s no information to contradict it. That being said, Aarin isn’t exactly a compelling character. He’s quiet, sensitive and intense, but also rather bland. Definitely better than Anomen, but that’s not saying much.

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